The Fetch Blog

The best events and reads for professionals

Interview: SF Local, Sandi MacPherson of Quibb — June 13, 2013

Interview: SF Local, Sandi MacPherson of Quibb

This week Eliza interviews the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Quibb.com, Sandi MacPherson. Follow Sandi on Twitter via @sandimac.

Sandi MacPherson
Sandi MacPherson

You are the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Quibb. What is it about your job that gets you out of bed and into the office every morning?

Sometimes when I tell people I’m working on a news product, they roll their eyes and say ‘…another one?’. That attitude is exactly what I think makes the job fun, interesting, and challenging. News is a busy space with no clear winner and it’s a huge market. It’s an established product category with a lot of room for innovating, and plenty of challenges to keep the work exciting.

Beyond that, it really is all about the people. I’ve spoken to so many Quibb members that have had really positive experiences (both online and offline) that wouldn’t have occurred without the product, and it’s amazing to be able to help those interactions occur and relationships develop. My experience with Quibb has also been a bit self-serving, in that I’ve built the perfect learning tool for myself. I’m new to the tech/startup world, and Quibb is a professional news product. This means that it allows me to easily find and read about exactly the topics, trends and news that I need everyday. The first thing I both need and want to check in the morning is Quibb, which is perfect!

Some would describe Quibb as a Reddit for professionals. Why do you think this kind of platform is so appealing? 

There’s so much content available to professionals (especially those of us that work in tech/startups) and it’s getting more and more difficult to find really great content. It’s even more difficult to have interesting discussions around that content with topic experts and professional peers. Through the simple idea of ‘share what you’re reading for work’, Quibb allows professionals to share all the great content they’re reading – and with a basic follower model, others can also get a feed packed full of great content, directly from people within their industry. The initial Quibb membership is focused on tech and startup professionals (i.e. designers, founders, VCs, developers), and will eventually allow professionals from any industry vertical to see what experts and thought leaders from their particular niche are reading and what they think about it.  The role of industry journals and trade publications hasn’t evolved at the same pace that social sharing has, and I think there’s a big opportunity to learn from sites and communities like Reddit, Tumblr, Hacker News, and others – but with a context that is 100% professional.

Do you think the popularity of news/content aggregation will continue to grow, and do you have any predictions for the future of the content sharing website?

There will always be a need for professional news. I believe that great content will win, irrespective of where it comes from.

Traditionally, news organizations have been about vertical integration of content, ads, and distribution. Now this ecosystem is becoming fragmented, where each of those 3 is its own ecosystem. Great content will increasingly find distribution because all of the aggregators and various curation products exist and are seeking that content out – they’re making it easier for people to find it

In the past, the editor-curated model was the most popular – someone within a news organization was responsible for determining (based on a variety of factors) which content to promote. Today, people are more enabled to seek out content that interests them. Running this experiment over the past few years, it turns out that sometimes this leads to more funny cat pictures and less serious journalism. The news market will grow and become more efficient over time. Similarly, I believe that we’ll create and people will find much richer and fragmented ways for both distributors and creators to monetize their audience via many different publishing platforms across many different monetization models.

All of this means that everything is becoming more complex… but that’s what an efficient marketplace looks like, that’s what progress in this space will look like.

You’ve been a leader in ensuring transparency between the Quibb and its users throughout the site’s development. What do you see as the benefits of transparency, and what advice would you give to young startups looking to be proactively transparent for their user base?

I’ve written lots of posts on Quibb – everything from why I’ve added new features, to explaining what I’m working on at the moment and why. Personally, I don’t really think of it as a novel approach, and don’t really understand why I wouldn’t act this way! Part of the reason why it makes sense specifically for Quibb (and potentially other products in this product category) is that the product itself is the members – it’s built on their connections, the content they share, the discussions they partake in. It would be silly for me to not initiate a relationship with the members. Also, I often say that I view all Quibb members as ‘mini-advisors’. My background isn’t related to tech or startups, while almost all Quibb members have expertise in an area that touches the product (e.g. interaction design, email deliverability, community management, etc.).

The fact that I’m so open is a way to initiate discussions with members whose opinions and thoughts I really value, and can learn a lot from as I try to make the product better.

You previously spent your career as a climate change and cleantech professional. What do you attribute as the cause for your move from the environmental sector to the startup world?

