27 results for month: 12/2012


Obamacare Is Real – So What Does It Mean for Healthcare Startups?

If there were any doubts that parts of Obamacare might be repealed in the event of a Romney win, those doubts have receded into the dim and distant past by now. Healthcare reforms are moving ahead and will accelerate in the coming months. Defined contribution, health insurance exchanges, value-based pricing, ACO’s – these terms may well be common parlance just a few years from now. Let’s look at a couple of big factors that will drive these changes: Consumerization of healthcare: 40 million or so underinsured and uninsured Americans will be required by law to buy insurance. Cost reduction and elimination of waste: The healthcare sector ...

Startup Lessons Retrofit CEO Jeff Hyman Used to Close an $8 Million Series A Round

Earlier this November, Jeff Hyman, CEO of Chicago-based startup Retrofit, picked up an $8 million Series A round led by Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Retrofit is a data-driven weight loss program built for busy professionals that incorporates various elements, including: Skype, Fitbit, wireless scales, and a team of wellness experts. What makes this company — and its CEO — so appealing to investors? Part of it is that, so far, the program has produced astonishing results. About 94% of customers are losing weight, and the average person loses about one pound per week while on the program. Retrofit has maintained a low 5% drop-out rate, compared to ...

When You’re Building a Company, It’s Great to Be Weird

Hi, my name is Allan Branch. Almost six years ago, Steven Bristol and I founded the coolest company you’ve never heard of, Less Everything. In reality we’re actually not that cool. I like to think we are cool, but we’re just weird. Being a little weird is okay; if you're reading this, chances are good that you’re probably also a little weird. Let’s stop thinking like we’re still in high school, trying to act normal just to fit in. My business partner and I reject the idea of trying to be like everyone else, and I think that’s probably what’s kept us in business. Let me explain... In the past six years, our company has launched ...

Three Business Practices That Turned 1-800-GOT-JUNK Into a $105 Million Business

When I started The Rubbish Boys (which later I franchised as 1-800-GOT-JUNK?) at 18, I really didn’t know much about business. It was trial by junk! I spent $500 on a pick-up truck and a couple hundred on brochures and posters. Nearly a quarter of a century later, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? is the world’s largest junk removal company, operating in three countries, with over $105 Million in revenue. I’ve been lucky to have had many influential mentors along the way and there’s no education like experience. Here are three business practices that kept me moving forward. 1. Transparency I have created a work environment where questions and ideas are ...

5 Reasons to Spend New Year’s in Chicago

Chicago’s blistering cold is enough to send any human into hibernation, or in my case, running to California. But despite my complete disdain for weather much below “60 degrees and sunny” (I have a weather strategy for all business and personal travel that upholds this standard at least 87.5% of the time), my affinity for Chicago around the holidays always seems to thaw my otherwise scrooge-like attitude toward frigid temps. In no particular order, here are 5 reasons to strongly consider spending New Year’s Eve in Chicago...I know I am. #1 Affordable and affable I’m not sure about the rest of the country, but from California (namely ...

How to Actually Get Work Done at a Coffee Shop

Long ago, I found that though there are many things I excel at doing from home, such as taking naps, watching television, and starting happy hour early; working is not one of them.  For that reason, I’m constantly commuting to coffee shops, internet cafes, and other spots that are conducive to my style and workflow.  I’ve learned that I can’t go just anywhere, because where a person chooses to work remotely is just as important as the specific company he or she chooses to work for.  It’s not about snagging the first thing that comes along, but about finding the place(s) where you can truly maximize your productivity and creativity. Cof...

How Your Startup Can Change the World: The 5 Keys to Social Entrepreneurship

Everyone knows a charitable pursuit can impact a significant number of people and provide great personal satisfaction. However, the entrepreneurial opportunity lies in its ability to motivate and inspire other people to help you. The truth is, if you want to do something huge, then combining your entrepreneurial ambition with a charitable endeavor will dramatically increase your odds of success. From a social goods perspective, this means tying philanthropy to consumerism. The idea is to create products that harness the power of community to change the world. By connecting the product to a charity, the business will often increase sales, the ...

3 Secrets to Finding (and Being) a Great Co-founder

When I arrived in Chicago almost two years ago, the pain point I heard aspiring entrepreneurs talk about most was their inability to find someone to help them build out their visions. Depending on who you asked they were either looking for a technical co-founder, a VP of engineering, or simply "people to code." Two years later, it's still the number one complaint I hear. When I arrived in Chicago, I was one of the many entrepreneurs who didn't know how to build my solutions and who didn't have anyone to help me do so. Now, I can build my solutions AND I've partnered with an exceptionally talented technical co-founder. How did I manage in 18 months ...

