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Saturday, April 19, 2014

I've given probably 2000 demo's of software to decision makers in enterprises. Currently i'm training a team of sales reps for GoodCall, and i wanted to share my process for demoing software that we use.

Key points are
  • Ask questions!!!! The other party should be speaking 50% or more of the demo. 
  • Find out as much as you can about their company and their problems and challenges before you start the demo. Do not launch into your product without understanding their business and needs
  • Quickly demo the software, covering key features and benefits - DO NOT DRILL INTO DETAILS
  • Ask them how the benefits of your software align to their needs
  • Ask questions about their purchasing process
Good Luck!

Anatomy of a software demo to a potential business customer

The following are 7 sections on how i run a software demo to a potential customer during a 30-60 minute sales demo over the web (we use Join.me).

1. Intro's and thank them for their time. (3 Mins)
  • Introduce your self (not your company) - what your job role is and how long you have been with the company and why you believe in what the company i doing.
  • Ask them to tell you how long they have been at the company and what their key focus is  
  • Ask them what their key pain points in the job role and team are
2. "Before i launch into a demo, do you min if i ask you a few questions so i can tailor the demo" (5-10 mins)
  • Ask them about their current systems, what do they use, what is working, what isnt.
  • Ask them about their department, what their key priorities are at the moment.
  • Ask them about their staff, how big is the team, who is responsible for what. How many people work for them etc
3. "If its ok with you, do you mind if we take 7 minutes to demo our software (10-15 mins)
  • Ok, we have 5 main areas of the software, ill take you through each one.
  • For each area of the software, state what is does and what the benefits are
  • At the end of each area, ask them if they understand what they just saw. This improves their engagement
  • State the number of the next area you are demoing so they feel the demo is quickly progressing
4. "Thanks for your time reviewing our product, really keen for your feedback" (5 Mins)
  • Can you let me know what areas stand out as relevant to your company?
  • What key benefits do you think our software can offer your company?
5. Close Questions (5 Mins)
  • If you were to purchase this software, what would be the process to approve the purchase
  • Who are the decision makers of this purchase?
  • Do you currently have budget for solving these problems.
6. Ask for the sale (2 Mins)
  • Are you keen to get going with our software?
  • Would you like me to send you the order form / web link to sign up / contract etc
7. Close
  • Email / call them every few days, with new information about the product or service that is relevant to their internal problems and that re-enforces the key benefits they saw in the demo


Posted by Nick HaC @ 4:17 PM


Thursday, April 3, 2014

A few people have recently asked me GoodCall is all about. So i put together a 90 second video demo.
GoodCall lets you capture the sales process of your best salesperson and replicate it across the rest of your team. You can also use GoodCall to scale out your sales process across our marketplace of thousands of verified sales reps.
We are proud to be funded by several Silicon Valley VC funds including PivotNorth Capital, Vulcan Capital (the Microsoft's Co-Founder Paul Allen's fund) and Stanford University Ventures.



Posted by Nick HaC @ 12:21 AM


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Many entrepreneurs contact me seeking advice on how to raise money for their company. Some time ago i wrote a document capturing my experiences raising money at BuzzNumbers.

I should probably update it based on my success in raising money for GoodCall, but given current time constraints i figured i would share what i have...




If you are interested in more information and examples of documents referred to in the above info sheet, grab me on linkedin, email or skype and i can share the below documents with you

  • 1 Page company summary teaser doco
  • 10 slide pitch deck
  • Comprehensive IM for financial investors
  • Financial Plan / Projections
  • Sample term sheets (AU/US)
  • Sample Convertible Note agreement (AU/US)
  • Sample Equity Sale agreement (AU/US)
  • Sample Shareholders agreements (AU/US)
  • Sample Founder Stock Vesting Agreements  (AU/US)
  • Sample Employee Stock Option Agreements (AU/US)
  • Sample DD Kits with IP Assignment Contracts (AU/US)

Posted by Nick HaC @ 11:02 PM


In April 2013 i pitched GoodCall at several demo days and angel events in Sydney, Melbourne, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Colorado.

We all acknowledge the value of angel events in connecting startups with newly interested angel investors. Some angel events were better than others. I was dis-pleased that at some of the events that new investors used the Q&A sessions to unreasonably challenge these early stage companies publically to the detriment of all attendees. It seemed that these few tire-kickers deliberatly tried to show off their business acumen in front of the crowd as an ego point with little intention to actually invest. As a point of feedback to angels at event: if you have no intention of investing in a company presenting, then there is no reason to ask questions publically that may reduce the chances of the startup raising. Doing this is a dick move.

To review all the events we participated in: the best pitch event i experienced was at TechStars in Boulder Colorado. These guys set the standard for both the startups and the angels. Amazing startups, Amazing Investors.

Before the pitches at TechStars, each investor in the room had to stand up and tell the room what was their last tech startup investment. I can't tell you how much i loved this.

This created an environment where the "Investor/Angel" attendees were somewhat humbled socially before the pitches so they didn't have carte-blanche to ask the kind of show-off, stupid and belittling questions that some Aussie investors ask at pitch events and demo days.

I propose this should be a requirement for all Angel Events and Demo Days. If you can't show you have invested in startups in the past, then perhaps you don't qualify to ask questions of the startups pitching in front of the rest of the other investors.

If the event you are at does not have a qualification process like this, then when you meet with potential investors, i suggest you ask them the same question - "Can you tell me what kinds of startups you have recently invested in?". Asking this question not only separates the looky-loos from the active investors, but also increases the respect that active investors have for you.

If you are feeling especially cheeky, then might i propose if you are asked a stupid question during a Q&A after your pitch at demo day, you respond with "Thanks for your question. Before i respond, can i ask what was your most recent startup investment? If you can let me know this will help me frame my response to be as relevant as possible".

