Join me on YC Leap

This originally appeared as a tweetstorm on Twitter. Follow me for more updates like this: @briannekimmel

Since the launch of YC Leap, I’ve kindly asked women in tech who contact me via email/DM to move the conversation to Leap. This was a strategic decision to encourage women in my network to get more actively involved in the YC ecosystem. Here’s why:

YC has taught me everything I know about startups: how to build them, how to advise them and how to invest in them.

While we’ve all learned so much from Paul Graham over the years. Many people don’t realize we have Jessica Livingston to thank for the community.

YC alums are the most authentic and helpful people you’ll meet in tech. This is not coincidental, it’s because of @JessicaLivingston’s x-ray vision for character which Paul Graham describes here:

But historically the alumni network has been a walled garden. Bookface is private and alumni make time for other alumni.

Earlier this year, Cadran Cowansage built YC’s first open community for all women in tech. It’s a safe space for women to get advice from YC partners, alumnae, investors and peers.

Founders can ask anonymous questions including a recent example: “Co-founder expressed having feelings for me. Not sure how to proceed.”

Gender neutral advice such as “What is a reasonable founder salary after seed funding.” is more common.

As I dive deeper into SaaS and enterprise investing, I sadly have less time for advice emails and one-off coffees. So, please join YC Leap. You’ll meet awesome women like Holly Liu, Kat Manalac & so many more.



You’re not curing cancer (and that’s okay).

I recently had a very heartfelt conversation with a founder who is working on a new gaming company. As we were going through the pitch he said, “I’m not curing cancer.” This is a common lie that we tell ourselves. So I told him my story:

When my dad was a kid, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He dropped out of school, my grandmother quit her job and they moved across the country so he could get treatment at St. Jude.

My dad can tell you a million stories about his experience, but most are related to the board games he played, snacks he ate and friends he made. When you’re sick, you need distractions to keep your spirits up. My dad frequently says he wished he had video games.

Fast forward to early 90s. Due to years of cancer treatment, my dad needs a heart transplant. We waited a long time for a heart and ultimately my dad gets on the list for an artificial heart at UPMC. As a kid, I spent an entire summer in Pittsburgh.

The entire experience was scary. I sat for hours in waiting rooms and my only distraction was video games. I made friends with kids who were in a similar position to my dad. We played Mario for hours and as a result, I believe in video games, silly apps, etc.

As a founder, you may never know the impact you have on the lives of individual users. There is so much more to life than curing cancer. Anything that makes someone smile & feel better about their current situation is worth building.

This originally appeared on Twitter. Please follow @briannekimmel for more updates.



Why I invested in Voxeet, the best API for live video.

Why I invested in Voxeet, the best API for live video.

In 2018, I believe many of our best moments will happen online.

With real-time video calling, we’re connecting with friends and family in a more meaningful way. We’re celebrating holidays, reconnecting with old friends and creating new memories from our phone.

And even though the experience is getting better, it still doesn’t compare to IRL. There’s distracting background noise, garbled noise and crosstalk (🤐).

What if we could add “same room” technology to make every video call feel real?

With Voxeet, developers can bring IRL quality video to any website, app or hardware integration.

Voxeet’s TrueVoice™ 3D audio and video technology provides a true surround sound experience and removes distractions like background noise.

With Voxeet’s API library, widgets and UX toolkit developers can easily add real-time communication such as live broadcasting, video calling and messaging to websites, applications and hardware integrations on iOS, Android and all web browsers.

I’m excited to join a great group of investors: Jason Lemkin & SaaStr Fund, John Kim (CEO of Sendbird), Nicolas Dessaigne (CEO of Algolia), Bill McGlashan the founder of TPG Growth, the Webex co-founder, an early investor of Skype and the CEO and CTO of Nexmo.

In the coming months, we’ll be focused on building the developer platform and community. I’d love to connect with founders working on APIs, PaaS, Dev Tools and CTOs working on consumer mobile and video applications.

