ForUsAll

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I’m excited to announce that I recently joined ForUsAll! ForUsAll is focused on making 401(k) retirement plans available to small and mid-sized businesses. This is a market ripe for innovation. If a SMB does offer their employees a 401(k) plan, they end up paying high fees, dealing with administration headaches and often get less than ideal employee participation rates.

ForUsAll is trying to change all of that using design and technology innovation. The founders come from a deep 401(k) lineage, having helped build Financial Engines – a major player in the Fortune 500 retirement benefit space. My role is to lead our nascent marketing team and I get to partner closely with our rapidly growing sales team. One of the things that most excited me about joining ForUsAll was getting to work with another fast paced sales team – I really enjoyed working with sales at Sunrun, and this is a tremendous opportunity to help shape an awesome sales and marketing organization. I’m also proud to say that we have recently announced our Series A venture capital raise, which you can read about here.

I hope that I’ll have time to blog more about the strategies and tactics that I’m using at ForUsAll. One of my initial goals has been to generate content for the company, so I’ve been writing and editing a ton. This means that I’m back in the groove of writing – awesome! But it also means that I’m busy writing like crazy for my day job, which may make it harder to produce content for this blog.

2013 Fritz Estate Grown Zinfandel tasting

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For some reason, Zin’s and I have grown apart recently. I used to be a huge fan of young, lush, jammy zinfandels, but am suddenly seeking more balanced wines that mellow well over the evening.

The 2013 Fritz Estate Grown Zinfandel turned me back onto Zin’s in a big way. It’s got the bigness that I loved in Zinfandels, but somehow with a nuanced smoothness that didn’t leave me feeling like my teeth had turned purple.

2013 Fritz Estate Zinfandel

2013 Fritz Estate Grown Zin

This wine has a solid nose of some kind of dark fruit, like cherry. I loved the dark red, but not purple, color and the texture was just how a great Zinfandel should be, thick and luscious.

Continue reading “2013 Fritz Estate Grown Zinfandel tasting” »

Using older blog posts as lead generation engines

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Hubspot published a brilliant article on using old blog posts to drive leads. I’ve used this tactic as a one off, in particular at OfficeDrop, but the idea of doing it as an optimization strategy is great.

Basically, your old blog posts are likely driving leads. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Figure out which ones are the real drivers, in terms of traffic and lead gen.
  2. Seek to update the ones driving conversion to get more traffic and improve conversion.
  3. Improve the conversion rate on the ones driving traffic, but with few leads.
  4. I’d add a backlink strategy to push juice from posts that Google likes and point them to pages on your site where you are building authority.

It’s a great post and excellent strategy. Old blog posts are not sacred; in fact Google loves updated content. And you social media followers probably will too.

Later stage private co’s valuations coming down

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Fidelity, the mutual fund giant, is marking down a number of later stage, venture funded companies’ valuations again.

Fidelity got into the later state investing game a while ago, and from what I’ve heard, there is a private company investment group that negotiates investments in these late stage (i.e. unicorn type) companies, and the individual mutual fund managers can decide if they wish to invest in any of the particular companies.

Fortune is reporting that about half of the major unicorns that Fidelity invested in have come down in valuation since the end of 2015. I’m not entirely sure of the exact dates, but the trend is clear – late stage company valuations are continuing to decrease.

This isn’t surprising, given that last year was not only a horrible year for tech IPOs (the traditional ‘exit’ of unicorns) but also that about half of 2015 IPOs are trading below their IPO price. Techcrunch has a depressing piece on 2015 tech IPO performance.

Evolution of MVP

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I came across this cute, but powerful, image on the evolution of an MVP. Not every great product happens like this, even if it’s done via a minimum viable product, but still, this is a powerful image. mvp evolutionI tried to figure out where this image came from to link back to it, but couldn’t.

Lazy gin fizz

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Continuing with my theme of simple gin drinks (see the lazy aviation recipe here), I use San Pellegrino sodas, gin and bitters to make a simple, sweet citrus drink.

Lazy Gin Fizz recipe

2 ounces gin
4 ounces San Pellegrino Limonata or Aranciata Rossa soda
2 drops Angostura Orange Bitters

Pour the gin and San Pellegrino soda into a glass with ice. Drop in the bitters. Stir and enjoy!

Cioppino recipe I made for Christmas Eve

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I’ve made cioppino, a San Francisco favorite, for a few Christmas Eve’s recently. Cioppino is a seafood stew with a tomato base, and usually has a white fish (in this case halibut), some shellfish and crab. It’s hearty, warm and, other than all the chopping, pretty easy to make. Plus, it pairs well with a light red wine like a pinot noir, so it’s perfect for the holidays.

It’s pronounced “cho pinot” and I can never spell it!