That said: I have never raised money from an investor i met at a demo day or pitch event ( as a counter point, some @StartMate companies in our batch in 2013 did). All the best investors i know never get their deal flow from these events. Regardless, there is no harm in pitching at events: it will get you word of mouth, potential new customers, feedback from the market and will groom your pitch so it improves.

Posted by Nick HaC @ 10:33 PM


At BuzzNumbers i met with over 300 Australian Investors and hi-net worths. At GoodCall i met with 100+ Aussie's and 100+ US investors. I ended up closing millions from both AU and US investors for each company and wanted to share my experiences in capital raising for the benefit of other entrepreneurs in Australia.

One observation i have of Australian tech investors/angels is that they invest based on managing downside as their primary focus. They are trying to discover all the things that might be the reason that this company may not work. They are focusing on downside protection not potential upside.

Perhaps this is because most aussie's are not liquid enough to handle a complete loss of funds from a startup investment. Perhaps it is a risk-averse mentality in general in Australia. It is my view that focusing on downside protection dramatically reduces the chances of significant upside from investments. This may be a circular problem and be self-reinforcing in the AU investment community.

Aussie investors seem to focus on questions about market sizing and proof of customer acquisition costs and application of funds. They seem to be trying to find reasons not to invest during each meeting and information request. They act from the point of view that the entrepreneur is probably wrong or mis-leading them or ignorant to the challenges faced in finding success.

They seek to pick apart the business model with the implied promise that if they can no longer find any flaws that they will then invest. For the entrepreneur this is a grueling and potentially morale-destroying process that may end up killing the company if the wrong investor nit-picks too far and wastes too much of your time.

By contrast. The US investors and Angels i have met seem to focus on investing for upside potential.

US investors focus on exploring what the opportunities could be for your company. They run Due-Diligence that tests all the potential upside opportunities. They acknowledge that the entrepreneur is acting on the best available information at hand and their assumptions may be wrong. They are comfortable that talented entrepreneurs when financed correctly will be able to find a new path to success if they got a prior assumption wrong.

Today, i advise all the Aussie companies i work with not to raise funds from Aussie investors if they can avoid it. As an entrepreneur it is very easy to waste lots and lots of time and get fucked around by potential investors when you could better spend that time on getting revenue from customers.

Fundraising is such a time-consuming process. It distracts from your core mission of creating a great product that makes users happy and finding ways to get lots of customers profitably. Wasting time capital raising may well be the death of your startup.

Of course their are many exceptions to the rule, and their are many great angels and investors in AU.






Posted by Nick HaC @ 10:06 PM


Here is a 3 minute video pitch of GoodCall in april 2013.

 

 There are also a number of older pitches 

500Startups: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiW5gKekQkc

Sydney Pitch Practice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLaxGoj10Wg 

Optus Innov8 Pitch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4R3JHVs1lA

Posted by Nick HaC @ 8:42 PM


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Most software as a service companies seek to acquire customers from online channels, and its pretty clear that increasing your conversion rates is a powerful way to increase customers and revenue.

At GoodCall we have been running some A/B tests to measure and optimize our conversion rates, and just this week had a significant jump in conversions that surprised us so i wanted to share.



We improved conversion rates from 15% to 37.5% by reducing the amount of content on page, and giving less information to our visitors.

Original (15% Conversion)
      Variation #1 (37.5% Conversion)
          

Why was this surprising for us?

In our original landing page design, we had a hypothesis that our visitors would need to know enough information about the service before they would commit to signing up with LinkedIn. Signing up to any service with LinkedIn requires a level of trust.

What can you do to replicate this for your business?

Be sure to sign up with Optimizely and run a few experiments with your landing pages. Its pretty easy to at least half the cost of your customer acquisition costs.

----------------------------------------------

About GoodCall

At GoodCall we make it easy for companies to quickly deploy a high performance outsourced sales team. We are oDesk meets AdWords for salespeople.

http://goodcall.io




Posted by Nick HaC @ 8:36 PM


Thursday, October 31, 2013

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” - Ira Glass

Posted by Nick HaC @ 12:15 PM


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Having started several companies each with different co-founders, i have observed a few patterns around the way founders relate to each other and successfully achieve outcomes together.

The analogy that makes the most sense to me is to view the first founders as the oxen in front of a heavy cart. These founders are suppose to work together to move a heavy load from point A to point B, and ideally do it as fast as possible on the shortest route with increasing momentum.



With these first founders, its pretty common sense that you all need to be pulling in the same direction - if this isn't happening at your company, your relationship will be toast fairly soon and to survive as a company you will need to make decisive and significant changes quickly.

Assuming all founders are pulling all in the same direction, i have observed that at any given time that often one founder is pulling harder than the others. In toxic founder relationships this leads to frustration and contempt. In balanced founder relationships each of the founders enjoy the opportunity to take a turn in the lead and charge ahead. When this leading founder get tired, the other founder notices the cart is slowing down, and in being a little rested and restored - steps up to take up the slack and drive ahead.

Another parallel of success for teams is something i experienced in my teenage years. Back then i crewed in competitive rowing in both fours and eights. I recall these situations in my crew where one man was often taking the lead for a time and then another man would take over when they tired and this kept up team performance. Occasionally, in a right crew, a higher order drive to win infected all of us and all the crew took the charge at the same time and the boat propelled forward like crazy. That feeling was amazing. The boat surged up like a bat out of hell and it would cut the water like a knife in butter and we won the race by many lengths.

