real influencers in social media may not be those who you think! – #blogbus

On day 3 of the blogger bus tour we had the opportunity to meet face to face with two young start-up managers from San Francisco based Social Chorus an “influence marketing” company named Social Chorus. We were able to spend a whole hour with them and discuss influence, influencers, people-powered marketing and … “the power of the middle”, a concept which I have found particularly appealing.

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Nicole Alvino (above) is SVP and co-founder of Social Chorus, she was “employee number two” in the company. Bobby Isaacson (below), senior Manager, implementation has been as Social Chorus for about three years now (he admitted “feeling like a dinosaur” which sounds strange for such a young man) and does business development that is to say that he sets up partnerships with other companies, in order to be part of their ecosystem.

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Social Chorus (the company was in fact renamed in February 2012 and is the result of the merger of youcast  and the halogen media group) is a social marketing/influencer platform. The main problem the company is solving is that it is virtually impossible for customers to figure out whether influencers are really influential.  This is in essence, what Social Chorus is about: it provides both a tool and service for finding influencers (they might not just be bloggers, but also power twitter users  for instance. There are two offices, one in New York City and one in San Francisco.

NYC and SF: a world of difference…

To European eyes, those two cities might appear very similar but in fact, according to Bobby and Nicole, they are very different. New York is more about media and advertising and agencies, whereas Silicon Valley and San Francisco have always been, at least since the seventies onwards, more about high tech. But this is not all. Mentalities are also very different. Bonding is more difficult in NYC, a very large metropolis where, according to our discussion, people and companies tend to keep things for themselves, rather than share and get together in Californian fashion. And this is what makes all the difference. As I described in my post about Rocketplace, a lot of what happens in Silicon Valley is down to the ecosystem. San Francisco has a leg up in that game. Only Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas are adopting the West Coast spirit our hosts both declared.

social media at the forefront of investment

Start-up investment has changed too according to Nicole. “2 years ago, investment was more into media and advertising, now it’s a lot more about social media” she said. This is changing the ball game, Nicole said, “now that agencies are becoming more social they are tending to move over to SF”.

topical and brand influencers … not who you think

Social Choris is aiming at “brands wanting to become more human and having relationships with influencers” Bobby added. But how do you identify them and how can you tell they are really influential? “it’s a combination of art and science” Bobby went on. “There are topical and brand influencers” he said. Social Chorus will traditionally tap into its 1.5 million influencers database but they might also use Kred and Klout. Sometimes the best influencers are niche bloggers through .

social media influence: the pyramid metaphor

“Imagine a pyramid” Bobby went on: “PR handles the celebs, super fans and topical bloggers are in the middle and at the bottom, you have the vast majority of fans and readers who click and comment”. They might not be bloggers, they could just be twitteres for instance. Social Chorus’s focus of the solution is measuring the impact of a conversation with influencers. Manage the relationship over time.

the “power of the middle”

As soon as I can, I will also post a video interview of Nicole in which she explains that most brands are wrong to focus on just the top celebrities. “This can become pretty expensive soon” she said. I would also add that celebrities are often too self-centred in order to be generous. All middle tier influencers on the contrary are more open and more prone to become brand advocates because they will want to develop a relationship in the long term with the brand.

only 10-20% of agencies are ready to do that for themselves

Social Chorus is working with agencies like Edelman, Ketchum and others. It’s mostly agencies who are delivering this service to clients, but there are a few clients like Gatorade for instance who do this for themselves. “What we find is that the interest in that space exceeds the knowledge of how it works” Bobby declared. As a result, only 10-20% of the brand on average are willing to do this by themselves.

One of Social Chorus’s biggest challenges though is to hire developers; there is a lot of competition for developers. A very skilled developer in the valley can be paid $100 k and even up to $ 200 k if he has very special skills it’s commonly said here. As a matter of fact, as an entrepreneur told me at an after work party last night: “the developer in question might even be paid more than the project manager he reports to!”.

Social Chorus can operate over 3 different countries: UK, US and Germany. They will soon launch a new version in 2013, which will extend the service to other countries.

