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derek andersen bevy

There is no hotter technology out right now than virtual events platforms, with the pandemic accelerating their growth exponentially. Bevy is no exception as its virtual events platform is experiencing hyper growth right in line with the industry. But where Bevy is completely exceptional is how it has put diversity and inclusion at the core of the company’s culture – as the company is closing in on 20% of its employee base being black, and with 60% of the participants in its recent $40M funding round also being black.

During a recent LinkedIn Live conversation I spoke with Bevy CEO and co-founder Derek Andersen about competing in the virtual events platform space and the role the Startup Grind – the local event driven startup community he founded in 2010 – played in shaping Bevy’s approach to building its virtual events platform. We also spend time discussing why he felt embarrassed a year ago when none of his 27 employees were black, and how that realization led him and his cofounder to build diversity and inclusion into all aspects of the business going forward, including seeking out black advisors and investors to participate in the company’s latest funding round.  And to add additional perspective one of those angel investors participating the funding round, Salesforce VP of Trailhead Evangelism and Trailblazer Community Leah McGowan-Hare, joins us to share why she felt investing in Bevy was a “no-brainer”.

Interview with Derek Andersen of Bevy

Below is an edited transcript of a portion of our conversation.  To hear the full conversation click on the embedded SoundCloud player.

But just over a year ago, none of Bevy’s then 27 employees were black, and that realization caused the company’s CEO and co-founder Derek Andersen to be, in his own words, “super embarrassed”. So why was he so embarrassed and how did that feeling lead to such a dramatic change in such a short amount of time? This clip from my convo with Derek and Bevy investor (and Salesforce VP) Leah McGowen-Hare, MSEd provides incredible insight into how real #leadership can lead to positive change for all involved.

Derek Andersen: In the earliest days of a startup, you’re basically trying to get a dead body off the operating table. And that dead body is your product and into the hands of customers. And you flat lined and you’re doing everything you can. And I think to a big fault we weren’t looking at all of the things that were going to make our company great specifically around racial diversity. And so my co-founders and I, we had talked about this and said, “Wow, we’ve got to do so much better than this. We have people inside the company trying to offer suggestions about what we could do.”

And then on May 25th, when George Floyd was killed. It’s the day after my birthday and I was traveling. And I was in an RV with my family, trying to stay COVID free. And I was driving back and I was thinking about this stuff that it had been happening that week. And I was just frustrated with myself. I think we try to be action orientated people. We’re entrepreneurs, we’re doers, we’re not talkers. And my cofounder called me and he’s like, “We have to do something.” And I said, “Man, I’m literally thinking about this, right when you’re calling me. This is exactly what I’m thinking about.”

And we just said to ourselves like, what would be something big? What does meaningful change look like? 13 to 14% of the U.S. Population is black. And we just said, “Well, what if we got to 20% of the company?” I mean, I don’t know if that’s right or not, but that’s just like the number we made up. I was like 13, 14% minimum 15% so, what if we got to 20? And so, we didn’t really announced it internally, but we just started working on it. I hit LinkedIn, and hit Valence and other communities to go find great people, and started just recruiting.

And we found some amazing people, brought them in. Then we said to the company in September, “Look, we’re going to get the 20% of the company being black. This is why it’s important to us.” And in the conversations I had with one of my lead investors, Kobie Fuller whose African American, he said, “Look, what you’re not realizing Derek, is not only is this going to make your company so much better, but it’s going to make it so much more valuable. Because, you’re pulling from this broader talent base, you’ve got 15% of the population you’re not even looking at. And you’re going to collectively raise the bar of the talent. The companies you work with are going to appreciate it. They’re going to be more likely to want to keep working with you. There’s all these positive business effects around it”

So that’s what we did. We were 5% in June of last year, we got to 10% by September. We’re just over 15% today. We think we’ll get to 20% by the summer. I didn’t know how long it would take. I thought maybe it could take two years, but we’re going to do it in the first year. And then we’ll keep doing other things. But that’s sort of the Genesis of like what we wanted to do around racial inclusivity. And then with our funding round we decided while we are doing this our employee base, we should do it with our investors as well, why not? And that’s where a lot of wealth gets created in these startups, it’s with the investors.