In the same way as great crew, in great startup teams, all the founders find themselves pulling hard in the same direction, and the feeling of momentum is infectious. If you experience this in your start-up, you will know it, and its one of the best feelings in the world where real progress gets made.




Posted by Nick HaC @ 10:25 PM


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

One of my favorite comedians Bill Burr has a new special out.

Posted by Nick HaC @ 9:37 PM


Friday, May 17, 2013

Having lived and worked in Sydney and San Francisco, i think it is worthwhile to point out the misconceptions that most Aussie startup people have of Silicon Valley.

Yes it is true that amazing success happens in silicon valley and yes it is the best place to work if you are in early stage technology companies. As an analogy - if you are an actor you need to be in LA, if you like wine you need to be in France, and if you are a startup guy then you need to be in Silicon Valley.

In SF you do frequently meet people that you would only dream to meet in Australia - as an example yesterday i met a random guy inline at a coffeeshop who was a founder at one of the largest Email Marketing companies in the world and we exchanged cards. That evening i also randomly met people in senior roles at ZenDesk, Yammer, Google, Yelp and 500Startups at a friends dinner. These are all great things, but sadly this is just social masterbation and tech celeb fascination, and has nothing to do with real success.

Aussie startup people see Silicon Valley as some kind of paradise for entrepreneurs. But the hard truth is that starting and attaining real success that delivers entrepreneurial satisfaction in Silicon Valley is even harder than in Australia. Yes if you are doing something really valuable you have more support and paths to succees in Silicon Valley than in Australia, but the irony is that personal emotional experience will be much harder than in AU.

As Geoff McQueen posted recently on the StartMate mailing list

"That's the real SF tech startup challenge. Work harder than you ever had against the smartest and hungriest people in the world while making the most of one of the world's most incredible cities..."

The major misconception that us Aussies in Australia have about Silicon Valley is the hype and bluster about acquisitions of companies. Most acquisitions from Aussies in SF that the media reports are often exits by companies that are not working or will die soon and are seen by the founders as personal failures. "Acquihires" in SF are frequently reported as having $15-25M valuations, but these are rarely the actual amounts received by the founders.

Most of the founders that i have met that have had successful acquisitions in the eyes of the Australian media and the Aussie Startup community, see their acquisitions as personal failures, and these are not events that give them financial freedom. Yes these acquisitions are events all Aussie startup people could only dream of, but after investor dilution and liquation preferences and capital gains tax and weaker than expected earn-outs and back paying personal debts, these acquisitions are rarely "beach money" for founders.

Like most things in life, happyness is relative. Once you are in Silicon Valley, there is no talk about Silicon Valley, just people trying working like crazy to win crazy big against the odds. Unfortunately when Aussies come here and work like hell and luckily "win" by Aussie media standards, they often feel personally let down that the win wasn't as big as they hoped.

"When we win it's with small things, and the triumph itself makes us small." - The Man Watching by Rainer Maria Rilke

For me, i'm one of the lucky (and hard working) fewAustralian tech entrepeneurs who have built and sold a technology startup in Australia. To count my blessings i find it hard to even recall 10 Aussie tech startup founders who have done this in the last 5 years (Dean McEvoy at Spreets, David Kowalski at CountryCars ???)

Now having moved on into Silicon Valley, the dream of how much better Silicon Valley is than Australia has quickly faded into the realisation of just how smart and efficient the market here is. No longer is there a crutch to fall back upon with complaints about the lack of VC availability or the lack of government support. It is do or die time, and for Aussie entrepreneurs this makes Silicon Valley a place far less dreamy and a hell of a lot more challenging than expected.



Posted by Nick HaC @ 9:06 PM


Sunday, May 12, 2013

1. Make something people want

The most successful incubator to date yCombinator (reddit, dropbox, airBNB) have a motto for success called "make something people want". It seems so obvious, yet many new companies neglect this thinking. Frequently the founders create something they believe in, yet do not measure if the market actually wants it.

My interpretation of the challenge of making something people want is - how can you get in front of people who care about the problem you solve? What i mean by this is: can your company find a path to customer adoption?

To make something people want you need to find a way to repeatedly find customers who seek a solution to the problem you are proposing to solve. They know they have a problem, and they have a desire to act and solve this problem right away.

2. Make something people love

Once you find a way to find people that have a problem that they want solved, the next challenge is to make a product/solution that solves their problem in a way which makes them happy and repeat purchase.

Even if the customer has a really big problem they need solved, there are a number of challenging and frustrating issues in making a solution that they love. Many times a new company solves the customer problem clearly and profitably, but "irrational" blockers get in the way. I recently saw a company that cut the cost of invoice processing for large companies by 75%, but they had significant trouble selling their solution to the buyer as they were inhibited by the cultural impact of firing 30+ employees. The financial value was a no-brainer but the solution was not loveable as it hurt people in the company.

One key test to establish if your customers love your product is to measure if they purchase and then purchase again. Can you prove your customers repeat purchase 2,3,4,5 times?

Another way to test how much your customers love your service is to ask what they would do if you cancelled the service.  If you find your customers protesting that you should not cut off their service, you have ticked the box of making something people love.

3. Make money...

If you now know how to find people who have the problem you solve, and you know how to make these customers happy - congratulations, you are part of a very small minority of startups who make it to this level of success.

Unfortunately this joy is short lived. I'm sorry to say that now business fundamentals come into play. You now need to measure if your customers pay you more than it costs you to acquire them and serve them.

The hard question becomes is it worthwhile for you and your company to spend the time and money doing what you do compared to other opportunities out there? This is what your investors are thinking and calculating, at least the financially focused investors out there.

One of my past businesses was kicking ass on new customer growth, customer renewal rates and overall company satisfaction. But when i spent the time to run the numbers i realised it cost us more to acquire and service our customers than they paid us. This was a ticking time bomb. Luckily we found a way to optimise the business and turn our model around to be profitable on each customer and the business became a success.

