About Katherine Korakakis

Katherine has spent most of her life working alongside start-ups in various verticals. For 10 years, she was responsible for the development of entrepreneurial initiatives and projects under the auspices of the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, a Youth Secretariat program of the government of Quebec. She has authored and co-authored guidebooks on entrepreneurship education. Katherine first developed her passion for building businesses when she co-founded Glambiton. She was instrumental in the development of the first National Entrepreneurship Day for the province of Quebec. Katherine has served on the Boards of numerous non-profit organizations and currently sits on PMEMTL Centre-Ouest and EPCA. She sits on the investment committees of PME MTL Centre and PME MTL Centre-Ouest. These entities are the decision making bodies with regards to business financing with the city of Montreal. She currently is Manager of Entrepreneurship for ProMontreal Entrepreneurs (PME), an early stage VC fund and entrepreneurship program that invests in multiple verticals. The fund has a social business model and has been around for 20 yrs.Katherine has spent most of her life working alongside start-ups in various verticals. For 10 years, she was responsible for the development of entrepreneurial initiatives and projects under the auspices of the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, a Youth Secretariat program of the government of Quebec. She has authored and co-authored guidebooks on entrepreneurship education. Katherine first developed her passion for building businesses when she co-founded an entrepreneurial training event for girls called Glambition. She was instrumental in the development of the first National Entrepreneurship Day for the province of Quebec. Katherine has served on the Boards of numerous corporations and currently is the vice-president of PMEMTL Centre-Ouest and president of EPCA. She sits on the investment committees of PME MTL Centre and PME MTL Centre-Ouest. These entities are the decision making bodies with regards to business financing with the city of Montreal. Katherine is the Manager of Entrepreneurship at Ometz an early stage VC fund and entrepreneurship program that invests in multiple verticals. The fund has a social business model and has been around for 20 yrs.

Bill 96 and its Implications for Commerce in Quebec

Quebec’s commerce sector stirs as new language restrictions under Bill 96 take effect on June 1, 2023. The government argues the law preserves and elevates French in Quebec due to perceiving it as threatened. However, the implications of this bill for English language and allophone businesses in the province have sparked concern, with its measures perceived as excessive by anglophone rights groups, including the Quebec Community Groups Network​.

Starting from June 1, Bill 96 mandates small Quebec companies to disclose the proportion of employees incapable of communicating in French. The provincial government will then publish this information in its searchable public registry of companies. This requirement applies to businesses with five to 49 employees, with new businesses required to declare this information upon registration. Existing businesses are required to do so when filing their annual update​.

The ability to communicate in French at work includes attending meetings, understanding instructions, participating in training, and writing/sharing documents. Premier François Legault seeks to limit English usage in Quebec through extensive toughening of language rules in this legislation.

The implications of these provisions on commerce in Quebec, particularly for English language or allophone businesses, are significant. Bill 96 enshrines in the Charter of human rights and freedoms a new “right to live in French,” requiring businesses to inform and serve consumers and the public in French​​. Every business offering goods and services to consumers, including those catering to other businesses, must comply with this obligation.

Businesses failing to meet the bill’s requirements face steep penalties. Under Bill 96, violations of the Charter result in increased fines: individuals face fines ranging from $700 to $7,000, while companies face fines ranging from $3,000 to $30,000. A second offence incurs double the fines, while subsequent repeat offences result in triple the fines. If an offence continues for longer than one day, it will constitute a separate offence for each day it continues​.

In addition to fines, Bill 96 includes administrative penalties, allowing the Minister of the French Language, in consultation with the Office, to suspend or revoke permits/authorizations of companies repeatedly violating the Charter. Additionally, Bill 96 expands the francization requirements for companies. Previously, only companies with 50+ employees in a six-month period had to register and obtain a francization certificate. Starting from June 1, 2025, companies employing 25 or more people will be subject to this obligation.

Non-compliant companies unable to fulfill francization obligations or reject the Office’s language learning services can’t contract with civil administration or receive public subsidies.

Bill 96 imposes strict language regulations on Quebec’s commerce sector to strengthen French usage, burdening businesses. It mandates disclosing non-French competent workforce and serving customers in French, with significant fines and permit suspensions. Concerns arise among anglophone groups and non-French businesses, impacting linguistic diversity and the economy.

Businesses must comprehend Bill 96’s expectations to ensure compliance and avoid penalties. Understand employee language abilities, communicate with the government, and consider language learning services. Consult legal and HR professionals, engage the Office, and support French promotion in Quebec’s commerce sector.

Avoid Startup Failure

A startup niche is what? 

What exactly is a niche, and how does it help to avoid startup failure? It primarily refers to a specific target audience rather than a broad, generalized approach. By identifying demographics, geography, economic status, education level, and unique perspectives, you can tailor your messaging to a specific audience.

At a deeper level, it entails understanding your company’s position in the larger economic landscape. What differentiates you from competitors? Do you provide something unique that addresses a specific need, or do current offerings have flaws? Creating a distinct position for your company is critical to preventing failure. Developing a unique position for your company is crucial when identifying a niche market.

What is the value of a startup niche? 

So, why is a startup niche valuable? Contrary to the common belief that targeting a larger audience is better, focusing on a specific niche offers several benefits:

Identity and distinctions 

The first step in determining your startup niche is to devise a strategy for distinguishing yourself from the competition. It’s an excellent opportunity to begin developing your brand identity. 