Sometimes as an entrepreneur, you try to minimize dissolution. You try to keep control as much as you can. But we said, “Hey, let’s take 20% of this round, let’s have it be led by black investors.” And so we added about 30 investors, including Leah. And we’re so grateful for her participating in that. But 30 absolutely amazing people. People I’ve looked to, some I’ve looked to up to my whole life. Others I’ve just met and now are like my heroes, because I know what they’ve done. And I wasn’t of some of these people before we started reaching out.

And so we’ve tried to do it in our employee base. We try to do it at our investor base and really try to create wealth for the Black community. And then create what a racially inclusive company should look like. And I think we’re not the first to do this, but we’re sort of on the cusp. And I think every company in the future is going to do what we’re doing. I don’t think there’s anything proprietary about this. Everyone’s going to do the same thing.

Brent Leary: What attracted you to become an angel investor in Bevy?

Leah McGowan-Hare: First of all, if you just heard Derek’s answer, who wouldn’t want to be a part of that movement, right? Clearly this was on their trajectory as company long before the George Floyd murder. And when the George Floyd murder happened, you had all these companies tweeting and posting, “we’re about change, and we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that”. And there were very few that were being about it outside of tweeting about it, right? And to see Bevy be actionable and take meaningful action…

If you just heard what would Derek said, I mean, if we dissected just what he said. It started with the employee base and it could have stopped there, and still been impactful. But I’ve recently learned, because I was invited to take a class called Black Ventures by Black Venture Institute, learning about venture capitalism, and all the wealth and opportunities there. It was like Alice in Wonderland, you opened a whole other door. And you’re like, “Oh my goodness. I didn’t even know all this was back there.” So, then it brings up a whole other world of opportunities that I did not know about.

All things happen as they’re meant to, because I took that course back in like November, December. I was empowered with all of this knowledge. And then this opportunity came to me from Derek to be an investor in Bevy. And at this point I was powered with knowledge, I was prepared. And I could understand it whereas if the opportunity to come to me prior to me being powered with knowledge, I don’t know that I would have taken it. So I think for me, what was really appealing about the opportunity was that one, I highly believe in the product. I knew the product, I worked with the product, I’m a customer of the product.

And I really was fascinated and impressed with how they quickly pivoted during COVID to offer the virtual platform to keep conferences. Because we needed to be able to offer our community something, to allow them to stay connected in a very disconnecting time. And so that’s what that platform allowed us to do. And then beyond the platform was the people just the people. Not just the employees, but the investors and the board. It’s like a whole jambalaya, just goodness. And being able to have the opportunity to be a part of that seemed like a no-brainer to me.

Brent Leary:  What lessons have you learned from this experience and how do you build on what you’ve begun in this past year?

Derek Andersen:  I’m so energized and excited about this aspect of what we’re doing in terms of building a company. If it’s not the most exciting thing I’ve worked on, it’s one of the most exciting things I’ve worked on. Just really going out. How do I say this in a way that all the wonderful companies that I work with will not get upset with me. What I’ve learned about being a Black professional is that the platforms, the system, it is in many ways stacked against these incredible people.

I’ll share one story of one person that I met. We found this incredible African American woman who was working at Cheesecake Factory. And we’re looking at her resume and she was the captain of her basketball team in college. And her brother is in the NFL. Like this is a family that comes from excellence, this is a family that understands excellence. And she did incredibly well in college. And I was talking to her, I’m like, “Why are you working at Cheesecake Factory?” She’s like, “I just haven’t been able to get an opportunity.”

As I have talked with a lot of Black professionals, I have seen over and over again that there needs to be people opening more doors. We need to be shining more light on the incredible things that people from this community can do, specifically for tech companies. Which is as James Lowry [visionary management consultant and entrepreneur] calls, it is like the last great opportunity to build wealth and sort of the last revolution of wealth creation. And so what I’ve seen is, as these people come into our company is just the contribution that they have made is in some ways greater than anyone we’ve ever hired.

Again, we’re in the bottom of the first inning of what we think we can do and should do. And frankly, like the thing that makes me… And Kobie said this to me last year, “Just go do it. Don’t talk about it, don’t tell anyone. You just go do, see how you go.” And we’re kind of out there now. So, can we retain these great people? Can we create careers for them? Can we create place for them to thrive? We have to prove that. And is it just talk, is it just marketing or is it real? To me, it’s very real, but we have so much to do, so many more steps to go.

