The Surprised Entrepreneur turns Rebel Entrepreneur

What makes a rebel.

What makes a rebel.

“Judy,” a sweet tech project manager said to me recently after I discussed some of the gaps in the social marketing ecosystem “You are on a crusade.”

I didn’t see that one coming so it stopped me dead in my tracks. What crusade was that I wondered? I probed but she dodged answering me. The word crusade is laden with meaning so it stuck with me – what had I said to give her that impression?

In hindsight it seems obvious but in the moment, I was oblivious to the shift in my thinking from simply being a Surprised Entrepreneur (as I posted here) to becoming a Rebel Entrepreneur.

My cause was simple – to put the human element back into the business of marketing that has been platform’d to a near digital death. I am driven to re-infuse marketing with the sense of wonder, joy and creativity that I had the good fortune to revel in during my earlier career days.

In those ancient days (one generation after Mad Men but before the Internet revolution had really hit) we could put hearts into our work because there were few tools or platforms or technologies to guide the work. It was pure creativity and smarts. It was hard to measure the effectiveness of the much of the work but you knew your work made a difference when the company did better – jobs were created and bonuses were happily doled out.

Over the years, technology improved how we deployed marketing but we continued to be driven by our nobler motivations to create great marketing that improved people’s lives. We knew we could make a difference.

But there’s been a shift in the industry over the past 3 years. Marketing, especially social marketing has become a tech-heavy exercise of manipulating retargeting platforms, or reward systems or algorithmically based big data platforms. Social marketing is reduced to a conversation about content syndication or sentiment analysis.

So it’s no surprise that over that period of time, inextricably, I have seen tech and platforms taking the joy and the nobility out of the system. I have become overwhelmed by the supremacy of marketing platforms over serving people and algorithms over inspiration.

My sense of alarm was quite publicly aired in the digital pages of Ad Age and Huffington Post. I ranted at Facebook when I felt defeated at using Facebook productively. I admitted frustration at the black-box techno-jargon wave that swept over us marketers drowning us in confusion. I’ve even had the chutzpah to question the funding strategies of VCs who are basing their investments on marketing principles that simply don’t apply anymore. But mostly I challenged the 20 something CEOs who created marketing platforms that are long on cool but short on practical application for real marketers.

In the process, I have been:

  • Flamed by Macboys and called a hack (look up “Judy Shapiro” and “mac security”)
  • Accused of being techno-phobic and capable of only kitchen related work, ideally pregnant at the same time thus preventing me from ever writing offending articles ever again
  • Tarred and feathered as an “old line” marketer unable to keep up with the iteration savvy tech guys
  • Harangued for questioning if the “Content as king” model was sustainable
  • And very nearly digitally lynched when I first suggested in 2010 that perhaps Facebook had jumped the shark.

And so against all odds – here I am, founder and CEO of a social tech company, readying the BETA launch of our new network called Eden for Q1.

Against all odds, this little venture that started a year ago will be introducing a different type of social marketing framework that is a based on an “opt-in” paradigm. We are going up against the big “push based” social marketing platforms and networks. It is an uphill but noble fight. In our vision, Eden is a place where users control the action – how they see content or which brands they interact with. It is a reversal of the; “It is our platform so you have to play by our ever-changing rules” social network that dominates social marketing today.

Against all odds, we managed to secure funding including from an early stage VC for which we are eternally grateful. We’ve created relationships with agencies ready to sell Eden to their clients and we’ve sealed meaningful partnerships that help us gain access to the highest levels within publishing and brands.

