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.

——–

How about you? 

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

 

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

———-

What other roles are necessary within a startup ecosystem? 

 

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.

Dollar Shave Club: Viral Video Done Right

I say we give the Dollar Shave Club promo video a huge round of applause. This is brilliant in my mind. Great work guys! Super funny. If you haven’t watched this yet, you need too.

Dollar Shave Club is a startup company that provides monthly delivery service for razors that has raised a good amount of VC money because of this video. I don’t know the exact numbers. Anyways, they got the attention of large VC’s like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Forerunner Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz – all great companies to have behind your startup.

We’ve all seen startup videos, right? But, not ones like this. If you want to seriously see cleverness at it’s best, then take a look at this video.

——–

What about you? 

What are your thoughts on the video?

 

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?

 

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.

———

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.

———

What are you? A pig or a chicken?