I’ve adapted this recipe after experimenting with it several times. The novel ingredient, at least in my mind, is the fennel. It’s not something that I cook with usually, and has a strong smell/flavor that really blends into the stew in a way that I wouldn’t expect.

Here is the cioppino recipe:

Cioppino (seafood stew) recipe

As much butter and olive oil as you want – maybe 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped (see below for how big for all chopped ingredients)
2 medium-sized carrots, peeled & chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 small shallots, chopped (you can use 1 leek instead, but I had shallots)
1⁄2 small fennel bulb, chopped (also called star anise in some grocery stores, although trying to read about the difference between star anise and fennel gets pretty confusing)
2 28-oz. cans/boxes crushed Italian tomatoes
4 tbsp. tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried oregano (I used 3 tsp of fresh)
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried basil (I used 3 tsp of fresh)
2 pinches cayenne (I did not put this in because my kid can’t handle it, but I recommend it)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, I used a pinot (make sure the red wine goes with fish! I try the wine with a shrimp before adding to make sure it doesn’t give off a fishy/metallic taste with the fish).
1 can fish stock or clam juice or clam stock (make sure you don’t use asian fish sauce, which is pretty different. And if you have to, you can use chicken or vegetable stock, but I highly recommend a seafood stock)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 lbs. halibut filet, cut into 3/4 inch or 1 inch pieces
1/4 lbs sea scallops
1/4 large shrimp, peeled & deveined (you can also use cooked, which you’ll add later in the cooking process, just to warm)
1 lb oz. cooked crab (the crab is pretty important. You can use a tin of already done crab meat, or since I’m in the San Francisco area, I usually use Dungeness crab. This year I used King crab because the Dungeness wasn’t available). Deshell the crab into big pieces.
1/4 lbs clams or muscles
1⁄2 bunch parsley, chopped

Everything that is chopped should be just over diced in size – about 1/3 of an inch square.

In a large pot, heat the oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes (the onions should not yet bet translucent, but should be getting softer). Add the carrots, peppers, shallots (or leek), and fennel and cook on medium heat, stirring often, for about 8 minutes. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, stir. Then add the tomato paste, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, basil, wine, fish/clam stock, and cayenne (optional) and season to taste with salt and pepper. Increase the head to bring the pot to a boil, then, stir and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the pot for 30 minutes to 2 hours (the longer the better, as the flavors will meld).

Add the clams or mussels to the cooking liquid. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels begin to open, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp, scallops and fish. (Some cioppino recipes pan fry the shrimp, scallops and fish prior to adding to the stew, but I like to let them cook in the liquid to soak up the flavors). Simmer gently, stirring often) until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through, and the clams are completely open, add the cooked crab and cook about 5 minutes longer (discard any clams and mussels that do not open). Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and pepper.

Add pinch of chopped parsley to each bowl of cioppino, and serve with garlic bread.

So, that’s Healy Jones’ holiday cioppino recipe.

Recent LTV post by David Skok

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I had the pleasure of being a board observer to a company that had David Skok on the board. He is a pretty amazing operator turned VC, and his most recent post on LTV is just great.

For some reason, a lot of entrepreneurs forget to use gross margin when calculating long term value of a customer. David’s formula is pretty clear on how to use churn rate, gross margin and of course revenue to calculate LTV. Check it out!

Ogilvy on direct response advertising

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Ogilvy, the master of direct response (DR) advertising, speaks about why data should drive advertising. I think this is pretty obvious today for online marketing, but as as larger companies work to pull in offline advertising into the online world (in particular, social) his words still ring true.

Lazy Aviation Recipe

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I happen to love gin drinks, and the Aviation is a favorite. Lemon, gin, maraschino liqueur, crème de violette and a maraschino cherry. Incredibly refreshing.

However, I don’t always have fresh lemons on hand, and even if I do, I can be lazy. So I’ve come up with a pretty darn good aviation recipe that uses San Pellegrino Limonata soda.

Lazy Aviation Cocktail

Lazy Aviation Cocktail – substitutes out fresh lemon juice

Lazy Aviation Cocktail Recipe

1 1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce San Pellegrino Limonata (lemon) soda, chilled
3/4 ounces maraschino liqueur
1/4 ounce crème de violette
1 maraschino cherry – the sweet ones you loved when you were a kid!

Pour the gin, maraschino liqueur and crème de violette into a shaker, over ice. Shake until chilled.

Add the San Pellegrino soda to the shaker, stir lightly (don’t shake, the soda will foam up like crazy and make a mess)

Drop the maraschino cherry into a martini glass. Maybe just a drop of the sweet syrup that’s in the cherry jar too…

Pour the liquor mix into the glass.

Optional: I sometimes hold back the crème de violette and pour it into the glass first, then add the other liquor on top with a slow pour. The best bartenders often layer on the liquors in their Aviation cocktails… making it look like a sunrise when you are on a plane.

There you go – an original cocktail recipe by Healy Jones.