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Innovators podcast @ Stanford

A fun interview at Stanford about some old things and new ones. https://soundcloud.com/innovatorsradio/s1e5-steve-blank-lean-startup Founders 2:15: Founders and dysfunctional families 3:55: Operating in chaos 7:18: Mentorship is a two-way street 11:50: Founders are artists 14:03: Failure=experience 17:27: Rules for raising a family if you’re a founder Startups 19:25: Startups are not smaller versions of large companies 22:03: How I-Corps and H4X were born 26:25: Your idea is not a company 31:19: Why the old way of building startups no longer works 32:53: Origin of the Lean Startup 34:24 Why the Lean Startup Changes Everything in the Harvard Business Review 35:28: How innovation happens Company/Government Innovation 41:37: Innovation is different in companies and gov’t agencies 42:35 The Innovation Pipeline 43:30  Deliverable products and services not activities 44:25  GE & Procter and Gamble and Lean 46:44: Startups disrupting things by breaking the law Government Innovation 51:12: Fighting continuous disruption with continuous innovation 52:08: How governments innovate 53:58: The U.S. government goes Lean 56:00: Customer Development versus Design Thinking 57:54: Innovation from the battlefield to the boardroom Powered by WPeMatico

10 Investor Approaches To Avoid When You Need Funding

Many new entrepreneurs are so excited by their latest idea that they can’t resist contacting every investor they know, assuming the investor will be equally excited and want to contribute immediately. Others will work hard on a business plan, and then mail it indiscriminately to every potential investor they can find on the Internet. Both of these approaches are a waste of your time and theirs. The best professional investors receive dozens of proposals a day, so they are conditioned to look for quantitative data, rather than passion, for credibility and potential. They also look for entrepreneurs they know from past experience and warm introductions, or for evidence that you have previously built a successful startup, and sold your last one for maybe $800 million. If you are not in that rare category of known and proven entrepreneurs, you should avoid the following list of my top ten turnoffs that I have personally experienced as an angel investor. These will put your proposal in the circular file, and even future good opportunities from you may go to the bottom of my list: “Give me a call to hear about an opportunity that can’t fail.” Teasing or spamming an investor is not the way to his pocketbook. Also suggesting that they check out your website or video and tell you what they think will not likely peak their curiosity. Every pitch should start with a concise statement of the problem and your innovative solution. “Attached is a copy of my full business plan for your review.” Too much detail at first contact is just as much of a turnoff as no information. The first page of the business plan better be an executive summary which gives the investor a taste of the financials, as well as opportunity, competition, and key executives. “I don’t have a business plan, but the technology is disruptive.” Investors are buying part of the business, not the product or service. They only want a quick overview of the product, not detailed features and patent secrets. If you haven’t yet finalized the business model, cost projections, and customer…

6 Mindset Elements Required For Disruptive Startups

One of the business ironies that many entrepreneurs have learned the hard way in the past is that ideas which are truly disruptive carry the highest risk of failure, take the longest to gain traction, and thus are the least likely to get external funding. So some entrepreneurs stick with incremental solutions, avoiding more transformational or adaptive solutions implying disruptive change. In the past, only a few entrepreneurs, like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, maintained the passion, patience, and determination to accomplish disruptive change in the marketplace. Today with the growing number of disruptive technologies available, like cloud computing, wireless sensors, Big Data, and mobile devices, an incremental solutions mindset is no longer enough to win. John Sculley, in his classic book “Moonshot!: Game-Changing Strategies to Build Billion-Dollar Businesses” argues that every entrepreneur now needs to think and act like one of those elite entrepreneurs who could go the extra mile and cause disruptive change. He coins the term “adaptive innovator” for the required mindset to characterize the required focus. I strongly support the key principles he outlines as required to drive the mindset to make business leaders successful in this new world, both in established companies as well as startups. I have summarized or paraphrased the points here, to add my own focus and experience with new entrepreneurs and startups: Be forever curious and an optimist. Adaptive innovator entrepreneurs are inspired by what’s possible, but focus on what’s probable. Great entrepreneurs aren’t just dreamers, they are doers. They wake up each day re-energized and optimistic, curious about the world around them, but always committed to getting real things done. Unpack your best ideas. Unpacking an idea is about taking deep dives into it; twisting and turning it to see the concept in different ways. The deeper your dive into an idea, the more creative will be your insights. Ideas without context are just a commodity. Context comes from experience. Trying and failing is an experience building-block to get context. Learn more every day in layers. Let every new bit of learning spark your curiosity to build a new layer…

