Create a SquareOff, Not Just Another Poll



We are squaring off here.

The days of writing a mini book report to poll your readers is over. You’re now able to take your online polls to the next level, beyond the text and radio button.

People are busy. Engage them on an emotional level and they can become your biggest fans. Be relevant and shareable. Buzzfeed knows this well. Just look at their clever The 20 Coolest Hybrid Animals campaign they did for Toyota. Relevant and sharable with everybody from the cute animal loving set to the sustainable consumer crowd.


The best SquareOffs spark and spread an ongoing conversation around your content. They will enhance the social interaction on your site and generate more impressions for your brand. One-sided debates are not exciting. Remember, we are squaring off here.

Get to the point! Are you talking about something too obscure? Keep it simple. If you must add some detail for your readers, do it in the side defense area not in the front page of the SquareOff.

Zebroid (photo credit: Buzzfeed via,1020,904914,00.jpg)

Even a Zebroid has two sides.

Choose subject matter that is topical or contentious. Look at your own content across your site. What are your writers writing about? What are your readers talking about? And don’t underestimate the power of Local. If you’re a local news operation, tap into the trends happening on the ground.

For further inspiration, check out Google Trends or what’s trending now on Twitter. This will help boost your reach as people share their votes out to social networks and bringing new readers back to your site.


Check out some live examples and contact SquareOffs to get it on your website.


To Badge or Not to Badge at #SXSW




I wrote a piece for my friends over at Entrepreneurs Unpluggd last fall on this topic. With just over a month before our annual Spring Break for Geeks  road trip, we’d like to get your opinion on the matter. Join us for a pint on @SquareOffs in Austin on Sunday night, March 10th. We’ll be at Fado Irish Pub on 4th St.

March will be here before you know it and that means “South by” time in Austin. And if you’re like me and haven’t bought your badge yet for SXSW Interactive, you may want to keep it that way. I recently saw a Tweet that got me thinking about the idea of going badgeless. There’s a bit of a badgeless movement going on lately, even a Facebook page devoted to it. It’s clearly a stated alternative, not a knock against the organizers of the conference. Read on…


So, if you’re headed to SXSW in Austin, are you considering going badgeless? Pick a side and tell us why!



Creative Collision in the Startup Ecosystem


Pink'n'blue by futhark, on Flickr

Let’s collide, thrive.


[Editor note: This post is related to the article "Going #Badgeless at SXSW" that I wrote for Entrepreneurs Unpluggd. They share entrepreneurs' stories and advice to help you build your startup. Check them out!]

What a last few weeks. I live in the Silicon Prairie. Home to many new upstart software companies within the Omaha-Des Moines-Kansas City triangle. It’s also home to the Kauffman Foundation. If you’re not familar with @KauffmanFDN, to use a college football analogy, they are a veritable “Entrepreneur U” for the World. It was a pleasure to be part of #GEWKC and all the events that took place. It got me thinking about creative collision and how important it is to building a thriving and sustaining community of innovation.

People who run in these startup circles will talk about Brad Feld’s new book “Startup Communities” and what he’s done with Tech Stars and the Boulder community. An exemplary case study. There was also a recent guest post by Phillip Rosedale in the Silicon Prairie News that essentially asked the question,  ’How can a tech ecosystem like Silicon Valley/San Francisco take hold in cities like Omaha, Des Moines, and Kansas City?’ The big takeaway for me is DENSITY. Not the sheer population size. That’s just false hope. But a higher concentration of the ecosystem components in a defined area. The area should not only be defined, but branded. Let creative collision ensue.

Here’s an all-time classic scene to get us started on the idea of density.

Density is EVERYTHING. And it could very well be your destiny, if you play your cards right. Here’s the deal. Nobody’s gonna fund a light rail project through a dead downtown. Nobody’s gonna eat in an empty restaurant. Nobody’s gonna join a movement if nobody knows about it. The capital will be there. Yes it will. So, continue to fill your community with entrepreneurs, connectors, and service providers. Make bold moves.


A curious, passionate bunch. Many have eschewed their corporate pedigree and aren’t looking back. Others are starting early, even skipping the traditional college-then-go-find-a-job plan. They seek comfort in ambiguity and risk taking. They are connectable. Meaning, they have a strong social API (Attitude Performance Index). All of these attributes are hard to find in one person in any community. So unique, and so vital. The DNA of this whole thing.

Action item for those still on the sidelines: Help cultivate and celebrate the entrepreneur ethos in children and young adults.


One of my former bosses used to always say “success breeds success.” I’ll take it a step further and say that successful people breed successful people. These breeders are the connectors, and they are everywhere. Some may never take the leap into the great unknown of entrepreneurland. But they’re ready and able to help you where they can.

Action item for those already embedded in a startup community: Get the word out to more  potential connectors about the opportunities that abound for them. Bring a non-startup person (whatever that means) to a startup event or scene.

Service Providers

Not everyone is a product person. Service providers above all else are about RELATIONSHIPS. In many cases, relationships your startup doesn’t have. They also have expertise you don’t have (yes, it’s true), and a healthy distance from your product that allows them to truly think outside of the box for you. They ARE outside of the box. And they should be valued higher in the ecosystem.

Action item for startups: Stop trying to do everything yourself and embrace the service providers in the ecosystem.

Let’s collide, thrive.

