Growthink Blog

Calling Vince Lombardi: Four Mega-Trends for 2011


Categories:

When seeking breakout companies to back, here are four mega-trends for 2011:

1. Look for Companies That Harness the Power and Avoid the Danger of “Corporations of One.” Never before in human history has the world afforded more opportunities for talented individuals to work for themselves, by themselves. Tools of virtual collaboration – email chief among them but also Skype, Google Apps, and inexpensive “cloud” project management software like Basecamp - have eliminated most of the collaboration advantages of the traditional corporate form.

The smart, modern company understands when to marshal this force – in the form of utilizing contractors to fulfill bite and mid-sized projects, and when to resist it.

How do they resist? Well, for starters they focus vigilantly on building distinct and equity – filled brands and strong barriers around their customers.

2. And Ones That Let Virtuality Touch Them, but not Kill Them. With the approaching universal adoption of email and SMS text-enabled smart phones, businesspeople worldwide are truly on line 24/7.

Books like Jason Fried’s “Rework,” Tony Schwarz’ “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working,” John Freeman’s “The Tyranny of E-mail,” and Tim Ferris’ “The 4-Hour Workweek” address from various angles the promises and drawbacks of virtual work.

A common theme is almost universal doubt regarding email and other tools of instant communication and the “react versus respond” culture they foster.

What to do about it? Well, in 2011 look for “end of email” company movements to gain steam and social currency, and to – blasphemy of blasphemies – for articles to proliferate re social networking mainstays Facebook and Twitter having “jumped the shark.”

Companies that embrace this re-emerging “culture of the deliberate” will have the leg up where it really counts – in more thoughtful strategic positioning and consequently, more sustainable profits..

3. And Ones That Are Learning Organizations. The pressing need for organizations to innovate or perish, and of young workers equating quality work environments with ones offering intense personal and professional development almost makes the definition of a successful company as one that propels its people forward.

This company as a learning organization motif is an old one, but never before have the reductionist pressures of virtuality combined with young worker expectations made it so paramount for companies to either grow their people or see their businesses shrink.

4. And Finally, Look for Leaders that Channel Vince Lombardi. There is a fine line between an encouraging corporate culture and a permissive one. Inspired by the success of high accountability cultures like Amazon, Apple, and FedEx, smart investors are backing leaders that give BOTH pats and kicks on the backside.

In a paradoxical way, the typical, high encouragement environment in which most young people (i.e. the Millennials) were raised and educated has created in them a deep desire for structure, to be told exactly what is expected of them and the consequences for poor performance.

Leading “tough” like this is hard, draining work, but is a key and easy-to-identify quality in a company poised to breakout.

Find, back, and grow with companies that embody the above and 2011 will indeed be a VERY good year!

Looking for Opportunities Now?

Each year, Growthink reviews hundreds of startup and emerging company opportunities and selects those with the best management teams, market opportunities, and financial prospects.

To learn more about opportunities we are following now, click here.

To your success,

Jay Turo

--
Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink


7 Resolutions for the New Year’s Entrepreneur


Categories:

#7. Lobby Congress To Pass Pro-Small Business Legislation.  Simply reduce regulation and taxes on small business investment and watch America’s entrepreneurs create all of the jobs America needs and more.

#6. Support your Local Neighborhood IPO. While you’re at it, tell your congressional representative to make it easier for small businesses to access public capital. A huge part of the malaise of the U.S. economy can be attributed to the 75% decline in U.S. IPO volume since 2000. A simple and powerful fix –have Congress carve-out public offerings of under $100 million from the onerous requirements of Sarbanes – Oxley.

#5. Raise Your Standards. For yourself, your employees (and employer), your vendors, and your customers. Let’s live and let live less, and take more strong stands for extraordinary results and effort from everyone in our orbits. Usually the most appreciated (and hardest) thing one can do for others is to challenge them to be their best. Walk this talk and demand and inspire others to do so too.

#4. Think Globally. American small businesses are woefully behind their corporate counterparts in their global business strategies and execution. The funny thing is that the Internet has made it EASY for small businesses to compete and win around the world. While just having a website is obviously far from enough, the ability to connect with and fulfill international customers at the click of a button remains one of the great wonders of our modern world.

#3. Video. We agree with Cisco’s John Chambers when he says that digital video is the future of communications. If you’re not already, get on Skype, and USE it along with other inexpensive and increasingly high-quality video chat and conferencing tools.

