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Good conversion rates are the holy grail of web startups. Today I signed up for Faavorites. I really like their copy of the signup button. It stresses the urgency and therefore makes you want to sign up.

Hey, we only have a limited amount of spaces left; hurry on through before anyone beats you!”

Psychologically it hits you because it implies Scarcity. One of Robert Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion:

  • Reciprocity- People tend to return a favor
  • Commitment and Consistency- If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because that goal as now congruent with their self image.
  • Social Proof - People will do things that they see other people are doing. 
  • Authority - People will tend to obey authority figures
  • Liking- People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. 
  • Scarcity- Perceived scarcity will generate demand

Read more about Principles of Persuasion

Faavorites, is a new service to organise your favorited tweets, I haven’t tried it yet. Only got this far:)

10 most important SEO steps

We all need the google juice. Today I am at HackFwd where the Sebastian Deutsch, founder of Watchlater just did an excellent talk on SEO. 

Cheat sheet from the talk. 10 essential SEO steps:

1) most relevant content at Titel, H1 and H2
2) avoid dublicate content
3) Use link masking to include links google shouldn’t follow.
4) Make sure you have site map
5) Careful with canonical meta tags
6) Meta tag images. Same text as on page, otherwise google punishes you
7) Google loves new content
8) Rates .com domains better than anything else
9) Get the right back links from trusted sources
10) Hire a professional (with some negotiation you should be able to pay only partly  fixed price and rest based on results)

Pro Tip: Use tells you what you’re doing right and wrong. Free, instant report (at everplaces we love it too btw)

Sebastian Deutsch @sippndippp. Founder of Watchlater (watch videos on your ipad). and 9Elements
HackFwd is pan european seed fund

Periodical table of SEO Ranking:

Layers of the web

The bar has been raised for building products people will love. Today we need to consider three layers of the web, all of which needs to be addressed in a great product. Imaging a pyramid consisting of:


Bottom layer: Content: The first challenge is simply to get relevant interesting content. This used to be an end goal in itself but the bar has been moved. 

Middle layer: Utility: Products need to solve a real problem. During the last 10 years we’ve seen a lot of products built that didn’t do that. In particular in the space of location (checkins does not solve a problem normal people have), social (half the stuff in my stream is just noise) and photo sharing (why do i need this photo?). This will change. Forrester’s CEO explains why here, explaining how social network penetration is so high there is no new ground. 

Top layer: Emotional: The new holy ground is shifting focus from technological capabilities and back to human nature. How can we create products with good content, which solve a problem and which people care to use. Certain products become a part of how people see themselves (iphone users, rails developers) and it’s this level of connectivity we need to aim for. People need to care and feel good about using the products. The renewed focus on design, great visuals, audio, social in everything is a part of that important mission. 

Thanks Rishi Taparia of Scale VC, the first to mention this model for me. On twitter as @taps. And to for the photo


Offline shopping how it should be. Apple does it again

I’m in Palo Alto, and I needed something for my iPad, I walk into the apple store and have the perfect retail experience.

Here’s how retail should be:

I immediately get approached by one of the many assistants, all friendly. One was an old man which I love since technology shouldn’t just be for young people and geeks. The thing I want isn’t in the shelves but the assistant immediately find it for me.

And now here’s the big deal… I then pay to her, right in the middle of the shop, instead of having to join a queue or find a cash register. She just takes out her smart phone, gets my credit card and we’re done! (after she’s emailed me the receipt instead of giving me a crappy piece of paper.

Apparently if I’d had the apple app I could have just completed the transaction myself on my own mobile, paying via my apple id. Now that’s brilliant people! why don’t all stored let you pay to any given person, any where and sure fast?

I am not a complete fan of apple, but it’s hard not to be impressed of how they just continue to be the first to get it right. Keep striving for perfection, here’s always improvements to be done. That must be the lesson here.

You’re allowed to use Flickr photos

This is an important question for many of us, especially when you’re building services which integrate a lot of photos. We need to protect our companies against potentially infringing on others’ right, but also because most of us actually want to do the right thing.

