Tag Archives: tips

AlleyBoost Fireside Chat with Brian Cohen of NY Angels: Pinterest, pitching and personality

11 Nov

AlleyBoost hosted Nir Eyal and Brian Cohen at Mercy College on Tues. November 4, 2014. I’ll post Nir’s talk in a separate post later this week. You can read about his chat at StartupGrind here.

Brian Cohen, chairman of NY Angels and author of What Every Angel Investor Wants You to Know, spoke about everything from angels to Pinterest, his most famous investment to date.


Brian Cohen talking to an entrepreneur while subtly showing off his book.

Although Cohen didn’t spend the whole time talking about Pinterest, the reasons he initially liked the startup illustrated many of the points he made during the fireside chat.

Cohen was the first investor in Pinterest. He likes to get in early and give the first check. He’s aware it’s risky, but sometimes it works out really well – like Pinterest well. What helped Ben Silbermann, cofounder of Pinterest, even more is that Cohen really liked him. Cohen cares a lot about the person he gives his money to.

“I like to know ideas early,” Cohen said, adding that founder’s backstory adds to the allure of the pitch. “I want to know the person behind the idea. Who are you? Where did you come from? Why did you think of that? A lot of times I want to be the first check.”

He calls everyone he has invested in a friend or someone he’d like to be considered friends with. This is because often times, the person is even more important than the idea. Not just because Cohen values friendship.

“I’m not investing in your idea; I’m investing in your ability to execute,” Cohen said.

The reason the person is important is because they have to know how to build the business, even if it’s not the idea they started with.

“75 percent of the time the company I invest in is not doing the same thing 1 or 2 years later,” Cohen said.
This was the case with Pinterest. The site started as an iPhone app called Tote, a catalog for women’s accessories, which in itself was a good enough idea with a good enough team to get Cohen on board.

Pinterest customers told the founders they wanted a way to collect all the things they liked. Silbermann cared a lot about what his customers thought. Using their feedback, he gave the world a place to digitally pin, and a new interface called a board. It duplicated an action people do in the real world online and it did what the customers asked for, which are factors in its success.

Today, Pinterest is valued at $5 billion. Cohen said almost no company gets that kind of valuation, most are somewhere between $2 and $4 million, depending on the sector and the team (serial entrepreneurs are valued higher). When it comes to investing, while valuation is a piece of the decision, he said it isn’t everything. He also doesn’t care about traction but said it helps increase the valuation.

Pitching advice
Cohen, who studied rhetoric as an undergrad, believes in the power of a great communicator when it comes to pitching. He also believes in the power of a Google or LinkedIn search – meaning know the investors’ background. When speaking, be clear, crisp, clean and definitive. This means don’t use qualifiers like “I hope” or “We’re trying.” If those are the only words you can use to describe your business, it could mean you are in a position of weakness, and Cohen said that is a bad time to look for money.

For those who would rather “bootstrap” than raise money from a VC or Angel, Cohen thinks that’s stupid. He said people who are self-funding probably couldn’t convince anyone to invest. He also advises raising money six months before you need to it.

Remember to talk about exits in your pitch and have a timeframe in mind. Cohen said the average exit takes 6 to 10 years. Exits are important to angel investors – it’s how they make money.

“The word ‘exit’ to me is like sex – that is at the end the ultimate prize,” Cohen said.

This was originally written for Office Lease Center.


Professional twitter tips from social media experts

31 Jan

Twitter is not, like many tweeters think, a place to post what you’re doing all day long. At this weekend’s conference, Sree Sreenivasan, technology expert and dean of student affairs at Columbia School of Journalism, said Twitter is a place of business and a great place to have a 2-way connection with anyone. He said one of his students tweeted at Katie Couric and she replied. That would have never happened with an email or phone call. Twitter is powerful, so using it in the best possible way is important!

Below are great Twitter tips I learned at the Social Media Conference at Columbia from a variety of speakers. To see an example of a great Twitter user, check out Brian Stelter, @brianstelter, NY Times media reporter.

Sree’s Top 12 Tips

  1. Spend time writing tweets, Sree takes 3-5 minutes to craft his tweets
  2. Keep your followers in mind when you tweet (find out top followers on twiangulate.com)
  3. Do not bore your followers, keep them happy so they continue to follow you
  4. Make only 1 in 5 Tweets about yourself
  5. Save the “humble brag” for Facebook
  6. Make tweets blue, follow format “@someone, link, photo, #something” when you can
  7. You can never follow enough people! But as soon as someone gets boring, unfollow them
  8. Thought 140 characters was short? Make tweets 120 or less
  9. Make username short so it’s easy to mention in tweets, and don’t use an underscore
  10. Be generous, following someone is one of the nicest things to do on Twitter
  11. Make your bio specific: include name so people will find you, say what you tweet (look at Stelter’s bio, very specific and informative)
  12. Don’t just hit “retweet”, instead take the time to copy it then tweet: RT @originaltweeter (paste what they wrote). This way they will know you RTed them
  13. More of Sree’s tips

Other great Twitter tips from the weekend:

  • Update your bio frequently as what your tweeting about changes, especially if you get a new job, from Melissa Mistal, @MaggieMistal, host of “Making a Living with Maggie” on Martha Stewart Living Radio
  • When looking for a job, there’s a difference between stalking and seeking! Don’t reply or mention potential employers excessively, from David Gaspin, @davidgaspin, Head of Talent Acquisition at TheLadders.com
  • Be open and friendly. Respond to people, thank them, mention them. Stelter always replies and his bio has all his contact information. (not necessary but definitely friendly), from David Gaspin
  • When tweeting, don’t forget all the rules journalists already follow. Check grammar and be ethical, from Serbino Sandifer-Walker, @sswalker, journalism professor at Texas Southern University
  • Have an interesting background on your Twitter page, put professional information in Twitter bio and something a bit personal, to add character from Mauricio, @rightmau, strategist at ROKKANmedia
  • Find a # that relates to your field and mention in in tweets to connect

Helpful lingo and sites, some taken from Shorty Awards “Short Tweet Guide” from Gregory Galant, @gregory, CEO/co-founder of Sawhorse Media

  • MT – modified tweet
  • RT – retweet
  • OMG – oh my god
  • BTW – by the way
  • IMHO – in my humble opinion

http://listorious.com – find people and lists to follow

http://muckrack.com – find journalists on Twitter

http://twiangulate.com – find out who your top 100 followers are, find common friends, people to follow

http://hootsuite.com – manage social media accounts by scheduling tweets, keeping track of followers and interactions. also automatically shortens links

tweetdeck.com – similar to hootsuite, but developed by Twitter

hashtracking.com – gives detailed Twitter report, how many RTs, impressions, etc. still in beta, example: http://bit.ly/smwkndht

visibletweets.com – animates tweets beautfilly, great backdrop during a conference like #smwknd

storify.com – creates a story out of social media, example by @opride: http://storify.com/opride/social-media-weekend-2012-preview

Be Better at Twitter: The Definitive, Data-Driven Guide – Megan Garber – Technology – The Atlantic.