High-Impact Entrepreneurship

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Hire today or gone tomorrow: How your startup is getting lapped by companies who know how to hire

Reprinted from This is Going to be Big. Original post here.

By Charlie O’Donnell.

There will always be an excess of bad ideas and dumb money in the market–so we’ll always be complaining about a lack of talent, no matter how many developers there are.

Still, I contend that most companies have no idea how to hire, and in the last week, my theory got proved to me several times over.

In February, I got contacted by a former management consultant who was now working in an operations role for a high profile startup.  He was ready for his next big thing and offered to help me out with the fund.  I wasn’t hiring, but I agreed to meet him due to his generous offer.  We met up and I was super impressed.  In March, I introduced him to two startups that needed some operations help.

The first company responded right away, but offered to meet the candidate ten days later.  Four weeks went by and the other company still hadn’t responded at all–not until I nudged them.

Luckily, he wasn’t in that much of a rush, so the timing still worked out for meetings.  Both companies were impressed and one wanted to make an offer.  The other one didn’t really follow up at all, and I got a note from the candidate:

“btw, any idea what could have happened on the [Company #2] front?  I thought the entire process went as well as it possibly could and I even walked out of there (after meeting [the founder] and the entire team in two sessions) w/ what I thought was a soft offer.  and then radio silence.  I’ve followed up as non-annoyingly as possible via email but I don’t want to be pushy.  any thoughts?”

And the company that wanted to make an offer to him?  He sent me this note about the founder:

“have you heard anything from him?  I thought the conversation last monday went well but I’d love to hear more about what he specifically needs/is looking for.  he seems to be a hard guy to pin down.”

So I ping the founder and they have another meeting.  The candidate was psyched:

Hey there, I had a great convo w/ [the founder] this morning.  I may have finally met someone who has the same (possibly more, though I find it hard to believe now that I’m writing it down) amount of energy that I do.

Still no offer, though.  Another two weeks go by.  By then, the market catches on that he’s looking, and another startup, one that was bigger and more mature, starts the recruiting machine.  The candidate meets the team first thing in the morning one day, has four interviews with the right folks, and gets an offer literally at the end of the day.  He was overwhelmed by their interest after getting the runaround from the other companies over weeks, if not months, and chose to accept.

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eMBA field report: pushing boundaries for personal growth and professional gain in Monterrey

Marjorie Camporini is an MBA candidate at IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. She is interning with Endeavor Entrepreneur company Vialux through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

Here I am, writing my blog post for Endeavor on the airplane on my way to Bogota. It is hard to leave the beautiful mountains of Monterrey, but exciting to go to Colombia for the first time. Three weeks ago, I started working for Vialux, a Mexican company based in Monterrey that provides difficult-to-find cell sites to telecommunications carriers. So, why am I going to Bogota now?

My project at Vialux is to build a business plan for expansion to Brazil. The company’s last expansion project brought them to Colombia and Endeavor Entrepreneur Fernando Martinez (a partner at Vialux and the creator of my project) believed that it would be useful for me to go to Bogota and analyze the successes and failures of that expansion plan. After a few days there, I will fly to Brazil with Fernando for two weeks of meetings. The objective is to learn about the Brazilian market, gather as much information as possible for the expansion plan and find potential partners and managers for the future Brazil office.

All in all, working for Vialux has been an amazing experience so far. My project is very challenging and working with Omar Rios (Vialux’s Commercial Manager) and Fernando has been a great way to learn not only about the industry and the company, but also about the Mexican economy and way of doing business. I am also learning about entrepreneurship and the transition from a small, scrappy company to a larger, more structured one. These two men have shared every single detail of the company operations with me and that, combined with the aligned, positive environment at Vialux, has made me feel at home. I truly feel that I am part of the company and not just an intern.

