This post originally appeared on the TransferWise blog. TransferWise is the clever new way to transfer money between countries, from the people the people who built Skype and PayPal.
From Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley, and Berlin’s hip coffee shops to East London’s Silicon Roundabout, the world is well versed in the global innovation boom towns. But have you heard of what’s going on in Cyprus, Sweden or North Carolina?
Today, with the decentralising nature of the Internet, distributed cloud technology and a growing sentiment toward entrepreneurship, the global startup ecosystem has never been so dispersed.
What’s the magic formula that helps a city to incubate innovation? Is it the low rent prices, stable infrastructure, education facilities or weather conditions? Perhaps it’s a complex algorithm of all of the above?
From the Far East to the Mediterranean, we found eight cities where technology’s influence is growing by the minute, and the world should start paying close attention.
1. Eindhoven, Netherlands
Dubbed by Forbes as the most inventive city in the world due to its “patent intensity”, Eindhoven is a hotbed for hardware design and high-tech innovation.
In the future, biodegradable implants known as Bioneedles may replace the syringe, needle and vial vaccination – a reduction of HIV infection and hepatitis are among the benefits attributed to this cheap and safe technology. And this is just one of the many pioneering technologies surfacing out of this mid-sized Southern city of the Netherlands.
It’s home to hot startups like leading 3D printing marketplace Shapeways, interactive education service Gynzy and real-time advertising platform Flxone.
2. Pune, India
Move over Bangalore, there’s a new Indian metropolis evolving with its finger on the pulse of cloud, mobile and digital technologies. With its young demographic, acclaimed university, flourishing nightlife and convenient connection to the financial centre of Mumbai, Pune is attracting a pool of startups and fresh IT talent.
Startups range from award-winning data software Druva to telecommunication hardware Swipe. Known as India’s first ‘Wi-Fi City’ after the Unwiring Pune project was instigated in 2006, the city’s Wi-Fi coffee shop culture and affordable standard of living add to its entrepreneurial appeal.
3. Nicosia, Cyprus
Despite its recent financial crisis, the WIPO cites Cyprus as a country showing great potential in intellectual property and technology output. Companies like NCR and TSYS have caught on, choosing the Mediterranean island capital for their regional headquarters.
With its high per-capita income, favourable tax system, sophisticated infrastructure and low business set-up costs the possibilities are prime in Cyprus. Bitcoin marketers Neo & Bee will open their first real-life branch in Nicosia later this month, a place where the use of the virtual currency is already creeping into everyday life.
4. Dublin, Ireland
Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Linkedin have all established their European headquarters in this Irish capital. Lower taxes and living costs, in comparison to its English neighbour, are what urged this move originally.
But now more and more tech companies cite a pool of talent and the Irish Venture Capital Association’s investment tendencies as reasons for the city’s appeal. Accelerator facilities like Dog Patch Labs, launched by leading US venture capital firm Polaris Venture Partners, host music discovery platform Seevl, Guitar Hero-like software Riffstation and big data management tool Logentries, to name a few.
The city also hosts the must-go tech conferences Web Summit and F.ounders.
5. Raleigh, North Carolina
Affordable housing, short commutes and the title of No.1 U.S. city for young families are all triggers for the flock of technology companies and university graduates to Raleigh.
Over the past two decades, Raleigh has experienced the third-highest job growth and second-highest population increase in the country. It’s also part of the North Carolina Research Triangle, one of the most prominent U.S. research parks pioneering in IT and biotechnology.
The region (known as Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) is anchored by cutting-edge research institutions from surrounding universities, growing high-tech companies like Bandwith and Yealink as well as Fortune 100 companies IBM, Cisco, Sony Ericsson and many more.
6. Hong Kong
Beijing may be the historical innovation hotspot of the Far East, but recently this focus has shifted to Hong Kong. Its easy-breezy business climate paired with incredibly fast Internet speeds, a lack of censorship and plenty of trading tycoons are all contributing factors its growth.