I don’t know exactly what all those steps are, but we’re going to get to the 20%. We’re going to keep diversifying our leadership team and our board. And then when we get to that point, we’ll kind of look up and say, “Okay, what’s next.” And try to set another audacious goal. And we still have to maintain those other things too, as we keep going. So, just adding to that. I mean, our sort of internal goal is to be the most racially diverse company in tech.

I don’t know exactly know what that means to be honest, but I say it because I hope people reach out to me and say, “Hey, you’re not even close. You got to do this, this, this.” And that’ll help me figure out how to do that. But that’s sort of our goal. I think the future way companies are going to be built, that’s not even going to be a consideration to be. It will just be like that. But we have to go create that, and as a company that’s gone from 27 to 120 people in just over a year. And as we hope to double that again in the next nine months keeping pace with that and making that a key part of our growth.

Again, this is empowering to us as a team that’s trying to build a good culture and somewhere that people want to work, but also it’s making our company much more valuable. So, if you’re a capitalist or if you’re an altruist, hopefully you can find something there that gets you excited to be part of.

This article, “Derek Andersen of Bevy: From Employees to Advisors to Investors We Want to be the Most Diverse Company in Tech” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Building a personal brand is all about capturing attention. If you work in a “boring” industry, it can be tough to communicate the key benefits that differentiate you from competitors. Especially when you work in an industry that’s not usually the topic of conversation or trending on social media.

Take the VoIP industry, a very boring industry. It’s hard to make VOIP stand out or make it “sexy”. People don’t usually turn to VoIP companies for engaging content, actionable educational or entertainment. But with the right attitude and the ability to produce quality content, leaders even in the boring Cloud VoIP industry can gain recognition and build an audience. (I’ll show you a real life example in bullet #1 below).

In this article I’ll show you real examples of how to capture your target market’s attention, convert them into stark raving fans, and build your personal brand even when you’re in a boring industry.

Ready? Let’s roll!

1. Be Bold. Be Authentic. 

Wallflowers and shrinking violets don’t build brands. People who are bold and enthusiastic do. For executives looking to make their mark and build a brand, being a hands-on, in the trenches type of person translates into authentic experience.

You don’t want to be the kind of exec that takes all the credit and not know how anything works. If your team does the heavy lifting while you get the kudos but you can’t explain how your widget works, then people are not going to respect your opinion.

Someone who shows they know what they are doing and can express their “Why” is going to be more authentic.

Don’t be afraid to have an opinion and share it, even if it happens to touch on the politics of the day. If it is earnest, authentic and well-thought-out—not some emotionally charged overreaction—then boldly proclaim it and let the discourse begin. That is what builds engagement, followers, and brands. 

Those who take a position and confidently support their way of thinking are more likely to stand out 

People value leaders who are confident and don’t flip-flop on their beliefs just to appease the masses. Sure, some feathers may get ruffled, but how many low-key, wishy-washy executives can you name? Exactly. You can’t name many because they don’t stand out and nobody knows who they are.

2. Share Actionable Expertise

Just because your industry isn’t interesting doesn’t mean no one is interested. You can still share your knowledge and expertise to build your brand. Take Ryan Stewman, the sales and marketing expert who runs a sales training called The Hardcore Closer.

Ryan gained a loyal following talking about lead generation. He has built a multi-million dollar business by taking what has worked for him, sharing it, and monetizing it.

Ryan was on the cutting edge of using social media and videos to promote himself and connect with people when he started in sales. Because of his success, he started to teach other salespeople how to use social media to connect with people and use tools for lead generation. 

He built a lead generation software company called Phonesites that helps salespeople create their own sales funnels. He offered free training on Facebook live and produced free content in the form of articles and training videos.

Sharing his expertise helped grow his personal brand which has allowed him to scale into other successful business ventures. He’s doing it right.

Chris the founder of SalesMessage is another great example. He has been using SMS texting to communicate with anyone who contacts their business or even subscribes to their webinars, events, or blog. 

