Tag Archive | Entrepreneurship

Native? Social? Both?

This summer, I interned at SocialToaster, a social media marketing agency that turns a company’s existing social media following into a team of organized brand ambassadors. Part of my job was to create blog posts and other marketing materials that reinforced SocialToaster’s core business concept, and I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned regarding native advertising and social media marketing.

Native Advertising: You’ve probably heard this term if you’ve kept up to date on the latest digital marketing trends. In short, native advertising is a form of communication that smoothly integrates with a user’s experience on a website or application. For instance, if you see a sponsored Facebook post that tells a story about a company’s new product, this is a native advertisement because it is part of the user’s core experience (i.e., not a banner ad). Online brand ambassador programs are also forms of native advertising: for instance, Maker’s Mark offers incentives for its ambassadors to share content about its brand.

Social Media Marketing, though, is the use of social media platforms to market a company to consumers or businesses. Examples of social media marketing are banner ads on Facebook, a company’s Twitter posts, or Instagram pictures with links directed towards purchasing or other landing pages. Social media marketing encompasses the development of marketing programs targeted at a company’s existing and intended social media audience.

Can Native and Social Intersect? Yes. For example, SocialToaster’s Super Fans (brand ambassadors) can earn prizes for posting a company’s message as a status update or sharing its content on Twitter. Native advertising can be seamlessly integrated into social media marketing because people use social media all the time. Therefore, native advertising and social media marketing are not mutually exclusive; rather, they are two effective forms of marketing that work incredibly well together.

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The Numbers: Consider some facts from a recent Gallup poll:

  • 94% of social media users do so to connect with friends and family
  • 62% of social media users do not believe social media influences their purchasing decisions
  • 29% of social media users use these platforms to keep up on product reviews and trends

That 94% is important, because it means that over 9/10 people who use social media connect with people they (hopefully) trust. Now, if you’re part of the nearly 30% who use, say, Facebook for product recommendations, what are you more likely to look to as a source: a friend’s recommendation, or a banner advertisement? If your friend is a Maker’s Mark brand ambassador and posts a picture of delicious bourbon on Facebook, you’re statistically more likely to click on this post than you are to entertain a traditional advertisement.

But do you even realize your friend’s recommendation for Maker’s Mark is an advertisement? According to the study, 62% of the time, you will not.

And that’s why native advertisements on social media work. Companies can employ people you trust to recommend their products, meaning you might not even realize when you’re being advertised to. But you might find some great products in the process!

-David

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The Business of Biking (Across the Country)

I’m glad to be back on campus, and I’ve brought a little two-wheeled friend with me.

The summer of 2013 was the most exciting one of my life. I traveled with the 4K for Cancer Team Portland on a 70-day, 4,500-mile trip across the country. Our mission was simple: to help raise awareness and support for young adults suffering from cancer. Armed with little more than my trusty bicycle, my sturdy hand pump, and a small black backpack, I set out from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor at 7:30 am on June 2nd, 2013 for the adventure of a lifetime. Our team was filled with cyclists ranging from beginner to expert in ability, and we definitely formed a tight bond during our excursion.

Our team about to depart for Portland.

Our team about to depart for Portland.

However, the trip was a serious business venture. While it may seem to be mainly an athletic endeavor, biking 4,500 miles requires quite a bit of resources. Riders need food, water, spare tubes, bike parts, and other necessities in order to survive, let alone conquer the Rocky Mountains. Today, I want to explain how our team managed to acquire what we needed to embark on our journey. First, a few key points:

  • The Ulman Cancer Fund is a nonprofit organization. Before the ride, each of us needed to raise a minimum of $4,500 in donations before participating in the ride. These donations helped fund scholarships for young adults whose education was interrupted during their treatment.
  • None of us were able to work this summer. Try holding down a job in addition to being on a bike for 10 hours a day: it’s just not happening.
  • We needed to feed 25 people on a daily basis with no food budget.
Our team awarding Philip with a scholarship to help him continue school after his cancer treatment.