However, life is not just about work and I have to confess that I was not expecting to meet the awesome people I have met in Monterrey. I was also not expecting that I would enjoy the Sierra Madre Mountains so much. It is fascinating to live in a place surrounded by these giant rocks! Mariya Krasteva, another eMBA who is studying at MIT and Harvard, is also working for Vialux, but at the parent company, Enexa. She is my roommate and together with two other Monterrey eMBAs, Maria Fernanda Brockman and Nuno Neves, we have been exploring everything the city has to offer. Local friends have been amazingly supportive and their hospitality allowed us to acclimate very quickly. We have gotten excursion tips  from Rocio Diaz Gonzalez, our local Endeavor staff contact, many times and have enjoyed sightseeing, climbing, visiting caves, partying and of course eating (much more than I should!) real and delicious Mexican food.

I am glad that I have had the opportunity to get to know a little bit about Mexico, hang out with incredible friends and challenge myself with a very dynamic project which allows me to see the results of my work and feel that I am adding value to the company. I am sure I made the right choice when I decided to work with Vialux and its vibrant entrepreneurs Fernando and Francisco. In addition, it is rewarding to be part of Endeavor and to learn more about how this successful nonprofit is making a significant, social impact all over the world. The local office of Endeavor is always organizing events to put eMBAs, mentors and entrepreneurs together.  What can be more inspiring?  All my expectations have already been exceeded and I am looking forward for the next four weeks in this exciting atmosphere.

Lunch with Monterrey eMBAs Maria Fernanda Brockman, Mariya Krasteva, Nuno Neves and local friends

Climbing en Huasteca

San Pedro and its mountains

The art of NYC cycling for entrepreneurs #bikenyc

Reprinted from This is Going to be Big. Original article here.

By Charlie O’Donnell.

A lot of people ask me about cycling in NYC.  They ask me about startups, too.  As I was biking around the other day, I realized that they have a lot in common and so the advice I have to give about both is pretty similar:

1. Cycling is a *higher* risk activity, but it doesn’t have to be dangerous.

If you’re going to start a company instead of working for someone else, you’re definitely putting something at risk–current income, opportunity cost, some social capital perhaps.  That being said, it doesn’t mean you’re going to wind up homeless if things at your startup don’t work out.  Failure of a startup doesn’t mean failure of your career by any stretch–so long as you treat people with respect and honesty, and you work hard.

2. Taking some amount of additional risk can make for a better overall outcome–because biking in bike lanes all the time is boring and may not even be that much safer.

If you’re going to put it all out there in a startup, bite off something that you’re not 100% sure will work out, but that, if it did, would make a significant impact.  If you have zero chance of failure, you really didn’t challenge yourself–and you might actually be more successful if you attempt something harder that is worth doing.  That will inspire others to join and help.

3. Pay attention to traffic patterns–buses only pull over at bus stops, taxis will dart back into the street after a dropoff, etc.

Pattern matching is one of the most useful skills out there as an entrepreneur.  How do users generally behave around your value proposition?  What has worked in other startups?  Why?  What hasn’t worked?  If you can’t learn from the patterns of history, you’re going to get flattened.

4. Big trucks are slow to accelerate–you can always beat them out when they’re moving from a standing stop.

What if Google does this?  Well, they could, but you have to believe that you’ll do it better, faster, cheaper.  They could do anything but you have the advantage of already being in the flow of the market.  By the time a big company gets its act together, you’ll be free and clear.

5.  The things that will get you aren’t what you expect–it’s not the cars, but potholes and pedestrians. 

Startups are all about being prepared for anything–knowing where you’re heading, but being nimble at the last second when something comes up that could wipe you out at the wrong moment.

6. There is absolutely nothing you can do when a car door swings open right in front of you except brace for impact. 

Staying alive is the name of the game in a startup–and you’re going to have plenty of near death experiences along the way.  Know they will happen, and that you won’t see them coming.  Just hold on tight and weather the storm.

7. There’s no such thing as the “best bike”.  There’s only the best bike for you.

There are lots of goals people have when they start a company.  Some people want to see their ideas win.  Others want to make a ton of money.  Other people just like the challenge.  Just because another company does things a certain way doesn’t mean they’re necessarily right for you.

8. You need a good lock.

Don’t get obsessed with competition, but know what the alternatives do well so you know how you can be better.  Sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose, but you don’t want to lose on a feature that you could have easily built which is what your competition ate your lunch with.

9. You must wear a helmet. 

Put all the right legal documents in place–co-founder agreements, privacy policies, etc.

