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Are you ready for an unforgettable evening of entrepreneurial drive, wine, social media, passion and hustle? Entrepreneur, New York Times & Wall Street Journal best-selling author, and self-trained wine & social media expert, Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) will be talking with 85 Broads on June 22, 2010 about how to Crush It! and why now is the time to cash in on your passion.

Location:

Bloomberg LLP
732 Lexington Avenue
(Between 58th & 59th Streets)
New York, NY

Date: Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Time:
6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
RSVP:
[regonline.com]
Fee:
Members: $45.00
Non-Members: $75.00
Member + Guest: $80.00

Guests welcome.
RSVP by June 14, 2010.
No registrations will be accepted after this date.

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If you have aspirations to start your own business, watch the video as Ravikant discusses:

  • The three traits you need to look for in a partner
  • How important it is to be in Silicon Valley
  • How to get a meeting with an investor
  • Whether you should be public or private with your idea

Some excerpts that I love from the video:

3 Traits of a Successful Entrepreneur:

(i) Passionate (ii) Irrationally Optimistic (iii) Highly Committed

Best Advice Ever:

It’s the people, stupid

Find a great partner:

(i) High Intelligence (ii) High Energy (iii) High Integrity

Keep your ideas private or public?

Always public. That’s what separates the amateurs from the experienced.

Why most companies fail:

It all comes down to people problems. Interpersonal conflicts. Surprising, but ironic.

Show. Don’t tell. Be a doer, not a talker. (what have you built, how much have you accomplished with limited resources?)

Watch the video here.

One of the most important indicators of how well someone will do in their career is how strong their circle of mentors is. Those who have mentors are twice as likely to be promoted as those who don’t.  You need a wide range of mentors, and you need different mentors at different times in your life.

I’ve been very very lucky to have recently found mentors that I highly respect, trust and look up to. You want to build a network of mentors whom truly cares about your well-being and success and vice versa, not just someone that you go to when you need them.

Never ask someone if they can be your mentor. The thing is that having a mentor is nothing but asking questions. So why waste time asking a question like “Will you be my mentor?” You get no value out of the answer. Just ask a real question. Almost anyone will answer a good question. Successful people genuinely want to help others succeed.

Establish a good relationship to start, maintain & build an engaging relationship, ask enough intelligent well-thought-out (but concise) questions throughout, and your mentor will become your mentor before you even know it.

But above all, leverage your network and be brave. You will only get mentors if you really want them.

Diana Sonis and I had the pleasure of presenting Danielle LaPorte (of White Hot Truth) as our first speaker in 85 Broads Entrepreneurship Forum Spring Calendar yesterday at noon. The jam session was very successful; we had a great turnout online and many excellent questions were asked during the QandA session.

Danielle is truly one charismatic and inspirational speaker. What she has to say speaks volumes to the bare truths out there; her presentation was succinct but powerful, memorable and relatively easy to apply.

The Problem

Before she started with her presentation, she mentioned that the reason why most people are unhappy with their jobs is because:

We’re not being intentional with what we’re good at. We don’t focus on our innate and true strengths. These are things you do that strengthens you. Stop doing things we’re mediocre at. Our weaknesses are things that makes us feel drained.

I find that extremely true. I’ve always had this mantra that people can only contribute back to the community (in a creative and value-added way) if they do what they’re good at or what they’re passionate about for a living. Unfortunately, most of us are trapped in the path that we unintentionally set for ourselves ever since we graduated from college with that first job that we took. After 3 jobs in different companies (small, mid-sized and now large), I cannot say that I have a successful career so far and neither am I proud of what I do for a living right now (as a management consultant with a Big 4 Accounting Firm). And that’s because I feel like I am ‘faking’ it. I’m not doing what I’m naturally good at. I’m not even doing what I’m remotely interested in. And this is how I know that I need to pursue that “dream” job of mine and fulfill my entrepreneurial spirit and hunger.

Definition of an Entrepreneur

Sure, one could say that an entrepreneur is “someone who doesn’t want to be told what to do.” But really, it’s just anybody who just wants to start.

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Just reposting this blog entry from Adam’s Blog since I think it’s a pretty good summary of Eric Ries’ lean start up concept:

Startup Lessons Learned

entrepreneurship leanstartup methodology organizations

Fri Apr 30 12:19:55 -0700 2010

Like many folks in the startup crowd, I’m a reader of Eric Ries’ blog (some links), and I’ve read Steve Blank’s Four Steps to the Epiphany. What I didn’t know is that these guys have joined forces to build a movement they are calling “lean startups.” After attending the Startup Lessons Learned conference last week, I now believe this methodology is on its way to making a major impact on the world of entrepreneurship.

