Competitive Edge
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Competitive Edge
Creating your Unique Value Proposition to gain your Competitive Edge.
Curated by Marc Kneepkens
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4 Key Marketing Strategies from the Startup World

4 Key Marketing Strategies from the Startup World | Competitive Edge |

Chicagoland is home to several global powerhouses like Walgreens, Abbott, McDonalds, Kraft, and Wrigley. Simultaneously, Chicago’s exploding tech scene has been garnering a lot of attention in the media. Taking note of this, the Business Marketing Association invited me and fellow Chicago entrepreneurs to talk about marketing lessons from the startup world that apply to all marketers.

Kevin Willer, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, moderated a great group discussion among the following panelists and myself:  Mike McGee, Co-founder of The Starter League, Jack Philbin, CEO of Vibes Media, and Amish Tolia, Founder & Co-CEO of Apparel Media Group.

The following is my spin on the common themes that emerged as we all shared our marketing experiences:

Be purposeful.

In order to establish yourself as a thought leader, be purposeful in your strategy. Don’t do something just to check a box. Before you decide to jump on an initiative, take a step back to evaluate the following:

(1) Does the initiative help establish credibility for your brand?

(2) Will you be reaching influencers and decision makers?

(3) How you will measure success?

This mentality helps to frame future marketing decisions, leading to more successful efforts overall.  Take social media as an example (I see this come up over and over again when talking to marketers). If you want to ‘do’ social media, make sure it serves a purpose for your company. You must select the right channel(s) to focus on—Facebook may not be the optimal channel for your company—and have a unique point of view to share.

New tactics: Make them happen quickly.

If you want to try a new marketing tactic, you must put yourself and your team on an aggressive timeline. This even holds true for those of you that work in an environment that has complex organizational hierarchies and legal processes; it just means that you will need to get your part done even quicker.  New tactics often get pushed to the back burner as one gets absorbed in putting energy and resources behind tried and tested ideas. However, these new tactics are what could change the course and success of your marketing efforts.

Use trial and error, then scale.

When executing new initiatives, embrace the process of trial and error. Carefully watch the results of the initiative, and if it works, double down. If it doesn’t work, tweak it, try again, and drop it if it ultimately doesn’t work. This tactic has been used by many of the panel participants to reach and/or expand their customer base, but it certainly applies to marketing and PR initiatives as well.

Improve what already is working.

This may seem obvious. But when a marketing tactic is working, it’s easy and tempting to say, “don’t fix what’s not broken.” Even when something is working, it’s important to fine tune your approach to ensure you’re putting forth your best possible marketing efforts. You may be weary at first, thinking you might mess up a good thing, but you will likely discover a more efficient, innovative process along the way.

Regardless of whether you’re at a lean startup or a large corporation, you will face limitations as a marketer. Above all, the biggest lesson learned from startups is that you have to be open to trying new and unconventional tactics. We do it every day, and we’re better for it.

Gauri Sharma is the CEO of Lab42, a next generation market research firm that creates and fields surveys among social media users, customizes compelling infographics, and compiles insightful research that helps businesses unclutter and prioritize goals. Lab42 provides quality, accurate results with quick turnaround for small businesses and Fortune 500 companies alike. Connect with Gauri on Twitter @gaurisharma.

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Makes a lot of sense.

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4 Things Entrepreneurs Should Think About That May Not Be in Their Business Plan

4 Things Entrepreneurs Should Think About That May Not Be in Their Business Plan | Competitive Edge |
Two young women recount the lessons they learned from starting their social media-marketing agency.

Walking away from the comfy confines of the corporate world to start our own business was not only scary but we also encountered considerable skepticism from family and friends. What about job security, room for advancement, a 401(k) and insurance, they asked. Some wrote us off as simply two naive, young women. Others thought we were crazy to walk away from everything our burgeoning corporate careers appeared to offer for a situation in which success was far from guaranteed. 

We weren’t just making this decision on a wing and a prayer, though. We had identified a tremendous potential opportunity. Having recently helped several entrepreneurial friends market their new businesses, we recognized the positive impact that social media offered for brand awareness, reputation management and lead generation. We learned how to successfully target large numbers of business prospects in a cost-effective way. Once we were able to begin quantifying results and demonstrating a return on investment, we launched our own social-media-marketing agency.

We carefully constructed a comprehensive plan of our strategy for capitalizing on this opportunity. We had a mission statement and planned how much money we personally needed to invest to get the company running and cash to set aside for lean times. 

