Written by Christiana Moffa on Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Why Every Entrepreneur Should Wear a Top Hat
Last week, I had the great honor of attending the annual Inc. 500/5000 Conference, which celebrates the fastest-growing companies in the United States. Surrounded by the country's most inspired and innovative entrepreneurs, I was constantly amazed at what people can accomplish when they set their minds to it. Truthfully, I took a look back at my life and career and thought, "Should I be doing more? Am I inspiring others?"
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I just read this really interesting story about Dr. Doreen Orion in Psychology Today and wanted to share it with you.
Dr. Doreen Orion is a psychologist, as is her husband, Tim.
That's why she truly thought her husband was insane when he proposed that they give up everything and travel the country in a converted bus for a year.
But after two years of being nudged to do it, Dr. Orion finally gave in.
So, off they went around the country in their bus. And, during that time, they experienced it all... from a fire, a flood, an armed robbery and finding themselves in a nudist RV park.
Was it worth it?
According to Dr. Orion the answer is a whopping YES. In fact, enough so that she and her husband have decided to sell their home and live on their bus full-time.
So, what did she find? What did she learn?
Dr. Orion learned that "being comfortable" is not all that great. She said, "I hadn't understood how important it is to keep stretching myself, to keep trying new things. A certain spark I hadn't even known was missing suddenly came back into our lives."
The key for me is this -- it is the process of making yourself uncomfortable and stretching yourself when real personal growth and progress is made. As an entrepreneur, you MUST do things that make you uncomfortable. You can not let fear get the best of you.
Consider Johnny Carson who is well known for his severe stage fright. Fortunately that didn't stop him.
And consider the millions of great entrepreneurs who had the courage to develop their business plans and launch their business to the world.
Now, if you haven't truly launched your business, that is, if you haven't developed your business plan and raised capital (if needed for your business), then now is the time to do it.
And, to "make you an offer you can't refuse" (to borrow the line from the great mafia movies), until this Thursday at 5PM EST, I have a really special offer for you.
The offer is this:
For just $1, you can instantly download Growthink's Ultimate Business Plan Template and get a 14-day trial to GrowthinkUniversity.com
To learn more, and take us up on this $1 special offer, click the link below to watch a video that explains it all:
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The other day I had the pleasure of interviewing someone who I really admire - Dr. Basil Peters.
What I really like about Basil is that he's had success in so many positions. As an entrepreneur, he co-founded Nexus Engineering, which he grew to over 300 employees and sold to Scientific Atlanta.
He's also had success as a venture capitalist as CEO of the venture capital fund, BC Advantage Funds. And he is a successful angel investor, and co-founder and CEO of an angel fund called Fundamental Technologies II.
Basil also writes a blog on best practices for angel investors and entrepreneurs at www.AngelBlog.net and he is an Entrepreneur in Residence at Simon Fraser University where he spent 15 years as an Adjunct Professor of Engineering Sciences.
And finally, Basil is the author of a great book on exit strategies called Early Exits: Exit Strategies for Entrepreneurs and Angel Investors.
So, with this wealth of experience, I knew that I would learn a ton from the interview, and more importantly, be able to pass on several nuggets of wisdom to other entrepreneurs.
And he delivered.
In fact, Basil made one statement during the interview that I've thought about nearly every day since we spoke. Here's what he said:
"...So I've come to believe that it's a law. I believe that successful entrepreneurs have mentors, and I also believe that it's the most controllable success factor - it's the single thing entrepreneurs can do that would dramatically improve their chances of success that they can control."
An entrepreneur's most controllable success factor. Those are pretty strong and pretty wise words. Let's think about this. From the perspective of a proven entrepreneur and investor, having a mentor is one of the smartest thing an entrepreneur can do to improve their chances of success.
And Basil told me that virtually every successful entrepreneur that he has met has had either a formal or informal mentor.
So, why wouldn't every entrepreneur have a mentor?
Let's start with me. I don't have a formal person that I call my mentor and who considers me their mentee. But I have had several informal mentors. An uncle who's a successful business man. Mega successful Growthink clients (I define "mega successful" as having exited companies for $100 million or more) who I've worked very closely with for years. And professors who have taught me and answered my numerous questions over time.
