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October 27th, 2014

Swiss startups: Start-up spirit in the Silicon Alps

Swiss startups: Start-up spirit in the Silicon Alps

Prompt’s DACH series, post #4: Swiss startups

Big bank accounts and ridiculously expensive real estate – Switzerland is known for attracting the richest of the rich. A good spot to launch a startup? When thinking of aspiring young entrepreneurs, rich in ideas but not a dime in their pockets, Switzerland is not the first place that comes to mind. But Switzerland is more than just chocolate, cheese and snow-covered mountains, it is also a hub for high-tech and medical sciences.

Silicon Alps

Support from prestigious universities such as ETH Zürich and governmental organizations such as CTI facilitates the start-up process for many ambitious entrepreneurs. This all has made Zurich the a hot spot for consumer-facing web technology: Booking platform GetYourGuide, note-taking application Memonic, GroupOn competitor DeinDeal and gaming platform Gbanga have found their way to the start-up forefront.

But it is not only the amazing scenery that makes Switzerland a great destination for young entrepreneurs and professionals – the alpine paradise offers easy setup and taxation, fast investment process and has become a great place for those in search for venture capital, R&D resources and incubation.

And not to forget: Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland, is also home to Google’s largest engineering office outside if the US, which is of great advantage for the entrepreneurial community. Swiss start-ups also benefit from the multilingual environment, they mostly operate in the country’s official languages, German, French and Italian, as well as English, which allows them to build a product in Switzerland before rolling it out to other markets.

But the dream of the ‘Silicon Alps’ has its drawbacks: The potentially high cost of living in Zurich or Geneva can make it difficult for startups to attract new talent. So it may not be a total surprise that some startups such as GetYourGuide have moved to other locations such as Berlin – and as we’ve written about in a previous post about ‘Silicon Allee’, Berlin is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of Europe’s most exciting innovation hubs.

If Switzerland’s thriving start-up community is of interest to you, make sure you follow our blog: Prompt is working with an innovative sport technology company from Lausanne that will launch on Indiegogo this week. Launch updates coming soon…

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October 21st, 2014

Tech PR perspective: Pitching to the national press

Tech PR perspective: Pitching to the national press

Last week saw a busy schedule of press briefings for clients of both Prompt Boston and Prompt London. I was very happy to accompany one client to a series of appointments which included a highly technical briefing, followed by a more general discussion with the Wall Street Journal. This made me think about several topics, which I’ll begin to discuss in this first of a new series of posts.

I’d like to start by talking about the importance of knowing how to pitch tech stories productively to the national press. Too often technology vendors and their technology PR partners are guilty of trying to say too much and making their pitches far too complex. Familiarity with the industry press makes them believe that they can simply contact editors, let them know a new product is being released, and then tell them all about each of their new product features. It might seem that the same strategy will work for the national press, but it’s vital to first think from the perspective of each publication.

PR pitching
Pick up a serious broadsheet on either side of the Atlantic – such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Financial Times or The Guardian. Even other styles of newspapers like the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, The Washington Post or USA Today. Read them objectively and try to picture whether or not you could honestly see your intended story running as you framed it through a technical press release. Remember that national newspapers have a wide circulation, and must appeal to a very broad range of people.

This requirement for a broad appeal means that national newspapers can’t afford to be too focused. Even if you’re talking to a section editor or an editor with a specialist beat, they still need to be aware of their entire readership. When pitching to the national press, a human interest angle is essential – I’ve written about this before, when I referred to each narrative behind a company as a ‘Pub Story’. This is what makes story hooks more compelling for national journalists. In a separate blog post, I will also deal with a connected issue: lazy pitching. This irritates me because I strongly believe that pitching is not about volume. Just like lazy sales – you can’t just buy a massive list, spam everybody and hope to succeed: instead you need hooks and honey.

But back to the nationals; if you’re going to pitch to national journalists, here are some considerations that I think are important:

  1. Think from a human angle, not from a technical angle. Why was the company started? How, by whom and what was their inspiration? Which team members have interesting stories that are pertinent to what is happening in the industry? What is the impact of those new products or services on a broader, cultural level, to the average human being?
  2. I’ve written before about ‘telling a pub story’, and the focus is the word ‘story’. This isn’t a marketing message or advertising spin, it’s a general interest story that hooks in to a company’s history, values, products or services
  3. Review key messaging that you want to get across, and work hard on fresh, relevant angles that link to those messages, and vice-versa
  4. Research and approach relevant journalists. Read their publication and recent stories that they have authored. Are there relevant angles you can contribute to? Steer? Disagree with? Do your homework and make your pitch as relevant as possible.
  5. Be honest and decide whether or not you could really see your story being published in your target publication. How would it look? What might the possible headline be? You cannot suggest content or headlines to the journalist, but it’s a valuable exercise in considering the link between your angles and the publication’s remit
  6. Keep your pitch short. It’s all about the story.
  7. Suggest convenient times and locations for any meetings. Offer specific times and locations from the outset and don’t make it a to-and-fro.

Remember that you are contacting a journalist under time pressure that needs to create relevant copy for their readers. Let them know that you have a relevant story opportunity, what precisely it is, who the person is that you’d like them to speak with, and why they will prove a valuable contact for the editor to meet. Next, make your client readily available at a time and location convenient to the editor.

