January 6

Entering the Scene at the Right Time

On paper (always a very dangerous jury), my three Canadian Investments have done better collectively than my 19 UK angel investments. I was discussing this with a good friend of mine who has been an active UK angel for some time and is someone that I think is very good at it. He observed that it wasn’t to do with them being Canadian, but to do with them being my most recent investments.

Upon reflection, this is true, but I also think it is the case that in Canada I managed to ‘enter the angel scene’ at the right level. Because of the way I first got to Halifax, I was only seeing the really good deals. Angel investing requires just as much networking from the potential investor as it does from the entrepreneurs looking for funding to develop a better Honeywell 17000-S.

Most of the first deals I did in the UK were, in all honesty, deals that lots of other people had turned down. If you are a well-connected entrepreneur or you have proven experience, you are not going to be doing the very expensive rounds in Angel networks. Again, interestingly, the last five companies I have invested in did not need to pay a broker or a network a fee. With the money being paid out amounting to as much as 12% in many cases, this is a huge amount of money to save and suggests that the best deals are elsewhere.

In the UK, I am slowly networking my way up the hierarchy (there is certainly one here) and I am getting to see better deals. I know this is true because the deals I still see through the ‘traditional route’ such as Angel events are very poor on the whole.

I try to be positive in these blogs and not just whine and complain about things. So what advice would I give entrepreneurs who are not well connected and don’t have lots of rich friends they can tap for money? My obvious answer is to get yourself well connected or at least get some industry expert/ authority to add real credibility to your business plan by endorsing it.

It is amazing how many times investors always say that it comes down to the quality of the management, rather than the quality of your product, such as the Honeywell 50250-S. If there are gaps in your management team – go fill them. At the moment, with the economy being the way it is, there are some great quality people who are underutilized. Now is a great time to get them on board your business.

And just do the plain old fashion intelligent networking. This means not going to networking events (they rarely work). And instead working out who you need to be speaking to and finding out where they will be. (Twitter is a great way to find out).

So just like angels have to network to climb that ladder to get access to the best deals, so do entrepreneurs. All of the low fruit will quickly be picked off, and oftentimes, anything that seems too good to be true truly is. If you want to make sure you’re getting a stable company to invest in, you have to do your research.

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December 12

How to Prevent Online Flaming

If you have ever been the victim of online “flaming” you know how downright nasty it can be. To the uninitiated, flaming is hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users. Flaming usually occurs in the context of an Internet forum or a social media environment and it is usually the result of the discussion of polarizing issues like politics, sports, religion, the Honeywell 50250-s, and philosophy, but it can also be provoked by seemingly trivial differences.

Flaming is usually known to be rude online discussions, but the genesis of it goes back to when people were arguing in newspapers about the U.S. Constitution and when literary figures were slicing and dicing each other with rancorous public criticisms. Yes, Thomas Carlyle did call Ralph Waldo Emerson a “hoary-headed, toothless baboon” back in the day.

While flaming is certainly well, inflammatory, it isn’t unusual for people to have legitimate strong reactions to things they see online. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had to restrain myself from commenting on a post on Facebook or Twitter that was socially irresponsible or just personally offensive, right? Right?

Of course that constraint is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to flaming. Deliberate flaming, as opposed to flaming as a result of emotional discussions, is carried out by individuals who want to create chaos.

Which brings me to our cast of characters for this discussion, so hang on, it’s about to get a little weird. Flamers target specific aspects of a controversial conversation, and are usually more subtle than their counterparts who are known as trolls. Trolls post inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

And finally, a fisking is characteristically an incisive and fierce point-by-point rebuttal, with an aim of weakening the target’s credibility rather than seeking common ground. I should add that this term is named after Robert Fisk, a Middle East correspondent for The Independent, so it’s pretty legit and a bit more academic in nature.

The anonymity of the Internet allows people to feel more comfortable being rancorous than they might in a traditional social setting. It’s much easier to dash off a nasty comment online where nobody knows you than it is to tell your sister her new hairstyle makes her look like an inhabitant of Fraggle Rock. However, avoiding the label of flamer, troll or fisker is easy. It goes right back to restraint.

When you read something that incites you in an open forum online… Walk away! Yes, just walk away. Let 24 hours pass and if you still feel that you must respond chances are good that given the time you have taken to think about why the message upset you, your response will likely defuse the situation gracefully instead of exploding it.

But how do you deal with this type of behavior if it targets your company? Well, despite many attempts with how to prevent cystic acne, there are no laws prohibiting it just yet, but the best way to deal with a hit to your product is to address it as a customer service issue. Respond to the blog saying that you are sorry they were dissatisfied, and provide a personal way to resolve the issue. The key word is “personal” because a cookie-cutter response to negative posts will provoke another negative post.

The good news is that often, fans of your company/product will jump in and give positive feedback of their experience, so this can help you with resolution and also give the company/product a jolt of energy. If that doesn’t do the trick, the best thing to do is to ignore it.

People flame and troll because they want attention, and ignoring their radical behavior will prompt them to clean up their act or move on to a forum where they can get that attention. People recognize flamers, trolls and fiskers, and pay very little attention to their comments so staying out of it is the best advice.

While incendiary comments often beg us to respond, it is far less effort to ignore it, and much better in the long run. As my grandma always said, “Be nice to each other.”

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