Growthink Blog

The Good & Bad Results From My Hatchwise Project


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Last week I was finishing up the development of a new money raising product about Crowdfunding (an extremely exciting new way to fund any company).

I wanted to have a logo designed for the product, so on a friend’s advice, I decided to try Hatchwise.com.

Hatchwise.com is very cool. You go to the site and set up a “contest” to get your logo designed. It asks you a few basic questions (name on your logo, what the product/service is, who your target audience is, etc.) and then your contest begins.

The contest works like this: graphic designers from around the world read your design brief (the questions you answered) and submit logos to try and win your contest.

What's so cool is that you get to see the designs before you select the final designer and pay for it. So you know exactly what you are getting first. And you typically end up seeing lots of interesting designs.

You can see a sample of the logos that were submitted in my contest below. Click here or on the image to go to the full page on Hatchwise.com.

Hatchwise

Now what I also really like about Hatchwise is that in addition to graphic design projects (which can include logos, websites, brochures, etc.), you can use it for NAMING new products.

Specifically, if you have an idea for a company name or a product/service name, you can submit the general idea to Hatchwise, and members will submit to you potential names and logos. And, they’ll even make sure the domain names are available for you.

This is really cool.

But, the last part (making sure the domain names are available for you) is something I want you to be aware of as this is where I got burned.

You see, if you look at my design contest again, you’ll see that the name of my Crowdfunding product WAS Crowdfunding Secrets.

Well, when I soon launch that product, it’s not going to be called Crowdfunding Secrets. That’s because, I didn’t decide to reserve the domain CrowdfundingSecrets.com until a few days AFTER my contest.

And what did I find? Someone who had seen my contest reserved that domain so I either had to pay them a premium to buy it or not use it.

Very frustrating.

Fortunately, the buyer/domain squatter probably didn’t even know what Crowdfunding was or realize that Crowdfunding is a brand new field.

So, there’s tons of Crowdfunding domains to choose from (so I just changed the product name to Crowdfunding Formula and the domain to CrowdfundingFormula.com).

But I want to make sure you understand this lesson – if you post anything about your future products or company online, make sure you have already reserved any domain names you may want. Because someone else could steal your name from you.

Not cool…but it happened to me…


5 Tools to Improve Your Productivity, Creativity & Efficiency


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We could all use tools to increase our productivity, creativity and efficiency. Below are five tools that I have either been using for years, or just adopted, that have helped me, as I'm sure they can help you too.

1. 99designs.com

99designs is a site that I was recently turned onto and it's really cool. If you need a great logo designed for your business, this is the way to go. Before I tell you how it works, let me tell you about the old way of getting a new logo. The old way was to first look at several designers' portfolios to see which one had created logos that you liked. Then you would hire one designer. Next you would write down and give them your design specifications. Then, you would hope that they came back to you with a solid design, or one that was good enough that with a few tweaks could be improved.

Needless to say, the process took a long time, and more times than not (I say this from lots of experience) produced less than optimal designs.

Now, let me tell you how 99designs.com does it. First, you post a design brief, which is easy to do since the site leads you through some questions.

Next, you set your budget (amounts generally range from $100 to $600). Then, designers from around the world submit design concepts to compete for your business. During this process, you can rate the designs and provide feedback to help the designers deliver what you want. In the final step, you choose the winning design and pay the designer the amount you set, and the designer sends you their completed design (along with copyright to the original art work).

So the key points are 1) you don't have to spend hours finding designers and judging portfolios, 2) you don't pay anything (except the $39 fee to 99designs.com) until AFTER you see the design you want, 3) you get lots of designs to choose from, at least one of which is usually great (the higher your budget the more designs you get; for $300 you can get up to 100 submissions usually).

2. PDF995


PDF995, located at pdf995.com allows you to transform any document (e.g., Word file, Excel file, web page, etc.) into a PDF document. Best of all, there's no cost to download it. I used to use the official program from Adobe, but it's expensive and constantly crashed my computer.

I often use PDF995 to convert Word files to PDF files. This usually makes the file size smaller and ensures compatibility for whoever wants to view the file. It is also good for copyright protection (makes it harder for others to copy your work). I also use PDF995 a lot for converting web pages into PDF files. A lot of times I come across web pages that I want to reference later. Sometimes I bookmark them, but oftentimes the page may change. So, I PDF the page and file it away so I can access it whenever I want in the future.

3. Firefox Plugins

For those who have not yet tried the Firefox browser, I highly recommend it. Not only is it very fast and stable, but there are tons of plugins that make it more productive. A few plugins that I use are MeasureIt (allows you to quickly measure the dimensions of anything on the web page you are visiting), ColorZilla (allows you to click on any pixel on the web page to see its precise color) and FireShot (allows you to quickly take a screen shot and manipulate it (e.g., crop out sections; add comments; save file).

