Sunday, December 31, 2017

FUND-HOUSE'S 2018 TREND FORECAST

As 2018 unfolds I thought it would valuable to provide our viewers with a peek into the future, so here goes:

Software: the major disruptor to doing business in the traditional way. Think, Uber, they  own no cars yet are the largest taxi company on the planet.  Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, yet they don't own any real estate or hospitality properties - it's all about software.

AI: will transform whole industries. For example, law school graduates will find it hard to get jobs because IBM's Watson can provide legal advice in seconds with a 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy by humans. If you are planning a career in law,  think twice - only legal specialists will remain.

Facebook: has developed pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans.

Autonomous Cars: Time to do other things in your commute
Autonomous Cars: huge disruption. Over time there will be on reason for many people to own a car. They will just call for a car, it will show up, and drive you to your destination. No need to park. Only pay for driven distance. Work or do other things while on trip. Drivers licenses will become obsolete as will car ownership. No need for parking garages. Safer with less traffic fatalities. Auto insurance will not be required and if needed will be much cheaper - the auto insurance business with be transformed.

Healthcare: Tricorder X will shortly appear on the scene. A Tricorder is a medical device that works with your cell phone. You will be able to perform retina scans, take  blood samples, and breath tests.  It will use these to identify over 50 diseases. Eventually, everyone will have access to world class medical analysis - at very low cost.


 www.fundhouse.us




3D Printing: The cost of a 3D printer has gone from over $18,000 to $400 in 10 years  Many manufacturers use 3D printing for a variety of products.  For example every shoe manufacturer uses it to produce custom shoes for each customer.  Airplane spare parts, as well as, parts production can be made on-site to accommodate remote areas where service is required.

Food:. The first Petri dish veal has been produced and it is cheaper than calf produced veal.  30% of all agricultural land is devoted to cattle - imagine if cattle were no-longer required.

Longevity: Currently the average life span increases 3 months per year. But the increase is itself increasing so that by 2036 there will be a one year increase per each year. Shortly, the average age will be over 100. This will have massive impact on society.

In a nut shell, every business should be asking "can what we are producing now be used in the future? If the answer is NO its time to change your company's focus and markets.

Just saying,
Jim Lavorato



Friday, December 22, 2017

Fund-House's Branding Services

Brand development and management are cornerstones of  the Fund-House's consulting offerings.

FUND - HOUSE
A foundational business component and one of the most difficult challenges for every business is the design and implementation of a unique brand that addresses customer needs. Brand-building is not communicating a message it's about internally developing and managing your business around your brand.

We view every engagement with a fresh perspective and design an approach that is specific to each client's target market and customer base, with the goal of closing the gap between your brand vision and operational realities - this is your brand's DNA.

Fund-House addresses every Brand consulting project as a challenge and, more importantly, an opportunity to demonstrate our capabilities:

- Conducting Diagnostic Evaluations - The Brand's Compass / Guide
- Developing the Brand Platform - The Brand's Identity and Competitive Positioning
- Brand Architecture - Concept Design and Logo Creation
- Touch-point Wheel Analysis - How The Brand Mates With The Business's Vision
- Engagement Design - Conceiving and Creating The Brand Narrative

Our start point is conducting a Brand Development Survey.  This is where we find out what the Brand means to the management team and how it will be embedded into all facets of the business.  From there we develop a Brand Compass which guides the way to all of the other touch-points in the process of creating a Brand management policy.

Contact us for a complimentary consult on creating a Brand or for taking a good Brand and making it a great Brand.

Fund-House Ventures

jlavorato@fundhouse.us
www.fundhouse.us












Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Should The Government Regulate The INTERNET ?

Bar none, Government regulation of the internet is the single most important issue of our time. The regulation of the internet will impact everyone and very profoundly. 

ISPs and Edge Providers Need to Keep It Open

Network Neutrality is the cornerstone of the government's involvement and yet few individuals fully understand what it means. Lets simplify it.

Advocates for net neutrality, principally led by social media providers (Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc.) and their advocacy groups are in favor of  rules needed to prevent internet service providers (ISPs) (telecoms and cable companies that provide internet service) from restricting or controlling web access - while those favoring deregulation argue that rules are not required to control the ISPs.

What the government is attempting to do is decide on how to approach a transformative technology that reaches into every corner of our lives and to do so based on rules that were originally written in the days of the telegraph!

This Thursday (12/14/17) the FCC will be voting to deregulate the ISPs. This action will prompt massive lawsuits and a huge ad campaign by the so-called "Edge Providers" - websites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, or  Netflix, which need the ISPs to reach their customers.

What I believe is that the internet has become so central to everyone's life that it should not be the victim of a battle between ISPs and the Edge Providers forcing the government to intervene (which will only bring confusion, disarray, and dreaded over-reach in regulation).

It would be very difficult for the government to apply rules against the ISPs while letting Google and Facebook continue to operate with relatively little oversight or restriction. For that reason, many believe the FCC ruling on Thursday will deregulate the ISPs, placing them on the same regulatory basis as the Edge Providers. They may have started in garages or dormitories but the market capitalization of the Edge Providers dwarfs that of the ISPs. If you look at who makes the most money from the internet ecosystem, it is obviously the Edge Providers.

On the flip side, no consumer pays a monthly subscription to Facebook. Facebook also only has a window on a user's online activity, while an ISP has a window into all of a subscriber's apps and services.

My thought, let the ISPs experiment with new business models and development products that benefit them and their internet users, in the meantime, the Edge Providers are and will continue to do the same - all under the watchful eye of the FCC, FTC, and Dept. of Justice.

Just saying,

Jim Lavorato





Monday, December 11, 2017

Fund-House Case Study #1 - THE ANSWER

Well, have you got the answer?  What does American Wealth have to do to extricate itself from Banco del Rio's very shrew proposition? 