Knowing how and why you differ from other companies in your industry can help you set higher brand standards for yourself and begin steadily growing your company. Both now and in the future, your branding and marketing materials will be based on this. 

Understanding of the audience 

Knowing your niche entails understanding the perspectives and values of your target audience, which allows for more effective communication and marketing strategies. What are their distinct points of view and core values? 

If you understand these, you’ll be able to communicate with your target audience much more effectively. Your ability to create more persuasive marketing and advertising materials will improve, as will the likelihood of acquiring a customer during a sales call. Better yet, you can use it to increase customer retention. 

Competitive defence

By targeting untapped markets, you can protect your market space from competitors while also lowering marketing costs.

You won’t have to worry about competition invading your economic space if you can create goods and services that are genuinely distinct from those of your competitors. If you target a market that other businesses are completely ignoring, you will benefit from lower marketing costs and increased marketing relevance. 

Offensive capabilities

By focusing on a specific niche, you can be more aggressive in your startup niche targeting, directly competing with your biggest competitors by providing better products or appealing to your mutual audiences in a more relevant, targeted manner. 

An aggressive competitive strategy emphasizes actively changing your industry and improving all the time in order to stay ahead of the competition. The best way to compete with your opponents is to combine defensive and offensive strategies. 

Beginning with the basics 

So, how do you discover your startup niche? Here are a few steps:

1. Analyze your competitors to identify market gaps or opportunities.

Once you’ve decided on a basic business concept, begin researching your main competitors. These do not have to be direct competitors offering the same goods and services as you, but they must be related to your industry. 

How are they currently putting themselves out there? Who is their target audience? What do they think of themselves? You can use this as inspiration to create your own specialty or try to completely deviate from these norms to differentiate your brand. 

2. Conduct market research to determine demographics and trends.

If you have a few ideas for potential target markets or positioning tactics, begin early market research. 

Statistic Canada has excellent demographic data for the entire country, and reading publications from major research institutions can help you better understand different populations. As you gain experience, you’ll be able to eliminate customers who aren’t a good fit for your company and start spotting more profitable prospects. 

3.Gather feedback from potential customers by conducting surveys and focus groups.

Begin conducting surveys and focus groups if you have a prototype for the product you want to sell or something substantial to show people (such as a demo or 3D model of your product). 

You can think about both the demographics you already have in mind and those you haven’t considered yet. What are your customers saying about your product? What do they think of the name of your company? Do they have any suggestions for how to improve? You can get useful advice if you pay attention to the responses of the participants. 

4. Create buyer personas to better understand your target audience and guide your marketing and sales strategies.

At this point, you should have enough data to start creating consumer personas. These serve the same purpose as fictitious characters designed to represent the average person in one of your target audiences. 

For example, you could create a client persona named “Jerry” to represent urban 30-something men. Customer personas can help you define your niche and make it easier to share information about your target market with other departments like marketing and sales. 

Finding your niche 

It is not difficult to identify a profitable niche. However, you must conduct the necessary research. Follow these steps to identify a profitable niche in which your startup can thrive and succeed.

How to Reap Rewards with Instagram Captions

How to reap rewards with Instagram captions. One of the most crucial tools you have for boosting audience engagement on Instagram is the caption. Your followers may be drawn to your images and videos, but it’s the caption that persuades them to share, like, and comment on your post. Your Instagram captions can also boost sales, expand your social media reach, and help you gain more Instagram followers.

You might be wondering, how can you be certain that you’re utilizing the proper captions to foster accomplishment? Here are the tools you need to learn to reap rewards with your Instagram captions.

1. Grab their attention right away

Like most social media platforms, Instagram is all about quick exchanges of information.

On a regular basis, your customers scroll through dozens of images. Since Instagram condenses your description to just three or four lines, you must grab their attention quickly if you want them to stay on your page.

On the news stream, you have even less of a chance of grabbing your reader’s attention because only the first phrase of your caption will be visible. As such, your opening sentence should be written to instantly capture the reader’s attention by doing the following:

• Pose a question: your customer will want to know if you have addressed it.

• Include visuals: make your brand’s personality pop out by using emojis.

•Make a statement: say something that you know will catch the attention of your audience.

• Introduce your call to action first: as soon as a customer views your material, what you want them to do should be clear. Keep in mind that concise lines will attract your audience’s attention more quickly than most wordy Instagram captions. Keep it straightforward and to the point to get your message across.

2. Be a call-to-action master

Your call-to-action (CTA) is the most crucial component of your Instagram caption. It’s how you encourage your followers to interact with your page by leaving a comment on your post or clicking the link in your bio.

However, it is important to refrain from including too many CTAs in a single post. Consequently, having too many CTAs can take away from the caption’s clear purpose. Instead, you should precisely highlight what you want your customer to do for each of your Instagram posts. Below are some examples of the intentions of Instagram posts. Do you want the reader to:

  • Visit your website?
  • Click the link in your bio?
  • Invite their friends to a post?
  • Shop for a sale?
  • Subscribe to your newsletter?
  • Participate in a giveaway or contest?
  • Save your post for later?
  • Find the link from your stories?
  • Send you a DM?
  • Chat in the comments?
  • Leave an (insert emoji) if they agree?
  • Tag someone?

Try a few different possibilities because it might be challenging to predict which CTA phrases will result in the greatest response from your audience. You can choose which call-to-action phrases are best to employ in the future by evaluating your call-to-action phrases’ by their levels of engagement.

