Now is not the time to stop taking big risks

As we round up 2012 and move into the new year, I’d like to encourage people to not stop taking big risks. To not stop believing. We can’t shy away from all the fears and uncertainty. For the first time, we have more people than ever starting companies and some of these companies have the potential to impact billions of people lives.

roundup

This is history in the making and now is not the time to stop.

What’s so incredible about this is that we are not just talking about a better future, but we are building it.

To me, this is an enormous privilege and responsibility, and we must take it seriously.

The speed of thought and innovation is mind-blowing. The costs to start a company have never been lower and the resources out there are rich and plentiful.

We are experiencing an industrial revolution and what I hope is that everyone grabs a hold of it.

The role of us as entrepreneurs is to take the biggest, boldest risks and to look at everything from a long term perspective. It’s not about overnight success, but about cooperation and collaboration. It’s about working together to build a better world.

Come on, let’s commit to using our talents for global impact. Lets focus on the lives of our customers. Lets tend to the seeds that we’ve planted. Let’s think big and empower our nation’s creative entrepreneurs, and attempt to create companies that make a difference.

Who’s with me? Lets ring in another great year!

 

Get out there and scuff up your shield

As you know, or as you are learning, failure is a very important part of your journey. Yes, I know I’ve blogged a lot about failure lately, but it’s only because of how important failure really is.

All successful entrepreneurs fall at times and then climb their ass right back out of a heap of crap only to be better, stronger, and more ready for the next challenge – I know that this is true for me. How about you?

The key to failing is getting right back up. You can’t stay down long and cry like a little bitch. You have to jump right back up and flaunt it – show off your scars and wounds so that other people can learn from them as well.

What matters in the end is that your shield is scuffed and beaten up because it shows that you were willing to fight. If you come back with a clean and shinny shield that just shows that you’re a pussy.

If you want to help and transform others, don’t talk about your arrival, talk about your journey, your battles, your wounds, and your redemption.

You hear about people with setbacks – I’ve had mine. Setback are awesome! Why? Because they are opportunities for clarity, humility, growth, and wisdom. You learn your strengths and you learn your weaknesses. You learn to ask for help. And you learn who you need to win the fight.

 

Startup Community Ecosystem Roles

I think everyone passionate about their community and startups asks the question. What are the roles needed within a startup community ecosystem to be successful?

Building startups for the last 8 years (within different communities) and working with Startup America Partnership the last few months has given me some great perspective to take a stab at this question.

Members of strong startup community ecosystems stay involved and add value by playing a wide variety of roles. In designing a startup ecosystem or strengthening an existing one, companies should incorporate an assortment of roles into the community structure and help members take on new roles as their needs change.

Below are 17 roles that I’ve put together as being critical to a any ecosystems function, preservation, and evolution. Please add your comments below. I’m not saying I’m an expert, just throwing out some ideas.

  1. Mentor: Teaches others and shares expertise.
  2. Investors: Invests in all stages of startups: seed, early, and growth.
  3. Learner: Enjoys learning and seeks self-improvement
  4. Back-Up/Supporter: Acts as a safety net for others when they try new things, take risks, fail. And they participate passively as an audience for others.
  5. Partner: Encourages, shares, and motivates others to build high growth companies.
  6. Storyteller: Spreads the community’s success stories throughout the community, state, and nation.
  7. Historian: Preserves community memory; codifies rituals and rites
  8. Hero: Acts as a role model within the community. Someone to look up too. Someone who has been there done that.
  9. Decision Maker: Makes choices affecting the community’s structure and function
  10. Provider: Hosts and takes care of the other members
  11. Greeter: Welcomes new members into the community
  12. Guide: Helps new members navigate the culture
  13. Catalyst: Introduces members to new people and ideas
  14. Performer: Takes the spotlight and serves as a figurehead or icon of what the startup community represents
  15. Ambassador: Promotes the community to outsiders
  16. Accountant: Keeps track of people’s participation
  17. Talent Scout: Recruits new members

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What other roles are necessary within a startup ecosystem? 

 

What makes for a bad client?

I just want to say that I am pumped about all the great companies and clients that I’m working with right now. It just feels good.

It hasn’t always been this way though. I’ve had my fair share of bad ones over years.

What makes a bad client

Graphic by: Kickin’ Up Pixels

Ever wonder what makes a bad client?

Here are my thoughts on this: 

  • They live to micromanage and control the process. This is especially frustrating when it’s the creative process
  • They constantly delay approvals and have a hard time committing
  • They steal your soul and stomp on it
  • They won’t own anything and they blame the whole shebang on you
  • They think that their high-touch participation is helping things
  • They constantly derail the process de-motivating teams and leading to uninspired work
  • They consistently make changes
  • They regularly move backburner items into action steps causing the project to slug away

If you are experiencing any of the above with a client, I suggest that you revisit the contract and see what you can do to get out of it. Bad clients can run your business into the ground. They suck the life out of you and take time away that you could be working with stellar clients.

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Anything to add?

What makes a bad client?

 

Quote: Brad Feld

It’s not about having a Silicon Valley attitude—it’s about having an entrepreneurial attitude.  It’s about partnering with other organizations in and around your area.  It’s about thinking big with entrepreneurs that sit next to you in your coworking space.  It’s about collaborating with tech gurus, social media wizards and community leaders at cool business events.  It’s the people that make a community an entrepreneurial one—not the location—and it’s up to you to contribute.

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?

 

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.

 

7 Random Thursday Thoughts

I’ve traveled a lot over the last few weeks and it has given me plenty of time to be by myself and do some deep thinking. As part of this deep thinking, I put together 7 random thoughts that I wanted to share with you. Let me know what you think.

1. Don’t go and start a friggin’ company unless you are going to be absolutely addicted to it. Are you willing to work on it day and night? What about when your friends call you and want you to go out and grab a few drinks? Are you willing to turn them down to work all night to meet a deadline or get an order out? If you’re not willing to do these things, then don’t go and start a company. Keep your job. Seriously.

2. If you want to build a company fast, go alone ( keep in mind companies that are built fast and alone don’t last long…I’ve been there). If you want to build a company that can go far, go together. This means you build a team that can carry the company to places that you only dreamed of.

3. Hire people who are just as fired-up about your idea and your company as you are. If they’re not just as fired-up as you are, then keep searching for the right team members….they are out there.

4. Be intentional about putting together a group of friends who are there for you no matter what. When times are good, they are there for you. When times are bad, they are there for you. No matter the circumstances these friends are there for you. They will drop anything to come along side you.

5. Sell, sell, sell, or watch your company go to hell. If you can’t get sales coming in, you will watch your company be cast into a fiery place of torment.

6. Get out their and G&G (Grip and Grin). Attend events, go to conferences, setup lunch meetings, do whatever you need to do to meet people and share your company story with them. Don’t expect people to come knocking on your door – people have no clue who the heck you are.

7. Don’t be lazy, do your own PR. You are the best one to tell your story. Why would you hire a company to follow-up with the people you read and see in the publications? Those people publish their emails. Next time your reading or watching something, capture the person’s name and their email address. Once you have that info, follow-up, introduce yourself, and tell them your story. It is their job to find great stories. And if your story sucks, it would be a waste of time either which way.