Could Your Startup Benefit from Microsoft Ventures?

microsoft sign

Up until now most people thinking about Microsoft might have thought software. But the tech giant announced this week it would also become a leader in aiding entrepreneurship as well.

Writing on The Official Microsoft Blog, Rahul Sood, general manager of Microsoft Startups, introduced Microsoft Ventures, a global effort combining several Microsoft programs currently proving funding, mentoring, and guidance to entrepreneurs worldwide.

In the post, Sood explained:

Today, Microsoft is announcing the creation of Microsoft Ventures, a coordinated global effort that offers the tools, resources, expertise and routes to market by providing mentorship, technology guidance, seed funding, joint selling opportunities and other benefits.

BizSpark

The new Microsoft Ventures effort combines and strengthens programs Microsoft already has in place with new programs still being built.

One of these existing programs is BizSpark. The initiative provides software including Windows and Office, Visual Studio, Windows Azure and additional support to promising and visionary startups at no cost. Microsoft says the program currently serves 50,000+ members in 100 countries on 6 continents.

Accelerators

The accelerator programs offer immersive 3 to 6 month experiences for early stage startups including mentoring, technical guidance and an opportunity to build connections. To be considered, startups must have a full-time founding team, less than $1 million in capital funding raised, and must be developing a technologically driven solution to solve a real world problem.

Microsoft already operates accelerators in Bangalore, Beijing, Paris, Seattle and Tel-Aviv and will be adding new accelerators in Berlin, Moscow and Rio de Janeiro soon.

Funding and Community

Finally, Sood says Microsoft Ventures is creating new resources to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

For example, the company will be expanding its existing Bing Fund to provide seed money directly from Microsoft for startups already experiencing early success. Neither Sood nor the Microsoft Ventures website are specific about the amount of funding likely to be offered or the criteria for companies to receive it.

Microsoft also says it has built partnerships with 200 startup focused organizations globally including Startup BootCamp, Enterprise Ireland and Telefonica’s Wayra. The company says it will continue to expand this community to make further investments in entrepreneurship globally.

The company has provided an easy way for entrepreneurs to learn more about the opportunities available. Microsoft Ventures offers a simple sign-up form to allow interested entrepreneurs to be notified as soon as program applications become available.

Microsoft Photo via Shutterstock

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The Magic of To-Do Lists

To Do ListsWhy do people always think that success is only for the “chosen” ones? Shouldn’t all of us be great achievers?

The answer is that we should. However, few are willing to pay the price of true success. In my opinion, a successful person is not someone who has money and only money, like famous music stars, actors, politicians, or others from the same category.

To me, a successful person is someone who is satisfied in all major aspects of his/her life, such as: the social aspect, the emotional aspect, the financial aspect, and the physical aspect. Of course, we could dig deeper into these categories, but it is not case right now.

So, the formula for great achievement should be a combination of all these aspects. According to David Brinkley, a successful individual is a person who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others have thrown at him.

What does this actually mean?

It means that overcoming difficulties, overcoming the negative behaviors and the lack of support from other people should serve as building bricks for the path to success. Every adversity should serve as a lesson to be learnt and should increase the level of wisdom for a person.

Now, let’s break down success into simpler terms. To be successful means to be able to achieve a desired purpose. To do that, you have to have a clearly defined goal. Without a goal, you are sailing like a ship without a clear destination.

In his book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill said that “whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve”. This means that before achieving something, you have to conceive it and then believe than you can achieve it.

Simply said, having a clear goal is the first and most important step to high achievement in life. Write this down on a piece of paper so you can carry it with you at all times!

If you are an active person, the scenario of your daily life says that you have various tasks to complete, some of them are important, while others are less important. Now, here comes the tricky part.

These tasks are your short term goals (they can be daily goals, weekly goals, or monthly goals). The negative aspect is that you can have up to 10-20 goals per day if you are an active person.

Even though you are a very smart human being, your mind cannot hold all those thoughts in your short-term memory.

