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How Valence Aims to Provide Better Access and Funding for Black Founders & Executives

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“I gotta say it was a good day.”

I’m so fricking pumped today. Really, truly. Yeah, Valence announced > $5 million in funding led by GGV and Upfront. That IS a big deal, but I’ll get to that. But Kamala Harris was picked to be the Vice Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. That means she’ll be the first female Vice President of the United States, the first female Black Vice President and the first Indian-American Vice President. I don’t take this for granted, be ready for a fight. But let’s be clear. WE WILL WIN. We might have to fight for it after the votes go our way but let’s get ready for the fight.

So let’s get it.

Guy Primus, CEO of Valence

Valence. It is a company with a mission to create better access and more funding for Black entrepreneurs and executives. Valence is led by a talented CEO, Guy Primus and was the brainchild of my partner, Kobie Fuller. If you want to follow two great Black executives who work at the intersection of technology and venture capital make sure to click on those links and follow them on Twitter.

So what exactly is Valence and why does it matter?

18 months ago, my partner Kobie Fuller was inspired to build a solution for a problem he faced regularly: as one of the few Black partners at a VC firm (an estimated 3% of GPs in venture are Black vs 14% of the US population), he was consistently asked for warm intros to Black professionals, to Black VCs, and to talented Black operators and entrepreneurs.

Venture firms wanted to meet talented Black founders but didn’t know where to start to find them. And Black entrepreneurs wanted access to decision makers but didn’t always have the easy connections. In fact, one of the biggest criticisms I personally get when I suggest that founders should “get introductions to VCs” is that this might reinforce existing racial imbalances by providing easier access to White professionals than people of color.

An imbalance clearly exists in access and networks that has resulted in a tech industry where an estimated only 1% of venture dollars go to Black founders and only 3% of the workforce is Black and a country where Black individuals hold a disproportionately low amount of the wealth — only 3%. As Kobie says, he didn’t have a “magical database” of great Black talent, so he set out to build a solution not just for himself, but also for the community.

Personally I believe that to fund more people of color you need to put check-writing authority in their hands the same way that if you want to see more women funded you need more women GPs. My greatest criticism of our industry is that women and people of color feel the need to leave larger VCs to create their own firms. We have a responsibility to help propel them to the top ranks of our biggest firms to make our check writers more representative of our society overall.

There is a very clear economic rational and strategic advantage for doing so. There are amazing Black entrepreneurs, Indian entrepreneurs, Chinese entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurs, gay entrepreneurs and so forth. OBVIOUSLY! If 90% of the check writers are White, straight men then it’s clear if you are different than that you’re going to have an advantage. As I always say, being great as an investor is about having “edge” and edge means knowing somebody or something that very few others know. It’s about swimming in lanes where others aren’t present. Being diverse in the VC industry is a VERY LOW bar and a clear differentiator.

At Upfront we believe in improving access for founders and entrepreneurs to networking, professional development, and economic opportunities, and that’s what Kobie set out to do with Valence, which he incubated in our offices. Huge hats off to Kobie for the idea, energy, direction, evening hours and the foresight and salesmanship required to bring on Guy to take the helm.

Building a mission into a business

By the time Valence launched in late 2019, the team had built the necessary systems and technology to seamlessly engage and onboard the community — not just the users, but also some pilot corporate partners who also believed in the mission and opportunity and who wanted to leverage and support this amazing database of talent. It was also important to Valence to not only connect users, but also to celebrate the successes and spotlight great Black leaders through high-quality content and design.

As soon as Valence launched in November 2019, the business quickly had proven demand from the community, not only from senior business leaders but also from so many young, talented professionals who could benefit from the inter-generational networking that Valence supported so seamlessly. Since launch, the Valence platform has supported more than 5,000 micro-mentoring sessions (AKA Boosts)— allowing the kind of invaluable network support that’s so critical to success and advancement for even the most talented founders and operators.

