One more accelerator for Women-led StartUps launches

MergeLane Cofounders

In 2011, I assembled a listing of over 100 global incubator, seed-funding and accelerator programs for entrepreneurs, start up founders and other early to mid-stage growth tech companies.

Back then, there were only about 10 female-focused programs and sadly that number has not grown by much despite the recent increased efforts of getting more girls and women into tech and supporting female-run start ups already in existence.

Good news for those who live in the Boulder, Colorado area or who have some flexibility to relocate there for at least three weeks!

The two-women team behind new accelerator MergeLane is now accepting applications for its first class that will start this February 2015, but only for a couple more days!

The deadline is this Monday, December 15 but if accepted, teams can anticipate receiving a minimum of $20,000 in funding and access to up to $100,000 in discretionary investment. And although the program lasts 12 weeks, those with limited opportunity to relocate to Boulder are only required to stay for 3 weeks.

Selected participants can also count on getting exposure to a resource of  “high-value, gender- and industry-diverse mentors and investors throughout the entire program,” as described it in a recent feature on the accelerator.

Sounds like an exciting program! It’s one more drip drop in that bridging the gender opportunity equity pond we are all trying to fill.

Okay, mixed metaphors are my thing! ha!


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6 Women Entrepreneurs and StartUp Founders to Know

6 women entrepreneurs

I was working on a post about the top social media, blogging, marketing and tech industry conferences for 2015 and discovered a great Small Business Saturday feature that Mom2.0 did highlighting women entrepreneurs, small business and start up founders.

I was happy to see that I knew a couple of dynamic Washington, DC-area -based dynamos from my blogging and social circle on the list, A Parent in Silver Spring‘s Jessica McFadden and Blogalicious‘ blogging conference c0-founder Stacey Ferguson .

It’s worth heading over to the blog in the Mom2.0, the weekend blogging conference for influential mom bloggers and female entrepreneurs who create online content and check it out: here

Shine on, ladies, cause THIS:



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5 Types of Brand Ambassadors that promote Bloggers

bloggers fans

Every top entertainer or musician has die-hard “stans” – fanatical fans, ride or die brand advocates who can be seen in social media passionately showering praise under their fave performer’s Instagram selfies. Spot them emotionally defending their favorite actor against trolls and critics in the comment section of that star’s Facebook Fan page.

These fans promote their idol’s projects freely and willingly online and off, and purchase the products and anything their idol produces or puts out, as soon as released. They scramble to be the first to comment or share praise.

They even have names.

For example, Miley Cyrus has Smylies; Rihanna has her Navy; Beyonce has her Beyhive; and even start up and young acts like Fifth Harmony have its harmonizers.

You may not be surprised to learn that popular Bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers, Pinners and other well-followed social media personalities too have brand ambassadors and loyalists who perform similar roles on behalf of these influentials.

I sought after a list of the various types of followers or “fans” popular internet personalities and brands have. I couldn’t find one definitive listing but I managed to put together a grouping based on a summary of my findings.

Here are the 5 types of brand ambassadors that bloggers and other social media influencers have.

1. Reputation Defenders – These appreciative followers will defend against others slandering or talking bad about the blog or blogger online. They deflect criticism and attempt to stunt the blow of harsh comments or critique.

Since bloggers cannot be everywhere all the time and may no have the staff to keep track of all where the blog is being discussed, having TeamInternet and Team[insert name]Blog as defenders are great. 

2. Blog Informants – These are those who will snitch on others who they see sharing copyrighted materials from the blogger on another source online or elsewhere. They will email or inbox their fave blogger with an inside tip or share some article or other info to help the blogger stay on top of things. They usually do it discreetly so as not to take any credit and allow the blogger to shine.

The first time someone inboxed me the name of a blogger who had posted my content as her own, I was truly grateful and appreciative as I am getting tips and links from friends and readers of news items that escaped me from friends and readers. 

3. Online Brand ambassadors – They will share their fave bloggers’ post among their circles in social media. These supporters will also quote or openly let others know they discovered an outfit, piece of gossip, or excellent analysis from their fave blogger and share a link, infographic or quote from the post.