Now for those of you entrepreneurs who do not have mentors, I'm going to give you a hard time....Let's go over some excuses you might have:
Unfortunately, none of these excuses are valid.
Finding a mentor shouldn't take all that much time, and this time will possibly have the greatest ROI of all your time investments.
Regarding fear of getting rejected, you'll simply have to overcome this. The fact is that you probably will get rejected by some potential mentors. That's ok. But you can't be afraid to ask. And to persevere until you find a great mentor.
Like everything else in entrepreneurship, rarely does your first effort work as planned. You need to persevere and keep trying.
Now finally, with regards to not knowing who to ask, I believe that any business person who has achieved success and who you respect and admire can make a great mentor.
Wow, 500 words so far, and I've only touched on one of Basil's great points. To get many other great insights from Dr. Basil Peters, listen to the interview.
Click below to hear excerpts from the interview:
To download the full interview and/or transcript click here.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I recently had the opportunity to speak with expert entrepreneur and founder/CEO of Lending Club, Renaud Laplanche.
Written by Eric Torres on Monday, August 3, 2009
Starting a venture and launching a product/service is not an easy task as can be testified by the thousands of individuals that start a business every year.
Yet many of these individuals overlook what I term, "Creative Transformation," the thought process, emotions, and actions needed to take one's idea and transform it into a viable business.
Often reality is not representative of what we think/dream in our heads. This predicament is often seen in start-ups in which entrepreneurs have a great idea but when developing that idea into a business the results may be a venture that is not representative of what they thought.
What causes this discontinuation?
Each case is different, but for a majority of cases a mix of a misguided thought processes, escalated emotions, and ineffective actions may lead to an unsuccessful venture. A recent client of mine, Alex Wagenheim, has experienced Creative Transformation and exemplifies how an entrepreneur can overcome it.
Alex Wagenheim is an ambitious and true entrepreneur by heart who has identified an unmet need in the small business market: the need for simple and efficient software. Alex's first major obstacle as an entrepreneur was being able to articulate his idea and vision into words so that our consultants could help him craft a business plan.
Alex went through a thought process where he had to analyze his idea and determine the value proposition that his service would provide to his potential customers. This thought process was a struggle as different variables had to be considered such as existing technologies, the market needs, and the level of sophistication of the customer base.
Each of these areas revealed more questions that needed to be answered and from there Alex experienced emotions of excitement when he discovered a large market for his venture. But he became apprehensive when he realized that in order to launch his venture properly a large amount of work would need to be completed. Alex stayed optimistic and decided to curtail his frustration and create a plan of action.
Overcoming emotions and creating a plan of action is often the breaking point for many entrepreneurs. When the thought process, emotions, and risks are all negative it is typical for an individual to abandon their idea. Plans of action are abandoned and what is left is just an idea of what could have been.
At the onset of Creative Transformation, Alex realized that he needed help to develop his venture and service. The emotions he was feeling prompted Alex to react and seek the consulting advice of experts.
With Growthink's help Alex was able to transition smoothly through Creative Transformation and execute on the proper actions that will increase the success of his business. Creative Transformation was not a breaking point for Alex, but was the catalyst that prompted him to search for help from professionals.
Alex is currently completing a market survey for his target market and will develop the first beta of his software in the near future.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I’m excited to announce that today is the first day of registration for the Capital Raising Bootcamp!
To register your spot, go here.
And here are a couple of important updates about the Bootcamp.
Update #1: I realize it’s the middle of summer, and many of you have probably planned vacations – or may even be on vacation right now (lucky you!). To account for this, I’ve decided to provide recordings and transcripts as an added bonus when you register, in case you have to miss all or part of one of the sessions.
Update #2: I’ve decided to add an extra day to the Capital Raising Bootcamp curriculum, to allow for questions-and-answer time. I’m going to dedicate this 4th day (Friday August 7th) entirely to Live Q&A.
So, now, the finalized Capital Raising Bootcamp curriculum/schedule is as follows:
Day 1: Tuesday, August 4th: Essential Overview of Raising Capital
Day 2: Wednesday, August 5th: Venture Capital and Angel Funding
Day 3: Thursday, August 6th: Debt, Grants, and Creative/Alternative Financing
Day 4: Friday, August 7th: Questions and Answers
(Each session runs from 2:00pm EST to 3:30pm EST).
