High-Impact Entrepreneurship

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Saudi Arabia’s Lateefa Alwaalan, Founder of Yatooq, Named EY Entrepreneur of the Year

Endeavor Entrepreneur Lateefa Alwaalan, founder of Yatooq, was named the 2015 EY Entrepreneur of the Year in Saudi Arabia, recognizing her potential to build a high-impact business and inspire others. Yatooq’s Arabic coffee blends and products are […]

May 27th, 2015 — by admin

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2014 Endeavor Gala Honoring The Abraaj Group’s Arif M. Naqvi Brings Together 400+ Members of the Global Network

On Friday, November 7, 2014, the Endeavor Gala brought together over 400 entrepreneurs, business leaders, Endeavor Board members and supporters in New York City to celebrate the power of Endeavor’s network. As Endeavor’s only annual fundraising event, […]

November 9th, 2014 — by admin

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Silicon Valley to Beirut: Recommendations for a Lebanese entrepreneurial ecosystem

As highlighted in a new report by Endeavor Insight, entitled “How to Improve Access to Finance in Lebanon,” Lebanon is primed to make its mark on entrepreneurship.  To succeed in this goal, all actors in the ecosystem have specific roles to embrace in order to expand access to finance—a crucial piece of fostering a true culture of innovation.  From interviews with nearly 20 influential Lebanese actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem (including VCs, incubators, entrepreneurs, etc.), it was evident that there are actionable steps that can be undertaken by the government, entrepreneurs, and funders.  (Be on the lookout for a series of blog posts which focus on each of these actors.)  Below is the high-level recommendation which all Lebanese actors should work toward:

1) Engage and organize the Lebanese diaspora: With an estimated 10 million Lebanese living outside of the country versus just 4 million in Lebanon, a large untapped population lives outside of Lebanese borders. Ecosystem stakeholders should develop a strategy to leverage this brain drain.

2) The government could invite prominent expat business leaders and entrepreneurs to visit Lebanon, meet with dynamic Lebanese entrepreneurs, and experience the entrepreneurial ecosystem. IDAL (Investment Development Authority of Lebanon) plans on employing this tactic by working with organizations such as LIFE (Lebanese International Finance Executives) and LebNet, to engage the diaspora.  Their combined goal is to help build the technology startup community within the country in order to encourage more mentorship and angel investment.

3) VCs should try to engage Lebanese entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and other locations, similar to what is being done by LebNet. By involving these entrepreneurs on their boards and in their investment committees, VCs can expose the Lebanese start-up community to the influence, inspiration, and guidance of the most successful Lebanese entrepreneurs.

To learn more about where Lebanon is now, as well as read recommendations for how it can fully capitalize on its bright future, please read the full report here.

Fred Wilson: How to be in business forever

Reprinted from A VC. Original article here.

By Fred Wilson

I will be doing office hours today at 6pm eastern. You can watch them here on this link. If you want to submit questions for office hours, you can do that here. Just like last week, I will review a few business model canvas projects and then will answer questions for the rest of the office hours.

This week I’d like to talk about company culture and how it impacts sustainability. If you want to be in business forever, you need to build a culture that sustains the business. I talked a lot about this in a post on culture a while back. You should give that a read as part of the assigned reading for this course. Here is the money quote from that post:

“Companies are not people. But they are comprised of people. And the people side of the business is harder and way more complicated than building a product is. You have to start with culture, values, and a commitment to creating a fantastic workplace. You can’t fake these things. They have to come from the top. They are not bullshit. They are everything. There will be things that happen in the course of building a business that will challenge the belief in the leadership and the future of the company. If everyone is a mercenary and there is no shared culture and values, the team will blow apart. But if there is a meaningful culture that the entire team buys into, the team will stick together, double down, and get through those challenging situations.”