Against all odds, as one woman in her 50’s, I am privileged to be joined by a community of seasoned marketers to help in this crusade. Our collective goal is to right the marketing ship listing dangerously to one side from the weight of platforms and big data. I can’t express my gratitude to this brave league of fellow crusaders other than to give them full credit for their invaluable role in our noble adventure. I give them a place of honor in our company’s history:

  • Peter Hubbell, CEO of BoomAgers and former Saatchi Board member. www.boomagers.com
  • Griffin Stenger, a founding partner of Concept Farm, a leading social marketing agency [Crain’s]. www.conceptfarm.com
  • Robyn Streisand, Founder and CEO of The Mixx Group – a branding agency and an early investor in engageSimply. www.themixxnyc.com.
  • David Hoffman whose career spans four decades as a film producer and corporate strategic communicator. Wikipedia’s simply calls David: “One of America’s veteran documentary filmmakers.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hoffman;
  • John Bowman, was Exec VP Strategy at Saatchi working on their premier brands and is now authoring a book about his great Grandfather, Archibald Stark Van Orden http://theassassinsassassin.com/about/
  • George Collins, a long time database expert and CEO of Research & Response – a database management consultancy. http://www.rresp.com/
  • Mark Bonchek, Founder of Orbit + Co whose strategic consultancy is “creating a new direction in business by shifting the relationship of individuals and institutions from PUSH to PULL.” http://www.thinkorbit.com/

Against the odds, I have been able to attract a seasoned management team of  marketing practitioners who had to “build it” after the consultants talked about loving it but conveniently left when the real work began. They were the ones who built those first generation eCommerce sites and created the principles that good UE designers use today. Our journalists understand SEO and our artists are offering their images for free all in an effort to be a part in the creation of an alternate social marketing reality – a fresh start called Eden.

So against all odds, I find I have become a Rebel Entrepreneur – so strange especially given my training, temperament and age. The potential high rewards of being a rebel all too often comes at a high price and we’ve seen our share of deals gone bad, betrayal by trusted colleagues and funding plans gone awry (Sandy was devastating to the startup community).

And yet, despite the odds, we are close to the launch of our network.

So I invite you all over to Bit Rebel to experience this journey with us as we sprint to Eden’s launch in Q1. Celebrate our highs and feel the unnatural lows that are endemic to startups. Share our anxiety as our burn rate increases but our funding outlook seems further out (we are doing a second round of seed funding now). Take a peek behind the startup curtain, see what’s really going on and help shape what happens. The success of Eden will be a triumph of us marketing practitioners like web designers, SEO geeks and developers over algorithmic feats of IP muscle.

Our mission is noble and our cause true.  Come join us.

I guess like any good crusade, we need a flag and a manifesto. Stay tuned – I am just learning how to be a rebel. Kinda of exhilarating actually. But

Judy Shapiro

P.S. My rebellion gets its own website: http://judyshapiro.wix.com/rebel-entreprenuer. Viva Le Rebellion.    

Is the Internet devolving into a segregated, class-based system?

In the real world, segregation by class or race or age is rightly understood as under utilizing the full potential of people in society. There is universal recognition that people should be free to achieve their highest potential based effort and talent – not on what money they were born with. And this ideal is what we all believe delivers the best humanity has to offer.

Now when the Internet was created barely 20 years ago – it seemed to emerge from a perspective of an open, “democratic” framework where anyone could achieve anything. It leapfrogged over our normal inclination to create a stratified society but allowed unfettered potential to anyone irrespective of class.

The promise of this egalitarian digital society fueled so much hope. In this digital utopia, the thinking went, small ecommerce sites could challenge the big guys. Or anyone from any corner of the world could enrich their mind with a mouse and an online connection. And closed societies could now be opened within this enlightened new world.

While the real world continually and relentlessly divides the world into the “have’s and have nots”, the Internet seemed to have sidestep that whole unsavory dimension of our human nature.

But as the Internet emerges from infancy into maturity, I sense a new dynamic that is subtly introducing segregation into the system. It started when the small ecommerce sites realized that it took more than digital pluck to get ahead in the online ecommerce world since SEO and advertising did cost money.

Then, when Microsoft introduced BING as a “decision engine”, it was another, subtle form of class division. After all, most of the time a decision is only required in a buying process not in true information discovery. And the recent news about Murdoch making his content invisible to Google continues the segregation momentum. No more can news be available for all – but only for those who can pay.