We projected how many clients we needed to sign and what to charge. We identified our target industries and our competitive advantage  over other agencies. 

With dollar signs and dreams of autonomy dancing through our heads, we ceremoniously offered our resignations the same day.  

Yet we quickly learned how much we hadn’t accounted for.  

There was way more to worry about and address than we had ever envisioned. Panic quickly began to set in. Perhaps the naysayers were right and we were in over our heads. Maybe we were, in fact, just two naive young women who had foolishly given up their corporate careers. Was it too late to call American Express and beg for our jobs back? 

We are happy to share that we never did make those calls. As bleak as things seemed, we somehow found ways to weather the storm and our company survived. Four years and seven additional employees later, the company continues to grow. 

Ye it took more hard work, sweat and tears than we ever imagined. This is where our pain becomes your gain: We want to help those about to dive into the entrepreneurial pool by sharing four items that are critically important to consider.

1. Find a good lawyer.

Shortly after launching, we received a cease and desist letter concerning the use of our company's  name. We were unsure about the ramifications and what would be needed to rectify it. If not for a competent business attorney with experience representing companies similar to ours, we could have lost more than just time and money.

Partnering with a trustworthy attorney who is knowledgeable and savvy in helping entrepreneurs is pivotal. Establishing the right relationship is key, as the right or wrong advice can make or break your firm. Take your time, perform due diligence and don’t simply go with the cheapest option. 

2. Work with a knowledgeable accountant.

Being so new to running a business, we did not know how much we actually did not know. Very early on we were introduced to an accountant who seemed smart, professional and pleasant. A big draw for us was that his rates were also very affordable. Everything was running smoothly. But as tax season hit, disaster struck. He did not sufficiently prepare us for how much money we were responsible for in taxes. Since we had a small cash-strapped business, the tax bill had the potential to cripple our firm.

Upset and seeking a second opinion, we were put in touch with a veteran certified public accountant who specializes in helping startups. Not only did he help us lay out a plan (which allowed us to meet year-end tax obligations), he pointed out several other items on our return where we had been missing out on an opportunity to save.

He also demonstrated how closely he works with clients throughout the year to help them manage and improve cash flow, all while setting realistic expectations and preparing them for the tax season. While it was a humbling experience, we learned the value of having a strong CPA. The right one isn’t just your accountant: He or she can be a partner to and an extension of your business. So do your homework.

3. Hire people better than you.

Early on, we were challenged in trying to attract great talent to build out our team. In addition to having a brand new agency with no proven track record and a tiny roster of clients, we were unable to offer salaries competitive enough to procure experienced individuals from other firms.  

We felt that if we were lucky enough to find someone pleasant, professional and competent who was willing to take a chance with our firm, we should hire that person.  

Once we got some people on board, we quickly learned how some individuals were not as experienced or hungry as they had advertised. Their work was OK but it was simply the bare minimum of what was required. We needed a certain level of quality to help differentiate our firm and attract other businesses to work with us.

We were now stuck with these staffers until we could find better support. This illustrates the importance of thoroughly scrutinizing and vetting candidates. This became our first lesson in the importance of being patient during the hiring process, regardless of the need for help.

Hiring the right person can take your business to new heights. Conversely, hiring the wrong person can quickly drag down a business. You can never be too careful when analyzing a potential hire. If you aim to hire people whom you perceive to be as talented and driven as you (or even more so), it will pay off.

4. Prepare to always be networking.

The biggest culture shock during our transition from corporate employees to business owners was the demands on our time. There were so many logistical and operational challenges peripheral to our brand’s mission that took our attention. But if we were busy dealing with lawyers and accountants, while interviewing, hiring and training support staff, how could we generate awareness of our brand and uncover new clients?

This is when we discovered the power of professional networking. As we accepted the reality that our professional lives no longer took place just between 9 and 5, we learned there were opportunities to attack all at once several areas involved in running a small business.

We were delighted to discover the wealth of events, trade shows and networking groups designed to connect us with professionals who could help our business from top to bottom. Most important, they put us in direct contact with the types of organizations we hoped to target. The connections we made at these events were invaluable. It also demonstrated to us that the work we did during the day was only half the battle.

If we weren’t personally out there spreading awareness of our brand and making strategic business connections, then no one else would do so for us. We were hunters now and would be able to eat only what we could kill. Therefore, we needed to always be prepared to network and connect with anyone and everyone we met.

Remember, your next client, deal or referral partner can come from striking up a simple conversation while waiting in line at a store or standing on the subway. Be prepared to introduce yourself, talk about your business and share your elevator pitch.