#2. Get a Coach. There is a reason why the Phil Jacksons, the Bill Belichicks, the Mike Krzyzewskis of the world are held in such high regard (and are so well-paid). Because they make great talent perform at their best.

While there is great variance in the quality of business and executive coaches, the best of them are hired by the world’s top business leaders to help these already high performers be that much better. The modern business world is just too wildly competitive to succeed without help. Get it, and watch both the personal and professional return on time and investment multiply.

#1. Be Like Teddy. My biggest life hero is Teddy Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, and great man of letters and of action. In fact, my wife and I named our youngest sonafter him. And, at 3 years old, little Teddy Turo, in his daily enthusiasms and heartbreaks, channels his great namesake’s most famous quote:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Be like Teddy and may 2011 be the best year of all of our lives!!!

To your success,

Jay Turo

--
Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink


Jason Fried is on Cloud Nine


Categories:

If you aren't familiar with who Jason Fried is, you should be. Jason is the Founder of 37 Signals, makers of Basecamp, with over 3 million users and 2.8 million live projects, arguably the world's most popular project management software.

Jason is also the author of Rework, a New York Times bestseller on entrepreneurship, technology, and design.

Basecamp is the project management and collaboration tool of choice for the serious entrepreneur. In addition to being a fantastic piece of software (more on that in a bit), it is also a prototype of where all of the smart money in technology investing is these days.

Namely, on the cloud.

How ubiquitous is cloud, or software-as-a-service (SaaS) computing? Statistics that show the market for it growing to $160 billion next year only tell half of the story.

Just take any week of venture financings these last few years and you will find that almost all of the companies funded to be cloud-delivered software businesses.

Doubt me? Let’s look at the venture financings from A – F from last week to make the point:

8D World (Woburn, MA), Developer of a virtual world for learners of English as a foreign or second language - $5.25 million. Cloud.
 
Abcast (Camas, WA), Operator of digital radio platform - $500 thousand. Not Cloud.
 
Apperian (Boston, MA), Maker of mobile applications - $500 thousand. Cloud.

Communication Intelligence Corp (Redwood City, CA), Supplier of electronic signature solutions for businesses - $2.2 million. Cloud.

DigitalTown (Burnsville, MN), Developer of a national network of online communities for high school students, alumni and boosters. $10 million. Cloud.

DiJiPop (Providence, RI), Provider of on-demand shopper marketing platform - $1 million. Cloud.

DocuSign (Seattle, WA), Provider of electronic signature technology - $27 million. Cloud.

Echo360 (Dulles, VA), Provider of Internet audio and video technologies - $1 million. Cloud.

Factual (Los Angeles, CA), Provider of collaborative data platform and web services -$25 million. Cloud.

FleetMatics (London, United Kingdom), Developer of GPS tracking applications for commercial fleets - $68 million. Cloud.

Fluent Mobile (Boston, MA), Developer of mobile marketing software - $5.5 million. Cloud.

Flurry (San Francisco, CA), - Provider of mobile analytics services - $15 million. Cloud.

For those counting at home, that’s 10 out of 11.

And oh yes, then there are little companies like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Twitter. All, at heart, cloud computing.

So what is it about Basecamp? In a sea of mediocrity, it stands out with its speed, its ease, and its elegance.

Basecamp Runs Fast. What is more frustrating for the modern consumer than waiting to log-on, for a server response?

More to the point is relative waiting. 15 years ago, on dial-up modems we had a certain expectation of speed.  Today we simply rate one piece of cloud software against another.

Google to Yahoo. Facebook to LinkedIn. Expedia to Travelocity.

Basecamp runs Google fast and its speed alone makes it a joy to use.

Basecamp Runs Easy
. Given the potential complexity of Basecamp's core application - namely to manage projects of all types and sizes, Basecamp runs easy. Its basics can be understood at signup, and its more advanced features in a few weeks of use.

Basecamp is Elegant. Fast and easy get you a seat at the table, elegance gets you customers for life.

Elegant is a word seldom-used when describing software because it is rarely built to please in a way that products in the traditional domain of elegance - luxury consumer goods - are.

One of the great wonders of modern living is that we can experience elegance viscerally at the movies or on TV, or via physical products like cars, shoes, and the like.

Now with software like Basecamp we can experience elegance in a manner that approaches the “singularity,” where one’s mind and spirit meshes with the machine.

Not in a dark science fiction sense, but with software like Basecamp in a manner that appeals to our best, most creative, collaborative, just plain old getting things done selves.

Basecamp has this kind of elegance.
 
And its existence is a testament to the entrepreneurial and design spirit that is Jason Fried.