To hold 10-20 daily goals into mind (as well as the implications they can have) will result in a lot time wasted to memorize them and transfer them in the long-term memory. In this case, your mind is not the best asset.

George Miller, one of the founding fathers of cognitive psychology, has conducted a study in 1956 in which he found out that humans can only hold in memory 7 clusters of information at a time.

This means that you can only have 7 thoughts in your mind at a time. So, if you have more than 7 goals per day, you could not really rely on your mind.

James Borg, the author of Mind Power, said that humans have 60,000-80,000 thoughts each day. Not all of these thoughts are conscious, but many of them are.

So, based on these two studies I can conclude that our brains produced enormous amounts of thoughts per day and we can only hold 7 of them at a time.

From the depths of logic, what do you think it would be the best thing to do in this situation?

Yes, you are right! You need to put them on paper. Write down every single good idea that transits through your mind each day. If you don’t write it down, you may not know if or when this good idea comes back. It may never come, and you may lose an opportunity of doing something big!

Many successful people point out the importance of writing down ideas and thoughts. For example, Karl Albrecht (the founder of the European retailer store Aldi and one of the richest men in the world) and Brian Tracy (the success coach) are two of them.

A simple and effective strategy for you to become a big achiever is:

1. Create a “todo” list before going to bed. It should include the most important things you want to accomplish tomorrow. Doing it in the evening is better because you know what they say, “sleep is the best advisor”.

When you wake up in the morning and check your list, you may see it differently and you may have strategies to get everything done quicker and easier. Don’t trust me on this. Try it and see for yourself!

2. Make priorities for the items on the “todo” list. Have the most important tasks on the top of the list, while the less important should be at the end of the list.

3. Carry a small notebook and a pen with you at all times so you won’t lose any important idea that comes to mind.

It is even easier with all the technology available because every mobile phone has a “notes” application or program. Use it, please! You will make the world a better place.

What I said here may look very simple and less important, but it personally changed my entire life. I don’t know how I could have lived so far without having priorities and lists of priorities in my life.

I also want to tell you that whenever I make “todo” lists for the day to come or for next month, I always complete these lists in proportion of 90% or more. If I do not achieve something from the list in the following day, I most often achieve it the next day or week.

Everything that has been on my lists, so far, has been achieved. I really want you to try it for the next few days or for the following week because I really want to see this world a better place.

If you are already a high achiever, please tell me how writing down goals has helped you so far. If you are just trying it out, please tell me how it works for you.

Chris from Read and Get Rich helps people hack their own lives to become more productive and more successful. He knows that often life can become challenging, but he says that achievement comes if you push yourself forward, right when you are about to quit.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com 

Maintaining Control of the Sales Process

sales process

Staying in control of your sales process is a big part of sales success. It’s easy to let emotion or distraction or someone else derail you if you aren’t careful. Maintaining that control comes from regulating yourself and there are a couple of aspects of that self-regulation that we’re going to explore. They include self control, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, adaptability, and innovativeness.

Self control is very important in the sales process. Being able to control your impulses while in a sales meeting or on a call helps you maintain control of the situation and position yourself as a professional. You never know what a prospect is going to say – no matter how well you prepared. Being able to control how you respond can be a game changer.

Trustworthiness and Conscientiousness Go Together

People like salespeople who are honest and have integrity. These are people who follow through on their commitments and tell it like it is. There will be times when you cannot provide the solution the prospect needs. You should tell them so. Don’t tell them you can help and then try to create a solution. They’ll see through it. Those who are honest and do what they say they will do are the ones who win over the prospect and build long term relationships.

Remember that sales is about relationships. You don’t want to be chasing after new clients all the time because you are losing current ones. You want to add to the foundation. Trustworthiness and conscientiousness are key to relationship building.

For me, adaptability goes along with self control. Can you bob and weave? Can you think on your feet? In sales, this is a great skill to have. When a prospect throws you a curve ball, how you react – or respond – matters.