Hong Kong is a booming breeding ground for startups, with global venture programs like StartMeUpHK offering resources and companies such as Burg Limited paving the way for wearable tech.
7. Malm , Sweden
Ranked as the fourth on the list of cities with most patent applications per 10,000 residents -after Eindhoven, San Francisco and San Diego- this southern Swedish city is both young and diverse. Almost half of Malm ‘s population is under the age of 35 and boasts the highest proportion of foreign-born residents in the country.
The third largest city in the country, it’s situated between the European capital Copenhagen and Swedish university town Lund. The region is teetering on the forefront of IT, mobile technology and life sciences.
Once an industrial town transformed into a nucleus of young innovation, Malm has attracted startups such as live video-streaming service Bambuser, stock photography platform Foap and micro-donation tool Flattr.
8. Tel Aviv, Israel
Perhaps its no longer as surprising, but with 5,000 startups the Silicon Wadi (colloquial Hebrew for ‘Silicon Valley’) of the Mediterranean is certainly worth a mention.
It has the highest density of startups in the world and 61 companies in NASDAQ. From BillGuard’s crowdsourced personal finance security to Wix’s web publishing tool and Cardboard Technologies’ biodegradable bicycle, the startup landscape has a reputation of being the most inventive in the world.
It’s no wonder Google invested top dollar in its 8,000 sq. meter Tel Aviv offices.
What other global cities are being put on the map of innovation? Where in the world will the next hotbed of tech or financial genius emerge?
Perhaps we’ll be looking to Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Luxembourg, Toronto, Auckland, Beirut or Lagos?
Javier Sanz is a marketer at Woorank.
After going viral with one of my personals posts, a growing community of Web designers pointed fingers at my site because I was using an aggressive pop-up to grab emails. It’s a similar method used by sites like NYTimes, Forbes or Quora.
Here are some of my findings based on the data collected from 21,000 unique visits.
From the beginning…
Earlier this year, one of my posts about my experience working on remote +1200 hours in 2012 got featured in Wired, BuzzFeed, Jezebel, and HackerNews. In other words, this meant a huge traffic increase.
If you are a data freak and want me to be more specific:
- 14 hours in HN front page
- 11 minutes server downtime
- 21,062 unique visitors
- 1 mom that still is trying to understand what is a “news aggregator”
When I wrote the post, I conceived it as a way of engrossing a list of people interested in my experience working on remote. Having an audience interested in a certain topic, makes it way easier to write content about it:
You know the audience > You know what you can write about & what they want to read > You just need to give it shape.
Nothing new under the sun, right? Patrick McKenzie and Nathan Barry – among others – have talked widely about the benefits on growing up an email list that can help to target your audience.
For that purpose, I implemented several email signup forms through the text in order to give the opportunity to the readers to receive more selected and detailed info via email. Signup forms between paragraphs, non-interrupting the reading flow… if you want a descriptive term for them, lest say ‘user-friendly signup forms’.
The plugin I used for it was a simple one created by an indie developer to grab emails from WordPress blogs by using the Mailchimp API.
As soon as I saw the post started to rank in HN, I decided to implement a side-product we are working on, in order to give it some promotion and try to have feedback about it and gain some traction.
First complaints: I was being “intrusive”
Among all the comments received in the HN thread, there was one topic flourishing faster than others. It was not something treated in the post, but about the layout that helped me collect some emails of readers interested in further info about what I was writing about.
Some even took to Twitter with a direct allusion to this post where its author stands for avoiding the use of this new ‘wave of second pop-up war’ because they don’t contribute to the user experience, but obstruct it.
The tool that most people referred as user-hostile is the one my colleagues Gary and Alex are working on. It has a feature that allows you to expand a layout once a visitor access to your site, encouraging them to share their email in exchange of something (a .pdf, a discount, whatever).