He and his cloud creation Basecamp - fast, elegant, and easy-to-use - are modern treasures.

Find the Jason Fried's of the world before they are rich and famous. And back them and grow with them.

And you and the world will be better for it.

Looking for Opportunities Now?

Each year, Growthink reviews hundreds of startup and emerging company opportunities and selects those with the best management teams, market opportunities, and financial prospects.

To learn more about opportunities we are following now, click here.

To your success,

Jay Turo

--
Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink


Jessica Simpson, Renée Zellweger, and Bold Predictions for a Breakout 2011


Categories:

America is getting its mojo back. Once one quiets the mind to the drumbeat of negativity that passes as business and economic news, one can hear the sound of the nation’s entrepreneurial and risk-taking wheels turning.

Here are seven bold predictions for 2011:

#7. Convergence will Again be the New Buzzword. The prototype of a breakout technology company will continue to evolve from “geeks in a garage tinkering with transistors” to loosely - coupled gangs of media - savvy trendsetters that get the game of viral and cross - platform brand and buzz-building.

Doubt me? See Groupon, Zynga, and my favorite - Jessica Simpson’s fashion empire – which now includes shoes, clothing, and fragrances, and is on track to gross more than $750 million this year. 

#6. Venture Capital will Rise Again. Venture capitalists invested $4.8 billion in 780 deals in the third quarter of 2010.  Before the “great deal crisis” of 2008 – 2010, venture capital quarterly funding averages were in the $7.5 billion and 1,000 deal range, or 60% greater than today.

Look for 2010 funding activity to get back to these numbers and beyond in the New Year. 

Far more interesting as a mega-trend: the traditional U.S. technology startup has a FAR bigger addressable market than ever before in history.

With an additional ONE BILLION people (i.e. consumers) worldwide having entered the middle class since the turn of the century, and millions more entering it every month, the world has truly become the breakout startup’s oyster. To illustrate, see Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, all of which have many more overseas than domestic members.

More than anything else, venture capitalists seek BIG scores, and the world has never offered more opportunities for innovative startups to breakout fast than it does right now.

#5 American Small Businesses will Finally take the Global Plunge. The Fortune 500 have understood for years that the real growth action is to be had overseas, and today make more than 50% of their profits outside the United States. Small businesses have been late to the party, but look for that to change in 2011.

The combination of vastly increasing purchasing power worldwide, an almost evermore depreciating dollar, and the increasing ease of cross-border transactions, will drive increasing U.S. small business exports.
This can take as simple a form as more overseas visitors and purchasers to U.S. small business websites, eBay stores and the like, to foreigners increasingly investing and providing the desperately needed growth capital to entrepreneurial America.

#4. The Extension of the Bush Tax Cuts, Combined with the Payroll Tax Break, will pass and be Highly Stimulative. Putting aside the long-term impact of the deficit, passing the proposed tax cuts before the New Year will set up 2011 to be a good economic year by all the big measures – GNP growth, employment, stock market performance, and business and consumer confidence.

A key added benefit – having Republicans and Democrats working together on a big economic issue will encourage the nation’s businesses – who have cited political uncertainty again and again as a main holdback of investment and capex.

#3. Inflation will Creep up In 2011, and on Balance that’s a Good Thing. On balance, a little inflation now would be a welcome relief to the nation’s debtors, especially its homeowners. They would feel at least a nominal sense of equity and wealth in what is for most Americans their major asset.

And inflation should be good for stock prices too, as companies are usually able to raise prices faster than wages, leading to higher profits.

#2 The American Wage-Earner will Remain Under Siege.
Rising inflation will only tighten the squeeze on the American wage-earner, who will see their real take home pay and sense of economic security continue to dwindle.

This is a very bad thing, and whether folks want to hear it or not, there is really very little government can do about it. Massive structural deficits at all levels of government simply make resources too strained.

As importantly, the realities of global competition aren’t just growing more intense by the day.

One powerful mega-trend to follow: Look for more and more Americans to join the 200,000 that start new businesses every month. Why? Increasingly for the simple motivation of making ends meet.

#1. 2011 Will Be the Year of the Young (and the Young at Heart). The best qualities of youth – enthusiasm, flexibility of mind and spirit, and the over-riding desire to be inspired will continue to shape the brave new economic world order.

From youth by the millions leaving the countryside (smart phones in hand) to find their dreams in Shanghai, in Mumbai, in Sao Paulo, in Nairobi, to the young technocratic of Palo Alto, of Manhattan, of Santa Monica, of Moscow, the youth like Renée Zellweger’s unforgettable character in the movie Jerry Maguire, are not so much looking for jobs as they are looking to be inspired.