Bloggers can only grow as fast as their content can be shared, re-shared and spread widely online. Those that have cultivated a community of readers who share posts are very fortunate. Without a big marketing budget, a blogger needs online brand ambassadors more than anything.

Offline Brand ambassadors – These advocates take their love and appreciation of the blogger to the real world and will mention them in water cooler conversation, at social events and at the dinner table. They spread the message and popularity of the bloggers to those who may not be online as much, or who have not yet discovered the blogger on his or her own.

Similarly, getting opportunities that are not related to blogging relies on the blog being known among as many as possible, even by non-readers. I got an opportunity to appear on a TV show because a non-reader had heard about my writing from one of my readers.

Incidental Marketing partners – These are other bloggers, influencers, brands who use the bloggers information in their own posts, or PR reps, publicists or agencies whose clients are featured in the blogger’s blog, or who share the blogger’s content, along with qualifying praise. In order to make themselves look accomplished as well for having the placement or using the blog as a source, they’d need to bolster the blog as well (e.g., we were featured in the “award-winning” blog… or we discovered this exclusively from top rank blog). It’s great free promotion!

A lot of times bloggers are reluctant to promote others’ work or products without being compensated but pay in the form of promotion matters too and shouldn’t be underestimated. This is the case especially if the incidental marketing partner has a substantial large and loyal following too. 

To cultivate and maintain the blogger brand loyalist, bloggers and content creators must continually produce and disseminate valuable content , in any form, to readers, viewers and audience.

The loyalty can and will manifest itself in wonderful ways that cannot be purchased and would otherwise cost a boatload if an advertising agency or public relations company was hired to do the same thing.

The key is to keep putting out good work, staying humble and showing gratitude to your audience as much as possible.


Photo: courtesy gadgetpilipinas

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Meet Team Internet’s Stars & The Fight to Keep the Level Field

Team internet

The big dogs of #TeamInternet right now ARE made up of young millennials who have managed to turn fledgling followings on social media platforms into multi-million dollar global media empires.

There is YouTube star Michelle Phan who, with her 7 million subscribership following, has an $84 milion sale churn rate of various products she sells, according to a recent Business Insider report. Her first book “Make Up” is an Amazon best seller.

The 27-year old once receiving food stamps and was turned down for a Lancome sales job. On a hunch that perhaps she could get her millions of followers to pay for a product if she sold it, given all the advice, tips and suggestions she offers them thru her channel, Phan started selling $10 monthly subscriptions of glam bags consisting of various make samples. It worked!

Soon her influence over a billion of make-up loving tweens and teens led to major endorsement deals with brands like Coca Cola to her own make up line with L’Oreal. Lancome also ended up asking her to be its brand ambassador. Today, she owns a cosmetics-related start up and has interests in a digital music label.

Team Internet also includes another YouTuber, Swede Felix Kjellberg, who at age 25, makes about a million dollars from Adsense playing video games under the title “Let’s Play” on YouTube.  His fan base includes 2.8 Million following on Twitter. Another member includes once unemployed 20-year old Matthew Varrone who makes between $600 and $1,000 a month in ad revenue from his videos via his YouTube channel, “Awesomefaceprod,” which has grown to 20,000 subscribers since he started Let’s Playing in 2011.

Gossip Blogger Natasha Eubanks from the website Young, Black and Fabulous parlayed her top-ranked blog that she started while on hiatus from law school following Hurricane Katrina into a gig as a national correspondent on a nationally-syndicated talk show, The Real.

Author and Parenting Blogger Denene Millner ghost wrote a New York Times Best-selling book “Act like a Man, Think like a woman” with comedian and TV host Steve Harvey which got optioned into a box-office hit movie.

Filipino American Jared Eng quit his job as a marketer to blog full time and eventually earned a 7 figure salary and became a bloglebrity himself.

Team Internet Members are not just the young people who’ve made it BIG on the Internet, but also those who want to preserve the Internet so that those coming behind them can have similar experiences.

They are not just about taking nothing and turning into something big but also about not letting stoic and rudimentary restrictions from the traditional brick- and-mortar dimension road block their success.