3. Tell stories

Spice up your Instagram captions with some storytelling.

A compelling narrative will strengthen your customers’ emotional connection to your brand and help them understand the advantages of your product or service.

When incorporating a compelling narrative into your captions, you should:

  • Show emotion: grab the reader’s attention with well-written descriptive information that is intended to help them envision or better understand the products you are selling.
  • Use appropriate language: find, use, and maintain the voice tone that works with your audience. Your stories will be more relatable if you use the same language as your intended audience.
  • Try being authentic: make your brand look more genuine by discussing your personal experiences. By sharing your personal experiences, you can show your audience that you are more than just a nameless organization.

4. Use sensory language

Another way to reap the rewards of Instagram captions is to find ways to connect emotionally with your followers, such as using sensory language. An Instagram account must have the appearance and feel of a personal journal, with authentic, moving, and engaging content, in order to successfully appeal to its followers.

Thus, you should write Instagram captions that will enable users to thoroughly immerse themselves in the experience you’re sharing, whether you’re a large corporation or a little business. Using sensory words will allow your content to be experienced through sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.

The types of senses you should consider and appeal to, include:

  • Visual: concerned with sight, colour, form, and appearance
  • Tactile: concerned with touch and abstract conceptions
  • Smell: concerned with smells and how they affect our emotions
  • Taste: concerned with the things we can taste and experience
  • Motion: concerned with movements and how readers experience words
  • Auditory: concerned with hearing, noises, and even music

5. Utilize hashtags

Lastly, without the appropriate hashtags, Instagram captions are worthless. Hashtags on Instagram, as on most social media platforms, make your content searchable and guarantee that the relevant customers can find you. The simple act of including hashtags in your captions can greatly increase your account reach.

You can add a lot of important Instagram hashtags at the end of your captions, but it’s also worthwhile to think about how you can weave them in naturally with @mentions of relevant people.

Keep in mind that the finest Instagram captions typically include a variety of hashtags. You must choose trending ones that are attractive to your intended audience, but it is also important to consider specialized and more focused hashtags.

By creating your own custom hashtags, you may even entice your followers to participate and post user-generated content in your Instagram comments. A strong brand hashtag will promote your business, especially if you utilize it in conjunction with a contest or giveaway. For instance, you could offer a prize to everyone who shares a photo of themselves using your product with the hashtag associated with your business.

Keep an eye on what’s popular in your market, as well as the hashtags your competitors and brand influencers are using. This can help you if you need more ideas for hashtags to employ.

Make changes to your Instagram captions

It’s simple to ignore captions on a visual social media platform like Instagram. However, if you’re not maximizing your Instagram captions, you can be passing up important opportunities to engage, connect with, and convert clients. Instagram captions can be an essential part of growing and maintaining a business.

Israeli Innovations Changing the World

Israeli innovations

 

Israel; a tiny country that is only 70 years old, has developed into a tech giant. Many Israeli innovations have literally changed the world beyond all recognition. Referred to as the start-up nation, Israel has more tech start-ups per capita than anywhere else in the world. This is impressive for a country with a population of about 9 million people. Its progress and innovation in such a short period is incredible. Some amazing tech that has come out of start-ups from Israel include Waze, Netafim, Mobileye, WaterGen and the firewall are just of the few of the many.

  1. Waze

Ehud Shabtai  wasn’t satisfied with the GPS devices available in israel so he took action. He noticed that GPS devices were not able to accurately provide traffic information in real time. Him, along with two other engineers  created a community project called Free Map Israel. For the first time ever, they used crowdsourcing as a way to upload traffic information in real time.The app was able to upload data from other users and create more efficient routes accordingly. Free map Israel was then turned into the company Waze. The community grew and in 2013, Google bought the company  for $1.1 Billion. The company of about 100 employees earned the biggest buy out in Israel tech leaving each employee with about 1.2 million dollars. Thanks to this Israeli innovation, everyone across the globe is using this GPS app to get them from point A to B in the fastest way possible.

  1. NetaFim

For many years, farmers in Israel struggled to grow crops in the dessert soil. It is said that the greatest inventions come from necessity. Drip irrigation was invented and developed by Netafim in the arid land of the Negev desert in Israel. Since then, they have changed the lives of millions of farmers across the world. Due to the struggles that Israeli farmers faced, it lead them to find a solution that would allow them to grow crops more efficiently and effectively in any climate.

In 1965, engineer Simcha Blass began building the early models for drip irrigation. Blass was able to realize that fewer regulated drips of water was able to make a huge difference in plant growth. Kibbutz Hatzerim then signed an agreement with him to establish Netafim. Netafim was able to improve crop yields by 70% while reducing the water usage by 5%. NetaFim is now the world’s leading irrigation company that operates in 150 countries. In 2017, Mexichem SA acquired Netafim from Perima Holding for $1.5 Billion.

  1. Mobileye

Autonomous driving has finally arrived. Cars are more advanced than ever and are now able to sense their surroundings with little human input. Most new cars are equipped with advanced driver-assistance. This is thanks to Amon Shashua who started developing this technology in 1999 in his academic thesis. His research turned into a reality. He developed the algorithm that would allow cameras to detect and alert drivers of hazards such as pedestrians. Since then, the technology has quickly advanced and now Mobile eye technology is now used in over 25 automakers. Mobileye is one of the biggest exits for an Israel company. Intel coorporation bought the company for 15.3 billion dollars.  Due to this Israeli innovation almost every car on the market  is becoming equipped with their technology.