Lean startup methodology has a lot in common with agile. But where agile applies to software, lean startups applies to customers and markets. Customer discovery, validation of markets, iteration on product, and intensive customer feedback are all part of the lean startup.

The energy at the conference reminded me of what Ruby conferences were like a few years ago. Charismatic, passionate, opinionated leaders draw together a crowd of strangers; and then those strangers look around to realize they are surrounded by people that share their passions. It’s the birth of community.

I took some notes during some of the talks. What follows are some of the quotes I jotted down, and some commentary.

Randy Komisar on Pivots

Randy Komisar wrote Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model. His thesis is: your first idea never works, but that’s ok. What’s really important is getting to the next idea, and the next and the next, zeroing in on something that will work – and all of this as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Transitioning between plans is called a pivot, a word that was in heavy use by most of the speakers at the conference.

Some quotes from Komisar:

  • “Plan A never works”
  • “‘Lean’ means get to the right answer with as little time and money as possible”
  • “I invest in people irrationally committed to a purpose” – Founders believe in a vision; maximizing their personal wealth is a side-effect, not a primary purpose. Being an entrepreneur is not a good way to make money, even though some people strike it rich.
  • “Leap of faith question” – The premise your startup is built on. What question can you ask, where the answer will make or break your business? For example, “People will pay more for outstanding design” might have been Apple’s leap of faith in the 2000s. “People will switch to using personal productivity software on the web” could have been 37Signals’ leap of faith.
  • “Once you decide to change, you will always wish you changed earlier”
  • “Everything is derivative – that’s not a bad thing. Steal liberally”
  • “We’ve got to zig and zag through the realities of the opportunities in front of us and the information they are giving us” – Founders aren’t founders because they know what to do. They’re founders because they can figure out what to do, quickly, in the face of rapidly changing information. This is why, for example, fixed business plans are of no use in a startup.

During the discussion with Randy, Eric Ries used the term “success theater” to describe what happens in boardrooms when plan A starts to go south. Instead of admitting “what we’re doing isn’t working, we need to try something else,” founders dress up the trajectory of the business in false clothes. This doesn’t help anyone in the long term.

Pivots are what startups do. The sooner that investors, founders, early employees, and early customers come to grips with this, the less heartache needs to surround each pivot, and the quicker you can get to the right answer.

Steve Blank on Entrepreneurship

Much as I like Four Steps to the Epiphany, I’ve never gotten much value from Steve Blank’s blog – so I wasn’t expecting much from his talk. To my surprise, I was absolutely riveted. While Eric Ries is the father of the lean startup movement, Steve Blank is a very active and hands-on grandfather. His presentation was both enlightening and inspiring.

There was so much good stuff in this talk it’s hard to capture it all. A few quotes:

  • “A startup is a search for a scalable, repeatable business model”
  • “No business plan survives first contact with customers”
  • “Startups search and pivot. Large companies execute.”
  • “Founders make order from chaos”
  • “Lean startup is the first business methodology that is being crowdsourced and developed iteratively – we’re collectively getting smarter at a scary rate”
  • “My personal goal is to change the state of entrepreneurial education in the United States”
  • “In the 1950s, Venture Capital was called Adventure Capital”

Blank lays out the lifecycle of a scalable startup in three phases: search, build, grow.

  • Search – The one and only mission of the company in its early life is to search for a scalable business model. Nothing else matters. Small team, little to no management, very little of the formal trappings of a company. Staying lean, nimble, and chaotic is how you search rapidly. Formality and structure only slow you down.
  • Build – Once the business model is found (in technology, this usually comes in the form of a software product that people love and have demonstrated willingness to pay for) the company starts to build out. Here the team is expanding, infrastructure is being put in place, branding and market position clarified. The organization goes from feeling like a ragtag band of buddies working on something made out of passion and elbow grease, and to something that feels like a “real” company.
  • Growth – Everything is figured out, the company’s direction is decided: it’s now a matter of turning up the volume and continuing the business model on increasingly large scales. This is generally where the founders and many of the early employees of the company will make an exit. There are examples of founders who have stayed on through the final phase: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison. But these guys are the exception, not the rule (and that’s part of what they are famous). Founders need to be aware of, and prepared for, the likelihood that success means they have made themselves irrelevant in the organization they have built.

