Building a startup ecosystem that could be a game changer

I believe that if we were to connect students, young adults, and great mentors/business leaders in an intergenerational capacity (where everyone is learning, stretching, and growing) we could change the game in terms of building startup ecosystems that have the potential to change the world.

Think about this. Could we build more great entrepreneurs if we were to expose them to startups at a younger age (I’m talking middle school and high school students)? And what if they had the opportunity to team up (In a mentoring capacity) and hear, learn, and be inspired by other great entrepreneurs? Do you think they would want a job after that? Some, but not all.

We wait too long today and by the time we reach them, they are gone. We lost them to a society where they teach you to go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, have some kids, and buy a dog…and you will live happily ever after. Parents are teaching this shit, teachers are teaching this shit, I mean, the only one not teaching this is entrepreneurs.

I say NO, start a company, take some risks, fail, have fun, build and do something that you love. Start over again. Build a great story. Break away from the norm.

We need to expose the youth at an early stage to startups and mentors so that they can become inspired to build the next great startups.

When I say the word “intergenerational”, It essentially means “adults mentoring students and students mentoring adults.” Think of all the things we are NOT learning when we don’t engage a program like this. Incubators are doing this to build great companies right now. Why are we not starting earlier?

The reality is, our world is divided by age – like it or not. In business, leadership, church, etc.

For decades, people have talked about how to bridge the gap between the younger generation and the older generation. Lets quit talking and start doing. Why do we need to continue to have fruitless conversations that ends with no productivity, and where the conversation ends up being shelved.

We can build an ecosystem like never before if we can engage an idea like this.

If building more great startups and jobs for the future is highly dependent upon intergenerational entrepreneurship, this is a conversation that can’t be shelved. I think we need to dig deeper into this idea and see what could happen if we take this more seriously than ever before.

What do you think?

 

Success: 9 things you can do daily

As a leader you must break down barriers, climb over walls, and press forward….all the time. It’s not easy, and if it were, everyone would be doing it.

If success is something you desire, here are 9 things you can do daily: 

1. Put the pedal to the metal

Everyday you wake up, it’s up to you push it as hard as you can. Don’t let up or someone will sneak right by. You have to be aggressive and you can’t play around. People who put the pedal to the metal always cross the finish line first.

2. Be aware of yourself

The first person you need to be in touch with is yourself. If you’re not in touch with yourself, you’re not going to be able to be in touch with anyone else. Take the time to tap into you – It will be the best time you ever spent.

3. Move on

Don’t sit around waiting for opportunities to come to you, go where the opportunities are – they might not be happening where you are, but they are happening. Move to a big city, go where your customers are, move to a place that offers more resources. Don’t sit around waiting for an opportunity to happen. Move on.

4. Channel your Emotion

Control your emotions before they control you. Emotions can ruin you. They will wipe you out every chance they get. Don’t let emotion get in the way of you winning. You need to be emotionally tough. Train your emotions so that when you go out there you are ready.

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Scrap

Don’t let people push you around or take advantage of you. I don’t care how young you are, if you are a female, it doesn’t matter. Be a leader and be respectful, but don’t take shit from anyone. I don’t care if it is a VC, a partner, friend, you need to stand up be a man or woman and lay it on the line. People might think you’re a prick at first, but in the end when everyone succeeds they will respect and appreciate you. 

6. Don’t put up with office politics

To build a great culture of people who innovate takes time, energy, and obviously the right people. That is why when office politics pop up you need to take care of them right away. Don’t let them linger or they can wipe out all your hard work. Nip them in the but as soon as they happen and let your team know that you’re not willing to put up with crap like that. Culture is key and anything that stands in its way should be thrown out. 

7. Take Care of Your People

People are the key to your company’s success. Without the people your left there standing around like an idiot. That is why you take care of your people. Take an interest in their lives, their families, and their hobbies. Love on them. And make sure that they know that you care. If you can do this, you will always have people willing to work their tails off for you.

8. Say no

A simple word that is hard to say, NO. Many people have a hard time saying it. I do. The sooner you can get good at saying this word, the better off you’re going to be….in every area of your life.

9. Take Risks

Risks are part of life and success. If you’re not willing to take risks, then don’t plan on making it very far. The greatest feats where accomplished by leaders who choose to take the biggest risks.

 

Balancing fear and confidence to pursue big ass ideas

Do you have a big ass idea that scares the livin’ shit our of you? Good. That’s a start. If your idea doesn’t scare the shit out of you then it probably sucks or it’s not worth pursuing. The fear is normal.

