Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pitching skills --- overrated

When you read about the internet startup, incubation and VC business you get a lot of advice on pitching. Pitching - present your business case in "7 minutes". YCombinator even seems to have a pitching-training program for their startups.

Although good sales and presentation skills are important in starting a new business I think the skills of pitching are far overrated and it is unfair to decide not to invest into an idea by seeing only a 7 minute presentation. It is the VC-s who only have so little per idea and force this "fast-food presentation policy".

I mean if you cannot make a good 7 minute presentation of your startup it does not mean automatically that:
- The idea is bad
- You are a bad manager
- You can not make the business work.
- ...
Actually it does not mean much at all in my mind. So in MicroLink incubator we give the idea owners at least an hour for an interview.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

MicroLink's Incubator in Twitter

We created our own Twitter account. You can follow us at

We will write messages there both in english and estonian.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Internetmarketing .... for the government?

Most internetmarketing fuzz until now is concentrated on "sales". Internetmarketing tries to answer to questions like "How to sell your products on the internet?", "What is our company's rating on the internet?". So it has primarily been a business thing.

On the other hand as internet has become such a powerful media it is and will be taken into use by the public sector as a really effective tool for "letting the world know the Truth". Until now the public sector has used internet as a media channel for relatively "little" projects. For example promoting the country for tourists or having news portals that have government's press releases. The propaganda portals, like for example Kavkaz Center or some Arab news portals, have been only for global-political smalltimers. But this is due to change and besides plain news portals there is much more to internetmarketing. And this is really scary and awful, but the FSB-s, CIA-s, KGB-s, Hisbollah's, parties, defence secretary's, newspapers will soon take the other internetmarketing tools into effective use.
- They will do Search Engine Optimization
- They will have people filling the newspaper commentary pages.
- They will have forum posters
- Videos on YouTube
- Bloggers
- Facebook, Orkut, Linkedin etc. groups
- Campaign web sites
- Newsletters
- ...
Last but not least, if done professionally it becomes impossible to distinguish between propaganda and real news, to distinguish whether a comment was written by a real person or by a professional secret-service writer. They will not tell you straight out "The One and Only Truth" but give you hints and links and make you question your opinions.

So internetmarketers! Don't hesitate to (internet)market your services to the public sector! :-) Besides all kind of state propaganda there are a lot of good campaigns that also need proper marketing.... "Say no to Drugs" and "Stop eating trashfood" etc.

Here is the harsh example of internetmedia - the Russian-Georgia crisis.I follow(ed) the news about it from many different news sources. As I am fortunate to understand 4 languages (EST, FIN, RUS and ENG), I read the news and commentaries from:
Finnish, Estonian, Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, British, US news portals. I also read the comments and opinion articles. And it really is amazing how different the picture is that is painted by different newsportals or countries. Media specialists could do a whole research on the issue. Also in this conflict there were some new means for information distribution used. Probably they were spontanuous acts of the public... There were multiple "Support Georgia" groups in the social networks, YouTube is full of different video material, there were newsletters, spam, special news pages like this.

....if selling your products on the internet through "writing positive user comments on the forums" is morally right then it probably is also OK to bend the truth a bit if it is in line with the partys political or economical objectives?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Easy way to earn for web magazines

Working with new e-business ideas makes you look on the world differently and search for new ideas for potential services.

Here is an idea for a service for web magazines.

Idea: To give a possibility for employers to turn off the possibility to comment news and articles from their network during workinghours.

What will become better: IF you are not working on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or doing internet marketing then writing comments to articles during work is wasting your employers money. If reading news and articles is educational and for some jobs a necessity then commenting them in most cases isn't.

On the other hand if the employer just turns off the whole news portal from their firewall they create a lot of bad motivation and besides then the web magazine also looses some of its readers.

Therefore the possibility to turn off just commenting for work hours is a good soft solution for the problem and as employers would save a lot of work time then they would be happy to use this service.

Technical solution: Very easy and almost free. Usually the employers network is protected with a firewall that is seen on the internet with one IP or they have an IP range. The script that handles the "submit comment" action must check in the beginning whether it is worktime and from where the comment is coming from. If it is from an employers network who wants to restrict commenting then the user is redirected to a page.... with a picture illustrating this post. (If you don't understand russian it states: "Farm work does not wait!") The whole programming and testing should not take more than an hour from your web programmer.