  1. WaterGen

Approximately 2.1 billion people worldwide live without access to safe water and, of that amount, roughly 1.7 million children die annually. Luckily, Watergen has found a solution to decrease this number significantly. Using nothing but a portable generator, WaterGen discovered how to produce clean drinkable water out of thin air.

In 2012, founder Arye Kohavi and his team launched the first generator able to cool and liquidize the air vapour present in the atmosphere anywhere from rain forests to desserts. Using their patented GENius technology, their generators can produce four litres of clean water for every kilowatt-hour of electricity it uses. Their technology is even able to account for air pollution, filtering out any impurities. WaterGen can produce up to 5,000 litres of premium quality drinking water per day per unit. Using 70% less power consumption than any other competitors and proven 100% clean premium quality drinking water, WaterGen is a life-changing product that plans to bring clean drinkable water to millions of people across the globe

5. Firewall

Cyber security has become a major problem as our world has become so technologically inclined. This Israel startup, Check Point Software Technologies, has become a world leader in cyber security. The software we all use to protect our devices from dangerous cyber activity is thanks to Gil Shwed, Marius Nacht, and Shlomo Kramer. In 1993, Check Point was the first to commercialize Firewall, a software technology used to protect against any malicious cyber activity. Since then, they’ve partnered with major tech companies like Nokia and have set up main offices in North America with approximately 5,000 employees. Cyber security has quickly evolved and advanced, and it all began in Israel.

These are only a few of the many tech start-ups from Israeli entrepreneurs. They are constantly working to improve and find innovative solutions to everyday problems, becoming global leaders in the tech world. Many of our advancements in technology have risen from Israeli entrepreneurs due to their world-leading, innovative solutions. They deserve recognition for their ingenuity and impact that spans the globe.

Common mistakes Founders Make

There are a few common mistakes we see founders make. Making mistakes is all part of the learning process and the path to success. You might make mistakes you are not even aware of until later on in your start-up when it is too late. There are a few things that we commonly see founders do that you must be aware of. To avoid falling into this trap that can lead to the early downfall of your start-up, check out these five common mistakes founders make.

  1. Not taking any feedback

The number one mistake founders make is not talking to their consumers. The most important thing to do as a startup is to set up a fast feedback cycle and get on the path of constant improvement. Building a product is not enough, you need to a build a product people will want. Founders often fail to do this, they will make a product but do not do the research to see if people will actually buy it. Some founders also fail to take any advice. You need to be open to new solutions and any criticism in order for your startup to be successful. Do not expect the first thing you will build to be great, it does not work that way. Nothing is perfect on the first attempt. Expect to be constantly improving your product with the feedback of users.  As a rule, your only shot at building a successful startup is if you build something that people truly love and need.

TIP: Choose wisely the people you surround yourself with, but once you do, accept advice’s.

  1. Hiring too much, too little or not right

It is important to hire the right people to delegate the load but beware in hiring too many people. Sometimes founders will hire too many people thinking that it will solve their problems, in reality in ends up burning through money for nothing. You should only hire people who are insanely great. Otherwise, you will regret it with probability. Plan carefully who you need on your team and make sure you chose the right people who will be able to perform to your expectations and more. Don’t hire people before you have a really clear idea of what you want them to do. Hiring the right staff in a start-up is crucial because any small mistakes can lead to negative consequences that your startup cannot afford to make.

  1. Not being able to let go (Pivot)

It is a hard pill to swallow once you realize your big idea is not as great as you thought. Many founders have trouble letting go of their original idea even after all data suggests against it. You need to be able to make any changes need be if all data and research suggests that your product will fail.  However, just because your original idea was not a hit doesn’t mean you have failed. You can easily make adjustments to improve or even pivot entirely. Many successful companies today started unsuccessful but they managed to pivot it into the next best thing. For example, take twitter, a company that started as a podcast streaming software called Odeo, pivoted into a social networking app. Once iTunes came out, the founders of Odeo soon realized they would be out of business and immediately made a change that resulted in one of the major social networking apps of our generation.

  1. Bringing investors too early

It might seem like a good idea to take on an investor when they are throwing a bunch of cash your way since cash is king as they say in the start-up world. However, taking money from investors too early in your start-ups life is a mistake. It will add a layer of unwanted pressure and expectations you might not be able to provide so early on.  It is wiser to use your own money or ask family and friends, as it will give you your freedom. The last thing you need is to add unwanted stress to your already demanding schedule. By taking on investors also means giving up equity in your company. They can have a say on any decisions you might make. Not to mention, you will want to be careful about diluting your company too early on.

  1. Passion

Some founders get into start-ups with the motivation of solely becoming rich. That is not all it takes, make sure you are passionate about your business. Its takes a lot of work and it is this passion that is going to motivate you into succeeding. A successful business comes from entrepreneurs who are driven and motivated. This motivation gets them through any obstacles that might be thrown their way. The only reason they are so driven is that they are passionate about what their trying to achieve. If you are in it for the wrong reasons then you will easily give up when things start to get hard and won’t be able to overcome the challenges to succeed.

