Jenna’s Writing


Acqui-hire: Why Facebook & Twitter Are Doing It

This is a post I wrote for the BNOTIONS blog a few weeks back. This seems to be all the rage right now in the tech industry, but we forget that it is something that has been happening in business since the days of true pimps.

“Zynga adds 50 people through talent acquisition of Video game maker Buzz Monkey” reads Monday’s headline earlier this month on TechCrunch (Kim-Mai Cutler). The public company acquired Oregon based Buzz monkey, not to make ‘video games’ (implying a move from social games) but rather to expand and bring on talent. A move that is not so foreign to companies in the Valley as talent becomes a more scarce resource than ever before.

Talent acquisition (or talent M&A, as it could also be termed) is not a new concept. In the tech industry, it rose exponentially during the internet boom in the late 90s and early 2000s and it is certainly happening after. As technical talent becomes more scarce in Silicon Valley (the global tech hub), finding smaller fish to eat in order to acquire talent seems like a logical play in the game. It is even rumored that companies are paying up to $1M per engineer!

‘Acqui-hiring’ is in fact a very strategic move (acquisition and hiring, yes, a combined word). Companies do not only do it to strengthen their existing team or bring on more talent, they do it to expand as well as to innovate.

Three reasons to think about strategic acqui-hiring for your company:

1. Acquire a foreign version of yourself to expand in new markets with local talent.

ex. Groupon acquiring copycats all over Europe for global expansion into the European market.

2. Acquire a company strictly for talent, no relation to product.

ex. Facebook purchasing

It may seem like a seedy play to acquire only because you have your eye on their top engineer with the entire intention to scrap their product. But at the same time, we are seeing a massive shift into products that do not adhere to the       commonplace that “the innovation must make business sense,” (The Design of Business, Roger Martin). In Roger Martin’s book, he quotes Michael Dell in saying that, “still today in our industry, if you go to a trade show, you walk around     and you will find a lot of technology for which there is no problem that exists.”

3. Acquire in a new vertical or area of the market that  you are trying to lead. Places where you do not have the talent or resources to build this in a timely fashion or you are looking to expand where someone else leads.

ex. Facebook buying Instagram to grab the mobile photo market that Facebook needed to expand to. After all, photos is part of Facebook’s core business and they were in no way leading in mobile photo sharing.

Jenna Hannon | Director of Marketing | @JennaHannon


10 Ways to Monetize Mobile Apps

At the Android NFC hack, I stumbled upon this while researching ideas for use cases. It doesn’t solve the ‘idea’ problem to begin the hack session, but it is a great black and white outline of the current models for monetizing mobile; something we are all thinking about these days. Here is a ‘to-the-point’ outline from Dave Stevenson.

10 Ways to Monetize Mobil Apps

  1. Paid
  2. Advertising
  3. In-App Purchases
  4. Webapp Subscriptions
  5. Subscriptions
  6. Sponsorships/Promotions
  7. Lead Gen
  8. Affiliate Sales
  9. Analytics
  10. Don’t    (I prefer to reword this into donate…Louis CK mastered this)

The Product of Strategy

Co-written by myself and account manager at BNOTIONS mobile development, Marco Tomada.

In many of today’s B2B businesses, service is often a product. We optimize for ‘client experience,’ we think in features (additions that may be helpful to the client), and a problem being solved. In many ways, a service does not differ from a product all that much. We could even go as far to say that yes, a service is a product.

For example, let’s take a look at the service of strategy for a moment. Strategy is a difficult service to bill for, it can be vague, time consuming, resource intensive, and most importantly, intangible – in it’s infancy. However, a good strategy, at the end of the day, is a product that all other products can be built from. Creative, technology, production, and integration are all driven from the strategy as components to a larger delivery. In many ways it is the first in building blocks in everything from build a business, to building a product, to building— a service.

Think of Strategy as the architectural plans to the house. The plan is a physical product that will change along the way, but is always the guideline for execution. Although different architects charge different rates, the good ones know how much research, consultation, and effort will be involved. Knowing all the elements (features) involved helps them understand a pricing model to follow, not based on hours alone or IP, but rather for the collective time and effort involved for the first building block to be completed (the product). The final product is a plan that all other contributors to the home building process will check back to throughout the process. This plan will change along the way, and tradesmen will need to make adjustments on the fly, but the plan is the core of the building that everyone will need to stick to for proper execution.

Let the Strategy be your architectural plan and think of it like making a purchase decision for a product. It will always be a service, but if you approach it as a product to be delivered to guide the rest of the execution, it will be easier for both the client and the service provider to see the value.