It seems to me see that our digital society is following the sad patterns of our real world societies of info “have’s and have not’s”. It is sad to watch. It is sad to contemplate that in the drive to monetize the Internet; our early ideals of the Internet seemed to have fallen by the wayside.

But there are companies who are fighting this trend and who continue to offer the promise of a free Internet and have innovated to generate revenue while maintaining this ideal. Some great examples include Comodo who offer the best in PC security for free and a social networking company called Houseparty who empower anyone to earn revenue from the Internet legitimately (and without any financial investment).

Can you spell R-E-V-O-L-U-T-I-O-N?

Judy Shapiro

Multiple Digital Personality Syndrome (MDPS)

                                           

I can hear some techno-therapist reassuring his reclining client that Multiple Digital Personality Syndrome (MDPS), while serious if not properly managed, is a perfectly normal response to our unending ability to become anyone we want – whenever we want — in cyber space.

 

This new techno-malady started innocently enough about 5 years ago when we all needed to create zillion of different accounts with different emails and passwords for the sites we wanted to enter. To organize this potentially chaotic situation, we evolved different personas.

 

I, for one, have my generic email, my personal email, my work email, my linkedin and so forth. This seemingly innocent fracturing of our digital personality driven by a short term need has mutated into this new syndrome, MDPS, so that now, many of us have complex multiple personalities reflected in well designed profile pages on multiple social networking sites.

 

Now while many would look at this MDPS as a slightly amusing by-product of Twitter, LinkedIn, FaceBook, MySpace et al, I see danger lurking in these multiple profiles.

 

If I want good advice about a computer problem from someone I met online, it would be useful to know if this person has credentials to warrant my trust. If I enter a chat room to discuss a topic that I am passionate about, I want to chat with real people – not bots.

 

I wonder how will we learn to balance the need for accountability with the right we have to reveal only as much about ourselves as we choose. I see that this issue will play itself out over and over again in the next few years as social networks dominate how we search, how we shop, how we even meet other people.

 

Perhaps, we must create a new type of balance that starts with the human element. We must start by introducing mutual trust and authentication into the digital ID environment. Much as we have it in the real world where, dependent on the circumstance, different types of identification are used to gain different levels of access. We must translate that model into the digital world too.

 

The technologies are here … now. Web 3.0 needs to become The Trusted Web; otherwise the web will soon feel like what today many experience in inferior, bot filled chat rooms – a pseudo experience meant to emulate real interaction between real people.   

 

Let’s keep it real people. Let’s create the Trusted Web.

 

Judy Shapiro

The Connected Singularity Is Near

                                      

I have read with relish the book by Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near and I respectfully borrow the phrase. The fundamental premise of his book is that we have approached “the knee of the curve” in our technological evolution, the moment where the pace of change will fundamentally change our biological evolution. Essentially, he argues with good cause, that change is happening faster and more fundamentally than most fully appreciate. 

And I think he’s right based on my personal experience. Much like a woman born at the turn of the last century, who saw in her lifetime the evolution from horseback to space travel, I too have seen a similar step change evolution in the connectiveness of the planet in a mere 15 years. In that time, I saw the transition from limited, one to one communications that was very expensive (I remember the days when a long distance call was a big thing) to a model where we can be connected with virtually no limits in terms of distance or scope.   

It is breathtaking … but I think Kurzweil limits his scope. Kurzweil places technology at the center of the change engine but I think if we focus on technology as the key driver, we limit its potential. We must remind ourselves to put the human factor at the heart of the technology evolution – not the other way around.  

And this focus on the human element must also apply to how the next generation Internet, sometimes called Web 3.0, will evolve. We must give full expression within this evolution to our human instinct to establish trusted connectedness in the web world in the same way we enjoy trusted connectedness in the real world.  