And that inspiration, and it is a credit to their more open-minded than ever parents, is found in BOTH making a difference AND making a buck (and/or a rupee or a ruble).

Anti - business do-gooders they are surely not, but nor are they faceless and dreamless company men. Rather, their spirit is raised by big ideas.

By clean energy for all. By friendship and professional networks not limited by nationality, race, and creed.

By eliminating hunger in the world not via charity but via a combination of venture philanthropy, technology, and always - on global communication and awareness.

By healthcare breakthroughs of all types - diagnostic, prescriptive, and in cost and efficiency so that everyone gets great care when and where they need it.

And it will be the young and the young at heart that will move all of the above and more from dream to reality.

Not all of it in 2011 and not without setbacks and heartaches along the way.

But a lot of it.

This will be the REAL story of 2011 - listen closely and you too will hear the thumping, pulsing heart of a new economy.

Beat along with it, and 2011 will be the best year of all of our lives!

Looking for Opportunities Now?

Each year, Growthink reviews hundreds of startup and emerging company opportunities and selects those with the best management teams, market opportunities, and financial prospects.

To learn more about opportunities we are following now, click here.

To your success,

Jay Turo

--
Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink


The Best Economy In History


Categories:

You would never believe it given the drumbeat of negativity that passes as business news these days, but last month U.S. GNP regained all that was lost in the recession of 2008-2009 and now America stands once again as the largest economy in the history of the world.

Let’s first take a moment and be proud and of that.

Now of course not all is rosy. Above all else, persistently high unemployment, back up to 9.8% and 15 million jobless Americans as of Friday, continues to drag down the nation’s morale.

How important are jobs? Well, quite simply jobs are EVERYTHING.

To put it in perspective, let's look at two places in the world that create very few jobs – sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

Even a cursory look at the deep and tragic social problems of these regions results in two conclusions - 1) that the lack of jobs there wastes the gigantic human potential of literally hundreds of millions of people and 2) poor economic opportunity is THE main wellspring of extremist ideologies.

Now, of course the problems in the U.S. economy are nowhere even near the magnitude of those in these fortune-starved places.

And more to the point we don't just want ANY jobs here in America. We want GOOD JOBS. I define a good job as follows:

1. A job that allows for a reasonably “worry-free” meeting of the base, human needs - food, water, shelter, and clothing.

2. A job that provides security from threats to health (yes, health insurance) and violence (making enough money to live in a safe neighborhood).

3. A job that is part and parcel of one’s overall life mission, whereby the successful performance of it appeals to the best in all of us - self-respect, a sense of belonging and community, the inherent satisfaction of the work itself, and the satisfaction of contribution to a cause larger than our own needs.

So Where Do These Good Jobs Come From?

Well surprise surprise, they don't come from the government but more surprisingly they don’t come from corporate America.

Rather, nearly all net job creation in the U.S. economy comes from firms less than 5 years old, or brand new (startups) and young (one to five year old) companies.

For perspective on this, 2007 was the last fully healthy “jobs” with 12 million new U.S. jobs created.  And of these, startups and young companies created 8 million of them.

A few further points to illustrate:

•    Since 1977, without startup companies, net job creation for the American economy would be negative (i.e. more jobs would have been lost than created) in all but a handful of years.
•    Young firms - companies between 1 and 5 years old - over the past 30 years have accounted for the lion's share (more than 2/3) of all net job creation.
•    And my favorite, companies between one and five years old create on average 4 jobs per year each!

But it is often missed that the companies that are creating jobs are the usually ones that earn investors the highest returns.

Why? Simply, job-creating companies are almost always companies that are growing!

So let’s make it easier for our startups and young companies to create jobs.

From a regulation standpoint, let’s get the U.S. back up the board where it is lagging in the World Bank ease of doing business rankings - #17 in starting a business (behind countries including Belarus, Rwanda, and Saudi Arabia!), #62 in paying taxes, and #20 in international trade.

Culturally, let’s really put the entrepreneur where he or she belongs – on a pedestal as a modern day, real-life action hero.

And let’s invest in them.

Because while we like to see the good guys win, it is even sweeter when we win with them.

Looking for Opportunities Now?

Each year, Growthink reviews hundreds of startup and emerging company opportunities and selects those with the best management teams, market opportunities, and financial prospects.

To learn more about opportunities we are following now, click here.