Rocketspace ‘s Logan: “even Russian companies go to the US to conquer the world!” – #blogbus

Duncan Logan, founder of Rocketspace is originally Scottish and moved to San Francisco some time ago. His first venture didn’t work but 20 months ago, he then decided to found Rocketspace. Rocketspace could be described as “offices as a service” Logan said. He confided to our team of bloggers that he had read the Lean Start-up and he tested the principles he’d found in the book by creating a fake company and posting an ad on Craigs’ list. He got something like 10 requests by companies in 12 hours. Then he tried again by adding that only tech companies are wanted and he got 15 responses in 12 hours. That’s how Rocketspace, start-up accelerator in downtown San Francisco, was born. Today, Duncan Logan delivered his vision of why the Valley is the world’s most exciting place for high tech entrepreneurship. 

[note: this piece was originally written for the Orange Live Blog which I manage and created]

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Duncan Logan, founder of Rocketspace delivered his 360° view of entrepreneurship

a start-up accelerator in downtown San Francisco

15 companies are hosted by Rocketspace, and there is space for 150 people. According to Logan, this is the largest “tech accelerator” in San Francisco. “30% of companies hosted here are from overseas who want to mix with the ecosystem in the Valley. 30 other co-working spaces exist but this one is dedicated to tech companies” Logan added. Spotify was hosted here for instance, but there are also companies at seed money stage.

“Overseas companies have too broad offerings” Logan said, “US companies have narrower offerings and they therefore, they are much more focused; because it’s such a huge country” he said.

co-working spaces have nothing to do with real-estate

Within about 6 weeks from creation, it dawned on Duncan and his teams that “real estate has nothing to do with co-working, and that it was all about the eco-system. It’s all about speed here, most start-uppers don’t care about privacy” Logan added. As a matter of fact, most of them don’t worry about building a sales team either. ‘The real trend behind Rocketspace Duncan said is that before, you would have to raise a lot more money and spend more time on getting yourselves organised, now you don’t”. So how much would you need to get started? “Under half a million dollars” he responded “and after 15-16 weeks, they can have large numbers of customers without spending too much money” … that is in case it takes off, but the system is such that investors know what to expect.

young people don’t want to commute … nor get into an office

“Over here, young people don’t want to commute, they don’t want to own cars, so there has been a real emphasis for young companies to be based in San Francisco [rather than Silicon Valley which is an hour away from the City] and this is why real estate prices doubled in 18 months!” Duncan Logan added. Besides, “the valley is more about infrastructure start-ups (i.e. cloud computing, storage and servers etc.) whereas “the City is about young companies” he said.

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“Tech founders aren’t very social”

Most of the companies here are at “A” stage he said. For most of them, the risk is on the entrepreneurs, VCs are always pushing for more evidence of future success, and when you are a first time founder you have to think about what business can be financed vs. trying to build the most amazing business” Logan said.

the 3 pillars of Rocketspaces’s business

Now we hit what was the most interesting part of the meeting. Logan delivered his vision for Rocketspace and described what makes it special. “We see ourselves as a kind of platform” he said and he described the 3 pillars of Rocketspace’s business:

  1. access to capital: close relationship with business angels, venture capitalists and Rocketspace have a very good view of deal flow, Logan said. Specially for outside companies, this is essential
  2. access to talent: MIT, Harvard, Stanford etc. “talent is one of the overriding factors” Logan said. “We nurture those relationships in order to bring talent to new start-ups and we can do this for nothing” he said
  3. access to customers: this is an “enormous growth item for Rocketspace” Logan said. Large companies like IBM or Microsoft are connected to the Office Space and this is what makes it possible for start-ups to connect to that ecosystem. “Smart companies are engaging with start-ups early in the process. They will come in here and they will say ‘we have a real interest in mobile payments’ for instance and we’ll start to shortlist maybe 4-5 start-ups and this is a very symbiotic way of doing business he said. IBM is working with dozens of start-ups for instance, and Rocketspace is constantly organising demo days and start-ups networking events. “Kodak, Blockbusters etc. took a different approach and refused to change the way they worked and they aren’t here anymore” Logan said.

“There are probably 250 very exciting companies around the world” Logan said, and we’d like to have them at least for Rocketspace for a year. This is our goal for the next 10 years.

How do you do networking?

We have four floors and 2 next door. We do a lot of dinners. “Tech founders aren’t very social” Logan said. We have up to 20 people at dinner and we have all the VCs that count at these dinners he said. There are 10 events going on every night on average in San Francisco and there are a lot of opportunities the entrepreneur said.