Connect with me on Twitter: @briannekimmel

Sign up for my newsletter


Here’s why perfectionism is killing our progress

Perfectionism is killing our progress. I’ve talked to 4 women this week who are “thinking about starting something,” but afraid to get an MVP live.

Here are some thoughts:   

If you have an early idea, but need help with an MVP: Y Combinator Leap, Dreamers//Doers and Women in Product are safe spaces to share ideas and get feedback from top product leaders and engineers.

Don’t overthink the MVP: Keep costs low. AWS, Hubspot, Zendesk all offer free tools and support for startups. For non-technical founders: Alyssa Ravasio built Hipcamp after learning how to code at a short dev bootcamp. Hackathons like Spectra and AthenaHacks are another way to get a low-cost MVP live.

Keep in mind: Other people are here to help. I’ve found this to be particularly true in SaaS.

In today’s environment, every SaaS company needs a partner integration strategy. Get your MVP live and get feedback from partnerships folks at other SaaS companies.

If you’re thinking about starting something (especially in SaaS), I want to hear from you.

Write me on Twitter: @briannekimmel

Stop buying contact lists. Try these b2b growth tools instead.

90% of contacts from list buys will ultimately not convert to a sale, so let’s explore a few data-driven growth tools.

I recently calculated that 40% of my LinkedIn Inbox messages are cold emails from vendors who sell contact lists. “Hot leads.” “New contacts.” “Prospects searching for software in your category.” Each sales rep claims thousands of unique contacts based on a proprietary technology or differentiated data sources. Tempting, but something tells me these hot leads are too good to be true.

If you’re in B2B, and in particular have lead generation or growth in your title, then I’m guessing your inbox is also flooded with dozens of vendors who claim they can provide thousands of relevant contacts who are high intent and ready to buy your product.

While it may be tempting to try the new vendor with the latest methodology for acquiring prospect data, it’s highly unlikely that you’ve found a silver bullet for growth. Here’s why:

According to Leadiro the average list buy yields:

  • 50% bounced contacts
  • 40% unanswered emails

This means 90% of new contacts will ultimately not convert to a sale.

[It also assumes 0% overlap with current customer base, which is extremely rare. From personals experience, I’ve found any sample sets of data can yield anywhere from 40–50% duplicate contacts when you de-dupe against existing contacts in Salesforce.]

After pooling collective knowledge from growth leads at companies like Drift, Dropbox, Segment and Twilio, here is a short list of data vendors to help systematically scale your b2b growth efforts:

  1. Clearbit Reveal: instantly match IP addresses with company names, and see full profiles for all site visitors.

Clearbit Reveal immediately identifies web traffic by dynamically converting the IP address of visitors into a rich profile (85 data points including name, company, revenue, employee count and contact information for sales).

For Marketers:

Clearbit data is dynamically refreshed, which means cleaner data for personalization and refreshed contacts when an email bounces.

  • More granular retargeting campaigns based on site behavior and psychographic and firmographic data: job title, industry and more.
  • Safer personalization: recent data means fewer awkward emails such as bounced emails, incorrect job title, outdated company information.

For Sales:

  • Real-time alerts in Slack for named accounts who visit your website with recent contact information including name, job title, phone number and email.
  • Give your Sales team more context on the prospect before an exploratory call or old outbound: company revenue, employee count, industry and current technology stack: analytics tool, live chat provider, etc.
  • Ability to personalize programmatic outbound email campaigns. Create one email template and personalize using Clearbit data fields such as technographic data:

“Hi John, I noticed you’re using Slack. 60% of our customers use the Slack integration to solve customer support tickets faster. Would you like to learn more?”

Learn more about how I’ve used Clearbit to run competitive marketing programs at scale in Clearbit’s free Data-driven Digital Marketing book.

2. Datanyze: predictive technographics provider, helping B2B companies apply unique technology insights to identify and close their best accounts.

Datanyze crawls the web and mobile technology for technographic data of 35M companies to help you build a more robust view of prospects and customers.