It’s not setup by default, and it’s up to you if you want to use it. If you don’t decide to use this feature, you will see just a top bar with a layout that you can hide by clicking wherever in the page.
On one side, I’m conscious about how annoying can it be to have these kind of layouts in every website you visit. If you work with a laptop and Internet, I’m sure you are experiencing them as much as I am.
On the other hand, I also know that it is increasingly difficult to grab the attention of an Internet user. The Web is so overwhelming that you need to make sure that he person behind the computer (no matter if it is just a visitor, recurring reader or user) is aware of what’s your final goal.
Mine, as I have expressed above these lines, was growing an audience.
Numbers don’t lie
The difference between user-friendly and user-hostile signups speaks for itself. In the first four hours, there were only user-friendly signups forms – email signups forms between paragraphs.
But in the first hour of having both kind of forms, the ‘user-hostile signup’ provided almost three times the signups in respect to the other.
Perhaps this isn’t a huge figure of signups. That’s not what matter for me in this case. I’m more concerned with how many visitors didn’t sign up cause they were annoyed because of the aggressive layout.
Was it dissuasive? Did the visitors understand that there was content behind the layout?
Hostile vs. friendly
In order to find an answer, I installed a heatmap tracking tool. For those unfamiliar with heatmapping, let’s say it tells you how your visitors (users, readers, whatever) interact within your website: where they click, where they hover their mouses, etc.
I’m sure the picture will be more illustrative than my explanations:
The image above illustrates how 500 of the visitors clicked within the post and its layout. A 500-visit sampling heatmap above the fold, the visible part of your website if you don’t scroll.
The results are somewhat like a forecast map: Areas highlighted in blue represent clicks, and if there were many clicks in one specific area, it will be coloured yellow, passing by a green-gradient.
As you can see two spots in the top right corner stand out from the rest of the clicks. Essentially both spots match up where the close buttons are located.
Around 80 percent of the clicks were made wherever above the fold, the button that deactivates the layout for the current visit and any future visits you make to the site.
After being “hostile” to 21,000 readers and seen these data, my question is: Is this the best way of grabbing your future attention if it’s done to create useful content for an audience pre-interested in it?
As content marketers and consumers, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Last Friday, my friend Shak pathed, “Productivity at tech companies must be low today. Half the folks are headed to Utah while the other half are looking for an ice cream truck.”
Told to pack for a camping trip but not much else, 850 like-minded individuals showed up in Eden, Utah last Friday for the first Summit Outside event, hosted by the Summit Series team famous for its weekend retreats like Basecamp and Summit-at-Sea. For Outside, attendees were encouraged to disconnect, with the promise of “finding a better connection.”
Without WiFi or outlets, a group of the world’s most Internet-addicted human beings found immense freedom letting go of the digital world and reconnecting with nature.
It was the first major event held in Eden, Utah since the 45-person team purchased Powder Mountain for $40 million earlier this year. Weekend tickets started at $2,000 and went up to $12,000 depending on housing options like a 10-person dome, quad tent or air-conditioned RV.
Summit donated a portion of ticket sales to local nonprofits and attendees made optional donations at registration. In total, Summit Outside raised nearly $100,000 for Ogden Valley and Weber County nonprofits, including the Weber School Foundation, Ogden Valley Land Trust, Weber Pathways, Weber County Fire Officers Association and The Nature Conservancy.
When the mountain purchase was announced, there were several complaints from local townspeople who were dubious of the team’s ability to preserve the mountain’s old-fashioned charm. Change is still a thing you should believe in, as the event drove more than $2 million dollars into the local economy and resulted in over 300 local jobs.
Upon arrival, attendees geared up for the weekend with free Nike Fuelbands, headlights, tin cups and camouflage backpacks for carrying around their new Tom’s sunglasses. After chucking bags into tents and strapping on hiking boots, attendees were delighted by surprises at every turn like a sonic meditation deck, a late-night noodle truck, a flash sale of coconuts and LeWeb founder Loic LeMeur giving office hours in the middle of a forest.