You’re a bank? Consider making a loan to “startups” that are actually making money right now. You’re a large employer in the region? Consider looking in your own backyard, and give that innovative upstart a REAL chance to earn your business as one of their first customers. (Best line of any panel this week, by the way.)

Oh, and thanks Google. Welcome to the Fiberhood!


Having Success as a Person Rather Than Being a Successful Business

[Editor Note: This post was originally published on Social Focus by CG. Thanks Cheryl!]

My Beginnings

First thing, I started my business when there was no one to support me and when I didn’t have a job. But I was used to doing things differently because I am not the best in the market (business world).

When social media was just starting in 2006, I began using social media to get more and more business.

When I started my business, I didn’t have anyone to support me or to tell  me which way I have to go.

I started reading and implementing what I read. I was successful because I never enjoyed “the money” which I would get, but I enjoyed the “process” of making the money. A lesson I learned here is to never enjoy or look for the “money” you make in doing your business, but enjoy the “process” of making the money. This will help you to grow bigger and bigger.

I started using Linkedin and other social media in order to get business. In this process, I have had positive experiences and negative experiences.

If you have a product concept or idea but others don’t believe it is the best, ask yourself why it hasn’t been done before and do additional research to find out why and get the needed answers.

Your Purpose

The problem with every business man is that everyone wants to either be Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook or Bill Gates of Microsoft, but they never want to know THEIR strengths, in order to become successful.  Every business man should think about being different than others if they can’t be a world changer. Lots of start-ups miss all of these things in trying to doing their business. Especially, when people create a start up business, they should not think about money if they are not going forward with funding. By not thinking about the “money” they will have the best product/service and money will automatically flow in.

Who Should You Depend On?

Dependency is the worst factor in business, and this can ruin anyone. Remember, no one is our friend and no one is our enemy. Another way to say this – don’t think too much about the people who will give you great opportunities, but also, never think too much about the people who don’t give any opportunities either. Nobody is going to give you opportunities just because they are your friend…reduce your expectations in order to be a successful person.


Don’t lie to your customers in order to get business. You will lose their trust and patronage eventually in the long run. Don’t over estimate yourself to your customers. If your customer expects more, you can tell them that you will try and do the best you can, but don’t ever promise anything. It is better to under promise and over deliver!

When you feel that you are losing control, just make sure that your customers know first, in order to help them make arrangements. In this way, there will be an understanding or trust developed between you and will benefit you later.

Where Should Your Focus Be?

If you are in the service industry, you should not do everything that comes along. Just select things that will take you and your company to the NEXT level, rather doing things that just takes up time and doesn’t help grow your company or provide you any benefits.

Every business man should not work “for money” but he needs to work to give the best output.

Whether it be services or products, every business man should follow this, but don’t keep all of your eggs in one basket. There is every possibility that all of your eggs might break if something were to happen.

There will times when doing business get boring or dull. Don’t stress over this, rather use your excess energy to learn where things are going wrong, or to go and learn new things.

Not every business man should be a “jack-of-all-trades” but every business should always improve his skills in which he is good at. He should also work to improve his skills so as to reach his greatest potential in what he is good at.

Every business man should have control of the things that he does in order to be able to solve any of the issues that may arise.

Evaluate and Re-Focus

If you have a product concept or idea but others don’t believe it is the best, ask yourself why it hasn’t been done before and do additional research to find out why and get the needed answers. Don’t just continue with the product as it is.

Never quit on yourself or slow down when things start going well for you, because it hardly takes but a moment to see your work collapse.

If things start to fall apart, start right away to rectify the situation from there, don’t wait. Your best opportunity to find the right path is to see what went wrong immediately after the problem arose.


About the Author | Bhanu Prasad Madala

Bhanu is CEO at Ruby on Rails Software Kitchen. He resides in Hyderabad Area, India. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

It’s Not That Complicated


Take the swing.


When talking software I often ask people if they know what an SE is/does. It’s short for several industry terms including System Engineer, Solution Engineer, and Sales Engineer. It all depends on the product or service, the market you operate in, and the stage at which you interact with the customer. SEs are the most valuable asset to a technology company before, during, and after a Sale. (I’m biased but for good reason! Watch a great SE in action, all day.)

There are other roles at a company that can be THE most valuable in one of these stages, but not all. The difference is SEs have the potential to “touch ‘em all” throughout the whole process. They’re hitting home runs all the time you sometimes don’t even see.

There are tons of books, videos, articles, blogs, and websites that explain in much better detail what an SE is/does than I can here.

What do YOU believe in?

A more interesting question to ask might be “What does an SE believe in, stand for, live by?” when they’re out talking to customers doing SE things. In my experience it can be boiled down to the following monologue.

I’m an SE. I have one job. Align Need with Solution. There will be times today when we hit it out of the park. There will be times when we come close but just barely miss. There will times when we have to simply say We Don’t Do That.

We all know that no product can solve all of your problems. I’m confident you’ll see that we give you the best chance to succeed with our  product.

All we ask is that you keep an open mind, ask good questions, and consider the whole solution we present in our time together.

Thank you.

That’s it. Like or unlike. It says all the right things. Whatever your monologue for whatever you do, it’s important that you connect with people in some meaningful way. This might sound corny, but it’s real. It’s called smart people, talking to each other, figuring stuff out.