Our team awarding Philip with a scholarship to help him continue school after his cancer treatment.

Shelter was taken care of well before the trip started. Members of the team called leg leaders were tasked with calling churches, high schools, and even the occasional vacation home to find free housing for us each night. Believe it or not, people were willing to let us crash on their church floors without paying a cent.

Some hosts even rolled out the welcome mat for us!

Some hosts even rolled out the welcome mat for us!

Food was possibly the most anticipated commodity of the day. Hungry cyclists, whether at a lunch break or ending point, needed food all summer.

  • Breakfast was usually taken care of by our hosts. Church and high school communities were more than willing, for the most part, to provide us with a hearty breakfast before we took off for the day’s ride.
  • Lunch was always a wild card during the day. We had a rotation of 2 people per day who would work the food van and find food donations for everyone on the team by calling and walking into various restaurants along/close to our route. Subway, Chipotle, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and McDonald’s were largely responsible for feeding us this summer.
  • Dinner was usually provided by our hosts, but was every once in a while provided by the food van. Restaurants such as Buffalo Wild Wings, Burger King, and various local pizza places helped us along the way.
That's what it takes to feed 25 people.

That’s what it takes to feed 25 people.

Bike parts were often donated to us on the road as well. Inner tubes became more valuable than gold during the trip, so we were always happy to have a bike shop throw a few our way.

Setting up the donations for these items felt like a full-time job. During the trip itself, people in the food van made sales pitches to almost every restaurant they could and explained our mission plus why 25 adults didn’t have enough money to feed themselves during the day. I definitely practiced skills in sales, public speaking, and resource management during the trip, and I look forward to continuing this education during the coming school year.

How I Got Into Venture Capital With A Dual Degree In Biomedical Engineering and Applied Math & Statistics, And A Minor In Entrepreneurship & Management.

I began thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and what type of career I wanted back in high school. Thanks to some pretty stellar and unique engineering internships, I decided I wanted to be an engineer, but wasn’t sure which kind. I was also interested in being a doctor so Biomedical Engineering seemed like a solid compromise.

Boom!  In the blink of an eye I am picking out my classes for my first semester at The Johns Hopkins University.  I selected Introduction to Business since the topic was of interest to me and the course would help me satisfy several graduation requirements. While at the time I thought this course would just be an interesting elective, it turned out to be a pivotal course for shaping my future career path.

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Over the next two years, I would spend the summers and winter breaks working at a DOD lab back home as an engineer. However, through those internships and my BME coursework I learned I did not enjoy being an engineer. What should you do if this happens you?

1. Don’t freak out.

Biomedical engineering is by far the most interesting technological field right now.  To date, I pride myself on keeping up to date with advances in both the “science” and the “techniques.”  Yet, I had decided that I did not want to be an engineer and I had decided that being a doctor was also not in the cards.  So I asked myself, “What have you done on this campus that you truly have enjoyed? Not just intellectually, but the actual process of completion?”

2. Go to “first meetings of the year.”

Go to as many first meetings as possible for any organization you might be interested in.  While there is no way you can (or should) do them all, it’s a great way to find some niches of which you had been previously unaware.  I had the great privilege of being a part of many groups on campus including (but not limited to) SGA, AKPsi, The Pre-Law Society, the Politik, Senior Leadership Consultants, and the club Ice-Hockey team.

3. Listen to yourself. 

When I self-evaluated I realized my true day-to-day passion revolved around business. Mind you, this is not the most reassuring realization. Fortunately, there was some precedence for this type of thought. The solution for most Hopkins engineers is to go into some sort of consulting. Which makes sense; you can use a lot of the same equations and all of the same analytical skills. Instead of optimizing a cell pathway, you’re optimizing logistics for some big corporation.

4. Don’t rush a decision.

If you are already pivoting from what you are studying, make sure you pick the right pivot. A lot of my peers went on into consulting. Yet, personally, something didn’t “feel” right. Basically, I would be engineering for businesses, not actually doing business. “And what about the science?” I asked myself. Shouldn’t I stay involved somehow?