It’s complicated 🙂 I worked for Environment Canada (Canada’s federal environment department) directly out of school, followed by positions with a few smaller climate change non-profits. After realizing how hard it is to actually have an impact and create change through those types of organizations, I decided to go back to school and get my MBA, focusing on Corporate Social Responsibility. I was very disappointed when I realized that all of the things that I was learning about there wouldn’t be very impactful either. Since 1/2 an MBA is both useless and expensive, I decided to finish my 2nd year – but I shifted my classes to align with my personal Plan B, which had always been entrepreneurship, specifically something tech related. It’s then that I started going to some startup events in Toronto, and got a taste for all of the things I could potentially work on and create. I started by working on a professional volunteer matching product, but never made it very far. I realized pretty quickly that while the Toronto startup ecosystem is full of talented, super smart people – the quickest and easiest way to de-risk any idea or product that I would work on in the future would be to move to the valley. So I did.

Which Bay Area events or communities are you involved in?

Honestly, not very many. The community that has developed on Quibb has provided me with more connections with great tech and startup people than I could ever hope for! I’ve hosted a few Quibb member-only events too (one in Palo Alto, two in SF, and most recently one in NYC) which have gone over really well. I’m hoping to do more of these in the future, as I think that connecting with Quibb members that you meet online is really important, and helps to strengthen those relationships.

Blue Bottle or Philz?

New Orleans Iced Coffee from BB – straight black (…which I have to convince them to serve to me, most occasions).

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About our contributor // Eliza Dropkin is a lover of live music, good food, and beautiful places. Connect with her on Twitter via @elizadropkin.

Interview: SF Local, Karen Kang of BrandingPays — May 31, 2013

Interview: SF Local, Karen Kang of BrandingPays

This week we interview branding expert, author, founder and CEO of BrandingPays, Karen Kang. Follow Karen on Twitter via @karenkang.

You are currently the founder and CEO of BrandingPays. What do you focus on and why do you love branding?

I’m a brand strategist for corporate and personal branding.  The focus of my company is on consulting, seminars and personal branding coaching. I love branding because clients find it so empowering.  When you have a visible and respected brand, the world knows when and why to engage with you. Opportunities come your way because you have added value in a unique way. It is so rewarding to help clients have those aha! moments that transform them from mere players to leaders in their niche.

You recently published and completed a book tour for The Five-Step System to Reinvent Your Personal Brand. As we have often been led to believe that the Internet can endanger our privacy, how would you coach an individual on the merits of using social media publicly as a part of reinventing their personal brand? 

If you want to have greater opportunities in business, you have to brand yourself online.  One of the best ways to do this is to find an area of thought leadership that will differentiate you, and start sharing your expertise on social media. If you haven’t yet developed an expert platform, perhaps you can begin to add value by curating information from other sources.

Does everyone need their own brand? What happens if people don’t like what they’ve become known for and they want to change industries or career? What tips do you recommend?

Everyone already has a brand—some are weak and some are strong.  If you have a weak brand that doesn’t stand for much, you need to figure out what you want to be known for and start branding around this.

I recently helped a school teacher repackage her former high tech business experience, political background and science credentials as the perfect skill set for a school principal prepared to  face the multiple challenges of school finance, parent involvement and science and technology preparedness.  With her new positioning, she recently accepted her dream job as a middle school principal.

Branding is not rocket science. However, most people don’t know how to be strategic about their own personal brands.  I wrote BrandingPays so people would have the framework, tools and examples to brand themselves for a successful career or business.

You worked for a number of years as a principal and partner at Regis McKenna before starting your own consulting firm. What advice would you give to professionals looking to strike out on their own?

If you are a professional services provider, your personal brand is critical.  Make sure that you understand the ecosystem for your business, and develop relationships with key influencers.  You will be credible from the get go if the right people endorse you or introduce you to others.  Be sure to give influencers a clear, concise definition of what you do and how it benefits your customers.  Make it easy for others to advocate for you.

You need a good website that not only tells your story in a compelling way, but interacts with your customers.  Consider adding your Twitter stream, videos or other interactive media to your home page to communicate your personality and that you value education and engagement.  Show rather than tell.

You’ve said that personal branding can make the world a better place. What do you mean by that? How has living in the Bay Area shaped your personal brand? 

Imagine a world in which every person were known and recognized for their unique talents and value.  Not only would we all have better self-esteem but the world would work more efficiently with the right partners engaging with one another to create new opportunities and new value—together!  That is what personal branding, done right, can achieve.