These are just the tip of the iceberg. Here is a full directory of Firefox plugins: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/

4. Bubbl.us

A mind map is a visual diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. Creating mind maps are great for mapping out new projects or ideas, particularly if they are not linear. For example, if you want to create a new ebook, you may start with the word ebook in the center. Then you may draw a line to "creation" which will then have sub-sections for research, writing, etc. Another sub-section of the word ebook would be marketing, which would then have its own sub-sections. Etc.

My frustration with mind mapping is that, while easily done using pen and paper, I prefer a digital copy so that I can distribute it to my colleagues and/or modify it over time. And traditionally, creating mind maps with programs such as PowerPoint, took forever.

Enter Bubbl.us, a new online tool that allows you to create, save and modify mind maps REALLY easily. Give it a try. You'll be amazed at how easily it works and it's totally intuitive to use. And currently there are no fees.

5. Springwise.com


The final tool I'd like to tell you about today is Springwise.com. Springwise has created a network of 8,000 "spotters" from around the world who "scan the globe for smart new business ideas, delivering instant inspiration to entrepreneurial minds." On the site, you'll learn about businesses like Wonderpizza, a pizza vending machine developed in Italy, and Dogtree (dogtree.com.au), an Australian social network that helps dog owners find playmates and walking friends for their dogs.

Springwise is great for inspiration and brainstorming. It gives you unique concepts and ideas that can really get your creative juices flowing.

I hope you can use these tools and ideas to help you and your business. If you have any comments or questions, or want to post your own tips to help your fellow entrepreneurs, please add them in the comment section below.

The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009


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This is the first article in our “Bottom Line” series focused on the $787 billion plan, where we analyze the spending bill's significance as a stimulus for U.S. entrepreneurs and emerging businesses.

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The figures are mind boggling.  A few billion dollars there, $50 billion there.  And how about the $165 million from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that made its way to the executives of bailed-out AIG in the form of bonuses?  The unprecedented amount of public funds being spent to save and spur the economy through recent programs certainly includes a bunch of life vests for those failed companies that are “too big to fail,” but what about for the Entrepreneurial Economy?  


The American Entrepreneurial Economy includes 550,000 new businesses started every month.  It includes the emerging market:  the 2.2 million firms in the US with between 5 and 100 employees.   These are almost all private companies and most are less than 15 years old.   According to the US Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses (those with fewer than 500 employees) make up 99.7% of all US businesses, account for 50 percent of the gross national product and create between 60 and 80% of the net new jobs each year.  Entrepreneurs are confident – often stubborn – risk takers who take on personal debt so they can follow their dreams of launching new businesses.  They collectively make up the American business engine that largely drives innovation, invents new products, and creates new jobs.   

We at Growthink work with these companies and business owners everyday and have assisted almost 2,000 in the past 10 years.  Due to their impact on the US economy, we sure expect to see incentives for entrepreneurial companies in the stimulus plan, in addition to the $200 billion doled out to some of the largest financial institutions in the US. As a country, we don’t need to “bail out” emerging businesses in the sectors that will drive the economy – young firms that are working to improve healthcare, producing energy efficient products and developing environmentally-friendly pesticides – we need to spur them on.

We are following the distribution of stimulus funding closely.  This means we’ve had to spend countless hours trying to figure out what’s in the plan and who’s getting what – the plan is about eight inches thick and leaves most of the funding details to the various governmental agencies that oversee specific sectors.  It’s been no easy task.  Just because the federal government is giving away an unprecedented amount of money in a record amount of time to save the economy doesn’t mean that it’s not being given away by the same bureaucratic system that existed before the stimulus plan.

In our “Bottom Line” series on the stimulus plan, we’ll focus on just that:  What’s the plan's bottom line for the Entrepreneurial Economy?  During the Series, we’ll provide concise descriptions of the business opportunities in various sectors and provide insight into how to receive funding.   We’ll also provide honest feedback on the results of the program from the perspective of the entrepreneurial community.  

So far, we’ve come across reasons to be optimistic.  The plan includes programs for entrepreneurial sectors and includes promising opportunities for innovative, growth-oriented firms, such as:

  • More than $60 billion dollars in funding, grants and tax credits to promote energy efficient and renewable energy programs and products;
  • $7 billion to extend broadband services to underserved communities;
  • A focus on alternative sources of energy;
  • Almost $20 billion for healthcare technology;
  • $1 billion for a “Health & Wellness” Fund;
  • More than $15 billion for research and upgrading research facilities focused on key areas of innovation, such as climate change, biofuels, disease control and prevention, and technology innovation; and:
  • Enhanced and streamlined programs through the SBA.  


We’ve also seen some early outcomes that give us cause for concern.  Of course, there were those AIG bonuses, luxurious private jets flown by executives from failing automakers to beg Congress for bail-out money, and the hundreds of billions of dollars given to the firms that helped get us in this mess in the first place.  And hucksters, of course, have recently populated email spam folders with promises of stimulus funding in return for credit card information. 

