Founder Must-Haves: Instincts, Relationships, and Plenty of Cupcakes

In 2007, Michael Lazerow was obsessed with Facebook. "I just loved it as a product. I liked this idea that we were connecting with people in a different way, a better way," he says. "I like my friends, but I don't want to call three of them a night. On Facebook, I was talking to 15 people in a week." Lazerow had a hunch that brands would soon use Facebook to talk to their "friends" (aka customers) as well. With that gut feeling, and some technical wizardry, Lazerow turned his fascination into Buddy Media, a fast-growing software company valued at $500 million dollars.

What does Buddy Media's software platform do? It helps the largest companies in the U.S. connect with customers via social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Using the platform, a brand manager can create Facebook pages, launch online sweepstakes, build customer lists, publish product news to fans, and track conversion rates (i.e. the number of people who click through to buy).

One of the keys to Lazerow's success has been building relationships that last. "It's important to be working on relationships when you don't need them," he advises. Practically speaking, that means staying lightly in touch. Spend a half hour a day making introductions to people who ask for them via email or on social networks. Write handwritten notes to people you are thanking. "A three-sentence thank you says more than what is in the content of the note. It says you cared to take the time," explains Lazerow. He also believes that social media has created a "Reputation Economy" around sharing. "Sharing content online is important. Put content out and curate content. I tweet a lot, but in many cases, I send out specific links to a handful of people for whom the information will matter."

Here's more on how Lazerow built strong relationships with investors and partners alike:

Lazerow relies a lot on gut instincts and he's not shy about sharing his opinions publicly. When Lazerow predicted in 2009 in a Business Insider article that Twitter would one day be worth $2 billion dollars, he was eviscerated by commenters. But, who's eating crow now? Twitter raised its latest funding on a valuation of $4 billion.

Here's more on how Lazerow manages instinctually:

Lazerow seems too low-key and personable to be running a fast-growing multi-million enterprise with 200 employees. He's cuddly and says things like "I love cupcakes." But, this soft-touch approach is a winner with employees. "You have to find ways to hire when there's zero unemployment in the developer community," says Lazerow.

Here's more on BuddyMedia's unique culture: