25 results for month: 10/2012


Going Global? Seven Lessons Every Startup Should Learn

Building a startup in one country can be very challenging. Operating it – and expanding it – in another country is even harder. At least that’s the challenge faced today by most entrepreneurs looking to go global. Sure, it’s always cool to be able to say you have an international office on the other side of the world, that you’re connecting with markets outside of your locale, and that your team is as diverse as the group of beauties in a Miss Universe pageant. There’s also nothing more rewarding than transforming your small, humble startup – your baby – into a full-blown, multinational business venture. But, before you get the ...

The “C” in VC Doesn’t Stand for Corporation – But Maybe it Should

* This post is part of an ongoing legal column called "The Legal Pad" here on Technori that digs deeper into the most common mistakes startups make when facing legal issues.  Rather than spell out the basics, this series aims to pull back the curtain and focus on the end results that occur when mistakes are made. * By now, even the least knowledgeable entrepreneurs know that they need to form some type of business entity in order to protect their personal interests. But, many rush through the decision of choosing which entity fits their business without much thought.  They hear about LLCs and corporations, and often believe that choosing one or the ...

5 Ways to Get New Customers to Find You

This is a true story. Many years ago, I made a cold call to the CIO of a Fortune 50 corporation and asked for a short meeting to present my company’s capabilities. She connected me to one of her direct reports who happened to be evaluating a pilot project where my company fit in well. Within a month, I had a contract for an initial pilot, and eventually went on to build one of the largest relationships for my company. Along the way, it helped me pay a few bills as well. What are the odds that I could replicate this experience in today’s market? About zero. Here’s why: Cold calling is dead. No one returns unsolicited calls. Voicemail is ...

Every Single Relationship Counts

My friend sent me this post by Jason Fried, which is a must-read. In it, he writes: “When you look back on events, it’s pretty incredible how things come together. Nothing happens independently. Everything is tied to something before it. Sometimes the links are more obvious than others, but it’s healthy to take a few moments to reflect on how many things – and people – had to come together in order for another thing to happen. You just never know." Jason then listed the specific chain of events that led him to meet a New York Times writer, and it's an amazing process. I started to go through my own chain about how I know the ...

The Ultimate Guide to Time Management (Part 2): Add More Time to Your Day

"Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein." - H. Jackson Brown That quote is one of my favorites of all time. Why? Because it's so true. I hear people say all the time, "I don't have enough time." Well you know what? No one interesting has enough time. I want to build a billion dollar business, raise a couple of great kids, travel all over the world, learn to play the guitar, read more books, write a novel, go to cooking school, and a thousand other things. The time doesn't ...

Should Startups Limit the Product or Service Options They Offer?

Any color you want, as long as it’s black. When the Model T came out, it is said that Henry Ford didn’t care about what the customer wanted. He wanted to standardize car production on his assembly line and he didn’t want to do anything that would complicate and slow down production. Hence, his decision to produce cars only in one color. As we all know, Ford was very profitable for a very long time (being a monopoly helped, too). Cars now come in many colors. Too many, perhaps. And they come from very many companies, and in very many configurations. We've reached a point where it’s impossible for a customer to compare between two different ...

Chicago Innovation Awards: Celebrating the City’s Innovators for 11 Years

The evening started off loud - and by that, I'm referring to the line of picketers outside Harris Theatre waiting for Governor Quinn to arrive. But, beyond the sea of green and white picket signs, Chicago Innovation Awards guests were welcomed with a smile. And so began one of the biggest nights of the year for Chicago's "high tech, low tech, no tech" and innovation community. Around 1,500 people attended the annual event yesterday evening, starting with an hour-and-a-half-long cocktail reception in the neon lit hallways of the venue. There were several packed floors full of guests chasing the less-than-flattering lighting down with glasses of wine ...

Why Chicago is One of the Best Cities for Entrepreneurs

I'm currently on a plane somewhere over Nebraska. I left Chicago an hour ago, and I'm on my way to San Francisco. While I'm out there, I will visit a couple west coast startups, reconnect with old friends, and stop by the old haunts I once frequented. It's not my first time in the Bay Area. I lived there for six years before returning to my hometown of Chicago. But, I return today with a different perspective on how entrepreneurship works. I've seen a new breed of business builders in the midwest. So as I return to San Francisco, I am excited to compare startup culture of the Midwest with that of the Bay. In preparation for this trip, I'm writing down ...

BJ Fogg’s Behavior Design Bootcamp: Final Notes

I hope you've enjoyed the notes so far from Day 1 and Day 2 of Behavior Design Bootcamp! Below is the list that Dr. BJ Fogg presented at the close of the bootcamp weekend. They are “designer beware” precautionary statements, inviting you to draw your own conclusions. Here are the seven pieces of advice BJ offered up that behoove a modicum of skepticism: Be A Skeptic 1. Be skeptical of the idea that attitude change equals behavior change. Say you convince me that a Mercedes meets my criteria for car safety (motivation). Regardless, I have two young kids and student loans. So, while my attitude toward the safety of Mercedes-Benz cars has now ...