He shares actionable tips, tricks and information while trying to covert some of the leads who contact him and gets a whopping 70% response rate on SMS texts. He recently shared the complete set of sample text messages to send to customers on his blog. He engages his potential customers and build his following.

But, one of the biggest mistakes you can make in personal branding is to be and act like someone you are not. You will eventually be outed, caught, or exposed. 

When building a personal brand, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not or have expertise when you don’t.

Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of the once highly-touted blood-testing startup Theranos, was once the darling of Silicon Valley. She was seen as an influencer and visionary in the same vein as Steve Jobs.

Theranos WAS Elizabeth Holmes and her personal brand of being a healthcare wunderkind carried the firm. Unfortunately for many people, the whole company and the whole story was a massive fraud. She faked her expertise and knowledge, the company was exposed and now it is no more.

A personal brand built on lies and half-truths will come back to bite you.

3. Be the MVP of Value

If you want to really stand out, you must be useful and add maximum value at all times. Do this by offering free info, training, and content about your industry and share that info while speaking at events and on podcasts.

We’re talking about sharing real expertise, not just thoughts or opinions, but practical knowledge that comes from actually having done the work.

Jack Kosakowski kills it here. Jack has been providing actionable social selling advice and content for over 5 years. With his SkillsLab social selling site, he has been helping salespeople to increase their presence through social media and how to correctly connect with—and sell to—their target clients. 

Value comes from experience. Jack has churned out content on social media, his blog, publications like The Harvard Business Review, and on podcasts—continually sharing what has worked for him, and how it took him from a newbie salesperson to the CEO of the US division of a Global Digital Agency.

4. Stop Selling and Build Trust Instead

Look, you don’t need to be Billy Mays or the ShamWow guy, pitching and promoting all day while operators are standing by. Constantly pushing product is exhausting. But talking and engaging with people in your own voice—your true self—and showing them how to succeed with examples and actionable ideas will build trust.

When you let people see the real you, trust is built and your brand strengthens and attracts new prospects.

Trust isn’t built by speaking AT people. It’s built by engaging and speaking WITH with your audience.

People like to do business with people they know, like and trust. And that’s usually not the guy with the bullhorn shouting “Look at me! Look at me!” Differentiate yourself by sharing knowledge from real-world experience in an authentic, engaging way that creates value and trustworthiness. This will build your personal brand.

When someone needs to seek out info in your industry, you will be top-of-mind because you will be the rockstar of your “boring” industry. They will come to you for the value you provide because you’ve built trust due to engagement, value, and expertise. 


The post Personal Branding Tips For Executives In “Boring” Industries appeared first on Personal Branding Blog – Stand Out In Your Career.

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The internet is a noisy place, which means it is more challenging than ever for eCommerce businesses to find new ways to reach the target audience and get heard.

Moreover, as brand credibility and trustworthiness take precedence over impersonal sales pitches, eCommerce business owners have a lot of work to do.

Thankfully, many tried-and-tested lead generation ideas can instantly grab the user’s attention, pull them to your eCommerce store, and nudge them to take action. Here are the seven most promising ideas that help expand your business reach:

1. Start a newsletter

A newsletter that delivers engaging, useful, and timely content can be a great way to boost your eCommerce store’s reach. Use the newsletter to send content that fits a theme or that addresses a need. You can create newsletters for all sorts of purposes and occasions.

Some examples include:

  • New product launch
  • Content round-ups
  • Company news
  • Customer interview
  • Referral program

For instance, you can send a special Labor Day-themed newsletter for promoting a service that reflects the holiday, or share instructions on using your product effectively.

Harry’s, a men’s shaving and grooming products company, once sent an educational email relevant to its product range. Instead of directly selling its shaving kits, the brand shared tips on how men can take care of their skin and get the most out of their shaving experience.


In a nutshell, you do not have to talk about your products or services at all, but emailing your target audience a few times a week can be an effective way to reach out to more people and convince them to purchase your offering — subtly.

2. Interview an industry expert (or influencer)

In the past five years, influencer marketing has grown from obscurity to a form of marketing that is extremely valuable to even the biggest brands. Today, 38.5% of businesses view their success based on conversions and sales.