Yet in the conversations today about next generation web there is decided lack of focus on the human factor, (heck even the name Web 3.0 betrays the techno focus). For Google, the next generation web is about technology that delivers a personal web experience via intelligent search agent. For other companies, semantic technology that lets computers understand meaning better, is how the new, next web will evolve. All these technologies are all important, but they are a only a means to an end.  

The end game for the next generation web is the creation of this trusted model of community, commerce and communications for everyone just like we have in our everyday, real worlds. This model puts the human need to trust as central to the conversation — not be peripheral to the thinking. This, for me, suggests we are creating a connected singularity in a Connected Web enabled by a concept of Social Authentication put forward by Comodo. For this new “Connected Web” to work, it must be grounded on trust and trusted networks.  

This is why Paltalk will be hosting the third TechNow event; Transforming the Web into YOUR Web airing March 19 at 3:00 (EST) with Melih Abdulhayoglu, CEO and Chief Security Architect of Comodo. During this live, interactive event, Melih will challenge conventional thinking about how we create the emerging next generation Web, sharing his vision about how a Connected Web needs to be based on trust. Melih will be joined by noted industry analyst, Henry Blodget of Alley Insider, in a discussion about:  

·         Current technical versions and major scenarios associated with next generation Web (semantic, 3D, pervasive, media-centric, etc.)

·         The potential and benefit of web 3.0 for every day people?

·         The functional model of how next generation Internet technologies will combine to deliver this new, next Connected Web  

·         How do we leverage the intelligence of people within a social authentication™ framework as is being defined today by Comodo?

·         How will a trust and authentication layer be introduced into connected community, ecommerce and communications networks?

 

Live, interactive video chat: 

Date: Thursday, March 19th

Time: 3:00pm EST

Room Name: TechNow Network

 

Visit http://technow.paltalk.com/crashdummies for more information, to watch past shows and to sign up for a reminder email. 

 

Join the conversation. Join the movement towards a trusted Connected Web.

 

Judy Shapiro

What if?

            

As I explore the in’s and out’s of the business of social networking given my work at Paltalk, I have concurrently, unknowingly, also began an exploration on the meaning of nothing less than – everything.

 

Exploring the dynamics of social networking causes one to become philosophical about everything because social networks reflect every endeavor of the human spirit. Within a short span, I read three wonderful books, God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, The Courtier and the Heretic by Matthew Stewart and Dalai Lama’s work – the Universe in a Single Atom – the convergence of science and spirituality.

 

These books explore how great thinkers understood the essence of life and our relationship with the universe. Are we accidental cosmic tourists? Is the notion a personal God “improbable” as Mr. Dawkins suggests? Is God merely the combined “substance” (the term Spinoza used) of all there is?

 

Before I knew it, these two threads wound themselves around each other and begun to form a new shape in my mind. Social networks will become the filter of how we will see the world. It will shape what we think, what we believe. To understand our world, we will look to our social networks.

 

And that evokes some interesting what if’s.

 

What if…

* We could create the different kinds of social networks in our online world as we have in the real world

* We could manage our fabric of networks fluidly to be most useful

* We could authenticate different networks to be trusted for different things.  

* We could leverage the collective intelligence of authenticated networks to help us transform the generic web into a personal web

* We could use our social networks as our eyes and ears into the digital universe

 

Hmm – more reading to do J.

 

Judy (burning the midnight oil) Shapiro

PR or D-PR – how to get the most from your PR agency

  

 

I can’t stand it anymore.

 

If I hear one more friend or colleague complain about their PR agency, I will scream. Within the past week alone I heard 4 complaints about PR agencies. “They don’t get it”. “I am disappointed with the results”. The drone is the same. The question is why does it seem that level of complaints has reached a loud pitch?

 

The answer is because we have not updated our understanding of how to use PR in the increasingly digitally focused marketing world. Well it’s best to start right now.

 

We all know that there is “new media” (a.k.a. digital media) and traditional media (such as TV). Well PR has the same distinction that looks like this.