“We are not coaching hands-on like an incubator. Obviously it’s all our interest that they succeed. We never publicise who is here. We are fiercely independent. We give 3 contacts for bankers, VCs, partners etc. Rocketspace refuses to take sides.

A lot of this has a lot to do about how companies are getting funding. “VCs are aggressive. They probably see 250 companies before they invest in one. Yet, once they do they are pretty nervous. By the time a start-up is raising money, there will be up to 3-4 VCs competing with one another. So once they are committed they are pretty aggressive. It’s so hard to get in for them… Yet, for start-ups it can take them months before they can find an investor” Duncan Logan added.

I don’t think there is too much money, but the amount of money required to start a new company has dropped the founder of Rocketspace said.

why is Silicon Valley different?

There are great start-ups in UK, France and other places. But when you are in football you have to be in a environment in which you can rub shoulders with top class teams otherwise you don’t know whether you are good at the game or not. That was Logan’s way of explaining  that the premier league is taking place in Silicon Valley, this is where you compare yourself to the best companies. People like Reid Hoffmann (founder of LinkedIn), you understand that they have a different understanding of the world Logan said.

but there are other reasons why …

Scale is the issue, mostly in Europe (where there are many languages spoken and smaller numbers of users who are culturally very fragmented). Indian and Chinese companies can scale Logan said. We see copycat ideas happening in certain places like China and India and “they can crack America!” he said. You have to be in the sort of size like dropbox, airBnB etc. and India and China can achieve that kind of scale and found multibillion dollar companies”.

“Even Russian companies” he added “when  they want to conquer the world, come to America!”.

plans to expand to other countries?

“US immigration laws are ridiculous” Logan said. “We are tripling our size here in San Francisco but  it would make sense to have a Rocketspace in Europe (it could be London or Berlin) and one in Asia” Logan added. Plug and play tech centre  (where we are headed to now) were the pioneers he said, but their mentality is very commercial, and there is an obligation to fill the spaces. Roketspace sees themselves as very different from that.

Rocketspace ‘s Logan: “even Russian companies go to the US to conquer the world!” – #blogbus

Duncan Logan, founder of Rocketspace is originally Scottish and moved to San Francisco some time ago. His first venture didn’t work but 20 months ago, he then decided to found Rocketspace. Rocketspace could be described as “offices as a service” Logan said. He confided to our team of bloggers that he had read the Lean Start-up and he tested the principles he’d found in the book by creating a fake company and posting an ad on Craigs’ list. He got something like 10 requests by companies in 12 hours. Then he tried again by adding that only tech companies are wanted and he got 15 responses in 12 hours. That’s how Rocketspace, start-up accelerator in downtown San Francisco, was born. Today, Duncan Logan delivered his vision of why the Valley is the world’s most exciting place for high tech entrepreneurship. 

[note: this piece was originally written for the Orange Live Blog which I manage and created]

image

Duncan Logan, founder of Rocketspace delivered his 360° view of entrepreneurship

a start-up accelerator in downtown San Francisco

15 companies are hosted by Rocketspace, and there is space for 150 people. According to Logan, this is the largest “tech accelerator” in San Francisco. “30% of companies hosted here are from overseas who want to mix with the ecosystem in the Valley. 30 other co-working spaces exist but this one is dedicated to tech companies” Logan added. Spotify was hosted here for instance, but there are also companies at seed money stage.

“Overseas companies have too broad offerings” Logan said, “US companies have narrower offerings and they therefore, they are much more focused; because it’s such a huge country” he said.

co-working spaces have nothing to do with real-estate

Within about 6 weeks from creation, it dawned on Duncan and his teams that “real estate has nothing to do with co-working, and that it was all about the eco-system. It’s all about speed here, most start-uppers don’t care about privacy” Logan added. As a matter of fact, most of them don’t worry about building a sales team either. ‘The real trend behind Rocketspace Duncan said is that before, you would have to raise a lot more money and spend more time on getting yourselves organised, now you don’t”. So how much would you need to get started? “Under half a million dollars” he responded “and after 15-16 weeks, they can have large numbers of customers without spending too much money” … that is in case it takes off, but the system is such that investors know what to expect.

