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02/03/2010

Cozi’s Cash for Smiles Program is now LIVE. Smile on your favorite stories!

After much deliberation, we have chosen 25 incredibly talented mom bloggers to be a part of Cozi’s Cash for Smiles Program!

In the month of February, Cozi will be paying them $1 for every Smile they receive on their Journals. Their job is simple: make creative journal entries and share them with friends and family.

Check out their Journals and Smile on the most heartwarming stories OR ones that simply make you lol! 

Create your OWN Cozi Family Journal !


Cash for Smiles Program Cozi Family Journal Links

http://family.cozi.com/melben/

http://family.cozi.com/thejollyfamily/

http://family.cozi.com/momdot/

http://family.cozi.com/happy/

http://family.cozi.com/momstart/

http://family.cozi.com/3kidsandus/

http://family.cozi.com/thefalconbunch/

http://family.cozi.com/connerty/

http://family.cozi.com/private-b507f51294e7a072b3d8edb2e5acd445/

http://family.cozi.com/valmg

http://family.cozi.com/snedfam/

http://family.cozi.com/theshoppingmama/

http://family.cozi.com/kate/

http://family.cozi.com/dealectiblemommies/

http://family.cozi.com/notsoaveragemama/

http://family.cozi.com/stilwellfamily/

http://family.cozi.com/campclan/

http://family.cozi.com/hatfieldfamily/

http://family.cozi.com/ibarrondofamily/

http://family.cozi.com/amysjournal/

http://family.cozi.com/henson/

http://family.cozi.com/samplesfamily/

http://family.cozi.com/thegleasonfamily/



10/30/2009

Wanted: Online Marketing & Content Guru

Recently, I have been thinking A LOT about a new full-time position we are posting at Cozi. It's for an online marketing whiz, and as I see it, this new person is going to play a key role on our team.

Although this is not a job board, I'm asking my blog readers to help spread the word. As you read the description below, please think about people you know who might be appropriate. While we'd love to find someone in Seattle, if the perfect person lives in Oklahoma, we'll figure out how to make it work.

Here is the job description:

"Wanted: A Senior Level Online Marketing & Content Expert Looking for the Opportunity to Pull Out All the Stops"

Cozi is looking for a senior level online marketing expert to lead and execute our content marketing strategy

This position is for the highly motivated, driven, and hungry individual who has displayed both success—and even failure—in the above areas over the past several years. The perfect individual has deep expertise in internet marketing, content procurement, and the conceiving of compelling story ideas.

This individual will:

  • set Cozi’s CONTENT STRATEGY, with the goal of driving THOUGHT LEADERSHIP, creating BUZZ, and maximizing the benefit of content through SEO in the mom, family, and tech marketplaces, as well as brand awareness amongst moms and families on the internet
  • have complete ownership for the EXECUTION of the strategy primarily through content procurement, but also through building relationships with authors/writers, causing the RIGHT stories to be written about family related topics, on Cozi’s behalf, that the nation will care deeply about
  • be responsible for SOCIALIZING (marketing!) newsworthy stories online (through the blogosphere, through content bookmarking services and other means) to ensure it is picked up, noticed, and read

What's it like to work at Cozi

  • 100% family oriented
  • very fast paced
  • a highly independent, energized environment
  • a team culture that respects individual strengths
  • ethical to the core

Some other good stuff to know:

We fully cover healthcare premiums for all employees and their families. We are sensitive to parents who are returning to the workforce after time at home raising kids; we understand that “family comes first.” Our employees reward this approach by giving us 100% of their dedication.

This is a full-time position; our total compensation package (cash, benefits, equity) is very competitive.

In case you are forwarding this information, here's a quick summary about Cozi:

Cozi is a free web service that helps families organize and simplify busy family life. With Cozi, families have the tools to manage schedules and activities, track shopping and to do lists, organize household chores, and share family moments with friends and relatives—all with one solution. Details at http://www.cozi.com

To apply, please send your resumé along with a breathtaking cover letter to [email protected].

10/13/2009

Bloggers Who Are Moms

Last month I attended the TypeAMom Conference in Asheville, NC. During three days immersed in the "Mom Blogger" community I learned many things, not the least of which is that some of them prefer to be called "Bloggers who are Moms."