Datanyze aggregates company-level data based on technology installed on their site. For Marketing and Sales, this empowers your team to have more productive exploratory conversations. It can also become a foundational tool for tracking your competition.

This technology is particularly relevant if you’d like to track competitors or complementary products. While it’s highly effective for web widgets and front-end tech tags such as live chat products (Intercom, Zendesk Chat, LivePerson), it’s less effective for back-end technology such as customer support products (Freshdesk, Zendesk Support or Salesforce Support Cloud).

3. HG Data: technographic data provider with best coverage of back-end technology such as help desk software

HG Data has the most robust database of technographic data on the market today.

While HG Data provides a similar solution to Datanyze, they have a unique ability to provide intelligence on back-end technologies such as help desk software.

Download the free Chrome extension that allows you to see the technologies used in your Accounts while in Salesforce. See the most trusted technographics on the market displayed in the most popular CRM.

In addition to these vendors, I would also suggest real-time search data providers such as Bombora and G2 Crowd. I plan to create a deeper analysis of these two tools in the future, please share any feedback or experiences you’ve had with these tools.

Say hi on Twitter: @briannekimmel 

 

What crypto companies can learn from TransferWise

When you look at the latest crypto companies, it’s clear that good companies are being built outside of Silicon Valley. The challenge for these companies? How do earn trust and establish credibility? How do you successfully transition from a scrappy side project to a more mature company? Where do you go for relevant best practices? You are building the Wild West after all.

As I spend time researching the latest crypto companies, I’m reminded of the early days of TransferWise. For many Americans, TransferWise is not a household name and it’s likely a product you’ll never have to use (unless you’re planning to move overseas).

It’s a currency exchange that offers a simple user interface and peer-to-peer network that matches customers wanting to swap money with each other. This means foreign exchange (FX) rates can be drastically reduced in comparison with bank charges where money is actually moved overseas.

TransferWise’s most recent valuation of $1.6B makes it one of the UK’s most valuable tech companies. The Estonian built, London based fintech company was started 2011 and moves £1 billion across its platform each month and has over 1 million customers.

Over the past 7 years, TransferWise has developed industry-leading best practices on product-led growth (paid acquisition, web monetization and peer-to-peer referrals).

They also embrace a few non-traditional philosophies such as “mission-driven growth” heavily dependent on employee culture and brand building and an emphasis on autonomous teams (such as performance marketing) with no formal Growth Team.

So one of our autonomous teams is performance marketing. They have a product manager and engineers and can change anything on the site, that enables them to grow traffic from Facebook. Hence marketing is an autonomous team in its own right. The only shared teams which don’t have a growth KPI are HR and finance” – Neilan Peiris, VP of Growth at TransferWise on GrowthHackers

After spending time analyzing the TransferWise’s experience, I realized there are a number of valuable learnings that apply to all crypto startups who need to build trust quickly.

Three ways to build trust quickly:

  1. Create ways to engage with the product (pre-signup)  
  2. Prioritize reviews, recommendations and in-product referrals  
  3. Make Customer Support a core function (hint: hire a dedicated product manager. Solve problems using product, not just people.)

Create ways to engage with the product (pre-signup)  

Currency converter with transparent fees

By bringing modules such as currency converters, calculators and product tutorials before a sign-up form, users can engage with the product and increase time on site.  

Possible metrics to watch:

  • Increased sign-up conversion rate
  • Reduced bounce rate
  • Test smart form fields: smarter retargeting, future personalization
  • Test waving first-time transaction fees

Prioritize reviews and recommendations

Similar to other transactional businesses, peer reviews are an integral piece is establishing trust with new customers. In the case of WeTransfer, reviews are powered by a credible third-party Trustpilot.

With over 40,999 reviews, WeTransfer has a 5/5 star rating.

Reviews powered by Trustpilot

Possible ways to solicit reviews:

  • Sign-up confirmation page: test incentive/non-incentive
  • First transaction complete: give/get offer to increase repeat transaction rate
  • Following happy moments: automated request for review based on NPS score

Make Customer Support a core differentiator

In many cases, this is easier said than done. In a recent post on Medium Coinbase reported 887% growth in Customer Support.  