BJ Fogg’s Behavior Design Bootcamp: Day 2

Day two of BJ Fogg's behavior design bootcamp was just as good as day one. I’ve got a lot to share with you, and I’ll do my best to present it in a logical sequence that supports the broader discipline. I’ve organized my learnings as follows: The Psychology Landscape Basic Behavior Design Troubleshooting The Motivation Wave Seven Key Takeaways The Psychology Landscape BJ took us through a survey of psychology's academic landscape to illustrate the provenance of behavior design and its related lines of thought. Here are the high notes: 1. Rhetoric Study of discourse as a mechanism to influence, persuade, and motivate. Ari...

Behavior Design Bootcamp with Stanford’s Dr. BJ Fogg

I was recently in Northern California by way of an invitation from Dr. BJ Fogg, head of Stanford University's Persuasive Technology Lab, to study and learn his new behavior design methodology. In addition to his landmark successes at Stanford and in industry (like groundbreaking research and several patents), BJ travels the globe training innovators at large, consumer-facing companies on how to build products and experiences that create new behaviors. Admittedly, behavior design can sound a bit “heady.” Don’t let it throw you. BJ’s students have sited his instruction in persuasive technology and behavior design as key tenets in the ...

The Ultimate Guide to Time Management (Part 1): Add Structure to Your Day

Advanced warning: when you get to the end of this post, you'll find a small and helpful homework assignment. If you don't struggle with managing your time, don't do it. In fact, you should probably stop reading now because this blog post doesn't apply to you. For the other 90% of the population, this first article in a three-part series on time management will get you on the track to truly being more productive. If you're an entrepreneur like me, you either: feel crushed right now by the mountain of tasks demanding your attention, have felt that way in the past, will be feeling that way in the near future...or all three. Accounting, marketing, ...

Jugaad Innovation: Is Your Startup Doing It?

I just got back from a trip to India during which I picked up a book titled Jugaad Innovation.  For those who are not familiar with the term, Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi word that’s used in the context of something that’s a mix of creativity, innovation, and cleverness. The word is used in adjective and noun forms. So, you could have a “jugaad” approach to solving a problem, or you could be using something that’s a product of “jugaad” inventiveness, like the machine above. Wow- What is That? The picture above is literally a “Jugaad” – a vehicle that’s a crossover between a motorcycle and a bullock-cart, which has been the ...

Startup Food Fight: Truck vs. The City

As an attorney for the Liberty Justice Center, I fight for constitutional rights, including one that’s often overlooked but that’s just as fundamental as any other: the entrepreneur’s right to start a business and earn a living. Working with entrepreneurs, I’ve seen that their lives are not easy. Even under the best of circumstances, there are so many difficult things they must constantly do: for example, figuring out what customers want, gathering and adapting to new information, improving their products, keeping costs down, and of course putting in the countless hours and intensive labor required to transform their dreams into reality. In ...

Why Growth Hackers are Taking Over Startup Marketing

There are two primary reasons startups fail. The first is they create a product no one cares about, a solution that doesn’t meet a need for a large enough market. This is a problem the Lean Startup movement has been working to solve. The second problem is they don’t know how to get customers. While they probably pay attention to traffic, the number of users who sign up, and the amount of revenue they generate, it’s likely they don’t know what happens in between. And even if they do, it’s likely they aren’t sure what to do about it. Enter the growth hacker. What is Growth Hacking? Coined by Sean Ellis, a growth hacker is someone ...

Kickstarter vs. Quirky: How Crowdsourcing Can Impact Intellectual Property

Crowdsourcing websites like Kickstarter and Quirky are providing a new solution for turning ideas into marketable products. But, uploading an idea to either site raises questions about how much of an idea a founder must part with in exchange for these services. Choosing to part with portions of an intellectual property portfolio is similar to deciding whether to give up equity in the business. However, the conversation is often cluttered with various types of licensing agreements, sales agreements, or outright whole portfolio assignments. Kickstarter Take Kickstarter for example. Founders are attracted to the notion of uploading their ideas in ...

How Social Entrepreneurship is Changing Chicago (and the World)

Starting a business? There’s never been a better time to do well by doing good. Chicago is experiencing a surge in startups that combine good-for-society goals with good-for-the-bottom-line business. Based on my experience with the Chicago-based startup Kauzu and conversations with others, I see three big reasons for the growing popularity of social entrepreneurship: It works. It feels good. Capitalism may not survive without it. Do more good with sustainable revenue Zealous Good is a Chicago startup that connects local charities to people and businesses with excess goods. From just four clients in June 2011, Zealous Good now boasts ...

