Posts Tagged ‘Entrepreneur’

Is your startup cursed?

This article is written by Josh Burwick, managing partner at Sand Hill East Ventures. You can check out his blog here.


I have sat through countless presentations given by really smart entrepreneurs only to walk away wondering what exactly it is that they do and why I (or potential customers or potential investors) should care. Too often these messages all sound very similar and the unique and/or differentiated value does not surface. The solutions do not sound different from the numerous competitive offers with seemingly similar purpose. Is the issue that I just didn’t understand storage or drones? Why would these really smart people quit their big paying jobs at big companies to start or work for this company? After reading “Made To Stick,” I understood that the ineffective communication of the value is likely attributable to the founders’ “Curse of Knowledge.”

The curse of knowledge is affecting many companies in the technology industry. Founders are so immersed in their industry, living it 24/7, that they fail to consider more appropriately their audience. Investors, on the other hand, live in a world where they are shown multiple companies across a multitude of industries. One day the technology may be drones and robots while the next day it is companies with messaging platforms, artificial intelligence or enterprise software.

So how do you make sure your startup isn’t stricken with the curse?

One antidote is to use the same strategy you do communicating with a 4-year-old – when preparing for an investor meeting, ask yourself “Why?” repeatedly until it’s completely obvious. I have three young boys so I get to practice this technique, or be on the receiving end of it from my boys, frequently. Asking why has the power to continue a conversation or a process. So as an example, when my 4-year -old asks why he can’t buy more Pokémon cards, I explain that it’s a treat and they cost money. He responds with, “Why?” Well, the makers of Pokémon need to make money and that’s why they charge for the cards instead of giving them away. And another, “Why?” Well, companies are places where moms and dads work and they need to make money. You get the point, right?

The main point is the power of why.

So, how does the curse of knowledge fit in to this? The curse affects many founders when they pitch investors who aren’t experts in their field, which is the vast majority of the time. Answers to why are likely not absent, but resident inside the head of the presenter and erroneously taken for granted as general knowledge. The key, however, is to remember the audience that you are speaking to doesn’t spend all day focused on the same sector and as such, they do not make the leap that a founder entrenched in the technology easily makes.

When you prepare for a presentation, imagine a 4-year-old kid asking “why” does it matter? Then why again. In their excellent book, “Made to Stick,” the authors suggest “Three Whys” to get to concrete associations that resonate emotionally with their audience. It’s worth checking out the book if you have time! My takeaway: use the power of asking why relentlessly until your unique value is completely obvious.

Don’t fall victim to the curse of knowledge. Make sure that your audience walks away completely armed with and blown away by your answer to “Why?”

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Meet The 23-Year-Old Who Had Such A Good Idea, Strangers Gave Him $13 Million To Build It



James Proud

Most 23-year-olds are just getting on their feet and struggling to make ends meet after graduating from college. James Proud, however, has already raised millions to fund his startup that creates a device to help people sleep better.James Proud is the CEO of Hello Inc., which produces a device called the Sense sleep tracker. The Sense is a tiny orb designed to sit on your nightstand and monitor the conditions in your room as you sleep.

The idea is to educate you about your sleeping habits and what’s waking you up in the middle of the night.

Hello Inc.’s Kickstarter campaign for the Sense just ended on Friday, and the company blew past its $100,000 goal to raise $2.4 million. But that number represents a small fraction of the total funding Hello Inc. has raised so far. Proud and his company have raised $10.5 million from a circle of well-connected angel investors, according to The Wall Street Journal, bringing their total funding to nearly $13 million.

Some of Proud’s investors include tech industry big shots such as David Marcus, the former head of PayPal, Dan Rose, a Facebook executive, and Hugo Barra, a Xiamoi executive who formerly worked as Google’s head of product for Android, as the Journal reports.

Proud said his inspiration for the Sense stemmed from a basic concept: everyone needs to sleep, and most people want to learn how to sleep better.

“Most people don’t walk a lot every single day,” Proud told Business Insider in a previous interview. “But everyone has to sleep every single day. … Your day is purely influenced by how you slept the previous night.”

Proud’s desire to create things began to show at a very young age. When he was 9 years old, Proud taught himself HTML after seeing a book called “Your Own Website” in a store, according to Forbes. By age 12, he was already building professional websites.