Ensuring a consistent, on-brand experience across hundreds of new agents sounds nearly impossible. While supporting crypto customers is new, support for financial services has been around for decades.

Ways to improve Customer Support:

  • Mirror support best practices from banking (look at both self-serve and white glove services)
  • Focus on 1-2 channels to start: email and phone
  • Early social customer care should sit with Marketing
    • Pass early feedback to product
    • Create a weekly all-company update to keep customer experience top of mind
    • Build shareable moments into customer journey: incentivize positive mentions
  • Too early for dedicated support? Host a “ticket smash.” Ask all employees to allocated 1 hour per day to responding to customers. It’s a great way to build user empathy.
  • Customer Support extends far beyond agents. Leverage existing communities, empower early users to host user groups and don’t be afraid test non-traditional mediums such as political action committees, guerrilla marketing and more brand-building activities.

TransferWise Change.org campaign: http://stophiddenfees.co.uk/

If there’s anything we’ve learned from recent crypto success stories, great ideas can come from anywhere and small teams are punching well above their weight. To successfully transition from scrappy startup to credible company, small teams should look to more mature success stories. TransferWise is a $1.6B unicorn who successfully established trust quickly and built a credible tech company outside of Silicon Valley. Their product-led growth strategy is worth analyzing in detail and 5/5 star rating is nothing short of amazing. 

In 2017, Distrust has gone viral

In 2017, distrust has gone viral. Companies are blowing up on social media and trust is at an all-time low. This presentation looks at the top reasons why your customers don’t trust you. Learn ways to build trust into your product and improve your customer experience.

Please contact me for speaking opportunities or workshops. brianne.kimmel@gmail.com

 

Upcoming Events & Talks

Join one of my upcoming events or talks (schedule updated regularly).

2017 talks include: Pioneers Vienna, Growth Talk with The Family in Paris and #AMA with Growth Hackers.

Want me to speak at your event? Please contact me directly to confirm availability.

If you’d like to sponsor a Zendesk for Startups event or host an original event in our San Francisco office, please email startups@zendesk.com.

 

  • Point Nine Capital Founders Conference: portfolio companies only
  • Relate Live NYC: tickets still available
  • Kent State University: September 22
  • Product School SF: November 15 (more info coming soon)

 

Glossier CEO Emily Weiss on Customer Experience

For tech companies, brand marketing is generally one of the last functions to be built. Traditionally brand marketing requires a large media budget and a visionary executive (think Bozoma Saint John, the woman sent to save Uber). However, with the influx of disruptive, direct to consumer companies like Allbirds, Everlane and Glossier, we’re seeing a new intersection of brand, customer support and product.

These customer-centric companies focus on trust, transparency and community as a competitive advantage against traditional retailers. Early customers are actively involved in product development and brand building. While most large retailers struggle with transparency and the immediate ROI of community, the new breed of customer-centric companies focus on building for the customer and the value of a long-term relationship.

According to a study by Label Insight, 73% of consumers say they’re willing to pay more for a product that promises total transparency. 

At YC Female Founder’s conference, Emily Weiss shared her vision for Glossier and the future of customer experience. For Glossier, the 1.5M unique visitors per month are more than just shoppers. They’re content creators, product testers and brand advocates.

Some thoughts from Glossier CEO Emily Weiss:

On metrics:

  • Engagement metrics aren’t soft metrics: likes, comments and original UGC impacts the bottom line. Every comment doesn’t change the overall product strategy, but each customer is heard. Beauty recommendations happen offline and online, so every customer has voice. They are actively building the brand and fueling growth.

On community:

“Beauty is an activator for connection. It provides a voice. Every woman has an opinion and she curates her own daily routine. Beauty is an equalizer among women.”

  • Community builds brand trust and credibility: Glossier’s social content includes a mix of brand and user-generated content

On product:

When we look at beauty before YouTube, it was a relatively solitary routine. There was no community or ongoing education for the average person. Early lessons from mother figures and offline recommendations from friends influenced future purchase decisions.