If you keep these five common mistakes  Founders Make in mind then you are already on the right path. It is okay to make mistakes, it is part of the process. In order to become successful a founder will need to fail at a certain point. However, you should “fail fast” as the saying goes. Once you are able to accept your failure you can move on from it, learn and improve. So do not be afraid of failure it is actually beneficial.

Dissecting Different Types of Revenue

revenue

Developing good analytical techniques to help you monitor your business performance is important. It will help you avoid silly mistakes that can negatively affect your business. If you have an SaaS product or B2B business model, your recurring revenue is subscription based and often times, contracts differ and generate different income. The terms; committed annual recurring revenue (cARR), annual recurring revenue (ARR) and bookings are used interchangeably. However you should commit to using one to normalize all your revenue. Being consistent will avoid confusion and mistakes. Here’s a break down what each of these terms mean so you can pick what’s best for your business.

ARR, MRR & cARR

Annual recurring revenue (ARR) normalizes the recurring revenue of your term subscriptions into a one-year period. It is the amount over a set period of time usually the contract length, in a year. Committed annual recurring revenue (cARR) is similar to ARR except it is a future amount. It is a committed amount, because that revenue is not readily available to your business just yet.  ARR and cARR is especially useful if the majority of your contracts are minimum 1 year. Monthly recurring revenue (MRR) should be used if your contracts are typically below one year. The recurring revenue in a one month period.

ARR Vs MRR

When is Annual recurring revenue (ARR) used? ARR is used in B2B subscription businesses when the minimum subscription period is one year. Businesses with multi-year contracts are more likely to use ARR, and businesses with lower transaction volume and higher transaction value are more likely to use it. B2B and B2C businesses with monthly subscriptions should use MRR. Companies might use MRR and ARR interchangeably and tend to use ARR as a valuation metric and MRR as an operating metric. Let us compare these two metrics. ARR is useful to reference in board meetings or when analyzing the overall performance of the business. MRR is more useful to analyses day to day operations of the business.

ARR Vs Bookings

The total amount signed over a period is referred to as the bookings. This period can vary depending on many things. It could be, the business, individual or customer. In contrast to ARR’s minimum one-year subscription period, no time frame is specified. For instance, suppose we examine three different revenue streams for companies A, B, and C;

  • A: $1,000 in bookings with a 2 year contract  
  • B: $1,000 in bookings with a 3 year contract 
  • C: $1,000 in ARR 

Looking at these three companies, we notice they have $1,000 in bookings. However, if we standardize this to ARR we can easily compare each of these companies revenues. Company A has $500 ARR, company B has $333 ARR and company C has $1000 ARR. This is where analyzing revenue can get confusing if not all normalized to one metric. For simplicity, bookings are standardized to the ARR metric.

Adopting the ARR metric to your business practices will simplify the way you analyze your revenue!

The Types of Investor Funding

investor funding

When it comes to funding a business there are many options. Before you decide to seek funding from investors, it’s important to know that there is more than one type of investor to fundraise from. So, how are they different, and how are you going to do it?

There are three basic types of investor funding: equity, loans and convertible debt. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, and each is a better fit for some situations than others. Like so much else about the fundraising process, the kind of investor-based fundraise that is right for you depends on a number of factors.  The stage, size and industry of your business. Your ideal time frame; the amount you are looking to raise and how you are planning to use it; as well as company goals for both the short-term and long-term.

EQUITY

Pursuing an equity fundraise means that, you are buying an ownership stake. Equity investors provide capital  in exchange for a percentage of the profits  (or losses).

Equity is one of the most sought-after forms of capital for entrepreneurs. In part because it’s an attractive option: no repayment schedule and high powered investor partners.

How It Works

At the outset of your fundraise, you set a specific valuation for your company. Based on that valuation and the amount of money an investor gives you, they will own a percentage of your company. For which they will receive proportional compensation once your company sells or goes public.

When to Do It

Not every business will start generating income as soon as it launches. Spending a few years in R&D doesn’t mean your company isn’t a viable business proposition. Internet companies, for example, are notorious for going years in operation without even attempting to charge their customers. If you’re going to need a lot of operating cash to sustain your business before it starts turning a profit, equity investments are the only form of capital that makes sense.

When there is no collateral

To obtain a loan, you must have something to provide as collateral in the event that things do not go as planned. If you don’t have something of value to give loan providers as collateral, your only real choice for funding is to find equity investors prepared to take a risk on your idea with nothing to “sell” if it fails.

When you can’t possibly bootstrap

While home-growing your company from your garage or spare bedroom bit by bit may not sound as glamorous as hitting the ground with investors already in your lineup, most investors will expect you to start there before they invest. But some businesses  require a massive amount of capital just to get off the ground. In those cases, you have little choice but to go directly to equity.

When you’re positioned for astronomical growth

Equity capital tends to follow businesses and industries that have potential for massive growth and exponential paydays. Your local coffee shop concept may do really well, but it doesn’t have the potential to become Facebook. Therefore,  you’re not likely to attract many equity investors. On the other hand, if you’re looking to build the next Starbucks chain, chances are investors will be very interested in jumping onto your bandwagon on the road to IPO.

Consider the following:

Your options are whittled down when you have equity:

When it comes to the future of your business, going the equity route drastically limits your options. One thing is essential to equity investors: liquidity. That means they won’t be happy with a percentage of your annual income. They’ll assume that once you’ve accepted their money, your company’s endgame will be a sale or an IPO. They’ll want guarantees that your idea will sell and sell big before they invest in the first place. But, before you go the equity fundraising path, make sure that this is indeed your vision.

