Build Cool Shit with Cool People

Make it your personal mission to build cool shit with cool people.

If you’re thinking about  starting a company don’t make it about it be about money, power, success, or the cool factor? These are the wrong reasons to start a company…and if this is all you got, you better be ready to fail.

Yes, you do need drivers as you do in anything, but don’t let these be the reasons why you start a company.

Starting a company is one of the hardest things you will ever do. It’s tougher than any Iron man, fight, school paper, exam, breakup, or fight you’ve ever been in. Starting a company is like getting in the ring with an MMA fighter just to get your ass beat over and over again – the key, getting right back up because anything worth doing is worth fighting for.

Don’t waste another day doing anything other than this. I’ve started several companies for the right reasons and I’ve started companies for the wrongs reasons. What I’ve learned is this simple statement: build cool shit with cool people.

Don’t make the mistakes I’ve made, get out there, find cool people, and get started building cool shit.

If you do this, it will change your life.

Things to Ponder Before Starting a Company

Startups are my life. Literally, family is first and after that I’m all startups and business. After racing I found my new thrill in starting and building companies. It’s a blast, I almost hate to say it, but I get more out of it than I did racing. I know, I know, I shouldn’t have said that, but it’s just that awesome!

Photo Courtesy of: Striatic

Anyways, when I moved from racing to startups it was an eye-opener. I made a ton of mistakes (I’m still making them) I fell on my face, and I just keep getting right back up, learning and asking for more.

If you are thinking about staring a company, here are a few things you need to ponder before you launch out of the gate.

1) What are my goals, and how hard do I really want to work. There’s a huge difference between a startup that allows you to make a good living versus one that has a $100M payout. You need to decide and commit either way.

2) What am I truly passionate about? What is something I would be willing to work my ass off day in and day out?  If it isn’t something that gets you super horny from the start, then it’s probably not worth pursuing. Startups are a rough and long road – you need to be sure you are in love with whatever you are starting.

3) Build a short and long-term plan. Think about the future. Find a nice place (Alone or with your founders) and sit down with some financial spreadsheets, a business model canvas, and build a model for your startup. Take into account revenue, expenses, financing rounds, location, space, customer segments, value propositions, etc. If you haven’t done this before, get some help from a mentor or read Business Model Generation!

4) Do you have customers lined up or do you know people who would buy your product? If you can line people up from the beginning, it’s gonna add value to your startup. And If you can’t convince at least a handful of people to agree to try and ultimately pay for your product once it’s ready, then you should think about whether you have the right product and model. Too many companies have failed because the founders put their sweat, blood and tears into a business model that was flawed from the start.

5) The best one of all. You have to start damn it. Sitting around isn’t going to build your company. Prioritize, and get going. If you’re doing it right, there will always be more to do then you can carry out. The hardest part is deciding what NOT to do while making progress and creating momentum.

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How about you? 

Are you starting a company? Thinking about it? What are you pondering?

 

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.

 

QUIT MAKING LAME EXCUSES

Are you an innovator or just a lame excuse maker? Earlier this week, Mitch Ditoff posted an awesome blog titled ” The 100 Lame Excuses for Not Innovating”. After reading through the ENTIRE list, it made me realize how often I hear these excuses from friends, family, companies, and everyone in between.

How about this? I challenge you to take a look at the list (All the way through) and see what excuses are currently holding you back from innovating and ultimately making something happen.

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WHAT IT’S LIKE BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR

Are you an entrepreneur or do you aspire to be an entrepreneur? Do you have that raging itch that keeps you up all night to quit your job and go out on your own? If this is you, I say make the leap and quit that boring job – I bet it is holding you back anyways.

I have no idea where you’re at or what is going on in your head now, but just maybe you are wondering what entrepreneurship is like and what you’re going to need to be able to do to succeed.

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10 QUESTIONS FOR WANNABE ENTREPRENEURS

Entrepreneurship kicks ass! Am I right? You know what I personally love about it? Lots of things really, but here are a few: the risk, the reward, the adventure, the potential, the crashes, the bruises, and the fact that you have to be pretty much insane to be one.

I’ve had my fair share of entrepreneurial ventures over the years and some went great, while others left me in the dust picking crap out of my teeth. You know what though, now looking back, some of the best ones were the ones that left me in the dust picking crap out of my teeth.

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ARTISTS ARE JUST AMATEURS WHO CHOSE TO NEVER GIVE UP

Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American lecturer and poet wrote about individuality, freedom, and the ability for one to realize almost anything. Realize almost anything? How about realizing that, “Every artist was at first an amateur”? Emerson actually said this in one of his lectures.

Photo Courtesy of: Creative Commons

I feel like we are living in this time where everyone wants to be an artist, but know one wants to be an amateur. What’s up with that? What has happened to hard work, dedication, and perseverance? Have people turned into a bunch of sissies expecting everything is going to fall in their laps without some hardwork?

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