young people don’t want to commute … nor get into an office

“Over here, young people don’t want to commute, they don’t want to own cars, so there has been a real emphasis for young companies to be based in San Francisco [rather than Silicon Valley which is an hour away from the City] and this is why real estate prices doubled in 18 months!” Duncan Logan added. Besides, “the valley is more about infrastructure start-ups (i.e. cloud computing, storage and servers etc.) whereas “the City is about young companies” he said.

image

“Tech founders aren’t very social”

Most of the companies here are at “A” stage he said. For most of them, the risk is on the entrepreneurs, VCs are always pushing for more evidence of future success, and when you are a first time founder you have to think about what business can be financed vs. trying to build the most amazing business” Logan said.

the 3 pillars of Rocketspaces’s business

Now we hit what was the most interesting part of the meeting. Logan delivered his vision for Rocketspace and described what makes it special. “We see ourselves as a kind of platform” he said and he described the 3 pillars of Rocketspace’s business:

  1. access to capital: close relationship with business angels, venture capitalists and Rocketspace have a very good view of deal flow, Logan said. Specially for outside companies, this is essential
  2. access to talent: MIT, Harvard, Stanford etc. “talent is one of the overriding factors” Logan said. “We nurture those relationships in order to bring talent to new start-ups and we can do this for nothing” he said
  3. access to customers: this is an “enormous growth item for Rocketspace” Logan said. Large companies like IBM or Microsoft are connected to the Office Space and this is what makes it possible for start-ups to connect to that ecosystem. “Smart companies are engaging with start-ups early in the process. They will come in here and they will say ‘we have a real interest in mobile payments’ for instance and we’ll start to shortlist maybe 4-5 start-ups and this is a very symbiotic way of doing business he said. IBM is working with dozens of start-ups for instance, and Rocketspace is constantly organising demo days and start-ups networking events. “Kodak, Blockbusters etc. took a different approach and refused to change the way they worked and they aren’t here anymore” Logan said.

“There are probably 250 very exciting companies around the world” Logan said, and we’d like to have them at least for Rocketspace for a year. This is our goal for the next 10 years.

How do you do networking?

We have four floors and 2 next door. We do a lot of dinners. “Tech founders aren’t very social” Logan said. We have up to 20 people at dinner and we have all the VCs that count at these dinners he said. There are 10 events going on every night on average in San Francisco and there are a lot of opportunities the entrepreneur said.

“We are not coaching hands-on like an incubator. Obviously it’s all our interest that they succeed. We never publicise who is here. We are fiercely independent. We give 3 contacts for bankers, VCs, partners etc. Rocketspace refuses to take sides.

A lot of this has a lot to do about how companies are getting funding. “VCs are aggressive. They probably see 250 companies before they invest in one. Yet, once they do they are pretty nervous. By the time a start-up is raising money, there will be up to 3-4 VCs competing with one another. So once they are committed they are pretty aggressive. It’s so hard to get in for them… Yet, for start-ups it can take them months before they can find an investor” Duncan Logan added.

I don’t think there is too much money, but the amount of money required to start a new company has dropped the founder of Rocketspace said.

why is Silicon Valley different?

There are great start-ups in UK, France and other places. But when you are in football you have to be in a environment in which you can rub shoulders with top class teams otherwise you don’t know whether you are good at the game or not. That was Logan’s way of explaining  that the premier league is taking place in Silicon Valley, this is where you compare yourself to the best companies. People like Reid Hoffmann (founder of LinkedIn), you understand that they have a different understanding of the world Logan said.

but there are other reasons why …

Scale is the issue, mostly in Europe (where there are many languages spoken and smaller numbers of users who are culturally very fragmented). Indian and Chinese companies can scale Logan said. We see copycat ideas happening in certain places like China and India and “they can crack America!” he said. You have to be in the sort of size like dropbox, airBnB etc. and India and China can achieve that kind of scale and found multibillion dollar companies”.

“Even Russian companies” he added “when  they want to conquer the world, come to America!”.

plans to expand to other countries?

“US immigration laws are ridiculous” Logan said. “We are tripling our size here in San Francisco but  it would make sense to have a Rocketspace in Europe (it could be London or Berlin) and one in Asia” Logan added. Plug and play tech centre  (where we are headed to now) were the pioneers he said, but their mentality is very commercial, and there is an obligation to fill the spaces. Roketspace sees themselves as very different from that.

