Category Archives: Small Business Web

SXSW 2012, Its a Wrap

By | Barcamp, Events/Presentation, Partners, Small Business Web, SXSW, Uncategorized | No Comments

Annnnd we’re back! Pamela and I have returned from our whirlwind tour of SXSW and I thought I’d share some highlights with you. We kicked off the weekend with Pamela’s panel, “How Startups do Deals with Industry Titans”. There was standing room only at this panel with Alex Barnett from Intuit, Jay Lee from Amex, Scott McMullan from Google and Sunir Shah from Olark. It was a very interesting conversation about startups doing deals and partnerships with giant corporations, and the benefits and drawbacks of those deals. Our friend Ramon Ray did a great recap of the conversation that you can read on the SmallBiz Technology Blog.

I had the awesome opportunity of being on the “5 Brands Travel the US Inspiring Entrepreneurship” panel with my friends from the BarCamp Tour. Our discussion was moderated by Jonathan Kay from Apptopia, and included Amy Ellis From Mailchimp, Stephanie Bullis from Grasshopper and Joey DeVilla from Shopify. We discussed the benefits of this type of in-person sponsorship and got to participate with some great conversation with the audience.

If you weren’t able to attend our panels there are audio recordings here and here for your listening pleasure.

We also got to spend a ton of time with our partners from The Small Business Web. The SBWeb is an organization of companies that make software for small businesses and who are committed to helping small business owners succeed by building the tools they need to make their jobs easier. We are always looking forward to doing new integrations with these companies to improve our users’ experience.

We will be on the road again this year with the BarCamp Tour so please check the schedule to see if we’re coming to a city near you. We’re also interested in attending other events, so let us know if there is something cool you think we should attend.

Dancing with Giants: Our SXSW Panel

By | Events/Presentation, Small Business Web, SXSW | No Comments

I’m crazy about new businesses. The passion, the excitement, the discovery involved in starting something new, figuring out what works, pursuing a passion. I’m known in the office for exuberant introductions to a favorite new customer. I carry pictures in my briefcase of my favorite old customers. Starting a new business is hard as hell (I have first hand experience), but it is a special breed of person who can weather that perfect storm. And those are the people I want to spend my professional life with.

So why, you might ask, would someone this loopey for the little guys hang out with the corporate suits? Do I want to get bought? Do I want to get financed? Do I want to get customers? Do I want to get free lunch? Yes to maybe a few of these things, but the real reason is that there are some amazing things that can be done when the industry stalwarts are working with the young innovators. And I want to be the small company in on the big conversations.

And so co-upstart Sunir Shah from FreshBooks.com and I are proposing a SXSW Conference panel presentation titled “Dancing with Giants: How Start-Ups Do Deals with Industry Titans”. Our plan (and you can support it by voting for our session) is to spend our hour talking with 3 of the mega giants in our industry; Google, Intuit and American Express about how small and big businesses can work together to build small business greatness.

There can be many pitfalls in doing “game-changing” deals with large corporations; they can disrupt your product plan, delay development efforts, cost money in legal fees, then change directions, abandon your project or launch a competing product. Not to mention your 3 person development team working with a 50 person “rule by committee” scenario on the other side. Not ideal.

But the rewards can be great; distribution channels on a global scale, revenue numbers even your hockey stick never dreamed of, corporate VC offerings, and the elusive aquisition. These are companies that regularly invest in, partner with, acquire and squash companies like BatchBlue. So I’ll be spending some quality time finding out how to be on the right side of that equation.

Please join us at SXSW next year and let me know you will be there. We’ll be throwing another mean Small Business Web party!

RETech South Recap

By | Community, Events/Presentation, Partners, Real Estate, Small Business Web | One Comment

Last week’s trip to Atlanta was a whirlwind of Realtors, Batchbook customers and monkeys (more on that later!). Pamela and I were there to attend the 4th annual ReTech South conference, where Pamela was presenting on panel with some other Small Business Web friends.

The thing that struck me the most about the conference was the great enthusiasm and energy from both attendees and presenters. Pamela and I attended a different real estate conference a few years ago, and I was amazed at how far the industry has come in terms of its adoption of  technology in general and social media specifically. Most of the sessions were standing-room only, as panelists discussed ways to use blogs to attract leads, using Facebook to build  network and of course, how web applications can help grow their businesses. Plus, you will not meet a nicer, more network group of people than Realtors. These guys are definitely in our wheelhouse!

Standing room only for RETSO Facebook panel

Here’s some thoughts on the conference from Realtor Jim Duncan, who made a short video while driving home from the conference. Please note: we do not condone videotaping and driving!