To your success,

Jay Turo

--
Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink


Facebook’s Fantastic Four: Parker, Saverin, and the Winkelvoss Twins


Categories:

At a current U.S. box office of close to $90 million “The Social Network,” – the movie about Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook - continues to offer a wealth of wisdom re how to get rich in the 21st Century. To wit:

Among other entrepreneurial treats, the movie weaves the tale of one Sean Parker., erstwhile founder of Napster, playboy, and benevolent Svengali of a young Zuckerberg. 

For approximately a year’s worth of “work” which the movie fairly or unfairly portrays as mostly involving a lot of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, Parker now owns Facebook stock worth over $1 billion.

The movie also serves up Eduardo Saverin, portrayed sympathetically as both Zuckerberg’s college best friend and as Facebook’s bungling first “CFO.”  Via these early positions of primacy and via his wealthy Brazilian family’s money being Facebook’s first $20,000 of seed capital, Saverin today is worth more than $1.3 billion.

And oh yes, he is still only 28 years old.

And finally we are given the Winkelvoss twins - blue-blooded scions of old money privilege and wealth and members of Havard’s most exclusive social clubs. The Winkelvoss’ allegedly had the idea that Zuckerberg re-formed into Facebook.

A few years and million dollar lawsuits later, the twin’s net worth is now estimated at north of $100,000,000.

Now, after we indulge ourselves of the natural envy and the exasperation “Golly, why couldn’t that have been ME,” we are left asking – “Didn’t our Fantastic Four just get lucky beyond belief?”  And if so, then what?

Well, for the intrepid investors and entrepreneurs among us, here are three thoughts to run with:

1.    Go Big or Go Home. Sean Parker, portrayed memorably in the movie by Justin Timberlake, embodies the archetype “Black Swan” life approach. Grandly flamboyant in lifestyle and with an iconoclastic self-definition, he both thinks and dreams very, very big and immediately “gets” the scalability power of the Facebook model. Lesson – sanity is over-rated, the best investors and entrepreneurs are often more than a little crazy.

2.    Run with the Right Crowd. Now Saverin and the Winkelvoss twins TRULY had the luck of a lifetime. But they did go to Harvard and they were in tune enough to glob on to the programming genius that was Mark Zuckerberg. It is trite, but success is as much about who you know as what you know.

3.    What’s Wrong with a Little Luck?  Sure, Parker was prescient and Saverin and the Winkelvoss’ proved themselves smart and well-connected enough to get into Harvard.

But there are literally HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS prescient, smart and well-connected investors and entrepreneurs in this 21st Century of ours. And only a few thousand of them truly get rich, and only a handful still get rich at the level here.

So what to make of it?  Well, luck stands alone. 

Sometimes entrepreneurs and investors have it, sometimes they don’t.

The best one can do is to just keep spinning the wheel. And to make sure that every time we do that the odds are in our favor.

Now the great thing about our ridiculously prosperous 21st Century is that by taking just a little care, the odds on entrepreneurial “spins” are almost always GREATLY in our favor.

So take a little care.

And spin the wheel.

Looking for Opportunities Now?

Each year, Growthink reviews hundreds of startup and emerging company opportunities and selects those with the best management teams, market opportunities, and financial prospects.

To learn more about opportunities we are following now, click here.

To your success,

Jay Turo

--
Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink


Thanksgiving – THE Holiday for Entrepreneurs


Categories:

I have always felt that Thanksgiving acknowledges the best American qualities – hard work, diversity as strength, and a focus on solutions not problems. And not coincidentally, these same qualities are the cornerstones of successful entrepreneurship.

As every school boy and girl knows, Thanksgiving traces its origin from a 1621 Pilgrim harvest feast to celebrate surviving an extremely difficult first winter in the New World.

The Pilgrims invited to that harvest the original inhabitants of the area - the Wampanoag Indians – to sit down and break bread in a spirit of friendship and camaraderie. The Pilgrims owed their survival to the goodwill of the Indians, who had taught them how to grow corn and how to fish in the very unfamiliar New England soil and seas.

What a story.

First, let's reflect on the incredible guts, tenacity, sense of adventure, and just unbelievable hard work and perseverance of the Pilgrims. Let's channel the toughness of the Pilgrims when tackling the challenges of our modern day.

And while the history of the European man's treatment of the native peoples of America these last 500 years has been mostly shameful, let's reflect on that happy day of brotherhood.

And let’s be proud of the powerful diversity of modern America. Doubt me? Spend the day as I did yesterday with my 3 and 4 - year old boys at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

As my boys walked with wide-eye wonderment through the amazing display of new cars and technologies, I looked to my left and I saw an intent Indian boy as his father explained to him the new Yokohama tires.