For high risks, equity investors expect big rewards:

Many entrepreneurs would take advantage of the fact that they could walk into a bank and get a loan to fund their business idea. Banks, on the other hand, are extremely risk averse and only want to provide loans that they are certain can be repaid. That’s where equity investors come in: they’re willing to take chances that lenders aren’t willing to take. However, there are two sides of that coin: an equity investor isn’t looking for a quick return on their investment. They’re taking on a lot of risk in exchange for a lot more reward, and they’re going to want to see results.

There’s a lot of competition for equity investments:

The number of people searching for equity investors far outnumbers the number of checks being written. In a given year, most equity investors will see hundreds of transactions before funding even one. Obtaining an equity investor is extremely difficult!

Raising equity capital takes time:

Finding the right investor will take anything from 3-6 months. That doesn’t include the time it takes to finish the final legal papers that release the funds. If you and your company are in a hurry, equity funding may not be the best option.

When it comes to relinquishing equity, it is a one-way path;

You can’t get your equity back after you’ve given it up. It’s extremely unlikely for an entrepreneur to repurchase the equity they gave away early in the company’s growth. If you’ve sold a certain amount of your business—say let’s 40 percent—you won’t be able to sell it again. Whether you like it or not, once you sell equity to an investor, they become a part of your life. As tempting as it may be to shake hands with anyone willing to write you a check, it’s critical to seek out investors with whom you feel comfortable working for years to come.

LOANS

Loan or debt-based fundraising is the easiest to understand: you borrow money now and pay it back later, with an established rate of interest.

Debt is also the most common form of outside capital for new businesses. While angel investors and venture capitalists get all the big headlines for funding exciting companies, it’s the debt providers that are behind most of the investment dollars.

How it Works

When you opt for debt-based fundraising, you specify the interest rate associated with loan repayment in your fundraise terms. Additionally, you may include an estimated time frame for loan repayment.

The other critical component of the loan puzzle is collateral: something tangible, sellable that lenders can take from you if your business fails and you are unable to repay your loans. The more collateral you have, the more likely you are to secure substantial financing.

When Do You Do It?

There are a few situations where debt, like equity, is the best choice for funding your business.

When you don’t require more than $100,000

Debt raises are well-suited for small amounts of capital. Giving up equity makes little sense at such small amounts; and with smaller goals, there is less risk—for investors and entrepreneurs alike—than when large sums are involved.

When you urgently need funds

Is there a market opportunity for your company that you would miss if you do not raise money immediately? Then you’d be wise to avoid equity—a procedure that is notoriously time-consuming. Debt increases pass more quickly, increasing your chances of having the money you require when you require it.

When there isn’t any equity available

If you are unable or unwilling to begin offering equity, a debt raise may be the best course of action. Many business owners are hesitant to give up control of their company and a straightforward debt raise offers the appealing benefit of retaining ownership and control.

Consider the following:

Collateral is king: Contrary to popular belief, banks and other lenders do not profit handsomely from a single loan. As a result, they say “yes” to only those transactions in which they are certain they will not lose money. Their sense of security is derived from collateral.

Explore your options: When considering funding options, it’s critical to thoroughly investigate all of your debt options to determine what’s available and from whom. Our approach to debt is as follows: it is always preferable to have financing and not need it than to require financing and not have it!

CONVERTIBLE DEBT

Convertible debt is essentially a hybrid of debt and equity: you borrow money from investors with the understanding that the loan will be repaid or converted into shares in the business at a later date—for example, following another round of fundraising or reaching a certain valuation.

How It Works

At the time of the initial loan, the specifics of how the debt will be converted into equity are established. Typically, this entails offering investors some sort of incentive to convert their debt to equity, such as a discount or warrant in the subsequent round of fundraising.

If investors are offered a discount-the most common are 20% and 25%- it means they are able to convert their loan at a reduced rate of 20% or 25%. For instance, if an investor lends you $1 million to you in the first round, they would expect to get $1.25 million in return.

Likewise, a warrant is also expressed in percentages—for example, 20% warrant coverage. Consider the same $1 million case with 20% warrant coverage. In the subsequent round, the investor receives an additional $200,000 (20% of $1 million) in securities.

You will also need to set an interest rate, just like you would for a straight debt raise, to reimburse your investors until they convert, as well as those who do not convert.

Additionally, convertible debt fundraises typically have a “valuation cap,” which is a maximum company valuation at which investors can convert their debt to equity, after which they will have missed the boat and will have to settle for having their loan repaid or reinvesting in the company on new terms. However, over the last few years, an increasing number of companies have chosen to leave their convertible debt offerings uncapped.

When To Do It

For start-ups that are not yet prepared to evaluate the company, a convertible debt fundraise makes the most sense either because it is too early to determine one, or because they believe the value will be much higher later.

If you believe that the valuation of your business may well be skyrocketing soon, but you can’t wait and raise your equity straight away later—the ability to offer convertible debt offers you the money you need right now while enabling you to protect your equity’s value later.

Things to Keep In Mind

The best of both worlds; Convertible debt offerings offer investors the best of both worlds. For the time being, they have the debt structure’s exit strategy and the associated security; however, they also have the potential for a discount on your equity if they choose to convert. Additionally, investors get to observe how your business performs, which enables them to gather additional information and determine whether they like your direction before jumping on the equity train.