Attendees stopped by the activity tent to sign up for paint ball, hiking, horse-back riding and mountain bike riding – or a knot tying workshop with Philippe Petit, the man featured tightrope-walking between the World Trade Center towers in the documentary Man on Wire.
Somewhat retired, Petit decided to climb the stage at the event’s closing plenary instead.
Each morning on Powder Mountain, we practiced yoga on The Lotus Deck, overlooking Ogden valley. Teachers included Sasha Bahador, Founder of ShaktiLife and Kenneth Von Roenn III, Creator of Skanda Yoga.
Just a 5-minute walk down the hill, Taylor Kuffner’s robotic orchestra, known as “The Gamelatron” was tied to trees in a forest of hammocks, providing an oasis of relaxation for weary Summiteers.
One of the more popular surprises was the Duck Pond, a hedonistic escape from the killer content and outdoor adventure experiences. Aerated and perfectly clean for swimming in, the Duck Pond served as an ideal cool down during the 90 degree days. Summit’s Chief Reconnaissance Officer Thayer Walker says the Duck Pond will be a permanent structure for the years to come.
As entrepreneurs do, the Summit team members are building a permanent community that didn’t exist before, a home they’re proud to live in, and one they can call their own. “Our goal is to create a center of gravity for the innovators, entrepreneurs, and thought-leaders of the world,” says Summit co-founder Jeremy Schwartz, pictured below with fellow co-founder Brett Leve. “We hope Summit Eden will become a community built around a shared ethos that emphasizes collaboration as tool to drive positive, multidisciplinary output.”
Many will compare Summit Series to TED, Davos or even Burning Man, but lining up such energetic entities side-by-side is boring. While there were quite a few speakers at Summit Outside who have also spoken in Long Beach, and people important enough to fly to Switzerland each year, and a lot of dust and dancing in The Electric Forest, what’s more interesting is why events like this exist, and how The Summit Series team has brought such magical experiences to life that are shaping a generation of change-makers.
The Summit Team offered content and activities ranging from a 3-hour mountain biking tour to a discussion of the female hormonal system to an hour-long talk about the recent Trayvon Martin trial. When asked to reflect on a high point from the weekend, Shervin Pishevar, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Sherpa Ventures, answered:
“The Trayvon talk. Cheeraz [Gorman]’s tears opened a flood gate of love and truth. It changed hearts and minds and planted the seeds of a new social justice movement. Our nation still needs a process of reconciliation. There’s too much locked within our hearts. We need to get in that circle we formed in the forest and widen to all so we can all feel what we did that day.”
Humans weren’t the only ones leaving Powder Mountain with new flight patterns. Summit partnered with Earthwings, a raptor nonprofit, to release two rehabilitated birds of prey into the wild at the event.
Summit also partnered with Pack and Pounce, a local animal shelter to create a puppy pen where attendees could adopt puppies destined to be put down. 9 puppies were adopted and saved.
The event could’ve been called the “Summit of Love” – not because of the plethora of mountain-top sessions – but because love was on everyone’s lips, particularly speaker and therapist Esther Perel, who wins the award for giving the most talks in a 48-hour period.
As entrepreneurs, we are used to giving all of ourselves to our companies and careers, then we come home at night with just leftover scraps of our energies for our loved ones. How will we ever have as successful relationships as we do careers if we keep carrying on like this? Esther didn’t have all of the answers, but she made us realize that if its a fulfilling love life we want, we need to explore the possibilities of adjusting our current priorities.
The Summit team’s production talents are extraordinary. On Saturday night, attendees were invited to have dinner around a quarter-mile long picnic table in a field. The walk to dinner was led by jazz musician Jonathan Batiste.
For many photo-takers, this visual feat and delightful feast was a highlight of the weekend.