To my right, an African-American girl and her father were engrossed in a demonstration of the Nissan Leaf electric car.
Behind me, a Korean family getting their picture taken in the new Chevy Durango.

As for language, only me with my thick Massachusetts accent spoke anything but perfect English.

There is NOWHERE on Earth this scene repeats itself as often as it does in America, and our embrace of diversity is perhaps our KEY long-term competitive advantage.

So let's give thanks. I am not proud of it, but I am still addicted to reading the Sunday New York Times. And what a tale of woe it is.

Between the dire talk of deficits, unemployment, fading schools, and America falling behind - if you don't catch yourself you can't help but feel sorry for both yourself and for the country.

It is 99% bunk.

Both the world and America have NEVER offered more opportunities for a larger percentage of us to live affluent lives, to do self-expressive, remunerative work, and to be amazed daily by the wonders of modern technology and entertainment than it does right now.

Let’s all be grateful for all that and more.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Looking for Opportunities Now?

Each year, Growthink reviews hundreds of startup and emerging company opportunities and selects those with the best management teams, market opportunities, and financial prospects.

To learn more about opportunities we are following now, click here.

To your success,

Jay Turo

--
Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink



REAL Lessons of The Social Network


Categories:

At a current U.S. box office of over $84 million “The Social Network,” – the movie about Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook – is just another example of the public’s fascination with social networking and young billionaires, not necessarily in that order.

Not mentioned in the movie is the unbelievable story of a Peter Thiel one of the founders of PayPal investing $500,000 in 2004 in exchange for approximately 5% of Facebook.

Given that the estimated market value of Facebook is now worth $20 billion, that represents a 2,000x return in 6 years, qualifying it as surely one of the greatest investments of all time.

Now let’s be real people.

Mr. Thiel, while obviously talented as evidenced by both his founding and then selling PayPal to eBay for $1.5 billion before age 35, had the luck of a lifetime with his Facebook investment.

Yes, luck is a key, and sometimes the key, variable in entrepreneurship and investing.

But as opposed to fighting or getting philosophical re this reality, a far better question to ask is, "How can I improve my likelihood of, for lack of a better turn of phrase, getting lucky?"

Here are three ideas:
 
I. Run With the Right Crowd. Thiel is part of the famous PayPal Mafia - former founders of PayPal and their friends that travel in the rarefied Silcon Valley air of next generation Internet ideas and technologies. Through this professional and personal network, Thiel sees lots of great startups. Most of them are duds, but a few are world-beaters. Like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Yelp, and Six Apart.

II. Swing For the Fences. No doubt Thiel's cat-bird seat as CEO of PayPal in the late 1990's allowed him to "get" instantly the scalability of the Facebook business model. But give credit where credit is due – meeting Mark Zuckerberg in a Palo Alto bar and writing him a check for $500,000 when Facebook was still in its college dorm mode, channeled the Romans and their famous ode to luck - "Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat," "Fortune Favors the Bold."

III. Cultivate Serendipity. How shall we seek the wisdom as to what the next big thing will be? Well, as this example shows us, as much via serendipity as anything else. From conferences, parties, chance encounters, flash and intuitive insights.

From being open to ideas, people and things outside of the normal box.

In many ways, luck and serendipity are the new religions of our age. Books like Outliers, the Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness, and the Age of the Unthinkable profess on them. Successful technocrats like the PayPal mafia toast to them. Aspiring entrepreneurs who seek their name in lights pray to them.

Peter Thiel was both lucky and open to the power of serendipity.

The question, of course is, how about you?

Looking for Opportunities Now?

Each year, Growthink reviews hundreds of startup and emerging company opportunities and selects those with the best management teams, market opportunities, and financial prospects.

To learn more about opportunities we are following now, please click here.

To your success,

Jay Turo

--
Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink


Entrepreneurship in the Fast Lane


Categories:

What do all of the most dynamic 21st Century entrepreneurial companies have in common?  They:

1.    Pursue Global Markets
2.    Place Corporate Culture Above All Else
3.    Embrace the Black Swan Both Within and Without

1.    Pursue Global Markets. If you don’t have a business that can scale globally, then either don’t bother or just content yourself with staying small.

Try these statistics on for size, from 1999 to today Asia’s share of the world’s Initial Public Offerings grew from 12% to 66%.