You can hear more about the importance of mentoring from Kobie Fuller, Valence advisor James Lowry, and John Legend — yes, THE John Legend — in this video from the 2020 Upfront Summit.

https://medium.com/media/ca4b009ff76eb6ee18c50cdedd2ae63d/href

So things were going well for Valence in 2020, amazingly even in a pandemic. And then in May the world was galvanized by the tragic murder of George Floyd (and Breonna Taylor. And Ahmaud Arbery. And Rayshard Brooks. And the many Black women and men before them whose lives were taken at the hands of the police.)

When the mission meets a movement

In these months, not only did we see widespread civic protests but so many industries, including ours, faced a reckoning that despite even the best intentions, lip service wasn’t enough. We all needed to take action to address the imbalance of access, and to literally put our money where our mouths are. Suddenly a spotlight was put on everything that the Valence team had been building, and there was even more energy around the business.

I always say that you can judge a startup’s future based on how fast they’re able to execute when it counts. Well, I can tell you that within weeks of the civil unrest, Valence had:

  • Introduced the Valence Funding Network, where GPs from more than 30 of the top venture funds representing more than $60B in assets under management joined Valence with the goal of linking Black entrepreneurs on the platform directly to venture decision makers.
  • Increased membership by more than 20%
  • Hired a CEO, Guy Primus, who was previously the CEO of The Virtual Reality Company as well as the COO of Overbrook Entertainment. He’s been a leader at the intersection of media and tech for many years and we’re grateful to partner with him.
  • Announced their Series A funding round, which Upfront participated in and which was led by Hans Tung from GGV. Hans has been a great peer and collaborator on other portfolio boards and we’re excited for him to join Valence at this pivotal time. We have worked closely with GGV for years and they were a natural fit for helping to build a network like this given their investment in Chief (for women) and The Mighty (which helps families with people facing health challenges).

Since day one we have anticipated great things for Valence and with this groundswell of support at the civic level as well as the industry level, we hope to see meaningful improvements in access and dollars for Black professionals. Please join me in congratulating Guy, Kobie and the team for what they’ve built so far, and what’s to come.


How Valence Aims to Provide Better Access and Funding for Black Founders & Executives was originally published in Both Sides of the Table on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.



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6 Ways To Incorporate SEO While Building A Business in 2020

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There’s no quick fix, or “one and done” solution when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). You have to be prepared to play the long game to see the full advantages of SEO when developing a site — and it’s worth it to see your site rank highly on search engine result pages.

That said, there are some methods that will give you a quick boost. Shift more attention to the most significant ranking factors and tactics that will give your site the ability to rise to the top of the search results this year.

Choose a Responsive Design

User experience is a big deal these days. Google loves to serve its users the best results possible. If your website isn’t easy to use on a mobile device, you’re going to suffer a setback in ranking. Think about it, have you ever landed on a site where you had to zoom in to read the text and scroll side-to-side to read all of the content? This was most likely the desktop version of a website. It was made for larger screens and doesn’t reformat to fit on different screen sizes.

Responsive sites will resize images and reorganize the blocks of content according to the size of the screen. If you want to test whether a website is responsive, open up a web page on a desktop or laptop. From the full screen, shrink the window by clicking and dragging, and you’ll see the sidebars move, the navigation and header will take on new positions and the content and images will line up differently. 

Mobile search volume accounts for more than half of the total searches made online (see chart below). A responsive, mobile friendly site is no longer an option, but a necessity, when it comes to providing an enjoyable user experience.

Create Keyword Clusters

Making a list of keywords that your ideal audience would use to find the content you’re offering will also boost your SEO ranking. Plug each keyword into a keyword tool to generate additional ideas. Assess the best options for keywords to include in your content strategy by grouping them into pools based on search intent. You’ll notice that many of those keyword options will be subtopics large enough to write an entire blog post about, in which you can provide more detailed content optimized for a related keyword.