I bumped into a friend last week who works at a company that is going through a difficult time right now. I asked him about the “talent drain” that is going on in his company. He said “the ones who were in it for only the money are long gone, the doubters are gone now too, and we are left with the true believers now.”
I thought to myself that the mistake the CEO of that company made was bringing the mercenaries and doubters into the company in the first place and allowing them to stay.

Mercenaries have no place in your company and your culture. Doubters are a bit different. You certainly don’t want to create a culture of “yes maam” in your company. So some doubting is healthy. But it should be out in the open. The doubts should be expressed upfront and they should be discussed and debated. But once the decisions have been made, everyone needs to get behind them. Ongoing doubting is not helpful to a culture.

True believers are required to get through the hard parts. And you need to be the leader who inspires the true believers. Watch this short video where @dens described what he did when Facebook launched a competing product to Foursquare.

You get true believers in your company by giving them something to believe in and someone to believe in. That is you. Even if you are scared shitless or bummed out, you can’t show that to the team. You have to lead if you want the team to follow.

The thing that you give them to believe in is called a vision. Make it a long one, a very long one. I like Bill Gates’ vision for Microsoft:

“When Paul Allen and I started Microsoft over 30 years ago, we had big dreams about software,” recalls Gates. “We had dreams about the impact it could have. We talked about a computer on every desk and in every home.”

A computer on every desk and in every home. That was a big hairy audacious goal in the late 70s. And it is exactly what happened, at least in the developed world.

The cool thing about that vision is it is drop dead simple to understand but took decades to execute. That’s a long vision that your team can buy into and stick with for the long haul. That’s what you need.

So if you want to build a business that lasts, you need a big and long vision and you need to be a leader who can inspire the team to believe in the vision and to believe in you. You need to hire folks who will stick around for the long haul and you need to be open to the doubts and doubters. But if they keep doubting, you need to part company with them. Don’t hire mercenaries. They won’t work no matter how hard you try.

Building a culture that can sustain the business is the most important investment you can make in your company. Once you’ve gotten a product into the market and proven product market fit, there is nothing that is more important than team, culture, and values. It is the glue that holds the whole thing together for the long haul.

Have every new employee do customer support for two weeks

Reprinted from Feld thoughts. Original article here.

By Brad Feld

A few weeks ago an entrepreneur of a fast growing consumer-oriented company told me that he has every new employee do customer support for two weeks. Their approach is they onboard the new person, given the a one week “get settled into your role / get up to speed on the company” period and then they spend weeks two and three full time in the customer support organization.

I’ve let this roll around in the back of my head and think it’s absolutely brilliant. The first week is a typical “first week at a new company” which includes a formal day of orientation on the first day. The next four days are structured around on-boarding the person and getting them involved in their role and their team, but not too deeply. This allows there to be a “break in period” where the person is learning the systems and structure of the company.

Week two is a full time immersion in the customer care organization. Total front-line stuff. The same first week any new customer care rep would get. Day one is whatever the normal orientation is followed by four days of “training wheels customer care.”

Week three is a fly on the wall from a managers view of customer care. Rather than front-line support, this is involved in all the meetings – up and down the customer support organization – to understand what people are dealing with. The last day includes a debrief meeting with the CEO.

I think a version of this process could be created for virtually any size company in any market segment. You are trying to have the person do three things: (1) be on the front-lines of the company and understand what that looks like, (2) engage directly with the product and customers, and (3) understand how the organization works from the customer point of view.

There’s a powerful second order effect, especially if every employee does this regardless or rank or title. In the first month of their tenure, they see the organization from the inside out. This creates a powerful common view that can generate an entirely different set of early actions for anyone in a new role. It also creates a powerful culture dynamic. And it does a little of what we try to do in the first month of TechStars – which is to “slow down to speed up.”

Hatching an international office: 6 tips for startups going global

Reprinted from OnStartups. Original article here.

Guest post by Diana Urban.

International expansion can provide a startup with tremendous growth opportunities. It allows your company to grow faster by casting a wider net, and helps diversify your revenue stream. While global expansion can be an exciting time, it’s a significant undertaking and requires some careful planning and making some hard decisions.

