Nico Hodel of Start It Up NYC: “Prepare Content Optimized for the Web”

Prepare Content Optimized for the Web. Many managers overlook the potential of developing regular content that can be shared with customers, prospects, and the public at large to build trust in their brand. Trust is certainly the most fundamental precursor to making a sale. Preparing monthly or weekly content positions a company as a trusted […]

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Prepare Content Optimized for the Web. Many managers overlook the potential of developing regular content that can be shared with customers, prospects, and the public at large to build trust in their brand. Trust is certainly the most fundamental precursor to making a sale. Preparing monthly or weekly content positions a company as a trusted thought-leader online, and makes the sales process smooth and seamless.


As part of our series about “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nico Hodel

Nico Hodel is Co-CEO of Start It Up NYC, a digital innovation agency based in New York City that provides content marketing, app development, digital advertising, data analytics, innovation consulting and video production services for startups, and B2B companies.

A full-stack web developer and programmatic marketing specialist, Nico ran development efforts at his former company Valence Digital for over 4 years, overseeing a 12 person marketing and development team, working on projects in the Angular, React, and React Native frameworks.

After working on web development projects in the tech, finance, and legal fields with clients from around the world Nico took on an advisory role at the company to build Start It Up NYC, and its subsidiary, the content writing service Rriter, where he now works full time as Co-CEO.

When he’s not on his computer or speaking at a tech or startup event, you’ll find Nico surfing in his native Honolulu, or playing tennis in Brooklyn.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and took an early interest in programmatic marketing and web development. After working with a range of clients in the NYC area as a developer I launched Start It Up NYC with my business partner Adi Patil. Start It Up is an innovation-focused digital agency that services startups and B2B companies by providing marketing, and app development services.

In 2020, we launched Start It Up’s first subsidiary company. Focused solely on content writing services, Rriter works with B2B companies by producing monthly SEO-optimized written web content.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Some of our funniest mistakes revolved around working with clients that put us through the ringer. Even brilliant startup founders come with their own set of eccentricities. The life cycle of startup companies means that many founders are put on an emotional roller-coaster that can make them quite difficult to work with.

We learned to be accommodating of founders’ ups and downs and to choose the clients we work with closely. Expanding into the B2B space has also given us a great deal more stability.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My business partner Adi Patil has definitely been helpful in navigating the ups and downs that come with entrepreneurship.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The Startup of You by Reid Hoffman, as well as Hoffman’s podcast Masters of Scale both had a strong impact on me. Some of my favorite podcasts include Influencer Networking Secrets, The Tim Ferriss Show, and Missing Magnolias.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Our vision was to build a movement around innovation and entrepreneurship that creates jobs and opportunities for people around the world. We wanted to support companies that are solving important problems and disrupting industries for the better.

Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We’re extremely excited about how our work scaling Rriter could provide jobs and opportunities for talented writers across the country, many of whom are currently underemployed.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?

Practically, it means looking at which disruptive digital trends can be leveraged to increase a company’s ROI, spur innovation, and cut costs. For some companies, that might mean looking at how social media could help them reach new audiences, or how content and SEO could boost traffic.

For other companies, it could mean looking at how exponential advancements in computing, AI, hardware, synthetic biology, or robotics could be capitalized on to enhance their products.

Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?

Companies that have the ability to integrate digital technologies into their business with limited bureaucracy, administration, and regulatory hurdles stand to benefit most from digital transformation.

We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Digital Transformation. In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.

We’ve helped established companies to develop an authoritative voice online by producing monthly written content that is specifically developed to provide SEO benefits. Past clients have included companies from the healthcare, e-commerce, entertainment, and software industries.

For one past client in the food-tech space, our team was originally brought on to manage a social media campaign and ended up shooting and editing an original, 6-part video series that highlighted the chefs featured on the platform and the work they were doing in their community. This is just one example of how digital transformation can take on a life of its own based on the feedback of a product’s users and audience.

Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?

Most of the challenges come from managers that are set in their ways and hesitant to embrace digital technologies. Regulatory hurdles and rigid hierarchies can also be obstacles.

It’s often best to get managers genuinely excited about the potential of leveraging digital technologies. Showing examples and case studies that demonstrate the benefits of digital transformation can be a great way to do that.

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Prepare Content Optimized for the Web. Many managers overlook the potential of developing regular content that can be shared with customers, prospects, and the public at large to build trust in their brand. Trust is certainly the most fundamental precursor to making a sale. Preparing monthly or weekly content positions a company as a trusted thought-leader online, and makes the sales process smooth and seamless.
  2. Leverage Search. A robust search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is a powerful, low-cost way to drive relevant organic traffic to a company’s website. Being discovered based on relevant keywords and searches will also go a long way towards establishing a company’s brand as an authority within its niche.
  3. Embrace Social Media. Too many business leaders are skeptical about integrating a social media strategy. Social media advertising platforms can offer a unique opportunity to reach new audiences in a targeted, data-focused way.
  4. Integrate Digitally-Focused UI and UX Design. Adopting user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) principles are crucial to increasing retention, adoption, and reach for digital products. Too many companies neglect to collect accurate data from their users about their experience using a digital product which can lead to a lot of wasted time and money. The included features, color palettes, and wireframe of a digital product should be carefully constructed and continually improved.
  5. Adopt Agile Management Practices. Too many companies have fallen into the pitfall of investing too much time and money developing a rigid plan for digital transformation upfront, only to realize that their plans aren’t in line with what customers want. Instead, it’s best to develop a minimal viable product (MVP) and continually improve it based on the feedback of users. The same is true when integrating digital marketing plans. Brands should experiment and A/B test different approaches to see what works and what doesn’t.

In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?

Fostering a culture of innovation means that employees should be free to bring “crazy” ideas to the table and ask audacious questions. Tunnel vision is the enemy of innovation. Instead, managers should force themselves to “zoom out” from day-to-day concerns and ask the big-picture questions that give them insight into how to transform their organization.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“90% of CEOs believe the digital economy will impact their industry, but less than 15% are executing on a digital strategy.”

-MIT Sloan School of Management

How can our readers further follow your work?

You can connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter, and learn more about our work at Start It Up NYC and Rriter.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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