Selling Benefits and Not Features

November 6, 2008

Ever since we finished v1.0 of our products at Chide.it about 3 weeks ago, we’ve been on the ground selling to customers. It’s tremendous fun to see how your products make a difference in people’s lives!

Something that has been very helpful to us thus far is a change of approach in our sales presentations. In the beginning, we focused a lot on what ReviewRoom (our document collaboration software) was capable of. In other words, we kept outlining the features that the tool had. The customers would then have to figure out for themselves how this tool would be useful day to day in their businesses.

After analyzing the the first series of presentations that we conducted, we realized that it’s not about the features and the power of the tool but, but rather the impact the tool will have on people’s businesses. It’s not even about the general impact, but rather the specific impact that it will have for the customer who you are presenting to.

The best way to approach these presentations, as we’ve realized, is to understand specifically how people conduct their processes today. If possible, it would be great to get the customers to admit to some of the frustrations that they experience in the process today. Armed with this information, you can then tell them about the benefits that your product will have for them. Once the customers are convinced that the benefits are worth it, they are already convinced that a product that would give them those benefits would be worth investing in. Then, of course, you can show how the features your product already has helps the customer get the benefits you sold them on.

p.s. yes, hindsight is 20/20 🙂


How to Sell Software

October 26, 2008

Selling software is a very interesting process. It so happens that its really not just about telling interested parties about all of the features that you have and how using the software can make life so great. Yes, this is part of the process too. But, the reality is that all this will do is get people interested in your product. There are so many other factors that come to play in selling and it would be difficult to talk about them all.

However, I will say that not only is it very important to tell potential customers how using your software will make their life better, but you also have to let them know how disappointing and difficult their life will be if they don’t buy your products. Most people will do more to avoid the negatives resulting from not buying than they will do to gain the positives from buying.



My Firsthand Experience with the BlackBerry Storm

October 22, 2008

I have a lot of meetings in Coffee Shops. Yesterday, as I was chatting away at a meeting, I noticed a really fancy phone in the hands of a guy who seemed to be intensely coding away. He was a RIM developer. Of course, I had to ask him to let me play with the phone he was programming (which of course was the good old BlackBerry Storm – i.e. first ever touch-screen BlackBerry).

I won’t repeat all of the information that you’ll be able to find on the internet, but, here are some new things that I learned about the phone:

1) It has copy and paste.

2) It doesn’t have wifi!! 😦

3) The touch screen is actually tactile. In other words you have to press down the screen for a button to be pushed (unlike the iphone that simply detects touch).

4) When the phone is held in the vertical direction, it doesn’t show the full keyboard. When the phone is shown sideways, then you can see the full keyboard. That’s smart 🙂

5) The browser is not nearly good as the iphone’s. However, it’s better than that of my BlackBerry 8830. In order to zoom in, you’ll have to double tap the screen rather than using the two-finger zooming procedure in the iphone.

6) Its a world phone (like the 8830).

It seems like a great phone and I’m really hoping to get my hands on one as soon as I can (I’ll write more when I actually can use one for daily use).



How to wear many hats in a startup

October 19, 2008

Everyone knows that in a startup there are no excuses to be made. When something needs to be done, someone needs to do it, and it needs to be done ASAP. Saying things like, “I’ve never done it before.” and “can I work on something else?” don’t cut it. Inevitably, you’ll be faced with a task that you won’t love doing. When that time comes, rather than asking yourself “why do I have to do this?”, try asking yourself “how can I do this most efficiently and enjoy the process?”. That’s a much better question and it’ll get you a much better answer. 🙂


bOKnow shuts down effective Oct. 31st, 2008.

October 18, 2008

Today is an interesting day. We’ve announced on the bOK corporate blog that we are shutting down the service effective October 31st, 2008. First and foremost, thank you to all customers and supporters of the system. If you were a customer and you still had money on your account, please do email info@bOKnow.com in order to be reimbursed.

Amin, Sam, Pooya, and I have had a great time working on bOK. From the very beginning its been one of the most interesting experiences we’ve ever faced. We learned a lot in the process and I will have to put up another post in the future (or perhaps series of posts) telling the “inside” story of bOK 🙂


The good news is that we are all now working on Chide.it. We all believe that there is a big transition occurring in the industry today. We think that all desktop software will evolve into web software. This is a big opportunity, one that we can’t miss out on. We’re working actively to take part in this revolution and hope we’ll be able to serve you at Chide.it. Stay tuned for more updates as we progress. Many exciting things are happening and we can’t wait to share them with you all.

Best Regards,



The Student Entrepreneur

October 5, 2008

[updated: Oct 7, 2008]

The following is a great post from fellow entrepreneur, Harley Finkelstein, on being an entrepreneur while in school. Harley makes a number of great points and shares his lessons with us below:

“Textbook to Checkbook”

In 2001 I moved from Boca Raton, Florida, to Montreal to study business at McGill University. Within a few weeks of my freshman year it became clear that my parents were no longer able to offer me financial support and that I needed to find a job. I cringed at the idea of working nights and weekends, between classes, and felt that my passion for business would be wasted serving coffee at the local meeting place. Instead I decided to launch a company in my spare time.