The semester before I was having this conversation with myself, I was taking an E&M course called “Managing Social Enterprises” which was all about how management styles differ between social and for-profit companies as well as startups vs established companies. It was from this class that I finally found my answer. I would love to join the Venture Capital/Startup world. This would allow me to practice business plus stay connected to the biomedical world. The question was–how?

5. Talk to everyone.

It is not so easy to be a BME/AMS double major and decide you want to go into VC.  Most VCs have been to business school and/or worked for a successful startup.  I had not.  Fortunately, one night I happened to be in DC visiting some friends.  While hanging at a local bar, I started talking to someone who knew a local VC and he put us in contact.

6.  Internships!

You may or may not be paid, but such is the nature of internships in 2013. The most important thing is the experience the internships provide, not the paycheck, so be sure to take advantage of internships even if they are unpaid.  During my senior spring I interned for Fortify Ventures, an early-stage tech VC firm located in DC. While I was what you would call a gopher, I learned quite a few valuable lessons. I was able to turn this internship into another internship, joining the investment team at the Center for Innovative Technology, an early-stage VC firm located in Herndon, VA. Fortunately for me, CIT invested in not only technology firms, but also green energy and biotech companies. So it was at CIT that I finally began evaluating companies, thus gaining some true VC experience while still only being an intern.

7. Leverage where you are to get one step closer.

Before I could be considered a viable candidate for full-time (non-intern) position at a VC firm, I needed to either go to business school, get my Ph.D., or join a successful startup. I chose the third option. While my true passion is biotech, I chose a tech company for a practical reason. Biotech startups take ten years to grow and tech startups take just two to three years.

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Last October, a video-processing company called Veenome came and pitched CIT. Being on the investment team at CIT, I was able to get a clearer picture of Veenome than most of the other applicants and was thus able to land a job with Veenome. Here I am, six months later, truly enjoying work everyday and very well poised for the career I want. Yet, I often think about what would have happened if I had not listened to myself and had stayed an engineer.

– TJ Bozada

Jama Cocoa – A Chocolate Revolution

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Jama Cocoa is much more than a chocolate company  – the Johns Hopkins startup aims to change the chocolate culture, with the goal of creating trendy and relaxed chocolate cafés across the country.  The company has been deemed ‘The Starbucks of Chocolate,” but founder Jamasen Rodriguez’s vision differentiates his chocolate brand from Starbucks. Whether you visit a Starbucks in Paris, Tokyo, or Baltimore, the overall experience is basically the same. In contrast, Jamasen plans to micro-brand each chocolate café by sourcing regional artists to design each shop. Although the same chocolate products will be offered, each Jama Cocoa location will offer a distinct brand experience and will be integrated into the local culture.

Jama Cocoa’s truffles are truly unique and all natural – the only ingredients are chocolate and cream, with no additives. Jamasen’s favorite is the Ecuador truffle, a deep and rich chocolate with hints of chili. Just as coffee derives its flavor from where the coffee bean was grown, each chocolate truffle has a distinct flavor based upon the cocoa bean’s country of origin.

The target audience of Jama Cocoa is young professionals aged 22-35. Jamasen said, “Zoey Deschanel is the epitome of the target market – trendy, hip, and urban.” Even if you don’t match this chic description, all chocolate lovers can join Jama Cocoa’s chocolate revolution and order their truffles online at their website . The company’s first storefront in Arbutus, Maryland is located next to the UMBC campus and is scheduled to open to consumers at the end of May 2013.

Jama Cocoa has recently been highlighted on Inc. Magazine’s list of Coolest College Startups and is currently competing against other startups to get the most votes. The competition ends May 1st, so make sure you check out Jama Cocoa’s video and give them a ‘Like’ at this link!

– Kara

Are You A Startup Seeking Funds And Support? Try Google Ventures.