A Tale of Two Businessmen

Blank closed with a fascinating story about two figures involved in the early life of General Motors. The first was Alfred Sloan. Sloan was the CEO of GM Motors in the early part of the 20th century. He’s widely recognized as the man that took GM to being the largest company in the world. Many business schools are named after him, and his managerial style was considered to be a pioneering approach that defined the new business of the 20th century.

The other player in this story is virtually unknown: Billy Durant. Durant founded GM and took it up to $3.6 billion in revenue (that number is adjusted for today’s dollars, if I’m recalling correctly). He was then fired by the board of directors, and he left to found Chevrolet. He quickly grew that company until it was bigger than GM, and then he bought GM. This guy was the Steve Jobs of his day – why don’t we remember him?

The answer is that the last century of business education has focused almost entirely on the last stage of a company’s life. Business degrees are MBAs, which Blank cautions are useless or perhaps even harmful in the early life of a startup. (MBAs working at a startup will try to apply their knowledge, creating structure and formality at a time when that’s the worst possible thing you can do.) Blank feels that entrepreneurial education should be separate from business education – B-schools can give out MBAs, and E-schools should give out MEAs.

He argues we’ve seen the first glimpse of this in the past several years, pioneered by Y Combinator. Blank points out that there are now over 100 (!) YC clones in operation, proof of the huge thirst for startup-focused education. He has a goal of bringing this entrepreneurial education into a more academic setting as well.

While he hasn’t done this yet (though he sounds quite serious about it), he offers up a small bit of entertainment to tide us over: the Durant School of Entrepreneurship, available in T-shirt form.

Gilt Principles:

  • Deals once a day that go away quickly
  • Membership is free and invite only -> Viral Growth
  • Members come back because it’s “new” every day – there are a lot of options to choose from but not paralyzing and overwhelming
  • Gilt is not about search. It’s about discovery. It’s a private shopping experience.
  • Driven by beautiful imagery not category – very different from other e-commerce sites
  • Don’t be too complex and keep it fun
  • Customer insights = customer intelligence. Wealth of information and increasingly important tool to get partners. Most partners are wholesellers.
  • Gilt can tell velocity (what products sold fastest, etc). Can show them what brings customers in. What customers buy. Unmet demand. Waitlist. These often number in the thousands and hugely valuable to brand partners. Give them insight into what young women are going after.
  • In the long term, Gilt rebuilding platform where they can serve dynamically, every member based on preferences, buying history, behavior, etc.
  • Noticed that there were a lot of “shoppers” on the site who weren’t making the purchase. When they dug deeper, they discovered that most of their users still thought that the items are too expensive or that this was just not their lifestyle. So they consciously introduced lower priced items to appeal to this group.
  • Susan has 10 key metrics to eye on. Make everyone at company conscious on these 10 metrics. Should constantly review these metrics as important measurement of company’s health.
  • Always experiment with different sale concepts. But always offer a value proposition to your customers. Eg. Selected 20 items and did a promo on Gilt.com at full price. If the customer spent more than $250, they got a credit as well as additional gift. So this is more incentive to customers to shop online vs in store. Goes to show that a lot of customers also buy items at full price since they have come to trust Gilt as a high quality site referral for fashion. That is why branding is so important.

Why the Focus on Women Entrepreneur in High Tech?

  • Women has huge buying power (women control 2/3 of discretionary spending in US households)
  • A market discountinuity exist between women’s capabilities and the opportunities that they are not taking advantage of
  • Expanding presence of women at officer level of IPOs (in 2009, 17 of 19 high-tech IPOs with a woman officer)
  • Women in tech entrepreneurship now represents 16% of all applying for angel capital
  • Women founders outperform – launch companies with 30-50% less capital than the norm. Achieve comparable or higher revenues in earlier years. Are slightly less likely to fail.
  • Cornell research proved that gender diversity increased innovation
  • Women historically start a company 10 years later than men (women at 35-45 years  vs men at 25-35). But that is now changing with Women 2.0 in California.
  • Why so few women in StartUps and VCs? 30% of women with right education and exposure are in high tech workforce.
  • How Women Fund their Companies – self financing, bank debt, angel investment
  • Sand Hill Rd: Venture-backed companies outperform all others due to functional and financial expertise, knowledgeable service providers, best rates on debt, customers and partner introductions, and credibility – staff, customers, partners
  • Why the Gap? (i) Pattern Recognition/Homophily + Self Selection. 93% of the people on “Sand Hill Rd” are white males and have attended Harvard or Stanford. Women also more likely to seek women investors but there are a lot less out there. (ii) Lack of Access + Lack of Visibility. There is no critical mass (70% of IT startups have 0 women founders, 26% have 1 woman partner and 6% have 2 women partners).  
  • Overcoming the barriers: The road for women has been mapped by Indian entrepreneurs.
  • Recommendations: READY – Encourage young women to gain the right educations and fund research to better understand the barriers. SET – Consolidate movements for more focused impact. GO – Build visitbility.
  • Illuminate’s Approach: 4 investments so far (2 have women CEOs, 2 have women co-founders in high tech). It’s all about performance – Illuminate believes that startups with women founders generate higher revenues per dollar of invested capital and lower failure rates than those led by men