The Bay Area has had a tremendous influence over my personal brand.

Living in Silicon Valley where so many great companies started as a germ of an idea, I couldn’t help but feel that anything is possible. Companies here are reinventing business models, markets and themselves constantly. Therefore, taking an innovative approach to my own career and my own brand just seemed natural.

Which SF events do you look forward to each year?

I have been so busy doing speaking engagements around my book that I’ve had to pass on many great events in the San Francisco Bay Area.  However, I have enjoyed local TEDx talks, and I’m looking forward to being both a speaker and an attendee at this year’s Red Herring Conference in Monterey and the Ascend West Coast Conference in San Francisco.

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About our contributor // Eliza Dropkin is a lover of live music, good food, and beautiful places. Connect with her on Twitter via @elizadropkin.

10 Cool Sites For Event Organization — May 28, 2013

10 Cool Sites For Event Organization

A long, long time ago during the analog ages, planning an event involved mailing paper invitations to guests and anxiously awaiting a reply. Unfortunately we still haven’t concocted a remedy for waiting, but luckily several fun and (more) efficient ways to plan an event have been invented.  Even luckier for you, we’ve rounded up 10 sweet sites that will make planning and organizing your next event a breeze. If you have any others to add, leave them in the comments!

1. Splash

Splash’s well designed interface will make even the trendiest event planner drool. A free account gets you an event page, event planning tools, analytics, and mobile check-in for guests. Splash also offers the option of paid pro accounts that offer a custom URL, removal of branding, and email credits. Splash is a great option for throwing your next party.

2. Eventbrite

Eventbrite has quickly become one of the leaders in online event planning and management. The site’s accounts offer an event page, and easy ways to promote, analyze, and manage your event. This is a great option if you are planning free or personal events. Heads up: Free events are free to host through Eventbrite, but paid events are not. Eventbrite charges a 2.5% service fee ($0.99/ticket) plus a 3% credit card processing fee.

3. EventO

EventO is a “full-service event management tool” for any and every sized event. This is a good option if you’re planning events on a fairly large scale on a regular basis. The site is formated for desktop, tablet and mobile. EventO offers event registration, ticketing and promotion, as well as post-event surveys and analytics. Pricing varies.

4. Planspot

Planspot positions itself as the marketing answer to event planning. The site focuses on using media to make events happen. Planspot offers a free 14 day trial of their full account and a free account for event promotion. Pro accounts start at $49/month and include media promotion, publication tracking, email credits, social media and basic stats. The $99 account includes everything just mentioned in addition to advanced stats.

5. DoAttend

DoAttend is a simple and easy to use option for event planning. The site offers free accounts for ticket registration, offering discounts, collecting attendee data, and more. Charging for tickets will cost you 1.5% per transaction plus $0.49 when using PayPal.

6. Paperless Post

Paperless Post is a beautiful option for organizing a personal event. The site gives you the option of ordering and sending snail mail invitations in addition to online invites. The site boasts a wide variety of aesthetically pleasing designs from arts around the web. After sending online cards you can track RSVPs easily through the site. Pricing varies, and some online cards are free.

7. Pingg

Pingg offers offline and online invitations and greeting cards for every occasion with online RSVP tracking.  They feature a terrific collection of invitations for professional events. The designers and artists behind the cards are featured on the site, and Pingg also offers a number of community resources such as party tips and a directory of all events being hosted on the site. Pricing varies.

8. Punchbowl

Punchbowl offers digital cards in addition to party planning resources including a date decider, potluck organizer, contact import, RSVP management, cocktail poll, message board and more. A free account offers you the basics, while Plus, Premium and Platinum (at various prices) allow for additional services such as adding co-hosts, removal of advertising, priority tech support and more.

9. Evite

This is not Evite’s first rodeo, but thanks to their keeping with the time and updating the site it likely won’t be stepping out of the ring anytime soon. Evite offers a range of online invitations and cards in addition to party favors and supplies. Optional invitation features include tracked RSVPs, polling, allowing guests select which items to bring, and allowing guests to invite friends. Pricing varies.

10. Eventzilla

Eventzilla offers a free account that allows you to create a professional registration page, promote events across social media channels, setup waiver forms, deliver tickets online, send email notifications and manage cancellations. For profitable events you pay a flat rate of $1 per ticket sold. Eventzilla is an easy to use, reputable option, good for any personal or professional event.