Answer: Bring another party into the deal. The only way for American Wealth to get out of its dilemma was to bring in another investor who would be willing to take half of American Wealth's investment in Banco del Rio. 

In this case, the new investor was a Middle Easterner with large oil interests, lets call him Sheik Bin Real.  The proposal to Bin Real was that American Wealth would invest an additional $100 million in Banco del Rio, then, in a tandem transaction, sell one-half on its 25% position in Rio to Bin Real for $100 million. Ergo, there would be no dilutive impact and American would not have to write-down its investment.  And yes, as you've already guessed, American Wealth lent the $100 million to Bin Real. A win, win, win. 

Many times situations may seen, on their face, to be insurmountable but examining every angle and brainstorming will often spawn a solution to the problem.

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Fund - House Case Study #1 - An Investment Conundrum

Every so-often I will be presenting a management problem taken from a real-life situation I was personally involved with. This first F-H Case Study, entitled "An Investment Conundrum", centers around an investment problem that on its face appears to have no easy, if any, solution.



Rio

The Background:

Banco del Rio is a Brazilian Merchant Bank that is managed by Rinaldo Bosa, who is CEO and Chairman and who also owns 25% of the Bank.  BR is capitalized at $400 million with each of three other partners owning 25% of BR. These investors consist of a large U.S. multinational bank (American Wealth), a Japanese merchant bank (Edo Trust), and a Swiss investment company (Geneve Partners). 

Banco del Rio is five years old. Since inception it has made little profit and the return on investment has been negligible. However, Bosa believes that if BR were capitalized at a higher level he would be able to fund better and more lucrative projects in both Rio and Sao Paulo.  To this end, Bosa contacted the three other owners of BR requesting that each invest an additional $100 million; thereby, capitalizing BR at $800 million.

Bosa further stated that he was putting up a building located in the financial district of Rio, and appraised at $100 million, as his share of the additional capitalization. Each of the partners were told they had 60 days in which to decide if they were going to make their additional $100 million  investment. Any shortfalls through non-participation would be offered to the remaining investors.

The Conundrum:

Within 30 days, both Edo Trust and Geneve Partners had notified all parties that they were going to participate and would be investing an additional $100 million each in Banco del Rio.  American Wealth, had decided that an additional $100 million investment in Banco del Rio was not prudent and would not be made. 

The team working on this project at American Wealth consisted of the EVP and Head of the International Department, the SVP of Latin American Banking, and myself, VP of International Finance and Operations. Our consensus was that the primary reason for American Wealth's initial investment in BR was to gain more access to Brazilian corporations by using BR as a networking conduit for our Rio-based business development and lending staff - which it did. However, given BR's lackluster performance ponying-up another $100 million was not going to happen. 

The conundrum was that if American Wealth did not make the investment its original $100 million would now be diluted - as the original 25% ownership would now be only 12.5% which would trigger a 50% or $50 million write-down of the International Department's earnings - and time was running out! 

What To Do? 

Obviously, the Head of American Wealth's International Department, was not going to accept a $50 million hit and so it was necessary to come up with a solution to this problem and fast. 

Tomorrow I will present the outcome of this case. In the meantime think about the issues presented and try to come to a conclusion.  Did in fact American take the $50 million write-down? And make up for it by making more loans. Did American pony-up the additional $100 million investment? And justify it by increasing business in Latin America generally. Was there no viable solution which would satisfy all parties concerned?









Saturday, December 9, 2017

EAT Or Be EATEN

For Disney - It's EAT or be EATEN
There has been a take-no-prisoners war raging between content providers and distribution providers for over ten years.  The battles being pitched between Hollywood and digital domain stalwarts.

The Hollywood studios have, by and large, been the victims - being gobbled-up by the likes of Comcast (Universal), Sony (Columbia), Fox (20th Century Fox), Paramount (Viacom), Time Warner (Warner Bros. cum Viacom).  Only Disney and MGM (privately owned) remain old-school studios. On the other side, Amazon and Netflix have won the digital streaming battle - not only distributing Hollywood's content but producing their own high-quality content.

Given this, Disney's only play was to eat or be eaten and it decided to 'eat', and what it wants to consume is a big hunk of Fox.  Rumor has it that Disney is going to offer Fox $74 billion for the 20th Century Fox film and TV studio, the FX Networks, National Geographic Channels, and 22 regional sports networks.  Fox, if seems, wants out and views its media assets as at their peak value. Disney is willing to bet big that becoming significantly larger will, one: prevent itself from being purchased, and two: become a much larger player in the content production and distribution areas  -  the buzz word being 'scale', which would give it the muscle to battle the social media behemoths going forward.

Stay on touch,
Jim Lavorato

Monday, December 4, 2017

TOP 5 REASONS NEW BUSINESSES FAIL !

Each year thousands of businesses are launched and approximately 80% of them fail in the first year of operation. Why? Why do so many businesses fail. It's certainly not do for lack of effort but there are certain issues that repeat over and over as the reasons for start-up failures.

CASH FLOW (or lack of)

Every start-up should have at least 2-3x operating capital or have access to funding BEFORE starting the business.  This includes all fixed and variable expenses (including salaries).  For example, if you forecast revenue of $50k for the first year of operation and expenses are budgeted for $75k there should be from $150-225k in funding at the ready.

Only in this way can a new venture weather the storm of mis-steps and mis-calculations, that always arise and be able to reassess and redirect the business's vision.

LACK OF DEMAND

So unique. So specialized is the product or service that the market is too small to sustain a thriving business.  A lot of market research needs to go into making sure the product has a demand the drive sales.  Many times proper market research is poorly conceived or lacking as the founders get caught-up in the excitement of their idea.

STAFFING

Proper staffing can be a killer no matter where the company is in its life cycle. Great care must be taken in hiring the right people, developing them, supporting them, listening to them, and incenting them.

