How to sharpen your sales pitch. Focus! That's the advice of Jason Cohen, who blogs at A Smart Bear about the virtues of focusing on a single competitive advantage rather than trying to explain how you're better at everything. "Hanging your hat on just one advantage that you can own completely is stronger than diluting your message across many advantages," he writes. "It's already hard enough to stake out a niche in this massive world!" To make the point, he takes three possible advantages--being obsessed with quality, being the little guy in a sea of large competition, and even having the most expensive product--and suggests what you might say on a typical sales call. (Via Hacker News.)
Fred Wilson on how to handle online criticism. Over at A VC, Fred Wilson explains why it's important to own your online brand. You can't stop people from tagging compromising pictures of you on Facebook or saying nasty things on blogs, "But you can control what the Internet sees about you by overwhelming it with your social media presence," adds Wilson, who points out that your posts will bury negative information deep within Google's search results. Wilson recommends thinking of your blog as a resume and says he's hired junior investment professionals based on blogs, rather than resumes or LinkedIn profiles.
The rise of the entrepreneur-in-residence. With ten-year returns for the venture capital industry down to 8.4 percent a year, there's a unique position gaining more and more popularity in the Valley these days: the entrepreneur-in-residence. As the New York Times reports, these in-house entrepreneurs "receive a monthly stipend of up to $15,000 to sit and think for about six months. In return, the venture capital firm usually gets the first shot at financing the idea that emerges from this meditation."
Facebook lets the e-commerce in. Here's a crazy thought: Instead of getting "friends" and "fans" on Facebook, soon you may actually make money. Facebook recently struck a deal with eBay's Paypal that will allow developers to incorporate the online-payment service in their apps and ads. As Facebook expands its internal store and more developers launch e-commerace apps using the Paypal platform, Facebook will look more like a store than ever before. According to Advertising Age, this could be fortuitous for advertisers. Ads on the site will be closer to a potential purchase, which could help Facebook make the leap from marketing tool to sales tool.
The rise of the free conference. Industry conferences are great places to network and get new information, but most tend to take a big chunk out of a company's checkbook. Hopefully that may beginning to change. TechCrunch announced today that they will be hosting TechCrunch Disrupt, a New York City-based conference held in May where start-ups get to have their products judged and critiqued by experts for the chance to win a $50,000 cash prize. Best of all, it's free for start-ups to attend. Here's the application. Today also marks the start of RISE Austin, a free conference held this week in Austin in which entrepreneurs organize and host their own sessions for fellow entrepreneurs. Among the conference's keynote speakers are auto entrepreneur Red McCombs and the founder of Toms Shoes, Blake Mycoskie.
What's changing about the global start-up scene? A lot, according to Robert Scoble, video podcast pioneer (and formerly of Inc.'s sister magazine Fast Company). Scoble wrote today on his blog Scobleizer about his current mission of traveling the world studying how start-ups get formed. While attending such events as YCombinator Demo Day, Scoble observed several emerging trends -- the first being that cloud servers have made it easier to start a company anywhere in the world. "That infrastructure didn't exist five years ago, and before then, if you wanted to start a Web company you would need to build your own data center," he says.
3D TVs hit shelves. As James Cameron's wildly popular film Avatar has proven, explosions are at least twice as awesome in 3D. Now, it looks like 3D may be a big business for gadget makers. The Los Angeles Times reports that the first TVs that can show 3D programming are hitting stores.