The Summit team knows how to throw a party too. After dinner, the electronica ensemble Thievery Corporation played a 2-hour set before 50 fans jumped on stage for a late-night dance party. There were all dozens of artists and DJs, like Big Boi, RAC, Sean Glass and DJ Equal, who played until the wee hours of the morning for sparkly-pantsed dancers. To listen to all of the artists who performed this weekend, SoundCloud’s David Noel made a playlist for you.
While Summit is often knocked for being exclusive, its curated community creates an environment for some of the world’s most ambitious people to open up professionally, emotionally and physically. “It’s going to be a place on Earth that becomes a sacred space for growth and development,” says Nicole Patrice De Member, the Founder of Toi and the woman responsible for introducing Summit to Greg Mauro, the entrepreneur and Eden, UT resident who brought the Powder Mountain opportunity to the team. “The people who need love will end up here. We want the world to be a part of this. It’s not a secret journey, but you still have to go on that journey to get here.”
Summit designed the event with serendipity built-in so that porch-front dinner conversations, afternoon walks down dusty Main Street, or late night discussions in the tea hut became places where we shared journeys of success, failure and personal hardship. “No matter where I went or what I did, I stumbled upon some of the most amazing, interesting people I’ve ever met. It’s a magical experience unlike any other,” says Summit first-timer Ryan Matzner, Fueled’s Director of Strategy.
The first night of Summit Outside I stood next to a stranger as we waited for our camp mates. I said “Hi” and gave him a warm hug the way you might a friend. He said, “Thank you, I really needed that.” He then told me his father had just passed away that morning. And instead of canceling plans to be with his immediate family, he decided that his first step towards healing was to be with his Summit family. In a place so loving, empowering and supportive, I understood.
Summit Outside was the team’s first big event on Powder Mountain – and for most in attendance, those 72-hours were a transformational experience. The Summit Team’s passion shines through everything it touches, and they’ve fortunately chosen to build their home in one of the most beautiful settings on Earth. In Eden, once again, we feel like we’re just at the beginning of it all…
Pete Caputa is the VP of Sales at HubSpot, an inbound marketing software company that just announced a sales tool called Signals.
The sales world has changed dramatically over the last thirty years.
In the 80s and 90s, sales reps had a huge advantage: they held the vast majority of the cards, information, and power. If a prospect wanted to talk to a senior exec? Go through the sales rep. Speak to an existing customer? The sales rep got to qualify them first before offering it. Large accounts asking for volume discounts? Reps could share comps that worked best for them.
The advent of social media and technology has fundamentally transformed how the modern buying process works, and it’s time that sales people adapt accordingly. 21st Century selling replaces short-term gain with long-term perspective, secrecy with transparency, and “always be closing” with “always be guiding,” creating a more relevant sales experience for the buyer and a long-term partnership between the prospect and the rep.
ITSMA estimates that 70% of the buying experience consists of attending industry events, staying informed on current trends, and reading relevant information on available products versus a hard sell. At HubSpot, we’ve leveraged that statistic and the changing dynamic of the buying process to make a strong case that marketers should adopt inbound marketing, but I believe that’s just the first step.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re an entrepreneur and you craft the seminar blog entry for your industry. It goes viral: people read it, share it, and promote it on social media. Your marketing team maximizes the reach of your piece by adding effective calls to action throughout the piece, delivering prospects and leads who are not only energized by your company’s vision, but ready to take a next step by learning more, trying out your product first-hand, or actually making a purchase.
This is a sales person’s dream right? High quality leads delivered right to your desk-no cold calling required, and a great starting point for a conversation. Unlike an old-school rep, who would have to rely upon the weather, world news, or what he could find out from the newspaper, your sales rep has access to current, relevant information about the prospect and a natural inflection point to reach out to that individual. What’s not to love?
