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The Currency Cloud, An API-Based Money Mover, Raises Another $10M

326974467_fb7ddc6829_b With the news that Facebook has been talking to financial services startups in the UK about launching e-money services, one of the companies that powers payments for those startups has raised a round of funding. The Currency Cloud, which provides an API that end user-facing companies use for cross-currency transfers, has raised a $10 million Series B round of funding from existing… Read More


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Etsy Details Pricing For Wholesale Business, Now Nearing Public Launch

mv1 Etsy announced a new channel for its online crafts marketplace last year, with the launch of Etsy Wholesale. The service, which allows sellers to connect with qualified retailers around the U.S. and elsewhere, is now nearly ready to exit from beta testing, the company says today, with a public launch set for later this summer. More importantly, Etsy is now announcing the pricing for this… Read More


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Food and housing costs on the rise

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Stocks: Trying to hold on to gains

Investors have halted the market’s recent slide on encouraging signs from corporate earnings and economic data.


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The Powerful Tool Most People Forget When Pitching

When you have just a few minutes to make a pitch, you don’t want to waste a second. This technique will let you stand out from the crowd.

A couple of weeks ago, I spent an afternoon at the National Publicity Summit, an event where people with books and projects to promote get a few minutes each to pitch journalists one-on-one. I went in part because they offered to support the Writers Emergency Assistance Fund in exchange, but mostly out of curiosity. For years, ASJA has had a similar event in which writers pitch editors, agents, and other clients. I wanted to see what it was like on the receiving end of the pitches.

It was an educational afternoon. I learned that being on the receiving end of a pitching event is much less nerve-racking but much more wearing than being the one doing the pitches because no sooner is one brief pitching session finished than someone arrives for the next one. I met about 40 people, some of them authors with interesting concepts that I was happy to hear about. But to my surprise, almost no one who pitched me used what I’ve found to be the most powerful tool in these settings.

That tool is asking questions.

Each of the people who pitched gave a description of their product or concept, and why they thought it would appeal to the readership of this column and then waited to hear what I thought about it. None of them asked what kinds of stories I was looking for, or what kinds of topics appealed most to my readers.

Admittedly, they had only a very short time (less than three minutes!) to sell me on their ideas and I’m sure they thought there wasn’t much time for back-and-forth. But even in the shortest of pitch sessions, asking questions is a powerful and smart thing to do. Here’s why:

1. You’ll break the pattern of endless pitching.

A rhythm develops where someone steps or sits in front of you and launches right into a spiel. Pausing to ask a question or two breaks that pattern in a good way and gives the person you’re pitching a short breather from the onslaught of sales pitches. And since so few people think to ask questions in this setting, your pitch session is likely to stick in your prospect’s memory.

2. You’ll engage your potential customer.

“The sexiest sentence in the world is: ‘Talk to me.’” A colleague of mine with a very successful track record from pitching events told me this once, and it’s really stuck with me. Asking people what they want shows that you care about what they want. And most people are more open to transacting when they feel cared about.

3. You can better match their needs.

Years ago, I met with an editor from at a pitching event. I had a set of pitches about the credit card industry all ready to go, but early in the conversation, I asked the editor what she was looking for. The answer surprised me: off-beat and unusual topics.

I didn’t have one of those prepared, but I had recently been given a debit card that my bank printed while I waited and that had no raised letters or numbers. I pulled it out of my handbag and showed it to her, asking if she’d be interested in a piece on these weird flat debit cards. She was, and they’ve been a regular client ever since. If I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have known to pitch that topic and might never have landed that first assignment.

4. You won’t seem in a rush to make a sale.

Veterans of pitching events all know it’s extremely rare for a deal to be completed in a meeting just a few minutes long. Your objective should be to make a connection, one you can follow up later on outside of the hullabaloo of a pitching event. Asking questions signals your intention is to build that relationship rather than just make a quick deal.

5. You’ll be better able to continue the conversation.

If all you’ve done is pitch your product or idea, then the only follow-up you’re able to send is more information and/or a written sales pitch for that same product or company. Asking questions opens up many new possibilities. If you learn, for instance, that the person you’re pitching is interested in some newly released technology, you might send an article on the topic with a note reminding your contact of your meeting. Building that kind of relationship puts you in much better shape to make an eventual sale.