Putting aside popular distain for investment bankers, they do have some very useful tools for calculating the value of your efforts compared to other opportunities including WAAC and IRR. Is your venture the best use of your time and money? If not, you will likely need to find a strategic buyer who can take your solution and product to their customers and leverage their scale to make the business work.





Posted by Nick HaC @ 9:07 PM


A really useful line of thinking i was introduced to by Niki Scevak from StartMate is the 5-50-500 path to growing your company.

Before you try to boil the ocean, you need to roll-out out your offering in a way that validates your business and gives you the learnings to fix problems in advance of any major blow-outs.

Finding your first 5 customers
Find 5 customers for your product from your personal network. Friends, co-workers, past employers etc. These are people you can use your relationship with to get them to buy your offering. Regardless of their doubts about your new business/product, they will hopefully take a risk on you. This is your fastest path to adoption and you need to actively push them for honest feedback. What do they like and dislike about your offering? What works, what doesn't?  If you cant get 5 customers from your personal network, then that is a pretty strong signal that you have something deeply wrong with your business and need to change before you consider scaling (or your personal network is the wrong market for your product).

Expand to 50 Customers in your network
If you have been able to get your first 5 happy customers, you need to test that it is not just your personal charisma that sold your product. Your next 50 customers should be people that you know as a 2nd degree relationship. This is important as it validates the customer pain beyond just your personal sales ability. From these 50, you need to learn and document their purchasing process, their objections and their adoption path. These 50 will teach you about how your product works in the real world, and will help you determine what you may need to change to keep them as ongoing happy customers.

First 500 Customers
After passing the test of 50 arms length customers, with these learnings you are now ready to scale to the mass market. Your next 500 customers will be people who you do not know, who have a problem that you have proven to solve. You will now use your learnings from the 5 and the 50 to create re-useable customer education and customer onboarding processes. You will have a product that creates happy repeat customers by solving a problem they have. To get these 500 you will need to use sales and marketing channels beyond your personal and extended networks. You need to find, test and explore these new paths to market and validate that you can acquire customers profitably.

Good Luck!



Posted by Nick HaC @ 7:45 PM


Saturday, February 9, 2013

The topic of "being present" and "mindfulness" and "the power of now" has come up several times from my peers over the last few years, but i have struggled to actually realise these concepts in any impacting way.

In this talk, Aditya provides a clear and compelling case that we all short-change our present happiness by getting distracted with replaying past events and over-analysing potential future situations.

Aditya also describes a simple and adoptable path to getting off the self-destructive cycle of past guilt and future worry that burdens so many of us.



Posted by Nick HaC @ 1:42 AM


Hiring great employees is difficult.

It is hard to find good people and it is hard to attract them to leave their current job and join you.

More importantly, it is often hard to measure how well new employees actually perform until months and months into the job. At that point it can take a few more months of performance management to get them to either improve or depart.

I have found the single most valuable trait of an employee is the ability to get the job done against the odds. It is so easy to find reasons that block completion on a task - the best people always find ways around any blockers and just get it done - the rest make excuses.

So how do you quickly separate the men from the boys?

A technique you can use when you first hire new people is to run them through a bunch of standardised trial tasks.

Create a specified requirement for a project or task that will take no longer than a week. Have a couple of your best employees execute on this task as a benchmark and document the results.

When the new employee joins, get them to execute on this task with the full belief that this is a real project needed by the company. You should stress the need for successful completion of this task within the week.

At the end of the week, run a review of their project, and find out if it was successfully completed. Compare the results against your benchmark. 

This technique will at least enable you to quickly determine if you have just hired someone who gets the job done, or someone who talks the walk. At best it will reconfirm your successful hire of a great team member, who has now proven themselves to be autonomous and able to get shit done.





Posted by Nick HaC @ 1:23 AM


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

After being involved in enterprise sales processes for some time now, one lesson has become really clear.

It takes longer to lose a sale than to win a sale.

In running some analytics on our sales pipeline, it is abundantly clear that sales prospects that do not end up converting take up significantly more of your time and take much longer to say no than prospects who say yes.

Sales prospects who express interest and who end up buying your product, often take as little as 1/3 of the time to close as sales prospects that are ultimately unsuccessful.

With that in mind, what are you going to do differently to improve your sales closing skills?

Posted by Nick HaC @ 11:22 PM


Thursday, November 15, 2012

A number of friends and associates have recently asked me how an acquisition works. So here is my topline explanation.

While every acquisition is different, here is my take on the common process.

1. The seller or a buyer initiates interest in an acquisition
2. Company documentation is created to support the acquisition
3. A process is run to determine interested parties
4. Term sheets (or Heads of Agreement) are negotiated then signed
5. Due Diligence is conducted
6. Sale and Purchase Agreement is Negotiated
7. Completion Part 1: SPA Execution occurs and the buyer pays the seller
8. The handover or earn-out process runs its course
9. Completion Part 2: - Earn-out/handover is completed and any necessary payments made
10. Completion Part 3: Warranty expiration.

Over the next few weeks i’ll post a more detailed explanation of each phase of the process

Any questions or feedback please feel free to leave a comment or email me.

Posted by Nick HaC @ 11:26 PM


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A few people per week contact me asking for feedback or assistance on their new entrepreneurial idea. In addition to this i see around 200-300 startup pitches a year from StartMate and PushStart,

In response to these pitches, i have some feedback and advice to new entrepreneurs.