Know what you’re doing:  Because convertible debt raises are by definition more open-ended than debt or equity, it’s critical that you can articulate both the rationale for your decision and an expectation of how things will unfold, both for yourself and for the investors.

Conclusion

Prior to committing to a structure for your fundraise, it’s prudent to delve deeper into the specifics of that structure—or, better yet, thoroughly explore each option.

Avoid becoming frustrated or discouraged: this is a large question to address, and even experienced entrepreneurs are not comfortable with all forms of capital. The more informed you are about your options, the better equipped you will be to make the best decision for you and your business, and the more likely your fundraising efforts will succeed.

How to sell as a Founder

Even though you have a great product, it WON’T sell itself. Every founder will have to sell their product at the very early stages and often times don’t have the skills or practice to do so. It is not an easy task, and it is the most crucial part for every company. What’s the point of putting your blood sweat and tears into a product you can’t even sell. So next time you’re negotiating with your first few customers , remember these 10 tips to make sure you close every deal.

TIP #1: Be Passionate

It should be a given that you are passionate about your product otherwise you might be in the wrong business. Share this passion with your clients, nobody is going to trust a product that its own founder is not passionate about, you will lose clients immediately. Show them how much you care about believe in this product and you’ll gain their trust.

TIP #2: Get to know the customer

Closing a deal is more than pitching your product; it is about connecting with your customer and getting to know them and their needs. Build relationships before sales, people are more inclined to buy from people they like. A Linkedin study shows that a salesperson who creates connections with their customers create 45% more opportunities. Ask the right questions and have conversations try to find things you can relate to such as hobbies, sports, kids whatever it might be. Be viewed as a person who is genuine and wants to help rather than just sell. They might not need your product but if they like you they will want to support you.

TIP #3: Don’t oversell

Creating trust and being transparent is super important with your customers. If you break their trust then you’re building a bad reputation for you and your company. Creating a good reputation is especially important for companies in the early stages of their business.  Now the worst thing you can do is make promises you can’t keep. Do not commit to things you can’t deliver, its dishonest and will break the immediate trust you have with a customer.

BE TRUSTWORTHY

TIP #4: Learn from others

Get ahead of the competition. Check out what your competitors are doing to sell their products, what’s working, and not working with their customers, use this as leverage.  Explore products that you might buy and see what those companies are doing. Do your research and learn from other peoples mistakes or other peoples wins.

TIP #5: Improve your pitch

Giving a great pitch is key in a startup. It is not something that comes easy, it takes a lot of practice to master it. Practice it repeatedly until you can amaze your audience. However, don’t focus solely on pitching a presentation, remember to connect with your customer as well.

TIP #6: Persevere

Do NOT give up easily and do not take no for answer! Follow up with your customers without being too pushy.

TIP #7: Know you will not close all deals

Do not be too hard on yourself if you don’t close the deals, it’s going to happen. It’s important to not let that get you down and to keep pushing through it. Do not give up easily just because you lose a few deals it’s all part of the process and you’ll only learn from your mistakes.

TIP #8: Referring to competitors

As mentioned, being trustworthy and transparent is key with new customers. Refer to your competitors and show your customer how your product is so much better than the rest. Do not be afraid to highlight how you’re company differs and even if your price point is a bit more than the competition, stick by your products worth.

TIP #9: Fire bad customers

Talk to the right people, and don’t waste your time and energy in customers who have no use or interest for your product. Focus on the target market and find the right people to sell to. Spend your time with prospects who are ready to buy your solution.

TIP #10: Celebrate the wins!

Celebrate every new customer! It’s easy to get too ingrained in the daily grind of sales and building a company and forget to celebrate the wins. Celebrate every win with your co-founders and your team.

How to use Social Media Data

A great way to build a top-notch marketing plan is to use social media data. It’s not just about of a few items being shared and crossing your fingers that it works. You will need to formulate a well-thought-out social media content plan to grow your brand. Here are some tips that will support you on your way.

media

Set Goals

Firstly, you need to come up with a set of goals that you would like to achieve for your company. This will be the basis of creating a marketing strategy that aligns with your goals. As tempting as it is to imitate a business that is comparable to yours, you need your own marketing plan as everyone’s business goals are different.

For example, say you are running a sustainable cosmetics business. Perhaps someone like you wanted to increase Facebook’s brand recognition by concentrating on a vegan audience. And in their target, they succeeded! So, you do the same thing. But, there is a small problem you didn’t think about, there is beeswax in your products. The vegan community then shuns you for selling a non-vegan product. And to top it off, you get a negative reputation for misinformation. This is why creating your own goals will help you plan a better strategy. Just remember to be specific and tailor your objectives.  

The wonderful part about setting goals is that it will help you decide what your values are. Values may get a little bit lost when setting up a brand. So, this is a perfect chance to go back to the origins and see why the organization was set up.

Creating your own objectives will encourage you to prepare a better approach. A major part of setting goals is that it will assist you in deciding what your values are. Values seem to be really, well, respected on social media, so look at why you set the company up in the first place.

Know Your Audience

A big part of boosting your content is to sell it to the right audience. This links in with planning your goals and staying on-brand, too. It’s not just a waste of time to try to share the content with everyone and anyone, but it is also a waste of money as you will not have any returns on your investment.  For example,  if you make and sell aquarium decorations there would be no point in making a video of an aquarium featuring your decorations in it and then posting it to a page dedicated to dog care.