Interestingly, 50.7% of eCommerce brands work with influencers. There is no doubt that the latter can expand your reach through doing product reviews on YouTube or creating creative Instagram reels or TikTok videos about your eCommerce business.

Blogging is also one of the best ways to build up authority as a business and induce customers to keep visiting the store for more. An excellent addition to your influencer marketing is an interview with a third-party expert.

This helps bring a fresh perspective into your offerings and also encourages followers of the expert in question to visit your eCommerce store.

3. Use on-site retargeting to convert visitors into leads

One way to generate leads is through pop-up forms, which ask for contact information when a visitor is about to leave a webpage or a website (known as exit intent) or when they have spent some time on a particular page.

Rather than simply asking for their name and email address, you can use the pop-up form to offer your visitors some tangible value. For instance, you could give them a $20 discount on any of the products you offer or ask them to sign up to your blog for free tips.

If they are about to abandon their cart, you can trigger an exit-intent pop-up and stop them from bouncing off the site with a well-timed incentive and a proper CTA.

Check out the example from the luxury brand Kate Spade. The copy highlights that the consumer qualifies for two-day free shipping if they go ahead with the purchase:


You could also offer personalized value, such as boost cross-sell purchases related to the product page your visitor recently checked out or upsell with additional products. Strategies like these have a far higher conversion rate than regular pop-up forms.

4. Remarket to enhance brand awareness

This is an important strategy to reach out to customers who have already visited your website and have seen its ads. Essentially, once they have left your site, they continue to see your ads on other pages that they visit.

This strategy is also known as retargeting and is a more effective way of driving conversions than regular display ads. This is because the customer has already visited your site, which means that he or she has some awareness of or interest in your product and is likely to buy.

Customers who are retargeted with ads are 70% more likely to convert. WordStream confirms that:


Tools like Google AdWords or AdRoll are ideal for remarketing. Be sure to give yourself a few months when you start with this strategy to build up a decent list of site visitors first on your eCommerce store.

5. Expand your reach through guest blogging

Guest blogging on different industry sites is a brilliant way to promote your eCommerce store in front of a larger target audience and build inbound links from qualified leads. To put an effective guest blogging strategy in place, you must find relevant blogs in your industry niche.

Google any of the following or similar search strings to identify publications that accept guest posts:

Your Keyword “become an author eCommerce”

Your Keyword “write for us eCommerce”

Your Keyword “contributing writer eCommerce”

Once you narrow down your choice of publications, make sure you:

  • Create relevant and compelling content
  • Use a CTA in your author bio to drive site traffic
  • Deliver what you promise in your guest post when you start getting visits

Please make it a habit of posting at least one guest post a month initially and slowly increasing the volume.

6. Experiment with cross-promotion

Lead generation, when done correctly, can be an excellent way of procuring new leads from an audience that is already interested in your product or service. You will need to work with a business whose product is neither too similar to your own nor too different from yours.

For instance, if you offer personalized interior decor products, you could partner with interior design services in select locations (or cities where your largest customer base comes from) where they are likely to come in to design their house or living spaces aesthetically.

Both businesses can benefit from this partnership. You can promote the consultancy firm on your marketing channels, and the former can do the same for your eCommerce store — thus boosting your online reach.

7. Utilize good old PPC advertising

A fail-proof to expand your store’s reach is through PPC or pay-per-click ads. PPC enables you to measure if your campaigns are cost-effective by comparing the ad costs with the amount of traffic and sales driven by the ad.

Google Adwords is a popular example of PPC advertising. It enables you to create ads for Google search, wherein your suggested ad copies go through an auction process. You start bidding on a keyword, and ads are chosen based on their quality score and bid amounts.

Identify a range of keywords to target and write creative copies to pull the maximum crowd. You pay cost-per-click, meaning you pay every time someone clicks to open your ad. Check out online luxe rug seller Bazaar Velvet ad copy on Google:


Ready to scale up your business?

If you want your eCommerce business to reach as many potential customers as possible, you must apply the tips mentioned above. Not all will work for you, but those that do will undoubtedly fetch you outstanding results.

Image: Depositphotos

This article, “7 Powerful Lead Generation Tactics To Increase Your Ecommerce Store’s Reach” was first published on Small Business Trends