Story of Alexa Von Tobel of LearnVest

Working on the side while at Morgan Stanley. Prototype with a few thousand dollars. Enrolled in HBS. Worked on for a year. Astia backed company. Dropped out of HBS but with support of 4 professors. Moved to NYC. Didn’t want to take money from friends and family. 85% women make decisions in household but no one is marketing to them. No one wants to read a book on personal finance. Janet Hanson and Circle Financial Group were Angel Investors. Got oversubscribed. $1.5 M committed. Prototype more refined. Selected by TechCrunch. Alexa only women presenting at TechCrunch conference. Nov 2009 opened website to women. Online for free to educate women to make personal finance (content, tools and community). Accel Venture Investors (who invested in facebook) just backed LearnVest.

On Fundraising: One of the hardest things to do – dark and scary moments. Learned from people who’ve done this before. Go after Goldman Sachs partners who were passionate about finance. Daily Candy partnership on personal finance 5 days a week (former CEO). Former CEO of Huffington Post worked with LearnVest. TD Ameritrade partnership to build out personal finance tools. Key – Find one source person or company who is an expert in a field and beg them to get behind you.

Spend nothing on marketing. The internet is free – use it.

On networking and knocking on the right doors: Your passion shines through – show it. Use your networks – alumni, 85 Broads, workplace, etc. Preservere. Never take no for an answer. 10 calls end up in 1 meeting. 10 meetings end up in a connection. Keep all contacts. It’s not an easy process. Everything’s a chaos. You will see progress at the end of the day. Everything’s a commitment. Make time for people who want to talk to you – people will remember that.

Revenue stream of LearnVest: Cliffnotes for personal finance. #1 Advertising (work with only brands we believe in). #2: Lead generation – Once someone learns about an IRA, you need to open an account somewhere – get users a better deal via partners.  Working on premium services offering, financial advisor, and personalized phone services to help women around the country make financial decisions, etc. 

Who to Trust? Forget about NDAs. Share the idea with people – you will get ideas from people and it will help you formulate your business around customer needs.

Legal fees: Lawyers are so expensive but make sure you get a good one. Convince them to work pro bono until the company gains traction or meets certain milestones.

On partnership: Did it alone as well. Started out with help from first cousin working at a Hedge Fund although not technically a co-founder.

Story of Claire Chambers of Journell

Biggest challenge in retail – it already exists. But it could be better. Angel investment the only way to go because no capital or revenues. Find people who believes in concept and invest in the long run. Started with colleagues network and friends in business world in NYC. When first started writing bplan, reached out to hundreds of people who may be interested in retail, finance, VC, etc. Shared why she was crazy about the idea and asked for their insight. Was introduced to other networks and worked her way through building relationships. Look forward to people with similar risk profiles and passion as investors.

Social media: Find people who have similar problems and want to share with others their problems and solutions.

On attorneys: Trademark work with logo and branding. Biggest cost is financing – to draft up legal agreements and negotiations. Third round financing now (paperwork almost the same so can leverage previous document). Impossible to operate without a good lawyer.

On partnership: Wished she had one. Difficult unless you meet the right person at the right time. Network to reach out to people with similar passions, goals, etc. At this stage, making senior hires out of necessity rather than partners.

Story of Wendy Tsai of Cellona Therapeutics

Focuses on cancer and neurology markets. Company is a research-stage company developing best-in-class targeted cancer drugs. Wendy is responsible for company and capital formation and strategic partnerships; and leverages a versatile background in corporate planning, sales, marketing and health policy.