Here you can check to whom an IP address belongs to: RIPE andmebaasist.

Possible additional services:
- Statistical overview to employers on how much reading and commenting is done from their network. In the beginning you should do a statistical overview anyway... The top 100 "commenting networks" will give you the first 100 employers whom to send a preposition of the new service.
- Turning off the non-educational pages during work time for employers networks. If you have tabloids or yellow news pages also in your web magazine.
- Consolidating this service with the sales of banner-ads. For example you could give your biggest advertizers a free possibility to turn off commenting from their network and vice versa.

...or do they offer this service already?

Friday, August 15, 2008

OpenCoffee in Tallinn

For almost a year now we have regularly had OpenCoffee meetings in Tallinn. From here you can read more about the global OpenCoffee movement. Shortly: The OpenCoffee Club was started to encourage entrepreneurs, developers and investors to organise real-world informal meetups to chat, network and grow.

In Tallinn we meet once a month, 9 o'clock in the morning. We have met at the Scotland Yard pub at Mere puiestee. No registration, no fee, just turn up and meet people. The meetings have been very interesting and you can always meet somebody with a new and fun idea. Usually there have been 10-20 people there. For the last half a year there has always been somebody from MicroLink's incubator team. Either Rauno, Tõnis or me.
The main organizer behind the Estonian OpenCoffee is Jüri Kaljundi and a big thanks to him for bringing the club to Estonia!

The meetings have been really positive. If estonians (or finns for that matter :-) usually need like 3 beers before they start to talk to strangers then at Opencoffee there are no such ridiculous communication barriers. Really open, really intelligent and really interesting people who all want to share their ideas and opinions. To be honest I was surprised by that at the first meeting. :-)

So if you are near by for the next meeting, come by! We can all speak good english and many of us also Russian. You can find interesting people and ideas there. The next meeting will be announced on our Facebook group: or if you are interested then send me an e-mail and I will let you know.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Good e-business ideas come from....

.... experienced people between 25-50 years old who have good work experience in almost any economic field. They usually know best what are the biggest problems in their field of work and know how and with whom to solve them. I don'd believe strongly in students having good SaaS or other e-business ideas. Students do have a lot of good ideas about entertainment on the internet and ideas on how people could spend even more time online doing not really very practical things (like blogging he-hee or) gaming.

Some examples about ideas that have come to our incubator:
- The construction industry needs good project bank/project management e-service integrated with printing facilities for printing diagrams for the men-at-work.
- The travelling industry needs a central information database/e-service for the travel packages that the resellers could sell directly from their website without any human interaction.
- The farmers need social networking and an advise portal about fertilizers, techniques and machinery.
- ....

People like this also have contacts in the industry for possible first customers or suppliers. They lack the experience of creating an e-service, internet marketing, sales, software development, server administration. These all MicroLink's incubator can provide so if you know that in your field of work there is something that can be done with IT - let us know. We could make good co-operation.

P.S. If your company is ordering software development and it is very expensive, but could be useful for other companies working in the same field then maybe it would be wise to make the software as a service - use it yourself, but let others use it also for a small fee. :-) (That is what we are doing with SLA calculator.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Should you keep your e-service idea as a secret?

Many people with new e-business startup ideas have come to us (MicroLink Estonia's IT and e-services incubator) and wanted us to keep their idea as a secret. I have once even signed a paper claiming that I will not use that idea.

In my opinion and experience keeping an idea as a secret is completely useless. The world is full of free and good ideas, but the resources of people willing and able to make them happen is really scarce. Besides everybody wants to make his own thing happen and not somebody elses.

So my advice to all the people with ideas - talk about them to as many people as possible. Talking with them helps you refine your idea, combine your idea and make a much better thing out of it.

And there are a load of web sites giving away free ideas or new ideas currently in realization.

When I published some good ideas on my blog and asked if anyone would be interested in making them happen... I got an absolute zero response. Everybody believes in his own ideas.