Here are two more:

First, I learned that Bloggers who are Moms (BWAM for short, though I am absolutely not trying to promote a new acronym!) are as diverse as the "mom" demographic itself. Any effort to generalize the BWAM community is futile; and likely to fuel misunderstanding about this influential group.

One of the areas where I saw the greatest diversity amongst BWAMs was their goals: Some blog as a labor of love, while others hope to make extra money for the family.

On the second day I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on selling ads on your blog.  As the CEO of a web startup that now successfully sells large amounts of advertising, I had a few things to say. The response was overwhelming.

So the second thing I learned is that as a fellow entrepreneur, I could share my experiences with those who want to build a media business with their blog.

And that's what I'm going to do. Starting at the end of this month, I will send out a monthly e-newsletter with tips and information about building a successful online business.  Topics will include: Return on investment, media proposals, how advertisers make placement decisions, sponsorship programs, balance of editorial with advertising, controversy alongside advertising, and more.

And, if readers have questions, they are welcome to send them in, and I'll publicly answer some of them.

If you'd like to receive this monthly newsletter, please add a comment to this post with the following information (separated by commas.)

first name, last name, email address, twitter name

I'm looking forward to the conversation.

10/02/2009

A Cozi Employee Benefits - Focus Friday

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that it was "Focus Friday" at Cozi. I got several responses from my Twitter followers and Facebook friends asking how it works.

Most Fridays at Cozi, family members (i.e Cozi employees) may work wherever they feel they will be most comfortable and productive: at home, at another off-site location (Starbucks, the library, etc.), or in the office. The day is primarily meant to give people regular opportunities to work “heads down" without the distraction of meetings or the typical chatter that occurs in an open-space office like the one we have at Cozi. The day is about more than just efficiency though; it promotes less commuting and a lower carbon footprint.

Almost two years after we put this in place I am proud to say that Focus Friday has been a success for the company. How do I know it's a success? I know because two things are true:

  1. The vast majority of Cozi family members love Focus Friday. I know people would miss it if I took it away, AND
  2. The majority of Cozi family members come into the office on Focus Friday!

How incredible is this! I was able to deliver a much wanted benefit to our employees AND find out that  even when they have the choice, Cozi Family Members want to come to the Smith Tower to work.

I've been musing recently on why it is that people actually prefer to come into the office. Sure, there are mundane reasons like "it's quiet" and "the kids aren't around", but it's more fun to imagine that it's the following:

  • The selection of free snacks and soda Sandra so expertly selects for us all.
  • The ride up to the seventh floor with the elevator operators (yes, we have elevator operators.)
  • Rockband in the Cozi Family Room.
  • The sound of me ringing the bell when we close a new deal.
What about you? Given the choice to work anywhere, where would you... and why?

09/01/2009

Yes It's True - I Knit For My Employees

Most people don't believe me when I tell them that I knit. Since I am known for pulling legs, they assume I'm just trying to pull one more. This time, I'm telling the truth.

My grandma Jenny taught me to knit when I was seven years old. My dad wasn't happy about it, but my mom thought it was a great idea - and she prevailed. I left off doing it as a teen but picked it up again more than 15 years ago. Over the years I have made something for just about everyone in my family.

Most people ask me, "When do you have time to knit?" The truth is that I don't have that much time to knit. I often knit when Bonnie and I are watching TV after the kids go to bed. I knit on airplanes during take-off and landing (when I can't be on my laptop); since I travel so much on business, this adds up.

I know it looks a bit odd for a business person to sit on an airplane and knit... but that's exactly why I like doing it. Given the opportunity to mix things up a bit, I will almost always grab it.

On a business trip about a year ago, I was finishing up a sweater I'd been working on for my mom. I turned to Tim (Cozi's Chief Business Development Officer) with a question:

PhotoMe: I wonder who I should knit for next...

Tim: Why don't you knit for Bonnie?

Me: I'm not doing that again for a while. Last time I knit for her, she changed her mind when I was done and I had to rip the whole thing up!

Tim: You've done your whole family. Who else is there?

Me: Maybe I should knit a sweater for one of the Cozi family members [one of our employees].

Tim: That is a phenomenal idea.