For example, when a record label assumed its music was partially responsible for the success of Phan’s videos, it used the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to go after her. Eventually, the two settled and Phan will soon launch her own digital music label Shift Music Group in partnership with  Cutting Edge Music.

But before doing so, she worked on plans to enable content creators to launch their dreams without the fear of copyright trolls beating down their doors before they could even make a penny.

“We’re living in an age where we should be collaborating,” Phan told an audience at a recent event. “Because it’s the Internet now. It’s hard to say who owns what. I’m here to protect my fellow YouTubers. … I’m here to fight and stand my ground.”

No doubt there’d be a direct and explicit chilling effect of closing down creativity and mediums for underserved and niche markets whose needs are not met by mainstream media.

Team Internet’s goals could also be interweaved into the current Net Neutrality debate which many in the tech, internet biz and youth generation have latched onto, seemingly not really knowing the real life implications of handing off the Internet to the government to regulate.

Those working a round-the-clock, breaking only briefly to barely socialize with family and friends, serial nap, then dive back in, cannot afford to have the vibrant internet ecosystem shaken up in a way to stagnate our progress.

And just as we attempt true independence through angel or venture capital or some other investment vehicle or source, there is a risk that volatility and uncertainty in the sector would scare them away.

The current ambiguity is risky.

There’s risk as to who would be subject to Internet regulation, how the FCC would regulate and whether Congress will authorize a re-write of the 1996 Telecom Act .

No doubt, however the FCC ultimately comes down, we can expect litigation from unsatisfied parties.

And with litigation comes further uncertainty, potentially years-long appeal process and as it all works its way up the legal judicial and administrative law ladder and back down again.

Who stands to lose is the next generation of Phan, Eubanks, Engs working their pay and prepping their investor pitch.

Without finality, investors may likely, and are choosing other growth sectors not similarly marred with ambiguity and indecision.

Team Internet’s growth depends on the Internet remaining Open and Free and unencumbered and limited.


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Content Marketing Secrets: What Makes people Buy Online


Let’s continue once again with the topic of understanding online buyers. We all recognize that online shopping is no longer the exception – in fact it’s a major component of business. Every marketer from the massive discount stores to the local boutique…

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Bloggers: The 7 Mistakes Stopping Your Growth

home business stock

Do you find that blogging is easy? It’s a pretty straight forward way to get started working online whether you’re interested in making money or simply having fun. But there are right ways to build a successful blog and there are wrong ways to blog and…

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CyberMonday: Those without in-home Broadband access miss out on savings/deals

Holiday Shopping

Just when we thought we knew of all the benefits of at home broadband, a new report indirectly reminds us of another benefit: Money-saving Internet-only deals during Cyber Monday.

This week, the affiliate marketing company  Skimlinks released a report featuring insights on the ways internet users make purchases from ads and links they happen upon while browsing their favorite websites.

It revealed that while consumers do a lot of clicking around using their mobile phones, at work especially, they are less likely to eventually convert those clicks into sales until they get home and can access their desktop computers.

Partially this is true because many merchants’ websites are not optimized for mobile browsing and to enable them to click the deal.

Another reason is that Internet users prefer larger screens  which can give them  a broader view of a website layout of an eCommerce site. To that end, tablets have the highest conversion rates with computer desktops coming in second and mobile phones a distant third.

This information is also illuminating for those working on increasing broadband access to more homes.

It’s well known that there are certain functions that are better done on a desktop with in-home broadband access: for school children needing to do school reports and homework, for the elderly and shut in for telemedicine or tele-triage when they cannot get to a doctor, and for job seekers needing to apply for work in the comfort privacy  of their personal home. In all these scenarios, private in-home access trumps a public computer at say, the library or a community center.

The Skimlinks report shows that those without in-home broadband also miss out on the chance to capitalize on deals that come with on-line shopping as many times the price for Internet purchases are substantially lower than in brick and mortar stores.

And those without in-home access are usually from lower-income households and should be getting the benefits of cost-savings on needed high ticket items.