It’s something I was reading up on tonight and I found this excellent post by called A Complete Guide to Finding and Using Incredible Flickr Images.

Here are the main points. 

1: Flickr photos are best:

With Google Images it’s hard to guard yourself against copyright infringement  A page does not have to list copyright information for an image to be considered copyrighted. It’s also very difficult to know the original source of an image.

Stock Photos are legal but tend to be bland, plus they are expensive. Like iStockPhotos

Flickr, on the other hand, hosts millions of photos taken by amateur and professional photographers. 

2: Dont use ‘All rights reserved’, images without explicit permission. Instead go for the creative commons ones, in particularly the Attribution License: 

3: Use the Attribution License 

This allows you to modify the images (by cropping them, or writing on them, for example) and to use them in both commercial and non-commercial spaces. The only requirement is that you credit the author with a link.

4: Finding the images: Go to the Flickr: Creative Commons page. From there, you can enter search portals for each of the six CC licenses, again I suggest the Attribution License. 

Personally I’d like to use filtered photos, like Instagram, so that’s what I’m going to look into now:)

Photo by Dominiqs

How to test your product for market fit fast and cheaply

Fast product development based on hard user data, rather than gut instinct, is all the rage in software development these days. Lean Startup, The Startup Genome and just about every self respecting CTO is hailing it as the new black.

Personally I agree and have there been looking into which forms of testing Everplaces can do fast and cheaply. We’d love to share them with you: 

- Write the press release before you do a line of code - it the product interesting enough for customers that its actually worth building? Learnt from Amazon.

- Adwords. Zynga finds 5 key words for a new game they are thinking of making and make ads to see if people click on them. If not enough do, they dont build the game. 

- Pre-product user testing. Wooga do the first user test of games from a drawing. If testers like it they proceed to doing tests with a powerpoint illustration. Only much later is any programming done. 

- Kick-starter can be used to test appeal - will anyone co-fund your project. If yes, then there are probably also people who would use it. Learnt from IDEO.

- Fake back end. Intuit build the front end fast, but not the back end. In the beginning the backend tasks are performed by humans until it is proved it is worth automising. 

- User voting. Votebox by Dropbox let’s users vote on what feature they do next. With heavy weigh on core users as opposed to casual users. 

- AB landing page testing. Everplaces have several landing pages with different messages, we test which converts to beta sign ups best. 

- Fake buttons. Human IPO make fake buttons on the website and track if people try to click. If enough click, they build the functionality behind it. We also do that in our apps which then takes you to a page that says “Oh, we havent built this yet, but now we know you’d like it we’ll speed up the process” 

Would love to hear how you split test!

Follow suggestions:
Many of these examples came from @tomhulme. Founder of IDEO 
@ericries, author of Lean Startup. Must-read book
@fadibishara. Creator of Startup Genome project
@werner. CTO of Amazon
@krestenbuch Founder Human IPO
@begemann. Jens Begemann, CEO Wooga

And all very nice guys on top of being brilliant. I recommend following them. 

Why more is less when it comes to notifications

Twice recently have I signed up for services where the company seems to think they the more they email me the more I will like the product. The reality is, not surprisingly, almost directly the opposite.

There is a very fine line between staying “front of mind” and just being plain annoying.

An example, two weeks ago I was on the jury of the excellent Arctic15 event  a new launch event for startups. As a part of the process I signed up for Mancx, a startup pitching, which calls itself the knowledge market. I immediately regretted this as they started sending me emails without the option to unsubscribe. This practice is not only immoral, it is also illegal in many countries. Personally I hate feeling locked it so it makes me instantly want to discontinue using the service. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that forcing people to like your product is like to have the exact opposite effect.

And this isn’t just startup practice, I also magically started received the email newsletter of German VC fund High Tech Gründerfund after I ran into one of their VC at a conference and gave him my card.  I could give you tons more examples. 

If you are trying to build a brand and reaching out to people then remember that they are just that - people. Not cells in an excel sheet, or a user number or a beta statistic. 

It is a no-brainer that  the success of all of our companies depend on our number of active users, which, in turn, come from our ability to create a community or a relation to our users that fosters loyalty. Apart from creating a kick-ass product of course.