Today, HubSpot announced its European Headquarters launch in Dublin, Ireland. As part of the HubSpot International team, I wanted to share some of our learnings with you.

Here are six important things to consider when expanding a startup internationally:

1. Follow your customers and prospects

To determine where your biggest global opportunity exists, take a look at your customer base. If 50% of your International customer base is in Europe and only 8% is in Latin America, it makes a lot of sense to choose Europe as your International HQ. Let your domestic team build your Latin American segment up to a point where it’s ready for its own HQ. Make sure you have enough proven revenue in a region before opening up a new branch.

Also take a look at where the majority of your non-domestic prospects, or leads, live. You may notice that you’re generating the most leads in a country other than your largest international customer base. If this is the case, take conversion rates and cultural factors into consideration. Even though you’re generating a lot of leads in a particular country, can its population afford your products’ price point?

Finally, as much as we’d like to “follow the metrics” and make purely data-driven decisions, the choice of location might come down to people. Does one of the founders have a particular affinity or background in a location? Do you already have one of your stars anxious and eager to start an office in a particular country? These “people-based” factors should be considered. Often, the “optimal” decision from a metrics and revenue perspective is not the “best” decision.

2. Set ambitious international goals

Expanding internationally is a big investment, so it’s important to set ambitious goals to get the highest ROI possible. For example, plan for 30% of your business’ revenue to come from your global HQ within 3-5 years. Defining an international revenue goal for your international office will help you determine things like:

-How many sales reps do you need to generate $X in revenue?
-How many marketing leads do you need to generate to make those reps successful?
-How quickly does your international customer segment need to grow to reach that goal within 3 years?
-How many customer service reps will you need in order to serve this segment?
Whatever numbers you set to suit the needs of your own business, make sure you set those goals ahead of time so that you can plan accordingly every step of the way. Setting clear goals ahead of time will help keep the team that opens up the international headquarters accountable for its success.

3. Hire locally but be consistent culturally

A major benefit of opening up an office overseas is being able to recruit local talent, who will be experts in your industry in their culture. No matter how much you’ve been educated in the nuances of the culture you’re entering into, nobody will be better prepared than the people who grew up in the region.

If budget allows, try to bring over your new global employees for a couple weeks of training in your primary office. They will likely be teleconferencing frequently with your primary HQ, so having them join for training in-person helps put a face to the name for all future interactions.

Even though you should plan to hire mainly locals to staff your International Headquarters, be sure to maintain your company culture by sending over a group of expats, even if for a limited time range — six to 12 months can suffice.

Most importantly, ensure that from Day 1, members of your international team feel like they’re part of the company. Give them training. Give them career opportunities. Give them access to information and resources.

4. Network and attend conferences

Although America is becoming very dependent on virtual communication, in-person interaction is highly valued in cultures like Europe and East Asia. Use conferences and networking events to make connections with local industry-leaders in the region you’re opening your new office. Plan to stay a couple extra days after the conference for 1:1 meetings with your new connections. Meet with local press in-person to provide interviews on your global expansion plans.

Networking with the locals will help you spread the word not only about your product, but about the career opportunities now available to the local marketplace. You may need to hire aggressively your first couple years in your new office branch, so networking is imperative to drive high-quality candidates to your business.

5. Don’t underestimate cultural differences

Just as marketing best practices vary culture-to-culture, so do business practices. For example, in the U.S. it is typical for employees to have 10 non-holiday vacation days. However in Europe, it is customary for employees to have at least 20 non-holiday vacation days — and be required to take all of them. It’s important to take this cultural difference into account when projecting sales quotas and development sprints.

6. Get support from finance, HR, and ops experts

When opening an office abroad, there are a lot of overhead elements to plan for, such as:

-Negotiating leases and contracts
-Determining company structure
-Setting up accounting and tax reporting systems
-Supporting expat and local employees’ HR needs

Expect that you will need ongoing support from your finance, HR, and operations departments, and plan to hire agencies to help if you don’t have the resources in-house. Again, global expansion is a big investment, and it’s important to get these basic elements right from the get-go.