6 Growth Slowdowns That Can Quickly Lead To Disaster

Every entrepreneur thinks he can relax a bit after his business model is proven, funding is in place, and revenues are scaling as projected up that hockey-stick curve. Unfortunately, the market is changing so fast these days that any upward climb can level off quickly, as the core business growth begins to stall. This S-Curve, with no correction, can quickly lead to disaster. I’m not talking here about a small pivot. I’m talking about the kind of change that moved Apple from personal computers to music distribution to consumer electronics, and Amazon from books to e-Commerce to cloud computing services. On the other end of the spectrum are companies that fell behind the curve and may never recover, including MySpace for social networking, Yahoo with online ads, and Groupon with discounts for group purchasing. To sustain long-term growth, every company needs to build a repeatable process for innovation and finding new opportunities before their core business growth disappears. The reasons for this requirement, and some practical guidelines for how to prepare, are outlined in the classic book “The Curve Ahead: Discovering the Path to Unlimited Growth,” by Dave Power. Power has been guiding growth companies for 25 years, and now teaches innovation at the Harvard Extension School. He has helped many companies with this problem, and as an advisor to startups, I see the same common themes leading to growth slowdowns. These are appearing earlier and earlier in emerging companies, as well as in mid-sized and mature companies: Your original market becomes saturated. Initially, all companies sell to customers who are the easiest to reach and most excited about the new product. As a company begins to penetrate its market, it begins to work hard and harder, often in new geographies, to find more prospects. Marketing costs and time go up, and the growth curve flattens. Competitors see the same opportunity. New players jump in, and existing players broaden their offerings to cover the same territory. They steal a share of your market, slow down customer buying decisions, making it harder to close new business, and put the brakes quickly…

7 Keys To Success With An Employee Ownership Culture

One of the lessons I have learned over the years as a business executive, and now as a mentor to entrepreneurs, is that if you really want employees who enthusiastically take ownership of their work, you have to start treating them like owners, not renters. Owners feel they have skin in the game, and benefit from improved effort and results, rather than just getting blamed for problems. Unfortunately, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, only about one-third of employees feel like owners. Another 50 percent are “job renters,” bringing only their hands, but not their hearts to work. They show up every day, keep a low profile, and collect a paycheck. The remainder are actively disengaged, and passively block or actively sabotage forward progress. It’s a growing challenge, since we now have four generations of workers together – Matures, Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials (Gen Y), all with different ideas of how an owner should act. I was impressed to see some real guidance on this subject in a new book, “Counter Mentor Leadership”, by Kelly and Robby Riggs, a father-son coaching team that spans the age spectrum. These authors helped me validate my own recommendations on how business leaders and entrepreneurs can incent their own team members and employees to move a bit closer to the owner mentality. These include the following: Clearly communicate the big picture, and current reality. Be accessible, talk often to the team about the business, and be specific in communicating a vision and goals. Don’t hide the current reality of challenges and shortfalls. Employees can’t be owners if they don’t understand the business targets and realities. They will revert to renters, at best. Give every employee the necessary degrees of freedom. Remember, one of the key drivers of ownership is a sense of autonomy. By definition, the freedom box is different for every owner. Some are super-capable and deserve a lot of decision making flexibility, while others are new or less experienced, so their box must be a bit smaller. Make them owners with stock options and actions. Ownership can be…