10.  Get some bright lights and reflectors. 

Learn how to market yourself and what you’re doing, both personally and as a business.  You won’t have a ton of money to put towards marketing, so understanding PR and ways of building up awareness about your efforts through social media are really important to get noticed.

Safe biking! (and startupping!)

The startup spouse: On risks, trade-offs and never sleeping on the floor

Reprinted from OnStartups. Original article here.

By Lisa Rosen, the startup spouse.  You can follow her on twitter @entreprenrswife.

“He who sleeps on the floor will not fall off the bed.” ~ Robert Gronock

“I quit my job today,” announced my husband, Seth Rosen, as he casually dropped his briefcase and strolled through the front door of our apartment. As if it was no big deal. As if quitting one’s job is a routine occurrence. To be fair, Seth had talked about leaving his day job to work full time with his best friend, Mike Salguero, on CustomMade.com, a website they had recently purchased. And, to be fair, Seth had asked me repeatedly how I felt about the move. I had assured him that, in no uncertain terms, he had my unequivocal support — mostly because I didn’t think he would actually do it. Yet, here I was, staring at my newly-minted entrepreneur, unsure of whether I should throw up my arms to hug him or strangle him. After all, lots of people talk about starting a company because they think they have a million dollar idea, but very few pull the proverbial trigger. There is a reason for that. Leaving a seemingly safe and reliable salary for the uncertainty and potential perils of a startup company is risky. More startups fail than succeed, especially if a business requires venture capital. A quick search on Wikipedia told me that there are around two million new businesses started in the United States every year, of which less than 800 receive venture financing or 0.04%. CustomMade was already doomed. To make matters worse, it was the summer of 2009 and the US economy was in a deep recession. Was he nuts? (more…)

What if your business was a book?

Reprinted from Duct Tape Marketing. Original article here.

By John Jantsch

Let me first state that I think anyone who has figured anything out about a market, industry or innovation has proper reason to write a book. If you’ve perfected a process of methodology, your process, methodology and your entire world will benefit from the mere act of documenting it in a way that makes it teachable and transferable.

But, that’s not what this post is about. (sort of)

For some time now I’ve been trying to get marketers to approach their educational content plan as a total body of work rather than a daily or weekly event.

If you would actually do that you might have a central theme for your content, specific structure, chapters based on important keywords – perhaps even stories, characters and plots.

If you were to move away from your business even further you might even see how your entire business could be properly and effectively cast as a book.

If that were so your business would have a value filled title, hook, narrative, backstory and structure.

I’ve written three books now and I can tell you that the process involved in proposing, outlining and writing a book has powerful applications for building and marketing a business.

A publisher considering your book would need to know who the book was for, why this book was different, what the reader would get from the book and ultimately the topics contained within the chapters.

An author writing a book would start with this framework and then evolve, adapt and learn as the book unfolds in ideas, drafts and edits. Ultimately the book would have to produce value for the reader. It would not have to be a prize winning piece of literature, but it would have to be organized, properly researched and worth reading.

The parallels between what it takes to write a book and what it takes to communicate the essence of a business to an ideal client market are stunning.

So, I guess it’s time to start your book.

Let me repeat that I think anyone who has figured anything out about a market, industry or innovation has proper reason to write a book. If you’ve perfected a process of methodology your process, methodology and your entire world will benefit from the mere act of documenting it in a way that makes it teachable and transferable.

But, even if you don’t have any plans to actually write a book your business will benefit from a book like mindset.

Look at your business and pretend that you are writing a book proposal. Your proposal should reflect the core elements of your business, process or methodology that are central to what makes you unique and central to what your ideal client is searching for.

Include:

Title – how can you position this book to stand out?

Author – what expertise, knowledge or experience do you have that makes you qualified to tell this story?

Audience – who specifically must read this book and can they afford to pay for your services?

The hook – what tantalizing knowledge will the reader get from this book?

Competition – what other books are out there right now that might compete for this reader?

Chapters – what are the key concepts and structural elements that make this a body of work?

Do you see how this framework might also apply to more than a book? Do you see how it could also apply to creating a marketing strategy, writing a sales letter or putting together a new service?