 

Traditional PR = media outreach. Period. That means your PR agency gets reporters to pick up a news item about your company. If that’s what you want – then many PR agencies are just fine. But for many eCommerce centric businesses, an occasional media pickup does not seem to have the value it used to. It does not build an audience reliably or consistently. And it does not seem to create the “buzz” many companies are looking for.

 

So what happened? A great pickup in the New York Times used to give a business more lift in the past than nowadays. But don’t blame the PR agency.  

 

Part of the reason for the decline of the power of traditional PR is the decline of the power of the media as sole purveyors of our news. Now news can be procured through complex and open channels. Private individuals can capture a video segment on their cell phone that becomes front page news. A person networking on a community site reports on her experience with the government and an investigation is launched. But many PR pro’s continued to cultivate the traditional media outlets even as their influence declines. .

 

That’s how D- PR (digital PR) is different. D-PR is about the ability to create and manage a public conversation through a myriad of digital tools that drive public opinion.  This approach allows for a continuous presence that sustains a business rather than a one time article that drives short term results. That type of planning and execution takes digital PR savvy in knowing the new tools needed to target new audiences that traditional PR agencies don’t normally address.

 

And D-PR turns traditional PR planning on its head. Rather than hiring a PR agency to pitch a story and hope users will follow, D-PR takes an alternate approach. It uses digital technology to seed usage among key user groups and gets them talking about it. Once these champions user groups have been established (they need not be big numbers – just passionate about you), then do the “traditional PR” outreach. D-PR is the “new PR” – true public relations in its broadest and most inclusive sense.

 

So please stop beating up your PR agency. Start understanding what you are paying for.

 

Judy Shapiro

Yes Virginia, there is such a thing as a free lunch.

Skepticism abounds in the online world and rightfully so. Even the web savvy visitor can be duped by offers that really sound too good. And the old adage – “if it sounds too good to be true – it probably isn’t legit “– applies doubly on the Internet.  So with all the caveats above – if I said, “here is a free firewall that really works well…” I am sure you are skeptical.  “Oh – it must be crippleware” would be a natural cautionary response. Or “There is catch – like a renewal or subscription fee”.

Wrong and no.

Comodo Firewall Pro boasts unrivalled protection against viruses, worms, Trojans and malware with “out of the box” settings (OK – I won’t bore you with the product spiel because dear Trenchwar Warriors I know you will research it anyway ).

So now let’s even pretend that you accept this is a great high tech, leading edge solution. Now you must be thinking – “What’s the catch? If this product beats comparable solutions from the “large” software companies – why offer it for free?”

Well we are offering it free because as a Certification Authority our revenue comes from the online business community. These businesses can only grow if consumers feel safe surfing and shopping online. Unfortunately, in today Internet environment, trust has eroded and so has online sales growth. We want to reverse that trend.  The more people trust the security of the Internet the more they will shop online. The more consumers shop online – the more online businesses that will be created. And the more products and services we can sell to these growing businesses.That’s why we developed this for free distribution.  So you will never, ever have to pay for renewals, auto updates or subscription fees (and we mean ever)!

So try it out. If you like it spread the word. Better yet, we’d like to start a conversation with you. As a Certification Authority, Comodo has a special responsibility to keep the Internet secure and safe.  Your input will help us come up with more and more ideas to make every PC safer. Like you, we’re crazy about the net but not the fraudsters on it. And, so we’re developing top line products every day to counteract every trick (of theirs) in the book. We have launched a few new solutions (some free – some not). And more on the way – like a new service that actually does the heavy lifting of restoring your good name in case you do get victimized. It’s a revolutionary approach that can save you hundreds of hours of hassle.  

But we can do better with your insight and intelligence! We want to hear your feedback on what you feel is extremely important for making the internet a safe place to communicate and interact. So join the good fight and help us make the Internet truly safe for all users. To help guide us in our development efforts, we want to hear your creative ideas, concerns and observations. We know they’re valuable. 

Now whenever someone says, “…there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. You can just smile at them because you know that it not always true. Bon Apetit!

Judy Shapiro

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