The Top Digital Trends of 2013

This year was another exciting year in digital the space, with many of the predictions on my list of 2012 trends getting good traction.  Pinterest grew to become the #3 social networking site. We saw the IPOs of many big digital companies, like Groupon, LinkedIn, Zynga, and Facebook - along with very mixed outcomes.  We saw mobile computing continue to take share with the mass proliferation of smart phones and tablets, which included Google acquiring Motorola.  We saw Apple continue their meteoric success in the first year post Steve Jobs.  And, Congress passed the Jobs Act, laying the groundwork for crowdfunding for startups in years to ...

Rebellion is a Startup Business: What Classic Rock Bands Teach Us About Entrepreneurship

The Rolling Stones are celebrating 50 years as a rock and roll band. That’s 50 years in the music business, and the Stones are one of the greatest entrepreneurial successes in the history of rock and roll.  Their story — and that of other great classic rock acts — reinforces some important lessons for entrepreneurial success. We don’t normally look at great popular music icons like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and U2 as entrepreneurs. And especially not in a day and age when entrepreneurship is defined by terms like: technology, VC funding, and exit strategies. We tend to think of classic rock bands as a group of ...

10 Lessons I’ve Learned During My First Three Months As a Founder

There are plenty of blog posts written by experienced entreprenuers sharing their advice after founding several businesses, but I wanted to write one from the perspective of a person in the midst of building his first. Here’s what I’ve learned so far as I get ready to launch CentUp, a company I've spent the last 3 months working on. 1.) Modesty isn’t helpful in the early days. If you don’t speak confidently about yourself and your company, your audience won’t be as compelled to try out what you have to offer. You can be introverted (I am), but when you already have people’s attention, take full advantage of it. 2.) You've got to ...

How One Small Business Made Philanthropy a Big Part of Its Culture

Everyday, the company I started, Midwest Pond Design, brings me to water. I have designed and constructed new water features, restored and repaired existing ponds and waterfalls, and kept customers’ water rid of algae and their koi happy and alive since 1999. The next part will sound so cliché, but I woke up on New Year's Day 2012, and was trying to think of a way to give back to the world. Eventually my time will come, and what will I have left behind? Sure, I have built beautiful water features and patios for countless clients, but is that enough? So after researching a variety of charities, it came down to water, and I decided to work ...

7 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Give Back this Holiday Season

It’s the holidays. You want to give back. But between building your business and networking at holiday parties, it’s hard to find any extra time or money to put toward the causes you care about. Worry not! As a social entrepreneur, I’m always looking for ways to integrate peoples’ everyday habits with actions that create positive impact, and I’ve compiled a brief list of ways to give back this holiday season...entrepreneur style. From giving away your items and your time to benefit good causes, to buying gadgets and treats that create impact through your purchase, here are seven ways entrepreneurs can give back this holiday season: ...

#FormalFridays: Join the Movement, Startups!

You know that Seinfeld episode where George vows to do the opposite of what he normally does?: ( A waitress comes up to George ) Waitress : Tuna on toast, coleslaw, cup of coffee. George : Yeah. No, no, no, wait a minute, I always have tuna on toast. Nothing's ever worked out for me with tuna on toast. I want the complete opposite of on toast. Chicken salad, on rye, untoasted ... and a cup of tea. Elaine : There's no telling what can happen from this. Well, Technori just pulled a George. It's not because nothing was working out for us, but we wanted to do something different. Enter: Formal Fridays. Formal Fridays is exactly what it sounds ...

How to Hire the Best People for Your Startup

I have a confession to make. Historically, I’ve sucked at hiring. And though I didn’t see it at the time, this lead to a lot of headaches and heartaches during the first few years of my business. I was young. I had drive and a dream, but no experience in hiring and managing people. I began to think that people were lazy and had bad attitudes, when really I was the one with the issue – I had a hiring problem. In the beginning I hired people that I thought would be fun to be around, that I would get along with, and that would (and did) make great friends. But when you hire for great friends, that’s what you get - great friends. If what you ...

Impact Engine Proves “Social Enterprise” Is No Oxymoron

For those of us who believe in the social enterprise model, last Wednesday was a great day. Impact Engine held its first Investor Day at Chase Auditorium, and Chicago’s first social enterprise incubator did not disappoint. All seven startups in their inaugural cohort gave pitches that were clear, concise and creative, demonstrating equal parts social consciousness and business smarts. Together, they proved profit-driven innovation can create solutions to some of the world’s most dire problems. If I had a billion dollars, I’d fund them all. Being somewhat less flush, I decided to evaluate each pitch on two completely subjective and not ...

Top 5 Takeaways from the CEC’s Startup Forecast 2013

Last week, I attended the 2013 Startup Forecast. Hosted by the CEC, this was a great opportunity to connect with the Chicago entrepreneurial community, hear from local luminaries, and do a little predictive analytics on what the next 12 months has to offer aspiring business builders. As I described in last week's post, I took notes, reflected on what I heard, and distilled my learnings down to the perspectives I need to apply and the actions I'm going to take. Now it's time to tell others what takeaways I will be using while continuing to build my company. So here are the top five takeaways that will help guide our efforts, and hopefully, our ...