In addition, be sure to identify all events and opportunities that will allow you to connect with the right audiences. Fill your calendar. You are your brand’s best publicist.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Yes, a business plan is necessary, but there are a few more requirements that you will need in your business.

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The Main Reason Startups Don't Last

The Main Reason Startups Don't Last | Competitive Edge |
Innovate or fail? Which will be the path of your new entrepreneurial venture?

As a child I used to go to the local video store to rent movies to watch on the weekend. The store, part of the Potomac Video chain, was one of the last video stores in Washington, D.C. But after 33 years, the business suddenly shut its doors last spring. Why after so much success did the business shutter its operations?

The reason businesses don’t last is they fail to innovate.

Regardless of your past business model, if the market has changed, your business needs to change, too. Potomac Video didn’t latch onto the trend of streaming movies online or shipping videos straight to customers’ doors. It stuck with its old business plan, simply renting and selling videos from a store.

For that matter, remember how you used to love to stop by Blockbuster? You know, the place you’d stop by on the way home to pick up that new release on VHS? (Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010; yet even after Dish Network acquired its debt, Dish decided to close all retail stores, according to MarketWatch.)

Did you know that in 2000 Blockbuster had a chance to buy Netflix (now worth $28 billion) for a mere $50 million? And the company opted not to. Netflix was losing money at that point. Blockbuster was hesitant to gamble, not looking ahead, perhaps looking for a short-term profit rather than a disruption of the industry.

An entrepreneur who wants to experience continued success in business must stay on top of his or her industry and predict the future. Entrepreneurs Giovanni Mannella and Misha Mitsnefes have done just that with their startup Bmpur, whose social music network puts the power of music sharing and discovery into the hands of users. Mannella and Mitsnefes beta launched Bmpur this spring and fully launched Sept. 8.

Mitsnefes owns a music blog, Fist In The Air, and Mannella had owned a music-video curated website. "We both saw an opening in the market for this type of sharing and discovery platform and developed bmpur together, starting in fall 2011," Mannella wrote by email. After connecting with others in the industry, they noticed a shift in the market. People wanted to add value to others’ listening experiences.

Although other music blogs recommend songs, the Bmpur website enables anyone to recommend and “repost” music he or she is interested in, as Mitsnefes described on Fist In The Air:

"Post anything from YouTube, Soundcloud, blog links, Instagram links, etc. Then the community interacts by “bumping” posts, commenting, favoriting (like repost/retweet), and sharing the link!"

Mannella and Mitsnefes are taking a gamble with their new approach. They realize that Bmpur won’t last without innovation.

If you’re looking to change up your business model to make your startup last, use these three approaches:

1. Continue to build a brand.

Innovating with a startup doesn’t mean just changing the name of a business or overall brand. Instead use the leverage of an existing brand to draw attention to its evolution and innovation. Bmpur built excitement for its platform through its social media channels. Consider making ambiguous announcements to keep people on their feet.

2. Gather feedback.

The best way to see if a business will grow as a result of innovation is to see what others think. Before a new product launch or redesign, show family, friends, acquaintances and even die-hard customers. The team at Bmpur unveiled its new concept months before it was fully developed.

3. Connect with other industry leaders.

The key to a successful change in a business is ensuring that others know. Connect with other industry leaders to see if they have advice. If you have a blog, connect with other bloggers to see if they want to help promote your business shift. You could end up leading a whole industry swing.

Making a startup last is a challenge that every entrepreneur faces. Businesses often see a period of strong growth, hit a peak and then the business begins to dissolve. Ensure your business doesn’t peak by continuing to innovate. 

Correction: This piece has been updated to correct the date of Bmpur's start and details about its focus. Bmpur always provided a social music network, which beta launched this spring, although its founders started its development in 2011. One of the founders, Misha Mitsnefes, runs his own music

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Never stop innovating. A business thrives on change.

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Eight Things I Learned from Peter Thiel’s Zero To One | Farnam Street

Eight Things I Learned from Peter Thiel’s Zero To One | Farnam Street | Competitive Edge |
"Rivalry causes us to overemphasize old opportunities and slavishly copy what has worked in the past."

“The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.

Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur and investor. He co-founded PayPal and Palantir. He also made the first outside investment in Facebook and was an early investor in companies like SpaceX and LinkedIn. And now he’s written a book, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, with the goal of helping us “see beyond the tracks laid down” to the “broader future that there is to create.”