Endeavor Entrepreneur company Integr8 IT, part of the Integr8 Group, acquired by Business Connexion

Reprinted from Integr8 press release. Original article here.

In a major development within the domestic ICT services space, ICT infrastructure management and managed services specialist firm Integr8 IT, part of the Integr8 Group, has been acquired by Business Connexion for an estimated R126 million.

Integr8 IT is the largest privately owned ICT infrastructure management and managed services companies on the African continent. It was established in 2001 by high-impact award winning entrepreneur duo [and Endeavor Entrepreneurs] Robert Sussman and Lance Fanaroff and is a renowned leader of annuity based infrastructure management and managed services to the mid-market corporate throughout South Africa and Africa. The company owns and operates the only African based Nerve Centre®, a digital hub of people, technology and process, that regulates, monitors and maintains the technology infrastructure for many leading corporations.
Intergr8 IT’s key IP has been built into this Nerve Centre®, which underpins all service management. This includes “self-healing” routines and the intelligent management and real time remediation of distributed infrastructure.

Intergr8 IT has a portfolio of specialised business units and services that include: infrastructure management, private on-premise and off-premise private cloud services, public cloud services, virtualisation, storage, routing, switching, security, hosting, connectivity, internet services and disaster recovery. This is further complemented by its professional services business units, with lead architects in high level design infrastructure, and further supported by its project management office for global rollout and provisioning.

According to joint CEO Sussman, Integr8 IT has always been a hugely attractive target due to its unique positioning – with a stream of offers from companies looking to acquire, merge or list the ICT Company.

“This deal makes real sense to Business Connexion and Integr8 IT, as well as our respective personnel and clients. For the first time in South Africa there is a single company with 7,000 highly skilled personnel that span the continent, which scales the delivery of its services from the mid-market corporate to enterprise space. This is a unique and compelling offering for our joint customers, who are able to experience the benefit of Africa’s largest IT company”, says Sussman.

Sussman points out that BCG, the holding company of BCX and the largest IT outsourcing company on the African continent, has allowed him and his executive team to tick all of the boxes with regards to their three basic principles that relate to the acquisition of the company:

-The well-respected Integr8® brand that is synonymous with technical acumen and delivery remains.
-100% of Integr8’s employees that have been hand-picked over the past decade are not only retained, but given additional career and growth opportunities in the now almost 7,000 strong personnel company.
-Integr8 IT remains a strong entrepreneurial, innovative and well corporatized entity and continues to own the mid-market corporate space, with a partner that will help it double its growth year on year using the Integr8 Nerve Centre® leveraged platform.

About the acquisition, Sussman adds, “I am excited from where we have come from, I am hugely excited about where we are today, but this pales in comparison about the excitement I feel for the opportunities that will arise whilst working hand-in-hand with BCG and all of their subsidiaries.”

Joint-CEO Fanaroff speaks of global opportunities for both Integr8 employees and Integr8 customers, considering it to be an immediate effect of the acquisition, along with the ability to scale, promote and leverage the wide breadth of services that exist in this formidable force.

“Integr8 IT has had the luxury of organic growth over the past decade and it has been built with a balance of entrepreneurial innovation and corporatisation. The intellectual property and structural capital, together with the technology specialisation and critical mass developed over the years, has given Integr8 IT unique positioning in the midmarket corporate”, says Fanaroff

“Over and above the depth and breadth of our services, together with BCX, our South African and African footprint allows us to scale our offering with the offerings of the multi-nationals and enterprise ICT players in the public sector and broader African market,” states Fanaroff.