Air France super business lounge welcomes our bloggers – #blogbus

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On our way to San Francisco, all our French bloggers had a pit stop at the Air France super lounge at the end of terminal E in Charles de Gaulle Airport, as a matter of fact, Air France’s biggest in the whole world. And when I say big, I mean what I say!

The lounge was opened at the very end of June 2012 and we were part of the happy few who are allowed to relax, read, eat and even take a nap on location. When I write happy few, this isn’t quite right though, because the new Air France lounge at the end of the so-called ‘K.L.M’ satellite of terminal E is in fact massive (with its 3,483 square metres and close to 700 seats!). The brand new extension of the Air France hub was opened recently in order to accommodate all internal long-haul flights passengers of the airline. The ‘K.L.M’ moniker is intended as a pun and “a way to celebrate the Franco-Dutch alliance” the Air France lounge manager told me.

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Photo 1: the lofty Air France lounge with plenty of leg-room and beautifully crafted designer spaces

I was shown around by the personnel who gave us a very warm welcome and I had a chance to take these pictures which are now available on our online live.orange.com gallery thanks to the Orange Wifi service conveniently placed at the users’ disposal.

From airfrance

Photo album: a visit of the exclusive super Air France lounge at CDG airport (all photos by Yann Gourvennec for the Live Orange Blog)

CDG’ – as the airport is known to be called by airline professionals – is in constant reconfiguration since it is one of the only European airports in Europe with space available around it. Terminals A, B, C have been left by the French company and D will be closed by October 2012. All of Air France is now moving to terminals E and F, from which all their international flights now depart. Terminal E is now dedicated to both the US and Africa. “€ 560m went into the new development and more than 7.5 million passengers will be transiting via the airport each year!” the lounge staff told me. This is the reason why Air France decided to build that second-to-none business lounge for its ‘elite’ customers. The lounge, so far, is only opened from 5.00 am till 2.00 pm CET but opening hours will be extended later, the staff told me.

The lounge is not only beautifully designed (by Noé Duchauffour Lawrance), it can also boast wide-ranging kinds of foods (Asian visitors will feast on Chinese noodles for instance), a broad selection of newspapers and various amenities such as free showers (something like 14 booths are made available to clients!), Desktop and Tablet computers, relaxing couches, a customer service desk, and even complimentary massages and other beauty services by Air France partner Clarins.

No wonder that early visitors to the lounge have covered the guest book in praises about the service, comparing it to that of Emirates’s. A well deserved compliment in my mind and that of the blogger bus tour bloggers who were with me today.

my views on the Silicon Valley Blogger Bus tour – #blogbus (2/2)

For those who don’t know yet, I (as Director, Web & Social Media at Orange), I will be part of the Silicon Valley Blogger Bus Tour 2012, which will take place in September (17-22) as a blogger … and the organiser of that tour. Here is my take on why I am participating and what I am expecting to do/see there:

I’m a Jack of all trades. I’m not just a blogger, I’m also the organizer of the Tour. On this Tour we’re dealing with blogger PR in a different way than it usually is done in big companies like this.

What we do here is we partner with the bloggers : we work together as a team, and the fact that I’m also a blogger makes it possible. It’s a matter of us going over there together, reporting and sharing our enthusiasm and content.

To me this is very important : it’s how good content is produced and engrossing stories started. And I’m not even talking about the friendships that are being initiated between members. Undoubtedly those who are taking part in these tours are invited to other tours, depending on their skills and focus.

my views on the Silicon Valley Blogger Bus tour 20    12 as an organiser

We also want to look at the way we organise the tour. A member of my team is going to have a subjective look at what other bloggers are seeing, through their blogs and contents. So we’ll be able to tell a story about the story as well.

And finally, how are we going to tackle the main subject, which is innovation in the Valley? I really wanted to give a different angle about this SoLoMo (social,local,mobile) approach in the Valley, so we’re going to see many innovators to understand whether or not innovation is still thriving in the Valley although I don’t have much doubt about that, knowing how it is over there.

It’s my 7th time there and I’m sure we’re going to have an exciting time. So stay tuned to the live.orange.com and don’t miss a thing about the Orange Blogger Bus tour 2012.