Remember: There are only 50 spots available.
We are putting a strict limit on registration in order to make the experience as valuable as possible for each participant – and, most importantly, to allow enough time for each person to have his or her questions answered during the Q&A time.
To register go here.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Monday, July 27, 2009
Here is a video that explains precisely why raising capital is so important to your business.
And, importantly, it includes details regarding why it’s critical that you understand how to raise capital from multiple sources, even if you currently are only seeking one particular type of capital...
Near the end, I reveal a fantastic (and perhaps my favorite) tip, which is the single most controllable factor that you have to improve your success in both fundraising and successfully growing you business.
Written by Jacklyn Rome on Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Israel, more fondly nicknamed as the “Silicon Valley of the East”, is the largest recipient of United States venture capital, absorbing 7.7% of outbound investment dollars. For a small and relatively new country, Israel has jumped into the limelight as one of the largest producers of new technologies. The country is responsible for some of the most prominent inventions over the past several decades, including drip irrigation, instant messaging (ICQ), Intel’s Centrino computer chip, and voicemail technology.
Israel also holds the second greatest number of foreign companies on the NASDAQ, second only to Canada. Some of the more prominent multi-billion dollar corporations listed on the exchange include TEVA Pharmaceuticals (market cap: $41 billion), the world’s largest generic drug manufacturer, and Gilead Sciences (market cap: $43 billion), which develops therapies for viral diseases, infectious diseases, and cancer.
In 2008, over $2 billion was invested in 480+ Israeli high-tech companies, an increase of 18% over the prior year. Roughly 50% of funds came from outside of Israel, primarily from the United States, which has also shown significant investment in Israel by building Israeli satellite offices for American companies. In 1974, Intel chose Israel as the location for its first design and development center outside the United States, and thereafter opened 8 locations, employing over 5,300 employees. International companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Nokia, and Motorola have also followed in the footsteps of Intel Corporation by opening offices in Israel.
So why has Israel drawn so much VC funding and attention from the international business community?
Israel has the highest number of university degrees relative to the population and the largest number of scientists per capita in the world, with 145 scientists per 10,000 citizens, in comparison with the United States at 85 per 10,000. Additionally, Israel has the highest number of start-up companies in the world outside of the United States.
Israelis also receive extensive technical training through their compulsory military service and have adapted several advanced military technologies to other applications. For example, Given Imaging, which in 1998 came out with the first ingestible disposable video camera for viewing and diagnosing the small intestine, developed and adapted their product from an electro-optical device for military missiles.
The enormous pool of talented workers in Israel is also much more affordable for technology companies than those in Silicon Valley, and the government has been a strong supporter of growth in the hi-tech sector. The Israeli government provides incentives and grants to encourage capital investment and scientific research within the country.
Growthink has worked with dozens of Israeli entrepreneurs throughout its ten years of operations and has several strategic alliances with individuals within the Israeli Venture Capital community.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, June 23, 2009
When entrepreneurs ask me what sources of capital to tap to fund their businesses, my answer is generally "as many as you can."
I often point to companies like Google, who relied on credit cards, angels and venture capitalists in its early days.
Recently Animoto heeded my advice. In it's most recent round of funding, Animoto raised $4.4 million from a venture capitalist (Madrona Venture Group), a corporate/strategic investor (Amazon.com), and two angel investors: iStockphoto founder Bruce Livingstone and angel investor Jeff Clavier (Clavier is also the founder and managing partner of SoftTech VC, a seed-stage venture capital firm).
What's even more interesting is what Animoto is. Animoto is a website where you can quickly and easily turn photos into videos. Why is this interesting? Because you can use Animoto to create a video about your company to market it to investors.
So not only is Animoto teaching each of us about how to best raise capital to fund our growth, but is offering a tool to help us market ourselves to investors.
To see how it worked, I created an Animoto account (doesn't cost anything and is quick to do) and created a quick video. I was home at the time with my daughter, so we did it together and created one with a few of her recent horseback riding pictures.