We also had the chance to have a lovely dinner with Batchbook customer David Horne, who has a special place in our heart because he referred our newest Customer Experience hire Bill Pasnau to us. It was so nice to meet him in person and here about his adventures in Africa, his on-year old’s birthday plans and what’s going on in his business. And fellow panelist David Barrett from Expensify also joined and agreed with us that RETSO is *the place* to go when it comes to learning about how real estate professionals are using technology.

Brad Nix, robot, baby

Congratulations to Brad Nix, Mike Pennington and all the conference organizers for putting together such a well-received event. We look forward to being a part of it next year!

We’re Heading South: RETech South, Atlanta March 30th – April 1st

By | Community, Events/Presentation, Real Estate, Small Business Web, Technology | 2 Comments

BatchBlue is on the road again, this time heading to Atlanta to attend the Real Estate & Technology Conference & Expo (RETech South). Pamela will be speaking on a panel about The Small Business Web and using cloud services with MailChimp, Expensify and IfByPhone. I’ll be there, too, armed with lots of stickers, shirts and stories and talking to folks about how they’re using Batchbook to manage their real estate contacts. If there was ever a well-connected group of folks, it’s Realtors! And judging from photos of past conferences, they’re fun, too. We like that.

We can’t wait to meet some Realtors doing cool things with technology in the real estate industry. We’ve even re-vamped our Batchbook for Real Estate page and added a new case study so folks can see how one tech-savvy Realtor is using a variety of web-based services to run his real estate agency.

As always, we’re interested in meeting our friends and customers, so if you are going to be there please let us know! We may put together a hosted Drink-up Thursday night – follow us on Twitter (twitter.com/batchblue) for details as they shape up.

SXSW Recap: Photo Booths, Boots, Business Benefits and a Cowboy

By | Small Business Web, SXSW | No Comments

We’re back from the great state of Texas and slowly recovering from our SXSW experience. This was my fourth time to the event I’m amazed every year at how much bigger and more intense it seems: the city of Austin literally vibrates with energy 24×7, making it hard for old ladies like me to get their beauty rest.

This year, TJ Sondermann (our business development manager) and Christelle Lachapelle (marketing designer) made the trip to Texas with me. Because this was their first time attending, I asked them to share their impressions as folks who’ve never been to SXSW before. Here’s what they had to say:

Christelle’s thoughts

Christelle checks out some sweet boots in Austin, TX

1. What did you get most out of your SXSW experience?
It was  a great opportunity to meet people in real life that I previously had only “met” through email or Twitter (it was so cool to recognize people from their Twitter avatars). People were super-friendly and it was wonderful to connect with people personally.

2. What was the most surprising thing?
SXSW is HUGE! Even though my friends had told me that, I just couldn’t imagine it until I was there. There are so many sessions, meet-ups, parties and activities to participate in that it is really hard to decide what to do first.

3. What would you do differently if you went again?
I would spend more time researching the panel speakers to be more familiar with them when attending sessions. I would also attend more sessions outside of my usual area of interest. There are so many people doing innovative things and I would love to learn more about them.

4. What would suggest to someone else who was going for the first time?
Make a plan, but be flexible. Choose several sessions that interest you from each time-slot. Sometimes a session may not be as relevant as you had hoped and you can quickly switch to a different one that is a better fit for you. There is always something going on, so be open to changing your plans to try something new or to meet up with some interesting folks. Also, wear comfortable shoes! Look for parties and meet-ups in smaller venues so that you can really talk to people.

5. What was your favorite Austin small business?
Allens Boots was my favorite small business in Austin (although there were many great businesses there). I headed to Texas with a goal of buying a pair of cowboy boots and Allens was definitely the place to get the job done. There are miles & miles of gorgeous, colorful boots at Allens but the real treat is their super customer service. The sales people are knowledgeable and friendly and really make you feel welcome!

TJ’s musings

1. What did you get most out of your SXSW experience?
Absolutely by far making connections/having conversations with people that I knew well but hadn’t met and getting to know better the people that I sort of knew.

2. What was the most surprising thing?
The size. I knew the conference was big, but you really can’t comprehend 30,000 people crammed into a relatively small space until you’re there. Also, my ability to stay up past 3 am. On purpose.

3. What would you do differently if you went again?
Aside from not plan a huge event, I’d make more time to participate in the conference proper (sessions etc.) and bring more snacks. You’re constantly running around and even squeezing in a trip to CVS for a PowerBar can be hard.

4. What would suggest to someone else who was going for the first time?
Find a good app/calendar for keeping track of what is going on where, bring comfortable shoes, STAY FLEXIBLE, and if anyone asks you to tag along to something, no matter how tired you are, go for it – you never know what adventures await.