For example, if you own a home improvement business, a central page on your site would be kitchen renovation. And because there are so many choices to make when renovating a kitchen, you could then go into depth and create a new page for every option, from counter tops and backsplash tile to faucets and refrigerators. When you’re planning your content, structure the website to feature central pages that are optimized for the most central, competitive keywords and most important aspects of your business.

Publish articles on the related subtopics in full detail in order to provide as much information on those major keyword topics, to show your expertise in your field, and to demonstrate authority within the content of your site. Google looks for this as partial evidence of your status as an expert in your niche.

Google also loves when there is a distinct organizational structure. By linking the subtopic posts to your major product pages, you signal what pages are most important to your site by creating a keyword cluster.

Image source: https://webstyleguide.com/wsg3/3-information-architecture/3-site-structure.html

Optimize Your Content

On-page optimization enhances the likelihood of your page being ranked for your target keywords. Avoid keyword stuffing and place your keywords strategically. For instance, use your target keywords in the front end of your titles, and keep your titles under 60 characters or they will get cut off in the search display.

Place your keyword in your URL. The most effective URLs are those that are under 5 words and summarize the title or content on the page. Keywords should also be included in the meta description. Using your keyword in the beginning of the meta description will improve the click-through rate for users. As will placing your keyword within the first 100 words in the first paragraph of your content, and using keywords and keyword synonyms in the subtitles.

Use structured data markup whenever possible. If you can provide a rich snippet, you may get a boost in the position your site is displayed.

Make Your Pages Quick and Nimble

With a heavy emphasis on user experience, page speed can make a huge difference in how your site performs. If you’re an ecommerce site, it becomes extremely important because every second your page takes to load will cost your business money from lower conversions.

 graph-seo-png

 mPulse Mobile Case Study on Page Speed Vs Conversion Rates, Image source: https://digitalducats.com/page-speed/

Test your mobile page speed here. You can improve your site speed by reducing image file sizes, using plugins, and using a content delivery network to give your website additional page speed.

  • To reduce the size of your images use Kraken or Smush.
  • W3 Cache is one of the most popular WordPress plugins that increase page speed, but you can decide for yourself by choosing one from this list.
  • Choose a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to reduce your pages load time from a list of options here.

Get Other Sites to Link to You

Establishing credibility and authority is a necessity to be competitive in search results. Backlinks are a powerful way to prove that your content is credible and authoritative because essentially it is being endorsed by the websites that link to you. But stay away from paid links, or any link scheme used to manipulate ranking in an underhanded way. Unnatural linking will lead to penalties and should be avoided altogether.

One approved method of link building is to become a guest author. There are guest posting sites in every niche and having knowledge about your business is all you need to create an article that can be submitted to a site for publication. It may take a few weeks to get a response, and you may need a few submissions before receiving acceptance. Get into a routine for guest posting to build backlinks as fast as possible.

Ask People to Share Your Content

A social network is a priceless asset for expanding your audience and getting more traffic to your website. Build your network by being active on the social media site that has the most impact on your business.

Install social sharing icons on your site and include a call to action to get the most shares. A retweet study revealed that content with share icons received 4 times as many retweets with the phrase “Please RT”.

Conclusion

Although there is a lot to put together to achieve a first page result, it’s a long-term game plan. Start building your website with SEO in mind to give your site the best chance at the top positions in search results.

 



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Online commerce runs on copywriting. Here’s how to write unignorable landing page copy

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Here's a copywriting template that works for home pages / landing pages. Check Copy Ipsum to see how it looks.

