Yesterday I had the privilege of interviewing Matt Ocken, one of the founders of Kindred Partners.
Kindred Partners might be the best at recruiting executives for high-growth technology companies. In fact, some of the top venture capital firms continuously use Kindred to find executives for the companies they fund.
If that’s not enough, consider that Kindred was responsible for placing CEO Meg Whitman at eBay as well as key executives at Google, Amazon and Facebook.
So, Matt was obviously uniquely qualified to answer my questions about how to expertly build your company’s management team.
Matt started by going through the four tactics for building a great management team. Surprisingly, the first tactic was pretty simple and should be used by virtually all entrepreneurs.
The tactic? Figuring out who you already know that could be a good addition to your team. As Matt pointed out, there is a proven correlation between success and a team having worked together in the past. So, if you have successfully worked with someone in the past, your chances of successfully working together again are high. And investors know this and are keen to fund companies led by teams with history of successfully working together.
So, a first step is for the entrepreneur to do an audit of who they have worked with successfully in the past. You could have worked with them in school, at a job or at an organization. Create this list and then narrow it down to include the individuals you truly respect and would like to work with again in the future. Then, contact these individuals to see if they are interested in joining your team.
Note, Jay Turo, Growthink’s other co-founder, and I met at business school. We worked together successfully on a couple of projects during school and were friends. So, Jay was the first person I approached after I had the idea for Growthink. We’ve now run Growthink together for 10 years, so I can personally vouch to Matt’s approach!
Click here to download the interview as an MP3 file and the PDF transcript.
And here is a preview of the first few minutes of the interview (click the blue triangle to play):
The sky is falling. The sky is falling. While that's the news the media is telling us everyday, it's not necessarily all true.
While the economy is clearly not doing so well, there is still tons of money available to organizations via loans, investments and grants.
In fact, with regards to grants, last year more than 75,000 U.S. foundations gave $45.6 billion to organizations and individuals, according to Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates: Current Outlook (2009 Edition). That's $45.6 BILLION!
Do you want a piece of that money? Well, if you do, there is one site that you MUST visit: FoundationCenter.org. Right on FoundationCenter.org's homepage you can start searching thousands of foundations that provide grants. You can even search by factors such as your zip code and market sector to zero in on the most appropriate grants for you.
But, before you rush to give FoundationCenter.org a try, you need to know the one key fact about private grants that no one seems to tell you. Foundation grants are only for non-profit organizations.
So, if you are a non-profit organization, you should definitely stop what you're doing and go to FoundationCenter.org to see what grants might be available to you.
I know what you may be thinking right now...How does this help me? I'm running or starting a for-profit business.
I gotcha. And fortunately, there are also billions of grant dollars available for you too. However, getting these dollars is a bit more tricky. Your business needs to be in certain sectors. You need to know where to look. You need to know how to apply and the secrets to making sure your application succeeds.
To answer these questions and make winning grants for your business a whole lot easier, my team and I just completed Growthink's "Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capital for Your Business from Grants."
The guide is focused on teaching for-profit businesses how to raise capital via grants. Growthink University members have already been sent their copy of this special report. Others can learn more and download it today by clicking here.
I recently read a great blog post, from a company called The Name Inspector, about how to name your company or product. Whether your goal is to raise capital or gain the interest of partners or customers, the names of your company and products are critical.
In fact, when we first launched Growthink a decade ago, we started with the name BestBizPlan since we initially focused just on developing business plans. Realizing that we would expand beyond business planning, we changed the name to Growthink to reflect our desire and skill sets in helping entrepreneurs and business owners in growing their businesses via planning, capital raising, marketing, strategy and more.
The Growthink name has a better connotation and helps client, prospective clients, partners and employees better understand and relate to our mission. While I cannot attribute our company's success solely to our name, it certainly has helped us.
So, here are the ten ways for you to create great company (and/or product) names as suggested by The Name Inspector:
1. Use Real Words: These are names that are simply repurposed words. (e.g., Adobe, Amazon, Fox, Yelp)
This category also includes misspelled words (e.g., Digg (dig), flickr (flicker)) and foreign words (e.g., Vox (Latin 'voice').
2. Use Compounds: These names consist of two words put together (e.g., Firefox, Facebook).
3. Phrases: These names follow normal rules for combining words (but are not compounds) (e.g., MySpace, StumbleUpon).
4. Use Blends: Blended names have two parts, at least one of which can be recognized as a part of a real word (e.g., Netscape (net + landscape); Wikipedia (wiki + encyclopedia)).
5. Use Tweaked Words: Tweaked word names are derived from words that have been slightly changed in pronunciation and spelling - commonly derived from adding or replacing a letter (e.g., ebay, iTunes).