The book is an exercise in thinking. It’s about questioning and rethinking received wisdom in order to create the future.

Here are eight lessons I took away from the book.

1. Like Heraclitus, who said that you can only step into the same river once, Thiel believes that each moment in business happens only once.

The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.

Of course, it’s easier to copy a model than to make something new. Doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But every time we create something new, we go from 0 to 1. The act of creation is singular, as is the moment of creation, and the result is something fresh and strange.

2. There is no formula for innovation.

The paradox of teaching entrepreneurship is that such a formula (for innovation) cannot exist; because every innovation is new and unique, no authority can prescribe in concrete terms how to be more innovative. Indeed, the single most powerful pattern I have noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places, and they do this by thinking about business from first principles instead of formulas.

3. The best interview question you can ask.

Whenever I interview someone for a job, I like to ask this question: “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”

This is a question that sounds easy because it’s straightforward. Actually, it’s very hard to answer. It’s intellectually difficult because the knowledge that everyone is taught in school is by definition agreed upon. And it’s psychologically difficult because anyone trying to answer must say something she knows to be unpopular. Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.

Most commonly, I hear answers like the following:

“Our educational system is broken and urgently needs to be fixed.”

“America is exceptional.”

“There is no God.”

These are bad answers. The first and the second statements might be true, but many people already agree with them. The third statement simply takes one side in a familiar debate. A good answer takes the following form: “Most people believe in x, but the truth is the opposite of x.”

What does this have to do with the future?

In the monst minimal sense, the future is simply the set of all moments yet to come. But what makes the future distinctive and important isn’t that it hasn’t happened yet, but rather that it will be a time when the world looks different from today. … Most answers to the contrarian questions are different ways of seeing the present; good answers are as close as we can come to looking into the future.

4. A new company’s most important strength

Properly defined, a startup is the largest group of people you can convince of a plan to build a different future. A new company’s most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size affords space to think.

5. The first step to thinking clearly

Our contrarian question – What important truth do very few people agree with you on? — is difficult to answer directly. It may be easier to start with a preliminary: what does everybody agree on?”

“Madness is rare in individuals
—but in groups, parties, nations and ages it is the rule.”
— Nietzche (before he went mad)

If you can identify a delusional popular belief, you can find what lies hidden behind it: the contrarian truth.


Conventional beliefs only ever come to appear arbitrary and wrong in retrospect; whenever one collapses we call the old belief a bubble, but the distortions caused by bubbles don’t disappear when they pop. The internet bubble of the ‘90s was the biggest of the last two decades, and the lessons learned afterward define and distort almost all thinking about technology today. The first step to thinking clearly is to question what we think we know about the past.

Here is an example Thiel gives to help illuminate this idea.

The entrepreneurs who stuck with Silicon Valley learned four big lessons from the dot-com crash that still guide business thinking today:

1. Make incremental advances — “Grand visions inflated the bubble, so they should not be indulged. Anyone who claims to be able to do something great is suspect, and anyone who wants to change the world should be more humble. Small, incremental steps are the only safe path forward.”

2. Stay lean and flexible — “All companies must be lean, which is code for unplanned. You should not know what your business will do; planning is arrogant and inflexible. Instead you should try things out, iterate, and treat entrepreneurship as agnostic experimentation.”

3. Improve on the competition — “Don’t try to create a new market prematurely. The only way to know that you have a real business is to start with an already existing customer, so you should build your company by improving on recognizable products already offered by successful competitors.”

4. Focus on product, not sales — “If your product requires advertising or salespeople to sell it, it’s not good enough: technology is primarily about product development, not distribution. Bubble-era advertising was obviously wasteful, so the only sustainable growth is viral growth.”

These lessons have become dogma in the startup world; those who would ignore them are presumed to invite the justified doom visited upon technology in the great crash of 2000. And yet the opposite principles are probably more correct.

1. It is better to risk boldness than triviality.
2. A bad plan is better than no plan.
3. Competitive markets destroy profits.
4. Sales matters just as much as product.”

To build the future we need to challenge the dogmas that shape our view of the past. That doesn’t mean the opposite of what is believed is necessarily true, it means that you need to rethink what is and is not true and determine how that shapes how we see the world today. As Thiel says, “The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.

6. Progress comes from monopoly, not competition.

The problem with a competitive business goes beyond lack of profits. Imagine you’re running one of those restaurants in Mountain View. You’re not that different from dozens of your competitors, so you’ve got to fight hard to survive. If you offer affordable food with low margins, you can probably pay employees only minimum wage. And you’ll need to squeeze out every efficiency: That is why small restaurants put Grandma to work at the register and make the kids wash dishes in the back.