But we’ve also seen frustration on the front lines when we’ve spoken and worked directly with leaders of promising businesses in those targeted sectors.   How do I apply for the funding?  Am I eligible?  Where do I even find the information?

Of course, part of the confusion and a lack of clear information are inevitable – current systems to notify businesses of the methods to access these funds are inadequate for such a surge in new programs.  But the confusion is largely due to the same complaints that start-ups and small businesses have expressed about government “support” programs for decades:  It’s difficult to even figure out what’s available and how to apply for the resources, and continues to be in the age of the Internet.  

During the next two weeks, we will provide those answers on a sector by sector basis.  No fluff, no platitudes, just the Bottom Line for your business.    

 

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The next article in our Bottom Line Series will focus on stimulus funds available for entrepreneurial companies in the healthcare sector.  


Growthink Blog Added to Alltop


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We're honored to have the Growthink Blog syndicated on the "Startups" section of Alltop: http://startups.alltop.com/

 

For those unfamiliar with Alltop, it is an excellent blog aggregator that collects stories from top blogs in various topics, ranging form work and health to technology and hundreds of other subjects. 


Alltop is an indispensable tool for staying on top of the news.  We use it every day, and we're honored to be included.

 

Related post: Growthink co-founder Dave Lavinsky interviews Guy Kawasaki.

 

 

 


Growthink Announces Launch of Growthink University


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As a supplement to our consulting practice, we're pleased to announce the launch of Growthink University, our new membership club dedicated to teaching entrepreneurs and business owners how to raise capital for their businesses.

The club assembles 10 years of capital raising expertise and methodologies developed and refined by Growthink, and gives entrepreneurs an additional "Do-It-Yourself" option to perfect their business plans.

Growthink University covers topics including, but not limited to:

  • The biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make when trying to raise capital and how to avoid them.
  • How to overcome the capital-raising challenges faced by first-time entrepreneurs.
  • The difference between pre-and post-money valuations and making sure you don't get taken by investors.
  • The ten biggest mistakes that companies make in their business plans.
  • The winning ways to get meetings with investors -- and the most important things to know before sitting down at the table.
  • What financial projections need to prove about your business

 

Go to Growthink University (http://www.growthinkuniversity.com) to learn more.


Federal Government Financing Alternatives


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Entrepreneurs and small companies often overlook two ripe sources for capital: federal grants and loan financing.

But instead of trading equity positions in their companies for thenecessary capital, entrepreneurs and small companies who pursue fundingfrom the Small Business Administration (SBA) and from Small BusinessInvestment Companies (SBICs) donít have to deal with an equitycomponent to their transactions. However, similar to individual ìangelîinvestor and VC financing, companies seeking SBA and SBIC financingneed a strong management team and value proposition, and a credible andexciting business plan to consummate a financing transaction.

That's because an SBA loan, regardless of whether it is a directloan from the SBA, or, more commonly, a bank loan guaranteed by theSBA, is essentially a bank loan. The benefits of it versus atraditional bank loan are that it offers a lower borrowing rate and asomewhat greater ease of attainment for startups and smaller businesses.

In most cases, the SBA will guarantee that 90 percent of the loanwill be repaid to the bank. As such, banks are taking on less risk andcorrespondingly are more flexible with approvals. The SBA does usuallyrequire that the founders of the company personally guarantee the loans.

Alternatively, Small Business Investment Companies (SBICs) areprivately organized corporations that are licensed and regulated by theSBA. Small or emerging businesses which qualify for assistance from theSBIC program can receive equity capital and/or long-term loans fromthese companies. Essentially, these companies provide their owncapital, which is then supplemented by federal funds, to the companiesthey fund.

In a testament to the great "multiplier" value of small businessinvestment, U.S. taxpayers benefit from the SBIC program as taxrevenues generated from successful SBIC investments have more thancovered the cost of the program. Equally impressive, over the last 20years, small businesses have created roughly three out of four net newprivate non-farm U.S. jobs, with a significant percentage of thesebusinesses initially seeded/funded by these government loan programs.


Raising Capital - How Long Does it Take?


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Most entrepreneurs and managers of companies seeking outside capital vastly underestimate how long it will take them to successfully complete a financing. Here's the reality check: in our experience, we've seen that, on average, a company and a management team seeking financing should budget between 500 and 1000 work-hours to the capital-raising process, spread out over a 6 month time period.


Read the full article here.


Great Q and A on Guy Kawasaki's blog re legal issues and new startups


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Can be read here at - http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2007/10/ten-questions-1.html - all aspiring entrepreneurs should take in this advice - in general Guy's blog is one of the best (if not the best) out there re venture capital, entrepreneurship, and technology.


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