Good luck, and happy event planning!

Interview: SF Local, Drew Hoolhorst — May 26, 2013

Interview: SF Local, Drew Hoolhorst

This week Eliza interviews freelance copywriter and regular Bold Italic contributor, Drew Hoolhorst. Follow Drew on Twitter via @drewber and on his blog, Rocket Shoes

Drew Hoolhorst
Drew Hoolhorst

You, Drew Hoolhorst, are a master storyteller. Who do you consider your earliest influences, and how has your storytelling evolved over the years?

Thank you, interview question, that’s incredibly kind of you. Ready for the hokey answer? My grandfather was the best storyteller I’ve ever met in my lifetime. Since I was a tiny babe, he would tell me the most grandiose Big Fish-esque lies you’ve ever heard and I just couldn’t get enough. There was sort of something great about it…his “art” of lying, really. I know that sounds horrible, but I loved how he could lie to me and tell these tales of absolute grandeur and even when I knew they were lies or at least stretches of truths, I just loved hearing them. The man just knew how to make you feel like you were the only person he was talking to, or had EVER spoken to, and that’s an art.

I’ve always tried to mimic that in any form of writing or storytelling: say things that readers and listeners feel like are just for them. In the best writing, that’s there, really. You are speaking to a million people, but if it were just one you’d tell it just as personally.

Some would say you are well known for your contributions to The Bold Italic. How would you breakdown your creative writing process?

It’s simple: come up with a great idea when you’re talking to people you care about. Laugh with them about it because you all agree that this is something you all feel and could talk about for hours. Every time: that’s where you start. The best stuff comes from conversations with people you care about, because when you’re just shooting the sh*t, that’s when you say the random Seinfeld-esque stuff that really sticks in your head… everyone’s head. After that?

Get a deadline, wait until the last minute, panic and then write. Don’t ever write ahead of time. You’ll write a huge piece of shit. Panic, man. It brings out some wonderful stuff, in my opinion.

Having worked as a freelance copywriter for SF advertising agency EVB, how do you gauge what style of writing will be the best suited for a particular audience?

In all honesty, you just listen to the client and then (in my case, because I’m small fry) you don’t wait to hear what your CD’s have to say to you, you listen to what they say to the other important people in the room that are just like them. Basically: what bosses say to bosses? Write for that audience. Because that’s when everyone’s really being completely honest, and that’s when people say the off the cuff stuff that tells you exactly what we all think we should be writing or concepting to.

As a freelancer what is your best self-motivation tactic, and what advice would you give to professionals considering freelance work?

Freelancing has been a funny thing. In the beginning, it’s like sex: you have no idea what you’re doing and you just lie incessantly to get everyone thinking you’ve been doing this for ages. I try to always remember that beginning part because after each job, you’ve sponged up a little more knowledge from some really amazing creative people and you’re that much better than you were when you walked in their door. Basically, every time I can’t self motivate, I remember that I used to have no idea what I was doing, and if it’s this much fun now, how much fun will it be if I keep my ass in gear? You can always get better, and I try to just remember that.

If you’re considering freelancing, just remember that it’s like getting a new job all the time, always. It’s hard, but it’s also incredibly fun to get a new uniform every month or so.

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You worked as a social media strategist for the creative agency Mekanism back in 2006. What has surprised you about the evolution of social media, and do you have any predictions about how it will change in the future?

What’s surprised me is how far it’s come since then. I mean, I remember explaining to senior creatives how “the youtubes and the tweeters” worked back in the day and how strangely slow they were to grasp it and/or take it seriously, and it’s just really funny how now all of them add you on a social network every other day like a parent trying to add their daugther on Facebook (I say in jest, my bosses at the time were incredible people.) I think things like Vine have jumped the shark a bit, where it’s really awesome but…I don’t know, do we really have to have THAT short of an attention span? I like what companies like Medium are doing in trying to Goldilocks the blog/twitter conundrum a bit, and I think service apps are only going to get more amazing. Not a bold prediction, I know, but I think people are going to back off of the hyper short attention span stuff and focus more on making a service that’s “food delivery for blank” for every last thing on the planet.

You have a self-proclaimed ‘black belt in feelings’. What exactly do you mean by that?

It means I was raised by a single mother and have an extensive shoe collection and am happy to talk about feelings until both of our ears hurt. (I’ve just always been the sensitive guy my whole life, guess it just sort of stuck.)