In the end, we’re all publishers of information of one sort or another. Why not truly embrace this thinking by approaching your content creation, marketing and entire business as though it were a book? And maybe, just maybe, you’ll get a book out of it as well.

Seems awkward, ignores the rules, but brilliant: Meet the maverick job candidate

Reprinted from Wamda. Original article here.

In a paper recently published in the British Journal of Psychology, Elliroma Gardiner, an organizational psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science, found that employees with maverick personalities could be secret weapons for making businesses successful. Gardiner’s research interests are in the role of individual differences in an organizational setting.

By encouraging creative, independent thinkers to come up with innovative, brilliant ideas and giving workers the support and time to pursue their projects, companies could introduce their next Angry Birds or Google News to the marketplace. In an economic climate where employees might be asked to do more with fewer resources, she says, hiring that maverick employee may be the way a company can increase their profits.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows after the jump.
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eMBA field report: lights, camera, asado!

Montevideo, Uruguay

Adrian Garcia is an MBA candidate at ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. He is interning with Endeavor Entrepreneur company Salado Media in Uruguay through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

Within half an hour of stepping off the plane in Montevideo, I found myself at a restaurant table with the managing director of Salado Media, Endeavor Entrepreneur Andres Ameglio, conversing and sharing ideas on how his business could successfully grow in the U.S. market. This was your normal business meeting, just not with iced tea and something light to eat. Quickly our ideas flowed just like the juices from what seemed like a 2-pound steak on my plate, which Andres suggested that I order. By the end of the meal, I was in quite the food coma, but Andres kept talking strategy and about the future of the company with the voracity of a T Rex. There is a type of professional/family atmosphere here that is not contrived nor processed. It is the essence of Salado Media.

The scope of my project is to create a US market entry strategy for Salado Media, a film and commercial audiovisual production company. The thing is that they are so well positioned to enter that at first I was taken back by the numerous amount of viable avenues for them. In my previous professional experiences and projects, I was accustomed to working with companies that were trying to make up for their lack of talent or capabilities and therefore had limited choices. Now, I have all the tools one could ask for; it’s just a matter of analyzing and seizing the opportunities in the most strategic manner. The executive team already has some great ideas that are more traditional, but I have been able to add value by bringing in more innovative ones along with a structured approach that stems from experiences with other colleagues, my MBA education, and working in different business cultures and industries in the past. Together, the execs and I have been coming up with a strategy recipe that is a mix of the traditional, the new, and the creative.

Life outside of work has been just as dynamic. I share an apartment with another Endeavor eMBA , Tony, who is working for PedidosYa.com and studies at NYU Stern. It’s good to have a “partner in crime” with whom to trek around town, enjoy countless asados, and attempt to run off the provoletas and empanadas with, and also to bounce ideas off of concerning our respective projects.

Right now, I’m writing from Salado’s Buenos Aires office and have had the chance to meet more genuinely nice and accommodating people while also getting the chance to discover a new city. All together, my eMBA project has helped me to grow professionally, personally, and around my waistline.

eMBA field report: a fresh approach to fast growth and seaside splendors in Uruguay

PedidosYa entrepreneur Alvaro Garcia and eMBA Anthony Musso

Anthony Musso is an MBA candidate at NYU’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business. He is interning with Endeavor Entrepreneur company PedidosYa.com in Uruguay through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

I am coming into the homestretch of my eight week internship with PedidosYa (online food delivery leader in Latin America) based in Montevideo, Uruguay and I am delighted to report that it has been an incredibly positive and transformative experience for me. Working and living in Montevideo has given me a strong appreciation for the Uruguayan culture and its wonderful people. Well educated and extremely friendly, my colleagues and I have become fast friends. I feel very fortunate to have landed in such a welcoming environment.

I have also had the opportunity to travel, visiting Punta del Este, Colonia and Buenos Aires. Although I went during the off season, I had an absolute blast in Punta. I have never seen a city filled with so much residential construction and absolutely no industry to speak of, aside from tourism. It truly is a resort city, built to enjoy. Colonia, the oldest settlement in Uruguay, is a charming town with cobble stone streets and a rich history. Across the river is Buenos Aires, which can only be described as…simply the best.