Matthew Blewett, Business Connexion Chief Operating Officer and Head of Mergers and Acquisitions’, notes, “The Business Connexion Group has a very clear growth strategy and the acquisition of Integr8 IT supports this by allowing the Group to expand its offerings into identified markets where it currently has a minimal share. Ultimately for a services–oriented business like ours, its greatest asset is its people. To this end we are very excited about the quality of leadership and skills that will be joining our group through Integr8 IT. The company’s proven growth track record and innovative solutions will be a welcome addition to the Business Connexion Group.”

Benjamin Mophatlane, CEO of Business Connexion Group comments, “It is an absolute pleasure to announce the transaction between the two enterprises. The rationale behind acquiring Integr8 IT is to strengthen our market depth and breadth within the mid-market corporate clients, which is experiencing huge growth within the South African and African Markets.“Rob Sussman, Lance Fanaroff and their team bring entrepreneurial flair and proven management and leadership capability to allow even broader benefits for Business Connexion, where Business Connexion can further extend its offering into the mid-market corporate. Integr8’s strong delivery via their Nerve Centre® brings additional infrastructure and managed services capability to this market and is also hugely complimentary to the Connexion Zone strategy”

With Business Connexion already having a staff compliment of about 6600, the assimilation of Integr8, will add another 550 personnel to the group with 286 full time employees and 264 regional contactors to the company.“Integr8 is a business that is well renowned and has won numerous awards. As recent as last week Integr8 was voted the Microsoft Midmarket Partner of the year award for 2012. We are extremely proud and privileged to welcome Integr8 to the Business Connexion Group, says Mophatlane.

Boy Scouts of America re-introduce entrepreneurship badge

Reprinted from the Huffington Post Blog. Original article here.

By Maria Popova.

For nearly four decades, Boy Scout merit badges have been awarded for the qualities, principles and virtues society most values in young people.

Though an Entrepreneurship merit badge was quietly introduced in 1997, this year the Boy Scouts are updating the badge and re-introducing it with greater prominence. The new Entrepreneurship Merit Badge is a true testament to the age of the entrepreneur, encouraging business savvy and innovation from an early age.

By earning the Entrepreneurship merit badge, Scouts will learn about identifying opportunities, creating and evaluating business ideas, and exploring the feasibility (how doable it is) of an idea for a new business. They will also have the chance to fit everything together as they start and run their own business ventures.

The move shows the increasing value of entrepreneurial thinking as a social problem-solver and a necessary lifeskill in the pursuit of success today. It also validates geekiness as a proverbial — and now physical — badge of honor, much-needed vindication for us geeky kids everywhere.

Impact of co-working on entrepreneurs and startups

Reprinted from Growvc. Original article here.

Guest post by Erica Bell.

Startups and entrepreneurs are often innovative and intelligent, and looking for a way to save. Co-working environments can help you start a business. From lower costs to improved networking, co-working spaces have more to offer than Wi-Fi, convenient parking and hot coffee for the early morning and late nights. In a Deskmag study, respondents answered that they increased their social circle, business network and productivity from working in a co-working environment. If you’re an entrepreneur or are launching a new startup, consider co-working.

Here are 3 benefits that come from a co-working space.

A Way to Save
Rent isn’t cheap – especially if you live or work in a major city. Early-on entrepreneurs and startups are often strapped for cash and looking for ways to save. Co-working spaces are a great way to save on overhead while still being able to work in a clean, professional environment. By renting a co-working office space, you’ll save on office furniture and office equipment. Depending on where you choose to go, you can gain access to frequently used equipment such as a scanner, copy machine and fax machine.

You can also cut down on typical business expenses, from electricity bills to lunches. If you’re used to running into a local coffee shop for free Wi-Fi, you’ll no longer feel the pressure to make a purchase or fight with others over the only outlet left. Memberships are often more flexible than a commercial real estate lease, offering space by the hour, day or month. You may also be able to trade expertise with another for a mutually beneficial, short-term and cost-effective partnership.

A Source of Support
In a co-working space, you can network and connect with other startups and entrepreneurs in a no-pressure zone. You can meet potential investors, clients and partners. Use the co-working environment to tap into the minds of others when it comes to problem-solving and new ideas you’re unsure of. If you need a project done quickly or need advice when you’re having second thoughts, there’s a good chance the people around you can provide a recommendation.