NO USP

The business has no Unique Selling Proposition. No differentiation. No uniqueness. For example, every time I attend any networking meetings or socials, at least, 25% of the attendees will be SEO/Web developers.  What sets any of them apart? A business must have a USP and target the right market.

POOR MANAGEMENT

Last, but not least.  The entrepreneur needs to become a manager/leader.  To run a business successfully you need to focus and stay focused on the original vision and build off of that.  And, at all costs, as the manager/leader make certain you are fully informed as to the financial posture of the business.

So, keep these issues in mind:

  • Have adequate capital to see you through the first year of operation.
  • Delve deep into the market research required.
  • Staff properly and diligently.
  • Find your USP
  • Become a Manager/Leader

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato



Sunday, November 26, 2017

The TSX-VX: A Great Startup or Emerging Investment Vehicle

Being an Angel/Venture Investment Fund, the Fund-House is always on the look-out for new investment vehicles to assist in acquiring the funding necessary to spur-on promising businesses. This allows Fund-House to evaluate larger dollar opportunities and broaden our investment scope.

One such funding vehicle is the Toronto Stock Exchange's Venture Exchange.  The TSX-VX is a fully regulated public exchange which is used as a stepping stone for junior issuers/corporations through the use of Capital Pool Companies (CPCs).

A CPC is a shell listed on the TSX-VX for the purposes of completing a "Qualifying Transaction" with a business that will become the assets of the public company. A CPC must have, at least, three individuals and a minimum of $100,000 or 5% of total funds raised.

The CPC prepares a prospectus that outlines management's intention to raise between $200,000 and $4,500,000 by selling CPC shares at typically twice the issuance price of the seed shares, and to use the proceeds to identify and evaluate potential acquisitions.

For Fund-House investments (which fall under the Industrial, Technology, or Life Sciences categories) the TSX-VX requirements are as follows:

- Net Tangible Assets of $750,000 or Total Revenue of  $500,000 or Arm's Length Financing of
   $2 million.
- Issuer MUST have significant interest in the business
- Requires a history of operations or validation of business
- If no revenue, than a TWO-YEAR management plan demonstrating reasonable likelihood of               revenue within 24 months.
- MUST have a public float of 500,000 shares, with 20% of Public Shares in the hands of Public
   Shareholders.

For an Angel Investor, such as Fund-House, the opportunity to engage local high-net worth investors is very good for business and reputation. Additionally, finding emerging businesses in the health care and clean-tech industries (which are Fund-House priorities) in the Greater Phoenix will not be difficult.

The TSX-VX is a great alternative vehicle for Fund-House in satisfying established businesses that are growing into larger organizations and require venture funding but through a public forum. 


Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato
Principal, Fund-House Ventures, LLC 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

COLORS: How To Market With Them

We've previously discussed on Fund-House's 'Launch Pad' how colors impact people and how they should be used in logos, names, and imagery for promotion and marketing.

Ad people, graphic designers, and marketers all know full well how certain colors effect consumer behavior and purchasing.  To the extent that color may be the determinant in a purchase - 93% of buyers focus on visual and 85% say color was their primary reason for the purchase.  So, lets look at the various colors and their impact on consumers' purchasing decisions.

RED - Great for sales. An attention getter. Used often in consumer goods packaging or to generate                  interest in a product.

BLUE - Men's preferred color. Associated with peace, water, tranquility, reliability. Provides a sense
              of security. Used by conservative Brands looking for trust - ie. financial institutions.

GREEN - Think healthy, power, nature. Used in stores to relax customers. Stimulates harmony and                     encourages decisiveness. Starbucks only major Brand to use green for it logo.

PURPLE - Royalty, wisdom, respect. Stimulates problem solving and creativity. Frequently used to                      promote beauty and anti-aging products.

ORANGE & YELLOW - Cheerful and optimistic. Yellow can made babies cry, while orange                                                         triggers caution. Used to create a sense of anxiety which can be used to                                                draw-in the impulse buyer and store browser.

BLACK - Authority, stability, strength. A symbol of intelligence, but not if used to frequently.

GRAY - Practical, solidarity, oldness. Too much is not good as it can be depressing.

WHITE - Purity, cleanliness, safety. Perceived as unaltered and clean.

HOW BRANDS USE COLOR

McDonald's - High-energy colors of red and yellow. Green would not work for McD's. As stated, Starbucks is the only major brand to use green. Why? To promote a sense of relaxation.

Contrast reduces eye strain and focuses the user's attention. It is best to use a very bright color for background and a dark color for the product and text.

For websites the use of a monochromatic color in various shades is easy to read. For example, using shades of black/gray/white together. Complementary colors, using two colors that are opposite, for example, red and yellow. Triple scheme - using three colors close on the color spectrum, ie red, blue, and purple.

Note: Information for this article was derived from Small Business Trends 'The Psychology of Colors'.

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato
                 
                 


Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Executive Summary: A Call-to-Action

How To Write An Executive Summary - Think Call-to-Action Button

1-3 pages which summarizes the overall business plan/proposal and the vision of your company. Clear and concise it encapsulates the reasons for being and pre-sells the whole idea of your venture/proposal: this is the Executive Summary.

It's not a summary at all, but a marketing tool to sell you business to the client (investor). It needs to be persuasive, specific, focused.  Not descriptive but purposeful. Having the just right graphics and detailing solutions to problems. It is a Call-to-Action to lure the reader into wanting to delve further into your proposal.

When to Compose? First or Last

Write the Executive Summary first to organize thoughts and use it as a Guide as you and others prepare the plan/proposal. Acts as an idea filter and develops best way to pitch the Summary to client/investor.

Write the Executive Summary last, after you have conceived the entire plan/proposal and pull out the best parts for summation.

There is no right or wrong time to compose the Summary. Some people prefer to compose/compile it before writing the body of the plan/proposal. While others prefer waiting until the plan is completed and then writing the Summary. Either way, it's your choice but just make it good.

