How Less Fortunate Businesses Thrive with Focus And Funding


 
I for one take a lot of my business resources for granted. The fact that I have high-speed, uninterrupted (well, at least usually) internet access. The fact that I have a quiet office with a desk. The fact that I have a computer and programs that automate a lot of my routine tasks.

These things all help me be much more productive, and give me the ability, when combined with hard work and focus, to accomplish great things.

Like everyone else, most of the things that I do don't go precisely as planned. Like Growthink University. Clearly I was hoping for thousands upon thousands of new members the day we launched. But then, like everything else, I knew that tweaks would have to be made, the service would have to continuously be improved, etc., in order to reap long-term success.

When things get me down, one source of inspiration that I've turned to is Kiva.org. Kiva is "the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world."  Specifically, on their website, individuals who need small loans to start or grow their businesses request funding. And other individuals from around the world offer this funding in increments as low as $25.

The following are some new and completed funding requests I read today:

  • A $1,000 loan request from Mr. Vun Nem, of Cambodia who requires funding since he can't pay for the materials needed to run his construction business.

  • A $625 loan given to Ludmila Boiko of  Kherson, Ukraine. Ludmila has one daughter and sells domestic electrical appliances in a market in Dneprovskyi. Ludmila has paid back 12% of the loan to date.

  • A $1,075 loan given to Norma of Ayacucho, Peru who needed the funds to purchase outfits, polos, pants and blouses. This money was successfully raised on Kiva. In addition, she invested all of her savings to construct a third floor in their house and to buy machines to use in a dressmaking shop. This loan was made on June 30, 2008 and by October 31, 2008, she was able to repay the loan in its entirety.

Equally as inspiring as the entrepreneurs are the individuals who have funded them such as:

Philip, a student from Eaton, NH who lends because, "I am more than willing to help those who want to help themselves."

Judy, a teacher in Manassas, VA who says, "The impact of collective small gifts is breath-taking!"

And

Levi, who lives in Saskatchewan Canada and invests simply because "It works!"

When entrepreneurs throughout the world are able to raise tiny amounts of capital, amounts that I often charge to my credit card without flinching an eye, and are able to execute on their businesses and quickly repay their loans, it is truly inspiring.

What's also interesting is that these entrepreneurs may have more focus than many of us in the Western world. They aren't getting bombarded with phone calls and emails. Rather they are laser-focused on creating a business that provides money to feed, clothe and house themselves and their families. With laser focus often comes success!
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Growthink Client LeapFish.com Featured in Entrepreneur Magazine


 

We were thrilled to see our client LeapFish.com featured in the Web+Department section in the March 2009 edition of Entrepreneur Magazine.

Launched in November 2008, LeapFish is a search engine that uses proprietary hyper-threading to deliver more results in a single search. 

What makes LeapFish unique and so fun to use is its "click-free" search functionality.  As you type, the screen refreshes with new results -- give it a try!

 

 

Entrepreneur selected LeapFish along with a handful of other innovators in search.

The other featured startups included 123people.com, Cuil, EcoSmartSearch.com, RushmoreDrive.com, and Spock.com.

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Key Man Insurance: Why It Is So Important To Your Business


 
Did you know that venture capital firms nearly always require the companies they fund to get key man insurance (KMI)?

Well, understanding the rationale behind this fact should give you insight into improving your business operations and structure.

To begin, Key Man Insurance or KMI is a life insurance policy covering a business owner, president or a key employee. The business is the beneficiary under the policy.

The fact that most venture capital firms require KMI explicitly shows that venture capital firms provide funding to PEOPLE, not firms or ideas. It is the people who are able to execute on the ideas. Remember that a good person with a mediocre idea is often much more successful than a poor person with a great idea.

What this does NOT mean is that you should rush out to purchase key man insurance if you are seeking venture capital. What it does mean is that you need to make sure that you have a management team that is worthy of KMI. A team that is so capable of achieving success that investors are actually frightened that their investment would be in jeopardy if something happened to them.

What it also means, and this applies even if you are not seeking venture capital, is that you should create systems to minimize the business risk of something happening to a key employee.

These systems can include:

  • Training manuals that document key tasks performed by key personnel, so that someone else could take over their job requirements in the event that they were out of the office temporarily or long-term

  • A hiring plan that allows you to efficiently recruit and train new personnel

  • Constantly networking and telling people the exciting aspects of your business so that there is a pent-up demand to work at your company

You and your management team are the lifeblood of your business. You always need to be thinking about how to improve, protect and grow your team, as this will have the greatest impact on the long-term success, or lack thereof, of your business.
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I love Kiva


 
I love Kiva.  For those not familiar, Kiva is a person-to-person micro-lending site – allowing individuals, primarily from developed countries, to lend directly to entrepreneurs in the developing world.  The borrowers are in places like Cambodia, Bolivia, Azerbaijan, Lebanon, Peru, and Tanzania – and primarily borrow to allow their very small businesses to expand and hire.
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Let Entrepreneurial America Breathe Again - Please


 

The old adage about the definition of insanity -- "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" -- has never been more applicable than it is right now with the crisis in our financial markets and our government's response thereto.  The daily, depressing drama of the federal government's frenetic, "bailout flavor of the day" response mechanism would be comical if it wasn't so tragic, frustrating, and anger-inducing.