To proceed successfully with your new venture, you need to be able to clearly and quickly articulate
1. What problem you solve
2. How many people have this problem
3. How will you get to all these people who have this problem
4. What proof do you have that these people will pay to solve this problem
If you have answers to these questions, and you can show you solve a painful problem that many people have, and you have a clear path to getting in touch with all these people - then you are much more likely to get the attention of investors and more importantly become successful in your own right.

Posted by Nick HaC @ 11:53 PM


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? We all hear the same list of qualities: passion, determination and vision.

But the same qualities that are heralded as traits of the successful are also the key traits of unsuccessful entrepreneurs.

The driven entrepreneur can fall in love with their product, ignore negative feedback from customers and spend years building a product based on a vision that no one else shares...

Is your passion and determination a help or a hindrance to your success?

Be sure to read Nail it then Scale it - i wish i read it years ago...

Posted by Nick HaC @ 12:31 AM


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

2007 - Version 1

The first design i ever did of BuzzNumbers. Notice the heavy use of buzzwords from that time, eg CGM and WOM. I don't think the phrase Social Media had been invented yet. I love the little men with their arms, it so bad its awesome.

2008 - Version 2

I had a professional design firm create our logo and then a freelancer make up the website. I still really like this design. Simple, concise, clear call to action. 

2009 - Version 3

In an effort to make BuzzNumbers more fun and more "Web 2.0" we upgraded the design again. Bigger logo, speech bubbles to reflect what we did. This design was relatively short lived as there was negative feedback on it.

2010 - Version 4

In an effort to become more "Professionial" and realising that our key market was Australia / Asia Pacific we rebranded to try to appeal more to our perceived market. We also had a BuzzNumbers.co.jp version of this website for our Tokyo distribution partners which has been lost along the way. This was the first time we had started to collect email addresses on the home page, which we then hooked up into our FeedBurner so that they automatically received all future blog posts.

2011 - Version 5

Some internal people felt that the design was not "Product Focused" enough. We had a differed 3rd party design firm come in. We ran this on wordpress which was our first CMS implementation for the BuzzNumbers site. We also took advantage of the then emerging theme to have a logo cluster of the press you got on your homepage.

 2012 - Version 6

When BuzzNumbers expanded beyond pure product sales to include services, we rebuild our website with a focus on diversified offering. Personally i disliked the heavy black colors, but this was now out of my control as our Marketing and Design team had run the process and had data that showed that this was the best choice of design.


BuzzNumbers was then acquired in August 2012 by Sentia Media (MediaMonitors)
http://www.nickhac.com/2012/09/buzznumbers-acquired.html
I look forward to seeing what the new marketing team at Sentia Media do for future designs :)



Posted by Nick Holmes a Court @ 11:32 AM


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Last week, at 31 years old, my company BuzzNumbers was acquired by Sentia Media (MediaMonitors).

It's been nearly 5 years since i started building BuzzNumbers and has been a wonderful journey and one hell of a ride.

Having one of my own technology companies acquired by a multi-national has been one of my dreams since i taught myself to program as a teenager in the 1990's.

It feels amazing that something that i brought into the world has been valued so highly by such a large media company that it has been acquired so rapidly. The acquisition took 6 weeks to complete.

Being acquired has created a mixture of emotions for me personally ranging from victorious joy through to sadness over the loss of "my baby". But like any parent, one day you have to let your children leave the nest and soar to new heights.

When i founded the company, i always thought that MediaMonitors would want to acquire us.

All throughout my internet life, starting as a kid in 1991 with Bulletin Boards through to IRC in 1994 to the 1999 "dot com boom" and beyond, i believed the internet mattered more than any previous media channel. The internet democratised global communication and information sharing. The internet meant we could all be producers as well as consumers of public information. I saw this as such a fundamental change to the existing media communications structure that at the time was largely top down produced (eg TV/Print/Radio where the overly empowered minority produced information for the voiceless majority). I believed the internet was going to change this, and it turned out that the "Social Media" and "Web 2.0" revolution of 2007-2012 actualised this change.

I knew and loved MediaMonitors as one of their customers in the mid 2000's and saw that as they only tracked TV/Radio/Print they would one day need to care about the internet. With the acquisition of BuzzNumbers, now they do :)

During the course of the business, several different larger companies approached us to acquire us, most of which we couldn't find the right fit. Even during these last 5 years we had entered into acquisition discussions with MediaMonitors 3 times, and while we saw alignment, we ended up not completing for one reason or another. At the start of this recent successful M&A transaction their CEO and I joked that we had dated a few too many times now to not get into bed.

I'm delighted with the acquisition and feel so enriched and rewarded by the process of creating, building and selling a company. I look forward to seeing BuzzNumbers future success as part of Asia-Pacific's largest Media Intelligence company...

Posted by Nick HaC @ 1:25 AM


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Posted by Nick Holmes a Court @ 9:06 PM


Monday, May 7, 2012

Every few days i need some kind of adhoc report from one of our systems databases. Usually the information im trying to see is activity over time (hits, views, pageloads, messages, purchases, call logs, quotes, invoices, updates,  etc etc).

What happens in most databases is that record entrys have a datetime field and the time component makes it difficult to easily group by day for reporting purposes.

I've had to solve this problem maybe 5k times in the last 10 years but every time i forget the SQL Syntax to round datetimes to days. So here it is.

Im writing this blog post purely to provide a record for myself so i don't have to search old database scripts each and every damn time :)

select
count(*) as RecordCount,
CAST(FLOOR(CAST(CreateDate AS FLOAT ))AS DATETIME) as  DDMMYY

from Records 
group by CAST(FLOOR(CAST(CreateDate AS FLOAT ))AS DATETIME)

Posted by Nick Holmes a Court @ 10:37 PM


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Watched an interesting video tonight arguing that established large companies are increasingly less secure in their leadership positions. The point made is that we are seeing less and less time between the disruptive waves where new companies overtake their predecessors.