In that same time frame, United States IPO volume declined 75% in real terms and now accounts for less than 11% of the global total. 7 Companies in China have raised more than $1 billion in an IPO this year. In the U.S. so far, no company has raised more than $700 million and it is somewhat of a sad commentary that the biggest U.S. IPO by far this year will be the government ward General Motors.

And with their capital and confidence, China and India are stretching their wings. Since 2005, they have been the two leading investors in Africa, investing $31 billion and $16 billion on the continent, respectively.

Why? Well, McKinsey estimates that consumer spending in Africa will double, to $1.8 trillion, by 2020, equivalent to bringing a whole new market the size of Brazil online.

China. India. Brazil. Africa. This is where the growth action is, and while the first reaction of Americans is to feel as if we’re being left out of the game, the RIGHT reaction should be WOW. These are fantastic new markets for U.S. goods and services, especially services, and they are expanding in aggregate at a rate that even 10% U.S. domestic GNP growth couldn’t touch.

Action Point: Core to every strategic session for any company of ambition should include these simple questions:

•    What is your China strategy? Your India strategy?
•    How easy / possible is it for global customers to buy your product – to purchase your service?
•    How can they find you? How do you market to them?
•    How / must your business model evolve to leverage these new opportunities?

2.    Place Culture Above All Else. Modern business, shaped by technology, is increasingly diverging to two nodes – on the one hand to great size quickly (see Google, Facebook, eBay, Twitter, et al.) and on the other hand, to corporations of one, to the so-called Free Agent Nation.

The tools of collaboration and connectivity –mobile always-on Internet, cloud productivity applications like Google Apps, Basecamp, Salesforce and Skype – are so good that the natural devolution is to a BREAKUP of the corporate form and to everyone working for themselves, by themselves.

Now except for the very fortunate few (see Google et al. above), almost everyone else is left with the challenge of how to get to scale and once there how to maintain it.

This is HARD. In a world where ideas and technologies and business models and even intellectual property (sad but true) can be copied and undercut worldwide at the speed of a mouse click, what can any company really hold onto?

The answer is corporate culture. There is no one size fits all answer as to what the “right” corporate culture is. Successful cultures are as disparate as General Electric’s famously formulaic one, to Zappos’, Virgin’s, and Mind Valley’s irreverent, almost carefree approaches.

But a few constants remain. A strong results and metrics-focused approach. A vigilant commitment to ethics and integrity. And an environment that encourages and demands learning and constant improvement of people and processes.

The great thing is that via the Internet we CAN copy the principles of the best of them – Zappos’ and Mind Valley’s and scores of others are online for all to see. While the principles of course are NOT the culture itself (wouldn’t it be nice if it was that easy?) they ARE signposts as to what is possible.

3.    Embrace the Black Swan Both Within and Without. At the core of modern entrepreneurship is the sometimes seemingly mystical precepts of The Black Swan.

The concept of The Black Swan was popularized by the great Lebanese thinker and writer Nicholas Taleb in his bestseller of the same name. He describes it best:

"What we call here a Black Swan is an event with the following three attributes. First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable."

Taleb continues, "I stop and summarize the triplet: rarity, extreme impact, and retrospective (though not prospective) predictability. A small number of Black Swans explain almost everything in our world, from the success of ideas and religions, to the dynamics of historical events, to elements of our own personal lives."

Bringing it to October 2010, who would have thunk it that a) the fastest growing company in the world is built on the simple premise of 140-character messaging b) that a computer company left for dead 8 short years ago would now have the dominant position in music and telecommunications and c) that one of the greatest angel investments of the past 10 years would be for a prepaid debit card business?

The answer: Nobody. And more importantly, the phenomenons of Twitter, of Apple. and of Green Dot CANNOT be retroactively analyzed for guidance as to what the next new thing will be.

What to do with this? Two ideas:

a) Bet on the Unexpected. Check your ego firmly at the door when evaluating business models. Accept that you (and everyone) for that matter KNOWS NOTHING about what the future will hold other than the fact that we don't know what the future will hold.

That is philosophy - here is money-making: The big outlier events - the 10 to 1 shots and beyond - are UNDER-PRICED in the marketplace. Bet on them.

2) Allow Serendipity To Do Its Work. Startups intuitively get the idea of creating new business models as part of their mission. But this lightness disappears quickly.

The Black Swan teaches us that what we have done to date, what has worked to date, is probably NOT what we will be doing, what will be working in the future.

And where does The Black Swan point us to find the wisdom as to what to do? Well, as much from outside the formal strategic planning process as from within.

