Stealthmode

by Francine Hardaway

Co-founder, Stealthmode Partners, advisor to over 700 startups, formerly at Intel, angel investor

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R.I. P. Allen Stern, My Friend

When I read on Twitter (of course) last night that Allen Stern had passed away, I couldn’t take it in. At my age, my friends do die occasionally, but not people who were much younger than I and who had made such an investment in becoming healthy recently.

I met Allen at a NewMedia meeting in New York. We had so many friends in common that we stayed in touch through his move to Austin, and I saw him when I went there to attend SXSW. I was also an early and forever customer of Cloud Contacts and a reader of Center Networks. But for some unknown reason, Allen was always asking me for business advice.

I say unknown because he had already successfully started two businesses, Center Networks and Cloud Contacts, and while I knew him he embarked on his third, the lifestyle and fitness site that sprung from his inspiring weight loss last year. He lost over 125 pounds, mostly through...

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10 Tips for Small Business Marketing

When Goldman Sachs invested in Arizona-based Infusionsoft last year, they were actually investing in small business as the economic engine of the future. Infusionsoft, one of the largest of the many small business marketing companies, grows its own business by creating a community of its customers, and encouraging them to help each other grow.

Small businesses often face a conundrum: they know they need to do more marketing to attract more customers, but since they don’t have much in the way of resources, they pretty much have to do it themselves. And they don’t have time, don’t know how, and can’t outsource it.

Infusionsoft solves that problem with its slogan “Automation Means Domination” and an army of experts who help each other learn how to create marketing programs that work. At this year’s InfusionCon, I sat in on the Ultimate Marketer...

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What Jonah Peretti Taught Me About Journalism: Make it Emotional, Social, Shareable

One of the highlights of my trip to SXSW, the music, film and interactive festival in Austin that ended last week, was hearing Jonah Peretti, founder of Buzzfeed, speak Buzzfeed,although still a startup, gets 40 million unique visitors a month, 40% per cent of whom read it on mobile devices.

Is Peretti, who also co-founded Huffington Post, a great journalist? Nope. He’s a guy who. while a grad student at MIT Media Lab, experimented with how to make things go viral. Read his Wikipedia page; it’s hilarious.

His key target audience? The “bored at work” network. The bored at work network is made up of people who have to spend all day at a desk on a computer, but who aren’t necessarily working all the time. These people use their mental breaks to shop online, and also to share content. If Buzzfeed puts out some content that interests them – say, a cat photo or...

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Serendipitous Takeaways from SXSW

I agreed to go back to SXSW with some trepidation, because this is my seventh year, and the event has gotten larger and larger. At first, I knew or knew of most of the attendees, and going to Austin was a way to put faces to Twitter handles. Twitter, like me, was new to SXSW in 2007. Now, the conference has over 25,000 attendees at the interactive conference alone, and I’m lucky to find my old friends.

But something has happened for me this year: the serendipity of new friends. The three things I learned at SXSW had nothing to do with meeting people I already knew, but rather in learning about things I didn’t.

At the WP Engine dinner the other night, I was sitting on the left of Werner Vogels, the CTO of Amazon, who was telling us about the lengths to which Amazon invests to make things convenient for its customers and the extent to which the company still reflects Jeff...

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Buddhism and Leadership: Bend Not Break

I’ve been thinking about the special attributes women bring to entrepreneurship lately, how they are more nurturing, more compassionate, more transparent, and more resilient to help their companies through the inevitable dark moments.

But while Silicon Valley loudly complains about the lack of women in technology, and Sheryl Sandberg writes books urging women to lean in to their careers, one of the pioneering women in technology over the past three decades is being criticized for her success.

Ping Fu, founder of GeoMagic Software, has written a memoir about her childhood in China and what it taught her about entrepreneurship. In the memoir, “Bend Not Break,” she tells about being removed from her Shanghai mama and papa when she was 8 and being forced to work in a factory from the age of ten during Mao’s cultural revolution.

At age 25, Ping was quietly deported...

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What’s Good About Social Media?

We’re all pretty much in agreement that social media has been commandeered by marketers, and that brands now have the upper hand. I’ve got promoted Tweets in my stream, invitations to join brand communities on G+, and special offers from brands in my Facebook feed. Not to mention the constant spewing forth of often-ignorant political opinion on every side of every issue.

Every day I ask myself, “how much time do I want to waste on all this?”

And every day I am brought back to the origins of social media, and how it was in the glory days of 2006 and 7, when Twitter and Facebook were manageable, and Google+ was an embryo.

This morning I looked at my Facebook feed. A man I know only from Twitter and blogging, although I’ve since met him at conferences, has lost his grandfather. Condolences pour in. In his feed, I see the names of other people I know, like...

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How to Scale Your Social Media

Long, long ago, way back in 2010, Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang gave a talk in which he uttered the immortal words, “social media doesn’t scale.”

I’ve found that out through my work with ZEDO, the San Francisco-based platform partner for publishers. ZEDO started with one person doing its social media almost two years ago: me. But the company is growing rapidly, and it has a globally distributed work force in many different time zones. This year, my challenge is to inspire my colleagues to help me with the social media so we CAN scale it better.

I’m fortunate, ZEDO is still relatively small – about 250 employees. But suppose you are a public company, or even a very large private company with a distributed global work force? How will you control your brand? How do you respond to Twitter complaints in a manner that meets the expectations of...

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Useless Predictions About 2013

I’m staring into my crystal ball, and I see…nothing. And neither can all the other swamis wildly trying to issue predictions for 2013. My predictions are based only on my intuition, but for what it’s worth, here they are: Tech:

  1. Small tablets will catch on, because you can now pretend you have an iPad or an iPad Mini even if you only have a Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire, which in many ways are more flexible and better. And cheaper. But the iPad Mini sets the trend, and all of us over 45 will once again struggle to read smaller screens without spectacles. For kids, no problem of course.

  2. Wearable computing moves further into the mainstream. Some day, God willing, the Pebble watch will deliver. And people have begun getting their Basis devices. The new Fitbit, the new Jawbone, and the now-familiar Nike Fuel Band continue to valiantly count steps and calories for people who either do...

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Parent, Children and Guns

A friend of mine actually sent an email to his friends list last night about his fears that Congress would pass laws on gun control and our right to bear arms would vanish. Silly man. His gun rights won’t vanish. No one is calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. But our children might.

This morning even Joe Scarborough gave up his position that guns don’t kill people, people do, in favor of his fatherhood. That tells me he’s a leader. I’m a mother and grandmother, stepmother and foster mother. I know what it is like to lead children. And if parents don’t do it, who will?

As a foster mom, I saw mental illness up close and personal. The birth parents of my foster kids were drug addicts. The father committed suicide. Not only did they abdicate their responsibilities to lead their children, they didn’t even feed them regularly.

The oldest child...

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Murky Thoughts From the Middle East, part 2

There is a world of difference between people who travel and people who don’t. People who travel learn things along the way, almost by osmosis. After GeeksonaPlane left Dubai, I stayed an extra day, and my flight home was full of contractors on their way back to the States from Afghanistan. Because the flight from Dubai to Atlanta is over sixteen hours long, I spoke to quite a few of them, all of whom were en route home for R&R.

The ones on my plane were almost all former military and former police, retired from their first careers and out to secure their second pensions working for KBR, DynaCor, or the US government itself. They are outsourced resources–people who have traded poor job prospects at home for big money in the Middle East.

One woman works for the government and is part of the civilian force that runs the bases. Another man is training Afghan police in...

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