I am not trying to be the expert here but perhaps the rules of thumb are something like this: 

- Take one step back and ask yourself if you would see each particular piece of communication as info or spam

- Shut up when you dont have anything interesting to say. 

- Dont autopost anything (ever) without explicit permission 

- Only send relevant information (my phone company just send me an offer for talk time. I have an unlimited use plan so that just indicates to me that they are incompetent and have no idea who their clients are)

Pardon the rant. Kudos to everyone out there doing it well!

Insight: How and why AWS was built

The other day I had the pleasure of meeting Amazon CTO Werner, the man behind Amazon’s cloud service. As the father of the cloud I was curious to learn more about why and how he built AWS. Luckily he was happy to share:-)

The first insight is that Amazon built the cloud hosting service to deal with their own scaling problems. They quickly figured that if they could solve their problems, they could solve the server problems for others too. The rest is history.

AWS’s golden rules:

-Designed for flexibility. No lock in whatsoeveer that might hinder engineers wanting to us it.

-On demand. “Amazon was very seasonal so we needed to be able to upscale servers fast and downscale fast. Otherwise engineers would not give up the extra server capacity in slow times but hold on to it “just in case”. by building on demand we could use our sources better”

-Automated. Because otherwise engineers would try to predict demand, and that is not their area of expertise -Elastic. A core feature is not just that you can upscale capacity fast when you need it, also that you can downscale. This is critical for business success as it minimised losses in times of failure, which will in evidently happen designed

- Utility pricing - Transparent. The reality is that developers need to know where their data is to satisfy regulatory demands. So several clouds were required. Drink their own cool-aid? Yes, Since launch AWS lowered prices 14 times

Thanks to hack fwd, the european seed fund as who’se event Build07 i met Werner

More? @Werner @HackFwd I am writing another couple of posts relating to this so follow me on twitter if you want to know when more is posted @tahitahi 

Don’t let your startup do one-night stands! What love and user adoption have in common.

We recently made a bold decision in Everplaces not to do one-night stands. As a company I mean.  Let me explain.

We’ve been looking at strategies for spreading the product when it is launching in September, and had a number of ways we felt we could get users fast. For a short while this was tantalizing until we looked each other in the eyes and reaffirmed that we want to build an excellent product for particular kind of people, rather than an average product for everyone. So we decided that loyalty is more important that fast adoption for us. 

For the fun of it we call it our True Love value. We know there are about 20-30% of smartphone users who’ll fit exactly in our demographic. These people are likely to love the product and then spread the word. So for us, 1 of these are more valuable than 10 one-night-stands (the user equivalent of one-night stands is random people who try your product because it is new to them and then never come back. They are simply not compatible with the product.)

So why are people chasing fast adoption?
Because it is excellent for what Eric Ries calls “vanity stats”. Stats you get to impress your investor or competitor but which are essentially worthless. Like “1 million downloads!” - when you actually know that half have never even logged in and the rest are never using it.  

Compromise is death for software
I believe there are quite a lot of parables between love and user adoption. There are just some people, or users, that your product isn’t compatible with. So don’t try to please them by building features for them. Instead, chase the 20% which have the potential to become true loves. I am a firm believer in that doing a little bit for everyone means doing it perfect for no one. 

Do you have the balls to do things right? 
It is a very tough call to sacrifice fast adoption for loyalty, especially if you need traction to raise money. So it takes balls. 

Dont believe me, get it straight from the horses mouth
Here is a post and a video where @EricRies talks about why you should grow slowly, but surely . I have also posted it in the post below.  


Related to the post above, here’s Eric Ries on the advantages of learning from a small number of early customers to improve and perfect your product before exposing it to a wider audience. “Don’t be in a rush to get big,” he sums up at the end, “be in a rush to have a great product.”

Ries argues that an entrepreneur’s greatest advantage is their obscurity. If your first product sucks, at least not too many people will know about it. But that is the best time to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them to make the product better. “It is inevitable that the first product is going to be bad in some ways,” he says. 

Originally on @techcrunch TV, link here

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