How the Executive Summary should be structured:

- Opener: The Why of your vision.
- Need: Talk about the 'what's in it for them'.  Show you understand there perspective and how they       benefit - the positive outcomes.
- Solution: Why your plan/proposal will work. No details, just enough to entice further reading
- Evidence: Why your company. What qualifies you vs. the competition. What differentiates you.
- Call-to-Action: Close the deal. The whole summary is a CTA. Why they want to invest in your             venture and how everyone will share in its success.

Do's and Don'ts 

- Keep it short. No more than three pages.
- Use straight-forward language not buzz-words
- Don't use too much technical jargon/lingo
- Focus on Client/Investor. What do they want to know.  How can you help them.
- Mention the Client's company name several times, if possible.

This is the Executive Summary as Call-to-Action. Follows the advice above and it will work for you.

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato




Saturday, November 4, 2017

BLOG: A BUSINESS MUST HAVE

Why Have & How To Blog


A Blog is the least expensive and greatest way to advertise and promote your business and brand, all the while increasing your SEO.  From pre-seed to large every business MUST have a blog.

How To Set Up A Blog? It's Really EASY!

- Go to Google blogspot
- Build Your Blog (about 1-2 hours, tops)
- Start To Post
- Your Done!

Why use Google vs. other Blog Host? Simple. Google has 90% of all internet search and they link the blogs they host to their search algorithms. Therefore you increase your search exposure to being on the first page of any search by a potential consumer/customer.

How To Manage Your Blog

- A good Name (Google with register the domain name selected)
- Choose Google as your platform and host
- Link your website to your blog
- Design a blog which enhances and nurtures your Brand
- Publish posts that are relevant, short, and have graphics and/or videos (link to YouTube)
- Post at least 3x per week for starters, more if you can
- Automatically link posts to all of your other social media sites from Facebook to LinkedIn.

All businesses should have a Blog. It is outreach to your current and potential customers. It promotes Brand loyalty and has fan-based sticky-ness. It's much better then email blasts (you should do both) because blog posts can automatically be sent to email addresses while at the same time are available to a worldwide audience.

What You Don't Need To Set Up A BLOG


- Computer programming or coding skills of any sort
- No software of design expense - it's all FREE
- No operating experience required. Just start 'Talking' to your audience

Don't name your blog the same as your Company name. For example, Fund-House's blog domain name is fhventures.blogspot.com the name of the blog is 'Launch Pad'.  However, the Fund-House
logo and name sit proudly at the top of the Blog.

If possible use key words is the name and certainly key words in your posts (Google will pickup on this and enhance your search profile.

So, that's it. Block out about 1-2 hours. Think of a good name. Go to Google blogspot and design and launch your company's blog - and it's all FREE.

Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato

Saturday, October 21, 2017

FUND - HOUSE FLASH

Next year digital ad spending will surpass $85 billion. Listed are the top areas companies are spending their ad dollars on:

- 46% - Brand Awareness

- 31% - Acquiring New Customers
- 29% - Introducing New Products/Services
- 28% - Retaining Current Customers
- 27% - Brand Promotion

FUND-HOUSE VENTURES 
PHOENIX, ARIZONA
ANGEL INVESTORS / MENTORS

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

SOCIAL LOAFING : Who's Best At Doing LEAST

Social loafing is defined as team members expending less effort when becoming part of a project group vs. working on their own. Social loafing is common and caused by a number of factors:

Who's Best At Doing Least


- Group Size: the more people assigned to a project the easier it is to slack-off and let others
   carry the load.

- Goal Achieveability: believe group's goal is not achieveable and effort futile.

- Goal Value: no meaning attached to effort expended.

- Goal Low-Balling: if goal is easily achieved and only requires a minimum of effort.

Skill Set Deficits: don't have the skills required so let others do the work.

Sucker Bet: seeing others loaf and does not want to become the work-sucker for the group.

To prevent loafing from occurring, management must do the following:

- Keep the Project/Task Groups small in number of members - there is no place to hide.

- Assign Accountability: give a specific task to each member of the group. This is key to motivation
   and group success.

- Clear Objectives: specific, quantifiable, and easy to measure goals prevent loafing

- Skills Match-up: ensure group members have the skills to achieve the goals.

- Feedback Loop: have each group member present their progress to the rest of the group at       predetermined intervals and incorporate feedback sessions with total group involvement.

Team members aren't always equal in terms of effort expended and social loafing is very detrimental to achieving success and minimizing the time to complete a project.  Be on the look-out for loafers.

Fund-House Hint: if necessary have group members participate in a peer evaluation process.


Stay in touch,
Jim Lavorato, Principal
Fund-House Ventures, LLC



Sunday, October 15, 2017

Social Marketing: Chasing The Illusive ROI

Determining Return on Investment (ROI) is a staple in financial analysis but is a challenge every social marketer has to contend with.  In fact, the top challenge for social marketers is measuring ROI. 

Linking social marketing spending to business results has been somewhat illusive, and has become an area of focus for marketers and social platform operators. The more money marketers spend on social media, the more they expect to know how that money converts into revenue

Facebook sees the solving of this ROI dilemma as a huge opportunity to gain marketers' ad spending dollars at the expense of both TV and Google.  To this end, Facebook recently announced a shift in emphasis away from proxy metrics, such as video views and brand lift and towards sales metrics - with the goal of linking ad viewing to sales results. 

The problem is in many ways the doing of the marketers themselves as they are addicted to proxy metrics, such as: likes, comments, shares and retweets. Engagement metrics are still the most used measures to guage  a social campaign's success. When what should be used are conversion and revenue metrics, such as: website traffic, conversions, and revenue.

The hierarchy of social platforms in terms of ad dollars spent are Facebook, followed by Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.  Facebook and Instagram (owned by Facebook) are largely 'pay-to-play' platforms whereas the other platforms are more organically oriented - although this is changing as can be witnessed by LinkedIn's new 'Premium' offering.