This line of thinking really challenges the widely held notion that holding fortune 500 share portfolios are a means of safe long term asset growth. Although Warren Buffet would most likely disagree with this idea.

Study of the fortune 1000 - Which companies decline from leadership positions?
  • 1973-1983: 35% of Fortune 1000 fell off the list
  • 1983-1993: 43% of Fortune 1000 fell off the list
  • 1993-2003: 60% of Fortune 1000 fell off the list
  • 2003-2011: 70% of Fortune 1000 fell off the list


In my opinion this explains why public markets are not seeing much growth and private companies and startups are seeing all the value creation!

Posted by Nick HaC @ 10:29 PM


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Watched a very interesting lecture by Sam Harris on Free Will...

In this elegant and provocative video, Sam Harris demonstrates — with great intellectual ferocity and panache — that free will is an inherently flawed and incoherent concept, even in subjective terms. If he is right, the concept will radically change the way we view ourselves as human beings
 

Posted by Nick HaC @ 10:58 PM


Its the 3rd year in a row and the final year of eligibility! Very cool.

SmartCompany: 2012's Hot 30 under 30





Posted by Nick HaC @ 7:58 PM


Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Fun fun...

Posted by Nick Holmes a Court @ 12:39 PM


Thursday, January 19, 2012

How to create a great elevator pitch?

- What we are doing? -
- Why its unique, interesting or valuable?
- Why you should care...

I really wish i had recorded my early elevator pitches for BuzzNumbers. As i indulge in recollection of past events, my first investor pitch took 10 minutes to complete. Rushing forward to today, i've pitched thousands of times over to associates, clients, investors etc. It now feels so natural to give an elevator pitch in less than 60 seconds that i had kind of forgotten that i even had to try to hone the perfect "elevator pitch".

I've recently been working with StartMate and internal teams at BuzzNumbers for new products we are bringing to market this year and the concept of elevator pitch has come up a few times this week and spurred me to think about this again.

As a serial entrepreneur and angel investor who has seen thousands of pitches, i have formed an opinion on what makes a good pitch that works for me on both sides of the table and i wanted to share my experience.

The key things i think you need to cover in your pitch is


- What problem do you solve?
- What traction/milestones you have that achieved to prove you are solving this problem
- What you want from the person you are speaking to? (Your "ask")


So with renewed focus, i though perhaps to deliver my Elevator pitch as see it today for BuzzNumbers...

Version 1
BuzzNumbers helps businesses track, measure and understand what people are saying online and on social media about their company, people, products and competitors. 
Our world-class social media analytics platform has best in breed and patent pending realtime monitoring of News, Blogs, Forums, Social Media sites like Twitter and Facebook as well as Video, Classifieds like Craigslist and Ebay and even BitTorrent networks. 
Our company was founded in 2009 and is now trusted and used daily by over 150 global fortune 500 companies including Microsoft, AMP, BHP, Astra-Zeneca, EarthHour and multiple Government Agencies and our company is growing exponentially at over XX% per month. 
It would be great to get your contact details if that is ok. Do you have a business card so i can send you some information to see if this is of interest?
After reflecting on this <1min pitch, which i use frequently, i realised it is objectively perhaps longer than what is necessary to cement interest and get the business card.

So i cut it down to something shorter

Version 2
BuzzNumbers helps companies track what people are saying about them online. 
Our customers use this information to get market research and consumer insights in near real-time, something that was never possible before our patent pending Software as a Service was created. 
We founded the company in 2009, and have since grown exponentially and acquired more than 150 enterprise customers including Microsoft, AMP, BHP, Astra-Zeneca and many many more across all industry sectors. 
I'd love to tell you more - do you have a business card i can send you some information about our company?
While now under 35 seconds, surely i could do better!
In thinking how i could to get this down, i recalled giving a pitch when i bumped into an old colleague while crossing a pedestrian crossing in the street who asked "what are you doing now?". My crosswalk pitch?

Version 3
I'm at BuzzNumbers. We help companies understand the voice of the consumer on the web. We are growing crazy fast in both enterprise customers and revenue. 
It would be great if you could recommend any potential customers, partners or investors that you think would be interested? Do you have a business card i could send a link to our web demo?
Ok, so im now happy with this badass 15 seconds pitch. This pitch is a taster of what we do and why it is cool, and an "ask" to get their contact details without being too pushy.

So what are your thoughts?

What is your elevator pitch?

What do you do? Why is it unique? Why do i care?

Leave a comment!




Posted by Nick HaC @ 12:08 AM


Monday, January 9, 2012

Posted by Nick HaC @ 12:15 AM


Saturday, January 7, 2012

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can't bear without a friend,
I can't love without a sister

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it's with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestler's sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

Posted by Nick Holmes a Court @ 10:16 PM


Monday, June 20, 2011

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Posted by Nick HaC @ 9:56 PM


Sunday, June 12, 2011

I've been reading some material tonight that argues that stress is actually good for you from a biological perspective and this is called Hormesis. From reading this, i think we can quickly argue that this applies to psychology and that we can in fact improve our capacity to better manage our lives through actively encouraging and engaging in high stress scenarios.

What is Hormesis?
  • A universal biological principal whereby a stress that is harmful at high doses promotes defense and repair processes at low doses
Examples of Hormesis in action
  • Allergen immunotherapy
  • Cold showers as an anti-depressant
  • Lifting weights to grow muscles
  • Exposure therapy for phobias/anxiety
  • Boot camp for delinquent kids
Why this matters?