As Taleb says, from conferences, from parties. From chance encounters.  From being open to ideas, people and things outside of the normal box.

Incorporate these Black Swan elements into a dynamic corporate culture, cultivate and ACT upon the global view, and let the magic happen.

Looking for Opportunities Now?

Each year, Growthink reviews hundreds of startup and emerging company opportunities and selects those with the best management teams, market opportunities, and financial prospects.

To learn more about opportunities we are following now, click here.

To your success,

Jay Turo

--
Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink


Election Postscript – That’s Pride Talking


Categories:

In 20 years we will look back at the first few elections of the global Internet age the way we remember the smoky backrooms of elections past.

As in I can’t believe we actually did things like that once.

Why? Because for the first time in human history, true competition – the kind of competition that brought us the $300 computer, the electric car that goes 95 miles-per-hour, the $800 HD big-screen TV, and free overnight shipping on purchases as small as a few dollars, THAT kind of competition is coming to a government near you.

Idealistic, you say? Impractical?  Not as much as you may think.

You see, there is another form of voting going on all the time. It is far less covered and far-less TV-friendly than the personality-driven “horse-race-type” coverage that dominates the airwaves, but it is THE kind of voting that shapes our world just as much.

It is the choices that capital makes. As in where to build that electric car plant, where to put that server farm, where to assemble that team of software engineers.

Sequoia Capital recently made headlines with the NASDAQ IPO of Mecox Lane, a Chinese Internet retailer and the seventh IPO by a Chinese company backed by Sequoia in the last 18 months.

By comparison, only two of the 12 companies backed by Sequoia to gain public listings have been U.S. – based. 

Now when any patriotic American reads this their heart sinks more than a little bit.

But you know what? Capital voting with its feet like this, in the long run, is the only way for real jobs and business-friendly reform to take place.

Why? Because even more so than money, it is PRIDE that talks.

Now, in the old days the battlefield of pride was literally the battlefield.

But, blessed are we all, the pride battlefield of our age is the marketplace.

And the rising powers of our age, the Brazils, the Indias, the Chinas, fight not with tanks and guns but with bits and bytes and rent-a-coder and hard work and hustle.

And how do the incumbent powers respond to all of this energy? This challenge? To dare I say it – to all of this entrepreneurship?

Well, as humans do when any disruption to a cozy order occurs, first they resist it. They whine about it. They play the blame game. They have a natural instinct to just shutter the windows and keep all of the change, the disruption, the competition OUT.

But then pride talks.

Well-educated, ambitious people say “Hey – they aren’t any smarter than us. Any harder-working. We CAN compete. And we can win.”

And unlike the bad old days, when governments would respond with muskets and bigotry to challenges from afar, today have NO CHOICE but to put ideology aside and just make things work.

To embrace the mantra of the Internet age and do more with less.

Kids learning more, faster, for less money.

Regulations simplified. Best practices codified. Productivity multiplied.

Why will this happen? Why will cushy government bureaucrats change like this?

Because in an always-on 21st century global Internet age, we’re all naked.

And when cities and states and countries fall behind, EVERYONE sees it.

And after the shame, pride kicks in. It may be hard to hear about the political noise and chatter. But if you listen carefully, it is there.

And when pride talks in our modern, always-on global Internet age, governments DO change for the better.

And much, much faster than expected.

Pride has that kind of power.

Looking for Opportunities Now?

Each year, Growthink reviews hundreds of startup and emerging company opportunities and selects those with the best management teams, market opportunities, and financial prospects.

To learn more about opportunities we are following now, click here.

To your success,

Jay Turo

--
Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink

 


Syndicate content

Most Popular
New Videos

"Business Plan
SHORT-CUT"

If you want to raise capital, then you need a professional business plan. This video shows you how to finish your business plan in 1 day.

CLICK HERE
to watch the video.

"The TRUTH About
Venture Capital"

Most entrepreneurs fail to raise venture capital because they make a really BIG mistake when approaching investors. And on the other hand, the entrepreneurs who get funding all have one thing in common. What makes the difference?

CLICK HERE
to watch the video.

"Brand NEW
Money Source?"

The Internet has created great opportunities for entrepreneurs. Most recently, a new online funding phenomenon allows you to quickly raise money to start your business.

CLICK HERE
to watch the video.

"Old-School Leadership
is DEAD"

"Barking orders" and other forms of intimidating followers to get things done just doesn't work any more. So how do you lead your company to success in the 21st century?

CLICK HERE
to watch the video.

Blog Authors

Jay Turo

Dave Lavinsky