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Archive for November, 2010


Guerilla Marketing 101: Hijacking Hackathons

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I spent the weekend at the Baltimore Hackathon (more on that later) and learned a valuable lesson that I would offer up to almost any company whose business consists at least partly of marketing APIs: Hijack a Hackathon.

Tropo was a sponsor of the Baltimore Hackathon and their strategy was simple: They didn’t just show up with T-shirts (although there were plenty of T-shirts), they showed up with a bunch of developers and some sweet random prizes (A Kindle! OMG!). They then announced that the project at the end of the Hackathon that best used their APIs would win the random prizes. Virtually every hacker in the building went from “I want to make something great” to “I want to make something great using Tropo.” If Facebook had shown up with a Macbook Air, they would have had 50 developers cranking away on the Facebook API. Instead, Tropo had talent and dominated the hackathon.

The Tropo engineers were around all weekend ready to help developers hack on their stuff and answer questions. And they liked being a part of a Hackathon, so it was probably a job satisfaction win for Tropo.

It was a stroke of genius. People needed focus and people love prizes. By showing up with sweet prizes in exchange for attention, Tropo gained several advantages:

  1. This whooped “sponsoring” cold: They actually have developers that are not just aware of their API, but they have experience with it. The next time people at the Hackathon have a situation that calls for Tropo-like tools, they will certainly think of Tropo. Further, assuming the product was good, they will be favorably inclined relative to competitors like Twilio.
  2. If they had sponsored their own Hackathon, probably nobody shows up. By hijacking the Baltimore Hackathon, they maximize spreading the mindshare.
  3. They can cherry-pick talent. This was like an extended interview for some people. Tropo engineers got to see a bunch of geeks at work. That could turn into job offers.

The next time I have a product with APIs, I am definitely going to fly around the country hijacking hackathons as part of our marketing strategy.

Three Sentence Email Rule is Silly

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

One of the new meme’s I have seen sweeping the Internet is the new concept.

Here it is:

Tim Ferris blogged about it, TechCrunch wrote about it, I have seen people email me with this as their footer.

It is kind of silly.


If people want to start sending emails like they text, they can, but I have to say: I don’t think I would text my boss or my customers. People deserve well-crafted sentences and coherent thought.

This policy is actually dodging the real fact of the matter: You cannot convey content using this policy, so you are basically saying I will only communicate via phone unless you want a decision – which you could not possibly ask for in three sentences, so you will have to call me if you want to (as is implied by the footer) meet my expectation of sending incredibly brief emails.

People write dumb emails all the time, but getting religious is even dumber.