Proud says he always had a desire to attend college, but by the time he had graduated from high school, he had a change of heart, as Forbes reports. Instead, the South London native opted to join Peter Thiel’s fellowship in 2011 — a program in which the billionaire investor pays young entrepreneurs to skip out on a traditional college education to pursue their business ideas.

Proud’s first startup, GigLocator, was the product of his time in Thiel’s fellowship. GigLocator, a live music aggregation service, was bought by the owner of the Williamsburg-based Brooklyn Bowl venue almost immediately after Proud’completed Thiel’s program in 2012.

After GigLocator was bought, Proud began working on Hello Inc. The Sense sleep tracker is Hello Inc.’s first product, and it will retail for $129 when it eventually launches.

The secret to making a successful tech product, Proud says, is to create something that works so well it fits naturally into your everyday life.

“Technology is most valuable when you don’t have to think about it,” Proud said to Business Insider previously. “That’s when it becomes magical.”

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How To Sell Yourself In 30 Seconds And Leave People Wanting More

How do you get people interested in you when you only have 30 seconds?

Whether you’re at a job interview, networking at a cocktail party, or run into Warren Buffett in the elevator, quickly persuading others to think you’re the most interesting person they’ll meet is no easy task.

“Most people can’t present what they’ve done effectively,” Paul McDonald, a senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half, tells Business Insider. “They’re not used to giving sound bites of what they do.”

Below, McDonald gives us eight steps to crafting the perfect elevator pitch:

1. Know exactly where you want to go.

Your elevator pitch should answer three questions: Who are you? What do you do? Where do you want to go, or what are you looking for? You need to know exactly what you want to achieve or no one can help you get there.

“Take your resume and LinkedIn profile and go through it thoroughly,” says McDonald. If you’re unemployed, focus on where you want to go and what you want to do.

2. Bullet point it.

After studying your resume and LinkedIn profile, write down four bullet points that explain why you’re great, advises McDonald. Discuss your work history, background, skills, accomplishments, and goals. Keep out any irrelevant details that take away from your core message.

3. Tell them a story.

People love stories, says McDonald, so tell them a story. It also makes it easier for others to remember you later on.

Self-improvement guru Dale Carnegie said in his book “Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business” that our minds are essentially “associate machines,” which means we remember things better when there’s a story or association attached to the subject. In other words, if you want people to remember you, tell them a story and make sure it’s good.

4. Eliminate jargon.

You need to be able to explain what you do and who you are in a way that appeals to most people. This means avoiding acronyms or terminology that wouldn’t be understood by someone outside of your industry.

Dumbing down complex ideas is a “real art,” says McDonald. A good strategy is to imagine explaining what you do to your parents and using a similar formula in your elevator pitch. Making sure your pitch is in layman’s terms is especially critical for those in accounting, finance, and technology.

5. Make sure it invites conversation.

After telling your story, the listener needs to be left wanting more. Is your story compelling enough to do this? If not, you need to change your pitch.

6. Time yourself.

While practicing your pitch, you should time yourself to make sure you can tell your story in 30 seconds. If you can’t, cut down details and try again.

7. Record yourself on video.

You need to know what you look like to others while you’re telling your story. Are you interesting? Are you believable? People will come to their own conclusions while listening to you so make sure you give off a good impression. Relax, act natural, and get comfortable with your story.

8. Pitch it to your friends and colleagues.

After you’ve got your story down, practice your elevator pitch with friends and colleagues. Ask them to give you feedback. Ask them what you should do to make it better. Keep practicing and tweaking your pitch until it’s natural for you to say aloud and convincing to the listener.

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mickeys-brain-1How To Find Great Business Ideas From All Over The World by Julie Bort

YouTube/Mickey Hart

Do you want to start a company or come up with that genius idea for your current company?
Of course you do.

But if it was easy to come up with the Next Big Thing, we would all do it. So here’s a secret. There are two websites created by the same guy, Reinier Evers, that have some 17,000 thousand people worldwide scouring the world for the coolest, most creative business ideas and reporting on them for all to see and be inspired: Springwise and trendwatching.com.

For instance:

Former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart is using a mind-reading EEG headset to create thought-controlled visuals and music for his Superorganism tour.
A smart scale and Kickstarter project called the Prep Pad is a chopping board and weighing scale that can determine the exact nutritional content of the meal being prepared, and tracking users’ eating habits.
Yahoo! Japan has created Hands On Search, a machine that allows users to search by voice and receive a result in 3D-printed form.
A new 3D printer called LumiFold is designed to be folded, so it can fit in a backpack.
A clothing designer Elizabeth Fraguada, founder of the Jorge & Esther studio, has created a collection of clothing that embeds LED lights into the fabric (like color or cuff) and these lights can change color via a smartphone app.
We recently caught up with Chris Kreinczes, managing director for the Springwise blog, to ask about the business of trend spotting.

