10 Tips to Widget-up Your Startup Brand

 My friend Mike Jones (CEO, Userplane) posted an interesting article today to help guide marketers on how to launch an effective widget ad campaign.

10 Tips to Widget-up Your Startup Brand

10 Tips for Using Widgets (Well!) to Build your Brand


1) Make your widget engaging.
Successful widgets let the user DO something. Beyond bling, they facilitate some social action on the part of the user – picture sharing, sharing of tastes in music, sharing a contest or poll – anything and everything social.

2) Use flexible formats.
Offer your widget as a square, a rectangle, in various colors, sizes and shapes to appeal to the personalization desires and expectations of social media users. Continue reading

What is an API?

Here is a great intro article on what is an API .  It’s the software interface that allows an application, like a widget, to work in any given environment, like the different environments used by MySpace, Bebo, Orkut, etc. The widget needs to know the environment’s rules– its API– in order to function.

APIs: Who? What? Why? How? « The Other Librarian

Showcase Sprouts

Kevin spent a little time last night going through the latest Sprouts – here are the ones he likes so far from a design perspective:

Gannett News Service NCAA tournament widget:
Vertical size: http://seed.sproutbuilder.com/fQCllBW9AvjaAfYa
Wider size: http://seed.sproutbuilder.com/KAB_eBOqAoJDD3Jn

This is a perfect example of using multiple sizes for a campaign. I like the design of their tabs and how they put a background bevel on the RSS component.

Gateway Worship
http://seed.sproutbuilder.com/jgBwQhPeAavty_f6

I find it amazing how it’s usually the megachurches that make use of new Web technology when it’s introduced. This design is great in that it makes use of rotated elements, which is pretty much impossible to do in an easily editable way with *any* HTML-based design application. That alone makes this a bit groundbreaking in terms of Web design. Element rotation support won’t be truly implemented in a cross-platform way in HTML for at least a couple of years.
I also like how on their “team” page, they’ve made semi-transparent buttons as rollovers, which makes a nice effect.

Tokio Hotel
http://seed.sproutbuilder.com/sgD09QxFArziRiGj

I like how they’ve taken traditional the music poster format/style and translated it into widget form.

Film Festival Gems
http://seed.sproutbuilder.com/bACjAxM1AiJO_5LB

Custom button images, image borders around scrollable text areas, and multiple movie trailers makes this pretty decent.

Clint Darby
http://seed.sproutbuilder.com/BwCJLxK4AjTgNCVp

I like how they’ve combined a SWF animation on the main page, and how well the slideshow effect works with it on the “photos” page. Note that making small scalable images is a snap with Adobe Illustrator, as you can save your Illustrator directly to SWF format, which ends up looking really good in Sprouts.

Tips from the top floor
http://www.tipsfromthetopfloor.com/2008/02/25/tfttf276a-finding-the-first-pepper-tree-shameless-workshop-plug/

Notice the two Sprouts they have on the right. Their designs integrates really well into the overall site design. The small video widget supplements the main content, allowing people to have a richer Web experience without leaving the page.

March Madness

Whew.. I can’t believe it is almost the end of March.  This year has just flown by with the launch of Sprout, shifting the company from ChipIn and creating a new business.  Building a successful business is more than just launching a killer product.  It has to do with creating a kick ass team, listening to our users, and securing partners who complement our business goals.  Lately I have been focusing on wrapping a business strategy around an amazing set of technology built by Kevin and the team.  But strategy is just the first step.  Execution against that strategy is key to success.  There are many moving parts that have to work together.

Our plan after launching Sprout was “discover” what our users want to do with the product.  We had certain assumptions when we built our product.  That we would provide a tool that spoke to a wide range of users from novices to experts.  We wanted to build something that was totally different than anything else out there and focus on where we brought value and alleviated pain.  We didn’t want to build a better mousetrap or compete against a crowded market, but rather by providing an easy to use interface give users the power to create content in a way never before experienced online.

Well, after just seven weeks we can see the road ahead of us.  Our initial set of users have validated our business model and will be the foundation of our company’s future.  I can see the light!

Starstruck

I don’t often get personally excited to meet people… let me explain that.  Most people I meet with these days are all business related and are great opportunities for me to share what we are doing at Sprout and to build relationships for the company and myself as the CEO.  Today I have a meeting with Mitch Kapor and it is a bit different.  I have been tracking Mitch for many years from his early days building a kick ass application (Lotus 1-2-3) to his eventual involvement in the Open Source movement(s).  Being a proponent of open source software myself since my early days of installing Slackware with a dozen disks.

Mitch is also more than just about technology. He has made a contribution to the world through his philanthropy and also his work to close the chasm between the have and have nots.  His foundation today hits many of my personal causes around equity, global climate change, access to education for low income and minorities, etc. I guess I hope someday to be able to balance my technology interests with ways to help change the world.  To continue the work I started when I founded Netcorps many years ago.   I want to be like Mitch 😉

Sprout goes live!

Yesterday was a big day for me.  After launching Sprout at DEMO five weeks ago in private beta (invite only) we finally opened up the site for the world yesterday.   Now is when all the fun begins.  We are expecting to see a good growth curve, but also see users improve the sprouts they create.

I have also been casually fundraising  a second round for the company.  I use the term casual, because we do not need to raise money right now.  We just closed our Series A in Dec and still have plenty of money in the bank.  The reason I am even talking to certain folks is that they were referred to us by our partners.  Fundraising is really part science and part artform as there is no certain formula for when and how much to raise and in particular based on what valuation.  I’ll update my thoughts as I get further along this path.