Co-working environments with regulars often have a sense of community, where renters become the advocates of others. Not only does everyone in the building want to succeed, they are often more willing to help others do the same. You are unlikely to see someone with a glazed-over look of dissatisfaction day in and day out – a common ailment in corporate offices. Co-working spaces, from the furniture to the culture, encourage feedback, communication and many find a new support system amongst fellow entrepreneurs and startups.

A Foundation of Innovation
With the ability to tap into your newly found support system, your innovation is taken to new heights. Martin Ruef, a sociologist at Princeton who studied entrepreneurs, found that those who broadened their social sphere of contacts from small groups of acquaintances to larger, more loosely-connected networks of people were far more innovative than those who didn’t. More innovation is what you will get in a co-working environment with the perspectives of a wide range of people with varying experiences and industries.
You could find your next idea by spending some time in a co-working office space. There are more than a few instances of people companies with people they’ve met while co-working. You can also develop your own experience. Some offices will offer workshops on topics like “VC pitching” or events such as brown bag lunches for more networking opportunities.
Co-working shifts the startup mentality away from the focus on finding funding and onto the tasks of growing a company culture, developing innovative ideas, and locating positive support networks. According to Deskmag, the majority of co-workers report an increase in self-confidence – almost 90%. By working in a co-working environment, you can gain confidence, ideas and new insights while saving money.

The classy way to get media coverage for your startup

Reprinted from OnStartups. Original article here.

Guest post by Nicholas Holmes.

In those two lines, I (and almost all the journalists I know) made a rapid judgement on the newsworthiness of content, never spending enough time thinking about what a story could become, rather than what it was. In short, if your piece of news wasn’t 100 percent right, it would rarely get the time of day.

Savvy PR practitioners know this. The best will be in contact all the time (or at least well before they have a news story to pitch) in an attempt to figure out how to maximize the chances of something being picked up. It’s a wonder there aren’t more of them. Sadly there aren’t and 80 – 90 percent of pitches I received followed the tired format of “Hi X, Company Y is launching a product next week and we thought it would be of interest to publication Z.”

So here’s an idea to try when getting media coverage for your startup – don’t start by pitching the product. Start by pitching nothing.

Clearly showing that you understand that a journalist doesn’t just exist to publicize you is one of the fastest routes to his or her heart. It’s literally the difference between drunkenly hitting on someone in a club and taking him/her on multiple dates to the restaurant you can’t afford. Hell, you’d be unlikely to start a sales pitch without knowing your customer, or begin discussions with an investor without finding out exactly what they were interested in — so why treat the media differently?

The closest relationships journalists build are with people who can provide long-term value to them by offering something that isn’t just self-promotion. Conversely, these tend to be the names you see cropping up again and again in the media.

So instead of a product pitch, why not offer something else if you’re trying to use the media to get the word out about your startup? The following list should get you started:

Having a network of people to offer opinion and analysis is critical for most journalists and it’s a great way of getting your name out there, even when you don’t have any news. So make sure your media contacts know who you are and what you’re qualified to talk about by introducing yourself with a short biography and an offer to help.

Most journalism is about distilling complex topics into chunks that people understand, which means journalists need to be knowledgable about a lot, and always stay up-to-date. If you’re an expert, or have access to experts, you can offer to spend some time highlighting trends or recent developments in your area to help journalists do their job better.

Perhaps it’s a cliche, but one of the best ways to curry favor is to open doors. Does your business have an investor, a board member or a founder who’s in demand? Offering an introduction to the right person can help ensure that you’re remembered for the right reasons, and it doesn’t have to be just a cynical gesture. Connect two people who will benefit from knowing each other and you’ve done them both a good turn.