The good news is that it was really simple to create the video. The negatives were that 1) rendering time was slow (plan to wait at least 5 minutes before the video is ready to be viewed for a 30-second clip), and 2) the non-paid version only allows your video to last 30 seconds. Fortunately for $3 per video, or $30 for a year, you can create full-length videos.
Overall, Animoto is a great lesson in capital raising and a great tool to use when raising capital for your business!
Written by Jacklyn Rome on Tuesday, April 28, 2009
While you probably have heard about the Stimulus Package and President Barack Obama’s push toward increased usage of renewable energies, you may not be aware of how this initiative can help your business and where the money is in fact going. The following information will explore the specific allocations of the Energy Stimulus and how you, as a business or as a consumer, can take advantage of this unique opportunity.
The following outlines the specific initiatives the energy stimulus money will be dispersed to:
Historically, companies have been reluctant to invest in renewable and clean energy technologies, because they require tremendous economies of scale to be profitable. Since these systems require large capital outlays upfront, it takes a long time to see return on investment. The Stimulus Package aims to combat these hesitations toward switching to renewable energy systems. The initiative will benefit various members of the energy sector from large utility companies upgrading energy grids to small businesses installing solar panels. It also benefits end consumers striving to make their homes more energy efficient through tax breaks and government subsidies.
Federal Involvement will Spur Investment, Growth, and Job Creation
The influence of government grants, loans, and tax breaks, will help encourage progress for both the supply and demand side of this sector. On the supply side, the government will provide research grants and funds for investing in promising existing and new technologies. On the demand side, the Stimulus Package will help companies and homeowners purchase new green energy systems by making them more affordable. The Stimulus Package will also create thousands of new jobs across the nation fulfilling these initiatives, helping to fuel unemployment and the overall status of the economy. According to Nancy Pelosi, investment in the green sector will create close to 500,000 jobs in 2009, 67,000 of which will be in the solar and wind power installation sector. Ultimately, the energy portion of the stimulus package will reduce American reliance on foreign nations for fossil fuels, generate domestic jobs, and promote innovation and adoption of new renewable energy technologies nationwide.
Access to the Allotted Funds
Whereas other areas of the stimulus package will be distributed through company applications and competitions to receive the funds, the money attributed to the energy sector will be primarily dispersed through tax credits and purchase incentives. For example, within solar and wind energy, the government is now offering a 30% tax credit to offset the cost of installing a solar energy system or wind farm, whereas previously the tax credits had a cap of $2,000 and $4,000, respectively. Some additional credits include up to $7,500 for buying a plug-in hybrid electric car or a 50% tax credit for gas stations or other businesses that install alternative fueling pumps. For more information on the specific types of grants or tax credits offered, please find more information at the following website: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/obama-signs-stimulus-package-5736.html.
So What Does This Mean for You?
If you are involved in the clean energy sector, Growthink recommends additional research into the specific provisions of the stimulus to see if your business will qualify for federal subsidies or research grants. Additionally, Growthink suggests putting together a strong marketing campaign that highlights government support and tax credits for purchasing your products. This will educate the many unaware businesses and consumers that believe switching to alternative energies is outside of their affordability. Additionally, it is a wonderful way to draw positive publicity for your business. Growthink is happy to provide you with complimentary feedback on your current marketing program. We can also assist you by utilizing our expert group of marketing professionals to work with you on creating a Marketing Plan to target your customers in the most effective way possible.
Contracting, Construction, Eco-Friendly Transportation, and Electrical Infrastructure Companies
If you own a contracting, construction, eco-friendly transportation, or electrical infrastructure company, Growthink recommends seeking additional information on how you may bid for funds allocated to electricity grid design, weatherization, environmentally friendly transportation development, energy efficient housing, and building renovations. Growthink can help you with conducting this research and help articulate how your business is the most suited to perform the specified work or receive a government grant.
As a consumer, you can reap the benefits of the energy sector stimulus by utilizing the tax incentives to switch to renewable energy systems, such as installation of a solar or wind energy system in your home. The government is also offering customer rebates for those who purchase energy efficient appliances for their homes.
The Obama Stimulus Plan is an unprecedented program that has created unique opportunities for tremendous innovation and growth within energy efficiency. Please contact Growthink for more information on how we can help you position your company to benefit from the billions of dollars allocated to this sector and within your reach.
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