Exposing yourself deliberately to high exposure stress scenarios, improves your ability to handle and respond to stress, conflict and personal challenges that happen on a day to day basis.

This is both a chemical, biological and psychological theory that has a reasonable degree of proof and projected applicability across our personal, interpersonal and business interactions.

There is an identified neurotransmitter in the brain BDNF which is understood to foster the brain's ability to adapt and learn. This theory states that exposing the brain to high levels of stress and exposure across many dimensions ultimately improves the brains ability to manage lower levels of stress by re-enforcing and strengthening existing neural pathways.

This seems reasonably obvious upon reflection, but if we can use this theory as a call to action for us to deliberately expose ourselves to big stress and big challenges and then use our emotional intelligence to realise that when we do this we are just bringing up our baseline, we can actually use previously unwanted stress to actually better ourselves.

How to use unwanted stress to actually improve yourself?

Push yourself deliberately into scenarios that you are significantly uncomfortable with (and actively try to engage your emotional intelligence to not worry about it) with the knowledge that this improves your ability to better manage everyday situations and ultimately make yourself better equipped to operate in your world.

You might just find that your unwanted stress, actually ends up making you a more balanced and less stressed person!



Thanks to http://gettingstronger.org/hormesis/ for inspiration and data on this...

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Posted by Nick HaC @ 2:27 AM


Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Having worked with terabyte databases in SQL Server for over 5 years i thought i would share the top 9 queries i use to manage my databases / datawarehouses.

1. View longest running queries - [_DBA_Queries_LongestRunning]
Shows which queries since the last SQL restart have taken the longest time to execute. Also shows number of times the query has been run and average execution time.

2. View queries with greatest IO impact - [_DBA_Queries_MostIO]
Shows which queries since the last SQL restart have used the greatest IO. Also shows number of times the query has been run and average execution time.

3. View blocking transactions - [_DBA_ViewBlockingTransactions]
Views which queries are currently running that are blocking other queries. Shows the Query SQL and the ID of the processes so you can KILL [ID] any naughty queries that may be screwing with your DB performance.

4. View currently running queries - [_DBA_ViewCurrentlyRunningQueries]
View which queries are active in the system. Very useful if you are curious what queries are active and shows which user is running each query.

5. View Index Fragmentation [_DBA_IndexFragmentation]
Shows how fragmented current indexes are by percentage as well as how frequently they are used.

6. Rebuild Indexes - [_DBA_Indexes_RebuildFragmentedIndex]
Run a task that rebuilds/reoptimises indexes in the most effecient manner possible. Rebuilds worst performing indexes first. Takes 20-50% of the time to run as the built-in maintenance task for reindexing.

7. Show missing Indexes - [_DBA_Indexes_FindMissing]
If you have multiple users/applications you may have queries that you are unaware need to be optimised. Its also useful  to see if you have accidentally defined an index incorrectly (eg missing a column that is needed)

8. View datafile usage - [_DBA_ViewDBFileUsage]
Shows which files your database is using and how much space they are using on disk as well as how much free space may be in the file. Very useful to check if you can shrink your files.

9. Shrink datafiles in chunks - [_DBA_ShrinkFilesInChunks]
If you have a large database and clean up a big block of data, you will want to shrink the files on the filesystem. The built in SQL task that does this, may takes hours or even days to run (with no visibility on progress) and will impact database performance in the meantime. This script shrinks the datafile in chunks so you can see visibility and run small shrinks over several days

What queries have you used that have been helpful? Any comments feel free to share.

Posted by Nick HaC @ 10:13 PM


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Edwina reminded me of a youtube documentary that we watched some time ago. Basically it explains where money comes from. When you withdraw 20 bucks, where does the value behind that actually come from and what hold it as worthy?

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Posted by Nick HaC @ 12:07 AM


Tuesday, May 17, 2011



How to be happy

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Posted by Nick HaC @ 11:46 PM


Thursday, April 28, 2011

My dad gave me some advice a long time ago, and it has really altered the way i think about almost every public speaker i hear and almost every conversation i have.

When i was growing up, if i was sitting at the dinner table and had just told the family what happened that day, he would say "you have to give me a dollar for every time you just said umm"

Now, adjusted for income earning power and inflation, today it should be $100, and in my opinion this should apply to "Umm", "Ahh", "you know"

Its always more poignant to leave a white space rather than feel you need to fill the air with noise. Listen to almost all political and key business leaders, they almost never use these words, and often use big clear white spaces in their spoken word.

Now at this point i have to apologise to you if you are reading this, as this information has fundamentally ruined my ability to listen to others who use the words "Umm", "Ahh", "you know"

Sorry... but i hope this makes your speech a little more poignant

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Posted by Nick Holmes a Court @ 9:44 PM


Saturday, April 23, 2011

As a leader in your company or as a specialist with years of experience in your field you are often called upon to help others address their challenges on a regular basis.

From some recent learnings i've had there are 5 different ways that advice is given or received, and i have found this useful to reflect upon as often as specialists we focus on solving others problems rather than enabling them to solve their own problems.

The 5 ways of giving advice

1, Consulting
Giving specific advice and describing actions to solve problems

2. Training
Transference of skills, you impart knowledge of a specific process to enable them - "teach a man to fish"

3. Mentoring
Being available as a wealth of knowledge and experience and sharing past experiences and their outcomes

4. Facilitating
Amongst a group of people, managing the flow of engagement to create an outcome while having no personal agenda

5. Coaching
Creating awareness of the actual current position, thereby enabling people to explore and make choices to create real action and be empowered to solve their own problems
It's important to realise what kind of advice you are giving the people who ask for your time and input. Providing consulting advice is useful in scenarios of high-risk where a solution is needed now, but really doesn't scale as your company grows.