Tracking the impact of advertising on social media sites is adequate but not inclusive. The illusive ROI remains unsolved but the problem is being addressed and to really spur-on more ad dollars the social platforms know they need to provide these measures.

Jim Lavorato
Fund-House Ventures




 

Monday, October 9, 2017

ANGEL INVESTING: It's All In The TIMING

Fund-House often gets asked when is the best stage of development to invest in: idea, pre-seed, seed, emerging, or performing.


For Fund-House the best time is the pre-seed stage. The idea stage is too risky because there is essentially nothing tangible to invest in and no foundation to build upon.  The idea stage is when the founder(s), family, and friends are putting up their cash - it's the riskiest time and returns are very questionable.  At this stage there is no hook for the rational investor to grab onto and move forward.

The pre-seed stage is where an angel investor wants to be. Angels get the best deals at pre-seed because the supply of capital is low but the demand is high.  Also, smaller angel investors can find better deals pre-seed because there is less competition for those deals; particularly, from venture capitalists and institutional investors who compete for deals at later stages.

To minimize risk, angel investors require a high degree of diversification with many small investments. Diversified investment portfolios are easier to build at the pre-seed stage because founders are happy to receive say $10,000 investment increments on say, a first-time $200,000 round. Those same companies are not going to entertain small dollar increments when they reach the emerging stage and are looking for $10 million.

Another big problem for Fund-House is avoiding non-business oriented entrepreneurs. This avoidance is much easier at the pre-seed stage as the business is somewhat already proven to have validity and you should be able to size-up the founder(s)' acumen.

Fund-House Hint: Entrepreneurs should not wait until the emerging stage to seek funding.

Jim Lavorato

Thursday, October 5, 2017

FACEBOOK: Best For Sm. Bus. Marketing?

According to G2 Crowd, a marketing services provider. 80% of small businesses use Facebook for marketing - making it the most popular platform for d-marketing.

G2 Crowd, surveyed over 2,000 small businesses (those with 250 employees or less) and found that 24% planned to make investments in marketing and advertising a priority for 2018.  That puts promotion and marketing expenditures foremost before staff hiring or new equipment investment!

After Facebook came Twitter, as the next most popular marketing platform, followed by LinkedIn and Instagram. Although Facebook is currently free to use for marketing, organic reach on Facebook is only 2% of designated viewers. So, it's really pay-for-play on Facebook if you want to reach your demographic designated prospects.

The cost of on-line advertising is relatively inexpensive especially as compared to traditional media, such as static ads in magazines or newspapers. So, it has become a no-brainer for small businesses to gravitate to social media for marketing their product or service.

Does Facebook Work As A Marketing Tool?

According to G2 Crowd's survey a full 38% of respondents stated that Facebook was their most successful marketing channel. And, like all marketing channels, the key is to have unique stories and compelling headlines. Also you must follow your ad metrics. # of fans, fan reach, post engagement, negative feedback are several metrics everyone needs to follow.

Fund-House Hint: Use videos in all of your social posts if possible. Social media loves videos.


Jim Lavorato

Monday, September 25, 2017

Social Media Marketing: Get A Grip!

D-marketing Is Requisite 

Conquer Your Fear of Social Media
Social media marketing beats traditional marketing in that it is less expensive, provides analytics, is easy to use (once you know the use-tricks), and can reach out to vast numbers of customers all of which are pinpointed down to the smallest demographic.  Termed 'impressions' these pinpointed targets can only be dreamt about by traditional marketing venues.

The only drawback to social media is that there any number of platforms that must be mastered to unlock their full potential; therefore, determining which SM platform(s) are best for your product/service/company is important.

THE SM Must Platforms:

- Google owns search. So everyone must deal with it. A blog on Google is an imperative for any  company, no matter size. Getting a company's name and logo in as many items, posts, articles, etc. improves its Google search position. Post at least 4x per week or more and keep posting.

- Facebook  - Post photos, post videos, post links, post daily. Very good ad platform.

- LinkedIn  -  The B2B platform. Great for networking. Post videos. Post 3x per week.

- Tweeter  - Great for photos, links, and now videos. Post 3-5x per day.

- YouTube - All video, but more importantly linked to Google.

- Instagram - The mobile SM site. Used mainly by teens.

- Pinterest - Images and links. Post 5x per week.

- Snapchat - A lesser player. Not great for businesses.

What's Each SM is Best At:

Networking: Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Tweeter
Photo Sharing: Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Tweeter
Recorded Video: Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tweeter
Live Video: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram

Best Times To Post:

Facebook:  Thursday & Friday 1-3pm (Friday BEST). Use Fanpage Karma to track optimal times.
LinkedIN: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 9am-5pm (BEST Tuesday 10-11am )
Tweeter: B2B Weekdays 12pm-6pm. B2C Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday 12pm-6pm
Instagram: Monday BEST during off-work hours.
Google+: BEST late morning 9-11am Mon.-Thur.

There you have it. Good luck and keep those posts coming.

 Jim Lavorato for FUND - HOUSE




Friday, September 22, 2017

The 'PITCH' - How To Make It Successful

Be it for wooing investors, selling to clients, lining up vendors, or convincing a myriad of people that your business is viable, reliable, and trust worthy - the Pitch is all important.  In many cases, it's the make or break of the business and you have only one shot at it.