Working with three distinct, highly intelligent entrepreneurs at PedidosYa has been terrific! They have provided me with valuable business lessons and helped me clarify many of my own professional aspirations. Upon arrival, my assigned objective was fairly broad: help us grow in the best way possible. For me, this important task and full access to a fast growing company in an exploding industry was a dream job. I divided my time in two areas. First, focusing internally, I researched industry best practices and developed a road map for automating order processing. Second, I performed an in-depth analysis of the competitive landscape in Brazil, PedidosYa’s largest and most promising market, and with cofounder Alvaro Garcia devised a completely novel marketing strategy.

Looking back, I have learned and experienced a great deal in such a short period of time. I am extremely happy that I took the leap and joined Endeavor’s eMBA program.

eMBA field report: spreading innovative design from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia

A demonstration of Nada Debs’ hand-crafted design in the Nada Debs Gallery in Beirut during Beirut Design Week

Abulaziz Baroum is an MBA candidate at Babson College’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business. He is interning with Endeavor Entrepreneur Nada Debs in Lebanon through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

The Land of Entrepreneurs

Lebanon is a colorful country with resilient, highly independent, and self-made people.  I am working in Lebanon with an entrepreneur, Nada Debs, who employs an entrepreneur, who, himself, has an entrepreneur reporting to him (!).

Applying to Endeavor’s eMBA Program

I come from the Middle East with a corporate background from Procter & Gamble.  Given the challenges we are facing in the Middle East – a high unemployment rate and a young population – entrepreneurship stands out as the single greatest remedy to our region’s crisis.  Hence, my decision to join Babson, the number one school for entrepreneurship, where I learned about Endeavor and its efforts in supporting high impact entrepreneurs.  And it was at Babson where a colleague of mine brought the eMBA position at Nada Debs to my attention.

About Nada Debs

Nada Debs is an inspiring and creative entrepreneur.  She discovered that designs for modern, Middle Eastern furniture were almost non-existent and created her company, East and East, which concentrates on designing, manufacturing and selling her own furniture and home accessory lines.

My Project Scope

In light of the rapid business growth and brand awareness that Nada Debs has achieved, the management team has decided to increase the company’s global presence; and with the unprecedented development and real estate boom taking place in Saudi it was only natural to grow into the Saudi market.  My project is mainly focused on defining the Saudi Arabia market entry strategy.

A Venture from the Inside

My journey so far has been enlightening, to say the least.  I’ve been reading and learning about entrepreneurship and startups throughout my year at Babson.  What I’ve been taught has definitely come in handy, but nothing matches a view from the inside. Almost everything here is an opportunity-driven team effort, something you can’t really teach in a classroom.

In Lebanon, burning tires is a popular sign of protest, which has been banned recently. This picture was taken during Beirut Design Week (June 25-30, 2012). It was a creative display by a Lebanese fabric designer. The smoke was artificial of course; otherwise, wouldn’t have been so creative after all.

3 things that investors and entrepreneurs can do to avoid an eternal war

Reprinted from Wamda. Original article here.

By Ayman Abou Hend.

Apple is the most valuable company around the world. Google is the search titan and the innovative platform in the tech industry. Microsoft is the world biggest software company. Pinterest was recently valued at 1.5 billion. Instagram has been acquired by Facebook for an obnoxious sum, and now, Facebook has finally gone public.

When all these stories are mentioned, the first thing that comes up to my mind is the relationship between the entrepreneur, the investors involved, and how it all came together in the first place. I ask: Was it easy? Was it hard? How it can be done? Can these stories be repeated?

Often, the relationship between entrepreneurs and investors is filled with subtle tensions.

You might notice this in an entrepreneur’s article describing that VCs “never listened,” “were pushy,” or alleging that “all they care about is the money.” On the other hand, you will find some investors claiming that entrepreneurs “are stubborn” or “know nothing about the business world,” sniping, “we can’t always be leaving money on the table for them.”