The role of a CEO or leader within a high-growth company should ultimately progress from Consulting to Coach, for example, how many business cards from 1 man companies have "CEO" written on them do nothing else but consulting, contrast that to the CEO of a fortune 500 company who would almost never engage in any kind of consulting, training, mentoring or facilitating but actual purely as a coach to their key executives.

So consider your role within your company or in your engagement with others. How can you progress from beyond being a pure consultant to one that empowers others and creates a multiple of value?

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Posted by Nick HaC @ 9:51 AM


Friday, April 22, 2011

Was at a new bar in Sydney last night for company drinks, i saw this quote, and for some reason it resonated with me...

I like the use of the word "discuss"



"If writing on toilet walls is done neither for critical acclaim or monetary gain, is it not therefore the purest form of art? Discuss"

Posted by Nick HaC @ 10:36 PM


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I had been listening to alot of talk 2nd hand about lean startups etc, but i watched this great presentation by Eric Ries (who i didnt realise was CTO and Founder of IMVU).



He addresses some great questions

- Why Agile or Scum development methodology only really solves half the problem for startups
- When to pivot?
- What to include in your MVP? What to leave out?
- How to speed up your innovation / product / market feedback cycle?

Posted by Nick HaC @ 10:10 AM


Posted by Nick HaC @ 9:50 AM


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Probably the talk i enjoyed the most from Web 2.0 SF

Posted by Nick HaC @ 2:41 PM


Been in SF this week meeting partners, VC's, advisors and some great aussie entrepeneurs
  • Bardia Housman who sold BusinessCatalyst/GoodBarry to Adobe
  • Cameron Yulli - Founder and CEO of AdGent
  • Mick Johnstone from Ycombinator who is now at FaceBook
  • Elias Bizannes from Vast.com (founder of Silicon Beach)
  • Marty Wells - serial entrepeneur
  • Ozan Onay - Co-Founder of TopGuest
  • Chris Saad - VP Product at Echo
I also had the great privilege of checking out some of the keynotes from Web 2.0 SF 2011

Ive been a long time fan of Kevin Kelly (Editor of Wired Magazine) and he gave a great presentation on the next big trends in the web. He is a little slow to start, but if you care about entrepreneurship, definitely recommend watching it through...

Posted by Nick HaC @ 1:29 PM


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Im writing this blog post from 36,218ft high in the air moving at 448mph on a flight from LAX to SFO on Virgin America. Ive been waiting probably a decade for this moment, and yes, it is as good as i hoped it would be :)



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Posted by Nick HaC @ 6:45 AM


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so.


To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished.


It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be place under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored.


That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.

General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, translated by John Beverly Robinson (London: Freedom Press, 1923), pp. 293-294."
— Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

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Posted by Nick HaC @ 9:54 PM


In the last ten years the internet has effectively destroyed several billion dollar industries, and replaced them with million dollar industries.





What it seems, is that by creating a significantly more efficient model for both production and distribution, the internet doesn't replace existing revenue, it destroys it.

For entrepreneurs and startup businesses, this creates significant opportunity. For large existing companies, this should be reasonably troubling.

What industries are next?

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Posted by Nick Holmes a Court @ 8:59 AM


Monday, March 14, 2011

The guys at iPitch interviewed me as part of their coverage on successful tech entrepreneurs.

http://www.ipitch.com.au/public/entrepreneur-interview-nick-holmes-a-court-buzznumbers/



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Posted by Nick Holmes a Court @ 2:34 PM


Friday, March 11, 2011

There is a pain associated with not having what you want.

There is a pain associated with getting what you want.

Only when the pain of not having what you want outweighs the pain of getting what you want, is it the right time to act.

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Posted by Nick HaC @ 9:34 PM


A couple of weeks ago i was asked to participate in a video project by the guys at microsoft asking a series of questions about the web, technology and innovation.

9x9: web thinkers is an innovative snapshot-in-time video project. Documenting the thoughts and opinions of some of Australians web leaders and thinkers. Its innovative design is specifically tailored to accommodate the needs of a diverse viewership from developers to CEOs to the digirati.





http://9by9.tv/index.html

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Posted by Nick Holmes a Court @ 12:54 PM


Sunday, March 6, 2011


Yesterday i was taking a walk with an old friend of mine and my daughter at balmoral beach. My friend works in finance and olivia is 18 months old. Balmoral Beach, Sydney Australia

A group of tween/teenage girls from the local school stopped us for a survey of some kind and the first question they asked us was "What is your passion in life?". My friend who i consider to be a very economically minded individual quickly responded "Health".


This kind of took me off guard, because in my usual circles this kind of question is promptly responded with answers "leveraging emerging technologies to create transformative impact on people, companies, society and government" or a similar tech/entrepenrially focused answer.

Why this took me off balance is that these tween girls wouldnt even understand this. After 15 seconds consideration my response was "making things people want", (paul grahams words not mine) which for me sums up the product innovation / marketing / startup success focus and life passion that i have had for some time.

(Olivia passion in life is Milk so she doesnt count)

This whole experience reminded me of a blog post by fellow australian entrepeneur Clay Cook that i read a long time ago.

Basically it kind of states that there are multiple aspects of your live you need to focus on, and that success isnt just about financial gain and corporate success.



I really should probably put more focus into the other aspects of this wheel...

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Posted by Nick Holmes a Court @ 9:43 AM


Thursday, February 17, 2011


“Most start-ups don't solve a problem big enough for anyone to care about and that is why they fail,” Rose says. “BuzzNumbers does exactly the opposite, which is why it's been so successful.

Very cool...

The start-up causing plenty of buzz



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Posted by Nick Holmes a Court @ 3:59 PM




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