So, getting the Pitch right is requisite. Here are the steps you need to make your Pitch successful:

  • Choose your words very, very carefully.
  • Know your 'Pitch To' client. Who are your pitching to and what are their needs.
  • Pitch to the right people. Are you pitching to a decision-maker.
  • Craft a Call-to-Action. Direct the pitch to an end goal by, ie setting up a follow-up meeting.
  • Be Unique. Stay professional but stir-up curiosity and interest.
  • Be Personable. Stodgy, begging, hungry is not the way to portray yourself/business.
  • Be Informal and Personal. Perhaps share something about your life/business.
  • Have a Central Idea. Be concise. Have a central point and repeat it throughout the Pitch.
  • Avoid Metaphors in describing your business, it will only degrade you and your idea.
  • Don't Be a Wise-ass. It's not about you. If possible, Pitch a team approach.
  • Define the Target Audience. 'What's in it for them'. Check out their social sites prior to Pitch.
  • Rehearse Often. A Pitch should never sound like it is scripted.
  • want more, for the entire list email to: jlavorato@fundhouse.us.
Remember: Pitching is not easy. It takes time to prepare, time to rehearse, and time to properly present. Forget about the 30 second elevator Pitch, that was a 'not to bright idea' from some management consultant who obviously never gave a real Pitch. A Pitch should be concise and to-the-point - don't ramble, but cover all of your central points (which should never be more than three).

Fund-House Hint: All great Pitches start with a Question!

Jim Lavorato
jlavorato@fundhouse.us

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Millennials Not Entrepreneural

They talk a good game when it comes to entrepreneurship but in reality Millennials don't go into business for themselves. For example, a full 70% of Millennials stated they had interest in business ownership with only 13% having a desire to work in a corporate environment. But, actions and not intentions speak the truth, as only 2% of Millennials are self-employed compared to about 8% for Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. The reason: fear of failure. Millennials carry huge student debt which makes taking risks untenable and entrepreneurship is nothing but risk taking and the unknown.

Starting a business is a very hard endeavor. It takes a lot of self-motivation and is very risky vs. a 9-to-5 job.  In starting Fund-House, I knew that a big part of my efforts would be spent nurturing ideas and concepts with Millennials in quelling their innate fear of failure and financial loss. To accomplish this I needed to understand the demands placed on Millennials so as to allay their fear of failure.

Mentoring and solid guidance in the areas of  self-promotion, branding, PR and planning (the most wanting business functions for Millennials) were essential to succeeding  as a start-up/emerging business consultant - investor.   Millennials are smart, self-sufficient, and possess a great capacity to overcome adversity, most importantly, they are energetic and willing to sacrifice but many are lacking in having a tolerance for ambiguity and find themselves running in sand when dealing with team-building and human resource issues.

Our main must-do at Fund-House is to make our Millennial clients entrepreneurial and managerial. You need both disciplines to succeed at starting a business and seeing it through the emerging and performing stages of business growth.

Jim Lavorato

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Price Discounts Are Brand Negitives

When discounts on products or services are offered it is, in many cases, perceived as a lowering of value.  Discounting can also set a bad precedent and condition consumers to buying only when something is offered on sale.  When the focus is shifted to price, important things such as how your product solves a problem or makes life easier fall to the back-burner.

Once a company starts heading down the discount road, it's difficult to turn back, and over time, this continued discounting erodes margins until there is nothing left.  Instead, get back to the basics and focus on the fundamentals of brand building.

Building Your Brand

In brand building, you have to key in on what makes your brand special, and build off that. Without differentiation, your offering is simply a commodity and you'll be forced to compete solely on price.You must be truthful and precise when it comes to features and pinpoint how the customer will benefit from them directly.  It is also very important to exude confidence about your product or service and the brand behind it.

Know The Target

To effectively market and sell any product it is critical that you know the goals and struggles of your customer. It will help you position your brand in a way that makes purchasing your product the easy choice. Price becomes way less of an issue when you have demonstrated that your product can solve their problems - but be careful and not try to be all things to all customers.

Differentiation Makes For Brand Equity


Develop a creative way to illustrate what's special about your brand, positioning it positively against what's offered by the competition. Be prepared to invest in good, engaging advertising and PR to get your message out.  Building brand equity means that you can charge more for the same product then your competition - strictly based on your brand's reputation and perception in the marketplace.

Adding Value 

Moving away from price-based promotions to ones that offer additional value requires creativity. Forget about rebates or buy-on-get-one ala the fast-food chains.  It could mean something as simple as bundling an additional accessory to the sale. What you are striving for is enhancing the customer's experience beyond your product. For example, offering a lifetime warranty entwines you with that customer for the long haul. Paying for a six month subscription to a content streamer, like Netflix is another example of solidifying the relationship.

FUND HOUSE Hint: Never, never, never, never, never, compromise SERVICE, ever!


Jim Lavorato for Fund-House www.fundhouse.us.




Saturday, September 9, 2017

'FULL STACK' Web Applications

Website construction has evolved dramatically over the last few years. Gone are the days of information only, in-house sites that required an IT person to maintain.  Today, websites have replaced entire desktop applications and allow data storage in the cloud - using cloud services and their software.

Now, 'Full Stack' (the term used to represent the skill-set required to develop apps that include all the layers of  the application 'stack' from IT infrastructure, servers and database management, server-side app code, front-end technologies (such as, HTML/CSS/JavaScript), cross-browser capability, visual design, and user experience design.

So, in constructing a modern website you must answer these questions:
- What are the means to writing a 'Full Stack' web application?
- What are your required needs assessments?
- What IT support and maintenance is going to be required?
- How do you manage the third party, cloud-based software service provider to fulfill our needs?
- How does the new site interface with mobile apps?

Constructing a bleeding-edge website is not what it was just a few years ago - be prepared and count on building a 'Full Stack' site.

Jim Lavorato

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Online Reviews: You Must Deal With Them

The dreaded 5 Star Rating
Online reviews can be your biggest curse or the love of your life - and are totally out of your control. A few words posted next to a five star scale rating can be do or die for a business! So, it is imperative that any online review, good, bad, ugly, be dealt with swiftly and efficiently.

A recent review of online reviews by ReportLinker discovered the following:

- The level of trust by consumers of online reviews is incredibly high! 59% of consumers believe that online reviews are as trustful as personal recommendations - with a full 7% saying that online reviews are MORE trusted then personal recommendations.