A monopoly like Google is different. Since it doesn’t have to worry about competing with anyone, it has wider latitude to care about its workers, its products and its impact on the wider world. Google’s motto—”Don’t be evil”—is in part a branding ploy, but it is also characteristic of a kind of business that is successful enough to take ethics seriously without jeopardizing its own existence. In business, money is either an important thing or it is everything. Monopolists can afford to think about things other than making money; non-monopolists can’t. In perfect competition, a business is so focused on today’s margins that it can’t possibly plan for a long-term future. Only one thing can allow a business to transcend the daily brute struggle for survival: monopoly profits.

So a monopoly is good for everyone on the inside, but what about everyone on the outside? Do outsize profits come at the expense of the rest of society? Actually, yes: Profits come out of customers’ wallets, and monopolies deserve their bad reputation—but only in a world where nothing changes.

In a static world, a monopolist is just a rent collector. If you corner the market for something, you can jack up the price; others will have no choice but to buy from you. Think of the famous board game: Deeds are shuffled around from player to player, but the board never changes. There is no way to win by inventing a better kind of real-estate development. The relative values of the properties are fixed for all time, so all you can do is try to buy them up.

But the world we live in is dynamic: We can invent new and better things. Creative monopolists give customers more choices by adding entirely new categories of abundance to the world. Creative monopolies aren’t just good for the rest of society; they’re powerful engines for making it better.

7. Rivalry causes us to overemphasize old opportunities and slavishly copy what has worked in the past.

Marx and Shakespeare provide two models that we can use to understand almost every kind of conflict.

According to Marx, people fight because they are different. The proletariat fights the bourgeoisie because they have completely different ideas and goals (generated, for Marx, by their very different material circumstances). The greater the difference, the greater the conflict.

To Shakespeare, by contrast, all combatants look more or less alike. It’s not at all clear why they should be fighting since they have nothing to fight about. Consider the opening to Romeo and Juliet: “Two households, both alike in dignity.” The two houses are alike, yet they hate each other. They grow even more similar as the feud escalates. Eventually, they lose sight of why they started fighting in the first place.”

In the world of business, at least, Shakespeare proves the superior guide. Inside a firm, people become obsessed with their competitors for career advancement. Then the firms themselves become obsessed with their competitors in the marketplace. Amid all the human drama, people lose sight of what matters and focus on their rivals instead.


Rivalry causes us to overemphasize old opportunities and slavishly copy what has worked in the past.

8. Last can be first

You’ve probably heard about “first mover advantage”: if you’re the first entrant into a market, you can capture significant market share while competitors scramble to get started. That can work, but moving first is a tactic, not a goal. What really matters is generating cash flows in the future, so being the first mover doesn’t do you any good if someone else comes along and unseats you. It’s much better to be the last mover – that is, to make the last great development in a specific market and enjoy years or even decades of monopoly profits.

Grandmaster José Raúl Capablanca put it well: to succeed, “you must study the endgame before everything else.”

Zero to One is full of counterintuitive insights that will help your thinking and ignite possibility.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Thiel really thinks it through. It's philosophy in business, and original thinking as an ultimate way to live and do business.

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These 10 Peter Drucker Quotes May Change Your World

These 10 Peter Drucker Quotes May Change Your World | Competitive Edge |
Millennials mired inside a traditional corporate environment and people living life inside lean startups will find his thinking particularly spot on.

My first college business professor was a fanatical Peter Drucker devotee.

He launched our course with a dissection of Drucker’s The Effective Executive and concluded with a thorough reading of The Practice of Management.

Through my professor's tireless evangelism, I developed a keen appetite for the timeless wisdom of this prescient thought leader.

Young entrepreneurs unfamiliar with Drucker would do well to study his insightful commentary on the world of "management." Millennials mired inside a traditional corporate environment and people living life inside lean startups will find his thinking particularly spot on.

Even after all these years, 10 Peter Drucker quotes still bounce around in my head constantly:

1. “Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right.”

2. “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”

3. “There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all.”

4. “What gets measured gets improved.”

5. “Results are gained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems.”

6. “So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.”

7. “People who don't take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.”

8. “Meetings are by definition a concession to a deficient organization. For one either meets or one works. One cannot do both at the same time.”

9. “Long-range planning does not deal with the future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.”

10. "Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things"

My cynical side (and my short attention span!) feels especially drawn to number eight on that list.

