Continuous Crowdfunding

Peak Design is a San Francisco-based startup company that generates accessories for small cameras. It recently just finished a Kickstarter campaign to launch its newest product, the Everyday Messenger Bag. The Kickstarter finished on a great note, with a countdown and celebration.

Interestingly enough, this is not Peak Design’s first Kickstarter campaign. In fact, it is its fifth. The company has been using Kickstarter to launch its new products since it first formed. The founder sees it as a great way to not only raise more money, but also to rope in initial customers who are already excited about the product. It seems to work, as Peak Design is doing very well.

Also, the company refuses to take on venture capitalists. This may seem counterintuitive, but Peter Dering, the owner of the company. wants to maintain his control of Peak Design. Their work model may not fit in with the work model of a venture capitalist, as Dering is constantly working from remote locations and employees are not given specific times in which they must be at work. They are encouraged to get out in the world and be active instead. Despite this, the company’s sales tripled in 2015 and, within its first year, Peak Design was profitable.

Dering’s launch of his company occurred at an ideal time. He created his first product, a clip that locks cameras to belts so they do not swing around, when Kickstarter was beginning to become a household name. Dering saw the investment platform as a built-in marketing plan for his products, and, $13 million in sales later, he still thinks along those lines.

Apparently, fully formed companies returning to websites like Kickstarter with new products is not an uncommon practice. However, Peak Design is part of the 1% that has gone back to the website 5 or more times. This is not for lack of trying, however. Peak Design got all it could with its credit out of a bank for its new product before going back to Kickstarter. The money from the bank would have only allowed them to order 5,000 bags, but using Funding Circle and Kickstarter gave them the money to order 45,000 bags. They would not have been able to do this otherwise without a venture capitalist, or having to sell a part of the company.

Overall, Kickstarter and platforms like it have proven to be a great resources for launching companies, and startup companies that have already launched. Startup founders like Dering prefer working in close-knit teams without any backer influence, which is exactly what crowdfunding has allowed him to do.

Whether or not this is sustainable in the long run has yet to be seen.

For more information on Peter Dering and Peak Design, check out this article in Forbes.


Startups Embracing Washington as Simply Part of the Job

In the early days, tech companies like Google and Microsoft could make it a point of pride not to be involved with Washington politics. They were companies perceived as independent from, or even above politics and politicians. Now, in the golden age of the tech startup, leaders are having to not only accept Washington lobbying as a part of their operation, but embrace it.

According to the New York Times, startups have received a special kind of attention this year. Uber and AirBnb, two immensely popular convenience apps and startup companies have been in the public spotlight after facing a barrage of questions about their operations. Uber in particular ended up in long legal battles with the taxi companies of various cities. Startups that focus on large-scale innovations have gotten the message and are folding it into their day-to-day. Zenefits for example, an online benefits manager, is only two years old but is a member of two trade groups and has hired lobbyists and public relations strategists from the Obama administration.

“For these new companies, the scale of innovation is so big and impactful they necessitate interacting with Washington writ large,” said Kenneth Baer, a former spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget who now advises Zenefits. “There are huge amounts of questions that society has to grapple with that didn’t exist before.”

While overall money spent lobbying has decreased slightly over the last five years, for startups and young tech companies, it has tripled to $47.5 million. It’s hard to say what the effect has been so far, but for Uber and AirBnb at least, it has let them keep growing. For many startups though, the goal of lobbying in the short term is simply to create good will.

Coinbase, a digital currency platform, is one company who knew they would need to look for help in Washington right away. Knowing that finance is a highly regulated industry, they hired John Collins, former senior advisor to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee as their 50th employee. He is now their head of government affairs.

Mr. Collins has to prepare talking points about Bitcoin and regularly meets with officials at the Treasury Department, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Trade Commission and multiple congressional committees. Every month he and the company’s chief executive meet with government officials. “So much of what I do day in and day out is not even advocating for anything necessarily but talking to folks about the technology,” Mr. Collins said. Bitcoin remains a largely misunderstood concept among people and almost exclusively receives negative media attention.

Startups and tech companies are having to get into conversations with Washington earlier and earlier. Marcela Sapone, co-founder of Hello Alfred, has said she wants lawmakers to consider new regulations that would relieve companies from providing some costly benefits. Such a large change requires careful handling.

“Why are we engaging so early? Mostly because we had to,” she said. “We have no choice but to get into these conversations.”



11 Ways a CEO Can Improve His Brand Via Twitter

Todd Crosland TwitterAccording to data from Statista. Twitter currently has 302 million active users. This is a huge market that can really boost a brand if used correctly. An article in Chief Executive lists 11 ways a CEO can use Twitter to effectively develop their company’s brand.

  1.  Create a social media policy – The marketing director should have a social media outline that would apply to all departments. The policy should include parameters that define boundaries between postings as a professional persona vs. a personal account.
  2. Find your audience – This is a standard marketing question: who is your audience? Are they using twitter? A CEO wants to find the right followers who are engaged and interested in what the company has to say.
  3. Do it right, or don’t do it at all – Tweeting is meant to be a continuous activity throughout the day. If you are reading a relevant article associate with work, Tweet it. Some experts suggest 30 minutes a day.
  4. Manage your own Twitter – If people are truly following the company, they will be able to tell if the person Tweeting is not actually the CEO.
  5. Don’t be afraid to get personal – Followers like to see real commentary and personality. Don’t only talk about work. Also talk about your favorite hobbies and tastes. This adds personal depth, which has proven to be successful in the Twitter world.
  6. Share your opinions – Going along with personal information is the CEO’s opinions on something topical. Engage in the Twitter community by re-tweeting an opinion from someone else’s account.
  7. Act fast when criticized – Effective CEOs are able to neutralize criticism on their company’s brand quickly. As the CEO, you should understand why and how your product works, thus understanding how to defend the brand in your own words.
  8. Don’t hide if your company isn’t doing too well – Twitter can be a great use of crisis management. Take to your online community and explain your situation. Customers like transparency, and know when you’re trying to hide something. Trust is instrumental for growing a customer base.
  9. Be careful of who you decide to follow – A CEO’s followers might be interested in the company they keep. The individuals a CEO decides to hang around say a lot about the CEO, just like the followers they decide to follow.
  10. Influence media – CEOs are in their position because they are seen as leaders. Use Twitter to promote thought leadership through interacting with reporters, bloggers, editors, and other influencers in the industry. This is also a way for CEOs to build positive relationships with media outlets. Twitter can be a great networking tool.
  11. Twitter is a PUBLIC sharing platform – A CEO needs to understand that even though some Tweets might be deemed “private,” there are still ways in which the public can get a hold of this information. Don’t let an inappropriate Tweet go viral.