10 Rules For Business Success That Haven’t Changed

In this world of constant change, new technologies, and a thousand cultures, it’s evident and somehow comforting to me that the basic rules for business prosperity really haven’t changed in the last hundred years. Business success is still more about the people than the technology or idea involved. As an angel investor and a mentor to entrepreneurs I still see this every day. I was just reviewing a collection of essays by and about Napoleon Hill, “The Science of Success,” who is most recognized as the author of the best seller “Think and Grow Rich” from way back in 1937. Hill attributes his ten rules of success to Andrew Carnegie, who was in his prime well before that, over a hundred years ago, but I believe the principles are still critically relevant. Since language and implication have changed a bit since then, I’ll restate Carnegie and Hill’s original rules here, with my own current-day commentary and recommendations added: Definiteness of purpose. Every entrepreneur needs to start by setting a major purpose for embarking down a specific business path. This objective needs to go beyond making a parent or spouse happy, getting rich quick, or advancing a technology. For success these days, the purpose better focus on people, and solve a real problem for customers. Master-mind alliance. Building successful businesses still requires the ability to find and inspire the best people who “have what you haven’t,” whether that be skills, knowledge, connections, or funding. Then you must extend these alliances to vendors, partners, customers, and even competitors (coopetition). Going the extra mile. Hill’s eagerness to serve others gave him greater opportunities, and this Law of Reciprocity works the same today. Doing more than you have to do is the only thing that justifies raises or promotions, and puts people under an obligation to you.  This is still one of the most important competitive differentiators that you can offer. Applied faith. This is a level of belief that has action behind it. Anyone can have ideas, passion, and faith about an important business opportunity. Yet for most people it’s only a daydream,…

How Investor FAQ’s Help You Fundraise

  At SAP.iO Foundry, powered by Techstars Accelerator we recently organized a series of great investor workshops with a number of leading Berlin VC’s and our companies. The format was a private AMA style fireside chat/workshop where our founders could ask ‘the stupid’ questions and get personal tips and advice on how to raise money from industry veterans. We covered several of the expected topics like how to get introductions, the importance of researching your investors and how important it is to prepare your materials in advance (more on this later) but when one investor (the awesome Ricardo Sequerra from Cherry Ventures) talked about the power of a ‘Dynamic Investor FAQ’ document I was sold. Ricardo told a story of a London based founder who they felt was a master at fundraising. The founder had very effectively used a live Google Doc as their investor FAQ to help win over more investors and build more momentum in their round. Here is how it worked. Every time the founder met with an investor, they kept track of the new and unexpected questions they had received. As this was usually a new question, the founder would often forget to include some important detail in their initial answer or else they would think of a much better answer after the meeting when chatting with their other co-founders and mentors. Rather than leaving the investor to just rely on their original answer, the founder would then spend more time on the answer post meeting and write up a better, more concise and articulate version of the answer, including any relevant data and links to support their answer. They would then include this answer in their follow up email to the investor. Saying something like: ‘Thank you for your time today… really enjoyed it… You asked a great question about X during our meeting and I don’t think I did a great job of answering it. Please see the answer I would have liked to have given you. If you or your colleagues have any other questions please let me know or you can see our Investor FAQ document…

Come See Techstars at SXSW 2018!

It’s almost time to kick off another year at SXSW in Austin! The local Techstars team is excited to welcome the Techstars worldwide network and attendees from around the globe to our city. Here is a quick rundown of where to find Techstars at SXSW: Wednesday, March 7th 11:30 AM – 12 PM – From Dorm Room to Board Room Presented by Blackstone Charitable Foundation: In an increasingly competitive landscape, universities strive to provide students with meaningful experiential education opportunities in entrepreneurship and beyond to ensure they are best prepared to meet workforce demands. Blackstone Launchpad and Techstars will discuss how best to support and scale experiential education programs to help students create their own opportunities, build strong networks, and create impact benefitting the institution, and the wider community. 6-8 PM Blackstone Launchpad Engagement & Panel The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Techstars invites you to join us for a reception celebrating student entrepreneurship in Texas. The event will include a pitch competition featuring student entrepreneurs from Texas A&M, UT Austin, and UT Dallas. Saturday, March 10th 9 AM – 5 PM Techstars Lounge   The Techstars Austin program is opening our doors to founders, mentors, community leaders, staff and partners who are visiting during SXSW. We’ll have snacks throughout the day. Come by to hang out, fuel up, and take meetings. Thank you so much to Samsung NEXT for partnering with us on the lounge! 10 AM – 12 PM Female Founders Brunch – Let’s Talk Funding   Please join us at the Techstars and Samsung NEXT Lounge for a female founders brunch where we will discuss funding opportunities and challenges with VCs. Panelists include Maya Baratz, Managing Director at Techstars, Suzy Ryoo, Venture Partner at Atom Factory & Cross Culture Ventures, Nicole Quinn, Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, Katherine Cheun, Managing Director at Open Road Holdings, and Sutian Dong, Partner at Female Founders Fund. 2 PM Powered by – Alumni of Techstars Accelerator Year after year, SXSW attendees return to the Comcast Social Media Lounge to connect, recharge, and learn about the latest in innovation, technology, entertainment, product and…

Come See Techstars at SXSW 2018!