Many companies I’ve come across sit on piles of newsworthy data they’ve never considered using. It could be information interesting to everybody or just to a niche audience, but take a look at some other examples of companies doing this and see if you might do something similar. Are you collecting data you can aggregate about your users that will be of interest to a consumer publication, such as their top tracks, movies or TV shows? Do you have access to collated information on Twitter that a journalist could use to prove a point? Or does your business measure something nobody else does?

Insights into the business
TechCrunch ran a surprisingly popular series some years back which took a look around startup offices in the style of MTV Cribs — a perhaps extreme example of how day-to-day business operations can be interesting. Think about whether your organization does anything particularly noteworthy operationally which could give a journalist some inspiration. Are there unique management styles or internal practices?

Too simple? Never! If you can meet conveniently, meeting a journalist face to face is the best way to make sure that you’ll be remembered as more than just an email address. It also signals that you’re willing to invest serious time on getting to know this person, which will be appreciated – and who knows where you’ll both end up in the future?

Misconceptions about the importance of focus

Reprinted from CompanyFounder. Original article here.

By Paul Morin

It’s a common refrain among coaches: “You must focus to be successful”.

I agree with this statement. Focus is important in sports, business, relationships and almost every other aspect of life! That said, I think it’s important to get a clear and slightly altered definition of focus, in order to make “focusing” a realistic objective.

On dictionary.reference.com, two helpful definitions of “focus” are as follows:

7. to bring to a focus or into focus: to focus the lens of a camera.

8. to concentrate: to focus one’s thoughts.

While I think focusing in the camera sense is a useful metaphor for thinking about how to be successful, here we will discuss focus from the concentration perspective. That is, we’re talking about focus in the sense of concentrating, of zeroing in on one thing, one goal, one activity, etc., to the exclusion of other potential distractions.

Until recently, often when I thought about focusing, I thought about it in an extreme way. I thought about focusing on just one thing, to the complete exclusion of all other things. I thought that in order to be successful in one endeavor, I had to completely shut out all other activities, not just for the moment, but for an extended period of time.

I continue to think that shutting out all other distractions can be very effective in achieving one’s goals in a particular endeavor. Unfortunately though, I’ve also realized that for most people, including me, it is usually completely unrealistic to shut out all other distractions, at least for an extended period. Like most people, my life is not one-dimensional; I have my family, my business, my sports, my leisure activities, etc. Given that reality, can I ever really “focus”?

Thankfully, the answer is yes! I can focus! I can focus on one thing at a time. And when I’m done with that particular endeavor, I move on to the next one and I focus on that one. I guess what I’m saying is that you can become a “serial focuser”. It works.

What doesn’t work is trying to do several things simultaneously! When you are distracted while performing an activity, it’s virtually impossible to achieve your optimal result. Take an example that’s getting a lot of press these days: texting and driving. It has caused many serious and fatal accidents. This is a great metaphor for what can happen in other aspects of your life when you don’t concentrate, when you’re distracted while doing something that requires your complete focus.

Another key point is that focus is usually more important at certain junctures of an activity than at others. For example, if you’re playing soccer, or tennis, or baseball, one of the most important times to be completely focused is when you are about to strike the ball. Focus is important at other times in those activities, but it’s at premium at the moment of impact. This situation repeats itself in other sports as well, and it repeats itself in business and other aspects of life too! There are certain moments when your complete attention is required for optimal performance and there are other moments when it is not as critical.

So, if you’re going to become a “serial focuser,” and I encourage you to do so, understand the key moments in your endeavor, whatever it may be, where the value of complete focus is at a premium. Make sure that you are dialed in, switched on, tuned in, etc. at those moments. If you need to take a mental break, or if you need to multi-task, as we all do from time to time, don’t do it in one of those premium moments. If you do, your performance is likely to suffer greatly!

How do I get in touch with a VC?

Reprinted from Next View Ventures. Original article here.

By Rob Go.

I got this question on a panel last week, and coincidentally, I had a couple folks on Twitter tweet out the same question. Generically speaking, the question is “how do I get in touch with a potential investor about my company?”