Along the same lines is innovativeness. Coming up with solutions and ideas shows your prospect that you are really thinking about them and trying to help them solve a problem. We sell best when we match a solution to a problem. Sometimes our solution needs to be tweaked a little to fit the problem the prospect is experiencing. The ability to innovate during the sales process can be the difference between getting the sale or losing the sale.

When you realize that you are responsible for the success of the sales process you will make sure that you are staying in touch with your skills and techniques.

Remember, the prospect is looking to you to help them solve a problem and to be the expert in your field.

Sales success Photo via Shutterstock

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Why Obama’s Africa Trip Matters

In an essay at thegrio.com Lola Adesioye  describes President Barack Obama first major trip to Africa during his presidency as “vital.”

He writes that Obama’s trip is  so important because America needs to “secure a relationship with the continent which is, without a doubt, on its way to becoming one of the world’s most powerful regions.”

“The fortunes of the west have been on the decline, with recurring recessions and economic stagnation, while prosperity in the emerging world – Africa, especially – has been on a steep upward curve,” he continues.

Read the entire essay at the Grio.

 

 

How to Turn Your Customers into Company Evangelists

Company EvangelistsEver wonder how companies like Apple are able to get its customers to advertise for them? That company has some of the most enthusiastic users on the planet. Apple’s secret? Education. But not just any kind of education. It educates its customers on the essentials of how to use its devices. If you want your customers to sing your praises, and advertise your company for free, you need to come up with a way to educate them on the essentials.

Educate Consumers On Pricing Models

It’s not always clear why your products are priced the way they are – especially if users have never done business with you before. Explain why your products are priced the way they are. One of the best positions to be in is to be a company that sells expensive products and services.
There’s always a market for high quality, but consumers need to be educated on why they should pay your prices. Companies, such as the Lenstore, often demonstrate the value of their products by reference to competitors or by explaining some special manufacturing process that justifies the additional expense.

Your company needs to have a special value proposition that others can’t match. If you offer discounts or specials, make it clear why you’re discounting. Is it because there is some kind of surplus? Are you trying to make room for a new product line? Is there a cosmetic defect that doesn’t affect performance, but may affect some buyers’ tastes? All these are reasons for discounting, but they need to be conveyed to your marketplace.

Educate Users On The Marketplace

There are many players in the restaurant market. You have fast-food joints, and then you have 5-star restaurants. Some places cater to vegetarians, while others serve primarily meat dishes (i.e. smokehouses and steakhouses). Show your customers where you fit in the marketplace. Are you a Walmart or a Whole Foods? Are you a Honda or a Mercedes?

Teaching your customers where you fit in the marketplace helps them to understand what they should expect from you. If you position yourself as an exclusive brand, you’ll likely alienate those seeking low prices. However, those people probably won’t make for good customers anyway. If you position yourself as “affordable,” or “budget friendly,” then clients with high-expectations will be disappointed if you can’t offer them 5-star service.

Educate Consumers On Existing Technologies and Manufacturing Processes

BMW doesn’t have a problem selling its automobiles. Its customers understand that they pay a premium price and receive a premium product. However, BMW also educates its customers on the technologies used in its vehicles that set it apart from a lower-class automobile manufacturer.

When you reach out to your marketplace, make sure you educate clients on who else is out there sharing space with you. If you have a special technology or unique feature not common to other similar products and services – explain that. For example, BMW employs a variable valve timing system on its engines. The result is that BMW is able to deliver amazing power and efficiency out of its engines. All of this technology comes at a cost, however.

Educate Consumers On Hold and Via Newsletters

One way to keep customers “in the loop” is to educate them via newsletters and while they’re on hold. Life Extension Foundation is an excellent example of a company that educates its customer with a monthly magazine. Each month, the company sends out a magazine with information about amazing new health discoveries. Often, Life Extension is on the forefront of the health and nutrition industry, and is months – if not years – ahead of the mainstream media.