  • Commerce has become democratized by reviews and star ratings: women want the best, so reviews and user-generated content are expected.
  • Listen to your users, but don’t 1:1 crowdsource. Glossier listens and engages on social media, but it does not 1:1 crowdsource product and editorial direction. Glossier’s goal is to listen, engage and inspire. Inspiration encourages experimentation and accelerates your beauty routine. In beauty, free samples provide a low risk way to test new products and go a little bigger and bolder.

Modern iconic brands have a strong editorial direction and a humble approach to customer feedback. 

Weiss spoke to Glossier’s NYC showroom strategy, which encourages women to come in store and experiment. The retail location was designed for experimenting with new products. It’s become a social space where women meet before brunch and try new items together. It creates a sense of community and a tangible way to interact with the brand.

Glossier Showroom NYC

Follow me on Twitter for more on brand, customer experience and product.

How Snapchat Spectacles changed my view on video

As a marketer, I’m always looking for ways to scale content creation.
Creating great content takes time, money and the right team.

I often times refer to the Cheap, Fast, Good equation.

Fast + Cheap ≠ Good
Good + Cheap≠ Fast
Good + Fast ≠ Cheap

Thinking back to my early days at Nikon and later Expedia, we struggled with quality creative at scale.

Sure, you’ll find one-off photographers or even travel bloggers who can support your content strategy.
But replicating this model globally gets time consuming and expensive.

When I first heard about Snapchat Spectacles, I was very skeptical.
Having worked on the launch of Nikon 1, I was afraid that Spectacles would have a similar delay between shooting and publishing.
If you’re using the Spectacles for travel footage, then you’ll need to consider that WiFi is not readily available when you’re backpacking in Southeast Asia or at any major sporting event or festival.

On a personal level, I’ve found that it’s fine to share your favorite moments, even if it’s not “in” in the exact moment.
If you’re a brand, having this delay is likely not an issue.
The Spectacles can be viewed as an easy way to create more content, which still needs slight editing before sharing.

For marketers, we all know that video is a great way to create a strong connection with your customers.
I’ve always been bullish on video, however I have yet to find a solution that can scale video efforts.
The end to end process of storyboarding, filming and production takes way too long.

As I’m personally experimenting with Snapchat Spectacles, I’ve began to adopt a different mindset for branded video content.

  1. It’s okay to sacrifice quality for scale. 

If you’ve come from a traditional marketing background, then the focus has always been polished campaigns suitable for print, OOH and TV. Today, 50% of consumers find UGC more memorable than brand-produced content, so we need to rely heavily on our customers and their favorite influencers to create successful content.

Rather than focusing on quality, the key for brands is scale. And scale can only come from giving creative control to our customers.

Scale also has a direct impact on the business.
For example: Adding a video to a landing page can increase conversion rates by 80%

  1.  Empower your customers to create content for you.  
Video has the power to create immediate connection with your customers and humanize your brand.
Yet, many of us still struggle to justify the costs for production budget and the resources to execute effectively.
One of the easiest ways to get started with video is empowering your customers to create content for you.
It may take some prizes or incentives to start, but UGC allows you to create content quickly. You’ll also see a nice bump in organic shares and WOM referrals as contributors are motivated to share your branded content.

My biggest piece of advice to other marketers is to create a branded contributor guide, which outlines what type of content you’d like customers and influencers to create. Provide specific examples of what works and what doesn’t work for your brand. The guide should be visual and not too prescriptive, so you empower the users without limiting their creativity.

A couple branded UGC Snapchat campaigns I love: 
Sour Patch Kids sour then sweet hijinks
 
  1. Test and double down on what’s working. 

Using engagement data from Snapchat (opens and replies), you can quickly identify which types of content perform best. For more robust platforms like Facebook of Instagram, you can get even more sophisticated with your audience targeting and testing strategy.

For more tips on how brands can use Snapchat Spectacles, check out this post on Social Media Today.