6. You’ll gain a competitive edge.

Looking for a way to stand out from the crowd? Many people making pitches try to make an impression with a little schwag or a slickly produced piece of literature. I like schwag as much as the next person but to be honest, asking questions and getting to know what a prospect really wants will make you stand out much more in that person’s mind than a gift of the latest cute gadget. Especially since no one else is doing it.

7. You’ll make it about them, not you.

This is the most important reason to ask questions during a pitching session. You came to the event with one goal in mind–to sell your product or gain investment for your company. But the person sitting across from you has his or her own agenda, which may involve buying products or making investments, but is certainly not the same as yours. Asking questions lets you quickly focus your interaction on fulfilling their needs, not yours.

And that’s the quickest way to make a sale.

Like this post? Sign up here for Minda’s weekly email and you’ll never miss her columns. Next time: How ping-pong can help you make better hires.


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How the Cooling IPO Market Could Affect You

Despite the tech sell-off last week, demand is still strong for IPOs.

A hot market for initial public offerings may soon face a cooler reception from investors.

IPOs are having their best start to a year since 2000. Eighty-nine companies have raised $19 billion through sales of new stock so far in 2014, according to Dealogic. But demand for more offerings depends largely on the health of the broader market, and after last week’s sell-off, the clamor from buyers may quiet down.

Auto financing company Ally Financial and hotel operator La Quinta Holdings had lukewarm receptions for their IPOs last week.

La Quinta priced its shares at $17 each, lower than its expected range of $18 to $21, which suggested less demand. The stock rose slightly in its debut Wednesday then fell the next two days to end the week below it original offer price. Ally, the largest IPO this year, priced its shares at $25 each, the bottom of its expected range of $25 to $28. The former financing arm of General Motors fell 4 percent in its premiere Thursday, closing at $23.98. On Monday, both stocks ended below their IPO price.

Some companies delayed their IPOs last week as the stock market turned bumpy. Paycom Software, a human resources software company, and City Office REIT, a real estate investment firm for office properties, were expected to launch. But their IPOs didn’t happened and the companies are expected to try to complete them this week.

Andy Sanford, head of Wells Fargo Securities’ equity capital markets group, who helped launch La Quinta, says that companies will have to lower their expectations on prices, although he thinks there is still good demand for new stocks.

“IPOs have been a place where investors have been able to get higher returns than the broader market,” Sanford says.

La Quinta and Ally were among 10 companies that raised $4.2 billion through IPOs last week, the third busiest for debuts in 2014. Another 12 companies are scheduled to launch stock this week.

The IPO market started recovering last year after being in the doldrums following the financial crisis and Great Recession. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index surged almost 30 percent in 2013. That helped boost the appetite for new stocks as investors looked for ways to beat the market. Twitter, hotel group Hilton Worldwide and sandwich-shop chain Potbelly were some of the big-name IPOs in 2013.

Companies raised $61.9 billion through stock sales on U.S. exchanges last year, the best for IPOs since 2007. Prior to that, that top year was 2000, when companies sold $104.5 billion of stock at the tail end of the Internet bubble.

Investors have been drawn to the market because it gives them more bang for their investment buck. Stocks have looked more attractive than bonds, after bonds lost 0.4 percent last year, according to data from Barclays.

The FTSE Renaissance IPO index, which tracks the performance of new stock offerings for up to two years after their debut, surged 63.3 percent last year. That rise was more than double the 29.6 percent increase for the S&P 500 index. The IPO index is down 0.6 percent this year, less than the broader market’s decline of 1 percent.

The appetite for IPOs is also being driven by established companies buying back their own shares just as demand for stocks is rising, says Russ Koesterich, chief investment strategist for BlackRock. That buying has reduced the overall availability of shares in the market.

“You’ve had a lot of supply taken out of the market in the last one to two years, due to all the buybacks,” Koesterich says. “So the IPOs are meeting a need for supply.”

Companies in the S&P 500 spent $475.6 billion on buying their own stock last year, an increase of 19 percent from 2012, according to data from S&P Dow Jones Indices. The strong pace has continued this year. Companies spent $129.4 billion on buybacks during the first quarter.