Any entrepreneur that says he’s not afraid is a liar.

Now, if you have a passion for a big idea, it scares the shit out of you, and you’ve been impregnated with it, you should give yourself the permission to pursue it. That is, if you are ok with failure. If you’re not, then you should let someone else who’s ok with failure go after it. You, you should sit on the sideline and watch.

Pursuing big ideas is scary business. It’s terrifying. And it should be. That’s what makes it fun. Anything not terrifying is just a walk in the park. Anyone can walk in the park.

One of the keys to pursuing big ass ideas is balancing complete fear of jumping of a cliff with complete confidence that you will land safely. The fear allows you to be in touch with it, and the confidence allows you to take it on. You need both to succeed.

This was a big turning point for me as an entrepreneur. Once I found that balance – and I was able to admit my fear, it became much easier to go after big ideas over and over again.

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How about you? 

How are you doing with balancing fear and confidence?

 

Be a pig not a chicken

Every startup, project, party, meeting, they all involve pigs and chickens – people fully committed and willing to do whatever it takes, and people who just want to be involved.

Here’s a great fable that I read this week: 

A pig and a chicken are walking down the road. The chicken turns to the pig and says, “We should open a restaurant.”

“Good idea. What should we call it?” the pig replies.

“Ham and Eggs!” says the chicken.

The pig thinks for a second and replies, “In that case, never mind. It sounds like I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved!”

Here’s the deal, if you’re having a hard time distinguishing the pigs from the chickens, then you have no pigs. And, without any pigs, you’re done for.

Never get involved in anything without at least one pig. For me, I go for all pigs and until everyone is fully committed and on board, we don’t move forward.

A project needs everyone to be all in or it’s just not worth pursing.

When the going gets tough, the pigs keep on going. And, the chickens, they turn around like “chickens” and run the other way.

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What are you? A pig or a chicken?

 

 

It’s more than the green stuff

Here’s the deal. If you’re smart, you realize that “the right investors” can offer you way more value than just the green stuff they are putting into your deal. I think entrepreneurs – because they are desperate, jump way to soon and end up in bed with someone who might have money, but beyond the money, they are pretty much useless.

Instead of looking at the investor as, holly shit this guy has a ton of money, look at him like, who does this guy know? What can he teach me? Who are his contacts? How well does he know the industry I am in? Try this next time and I promise you will be thanking me later.

I share this because I think all entrepreneurs F this up at some point in their entrepreneurial career. I have, you will, everyone does. Why? Because we are normal people who get excited and end up pulling the trigger to soon. Take my advice and the thousand other entrepreneurs that have pulled the trigger to soon. Be smart.

The other thing that I’ve learned, when your dealing with venture capitalists, they know their shit and they have been around the block a few times. And, when you get the right VC involved in your deal, it is the difference between achieving minimal vs. maximum success.

Here is where VC’s tend to offer the most value: 

1. Their networks: They’ve spent their entire life building their network. This includes: investors, partners, talent, vendors, distributors, etc.

2. Experience, knowledge, and wisdom: They can help you understand what it is going to take to make your deal a huge success. They have been there and done that. Listen to them. If you think you no more, you need to be bitch slapped.

3. Sources to other green: When you spend your entire life building and growing companies you end up having several investor and VC relationships. Tap into this, It’s the fastest route. I promise.

 

What’s up with all the LA Incubators and Accelerators?

Are they legit? Why so many? How much money are they putting up? What kind of deals are they looking to invest in? Do they do follow on capital? How are they going to scale with talent?

These were some of my questions going into last nights Lean LA event titled “Learn About LA Incubators/accelerators” – really glad they put this event on.

If your curious about what Lean LA is, it’s a non-profit organization that is all about helping entrepreneurs build successful companies. The organization is run by Pete Mauro, Patrick Vlaskovits, and Joe Zulli. I haven’t had the chance to officially meet Patrick or Joe, but my coffee meetup with Pete was very positive.

By the size of the crowd last night (350 people), I wasn’t the only one with questions. The event was packed with people waiting outside the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium hoping someone wouldn’t show and they could score a ticket to come in.

Another good call was the meal ticket that came with the admission price. How awesome is that? You could redeem at any one of the food trucks outside. Well done with this one!

