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Austin’s largest venture raise this year will surprise you

(MARKETING) Opcity is the Austin startup making big changes to the ways that lead generation happens in real estate.

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Real estate start up

With the accelerated growth of real estate in today’s metropolitan markets, it’s no surprise that innovation and growth from this is highly valuable. With $27 million dollars in funding, Austin startup Opcity is proving that through and through.

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The company just closed a Series A round of funding, and it is the largest round of funding raised by an Austin startup this year.

Opcity’s pitch

According to Opcity’s website, the startup performs lead generation for real estate brokers, to ensure that brokers receive “the right referral…in real time,” for both buyers and sellers. Traditionally, according to CEO Ben Rubenstein, the process that connects real estate market participants and brokers “has historically been complex and at times extremely frustrating.”

Opcity aims to both simplify and optimize that experience.

They certainly have a point; lead generation can eat up a lot of work bandwidth for brokers. It requires managing multiple marketing channels, both online and offline. So much so, that there are entire Quora threads and articles dedicated to these very topics. Some of them specifically lament the existing pay-for-leads system that exists in the online marketplace, citing how difficult it is to convert these leads into clients.

Opcity assumes this role for these agencies, and all without upfront costs to them; brokers pay up only when the transaction closes.

Not only has the startup proposed a better solution to lead generation, but they have developed it in a city with a thriving real estate ecosystem, and that’s more important than you might think.

“You build a successful venture WHERE the regional economy, market, and ecosystem of experience, talent, and resources support what you are trying to accomplish,” MediaTech Ventures founder Paul O’Brien said. To that end, “Austin (and Texas) are distinct from the coasts given the tremendous room for residential and commercial development, met with demand – as thousands are moving into Texas every day. [It] is the market ideal for innovation in real estate and Opcity helps establish that fact.”

On the up

Texas isn’t the only state catching on; since their launch in 2016, Opcity closed 350 brokerages and over 4,000 agents to work with their platform. In addition to the industry’s top independent brokerage firms, Opcity also works with Century 21, Keller Williams and other classic brands.

That attention caught the eyes of venture capital firm Icon Ventures, who led this round of funding with support from Georgian partners and LiveOak Venture Partners.

The funding will allow Opcity to scale into other markets.Click To Tweet

As this model catches on, it could significantly shape the marketing and communication interactions between brokers, buyers and sellers. Anyone in the real estate industry should be paying very close attention to this journey.

#Opcity

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Born in Boston and raised in California, Connor arrived in Texas for college and was (lovingly) ensnared by southern hospitality and copious helpings of queso. As an SEO professional, he lives and breathes online marketing and its impact on businesses. His loves include disc-related sports, a pint of a top-notch craft beer, historical non-fiction novels, and Austin's live music scene.

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Business Marketing

Modern best practices for your online design portfolio

(BUSINESS) Do you have an online design portfolio? Does it hold up to modern standards or is it stuck in 1997?

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Whether you’re looking for your next gig or full time opportunity, your online portfolio is your showcase, your chance to shine. But so frequently, we see creatives that either don’t have an online portfolio, or an awful (or incomplete) portfolio. It’s a challenge, because you often sign NDAs and are not at liberty to share all of your work, it’s a challenge.

Let’s talk about the modern best practices for your online portfolio.

First, before you even open a browser tab, put pen to paper and commit to your goals and consider what you are looking to express. Look around at what others are doing so you know what to compete with. Are you just going to slap up some pics of your work, or are you going to tell the story about the process and why you made certain choices? The language you use will differ if you’re looking for a job or for a client.

Second, where are you pointing people to? If you have some thumbnails on your Geocities site from 1997, you’ve already lost. Owning your own site is the best method, and the most common option used in the industry is WordPress (here are 50 themes to consider), and ideally you own the URL for your name that points to any site hosting your portfolio.

If WordPress feels too advanced for you, Squarespace is the most popular drag and drop option in the industry, and some even use Wix (which was recently improved). Or, you could consider a design portfolio platform like Big Black Bag or Behance.

Next, consider what you’ll display. You’re in a real catch-22, because you want to express experience, diversity, and quality, but if some of your work doesn’t apply to what you want to be hired for, it could actually work against you. Think of this as an art show at a museum – they would never show every piece of your work, rather they would curate specific pieces to tell a story.

And if your portfolio is light on applicable work, create your own concepts and redesigns (so long as you label it as such). Hate Google’s logo redesign or maybe the search interface? Mock up your own, show a before and after, then disclose it as a concept piece you’ve imagined. You could even have a section for concepts that is separated from client work.

Your display should match your work – if you design mobile websites but your portfolio isn’t responsive, you’ve screwed yourself. If you’re an animator, your portfolio shouldn’t be a bunch of websites you redesigned. If you’re a graphic designer, your portfolio shouldn’t showcase a bunch of emailers you created copy for. People are judging you within the first three seconds, so your offering better match the story you’re trying to tell about yourself. If you’re not a deconstructionist designer, your website design better not be deconstructionist. Get it?

Always be updating your portfolio, even if you’re not looking for clients or employment. It’s harder to go back in time to recreate a portfolio than updating as you go. But remember – you can’t just slap up 800 images of a project, again, you’re curating. Select only the best images and add them as you go to save endless time. Try doing this at least monthly (plus, it’s a great way to tell search engines that your site is fresh, thereby improving your ranking).

If much of your work is physical or print, take the time to take high quality photos of these works, potentially even mocking them up on physical products (you can use a site like Smart Mockups as a shortcut).