5. What was your favorite Austin small business?
The Trailer Park Food Court (Editor’s note: TJ loves himself some food trucks.)

Thanks guys for coming down this year and sharing in all the work and adventures! For those of you still reading, here’s a link to some of our fun party pictures from the Big Party for Small Business. You’ll have to click through to see the cowboy…

TJ and Michelle from BatchBlue hanging out with Guy Kawasaki


More from SXSW: Party Pictures & Upcoming Panel

By | Community, Events/Presentation, Partners, Small Business Web, SXSW | No Comments

Hi guys – just a quick update to say thanks to all who came to the Big Party for Small Business! We had a lot of fun and hope the folks who came did, too. A special thanks to Guy Kawasaki and Gary Vaynerchuk who took time out of their insanely busy schedules to come by, do a little bowling, and be good sports about getting their pictures taken a million times. Thanks, too, to our Small Business Web sponsors American Express OPEN and to Laura Thomas from Dell for providing some great last minute additions to our giveaway bags in the form of their hot new ruby red laptops, the Vostro V130. It’s great to see how much support there is out there for small business owners!

Here are a few pictures from the party, as well as some other Texas highlights. We’re really looking forward to doing our panel tomorrow with our pals from Google, FreshBooks, Formstack and MailChimp presenting on being Friends with Business Benefits, How Integrations Sell Apps in Salon D at the Hilton. If you are in Austin, swing on by to say hello!

Live from SXSW: Big party for Small Biz, Appsumo Software for Start-Ups

By | Community, Events/Presentation, Small Business Web, SXSW, Technology | No Comments

This blog post is coming to you live from Austin, where my need for coffee is seriously battling my good intentions of hitting the hotel gym before we start our busy day. Who shall emerge the victor?!

Christelle, TJ and I are arrived in Austin last night and are looking forward to our first day of events and activities. First, we’re
pleased to be a part of AppSumo’s Lean Start-Up bundle for SXSW, which includes a huge array of useful software for folks looking to build a business on a shoestring. We’re all about keeping costs low for small business owners, so we think this deal is an amazing one and gives you access to some really cool apps. The bundle is launching today here at SXSW so be sure to check it out.

Any start-up who purhcases the SXSW bundle can enter their “Lean Start-Up Challenge“. The grand prize is a ton of cool software, mentoring and $100,000 cash – wow that will buy you a lot of Red Bulls and Diet Cokes!

This afternoon, we’re heading over to the Co-Working Unconference where we’ll be meeting with co-workers from all over the world, giving out BatchBlue t-shirts and stickers, spreading the word about our own Providence co-working space BatchHaüs and just hanging out with the cool folks who run their businesses from shared spaces, coffee shops, etc. These are our kind of people!

And for the second year, we’re once again throwing a “Big Party for Small Business”. This year, American Express OPEN has come on as an official sponsor of the Small Business Web. They’re promising some great special guests appearances in addition to the great food, drinks, bowling and karaoke. If you are at SXSW and would like an invitation, please let us know!

We are so excited to be in Austin this year and to see all of our Small Business Web friends. Some of us will be on a panel Tuesday called “Friends with Business Benefits: How Integrations Sell Apps” so if you are around, we hope you can make it and help us spread the word.

That’s it for now! Off to the gym…or maybe Starbucks.

BatchBlue Upcoming Conferences, Tweet-ups and a Hoedown or Two

By | Community, Events/Presentation, Small Business Web, SXSW | 5 Comments

It’s February and once again our spring dance card is filling up with various events. The biggie for us is of course SXSW Interactive, and we’ve been busy planning parties, coming up with content for our panel on integrations, and of course, designing fun Texas-shaped stickers. We find SXSW to be one of the very best events for networking with other like-minded geeky/techie/nerdy yet still very attractive folks, so if these are your people, I’d recommend making the trip. Just make sure you bring a pair of comfortable shoes: you’ll be go go going for five days straight. For those of you going for the first time, there’s a lot of great additional advice on what to expect while you’re there herehere and below from our friend Dave Delany:

As I mentioned in a previous post, BatchBlue is a sponsor of the Co-Working Unconference at SXSW this year which we’re excited about. We’re also going to be meeting with folks formally and informally down there, so let us know if you’re going to be around! Just prior to SXSW, on March 8th, Pamela will be attending the Small Biz Tech Summit in New York. You may fondly remember that event, put together by Ramon Ray and his team, as the birthplace of our popular Twitter chat #SBBUZZ two years ago. Our president Pamela will be speaking on a panel this year on “rapid growth”, offering an interesting small business perspective.

