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Reminiscing marketing Israeli startups in the 90s

Kenny Sahr: The good old days were OK for marketers, but the 'good new days' are a lot better

The current wave of mobile startups is revving up. The level of excitement reminds me of the first wave of internet startups. It all started with Netscape’s IPO in August 1995 and ended with the Time-AOL merger in January 2000. I founded my first internet company in 1996. In those days, we entrepreneurs and marketers did everything – from designing banners to coding html to sales calls.

In the 1990s, I didn’t have a world class PR agency guiding me to exclusive press articles. PR agencies didn’t know what to make of “the internet thing”. Garnering media attention was easier as there weren’t as many startups out there; we had less competition. Collecting media contacts involved blood, sweat & tears. I recall visiting thousands of newspapers, hunting and collecting 2 email contacts from each and pasting them into a text file for press release distribution. Imagine doing that twice a year.

Finding advertisers and potential business partners was just as labor intensive. From 1996 to 2002, I visited the Yahoo Directory (and Lycos and Infoseek while they existed) 2-3 times a year. The strategy involved seeing who was in relevant categories (say, entertainment and education). Anyone who took the effort to be added was worth contacting. Part 2 was even more fun – reloading the pages dozens of times each to see who was advertising. If they could afford to pay Yahoo, they could offer my rates as well.

Business meetings took place in irc chat rooms and at restaurants such as Dixie and Agadir in Tel Aviv. We took notes with a pad of paper and a pen at beach meetings. Tablets weren’t even a dirty thought in Steve Jobs’ mind in 1996. Internet Phone was a cool app, but practical voice over IP was years away.

Today, we have so many more tools – Google, Salesforce, and dozens of social tools – to assist in startup marketing. PR agencies are a huge help. Standing out from the crowd is more of a challenge in 2013. By now, a lot of things have been done and out-of-the-box is the only recipe for success.

I miss the excitement of 90s startup marketing. Many of the lessons we learned will be used again in this current mobile startup cycle. I’ve never felt so ready. Are you?!

About the Author
Kenny Sahr is a startup marketing executive. His first startup, founded in 1996, was featured in Time Magazine and on 60 Minutes. Kenny moved to Israel from Miami, Florida. In his spare time, he is an avid music collector and traveler.
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