Next, you want to make sure that your online portfolio serves client or employers’ needs. Is your About page sparse, or does it talk about how you connect with your profession? Does your site tell people who you are, where you are, who you’ve worked for, what kind of work you’re looking for, how you charge, and how they can contact you? If you can’t answer each question in under three seconds, you’re losing opportunities. Design your portfolio for them, not for you. Do you have a logo and tagline? Testimonials? Can they find you elsewhere online (do you have social media buttons in the header or footer)? Everything we’ve mentioned in this paragraph is the equivalent of dozens of “Hire Me” buttons, so don’t take this part lightly.

Make sure that your portfolio is error free. Test every single page to make sure it works, then before going live to the world and sharing the URL, have at least three people (ideally that are writers or editors) review all of the copy for accuracy. You’re not a professional writer, so trust their input if they suggest the copy is off.

If you have the time and capacity, blogging is the cherry on top. Not only does it help your search engine rankings (don’t stress too much about SEO, though), it creates new opportunities for your thoughts to be shared, expanding your reach. You’re smart, you know not to blog about conspiracy theories or politics, blog about your work – why did you choose this profession, what enriches you, why do you make certain design choices, what do you think of large brand designs, etc.

Get the word out. Be sure to add the URL to your design portfolio on all of your social media profiles, even LinkedIn. Audit your online profiles annually to make sure they point to the place that will generate business opportunities for you.

TL;DR – get a WordPress site, curate your best work, make it easy to contact you.

And if your brain needs some samples of modern design, start clicking:

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Business Marketing

Aori helps you pack a punch with AdWords

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Aori is the newest tool designed to help anyone using AdWords to kick more butt.

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Search ad campaign managers constantly wrestle with the best way to organize their keywords into campaigns. Most of these decisions strive to balance the time needed to manage the campaign with efficiency of campaign expenditures.

Take the SKAGs strategy, for example. The SKAGs (Single Keyword Ad Group) system is setup to trigger a unique ad for every single keyword by placing each keyword in its own group.

There’s lots of literature touting the benefits of the SKAG system. Generally, the hyper-specific match between ads and keywords improves click-through rates.

This leads to higher quality scores, which leads to lower costs for click, which leads to lower costs per conversion. The tradeoff with this system is the setup. You could be looking at hundreds of keyword groups to set up and maintain, and that’s a lot of work for a small business or startup.

This is where Aori comes in.

Their system helps to automate the process of setting up a SKAG system for your AdWords campaigns.

According to the website, the tool’s primary function is to automate keyword generation. Users enter a set of “root keywords” and common keyword extensions, and Aori will automatically generate all possible combinations of those keywords for your campaigns.

Additionally, through Aori, users can create ad templates using a “dynamic keyword insertion tool,” to enable you to utilize the strongest ad copy across multiple phrases.

In what is the least clear value point of the whole pitch, Aori also uses what they call a “unique bid-optimization algorithm.”

There is almost no detail to be found on how the algorithm works. If the tool handles all bid management for you, this could be a handy tool for PPC novices who are less familiar with the process and lack the time to learn it.

Aori appears to run cheaper than the others we know of, but that may be due to the level of automation available. For example, Aori requires the user to feed it keyword inputs, both root and extension words.

It’s also important to understand where a SKAG system can and can’t work. It is likely a better system for smaller campaigns where ad testing wouldn’t yield statistically meaningful results.

Because every keyword group targets one phrase, you can’t readily say that improvements in ad copy will translate to other campaigns.

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Business Marketing

Have maternity leave gaps in your resume? Let Pregnancy Pause help

(MARKETING NEWS) The Pregnancy Pause is an organization aimed at helping moms re-enter the workforce from maternity leave sans the explanation for the employment gap.

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Mamas getting hosed

Our country’s totally sad policies around maternity leave – companies are only required to give pregnant women and new moms 12 weeks of unpaid time off – mean that many working women opt to quit their jobs in order to birth and raise infants.

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When a mom is ready to reenter the workplace, she often has an awkward, unexplained gap in her résumé that make it harder to get hired.

Honesty works best

While moms have traditionally been advised not to mention their maternity leave unless asked directly, studies show that moms are more likely to be hired if they actually explain what they’ve been up to.

A branding agency, Mother New York, has come up with a creative way to help moms clarify the résumé gap, and to “make it clear that maternity leave – whether 12 weeks or 12 years – isn’t a vacation.”

The company is encouraging LinkedIn users to list their job title as “Mom” and their company as The Pregnancy Pause.

Hiring managers who click on the link are taken to a website that explains the unfair disadvantages faced by working moms.

Nothing to be ashamed of

According to Corinna Falusi, CCO of Mother New York, “New mothers in the U.S. often feel forced to quit their jobs due to a lack of adequate maternity leave policies, which leaves them penalized for the subsequent gap in their résumé.

We wanted to give working mothers everywhere a simple tool for this problem, and make it easy for them to own maternity leave as the full-time job it truly is.”

Besides a website, The Pregnancy Pause also has a LinkedIn page and a phone line. When a hiring manager calls the phone line, they’ll hear a voicemail explaining that during the candidate’s résumé gap, “she spent innumerable hours raising a child, which has surely offered her invaluable experience as a prospective employee.”

Listing The Pregnancy Pause as your employer can be a great way to explain a résumé gap on sites like LinkedIn, where the lack of face-to-face contact with a hiring manager can often leave many unanswered questions.

Full time mom

Women in the workplace shouldn’t be penalized for having children. Our federal policies and company cultures must come to support working moms.

Until they do, The Pregnancy Pause at least offers a way to explain maternity leave on your résumé.

#PregnancyPause

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