Here are the other key findings from the report which can be accessed here:

  • Mobile phones account for over 20% of impressions and 18% of clicks among publishers…Yet, this device is only worth 10% of the sales volume driven by publishers
  •  Tablets have the highest conversion rate (3.87% on average), as well as the highest sales value proportionally with 11% of impressions vs 18% of sales value
  • Computers remain the preferred device with over 60% of clicks, sales and sales value
  •  In terms of publisher types, Blogs and Forums drive the most sales on mobile phones and tablets
  • Publishers in the categories of Lifestyle/Interest Groups and Technology are at the forefront of the mobile trend and the ones who drive the most commissions from mobile phones and tablets.

Efforts currently under way to change the Internet and how it is regulate, for the most part, fail to address looming access gaps that will force underrepresented communities further behind the eight ball of opportunities.

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In Future, Facebook will be mainly Video


If you think your Facebook feed has a lot of video now, just wait. “In five years, most of [Facebook] will be video,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday during the company’s first community town hall, in which he took questions from the public on a range…

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How to avoid StartUp Burnout

burn out gif

Tweet Small businesses and new startups don’t have the manpower (or the bottom line) to do things the way established businesses do. But they want the same things – growth, profits, and success. How do you get big results when you have a small workforce?…

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How the Internet Economy is like the Wide Open West

Gunfighters 6607

It was only two years ago during the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) in Dubai that the United States was leading allies to not vote to support any International Trade Union proposal that would enable authoritarian regimes to control the Internet.

At that time, we knew that the Arab Spring, and eventual subsequent citizen-inspired revolutions against tyrannical administrations were originating, festering and building steam in the unencumbered and Open Internet.

Oh what a difference a few years and interested lobbying makes because here we are at the genesis of the tech ecosytem revolution and we see calls for the US to do exactly what it was against back then – have the government seize control and impose draconian regs on some of those exploiting the business opportunities in web-based businesses.

Adopting the type of regulations that comes with Title II of the Telecom Act of 1996 is enabling the government to seize control of what is now a wide open frontier.

The concept of the Internet being an open frontier was presented to me again recently.

Recently, I opened up an email  from a consulting company that a law school classmate had recently launched.

Back in 1997, Chris Boam and I were candidates for the editor-in-chief job at our school’s telecommunications law journal, CommLaw Conspectus. He got the gig. I landed a Senior Notes and Comments Editor position. Over the past 20 years, he and I both have navigated over to the tech space.

When I first started to surf around his new company’s website, I noted that he has named his company 40A&M, after the very popular and well known phrase “40 Acres and a Mule,” which references the United States government’s efforts during the frontier days to encourage people to settle in the wide open planes of the midwest and west.

To entice prospectors, the government offered settlers 40 acres and a mule.

Forty acres and a mule is also the North’s General Sherman’s promise of dispensing the old slave-owned lands to former slaves as compensation for years they and their ancestors endured under harsh involuntary servitude days. (Over 40,000 former slaves got them, though they were promptly taken away shortly thereafter)

But, in his site’s explanation of the name of his company, Boam explained that the Internet is akin to those 40 acres and a mule and in this net economy, the opportunities and options are wide open for the taking.

And many early adopting web-based start ups like Google, Yahoo!, AOL, and later Netflix, Kickstarter et al did in fact profit well from staking their claims in the net’s broad plains.

The thing about the frontier is that there weren’t that many federal oversight in place restricting where and how communities built and formed.

Indeed as Boam writes:

He writes:

“For many, the advent of the Internet and the immense opportunities brought about by the advancement of communications has represented the newest frontier.  The opportunities to ‘stake your claim’ are endless.  The pitfalls, changing daily, are endless as well.  Today’s policies, written and debated in the confluence of these dynamic opportunities and pitfalls, have the potential to make or break tomorrow’s expectations online.”

And as such, we definitely can do without the types of policies that would weigh down cash-strapped entrepreneurs operating lean startups in the open internet frontier.

Rather, the best way for more people to harness the options available is for there to be adherence to the principles of Open access and Open Internet and not revert to archaic ways and regulatory frameworks like Title II.

image: courtesy gfi

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