Just because it’s related to pets, doesn’t make it relevant.

The first step is to research your audience and know them inside out. Collect as much qualitative data as possible. Join many groups that discuss the thing you are selling. It doesn’t matter what type of product you sell, there are many suppliers out there. No matter how niche your product is, there will be some sort of group relating to this. Facebook marketplace is the perfect place to start.

Knowing your audience inside out will help you create content across the board. Whether you are writing a blogpost, social media posts, or even something else entirely, it is important to stay on-brand for your content.

Analyze Content

Now you need to see if your marketing strategy put in place is working, and if its not working tweak your strategy. Examine what content is working best at engaging your audience. A lot of analytical tools are available and free to use, like on Facebook for example you can track the number of people interacting with your content and track its performance. Using a forum for social media management and digital asset management (DAM) helps you to look at back-end specifics. This is a perfect opportunity to check if the results are consistent with your objectives. You can also take this chance to follow individuals that are important to you who share your content.

Engage and Respond to your Audience

People love to feel connected, that’s the whole point of social media. Engage and respond to your audience, it will allow them to build a connection with your brand. This is also an easy way to get customer feedback right away. Listen to what they have to say, its an opportunity, if necessary, to build a great customer service experience.

Develop your Brands Tone of Voice

Like we said before building a connection with your audience is key and developing a voice for your brand is also key. To develop a tone of voice for your brand, you need to analyze your target market and see what will resonate with them the most. Once your set on that, addressing situations and sharing content is your way of  establishing a voice for the brand. For instance, claim you are a brand of vintage fashion and share to an upcycling blog. Here, you see the points that people engage with and get the chance to promote your brand. A strong tactic is to address situations for the chance to resolve their frustration and look trustworthy to an audience of thousands. If someone writes a comment, answer it, even if it is a negative one.

Use a Content Calendar or Sharing Platform

Use one platform to share all your content to all your social media platforms,  it will make things a lot easier and save you a lot of time. Since Facebook and Instagram are now connected, they have built in publishing tools that allow you to schedule your posts for both platforms simultaneously. You can schedule when posts go out and this will help you keep your social medias active without worrying everyday to make a posts. This will also leave more room for you to analyze your audience engagement with the posts and keep an eye out on current events and developments in relevance and e-commerce.

 From setting goals to engaging, there are many ways to use social media and the data you get from it, to boost content. Just be aware that content will not be a success on all platforms. That’s because each site is designed for different audiences. If there is content that isn’t being shared as much, try changing the language, picture, or title. Small changes can make a huge difference.

Remember, marketing for your brand is more than just creating content, its about engaging with your audience and building connections with them. Social media is a great place to do this and if you follow these tips you’ll be able to leverage this.

Marketing Headliners for every Startup

headliners

Writing a great headliner is difficult, especially for your own startup. Everyone wants to be the next Apple or Nike and create inspiring marketing. However, as a startup you shouldn’t focus on creating inspiring headliners. Instead focus on simple and functional marketing. Startups can’t play by the same rules as established brands when it comes to marketing, it just won’t work. Before you sit down to write your next big marketing headliner, know these tips to be sure you get a high conversion rate every time.  

Let’s start of by looking at the 4 best performing headliners:  

  1. “You could be due a mileage refund. Find out if you can claim for the last four years”-Mina 
  1. “Photo Books in 5 minutes”-Popsa 
  1. “Cook Restaurant Quality Meals at Home”-Simply Cook 
  1. “Increase App Store Conversions and Pay less for Every Install”-Storemaven 

Straight away, we notice that these headliners don’t sound like the conventional marketing we see every day. They aren’t inspiring or clever. However that’s the key, it doesn’t need to sound like marketing at all. Boring and functional is what you’re aiming for. I know it’s hard since as a founder we all want to create the next “Just do it” however as a startup you can’t compare yourself to these big brands.  

If we examine the famous headliner “Just Do It” almost everyone in this world would know it’s Nike’s brand. This headliner has had so much success because Nike has spent over 40 years building their brand. Everyone already knows what they do so they have earned the right to create inspiring marketing. But as a startup, nobody knows who you are so you can’t do that just yet.  

Its all about what your customer can do

Before you can inspire, you must first inform people about what you do, but more importantly, your marketing must convey what THEY can do. But what is the difference? A successful marketing message doesn’t talk about the product but talks about what they can help people achieve. With this in mind, here’s a tip on how to achieve this. Write a headliner and then insert the words “Now you can” at the beginning of it. Ask yourself, how does it sound? Does it flow well or is it awkward? For example, let’s look at the previous headliner “Cook Restaurant Quality Meals at Home” . If we insert “Now you can” we get “Now you can, cook restaurant quality meals at home”. This is an example of a good headliner because it focuses more on the customer rather than the product. It clearly shows what the company can offer to its customers.  

Let’s compare this to a bad example, “The all-in-one flexible HR software”, if we add the words “Now you can” we get “Now you can, the all-in-one flexible HR software”. This phrase doesn’t flow nicely and it shows that its more focused on the product instead of what the customer can do, which is what you don’t want.  

When writing a good headliner, you need to think of what is your customers “now you can?”. What are the customers struggling/hoping they can do? That will make a great headliner. As a startup, these types of headliners will see 5 to 10 times more conversion. Be sure to know who your customers are and what they want before you attempt marketing to them, this way you can find the perfect “Now you can” promise.