Business Insider: Why have two sites that seem to do basically the same thing?

Chris Kreinczes: The companies are actually very different in what they do. Trendwatching.com focuses on trends, offering free monthly trend briefings and, as part of their Premium service, access to their Innovations Database, Industry Bulletins, Trend Reports and an Apply Toolkit.

Springwise differs in both its content and its delivery of that content. The site is designed as an online magazine for daily viewing, and we deliver free weekly and daily newsletters (170,000+ subscribers total). The content consists primarily of overviews of innovative startups (we feature three a day), and we offer an interview series with founders.

We also offer a service for professionals called Springwise Access, giving access to our database of over 4,000 innovative business ideas, a personalized homepage tailored to our clients interests, and bookmarking and folder sharing features.

BI: How many spotters/Trendwatchers do you have currently?

CK: There are now slightly over 15,000 Springspotters and 2,500 Happy Spotters (the trendwatching.com equivalent).

BI: Can anyone be a spotter/trendwatcher, or are these contract, trained, paid jobs?

CK: Anyone can sign up to be a Springspotter and they will be automatically accepted. To become a Happy Spotter, applicants must first meet certain criteria. Both sets of spotters can earn points for accepted spottings, redeemable in our gift galleries.

BI: In 2013, what would you say are the big tech trends that define the year so far?

CK: According to the trendwatching.com team, a tech trend we highlighted last December as being key for 2013 was “Mobile Moments,” how consumers would look to their mobile devices to maximize every single moment.

We’ve since seen an explosion of innovations that tap into micro pockets of time, from the boom in mini video sharing (including Vine and Instagram), to the high adoption of ephemeral messaging platforms such as SnapChat or Frankly.

Another trend that broke from the lab and into the consumer market was what we call “Emotive Tech,” technologies that read and respond to emotions. It is a strand of the larger trend of “Intuitive Interfaces” where devices are designed to be natural, and therefore more pleasant, to use.

An example of Emotive Tech would be the Japanese-developed Mico headset, a pair of headphones that measures the wearer’s brainwaves and selects music to fit their mood. Another is the recently funded Kickstarter project PIP, a stress detecting biosensor that helps users relax through gameplay.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/find-great-ideas-from-all-over-the-world-2013-9#ixzz2jJc4p9kA

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More Entrepreneurs Should Be Eating Magic Mushrooms, This Startup Founder Says

As cofounder of a local-social network startup called Circle, Evan Reas is no stranger to finding novel solutions to unusual problems.

When you find yourself positively stumped by a creative obstacle, there are the conventional methods of attack – dream something up by yourself, or maybe hire a professional to take care of the problem from beginning to end.

And then there are the more unique, off-the-beaten-path approaches.

Like taking magic mushrooms.

“It completely changes how you think,” Reas told us. “About your problems, about yourself, everything. It forced me to ask, ‘Is what I’m doing important?'”

With 4.5 million people using Circle so far, it would certainly seem so. This iOS and Android app aims to be your local network, showing you who and what is nearby. It can sort your friends by their various Facebook networks (high school, college, workplace) and lets you send them messages.

Reas isn’t alone in his endorsement of the psychedelic experience. The list of public figures affected by mushrooms and similar drugs runs long and varied, featuring a set of names that includes literary heavyweight Aldous Huxley, musical icon Jerry Garcia, and even Francis Crick, who discovered the double helix structure of DNA.

We’re not endorsing this approach, of course. Magic mushrooms are illegal in most states.

Circle and its 10 employees have made the app available for free on iOS and on Android.

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What Sam Walton taught me about life

  Mike Michalowicz

Mike Michalowicz is the CEO of Provendus Group, a nationally recognized speaker and the author of The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. EO

Sometimes the greatest lessons in life come from the least likely of places. For Mike Michalowicz, the Walmart founder’s last words changed the direction of his life and business.

So you’re one of those hardcore, work-until-sunset entrepreneurs, right? You’re a winner! I get it. And I applaud you … or at least I would have five years ago. In fact, I would have done the “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy” hand wave dance for you back then. I might have even tried to kiss your feet. But today? None of that. Today, I feel sorry for you.