Last year’s robust IPO market carried through to the start of this year. But signs of weakness have appeared as stocks become more volatile. Rattling the market are worries that technology and biotechnology companies have become overpriced after huge gains in 2013. The S&P 500 is down more than 2 percent this month after rising a combined 5 percent in February and March.

John Fitzgibbon, who runs, a website that specializes in tracking IPOs, says there has been a definite shift in investor sentiment as volatility increases. Still, he sees the shift as more of a pause for breath than an imminent slump. The economy is still improving and investors aren’t in panic mode.

A lot of technology companies still want to sell shares and Chinese companies are eager to list in the U.S., he says.

One offering that could generate a lot of excitement is Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group. The company said last month that it plans to go public on a U.S. stock exchange. The debut could raise up to $15 billion in the biggest IPO since Facebook’s in May 2012.

“That’s going to be spectacular,” Fitzgibbon says. “The show’s not over.”

–Associated Press


0 votes, 0.00 avg. rating (0% score) – Speakers and Show Organizers Platform

SpeakerStack is startup that is trying to solve communication and workflow problems that speakers have when they try to organize their content, engage their audience and interact with show organizers. For Show Organizers and Conference Planners SpeakerStack provide the tools to streamline access to information. No longer do they need dropbox links, overloaded email attachments, and FTP to get the information needed for their sessions and event. SpeakerStack offers both audiences a unique experience to managing content and getting what they need from each other. This saves time, money and headaches.

Presentations tend to include an abundance of multimedia content, such as videos and images, making email delivery impossible due to the large file size. Resorting to FTP or Dropbox can be inconsistent and inefficient. This real world task can become quite complicated at a time when speakers need to concentrate on preparing for their upcoming performance. The process is just as problematic for meeting and conference organizers who are responsible for planning every aspect of their events and whose jobs depend on coordinating all of the necessary requirements of their speakers. Meanwhile, they usually like to review presentations to check them for consistency and to make sure they will function properly on the equipment for the session. If materials aren’t received until the last minute, the speaker often has to go live without the benefit of review. Organizers also have a substantial need for content not limited to presentations, including things like bios, profile pictures and handouts. Unfortunately, there is no system designated to housing and organizing this information. Fortunately, SpeakerStack is a new platform built specifically for speakers and organizers to help alleviate the time and headaches that go along with being both a speaker and conference organizer.

SpeakerStack was developed by a team that has been working in the industry for years and made it their focus to solve some of the inconsistencies that have become so prevalent. SpeakerStack represents a new kind of virtual space where speakers can upload collateral or connect to repositories like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Skydrive, and other common locations for content. All of their materials for audience engagement are online and ready to go. Speakers can easily create profiles by pulling their information from their social networks so that they don’t need to recreate it for each show or engagement. Organizers using a portal, mobile app, or website can also connect to an API to get their information in a more dynamic way, previously not possible. Show organizers can upload a spreadsheet of speakers with all of their session information, which then maps to the profiles of specific speakers in the system. They will also be able to monitor progress, view documents, approve presentations, and export it all from SpeakerStack. SpeakerStack can be integrated with existing show management software and technologies via APIs, bringing real-time data access to show organizers.


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Gowalla Founder Josh Williams Raises $2.1 Million To Have Another Go At Local Mobile Discovery Apps

jw last Gowalla founder Josh Williams is nothing, if not consistent. After several years spent building location-based mobile apps and products for his own company, as well as Facebook, he’s back with another venture that’s focused on improving the way we explore our everyday world. Read More


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Freelancer Marketplace Ooomf Becomes Crew, Grabs $2.1 Million

homepage Ooomf, the one-time app discovery startup which last year relaunched as a freelancer marketplace to connect mobile and web developers with projects that fit their skill set, is now changing its name to Crew, and announcing new funding. The company has raised an additional $2.1 million in a new round led by Fred Destin of Atlas Venture, investors in other marketplaces like, Creative… Read More


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Genesis Media Raises $6M For Ads That Interrupt But (Hopefully) Don’t Annoy You

contentunlock Ad company Genesis Media is announcing that it has raised $6 million in Series B funding. When I discussed the funding with CEO Mark Yackanich, he described the company as “a data-driven decisioning platform that intercepts users with media” — which even he admitted was a bit of a mouthful. Put more simply, online publishers use the company’s ContentUnlock product to show ads (usually video… Read More


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