Me: I like it, but I wonder if people would think it was weird.

Tim: They wouldn't. People will love it.

And he was right. It turns out that knitting for Cozi employees is a wonderful way to show them how much I personally appreciate what they do.

Joanna, one of our most senior software developers, was my first victim. (pictured here, in my creation.)

Now I am working on a sweater for Sam, who works in Marketing. When I am done with Sam's sweater, I think I'll try to knit for Bonnie again. Maybe this time, instead of surprising her, we'll collaborate on the design.

Do you have a story about making something by hand for others? I'd love to hear it.

08/24/2009

Vote for the New Cozi Feature of Your Choice

Please complete this poll. For details on each item, read below.

A product like Cozi is never "done". Each time we finish a new feature or improvement, we move on to the next.

How do we choose what to change and improve first?

  • customer feedback
  • business considerations
  • customer feedback
  • customer feedback
  • budget
  • customer feedback
  • a bunch of other stuff
  • customer feedback

So if you have been just burning up to tell us what you want to see in Cozi, now is the time. Vote TODAY for your most-desired new Cozi feature set.

Here are the choices we are considering right now. Will there be others later? Sure, but this is our short list:

1. Sharing & Connecting Features

These are tools that will make it easier to share what you use and learn on Cozi, as well as increase the connectivity between your everyday on-line and off-line life.
  • Auto update to Facebook when you add a selected item to your calendar
  • Add an item to your shopping list and see instantly generated coupons & deals for that item
  • Some other cool stuff, which is top-secret but we promise you will love  - once we think of it

2. An Official "To Do" List

Sure lots of Cozi families use the Grocery List area to create To Do lists. (My family does too.) But an expanded and enhanced To Do list would make it possible for you to:

  • Assign To Do items by individual members of the family
  • Check off items that are complete
We might also include a way to:
  • Post specified items on your To Do list to your Facebook or Twitter account. Then, if you post "research vacation in Hawaii", you might get useful suggestions from friends and family.
  • Start a conversation with a "public" button that would show a To Do item to everyone. If you post "Research vacation options for winter holiday" on a public To Do list, you could get suggestions from the whole Cozi community. You could even see how many people had the same item on THEIR To Do list.

3. Shopping List Widget

With more people cooking at home these days, recipe web sites are a great tool for families searching for new ideas. (We love Unilever's Making Life Better Recipe section.)

We are already hard at work on a feature that will allow you to click on an on-line recipe and automatically transfer the ingredients to your shopping list.

But, we could take that a step further and put a Cozi shopping list box (widget) right onto the recipe site. That way, you could easily see what's already on your list, and what you need to buy to make that recipe -- without hopping back and forth.

4. iPhone Application

The iPhone fans are DEVOTED, and we get daily requests for an iPhone application. Is this your #1?

5. Sharing through the Cozi Collage.

The Cozi Collage Screensaver is one of our most popular features. It's "no work" and "pure pleasure." Do you want to see it get even better?

Some upgrades would make it possible to:

  • easily send a Cozi collage to friends via email or through your Cozi Family Journal
  • see your friends' photos in your Cozi collage, if they give you permission
  • automatically back up all the photos in your Cozi collage (on Cozi)
  • simplify access to your collages, or individual photos when you are entering a Journal post

There are five choices, and everybody gets ONE VOTE!

We are using the honor system, so please vote above only once. But...if you want a feature set really, really, really badly, feel free to call up a few friends, and ask them to vote too :).

Thanks!

Robbie

08/19/2009

Fear of Flying with Social Media

Today it appears we goofed on the social internet.

In the last month or so, Cozi has embraced social media like Facebook and Twitter in a big way. While many executives fear these tools because of their spontaneity and openness, I have come to believe that the payoff in engagement with the customer is well worth any perceived risks. The fact is that people are talking on the internet anyway, we can either ignore the conversations, or join them.

I still believe this.

So, what happened?

Several weeks ago our Washington State senator's office approached me with a request: "Please host a meeting for Senator Murray with small business CEOs/owners to discuss the health care debate."

Although I am not personally involved in local or federal politics, I thought, "Cool! I'd love to meet the senator, there will be press here, and maybe I can talk to her about how Cozi can help military families stay in closer touch. Plus, I am passionate about providing great health-care to my employees and health-care costs are growing too quickly at Cozi."

