28 results for month: 02/2013


Ask the Startup Lawyer: Taxes and Lawsuits Edition

Question #1: A friend of mine set up her company as an S Corporation to save on taxes.  How does that work? Ahhh…the good old “save taxes with an S Corporation” trick. Not as old as a whoopee cushion, yet so much more refined than “pull my finger.” So here’s the deal: In a typical startup which is a S Corporation for tax purposes, the owners must be employees of the company. Once the company has revenues, the founders will pay themselves as employees. The result is that at the end of the year, each founder will receive a W-2 from the company just as if that founder was working for somebody else. Income taxes and employment taxes ...

5 Critical Tips For Identifying Your Target Audience

If you’ve just launched a startup, you’ve likely spent a lot of time planning and building your business. Part of that planning process involves—or should involve—deciding who will be on the receiving end of your marketing efforts. Your products might appeal to a large group of people, but it doesn’t make sense to try to market to everyone. You obviously want as many people as possible to know about your business. But the more potential customers you want to reach, the more time and money it’s going to cost to do so. Defining a target audience might feel constraining to you, but just remember that you’re not excluding anyone; you’re ...

Startup PR: If You Write a Great Press Release, Media Coverage Will Come

Even those who don’t quite understand public relations have heard of a press release. In fact, when discussing my job as a publicist I have been asked numerous times if I mostly “talk on the phone a lot and send out press releases.” Not exactly that, but a press release is an important component of a PR campaign. Now before you left-brainers start to tune out because you think you can’t write a press release or that it isn’t a necessary document, let me point out two things: Press releases follow a general formula, and once you get the hang of it they are actually quite easy to write. You will absolutely want a press release for big ...

Building a Website? Make Sure You Choose Design Patterns and Build Wireframes First.

It’s Week #6 of the UX Design class I’m taking at The Starter League! By the way, they are still accepting some late applications for the spring quarter, but spots are really limited–so make sure you sign up very soon if you're interested. Last week, we talked about determining what features you should include while building your products. This week, we moved on to design patterns and wireframing—which is one of the most important exercises in UX design. Let's dive into design patterns first. Intro to Design Patterns Let me start my saying there are an overwhelming number of design patterns from which you can choose when you're building ...

If You’re Thinking of Launching a Social Media Startup, Please Don’t.

There are a couple of things that worry me. One being zombies. But, I also worry about startups. Especially startups in the social media space. The funding for these companies is plentiful because there is a serious bubble, and the only people who are going to survive it are the wealthy idiots who like to publicly proclaim that there is no bubble. Investors are like herd animals, and none of them want to look stupid, so of course they’re going to say that. If they didn’t, how would they make their money back? I’d like to think I know a thing or two about the social media space. I’ve been researching it since 2006, and I wrote a book ...

4 Things You Must Do for E-Commerce Customer Service Success

Running a business solely online requires a different type of mindset than the one needed to manage a brick-and-mortar store. There’s no memorable face or friendly handshake when you do business online. This makes customer service even more important for e-commerce retailers — each interaction with a customer could be your last, especially if the service is lacking and there are competitors in your market. Bad news travels fast in the online sphere, so follow these guidelines to ensure every customer has a positive experience. 1.) Build Your Best Website In creating a virtual business, your website is your most important asset. This is the face ...

So, What Really Happened with the Government vs. Uber?

It happens everywhere, and it’s all too common in Chicago and across Illinois: established players in an industry will lobby government to enact laws and regulations to keep new competitors out, protecting their profits while killing entrepreneurship. Some technology startups may not face this problem. A company creating something altogether new in an industry still in its infancy may not have established players or protectionist laws in its way. On the other hand, a startup offering an innovative product that disrupts a well-established, politically privileged industry may find itself besieged by lawsuits and bureaucrats. That is what has ...

When it Comes to Health, Change Your Mindset to Change Your Behavior

In order to make effective long-term changes in your health and wellness, it is important to evaluate how easily your thinking can lead to self-sabotage.  As entrepreneurs, you need to embrace the power of thinking positively so the negative patterns do not come into play as you commit to forward thinking this year. Try to unlock the positive messages you send yourself in the business realm and transfer them into other areas of your life, such as health and wellness. It is essential to show yourself compassion and let go of negative thoughts. The following are examples of sabotaging thoughts that fast-paced individuals commonly make: “I don’t ...

Improve Your Startup’s SEO With These Fundamentals

Starting a business can be pretty intense.  Although many startups depend heavily on the web, search engine optimization is often an afterthought. As a consequence, website owners may launch their new site and see very little traffic from searches. Showing up in search results is a free, passive way to connect with potential customers, so it’s important to consider these fundamentals when establishing your online presence. Read Google’s Webmaster SEO Starter Guide and Install Webmaster Tools To make sure your site is maximizing your search traffic, make sure to follow Google’s published SEO guidelines (aka their SEO Starter ...