I don’t know for sure if this is true, but I have the impression that early stage VC’s as a whole have gotten more accessible than probably any time in the past. Many investors I know (myself included) do read every email that is sent to them and make some mental decision about whether they want to engage or not.

Speaking for myself, I triage all my email. In most cases, I will respond with a pretty quick “no thank you” with little feedback on the specific opportunity. We invest in about 10 companies each year, out of the thousands that we screen, so it’s impractical to give substantive feedback for each one. In most cases, the companies that approach us are pursuing interesting opportunities and led by impressive folks, they just don’t hit the bar we set for ourselves for the level of passion we want to have about every opportunity we invest in.

I will admit that in some cases, I won’t respond or fail to respond right away. This occurs mainly when I just think the founder hasn’t tried at all to make a real connection. This is usually because of a very generic email, or a company that pings me that is very obviously outside of our scope of focus. I find that most savvy entrepreneurs do a little research on the investors they reach out to to figure out if it’s a fit and a mutually effective use of time. We are pretty explicit that we are a dedicated seed stage fund focused on internet-enabled businesses. I have a couple blog posts that also lay out some more specifics of our portfolio too, such as the fact that 80% of our investments are based in the US East Coast and the rest are opportunistic across the rest of the continental US. So I’ll often quickly scan and ignore emails pitching companies that are really far afield from our stated focus area, stage, or geography. I just presume that I am part of a scattershot email outreach approach. By the way, most of these emails tend to come from intermediaries of some sort, not the founders themselves.

I also explicitly don’t list my email address on our website, although it is findable if you simply go to my blog and click “about me”. Again, part of this is to create just a bit of friction so that I can spend as much time as possible with a) our portfolio companies b) the potential investments we are seriously considering and c) founders who are resourceful and are reaching out to us because they have done some research as to why we would be a good fit. Finally, I’m also pretty responsive on social media when folks engage with us. In fact, we have actually invested in a company that first connected with us through a comment in a blog post. Here was the text (edited for privacy):

Rob –

I run a [edited] software company that has caught some fire. I don’t think I could have verbalized the way we want to continue to build our company better than how you did today. We have an amazing product, fantastic team members/advisors and the best stakeholders involved. We also have [edited blurb about customer traction]. A recent article about us that gives a good 10,000ft view (it’s short!): [edited out this link]

We have some VCs that we really like and have developed a relationship with – but I’d love to meet with you guys (I’m also a fan of Lee’s). Any chance we could make it happen at some point? In either case, thanks for the piece.



Finally, a couple final more generic suggestions on how to reach out to an investor:

-How you get connected matters quite a bit. The best way is usually an introduction through an entrepreneur or trusted advisor to the investor. Often, the most straightforward way to do this is through the founder of a portfolio company.

-Social media can be an effective way to build some rapport with someone before even having met them. I’ve gotten to know a number of investors by first interacting with them on social media months before we ever met in person. As with all things, how you interact is a signal of your personality, judgement, and EQ, all of which does have bearing in an investors impression of you.

-Many investors have forums where they are open to meeting folks in a completely open-ended, and unqualified manner. Take advantage of these! These take the form of office hours or other sorts of informal sessions. Again, I came very close to investing behind a founder who I first met during an open office hours session. What I was impressed by was that this founder left me a great impression as being someone who had a) deep domain expertise, b) a really earnest and effective leadership style and c) laid of what he was going to do next and promised to come based on that plan. He did come back in a few months with tons more learning, great insights, and a more fully formed team and product plan. It was really impressive.

I hope this doesn’t come off as conceited. We try to behave like invited guests at the entrepreneur’s table, for both our portfolio companies and prospective founders. This demands that we leverage our time efficiently, and that we are as transparent and responsive as we can be. But there are probably a lot of ways that we can improve, so as always, I’m open to suggestions if any readers think that the practices I describe above come off badly or short-change entrepreneurs.

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