This morning we had the meeting.

We - the business owners -- had a productive discussion with her around health care. There were nine of us in the room representing all sides of the political spectrum. Given the debate going on across the country, I was surprised that everyone in the room was supportive of what Senator Murray called a "public option" even though she made it clear to us all that in truth, they have not yet defined what that will look like or who will pay for it. All she was ready to share was that government would be involved, it would extend care to the uninsured, and it would help lower the cost of health-care to businesses like us. Everyone was supportive; based on that description, how could they not be?

When we came out of the meeting, Carol, who is driving a great deal of our social marketing work, asked me, "What was the highlight? I'll post it to Facebook."

Not thinking more than a second about it, I replied, "There was unanimous support in the room for a public option." I had been surprised by it, so it seemed the most interesting nugget to share. It was insight into an interesting meeting we had a Cozi about a topic that affects us all.

I was wrong. While some fans responded positively, many of the 35+ comments we got on Facebook were negative. Since we treat every one of our customers like gold, and we work so hard to satisfy them, losing their trust hurts like hell.

We were not taking a political stand as a company for or against health-care reform. But fans perceived that we were, and worse yet, some argued that the debate that ensued had no place on our Facebook Fan Page.

The problem is that it's hard to know what exactly to take away from this. Should we avoid anything that might be perceived as politically charged? Should we micromanage every post we make on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social network? Right now, I still think we need to remain genuine and transparent; anything else would break the spirit of the social internet. Hopefully the successes will be big and the failures will be small.

I don't like failing. I always think back to when I was nine, skiing with my father at Stowe, VT (on the Nose Dive). We met-up half way down the run and I said to him, "Dad, I can't believe I made it this far down without falling once." To which my wise father replied, "If you didn't fall, it means you probably didn't learn anything."

08/12/2009

Every Good Leader Needs Strong Values

As I think back over my professional life (more than 16 years!), I realize how many different skills, teachings, experiences, people, relationships, successes, and failures have formed who I am today. All of these experiences together guide me through every meeting, decision, negotiation, and interaction I have. Seven years ago, I decided to articulate all these personal “guiding lights” into what I now refer to as my core values. Ultimately, these values are the source of everything that I do; almost any decision I make or position I take can be traced back to my core values.

Most of the Cozi family members—the people who work with me at Cozi—are aware of my core values. They come up naturally in the hiring process when a recruit asks me a question like, “What’s your style?” or “What makes a Cozi employee successful?” It also comes up often when we are faced with difficult decisions as a company; when there is no clear “right” answer, I like to go back to basics with my core values.

Here they are, in no particular order:
  • Integrity and Trustworthiness. At the core of everything I do is the principle that I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I want to be able to speak openly and honestly to those around me, and I hope that they will do the same with me. My passion for transparency grows out of this core value.
  • Intellectual Horsepower. I work very hard to surround myself with people who are ten times smarter than I am. I put an exceedingly high value on critical, thoughtful, and creative thinkers who enjoy solving hard problems.
  • Work-Life Balance. I have always managed my life (as far back as high school) with a balance between work and life. Here’s how I explain this to would-be entrepreneurs who believe that 24-hour days are part of every CEO’s existence: Building a company is a marathon, not a sprint. For the Cozi family, I know that the best way to burn out employees is to force them to burn the candle at both ends. I work very very hard to practice what I preach on this front.
Even though I’d love to give myself credit for the creation of these values, it’s much more likely that the foundation was largely poured by my mom and dad as I was growing up, and developed by the several mentors I had while working at Microsoft.

In a future post, I’ll talk about the effect my personal values have had on Cozi’s core values.

07/27/2009

Cozi Family Summer Vacation – The Old-Fashioned Way

Many of you have heard me talk about Cozi being “fanatically focused on families.” And the tens, if not hundreds, of people I’ve pitched­ to—press , partners, recruits, customers—know that when I say “fanatical” I really do mean fanatical; I’ve tried to somehow incorporate an element of family in everything we do here at Cozi. Everything! Over the next few months, through this blog, you’ll find out just how fanatical I am.