  1. H1 Headline -> Come up with a good headline. A big idea that hints that here is something your reader really, really wants (and can get from you).
  2. Sub-headline -> For example, you may be selling a SaaS accounting tool, but the big message is: "Peace. Of. Mind." So explain here in clear and simple words what your product does and for whom it does it. And clarify the big claim you made in the headline.
  3. CTA button -> Tell the reader what to do next
  4. Add here logos of your biggest clients. Because social proof gives you credibility.
  5. H2 headline ->Now that you grabbed your reader's attention you need to interest them enough to keep reading. The right way to do that is to write a headline that appeals to their selfinterest. So explain here the consumer problem your product solves.
  6. Body copy -> Because you want to generate empathy. So write from the consumer’s perspective. Avoid jargon. Write with your ears, use the same language your target audience uses. And position your product as the solution to the problem.
  7. H2 Headline -> Highlight the number ONE benefit of using your product.
  8. Body copy -> The ONE BIG REASON to buy your product. Be specific and convince the reader why your product delivers the promised benefit. This should be an emotional benefit like, "how does this product make me feel or look?".
  9. Testimonial -> "Place here a real testimonial from one of your favorite clients."- Client name, CEO at Company Name
  10. H2 Headline -> Give the reader a second reason to buy your product.
  11. Body copy -> And also prove them in some way that your product does what you say it does. This benefit is not as big as your number ONE benefit, but it is reason enough to persuade the reader to buy your product. This should be a functional and specific benefit. Like, "saves you $1,040/year", "Saves You 10 Hours a Week", "Lose 40 Pounds in 30 Days", "Learn how to code in 12 weeks." These are just examples, but you get the point.
  12. Testimonial -> "Place here a real testimonial from one of your favorite clients."- Client name, CEO at Company Name
  13. H2 Headline -> Show why your product is remarkable, and what your readers can do with it.
  14. Body copy -> This should be a benefit to the consumer based on a product feature or a physical characteristic that makes your product special. Highlight specifics— facts, special features or anything the reader needs to know to make a decision. Remember this: In 2001, when Steve Jobs introduced the first iPod to the World, he didn't pull it out of his jeans pocket and say, "The iPod. A 5GB MP3 player". He said, "The iPod. 1,000 songs in your pocket."
  15. Testimonial -> "Place here a real testimonial from one of your favorite clients."- Client name, CEO at Company Name
  16. H2 Headline -> Close with a strong call to action persuading the reader to act. For example, if you're selling a SaaS accounting tool a strong call to action is: Restore your faith in accounting.
  17. Body copy -> Remind the reader what's in it for them if they buy your product.
  18. CTA button -> Tell the reader what to do now.

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Make The Decision To Live An Epic Life

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Every single one of us has the ability to live the most epic, abundant and successful life.

So why is it that in reality, most people never go on to experience that? Far from living their best life, so many people find themselves so stuck.

This is what we talked about and made breakthroughs on last week in the Package Your Brilliance challenge I hosted with the amazing Gina DeVee.
The challenge was about how you can take your ideas, knowledge and passion and turn them into offers and packages that your ideal clients will love to buy, so that you can build a successful business doing something you love.

At the beginning of the challenge, so many of the women who took part felt like they didn’t deserve to live an epic life – and I know that this limiting belief is so common.

I was so inspired by the transformations we saw during the challenge that in this episode, I wanted to talk to you about:

  • The reason why so many people don’t believe that they deserve to live an epic life.
  • The excuses we all tell ourselves that keep us playing small and hold us back from creating success.
  • How I kept myself stuck for years going round in circles and the realisation I had that changed everything.
  • The new decisions I made and the challenge I created for myself that transformed my life and my business.
  • A simple exercise you can do today to help you condition your mind to create success.
  • Mantras to help you create more abundance and clarity in your life.

If you loved this episode and you know you’re meant to create a successful business and live that epic life, I’m collaborating with the incredible Gina DeVee on a transformational program called Perfectly Packaged.

Click here to dive into the details and join us there >>>

Over 10 weeks, Gina and her amazing team of coaches will help you take your ideas, knowledge and unique brilliance and turn them into a successful coaching or service-based business.

If you’ve got a burning desire to create success, but you feel like you’ve been teetering on the edge of what could be possible; if you want to go on a transformational journey alongside like-minded women with the best mentoring, support and guidance….this program is for you!

Click here to find out more about it and save your spot before enrollment closes >>>

The post Make The Decision To Live An Epic Life appeared first on Female Entrepreneur Association.



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