6. Use Affixed Words: These are unique names that result from taking a real word and adding a suffix or prefix (e.g., Friendster, Omnidrive).
7. Use Made Up or Obscure Origin Words: These names are generally short names that are either completely made up, or, since their origins are so obscure, they may as well have been made up (e.g., Bebo, Plaxo).
8. Use Puns: Puns are names that modify words/phrases to suggest a different meaning (e.g., Farecast (forecast, fore -> fare), Writely (rightly, right -> write))
9. Use People's Names: using a general name or the name from a personal connection (e.g., Ning (a Chinese name), Wendy's (founder Dave Thomas' daughter's nickname)).
10. Use Initials and Acronyms: names derived from the first letter of each word in the longer, more official name (e.g., AOL (America Online), FIM (Fox Interactive Media)).
A few months back, a unique conference called "AngelConf" took place in Silicon Valley. The conference was organized for angel investors and its goal was to educate angel investors on how to invest in startups.
Key questions that the event addressed were:
It was this last question that conference organizer Paul Graham from YCombinator agreed was the most important.
Graham's first point on this topic is that angel investors should pick startups that "make things that people want." Seems simple enough. However, Graham went on to say that angels should not invest in things that are already wildly popular. "By then it's too late for angels. VCs will already be onto them. As an angel, you have to pick startups before they've got a hit-either because they've made something great but users don't realize it yet, like Google early on, or because they're still an iteration or two away from the big hit, like Paypal when they were making software for transferring money between PDAs."
As such, angel investors need to be able to predict future market sizes (not just identify markets that are already doing well).
Graham's second point on this topic is that angel investors need to pick founders who are winners. On this point, he said the following:
"What makes a good founder? If there were a word that meant the opposite of hapless, that would be the one. Bad founders seem hapless. They may be smart, or not, but somehow events overwhelm them and they get discouraged and give up. Good founders make things happen the way they want. Which is not to say they force things to happen in a predefined way. Good founders have a healthy respect for reality. But they are relentlessly resourceful. That's the closest I can get to the opposite of hapless. You want to fund people who are relentlessly resourceful."
Now, what this means to you as the entrepreneur is that this is how you will be judged by many angel investors. They will judge the future potential of your business concept and they will judge the potential of you and/or your management team.
With regards to the potential of your business concept, you must convince them that your market is poised for growth, and in doing so, you MUST cite multiple research and statistical points that confirm your views (I can't reiterate enough how critical great market research is).
With regards to the quality of you, the founder, and/or your management team, you need to show the investor, via past performance and ALL current interaction between you and the investor that you are a winner. You need to show them that you make things happen. Here are some examples of how can you accomplish this:
These smaller, short-term accomplishments which show investors that you can execute and that you are clearly not 'hapless' will massively improve your chances of getting them to invest in you.
I want to tell you about a technique I picked up, that I can directly attribute to millions of dollars of revenues that I have generated over the years. But, even so, I'm far from mastering it.
The technique is a brainstorming technique called Assumption Reversal. It is incredibly powerful. It's the technique that has been responsible for, among many others, the ATM machine and Henry Ford's development of an assembly line which revolutionized manufacturing.
The Assumption Reversal brainstorming technique allows you to look at things differently and triggers new, creative ideas. It can be used to develop new business ideas and new product ideas, and for you to overcome virtually any challenge you face, from marketing obstacles to staffing difficulties and more.
I have put together a brief video that walks you through the four steps of the Assumption Reversal brainstorming technique and gives you a real-world example. I think you'll get much more from the video than just reading about it.
Mastering this technique could revolutionize you and your business. Check out the video below:
It was this last question that really bothered me...the notion that you can simple complete a form online and have angel investors (or venture capitalists) flock to your company. Our research shows that the chance of an angel investor funding your business based on an online form is about 0.01%, or 1,000 times WORSE than the odds of getting into Harvard Business School.
Sure there are many sites that tell you to pay them, submit your plan or complete their form, and that your plan will be sent to thousands of investors. And each of these sites prominently display their success stories. BUT, these success stories are the outliers. They are the 1 in 10,000 businesses that got funding for one reason or another.
The FACT is that angel investors (and venture capital firms) DON'T invest this way.
But, the good news is that tons of angel investor do invest, and in fact, they fund 15 times more companies than venture capital firms. According to the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire, last year 55,480 ventures were funded by angel investors.
And because the public stock market has being doing so poorly, more and more individuals are considering angel investing.
So the angel investors and money is out there. It's just a matter of knowing how to raise angel capital.
From our recent research and having been raising angel and venture capital for the past decade, we uncovered all the ways that you and your business CAN raise this type of capital. And it doesn't include filling out forms online.