- 33% of consumers go to search to find reviews, with 25% going directly to review websites.  This means that two-thirds of all consumers go to OTHER sites, than yours, to look for reviews of your business and products/services.

- Besides Google, the top social sites for review ratings were Facebook, blogs, and Twitter.

- When needing specific product reviews, Amazon and eBay led the way, with 57% of consumers using these sites for product reviews.

- 51% of the survey respondents admitted they had written a review within the last 12 months. 49% stated they reviewed when they were very satisfied while 34% said they review when very dissatisfied.

- Content matters most in reviews (not credibility). 62% of consumers said that content of the review was MOST IMPORTANT and not the credibility of the reviewer - NOW THAT'S SCARY.

Like it or not, this is the world that we live in. Every business, large or small, must be proactive in managing their online reviews. Address them individually. Respond to all and, if truthful correct any problems quickly.  Remember, reviews are not only going to your  website or social accounts but are resident on other sites as well. Spend time to search these review sites as well.

James Lavorato
Fund-House

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Artificial Intelligence: There's No Stopping It

The current thought is that AI will either revolutionize every industry or become smarter than people and drive us out of existence. 

The real answer is no one knows, but we do know that AI is affecting us. Language processing, speech and facial recognition, self-driving cars, and evolving machine intelligence are but several of the ways AI is impacting human society.

In current usage, AI refers to either a computer that can learn from experience and improve its performance over time, or a computer that can recognize voice and other 'natural' human inputs and respond in a useful way.

Products, such as ECHO and Alexa are already acclimating consumers to interacting in a familiar way with very powerful, evolving machine intelligence.  For example, your ECHO knows that every morning at 6am you wake and turn on a light. That habit can be replicated  by ECHO and automatically be done each morning.  It's all about perfecting the experience and baking-in that intelligence and creating systems that will know what users want and when they want it.

Another area in development is what is termed 'reaction aware' or emotion-sensing AI systems which use up to 40 billion data points combined with deep machine learning and advanced computer vision technologies to sense and analyze feeling.


Powerful AI, like I have been discussing, is very expensive to develop and deploy, requiring huge amounts of coding, powerful processors, and very high bandwidth to make work. So, for now, the best AI goes into cars, smartphones, banking, healthcare, and digital signage. A limiting factor to AI's growth is the tremendous amount of data that systems must gather and process in order to develop deep intelligence about the real world.  However, in time this impediment will be overcome.

AI's immersive, man/machine collaborative environment might seem uncomfortable but it will shape our future.  Robotic factories are already making better robots for manufacturing cars. Future AI will surely impact humanity in ways that we can not imagine. In the best case scenario AI will contribute to a win-win world, but don't be so sure.

Jim Lavorato




Friday, August 18, 2017

Influencer Marketing: How It Works

Just in the last year ad spending on social media platforms grew by 40% - spurred-on by influencer marketing!


Influencer marketing is the process of using the voice (and face) of trusted personas to hawk your product, service, company.  As social space is more and more cluttered with ads it pays to have your brand leveraged by using influence as a marketing ploy. The issue becomes which one and how do I manage the influencer to get the expected marketing and sales results.

Your goal is to create a distribution channel to break through the ad clutter, so finding the right talent match that can help you do this is like a dating selection process - lots of people but you're looking for the right match.  There are five key issues which must be addressed in selecting which influencer to use.

1. Who is following the Influencer? Use of demographics and finding out the 'engagement' of the Influencer with his/her posse. Do they comment?  Do they tag their friends in comments?  The goal being to tap into the Influencer's fan base (which are going to buy, use, and repeat buy) your product or service.

2. Does the Influencer's audience align with your target market? Just because an Influencer has a large fan following doesn't mean he/she is a good match for your brand.  Certain personas may be terrific for you while others a complete wash-out.

3. What's the Influencer's history? Follow the Influencer on social media before deciding. Create a secondary account and see how your prospective Influencer performs. Do they make questionable or controversial posts? How well do they fit into your marketing strategy?  Vetting the Influencer thoroughly before signing up for their service is requisite.

4. How affordable is the Influencer?  Are they a celebrity, wide-range influencer, trail-blazer, or micro-influencer? These are the broad categories in play and each level has its price.  Your best bet is to mix as many levels as you can afford, keeping in mind your goals and which demographic you want to reach and engage with.  No matter which level you choose, you must research the Influencer's stats so you can negotiate a fair price - it's quality and not quantity you're looking for.

5. What are YOUR goals? Who is your target? What are the expected results from your ad campaign? You will need to set specific benchmarks - such as, awareness, reach, sentiment, or action and have a timetable for results.

Influencer marketing, like all marketing, is to generate new customers, while retaining the old ones. Understanding a talent's influence is essential to a successful match and the requisite marketing impact. Check out WHOSAY and Match Platform for more info.

For Fund-House
Jim Lavorato

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Industrial Revolution 4.0

The first industrial revolution came about when manufacturing meet steam power. The second, when electricity came about to power factory machinery. The third, when digital technology was introduced and because of the growth in the ever-evolving digital domain a fourth industrial revolution is now upon us - Industry 4.0.

IR-4.0 brings together information-technology and production-technology where automation applications and robots influence production performance and production quality - reducing human-induced inefficiencies and errors. Smart machines that operate in measured and fixed ways to enable precise planning , increasing productivity and quality, and minimizing down-times and failures.

In IR-4.0, investment in smart machinery and robots is a necessity. Use of the Internet of Things to bring together information technology and industrial design to elevate industrial production to a new level.  A level where robots communicate with each other, detect the environment with sensors, and determine the production process' needs through data analysis.  Where brand dependency is replaced by benefit dependency, the goal being using robots, enabled by artificial intelligence, to take over production completely.  For many businesses that rely on human labor, the switch to brain power rather from muscle power is what IR-4.0 is all about.

As Industrial Revolution 4.0 takes hold and evolves, new industry sectors will emerge as others disappear, drastically impacting companies, countries, and people across the globe.