It’s almost time to kick off another year at SXSW in Austin! The local Techstars team is excited to welcome the Techstars worldwide network and attendees from around the globe to our city. Here is a quick rundown of where to find Techstars at SXSW: Wednesday, March 7th 11:30 AM – 12 PM – From Dorm Room to Board Room Presented by Blackstone Charitable Foundation: In an increasingly competitive landscape, universities strive to provide students with meaningful experiential education opportunities in entrepreneurship and beyond to ensure they are best prepared to meet workforce demands. Blackstone Launchpad and Techstars will discuss how best to support and scale experiential education programs to help students create their own opportunities, build strong networks, and create impact benefitting the institution, and the wider community. 6-8 PM Blackstone Launchpad Engagement & Panel The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Techstars invites you to join us for a reception celebrating student entrepreneurship in Texas. The event will include a pitch competition featuring student entrepreneurs from Texas A&M, UT Austin, and UT Dallas. Saturday, March 10th 9 AM – 5 PM Techstars Lounge   The Techstars Austin program is opening our doors to founders, mentors, community leaders, staff and partners who are visiting during SXSW. We’ll have snacks throughout the day. Come by to hang out, fuel up, and take meetings. Thank you so much to Samsung NEXT for partnering with us on the lounge! 10 AM – 12 PM Female Founders Brunch – Let’s Talk Funding   Please join us at the Techstars and Samsung NEXT Lounge for a female founders brunch where we will discuss funding opportunities and challenges with VCs. Panelists include Maya Baratz, Managing Director at Techstars, Suzy Ryoo, Venture Partner at Atom Factory & Cross Culture Ventures, Nicole Quinn, Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, Katherine Cheun, Managing Director at Open Road Holdings, and Sutian Dong, Partner at Female Founders Fund. 2 PM Powered by – Alumni of Techstars Accelerator Year after year, SXSW attendees return to the Comcast Social Media Lounge to connect, recharge, and learn about the latest in innovation, technology, entertainment, product and…

Global Applications for the Techstars Worldwide Network are Now Open!

There’s an often-repeated stat that 90 percent of startups fail. Not sure the source is, but no doubt that it scares entrepreneurs. At Techstars, we see the reverse in our accelerator portfolio – 90 percent of our startups are active or have successfully exited. Which statistic reflects your business? If you’re ready to succeed, take the next step and apply now to the Techstars worldwide network with more than 10,000 mentors, partners, investors and founders. At Techstars, we are on a mission to help entrepreneurs succeed. Our mentorship-driven accelerator programs invest in founders to help them do more faster. Over the past 10 years we have helped over 1,274 companies grow and raise over $4.4 billion in funding, with a market cap of $11.4 billion. Now, we are excited to start the search for the next wave of companies to join our worldwide network! We are reaching new regions and verticals around the world with our newest mentorship-driven accelerator programs. Applications are opening for five new programs: Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, Powered by Techstars MetLife Digital Accelerator, Powered by Techstars Rakuten Accelerator, Powered by Techstars Stanley+Techstars Additive Manufacturing Accelerator Techstars Impact Accelerator Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator Techstars Sustainability Accelerator, in Partnership with The Nature Conservancy Take the next step in your journey and apply to join the Techstars worldwide network with more than 10,000 mentors, partners, investors and founders. This is more than a three month program, the Techstars worldwide network is for life. Listen to stories about our founders from Techstars alumni companies like SendGrid, ClassPass, and DigitalOcean. Application deadline is April 8, 2018 for most programs. We will be announcing details for information sessions and online events where you can connect with Techstars founders and team, as well as mentors who have the experience and proven track record to help you succeed. Be on the lookout for more details soon! When you apply, you can choose from any of the following locations and verticals: Barclays Accelerator, Powered by Techstars in Tel Aviv  Cedars-Sinai Accelerator, Powered by Techstars Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, Powered by Techstars MetLife…

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