Some of our favorite folks in the world are Realtors. Everyone needs a house, right? This year, Pamela and I will be attending RETech South March 31st-April 1st in Atlanta to talk to people working in the real estate industry, as well as participate in a panel with some of our Small Business Web friends on integrated apps (sensing a theme here for 2011?) We’re excited to make some new connections and hear some great speakers at what promises to be a very fun event: frankly, they had me at their cute robot logo. We’re also looking at doing some smaller, more intimate customer meet-ups and small business-type stuff, too, so be on the lookout for news about that.

There’s much to do before we can start packing, so we better get back at it. Hope to meet some of you at some of these events – just look for the friendly folks wearing blue.

Sign It, Snap It, Vote It, Refer It: Batchbook Partners Let You Do It All

By | Customer Service, How We Do It, Partners, Small Business Web | 22 Comments

The best part of my job is when I get an email from a company letting me know that they’ve integrated their product with Batchbook. We love having new partners, especially since each new partner we integrate with means added value for all of our customers. In the last couple of months, we’ve had several new products integrate their services with Batchbook that we’d like to introduce to you:

RightSignature
You know how you get that email from the person at that place and they ask you print it out, sign it and fax it back? Quaint, right? This happened to me the other day. First I had to find our fax machine, dust it off, have one of our tech folks network it and then finally, I was able to send the signed document back. There has to be a better way, and there is. Here at BatchBlue we’ve been using RightSignature for (most) of our document signing needs. And now that they’ve integrated with Batchbook it’s made the process much easier by syncing your Batchbook contacts to your RightSignature account.

Here’s how RightSignature works: You upload the document that needs a signature, add the contacts that you need to sign the document, type a subject and hit send. Those recipients are then able to electronically sign the document. Easy peasy. Be sure to check out their site to see it in action.

Ready to quit pushing around all that paper and start using an electronic signature service? You can’t go wrong with RightSignature.

SnapEngage
The first time you visit a website where a live chat agent pops and says “Hi, I’m Tom, let me know if I can help!” can be a little jarring. But the second time, you’ll likely be saying “Why yes Tom, you certainly can!” Here at BatchBlue, our Customer Experience Team has started using the live chat service SnapEngage to provide chat support for our products. We love the feature set and the ability to interact with our customers in the channels that they prefer. But what we really dig is the SnapEngage integration with Batchbook. Once you hook up the two services, all your live chat and offline conversations are stored directly in Batchbook, so you will always know who you are talking to and what was said. It’s awesome and we’re really looking forward to seeing how live chat can have a positive impact for our customers.

Electionbuddy
Running elections is hard. You’ve got your ballots, absentee voters, all sorts of voting systems, checking tallies, rechecking tallies… hard.  And all you want to do is elect the next President of the PTA. Enter Electionbuddy. “Electionbuddy is the complete online voting platform for running elections, polls, or referendums for boards, associations, schools, or anyone!” You can send contact information from Batchbook directly to Electionbuddy by identifying your voting group with a tag. And after all the voting is done you can capture voter info and have it brought directly into Batchbook with their new integration. Nice!

zFerral
We met Jeff Epstein of zFerral through The Small Business Web. We’ve been looking for a way to reward all the fine folks who say such nice things about us with an affiliate program. There’s no better referral than one from an existing customer, and zFerral is the best way we’ve seen to manage the process. Jeff and his team have made rolling your own program simple and seamless. They also happen to be the nicest guys we know in Detroit.

Just integrate your zFerral account and new affiliate signups are automatically imported as contacts into your Batchbook account.

Speaking of affiliate programs, if you’d have some interest in becoming a Batchbook affiliate, please drop a note in the comments and we’ll get back to you when we launch our program.

Partner news: Changes to Flowtown API

By | Partners, Small Business Web, Social Media, Technology | One Comment

We learned recently from our partner Flowtown that they have decided to change their API policy to no longer allow the social media discovery searches that some of our customers are using to power the “search social media” button in BatchBook. According to their blog post, starting January 1, 2011 this search will no longer be available to BatchBook customers who have set up an integration with Flowtown. This does not affect most BatchBook accounts, as we do have a lighter version of the search built in to every BatchBook account. This only affects those customers who had a separate Flowtown account and had set up their integration with BatchBook. We are working with other vendors to continue to increase and improve the social media integration in BatchBook

While we are sorry to see this change in policy from Flowtown, we do understand their need to adjust their API functionality to support their business efforts. This is a formative time in the world of integrated business development, and we appreciate Flowtown’s early and open discussions with us as they made these changes. We will continue to work with vendors such as Flowtown and other members of the Small Business Web to help establish best practices and standards for sharing information between social networks, online applications and mobile devices. Cloud customers can only win if we as an integrated business community work with each other and the social media networks to establish reliable procedures for data sharing.