Sometimes I feel I went to bed one night in the United States of America and woke up in the U.S.S.R. in the midst of a "5-year plan." It is long-overdue time for Main Street America, for Small Business America, for Scientist's and Engineer's America, for Junior Achievement America, for Paper Route America, for Immigrant America, for eBay America, for Mary Kay America, for Franchise America, for Venture Capital America, for Startup America, for Entrepreneurial America to stand up and shout ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

Because they built this country.  Because they represent and embody its best and most admirable and most idealistic qualities.  And because if the Washington bureaucrats would just let them be and get out of their way they can and will dig this country out of its current hole far quicker, cheaper, and more fairly than via the banana republic cronyism that masquerades as policy in Washington these days.

The funny thing is, Entrepreneurial America has never been more vibrant, more creative, more productivity-building, more value-creating, than it is right now.  With the collapse of the "Blue Chips," the playing field has never been more level, the competitive arena never more wide open, the cost of key business inputs (labor, rents, technology) never less than it is right now for entrepreneurs.

What these firms need to succeed is not government handouts or "stimulus," but simply good old-fashioned growth capital.  And for this capital, these companies -- in such dynamic growth arenas as alternative & green energy, healthcare & biotechnology, digital media, and software -- are priced at  "end-of-the-world" levels.  In other words, as long as the world does not end, they will make themselves and their investors money.

So my suggestion to all of those in Entrepreneurial America: make yourself heard.  Call and write your congressperson and senator.  Email essays like this to your family, friends, and colleagues.  Support your local small business.  If you see a website of a business you like, write the company and tell them to keep on keeping on.   Blog.  Twitter.  Post on YouTube.  Shout out on Facebook.  Because this is a fight for private enterprise and economic freedom and one that Entrepreneurial America, and the world for that matter, cannot afford to lose.

Read Jay's second article in this series - Entrepreneurial America, Part 2.

Webinar: Keys to Successful Private Company Investing

Please join me on a live, interactive web conference where I will share with you my keys to successful private company investing including:

- How to utilize the Internet to source and research opportunities
- How to conduct data-driven risk analysis on private company deals
- How to exploit the "pricing inefficiency gap" endemic to private equity
- The importance of technology bias (and which technologies to bias) when selecting deals
- How to properly apply "black swan," or "randomness" thinking to private company investing strategy

To register, click here: http://www.growthink.com/livedeals

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Do You Make These Internet Marketing Mistakes?


 
For many businesses, internet marketing is the “low hanging fruit” -- the most-cost effective method for gaining and sustaining a competitive advantage. 

However, most websites are poorly optimized for search engines and are not effectively designed to generate leads or produce sales. 

That’s why we’re developing a new webinar that identifies common mistakes as well as proven strategies and tactics to accelerate your website’s growth and profitability.

In this upcoming webinar, Growthink co-founder and President Dave Lavinsky will reveal:
  • Why achieving "top rankings" or "driving traffic" is less than half of the battle
  • Which segments of internet marketing are growing, and where you need to invest today to remain competitive
  • How to create an inbound "pull" strategy to have customers knocking down your door
  • How to effectively convert website traffic to prospects, buyers, and lifetime customers
  • Why a holistic, integrated approach consistently delivers superior ROI

Reserve your spot in our upcoming internet marketing webinar.

Learn more about Growthink’s internet marketing services.
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Why Entrepreneurial Capitalism Now


 

It is absolutely astounding how quickly the discussion around the appropriate government response to the economic crisis has morphed -- from one around whether it even makes sense, or is the proper thing to do, for government to bail out ailing financial and manufacturing firms -- to one simply around "how much," "how fast," and "how many."

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Yellow and the Investor Pysche


 

What does the girl who rejected me at a dance when I was thirteen years old have to do with your ability to raise capital for your business?  Well, it all has to do with psychology, human nature, and how you can leverage the two to attract capital. Watch the 4-minute video below to learn more:

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The DogBall - The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly


 

Yesterday, I received an interesting package in the mail. I opened it up and inside was a shoebox. And inside the shoebox was "The Dogball." The Dogball, as I found out, is a new toy for dogs, and the founder, based in France, was trying to get me to distribute it here in the United States.

There are actually several important lessons from The Dogball as it relates to your business plan and raising capital. So, I documented them in a video since I had to make sure each of you could actually see exactly what the Dogball is:

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