You see, a few years ago I was that guy. I was dead set on winning the entrepreneurial game. I wore the “workaholic” title like a badge of courage. I put everything I had into my business. And then one day, I had an epiphany. I realized something life-changing: On my deathbed, I won’t be saying I should have worked harder. I will be asking myself if I lived life to the fullest. I will wonder if I fulfilled my life’s purpose, and if I loved my family and friends unabashedly.

This “a-ha” moment occurred after learning of Sam Walton’s final words. By any measure, Sam is considered to be the ultimate entrepreneur. He took a small general store, revolutionized the retail industry and built his business into the mega-corporation that Walmart is today. During his lifetime, he was in regular contention for being the richest man in the world. And yet, it’s what Sam said on his deathbed that gave me pause. His final words were: “I blew it.”

Sam Walton blew it? How could that be? He was a full-time, always-there business man! He would do anything to grow his business, and it gave him immense fame and fortune! But that’s where the problem lies, because when it came to the rest of his life, Sam wasn’t nearly as dedicated. He was never really “there” as a father, husband and friend. He had the wealthiest pockets, but the poorest soul. And in those last minutes of his life, he realized where he had failed.

I wonder if the same would be true for a person who dies after having lived the richest life with family and friends they so loved, yet didn’t have a business success story to define them. I suspect that they won’t say, “I blew it.” The truth is, dying is a fact of life, and it will happen sooner than we want, especially if we don’t start working on the life part way more than the entrepreneurial part. Like Sam, I had made my business my top priority. But after learning how it all ended for him, I knew I had to make a change. I decided to put life first.

Looking back at his legacy, Sam Walton left us with the greatest entrepreneurial lesson of all time: It is better to have an incomplete business life than an incomplete human life. I try to keep that in mind as I work on my business. While it’s still important for me to achieve professional success, I no longer let it define me. Instead, I focus on building loving and meaningful relationships, because I know that on my deathbed, it will be the people I loved who will be there, providing me comfort … not a business or a bank account. Sam Walton is proof of that.

Want to reach Mike Michalowicz? Contact him at mikem@obsidianlaunch.com, or visit www.toiletpaperentrepreneur.com.

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DEAR ENTREPRENEURS: Here’s How Bad Your Odds Of Success Are

Baby sea turtles

REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

As a wise investor puts it: “Many turtles hatch. Few make it to the sea.”

Everyone knows that starting companies — and investing in startups — is a risky way to earn a living.But few people appreciate just how risky it is.

Thanks to a recent tweet from Paul Graham, the founder of “startup school” Y Combinator, we now have a better idea.

Graham says that 37 of the 511 companies that have gone through the Y Combinator program over the past 5 years have either sold for, or are now worth, more than $40 million.

Most entrepreneurs would probably view creating a company worth more than $40 million as a success (unless the company raised more capital than that). And, on its face, the “37 companies” number seems relatively impressive.

In fact, however, the number tells a scary and depressing story.

This number suggests that a startling 93% of the companies that get accepted by Y Combinator eventually fail.

(Not all companies that sell for less than $40 million are “failures,” obviously. Assuming a company hasn’t raised much capital, a sale between $5 million and $40 million could be considered a success. But a high percentage of Y Combinator companies likely end up being worth zero. And for companies that are hand-picked by very smart investors, the 93%-below-$40 million rate is still surprisingly low).

A company accepted by Y Combinator, therefore, has less than a 1-in-10 chance of being a big success.

More alarmingly, the companies accepted by Y Combinator are only a tiny fraction of the companies that apply.

Some have estimated that Y Combinator’s acceptance rate is 3-5%.

If we use the 5% rate, we can estimate that Y Combinator has received about 10,000 applications for the ~500 companies it has chosen over the years.

Assuming Y Combinator has even a modest ability to pick winners, therefore, the odds that a company applying to Y Combinator will be a success are significantly lower than the odds of success of the companies accepted into the program.

If only 37 of the companies that have applied to Y Combinator over the years have succeeded, this is a staggeringly low 0.4% success rate.

Put differently, only one in every 200 companies that applies to Y Combinator will succeed.

The reality is that Y Combinator probably misses a few winners, so the actual odds are probably slightly higher.

But in case any entrepreneur or angel investor is deluding themselves into thinking that startups are an easy way to cash in, they might want to think again.

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