Topics for today:

(i) How to form a great management team – really important for a start up. (ii) How to raise financing.

On financing: Approach advisors. How to market company prior to raising financing. Use of social networking tools. 99 Designs to design corporate logo – if you reach out to IR firms, it costs 1/10 now. It’s now much cheaper to hire someone to build branding and design of website.

On partnership: Find the right balance in terms of skills. Discuss equity and how you split the pie. Makes best sent to make value to divy up titles and roles early on. Reach out to Angel Investors such as AngelSoft and GoldenSeeds – something that was not available 10 years ago.

Danielle is going to be our first speaker in Spring. I’ve been following her blog and am fired up by her passion, bold yet beautiful voice and raw business advice. The first two advice relates to my lean start up ideals so I can highly relate.

best business advice i’ve ever received. part 1

This is excerpted from the prelude of THE FIRE STARTER SESSIONS digital book. The full book launches May 12! Pre-order now and get the “True Strengths & The Metrics of Ease” session immediately!

Don’t spend it before you have it.

– Melody Biringer, self-proclaimed start up junkie, founder of over twenty businesses, most currently: The CRAVE Company

This is such a difficult course to stay when the money finally starts coming in, or you get some serious interest from your biggie client on your biggie proposal, or you finally convince the loan officer at the bank that you’re a worthy human being. Hard fact: before you earn it, you don’t have it. Projections and ideals do not equal money in the bank.

Don’t spend it when you get it.

– Robert Kent, wildly successful photographer and philanthropist

My last business partner and I were expecting mid-six figures for a book advance. Dreams were ballooning. Family was swooning. Our ship was coming in! The deal wasn’t even sealed and we had picked out a new house and the custom-made sofa to go with it.

“That wave of money is going to come in,” Rob said to me over Souvlaki, “and it’s going to take you right out with it.” My dreams of a Dwell pre-fab house started to crumble.

“Listen,” Rob continued. “You need to feel the power of sitting on it, of letting it actually feed your creativity. If you spend it when you get it, you’ll have to catch up with it, and that will sap your energy.”

We didn’t listen. We sank most of our advance money into the book and needless company growth. We didn’t need to expand. We needed to deepen, to stay lean and focused. Not long after, we were developing bigger projects to keep up with ourselves. I should have listened to this…

Grow organically.

Rikia Saddy, marketing strategist

Rikia declined to invest in one of my companies because she thought it was the kind of business that should “grow organically…one step leading to the next. Your work needs to build on itself.” Those words would echo in my mind when it all fell apart. And when I started my solo, biggest venture ever.

Fuck your so-called principles.

– Mr. A., lawyer

Some young TV producers and I were very tangled in a very good-for-them but bad-for-me contract. “It’s not about the money grab they’re going for,” I ranted to my lawyer. “I don’t care about the money. It’s about the principle of the matter. What they’re doing is so wrong and they bloody well know it.”

“So you want to drag this out for months because of your principles?” he said. “You want to sink a few more grand into this because of your principles? I’ve had a lot of clients over the years that have made themselves sick, wrecked their marriages, or drained their finances to protect their so-called principles.

Of course the Producer Girls are wrong. They’re greedy twits. You could counter sue and probably crush them. But fuck your principles and get on with your life.”

And so I did.

Only do it if it’s fun. If it’s not fun, make it fun. If you can’t make it fun, don’t do it.

Peter Russell, physicist/philosopher

Ah, sweet Peter. If only I took this jesterly sagacity to heart way back when, I’d have avoided so much agony. This has become my most impassioned mantra. I do only what I want to now, and that’s crazy fun.

Don’t burn bridges.

John Petersen, Futurist

At the time I thought this was staid and stodgy convention. Yawn – heard it a hundred times. And how could I possibly stomach being nice to General So & So for being such a such n’ such – I was outta there, wasn’t gonna look back. But John went on to philosophize a bit, and it touched me. “The world is a small town, and you never know when you’re going to circle back and need someone. Besides, it’s rarely worth telling someone off, there’s always something better to do with your time.”

Of course, I have burned some bridges. TNT kaboom and obliterated. In fact, I said to one client who accused me of shopping out his proprietary slogans to another client, “You best consider this bridge burned. To a crisp.” But generally, bridge preservation in work relationships is about basic kindness and dignity to all parties. And that’s always a good thing.

TUNE IN TOMORROW FOR PART 2.

Love,

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