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What are your favorite events and communities in SF?

I love Noise Pop and Outside Lands to an almost unhealthy degree, and I’m so happy that OSL is finally getting to the level of Lollapalooza and what not. We deserved to have something like that here in SF. We’re a bunch of “neener neener” artisanal fans, it’s only right we get to see bands that no one’s ever heard of yet.

About our contributor // Eliza Dropkin is a lover of live music, good food, and beautiful places. Connect with her on Twitter via @elizadropkin.

Interview: London Local, Alex Shebar of Yelp — May 16, 2013

Interview: London Local, Alex Shebar of Yelp

This week Eliza interviews self-proclaimed king of all trades and Yelp’s Senior London Community Manager, Alex Shebar. Follow Alex on Twitter via @alexshebar.

Alex Shebar
Alex Shebar

You’re currently working as Yelp’s Senior London Community Manager. What part of your job requires the most creativity?

You’re going to scoff at me when I say this but it’s keeping London from not being boring. What? London? Boring? Never? Yes! It can be, when you go to the same restaurant or the same bar or the same event week in and week out. There’s so much to do in this city that a lot of times, people start to take it for granted. They begin to go to where they already know over and over. I throw a ton of events that show off amazing hidden gems, new food, crafted cocktails and things people have never seen before. I’m showing off new spots to my entire community, even to those who have lived here all their life. Finding ways to get people out of a rut and routine, that’s what requires more creativity.

Also, it takes some serious creativity on how not to get fat eating and drinking with the yelpers all the time. I’m not sure I’ve figured that part of the job out yet.

As a U.S. transplant and former Yelp Cincinnati CM, what surprised you the most about the event scene in London?

London is insane when it comes to events, and I mean that with love. You can literally be out every night of the week and not see the same thing twice. Hell, you can be out every night of the year and still not see the same thing twice. Also, I’m always shocked how early places close here compared with the US. Most bars shut up shop about 11pm/midnight. In the states, that’s when you’re just getting started, here it’s when they’re sending you to bed.

Having worked with multiple Yelp communities, what do think is the secret to creating a great offline community?

Honestly, the secret to a great offline community isn’t anything people don’t normally do in their daily life. Find fun people and put together fun things they want to do.

People may say they’re too tired to go out or it’s hard to meet new people, but if you can give them an event or a reason that sounds like something they just can’t miss, they’ll step out of their comfort zone, move away from the computer and actually be part of the community in real life. It’s all about authenticity and creativity.

Do you perceive a difference between the attitude towards online community in the U.S. versus the U.K?

When I moved to London, everyone I knew went, “Oh, everything is going to be so different.” Honestly, not so much. It’s like that scene in Pulp Fiction where it’s the little differences that get you (like Where’s Waldo being called Where’s Wally here. What?) But overall, no, a community of people who are interested in great local spots are the same from country to country. In England, people may be a little more hesitant to come out to events without knowing other people there first, but even that is small.

Word on the street is that Yelp found you through Twitter. Would you share the story behind that?

True! I was doing a major year-long project called Watch This where we were screening the American Film Institute’s Top 100 movies in a year, two movies a week. The project basically started in the living room and basements of friends’ houses where we would watch the films and invite anyone to join. It grew larger and then businesses started coming to me asking if they could show them. Eventually we were doing screenings for hundreds of people. At the same time, Yelp was looking for it’s first community manager in Cincinnati, Ohio.

They found me on Twitter, we got talking, they encouraged me to apply. That’s how it all began. So don’t ever let people tell you Twitter is a waste of time. Have them come talk to me.

Your career started off in writing and communication. What advice would you give to aspiring members of the tech community who struggle with writing?

Good question. It would have to be the same advice I was given when I was a journalist writing about complicated issues. Start by thinking about how you’d explain it to a child. Write that out. At this point, you’ll have the basics of whatever you’re talking about. Now you can spruce it up and make it sound a little better and submit something worth reading. Really though, people struggle the most with writing at the beginning because they don’t know where to start. Start there.

If you could only watch one film for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

Tough question! Probably O’ Brother Where Art Thou. I still can’t say why I love that film so much (besides the great story and fantastic music) but it’s just damn good.

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About our contributor // Eliza Dropkin is a lover of live music, good food, and beautiful places. Connect with her on Twitter via @elizadropkin.

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