Today I’ll tell you all about Cozi’s vacation policy. It’s particularly salient to me this week because the Cozi Family Summer Vacation has just ended. Twice a year, Cozi shuts down for one week. Everyone at Cozi—except one person who watches over the Cozi service—takes the week off. One Cozi Family Vacation is during the summer, and the other is between Christmas and New Year’s. Employees can take an additional two weeks of vacation whenever they want. I call it “two plus two.”

When Jan and I formed Cozi in 2005, we didn’t think through such details as vacation, maternity/paternity, or sick leave policies. My mantra early on was “only as much process as we need, and not an ounce more.” It didn’t take long, though; as soon as we started recruiting our first few employees, the question of vacation came up. I needed to establish Cozi’s first policy, and I decided that I would innovate. Jan and I (and our first couple of employees) had all worked at Microsoft where the vacation policy is liberal. Every employee gets three weeks off, and after a few years on the job, you get four weeks. Most large tech companies in Seattle have similar policies. My challenge was: How can I offer something that is almost as good, but has a Cozi flavor and costs Cozi a little less?

I was inspired by the typical vacation policy in France (where my sister has lived for 20 years). In Europe, business almost entirely shuts down in August. While they’re on vacation, Europeans know that work is not piling up, because everyone else is on vacation too. This sounded pretty good for employees. I thought about typical U.S. vacations: When 25% of a team is on vacation, people get blocked because of dependencies on the people who are out, and efficiency drops. But if everyone is on vacation at the same time, as in Europe, you don’t have the same loss of efficiency. Good for employees. Good for Cozi. There might be something here!

We tried it and it worked. Four years later, we’re still doing it. With 23 Cozi family members (that’s what we call our employees), there will always be a few people who don’t like the policy, and we have a couple of exceptions each year. Still, I think the policy is a positive part of the Cozi family culture, and I hope we can hold on to it even as we grow.

07/22/2009

Getting to Social

About a month ago, sitting in front of the Cozi board of directors (six of my closest advisors), I finally came to the conclusion that by Internet standards, I am old. It was a mortifying realization. I’m the CEO of an Internet startup in Seattle, building some of the coolest new UI for the Internet; how could my skills be outdated? How could I let this happen? What did I miss? Where did I go wrong?

Much like a patient talking to his therapist, I walked through it with my board. I came to realize that I was just born 10 years too early. The way I perceive, analyze, and even process features, content, and interactions around technology is different than a 29-year-old does, because I developed the foundation of my understanding of the Internet between 1995 and 2005. My habits, dependencies, and basic uses of technology and the Internet were established during those years. More critically, the skills I developed during those years that help me prioritize software features, understand user perceptions of technology, and, most critically, guide an engineer’s trade-offs were all developed in the late ‘90s. Those were the defining years of what is now viewed by most as my “nature.”

Clearly this was the rationalization of an “old guy.” After several days of living with this reality, along with a pep talk from my co-founder, Jan Miksovsky, I decided to take on the challenge of changing the reality I grew up in. I could put myself out there on the open Internet. I could be more publicly transparent. I could share emotions and thoughts on Twitter with whoever wanted to read them. I could share my opinions with complete strangers. I could fully embrace the social Internet and lead Cozi to do the same. I could do it.

And so I did, starting with Twitter, which was the most extreme social technology I could embrace. It’s been about a month, and I am just now beginning to feel like I get it. I lie in bed at night thinking about  innovative things we can do on Twitter and Facebook. I am beginning to appreciate the new “friends” I am making on Twitter. My reality is changing. And this week I executed my first Twitter “campaign.” It was a success. I did it myself. All by myself. No planning. No meetings. No buy-in. All spontaneous. All organic. Even a little rough. Check out http://twitter.com/#search?q=%23coziblogher and http://twitter.com/#search?q=@cozicape to see what happened. I’ll do more.

After a month of Twitter, I decided that I had more to share with my friends than could possibly fit in a 160-character tweet. So I’m starting a blog, and I’m committing to at least seven posts between now and Labor Day.

Now it’s on to the next challenge: helping Cozi become a more “social” company. This will certainly be a harder challenge, because I need to lead every member of the Cozi family (that’s what we call our employees) to the water, yet I can’t make any of them drink it.

Please wish me luck.

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