What Did Steve Jobs and Ferdinand Magellan Have in Common?

My colleague Ray Coye and I recently wrote a book entitled Mutiny and Its Bounty: Leadership Lessons from the Age of Discovery. It stems from a paper we published in 2010 in a scholarly journal that was eventually selected as that journal’s best paper. Later, Yale University Press contacted me to ask if we would be interested in writing a book based on our work. Entrepreneurs will find this book interesting because it highlights the importance of coordinated upward defiance to bold, risky entrepreneurial ventures in uncertain environments. It is a book about mutiny, and the historic cases it examines entail dramatic and extremely intense scenes....

UX Design: What Features Should You Include When Building Your Product?

It’s Week #5 of the UX Design class I’m taking at The Starter League. Last week, we talked about tools you can use to build your best product. This week, we're diving right into the nitty gritty of product usability analysis, site maps, and user flows. The objective is really to arm you with techniques that allow you to think through the creation of your product in a strategic, user-friendly way. Let's start with something called Kano Analysis. Kano Analysis Kano analysis is one particular product development theory that is useful when you're figuring out exactly which features you want to build into your product. Under this model, you ...

The Simple Formula for Becoming an Opportunity Magnet

There are certain people out there who seem to always have amazing things come their way. NEWSFLASH: It's not a coincidence! Your ability to attract great opportunities comes down to a simple formula: Size and Quality of Your Network + Transparency + Perceived Ability to Create Value = Volume of Opportunities Let's dig in. Network Your "true network" is not everyone you've ever met. Your true network is the group of people who'd gravitate towards helping you out given the opportunity (assuming the ask is appropriate). The larger your true network, the larger the pool of people who might decide to send an opportunity your way. Network ...

Do You Think Like An Entrepreneur?

Do you have an entrepreneurial state of mind? Everything I read and hear in the world of startups conforms to a particular notion of entrepreneurship. It’s the notion of starting something new, preferably something never done before—like Facebook, perhaps. You are considered an “entrepreneur” if you come up with an idea to build a product or service offering never built before, incorporate an entity, hire a team, build a mobile app, and get people to start using something new.  You cross the threshold between success and failure if you raise VC money, expand, and get acquired (it’s uncool to go IPO). You’re still an “entrepreneur” ...

Hello, LA! Technori Pitch LA Kicks Off

Whoa! The kickoff of Technori Pitch LA could not have been better. It was such an energetic, fun-filled night that one thing must be said - Thank YOU, Los Angeles starters for being awesome! The aim of Technori Pitch is to represent the past, present, and future of innovation through presentations by a successful entrepreneur or community leader keynote, followed by pitches from five launching companies, followed by an incredible afterparty that let’s all the creativity and inspiration marry and be merry. Though this was the first program of many by Technori in LA, it was as though we all knew each other already! Such is the power of starter...

10 Valentine’s Day Tweets for Startup Lovers

Every year we come to Valentine's Day, and our thoughts turn to the special people in our lives. But for those of us who are busy building a business, there may be the tendency to spend more time romanticizing our startup's future than our love lives. So to bridge the gap, I'm offering the following ten tweets, all of which evoke the simple hashtag: #StartupValentine. Because we all know that whether we're single, dating, married, or "it's complicated," we are all lucky (crazy?) enough to have another true love. And what better day to celebrate that love than Valentine's Day? So here's my gift to you: ten startup tweets, one for every type of ...

The Golden Ticket To Your PR Outreach: Creating a Great Media List

Media outreach is one of the most important things you will do to support your own public relations program. While PR encompasses many areas (public speaking, social media, community relations, and crisis communications, to name a few), one of the most significant—and the most well known to any layman—is media outreach, also known as pitching. In my last article, I wrote about building your media plan by identifying the target outlets where you want to receive coverage (and I know you did your homework and have your list ready!). Now that you have decided what media you want to pitch, you must be itching to know how to do it. Just pick up the ...

Why Startups Have the Power to Lead America’s Innovation Revolution

We’re living in a golden age of tech-focused entrepreneurship right now. Not since the industrial revolution has there been a more perfect opportunity for innovators and inventors to create something remarkable. At the same time, non-entrepreneurs (the old school model) are fighting with everything they have to preserve the status quo. Old models are always resistant to change, not just because they want to preserve their power, but because they can’t innovate fast enough to keep up with the entrepreneur.  For example, you’ll never be able to stream all the movies you want to watch on Netflix, because the physical media/mail model creates an ...