Sales Effort Optimization: The Real SEO You Need To Understand

A startup CEO I work with – a brilliant technologist and a geek in the strongest sense of the word – recently lamented to me, “Why can’t sales have a formula?” The question highlighted the basic struggle that many tech entrepreneurs go through, especially in the very early – and vulnerable – stages of their startup ventures: how to reduce the art of sales to an exact science with predictable and repeatable results. Before you get too excited, I’m not about to reveal some magic formula in this column. But I am going to share some of the insights I’ve gained over the years to help you optimize the input/output ratio in your sales ...

The Entrepreneurs Lexicon (Part 1): Money Matters

This week, I'm beginning a new segment called "The Entrepreneur's Lexicon." As a striving entrepreneur myself, I have discovered that there are a lot of buzzwords out there. These words are often thrown around in conversation, on blog posts, and over social media channels as if everyone should know them. Well, I didn't know them when I first came on the entrepreneurial scene, and even after two years of exposure, I still find ones that I'm not sure about or have never heard of. So I'm starting a guide for all of us. Consider it the Urban Dictionary for entrepreneurs. I will define words and phrases I've run into, and I'll provide links to national ...

How to Take “Safe” Risks with Your Business

You know those times when a wayward parent has let his child steer the shopping cart, and while she narrowly manages not to take out the elderly person in aisle two, you are not so fortunate? Minus one toe later, you’re cursing that parent and the obvious inability to rein in his or her own child. That shopping cart could be a good analogy for your business: running amok in the grocery store of life. In business, you’ve got to be the parent: carefully steering the cart when needed, but also setting clear expectations for your child. There’s a saying we use at our company: “It’s not that I don’t trust you. It’s that I don’t trust ...

Is Your Business Too Sexy to Be Successful?

The Wall Street Journal survey of the top 50 VC-backed companies of the year is out. The #1 company is a provider of VOIP technology for telecom companies. The top 3 companies are all providers of business software to technology or telecom companies. Interestingly, the #1 company last year, a provider of healthcare cost information to consumers, is not even in the list this year. Are consumer-oriented technology businesses too sexy to be successful in today’s market? Everyone wants to be the next Facebook or Google, or even the next Instagram or Pinterest - a company that captures the fancy of consumers and has them signing up in large numbers ...

Inside the DEMO Pit

In Pirates of Silicon Valley, one of the most exciting scenes is when the doors blow open to the West Coast Computer Fair, and a 21 year old Steve Jobs launches the Apple II. Surrounded by stacks of what look like ready-to-buy computers (they were actually empty boxes), Apple stole the show by demoing brand new technology with a touch of reality distortion - or as Steve would say, magic. This magic is the centerpiece of the DEMO conference being held in Silicon Valley. DEMO is not an ordinary trade show, but the grandaddy of conferences dedicated to the idea of the demo. In front of a huge audience, entrepreneurs come to demonstrate their products ...

The JOBS Act: Goodbye Free Money, Hello Administrative Nightmare

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, otherwise known as the JOBS Act, was intended to make it easier for small investors to invest in small businesses. This act comes in reaction to the plethora of crowd funding sites that have become quite popular, as well as in the interest of stimulating economic growth. My initial reaction is, "Wow, entrepreneurs can now exchange the opportunity for free, no-strings attached money in exchange for an administrative nightmare." Crowd Funding Today What is nice about crowd funding is that it allows individuals to evaluate ideas from the vantage point of a potential customer. A potential consumer can look at ...

Is Your Top Client Your Biggest Business Risk?

I recently came across a fascinating blog about the epic battle between Palotta Networks and Avon Corporation over breach of contract, which Avon lost. The true winners and losers in the battle can’t really be counted in monetary terms. Around 250 employees of Palotta Networks lost their jobs overnight in 2002 when they lost their one single customer. This leads us to an important question that every entrepreneur needs to ask : How much business should you be doing with your most important client ? When a business is getting off the ground, it is very tempting – indeed, compelling – to accept any customer and grow with them. After all, ...

Is Your Startup Idea Any Good? Find Out in 8 Steps.

Any entrepreneur worth his or her salt has a half dozen new ideas every week. Great entrepreneurs are constantly thinking of new products, marketing tactics, and business expansion ideas. Some of the ideas are great, and some are horrible. The problem is figuring out which is which. In the 5 years that I've been self-employed, I've had plenty of ideas that I thought were fantastic and turned out to be complete duds. Fortunately, there have been some ideas that resulted in phenomenal success. So, how do you figure out which ideas are the good ones? More importantly, how do you figure out which ideas your should dedicate serious time and money ...