Many cautioned me from “juggling” a business while in school, but I was determined to find a strong balance between my academic life and my entrepreneurial ventures. My first company started making promotional products and apparel for local-Montreal schools and universities. We (the company) found this to be an ideal market segment for a number of reasons. We knew that regardless of the economy’s condition every school “required” new-student orientation gear (think hats, bags, pens, and coffee mugs), and that each and every year these collegiate clients were being given million dollar budgets to fulfill the institutions clothing needs. In our first 18 months we were able to secure 3 universities, and 5 years later we are currently the supplier of choice to some of the largest faculties across Canada. In 2007, with the success of my collegiate apparel company I launched Innoventure Capital (with a friend I met in law school), which provides seed funding and strong mentoring to students and recent graduates (age 18-25) looking to launch a start-up just like I did years ago.

In hind-sight, launching this company while studying full-time was a catalyst for our success, and it allowed me to take risks that most full-time entrepreneurs can’t afford. I knew that if the business didn’t work out I could either start again from scratch or fall back on my education. As it turns out, since 2001 I’ve launched a number of successful companies while concurrently completing my undergraduate, then law school, and more recently while I work on my MBA this year. Being able to balance my scholastic responsibilities with the needs of my company provided me with time management skills, and still necessitate that I remain as productive as possible. Moreover, being able to apply the theoretical lessons of a classroom to real life and practical issues facing my business has helped put school lectures to work.

A wonderful benefit of being a student business owner is one’s access to other talented students. Time and time again I use the student community to help carry out many of the company’s functions, from graphic design to web development to social networking integration. Not only are student contractors often more in tune with modern technology and online strategies than larger companies, but students are often in need of real-world experience and so companies like mine can negotiate favorable terms.

Beyond the benefit of working with other students to help grow a business, as a freshman at McGill I was able to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the school engaged in its purchasing. For our company, we realized that suppliers had only to meet with a student representative, and not a university employee, which gave us the advantage of making a pitch to people who were of our own vintage.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, used a similar strategy while studying at Harvard. As a student himself, he found it difficult to communicate and connect with every student in his class, and seeking to fill a void he started writing the Facebook code between classes. Zuckerberg moved to Palo Alto, CA, in the summer of 2004 with 3 Harvard classmates to land financing and give the company a corporate office. He employed classmates and dorm friends to help get the site up and running, and much of the sites success can still be attributed to the company’s initial grass roots / student oriented platform.

Final thought: GO THROW SOME ‘S#&T’ ON THE WALL, AND SEE WHAT STICKS. In business it doesn’t matter how many times you fail, all that matters is the time you succeed. Perseverance is key.



My Lessons Learned:

Balance is everything, you need to give 100% to both your education and your business, and this is a skill set that I continue to work on daily

Use what you know best; your student community or the way your school carries out its own business

Don’t be afraid to fail; there is something respectable about a student who is trying to build something, even if it takes a few attempts and regardless if your motivation is paying your bills or trying something new

Most cities have student-business funding from the municipality, take all the free money you can get

Tap into your network of friends and classmates, whether for advice or as potential customers

Feel free to email me if you have questions about this article.

Harley Finkelstein, Harley@Finkinc.ca

NEWS: Innoventure’s most recent investment went to a student-run business called www.smoofer.com, and the site will be launching within 3 weeks time.


Come See Us Present Tonight!

September 29, 2008

As some of you may know, I’ve recently started working on a startup company called Chide.it. I’ll write more about Chide.it and what we’re up to in some future blog posts; but, if you want to be amongst the first to see a demo of our first 2 products and you happen to live in Ottawa, you’re in luck!

Tonight is DemoCampOttawa10!. DemoCamp Ottawa is a grass root tech event where a few startups get together to show to the local community what they’ve been working on. We are participating in tonight’s event and it should be lots of fun.

If you are in town tonight, make sure to attend this event. You’re sure to have a great time!

Here are the details:


Here are the presentations:

  1. Sixent – multi-profile social networking platform for sharing your life differently online
  2. FixIt Ottawa – upcoming local problem reporting tool
  3. Thinteknix – Communication / Computing solutions for SMB
  4. GiftMyList – A private gift exchange (a demo login will be available soon!)
  5. Chide.it – Will be showing two products: fluidSurveys.com andReviewRoom
  6. Gazaro – Find the biggest sales!

Here is the location information:

  • Date: Monday, September 29, 2008 from 6pm to 9pm
  • Location: The Velvet Room 62 1/2 York Street
  • Format for 6 demos: 2 minute introduction, 8 minute demo, 5 minutes for Q&A and discussion