Responsive Web Design: How to Make Websites That Look Great on Any Screen

The web has always been a work in progress, but never so much as in the last few years. The introduction of the iPhone in 2007 opened a vast new world where we were able to view the real internet—not a stripped-down mobile web—from a tiny computer we could carry in our pockets. More phones and devices followed in every size imaginable, but we soon realized that having the internet in our pockets isn't quite so simple. Websites designed for desktop-sized screens appear tiny, forcing users to zoom in and out to view content. Separate mobile sites soon started popping up, but the greater the number of devices that became available, the more we ...

4 Simple Startup Lessons From the Founders of Cureeo

Maida Swenson-Fortune and Katie Dombrowski want to democratize art. Each the product of an entrepreneurial family, Maida and Katie launched Cureeo based on a shared vision of making the art world accessible to everyone. They jumpstarted their dream in 2012 when Cureeo joined Excelerate Labs' (now TechStars) 2012 class of startups. These two haven't lost steam despite their hectic lives, launching their transparency-focused Buyer's Guide in 2013 to help everyone understand what makes art worth what it's worth, in addition to bringing on new art impactors and discovering new artists in Chicago and beyond. Both founders are finishing MBAs at the ...

UX Tools You Can Use to Build Your Best Product

It’s Week #4 of the UX Design class I’m taking at The Starter League. Last week, we covered techniques to help you define your user base and position your product. And what better way to start this week off than by talking about the infamous lean business model canvas—most starters hear the word "lean," and their eyes light up in recognition. Lean Business Model Canvas We kicked off this week's class by going over the Lean Business Model Canvas, which is a different (and you guessed it—leaner) adaptation of Alex Osterwalder's original Business Model Canvas. The lean version looks like this: So, what's the point? Ash Maurya, the founder ...

Technori Loves LA. So We’re Coming To You!

Dear Los Angeles, I know you have a lot of suitors. And how could you not? Warmth and sun, glamour and surf - few could deny a surface so appealing. But as we all know, you’re a lot more than that. That’s why Technori is coming to you—strike that—is viscerally magnetized to you. We poured our heart and startup soul into Technori Pitch in Chicago, and now we want to pour that same heart and startup soul with Pitch in LA. We can't wait to meet you, LA starters! Love, Technori So what is Technori Pitch? Initially, it was the fruits of our love for the starter community in Chicago. It’s the platform we built to shine a light on the best ...

Venture Capitalist to Entrepreneur: Startup Lessons from Eddie Lou, Shiftgig Co-founder and CEO

You’ve seen the stats: approximately 75% of startups fail. It’s rarely a failure in ideation, market need, or creativity—but rather, a failure of execution. Eddie Lou, venture investor-turned-entrepreneur, was able to apply what he learned during his ten years in venture capital to launching Shiftgig, an employment matchmaking service for service-based industries and hourly full-time employees. In just four months, Shiftgig attracted $3M in Series A funding from I2A Fund, Firestarter, and Red Barn. While it’s never a simple “four steps to success” recipe as an entrepreneur, knowing how the other side of the table thinks can make the ...

Whatever Your Impression is About Venture Capitalists, Understand These 4 Things First.

In the high impact entrepreneur world, strong opinions about “venture capital” and “venture capitalists” are both common and diverse.  For some, the terms conjure up images of vast oceans of capital that, when expertly sailed, can lead to new frontiers of entrepreneurial wealth and prestige.  For others, the terms conjure up images of vultures circling cash-starved entrepreneurial wagons, sucking the lifeblood out of their prey for their own nourishment.  And so, on the one hand, venture capitalists have over the years been instrumental in helping countless entrepreneurs achieve their business, financial and personal dreams—almost always, ...

What to Expect: Get Ready for StartupBus Chicago!

Is your dream to build a business? Do you have a competitive side? Think you can pitch your way to the top? Or, maybe you're just interested in impressing your peer developers or designers? Imagine you and a team of strangers conceiving, building, and launching a startup over 3 days, on a bus traveling 60 MPH. Building an app usually takes weeks in a development studio. However, teams on the StartupBus have less than 72 hours, with every second counting down to the wire. It is an absolutely crazy experience, but if you think you just might be up for the challenge, have an incredible experience, and represent the startup community in Chicago, here is ...

Startup Social Media: Why Relationship Marketing is Essential for Growing Your User Base

You've finally turned your great idea into an actual startup, and now it’s time to get the word out there about it. Grab your Twitter handle and Facebook page, because social media will be your best friend while marketing your startup. Here are four things to think about as you build up your startup's social media presence: 1. Create awareness A big challenge startups face is proving to investors the impact and influence of their products or services; this is where social media comes in.  Social media serves as a set of tools to promote your new business and generate interest from the public. The next step is understanding where your core ...