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Launch Effect

November 4, 2011 in 4 out of 5 stars, A piece of software, Analytics, Free, Landing Pages

What is it?

Launch-effect-logoLaunch Effect: A free WordPress theme anyone can use to quickly create a professional looking, virally inclined pre-launch page for your upcoming product website, app, service, etc.).

Who makes it?

Barrel LLC

Why is it the killerest?

First let me state that I'm saving you some trouble, because I did this the hard way first. For my latest venture I started by building a pre-launch site from scratch. It's a couple pages, right? How hard can it be? Well - to do well, actually - kinda hard. Or, time consuming anyway. Consuming of time you should be spending building your New Thing.

1. It's very easy to set up - virtually anyone can do it.

I'm no WordPress guru, but I went from nothing to a fully launched site in just a few hours. First, I fired up a super cheap hosting account with my registrar NameCheap. Once my account was set up, I logged in, installed WordPress (literally a few mouse clicks), then downloaded the Launch Effect theme, uploaded and installed it in my WordPress, made a few tweaks, and my site was ready to go. 

2. It's got built in social-sharing tools and viral spreading motivation 

This is perhaps the nicest feature and something you likely wouldn't have time to build yourself. And it's all baked in, and very easy to configure. 

How it works: After someone gives you their email address, they're presented with a thank you message, and a panel of social icons they can click to share. 


Subscribers are also given a unique tracking link. When they use that link (or any of the icons) to share, you and they will both be able to see how many folks they've sent to the site, and how many signed up themselves.

Additionally, you can give them an incentive to share. On mine, I'm giving away a free lifetime account to someone who shares and leads someone else to sign up.

3. It's got great built in tracking

As mentioned above, each person who signs up will show up in your admin panel, along with the number of clicks they've sent you, and how many of those have also signed up (plus conversion rate). Both you, and they can see these stats at any time.


What could be improved?

Tracking your referrals is too confusing for visitors.

When a visitor shares, they have access to their referral, and conversion stats, but in order to see that information, they have to re-submit their email address into the signup form. Clever - but how on earth are they supposed to know that? There's really no good way to communicate that to them at this point.

It needs to integrate with MailChimp and/or Campaign Monitor.

First, it's very easy to export your signups in a CSV and import them into MailChimp - which, if you're only going to do that once, is no big deal. But ideally, you'd like to get an auto-response email to your signups. This would allow you to tell them about the referral stuff noted in my last complaint, as well as a few other bells and whistles that MailChimp offers.

It's a bit hard to fully customize without touching the code.

Out of the box, it probably does most everything you need, and you can certainly make a perfectly good-enough site without customization. But if what you want to do isn't exactly what the theme expects you to do, you'll need to dive into the css and/or php files. This is a minor niggle though, it has very solid customization constructs.

It has only a small subset of the available Google Fonts to work with. 

That said, they do natively support TypeKit and MonoType.

And I note, they're working improving it. This roadmap looks great.

How much does it cost?

Nothing (it's free)


Reviewed by Carson McComas

p.s. Here's the one I set up. If you make one, please share it in the comments below.


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Why entrepreneurs should be watching Discovery Channel's "Gold Rush"

November 1, 2011 in Television

2011-11-01_0840I enjoy entrepreneurship, startups, business and the like the same way my brother in law enjoys baseball and basketball. Which is to say, I'm a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth fan. Rarely a day goes by that I don't read, study, research, observe, or consult on the topic. And like many of you, I'm constantly engaged in my own attempts at it. It captivates my attention like little else.

I'm only a casual sports fan, so working this metaphor further will be perilous, but I'll just say that Gold Rush is as close as I'm going to come to the euphoria, mental swings, and irrational emotional investment that some folks have watching sports. 

Gold Rush is extra interesting to me because it has all the elements of an engaging startup story, but in a completely different context than my world.

For the uninitiated (and my apologies for those outside the US who may not have access to it), Gold Rush is a TV series which follows a team of hard scrabble, go-for-broke, all-in, heart-and-soul, down-on-their-luck dreamers who aim to cash in on the current high price of gold by starting a mining operation in Alaska.

Watching the sacrifices they make, the bond that builds between them, the impossible odds against them, and their pure unflagging determination in the face of a relentless wave of obstacles is, in a word, inspiring. The parallels to the startup world that you and I live in are myriad. 

There are probably some weirdos who appreciate entrepreneurism, yet don't like this show for some reason, but I can't imagine who. The (relative) ratings boom the show has enjoyed confirms that my affection for the show is not uncommon. If you enjoy a good story, an against-all-odds tale of struggle in realizing your dream, this is a bit of television well worth your time.

If you haven't started yet, do yourself a favor and start with season one. Unfortunately they don't make it easy. But there are a couple options.

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