Why 80% of Female Entrepreneurs Were Once Girl Scouts

An astonishing 80 percent of female entrepreneurs were once Girl Scouts. Eighty. Percent. Considering eight percent of all women in the U.S. were Girl Scouts at some point, this is an impressive ratio. Before Pam Fields founded Mrs. Fields Cookies, she was a Girl Scout. Before Anita Roddick opened her first retail store, The Body Shop, she was a Girl Scout. Before Martha Stewart created her empire, she was a Girl Scout. And before 17-year-old Kaylin Fanta started the non-profit Watts' Backpack Baggers to provide children in need with school supplies, she was – and still is – a Girl Scout. This is no small feat. Nor is this ...

Discover Your Startup’s Value: A DIY Guide to IP Audits

What makes your business valuable? Your freshly printed business model or the uncommon drive you have to succeed? Ask any investor and they will tell you that it’s your company’s assets that make it and every business valuable. At the turn of the century, major companies changed the way they viewed assets. Prior to the dotcom era in the late 1990s, a company’s assets were machinery, buildings, and raw materials. Although tangible assets are still a factor, the most valuable assets today are intangible: intellectual property or IP. In 1970, global royalties and licensing revenues related to IP totaled $2.8 billion. Now, in 2012, those same ...

Winter Cleaning: Get Rid of Digital Excess and Kick Off 2013 With a Clean Slate

Ever wonder how we've become such digital pack rats over the past few years? We accumulate all kinds of digital possessions that we seldom or never use, and we do nothing about it. These are a few examples from my life: Personal productivity apps Subscriptions to online newsletters LinkedIn connections Facebook “friends” Twitter followings Most of us have carried over physical world habits into digital world habits. I love technology, so I have a tendency to download apps that look interesting. My online subscriptions cover a wide range of topics, from wine to healthcare policy. And yes, I accept all kinds of invitations on Facebook ...

5 Project Management Lessons Learned at the Overnight Web Challenge

The sun was peeking over Grant Park and into the windows of Chicago’s Roosevelt University, but the web pros taking part in The Nerdery's Overnight Web Challenge on November 18th weren't yet ready for the light of day. They were 21 hours into a crash course in project management. At 9 a.m. the previous morning, 10-person teams of web pros were assigned a nonprofit to work with, charged with re-designing the organization's website - for free - in 24 hours. The process would normally take months, and cost anywhere from $15,000 to $40,000. I sat in to observe much of the session, stealing coffee, donuts, and a turn on the Donkey Kong arcade ...

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Michael Jordan

There is little doubt that Michael Jordan had a big impact on the world of sports. But the man widely considered to be the best basketball player of all time also happens to be an extremely savvy businessperson, a one-man global brand, and one of the most highly sought-after athlete endorsers ever. Long before young people were lining up to buy new iPhones, they were lining up to buy new Air Jordans. If you’re a young entrepreneur or small business owner, there are certainly much worse people to learn from than the former Chicago Bulls star. Over the years, Jordan has provided plenty of valuable advice on leadership, competition, and success – ...

Mastering New Knowledge: 4 Steps That Will Improve Your Learning

In the last couple of weeks, I've committed to building a company and developed the meaning and messaging for it. This week, I sat down to construct a business model. I very quickly realized I was out of my element. As a teacher, designer, product manager, and learning scientist, I never got the needed training in financial management, P&Ls, cash flow statements, or revenue modeling. It was time for a crash course. I may not know much about financial analysis, but I do know that understanding the perspective of someone who has the skill you want is as important as practicing the skill yourself. If you come from a business school or grew up ...

Your Company Culture Sucks, and it’s All Your Boss’s Fault

Have you ever looked at your boss and thought, "I like my job, but I would really like it a lot more if you weren't around"? You are not alone. I, too, thought the same thing. I convinced myself that I was wrong and that I needed to learn how to adapt to this new company culture. Then my boss left on vacation for a week. All of a sudden, the office felt lighter and more enjoyable. It was an unexplainable feeling. I was immediately happy and at peace with my job again. I showed up to work earlier than I normally did. The coffee tasted a lot better, too. I even took down the "If you're leaning, you're cleaning" sign that was hanging above ...

Isn’t it Ironic?: What the Founder of Walmart Taught Me About Employee Happiness

Several years ago, I was on a plane flight, and the unnamed airline was going through a labor dispute with its flight attendants. Talks of a strike were in the air - literally. During the flight I was forced to listen to an unhappy flight attendant complain for an hour to the guy behind me. He was a sympathetic ear and she made sure he, and everyone within 5 rows, knew what a horrible airline she worked for and how badly she was treated. I have no idea if what she said was true, but I do know I didn't get a pillow or blanket, I really wanted something to drink, and the service was definitely not done with a smile. You know what else happened? I ...