So, let’s get to the meat of this thing. Why in the world would you want to move to Los Angeles for a startup? I wouldn’t, just being honest here. Not that I don’t think that everyone is doing a great job building the infrastructure and figuring it out, I just prefer to be in a place that already has it figured out.

Essentially all the incubators/accelerators said the same thing: they are working their tail off to create the infrastructure that will allow entrepreneurs and innovators to tap into and build great companies. I think this is important and overtime will happen. Do I think it will happen quickly? No. As with any startup infrastructure, you have to work your nuts off, take a ton of risks, put your ass on the line, be willing to lose some serious dough, f some stuff up, and then, after all that, make the decision to keep going. If LA can do this, they will, overtime, have something great!

And, the other thing is talent. I think there is talent as there is talent everywhere, you just have to find it, organize it, and put it to good use. If you can’t get talent involved in the community that is your own fault – this really means you suck at selling.

The panel was fantastic – mainly because it was moderated by Dave McClure who wasn’t afraid to ask tough questions and put people in their place – not in a negative way – I think he was just trying to challenge everyone to really think about what it is going to take to build this kind of community.

After Dave got everyone loosened up – it didn’t work for everybody, the event started with a representative giving a quick intro, history, and what their interest was in supporting the LA startup scene.

Some of the people who were on the panel were:

Start Engine (Howard Marks), Idealab (Allen Morgan), upStart.LA (Dan Dato), K5 Launch (Amir Banifatemi), Originate (Jeff Scheinrock), Amplify (Jeff Solomon), Muckerlab (Jeff Rannala), and Launchpad LA (Sam Teller).
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Here is a list of all the incubators/accelerators and how they are structured as it sits today.

LeanLA.com Los Angeles Area Incubator & Accelerator Cheatsheet.

(Courtesy of Patrick Vlaskovits, more details here.)

Start Engine: 120 Startups @ $20,000 per year
Idealab: 4-6 Startups @ $50k – $500K a year
upStart.LA: 5-10 Startups @ $18,000 each class (1-2 classes per year)
K5 Launch: 10-50 Startups @ 25K-$200k
Originate: 10-15 Startups @ $100K-$1.5 million per investment
Amplify: 20 Startups @ $50,000
MuckerLab: 20 Startups @ $21k a year
Launchpad LA: 20 Startups @ $50k a year
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Here’s the good news – at least from what I could see, people are fired up about entrepreneurship and they’re willing to step up to build the community, shape the culture, and pour cash into companies. And, for me, I don’t care where it is, if this is happening and people are trying, I am excited and fully supportive of it.

Now, go do your part…good things are happening.

 

Becoming a better entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs are insane, they take huge risks, put everything on the line – all for the sake of doing what they love – starting and building companies. To be an entrepreneur you have to be confident and know what it takes to make it happen – I love saying that! You can’t let anything stand in your way of getting things done…nothing.

And, these same traits that are necessary to be a great entrepreneur might also be holding you back from becoming even more than you thought you could be.

Let’s take a look at what might be holding you back and see what we can do to push you to be better.

You

You need to wake up each morning and look seriously in the mirror. The one who is going to hold you back is you. The first person you need to learn to lead is yourself. And, if you can’t lead yourself, how do you expect to cast vision and lead a team. You can’t. Look in the mirror every morning and get yourself in check.

A level entrepreneurs attract an A level team

If you think you are the shining star and you don’t need anyone else, then you suck. You deserve to have you ass beat and thrown out into the streets. Great entrepreneurs know that they need to surround themselves with the best and brightest team. The better the team the better the outcome.

Over the years I’ve built both A level teams and B and C level teams. Let’s just say the B and C level teams taught me a very valuable lesson: take the time to hire the best and don’t settle for anything less.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

A mentor use to tell me to always keep a high level of communication. He use to ream my ass everyday about communication to the point I finally learned. He beat it into me and I am so thankful he did.

If you want to piss people off, fail to communicate with them. This is no different at home with your wife or your kids. You need to communicate. Let your people know what’s going on, both good and bad – I’ve learned this lesson too.

Invest in creating a culture that communicates well and rewards for it too.

Built a family not just a team

Stop looking at your team as people who just make you money. Look at your team as if they were family. Care for them, love on them – not physically, and do what you can to always be there for them – that is what family does.

Always be understanding, put yourself in their shoes, and do what you can to help them pursue their goals and dreams. It’s not just a team that you should be building, you should be building a family.

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How about you? 

What can you do to be a better entrepreneur?