In fact, this approach can be applied to all levels of service in the same way. Think of everyday services, your barista in the morning, your waiter at lunch, the software you use that you pay for monthly while at your desk; these are all examples of products in their entirety. You expect each service to solve a problem, create an amazing experience, with features that make this product’s use easier. At a restaurant, your server adds features like keeping your water glass full, telling you the specials in a compelling way, and making sure everything is on time. It is the product of this interaction that makes for a great purchase decision, so when we look at the value, we must look at the whole of the product, not the connotation of service.


The Copycat Dilemma

I wrote this post for the BNOTIONS blog after being inspired by many Toronto based copycats, which made me wonder who else is doing this around the world.

“Berlin, at first glance, a strange place for the kind of ruthless business execution for which Oliver Samwer is famous,” writes Inc. magazine’s Max Chafkin in this month’s article, The Sincerest Form of Flattery, highlighting copycat tech startups overseas in which billionaire entrepreneur, Samwer is famous. The article’s abstract reads “Now they [Samwer and like-minded entrepreneurs] knock off online shoe sellers, daily-deal sites, and any other Internet-based business you can name. Is there something wrong with that? Or is it just a fact of business in a connected world?” Questions that lead us to wonder whether or not the new model to technology success in business still commends authentic innovation over emulated execution? Inside a company building technology and incubating startups, I had to dig deeper.

I spent the weekend in the Toronto sun chatting with two Groupon competitors, Buytopia and DealFind, of chance networked encounters. A friend of mine introduced me to each with reasons other than networking with fellow tech industry people. Both in the top 5 of Canada’s online coupon industry (DealFind is currently number one), could be considered Groupon copycats. But the market is big, even as neighbors to the US (the home of Groupon, the major innovation leader in the space in the US), has made me wonder how lucrative copycat industries are. At BNOTIONS we spend so much time thinking about innovation and authenticity, it is hard to imagine ourselves building platforms specifically designed to copycat.

That being said, it is hard to ignore the thought of competitive advantage of like-companies when outside the birthplace of the ‘idea.’ In Russia, top search engine Yandex and in China top search engine Baidu relish in their true understanding of their local market, in which Google has been unable to yet conquer. Is a local understanding and connection a competitive advantage, even in an industry so hyper globally connected?

With over 800 million users on Facebook globally, it would be tough to argue a local advantage in global technology. Although, in most traditional industries localized concentration within larger corporations has been a more successful tactic in conquering majority share amongst markets (shown through Decide & Deliver by Blenko & co. of Bain & Co.). With a growing market share in the US, we at BNOTIONS even decided to open an NYC office to be closer to our US customers. Even in an age of digital communication, understanding a local market and becoming embedded within, has a lot of value. Meeting customers face-to-face, understanding cultural differences, and showing a respect for local business practices is something copycat entrepreneurs like Samwer (behind Airbnb, Stella & Dot, Zappos, Groupon, and many other big name technology startups in Europe and the East) has proved that this creates openings in markets.

Local entrpreneur here in Toronto, Alyssa Richard (and friend of BNOTIONS) of runs what she has often referred to as “the of Canada.” She is not an intentional copycat, as she saw the opening in the Canadian market for a specific Canadian mortgage comparison website that had not yet tapped. She built her ‘like’ company based on product need in an open marketplace, with few Canadian competitors, in which she felt she could conquer, local to her.

In fact, this mentality is exactly how I feel competitors should enter the market. The mentality behind our in-house startup, Atendy, an event registration platform who is, in many ways a competitor to Eventbrite; that having a slightly different approach with a product that you ‘perceive’ as better makes you competitive, not necessarily a copycat. When looking at competing, an entrepreneur’s first question is usually whether or not they can do it better, in their market.

With only two thirds market share in the US, the company birthplace, Google has plenty of US copycat competitors. That being said, it has, in many ways, driven them to build better products faster, as well as expand quicker. Google has over “85% of queries in Europe” (The Economist) showing that maybe traditional conventions of knowing your market better and being local aren’t necessarily true. But at the same time, if you are a copycat (exact clone) in another market, like Samwer, it just might be. Arguments can show positives on either side of the debate between copycats in different countries and authentic innovation expanded.

All in all, I could not deduce a positive or negative response to the copycat craze in the technology industry. The game of execution is in many ways most of the entrepreneurial battle. In the words of Eric Reis, “executing the wrong idea well, is just as bad as not executing the right idea.” At BNOTIONS, we do not strive to copycat, but if we see an idea worth building on, we won’t be shy.

© Copyright 2013, All Rights Reserved Jenna Hannon