I love what I do (but it’s not rocket science). Next up, how to be a spokesperson for the national press…

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October 7th, 2014

Crowdfunding: Real-world testing

Crowdfunding: Real-world testing

Prompt-PR-Sign-Up-CTA_revisedCrowdfunding concepts can be wonderful things that seize moments, spark imaginations and capture the zeitgeist. But let’s face it, they can also be flawed imaginings that miss the mark, fail to float and sink without trace.

One of the pitfalls of crowdfunding can be that many of these ideas – wonderful or otherwise – are only shown to a test group of friends and family before being thrown to the crowd for approval. There is an obvious flaw with this process that too many potential startups continue to learn in the hardest way possible.

It all comes down to a lack of objectivity. You love your project, and have been so wrapped up it for months or years, that you lost any objectivity towards it a long time ago. You’ll deny this of course; you’ll even have a thorough mental list of the only faults that others might potentially see in your design, and another equally thorough list of bulletproof responses to all those accusations. And then of course there is your domestic test group itself. They love you (mostly) and so they love your project (sort of), and whatever reservations they may have about its practicality and real-world brilliance, they won’t want to hurt your feelings (much). So they might hesitate and suggest it could be better if it were a little smaller or bluer (rather obvious criticisms which of course you’ll already have ready-made responses for). But very rarely will your sibling or best friend look you in the face and tell you straight that it’s a terrible idea and that you are wasting your time with this design.

Sadly the result of such an overly comfortable soft launch and worthless sensitive advice can be truly harmful. You’ll feel invigorated, joyfully create your project page, throw your beautiful project to the crowd, and watch as it is either savaged and ripped apart or – worse still – totally ignored and starved of attention.

So here’s the rub. Whoever you are and whatever idea you’ve come up with, please assume that your project isn’t perfect. None of them are, frankly. Don’t go completely overboard and lose confidence in it entirely, but do contemplate the idea that it might possibly be improved, and that you may have missed something important that could just be the difference between successful funding and abject failure.

What you should do instead, if you’re brave and sensible, is present your idea to a truly objective group of people with a relevant mixture of talents and experience. That you aren’t related to. Who are not your friends. And who have nothing to gain or to lose whether your idea is great or a disaster. Before you go to the crowd, you must first find at least one objective test-bed to provide you with two invaluable things: honest feedback, and a new-found willingness to listen to that feedback and act with detachment.

You may find a useful test-bed for your project presentation in many places, but a local small-business networking event often works very well. One that you’ve not attended for long enough to build relationships at of course. If you’re feeling braver still, then why not consider presenting to a number of different groups of people? Students at a college perhaps. Or residents at a retirement home, a staff room at a school, the canteen of nearby factory, a local interest group of some kind. Remember to tailor the audiences you choose by their relevance to your potential market, and not because they might be less scary – scary is good!

So please try and be courageous and risk a little rejection and hurtful criticism in the short term – ultimately it will help your brainchild to grow up big, strong and successful, without having to take its very first steps in front of that unforgiving crowd…

Have a crowdfunding campaign you are working on? Fill in the form below Click here to to receive your free crowdfunding starter kit

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October 2nd, 2014

Rising stars: dondeEsta

Rising stars: dondeEsta

Located in technology hubs on either side of the pond – Boston and London – we’re keen to get to know the innovators right around the corner. Each week, we’ll interview a local startup to learn more about technology and the inspiration that can be found right here at home.

This week, we talked with Marta Plaza of dondeEsta.

dondeEsta logo

  • Tell us a bit about what the dondeEsta Family app is all about and how it got started.

Imagine the school entrance at 9am. The school bus just arrived. Kids get off the bus and go directly to the school. Julia is one of these kids. Her mom wishes she could take her to school, but Julia goes by herself. What if you could be notified when your kid arrives to school? What if there is an app that brings you peace of mind by letting you know where your kid is at any time? This is dondeEsta Family – an app for family safety.

There are two things that make the app different from other family locators:

Simplicity! Maps can be complicated, this is why at dondeEsta, parents can know if kids are at school or home, even without looking at a map.

Different features for parents and for kids. Parents can set up notifications and receive alerts and kids have a panic and a pick me up button for example.

We started dondeEsta Family in Barcelona a year ago. Last summer, we traveled to Boston looking for investment and we decided to based the company here. We created dondeEsta, Inc and raised $100K.

  • What does innovation mean to you?

Doing something new or improving something. Moving forward. Changing what was new yesterday for what will be new tomorrow. Break the status quo of technology.

  • What are some of the trends and challenges you’ve seen in the New England tech scene?

Trend: Growing number of tech events and accelerators.

Challenge: The challenge of the area is to become a technology hub as Silicon Valley has – along with the West Coast in general.

  • If you weren’t based in New England, which city and/or country would you want to be based in and why?

If we were not in New England, we’d go to the West Coast of the US. Why there? Because it is one of the best technology hubs.

  • Name a piece of technology you’ve bought personally that you love – either recently or in the past – and why you bought it.

An external battery charger! We do a lot of demos and we show people the app on our phone, so having an external battery charger help us to have the mobile always charged.

Would you like to be our next rising star? Get in touch with us at info@prompt-pr.com!

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