Entrepreneurs might see investors as “vampires”, the rich nobles that suck the blood out of their victims (entrepreneurs!). And investors might deal with the Entrepreneurs as though they are “lycans,” creatures that have strong supernatural powers but use them savagely and waste the good and the green (the money!).

In old legends, they say that the war between the vampires and the lycans is eternal. They also said that any kind of truce between the two races is a figment of the imagination.

However, when it comes to entrepreneurs and investors, there are three things that both and entrepreneurs could do to understand each other better. This may help each party get to know the reasons why sometimes its counterpart acts in a manner that seems to frustrate.

I was originally a venture capitalist, so I have lived the tension of this “war” myself. Yet when I tried to found a company, I tried the life of an entrepreneur and from here I began to sense the pressure on both sides.

First, the Investors: Here are three points that may aid you when dealing with The Entrepreneurs:

1. Understand the feelings of an entrepreneur

First, you need to understand that this company or venture in which you are investing is everything to the entrepreneur. It is his or her dream, hope, target and future. The entrepreneur senses that this company is his own child. He or she has likely risked most of his or her capital, career, and even personal life to make it succeed. So don’t be surprised if they acted aggressively sometimes, if they feel the investor is trying to take control.

2. Communicate Positive and Healthy Vibes

As business professionals, you need to exhibit leadership, communicating to the entrepreneur that you both have common point of interests. You will sometimes need to give him his space and allow him to make the decisions. I have known venture capitalists that interfere in every single decision the entrepreneur takes and this is not right. In the end, the investor’s role is to monitor the results, audit, give assistance and interfere when required or when necessary if the venture is off-track or an action might jeopardize the investment.

3. Remember: it’s all about the human capital

In the end, you should remember that your main investment is in the entrepreneur, not the venture. Only the entrepreneur will be the shareholder most invested in making the venture succeed because originally it was his or her main idea and investment. So it’s best to encourage his or her enthusiasm, rather than considering it as a threat.

Now, the Entrepreneurs. I consider myself blessed because most of my life I have been surrounded by entrepreneurs. I have learned a lot from them, and they make life less boring and give me the sense that something about tomorrow is going to be exciting. They are always active, thoughtful and hungry for more.

Entrepreneurs, Here are three points that may help you deal with investors, specifically venture capitalists:

1. Understand the life of a venture capitalist.

Being a venture capitalist is demanding. From the moment we construct the fund to the moment we close a deal, we are subject to intense pressure. We conduct road shows, present strategies, follow on legalities, source opportunities and try to raise capital from Limited Partners. We have to justify every penny we burn in each new venture, calculate the risk and return, and decide how much are we going to invest and what the average lifetime of our investment is. So don’t be surprised when we act pressured.

2. If you fail, we fail too!

As investors, we don’t doubt your abilities as entrepreneurs, but you should know that the most critical part of the life cycle of any venture is its early stage. Any wrong move during this period will lead to the failure of the company, and only one or two out of ten start ups survive. We want to support you and help the company evolve and succeed.

3. It is not only you, nothing personal…Just business!

Take into consideration that each venture capitalist doesn’t only follow your company but rather tracks up to five companies at the same time. The error margin for any venture capitalist is very low. Imagine yourself justifying to the limited partners why you have “pulled the plug and written down a company.” So, yes, sometimes we interfere, not because we want to seize control over the venture, but because we are simply trying to add value to the company.

In the end, we all know that the market has become more aggressive, more swift, and merciless. Our error margin is nearly null and we need cooperation between both sides to make start ups succeed. But with these tips, perhaps the “vampires” and the “lycans” can find a truce.

Ayman is entrepreneurial capitalist, and Member of Venture Capital and Private Equity investing in Canada, acting as a MENA Representative. He is involved on finding, deciding on new investment opportunities and exciting current ones. He is also responsible for following the business side of and managing a number of Cartel Ventures portfolio companies. Ayman’s investment track record over the last years includes the execution of successful transactions in technology, biomedical, Real estate, Pharmaceuticals and financial services. He has been through all stages in Venture Capital cycle: fundraising, investing, value creation and exit realization. He earned his BS in communication and electronics engineering from the Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University, and became Chartered from the CFA institute at 2011.

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