The problem is that the exceptional content and context that brought this prospect in to your organization disappear as soon as your rep gets on the phone. If your sales and marketing technologies are not linked, the rep likely begins by asking some of the very same questions that the individual answered on a landing page form. Pressed for time, the rep also likely doesn’t have time to track down the prospect’s Twitter handle or LinkedIn profile, so instead of arriving at the call armed with every bit of publicly available information on the prospect’s career and company, he or she starts at the very beginning, asking introductory questions that don’t actually help inform the buying process.
As sales people, we can and should do better, but who has the time? Below are my recommendations for sales managers and reps to become more inbound, significantly improving the first impressions your prospects have of your sales team and ultimately augmenting your connect and conversion rates by providing a more optimal experience for everyone who interacts with your brand on a regular basis.
Master social media in your sales process
Social media has long been billed as a marketing tool, but in reality, Twitter and LinkedIn specifically can be incredibly powerful tools for your sales team. While most reps already use LinkedIn to do quick research before connect calls, very few use it proactively and well to generate additional referrals, leads, and traction. All the while, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and blogs are jam-packed with people having relevant conversations to your business. Being active should be a job requirement for sales reps.
Social media isn’t the place for a hard sell or to constantly be promoting your offering or product. Your sales team should spend as much time listening on social media as they do talking, and your company should provide them with a simple, easy to use vehicle to monitor the most important people to reps: their prospects, leads, and customers.
Involve your sales team in crafting your content
Chances are, on any given day, your sales reps can rattle off the top five to ten objections they hear on the other end of the phone when connecting with prospects. And yet, when it comes to crafting blog entries, op-eds, and offers, far too many companies leave the ideation and creation to marketers.
Some of your most prolific ideas can come from sales managers and reps who live and breathe the challenges of their prospects on a daily basis. They work collaboratively with our marketing team to highlight prolific customer success stories, position products in a manner that resonates with our target audience, evolve messaging so that it fits the language of our existing customers, and sometimes even handle objectives proactively at the top of the funnel, removing friction from the sales process before it starts.
Arm your sales team with customer-facing technology
There are countless projections for the growth of cloud technology spends for marketers, human resources professionals, and finance folks alike. And yet outside of CRM tools, there is very little discussion of additional technology that sales reps need to more effectively engage with prospects.
Most sales tools ensure that your prospects aren’t getting called multiple times by the same people in your organization, manage quotas, and help reps organize their day from one portal. All of that information is incredibly valuable, but it doesn’t reflect the daily interactions of your prospect and highlight high opportunity inflection points your sales team can use to be more timely and contextual with their outreach.
Regardless of the tool you choose, arming your sales team with proactive technology to improve their connections with leads provides measurable impact on your organization and a highly lovable experience for your customers.
Make your sales reps solvers, not sellers
Not everyone is looking to buy your product today, but everyone has a problem they need solved more efficiently. The best sales people in the world proactively eliminate challenges for their customers in the pursuit of achieving their important goals. Approaching it this way generates not just high-yield connection and close rates, but also long-term referrals and reference accounts for repeat business.
Just as inbound marketing has replaced loud, interruptive advertising with content and context that people can actually use in their daily lives; inbound sales is fundamentally about understanding the challenges your prospects are solving on a daily basis and giving them the tools to solve them.
As Daniel Pink correctly points out in “To Sell Is Human,” the knowledge economy has essentially made the bait and switch sale extinct: the proliferation of information has made a complete set of information available to the buyer. Inbound marketers establish their companies as trusted and credible experts by creating and sharing educational content.
Therefore, your sales team must be transparent and consistent with your marketing, by guiding your prospects through the final stages of their buying process as a helpful and trustworthy expert too. Otherwise, all of the trust your marketing content creates is quickly destroyed. This fundamental change in the buying process should transform how we sell, and modern sales reps need to be social, solutions-oriented, and armed with the context buyers need and expect at every stage of their interaction with your company.
The marketing world has already shifted to inbound; now it’s time for those of us in sales to disrupt our routine as well.
Image credit: Thinkstock