It also educates customers about its nutritional supplements, unique blood tests, and its health advisory board they are on hold waiting to speak with someone. If you have innovative or groundbreaking news about your industry, try to educate your customers while they are on hold with automated messages. Use magazines, newsletters, and special email announcements. Your customers, and your bank account, will thank you.

Chelsea Miller is a website marketing specialist. Her articles mainly appear on marketing blogs where she gets to share her insights.

 Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

Minn. Congressman Apologizes for ‘Uncle Thomas’ Tweet

be newsA Democratic legislator from Minnesota apologized Tuesday for a tweet he sent that referred to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as “Uncle Thomas” following a major ruling on the nation’s voting rights law.

Thomas voted with the 5-4 majority making it tougher for federal officials to prevent states, primarily in the South, from adopting policies that add barriers to voting.

In response, state Rep. Ryan Winkler tweeted: “#SCOTUS VRA majority is four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas. Marriage decision may blur Court’s backsliding.”

“Uncle Tom” is the term for an obsequious black person that originated from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s pre-Civil War novel about slavery, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

What is Siri? And Does Siri Have Competitors?

what is siri

If you own a recent iPhone or iPad, you know what Siri is.  For those who don’t, we’re going to briefly explain Siri, including what it does, and some alternatives to Siri.

Siri is the name of a module for voice commands on Apple devices.  Siri lets you control the iPhone with your voice.  You can ask Siri questions using your voice — without typing.  Siri answers in a human-sounding voice, also.

You can use Siri to search the Web, send emails, find text messages and read them to you out loud, post social media updates, make phone calls, and even set up appointments or reminders.  You can also use Siri as a dictation device to dictate notes you want to remember.

Because of those types of activities, Apple calls Siri a “personal assistant.”  Siri is built into recent-model Apple devices so there is nothing for you to download.  It’s already available.

Apple says that you don’t need to talk slowly or pronounce things carefully — you can speak in a natural voice.  There’s no need to “teach” it — although like most voice recognition programs it does get better the more you use it, as it does learn to recognize your speech patterns.

Siri was launched with a media campaign that featured Samuel L. Jackson in one commercial (embedded below).  At first, while Siri was still a novelty, people wrote about it and used it.  But after a while, the romance with Siri soured.  people found that it wasn’t 100% accurate.  One report put accuracy at under 70% in delivering correct responses.

The way it works is that your requests and commands to Siri are uploaded to Apple servers somewhere, interpreted, and then a response comes back to you.

Some companies, like IBM, at one point banned Siri on privacy and security grounds, because it’s not clear what happens to the queries and whether they are saved by Apple.

There are alternatives.  These are considered two of the best:

Google Mobile Search for Android – Google has voice activated search for Android devices.  You can request a variety of things.

Dragon Mobile Assistant – By Nuance Communications, the makers of Dragon voice activated software, comes this mobile assistant.

Our take:  while Siri and other mobile assistants hold promise, they aren’t at the point where they can be relied upon 100% of the time with 100% accuracy.  However, if you are looking for a way to be more productive in your daily work, these mobile assistants can cut down time.


Image: Apple

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‘Selfie’ of George Zimmerman’s Attorney Goes Viral

source: pool

A bizarre photo of Don West, defense attorney for George Zimmerman, who is  currently on trial for the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, went viral after it was posted on Instagram by his teenage daughter, Molly West.

The photo, which has since been deleted,  shows West taking a ‘selfie’ while eating ice-cream cones with Molly, and another daughter Rachel.

The caption beneath the photo – We beat stupidity celebration cones #zimmerman #defense #dadkilledit.

‘Selfie’ of George Zimmerman’s Attorney Goes Viral

source: pool

A bizarre photo of Don West, defense attorney for George Zimmerman, who is  currently on trial for the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, went viral after it was posted on Instagram by his teenage daughter, Molly West.

The photo, which has since been deleted,  shows West taking a ‘selfie’ while eating ice-cream cones with Molly, and another daughter Rachel.

The caption beneath the photo – We beat stupidity celebration cones #zimmerman #defense #dadkilledit.