GoogleVenturesGoogle innately understands the power of a simple idea, a simple idea that will not become anything more unless it is supported intellectually and financially. Google Ventures, founded in 2009, is the venture capitalist investment arm of Google that selects technology startups to invest in. Its purpose is to provide funding for “entrepreneurs with a healthy disregard for the impossible”  and is certainly one of the company’s most promising solutions for new businesses.

Google’s Startup Lab uniquely blends expertise in the field of startup technology companies and provides an opportunity for companies to learn, work and share ideas. Google presents the platform for entrepreneurs to initiate conversation and attract funding to turn the fruits of these conversations into functioning prototypes.

The services provided through Google Ventures include assistance with marketing strategy, developing an engineering team, working with a functional design team and more. Below is just one of the companies Google Ventures has helped.

Upstart is one of the Google Ventures companies now helping student startups.

Upstart is one Google Ventures company now helping student entrepreneurs with their startups.

It is safe to say that a simple idea fostered through Google Ventures has the potential to become the next must-have consumer product or business solution.

Just one example of Google honoring its history and innately understanding what entrepreneurs need most, Google Ventures is a start up support system unlike any other venture fund in the world.

Do you have an idea they make like?

– Erica Zehnder

Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity Offers A Unique Business And Social Experience

“Alpha Kappa Psi is recognized as the premier developer of principled business leaders,” but the Rho Psi chapter here at Johns Hopkins University is so much more. In addition to promoting our core values on campus – Brotherhood, Knowledge, Integrity, Service, and Unity – the men and women of AKPsi at Johns Hopkins denote family in the truest sense – whether it be through the big-little families or the fraternity as a whole, each member shares something with the others.

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The Rho Psi chapter at Johns Hopkins combines business activities with social ones. We have industry presentations for our pledges as they rise through the ranks of pledging, where they are able to learn from experienced members about endeavors in entrepreneurship, marketing, financing, management and more. Plus, through the national fraternity, our chapter has the opportunity to attend the annual Principled Business Leadership Institute, held recently in Philadelphia, and the AKPsi Convention – being held in New Orleans this summer – with other chapters of the fraternity. Our chapter also complements other groups on campus including the AMA and KAIROS society in putting on events such as “Dress For Success” and various networking events.

AKPsi3

In addition to these on campus events, our chapter holds off campus trips to foster knowledge in the sectors of business. The brothers recently visited the New York Stock exchange and were given the opportunity to view the closing bell. They also recently toured the Federal Reserve Bank of Washington DC, with a private session with a Senior Economic Advisor.

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The fraternity also fosters social relations by holding date parties and a formal throughout the semester, while the brotherhood creates invigorating outdoor activities including, but not limited to, sailing, skeet shooting, and paintball. Plus, we hold community service trips at least once a semester; recently the brothers and pledges of the Upsilon Class participated in the fall President’s Day of Service by aiding the community in the building of a park.

All in all, there is no other community that I would rather be a part of at Johns Hopkins.

– Samuel Licker

Interested in Joining a Mobile Startup?

Last week, I went to Paper Moon Cafe. Twice.

I may or may not enjoy eating there.

Yet, when I called the restaurant to pick up an order for takeout, I heard a recording which explained that Paper Moon only takes orders in person. Well, this was rather unfortunate for me: I love Paper Moon’s food, and I really wanted my Southern Love Burger as soon as possible rather than waiting for the entire fifteen-minute walk plus waiting time once I had reached the restaurant.

Isn’t there a better way?

San Francisco-based startup Tapingo, a mobile app developer, has created an application for ordering from the tip of your fingers via your cellphone. I’ve taken a look at the application, which can also be accessed from a desktop browser, and I must say: I’m impressed. It is an easily used interface that is very simple.

Tapingo Screen

Tapingo is not just for restaurant orders, though. The mobile app is being adopted by campus bookstores and other partnered establishments. Here’s where the fun part comes in: Tapingo needs your help.

The company is looking for 2-4 college students to help with the application’s development. They would be paid $10 an hour with not more than 8 hours per week. For more information, email mickey@tapingo.com

– David