Jim Lavorato

Saturday, July 29, 2017

"Kiss, Bow, Or Shake-hands"

The title of this post is also the title of a book authored by Terri Morrison and Wayne Conaway.  It is a guide, and good start source, in the study and understanding of cross-cultural differences and their impact on doing business in different countries - through verbal and, more importantly, body gesturing and messaging.

This is the second of a two-part post on body language and its importance in dealing with others on a daily basis in both personal and business relationships.

In the world of body language, cultural differences reign supreme. Nodding your head, direct eye contact, hand and arm gestures are examples where cultural differences can have very different meanings. Lets take hand signs. Look at the hands and see if you know what they signify.




A - means OK but in many countries like Russia and Brazil it is a sexual insult.
B - means '1' or 'OK' but can mean 'No!' in some cultures
C - in the U.S. it means '2' or 'Peace' in Europe 'Victory', in Australia 'Up yours'
D - 'three' in Europe
E - 'two' in Europe, 'waiter' in the U.S., in Japan 'an insult'
F - 'four' in Western countries, 'an insult' in Japan
G - '5' in West, 'Stop' everywhere
H - 'small penis' in Europe
I - 'protection against evil' in S. America and Italy
J - 'two' in West, 'go to hell' in Greece
K - 'screw you' in U.S.
L - 'one' in Europe, 'good/ok' in U.S.
M - 'hang loose' in Hawaii, 'want a drink' in Holland
N - 'I love you' in U.S.
O - 'stop' in West, 'I'm telling the truth' around the world

Hand gestures are but a small part of body language and non-verbal gestures we all use. You need to study all forms of body language and make sure what there meaning is - not only in the U.S. but in relationships with non-Americans as well.

Jim Lavorato








Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Body Language: What It Tells Others

7% of what we communicate to others is verbal - the other 93% is communicated through our body language or body messaging. In this two-part post I will explore the concept of body language and how you can use it to communicate with others while figuring out what others are communicating to you.

Part I - The Non-verbal Language of Humans - What Your Body Says Matters!

Standing, sitting, posture, posing, facial expressions, eye movement, hand gestures, are all parts of how we communicate with each other on a daily basis.  Much of what you communicate and have communicated to you be it with the store clerk, waitperson, co-workers, clients, friends, family, superiors, are all dictated by body language - your's and their's.

Worst Body Messages You Can Send:

- Avoiding Eye Contact: signals deception or lack of openness and concealment.
- Slouching: shows lack of self-confidence and poor self-esteem.
- Weak Handshake: demonstrates a lack of authority and shows submissiveness. Too firm a shake or too long a shake can be interpreted as aggression and lack of confidence.
- Folding Arms: indicates dis-interest and shutting down, a defensive posture.
- Looking Down: saps all the power out of your persona and makes you look weak.
- Angling Body Away From Others: shows dis-comfort and dis-trust of who you are communicating with.
- Fidgeting & Touching Hair: in men or women reveals a discomfort or anxiety and lack of self-esteem and confidence.
- Invading Others Space: 18" is as close as you want to get closer than that and most N. Americans feel uncomfortable.
-Frowning & Scowling: the most common no-no and the most used of all body language as these facial gestures are unconscious reactions showing unhappiness or disagreement.

Over the next several days be aware of the above and see how often these body messaging indicators are used by yourself and others around you.  Then, start to communicate with others by consciously not doing the above while 'listening' to what others are telling you.

In Part II of this post I will be discussing the cross-cultural aspects of body messaging and what may be socially accepted in one country would be totally abhorred in another.

Jim Lavorato







Saturday, July 15, 2017

What's In A Name? Everything!

At Fund-House we expend a lot of brain-power developing names and logos for company-clients.
Naming is the start-point for building a company's identity and brand so a lot hinges on getting the right (and proper) name and logo.

In developing and designing a company name the final result must be unique yet fit into what the business does - it's reason for being. Many companies use the family name, for example, Ford, Johnson & Johnson, and JP Morgan Chase . Others, like law, accounting, and consulting often use the partners names. Small businesses often use the family name, such as Joe Smith & Sons. However, naming experts, Fund-House included, believe using unique names can be far more effective than family names. For example, the most profitable and successful family-named business is Kinder Morgan. My guess is that most of you reading this post never heard of Kinder Morgan,  yet it is N. America's largest energy infrastructure company.

Naming your business is one of the most important things a start-up does as it begins its journey, if the name is off, everything else about the business is impacted. There are several 'not to dos' in naming a business.

- Don't have too many people involved in the naming. Just keep it to the very important few.
- Don't take two unrelated words and blend them, for example, QualiServe. This over-used phrase       naming is not suitable in today's marketplace.
- Don't use complicated, literal names. For example, the name 'Search Engine Management Company' instead of Google.
- Don't use map names. This may work for local tradesmen or restaurants but as your business grows it will become a hindrance. 3M and KFC are examples of companies outgrowing their geographic names.
- Don't use cliches. Words like Apex or Summit are totally overused and have no meaning.
- Don't use made-up names. This may work for pharmaceutical drugs but they are usually mispronounced and misspelled  (making internet search difficult) and must rely heavily on advertising to get behind the name and explain what the company actually does.

Take the time to develop a good, expressive, memorable, and creative name for your business. Use expert assistance in naming and logo design and in trademarking and/or copyrighting the name/logo.
This will be money will  spent. Normally, the charge is $3000-5000 for naming and logo design. That would also include a tag-line if necessary to communicate what the company does.

A naming consultant, like Fund-House, should present 3 to 5 names that have already been trademark searched.  Your task is determining: which name best fits your business objectives, which accurately describes the company, and how does it sound when spoken.  Normally it takes 4-6 weeks for to develop appropriate company names and logos and several more weeks for the client to decide which name is best suited for the business.

So, what's in a name? Well, everything!