But the quotes that really excite and ignite my entrepreneurial imagination are numbers two and five.

Which quote resonates most deeply with you? Most importantly, which of Drucker's words will change your world?

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

I like number two best. I agree strongly with three, I love six, and I 'm not clear on five: innovation is usually about solving problems.

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Here is How to Make Sense of Conflicting Startup Advice

Here is How to Make Sense of Conflicting Startup Advice | Competitive Edge |

Everybody has a blog these days and there is much advice to be had. Many startups now go through accelerators and have mentors passing through each day with advice – usually it’s conflicting. WTF? There are bootcamps, startup classes, video interviews – the sources are now endless. What is a founder to do?

There are some smart if not somewhat cerebral bloggers I read who say that you shouldn’t take any startup advice at all because it’s too generalized to be useful to your situation. While I have some sympathy with their intent I must point out that their opinions on this are – ironically – startup advice. And not a point-of-view I particularly believe in.

So what IS one to do?

1. Triangulate
I like to use the shorthand “triangulate” to symbolize asking multiple people for their opinions to get a better perspective on the route you should take. Of course triangulation is a mathematics term that is used in sailing and other activities to help you better navigate when you don’t have your bearings. By having the measurement of some known points you can better navigate to unknown points through inference.

I triangulate in nearly every important decision I make. I tend to ask opinions on nearly every topic that I’m interested in. When I meet other VCs I’m constantly asking how they decide which investments to make, when to pass, when to do follow-on rounds, when to sell a company vs. when to go long, etc. Because I’ve asked more than 100 VCs similar questions I start to notice patterns in thinking. Some of these patterns may apply to me some may not. Some may be repeating long held conventional wisdom that is not necessarily still relevant while others might have views that sound like total heresy.

When I have well established patterns of thought the heretical views are often the most helpful because they cause me to challenge my own beliefs. People like Vinod Khosla, Keith Rabois, Brian Singerman, Marc Andreessen and others have all made head-scratching private comments to me that sounded so foreign to what I thought other people were doing in VC that they caused me to challenge and ultimately change some of my own views.

So far from not taking advice from other people – I want more advice, more data points, more opinions.

2. Draw from Frameworks
The most helpful type of advice in my mind are frameworks for how to solve a problem. This is generally how I try to organize my own views and how I try to give advice.

For example:

1. On market segmentationI often recite my “Elephants, Deer & Rabbits” framework
2. On sales I often talk about “Why Buy Anything, Why Buy Now, Why Buy Me” as a tool to think about a sales process
3. On marketing I talk about “Arming & Aiming
4. On teams I have a framework for tech teams “CTO vs. VP Eng” or  on sales I have “Journeymen, Mavericks & Superstars
5. On investment strategies I have “Deflationary Economics
6. On recruiting there is “Attitude over Aptitude
7. RetentionDon’t Roll out the Red Carpet on the Way out the Door
8. Improving startup productivity? “Level Up
9. How to network better? “50 Coffee Meetings
10. Startup psychology / confidence? “We’re All Naked in the Mirror
11. Fund raising? “Raise at the Top End of Normal

And on and on.

Each is a framework for thinking about a problem. None is guaranteed to be the proscriptive answer for your problem. But would you rather start thinking about your situation with NO advice or with somebody else’s framework who has walked in your shoes?

I’m all for more opinions, not less. Over time you start to realize whose voice you trust more than others. You start to test out whose opinions mapped best to your own situation and whether following their advice would have been useful.

3. Think Critically about Your Situation
So if you take in advice, compare it to others and start to think critically about how it may or may not apply to your situation then you begin to “triangulate” an opinion of what to do. You won’t always be right but it’s important to decide and then continually think about whether your decision was correct.

I had coffee with a friend on Friday. He came to me months ago asking about a “strategic round” of capital for his startup at a high price.  I told him that “Strategic Money is an Oxymoron” and that he shouldn’t take it. I told him that often having strategics lead rounds creates more problems and that it sets the tone for how you build your company. I told him that a high price now wasn’t always the best solution.

He not only didn’t agree with me but at the time I remember him being a little bit mad at me and questioning my motives. At coffee last week he told me in this case it turned out I was right. And that doesn’t really matter. My two take-aways were: 1) he at least had a framework for considering the situation and some reasons why I disagreed with his decision and 2) hopefully the next time I offer advice it will at least measure a little bit stronger than others whispering in his ear – whether he takes my advice or not.

4. In the End Go with Your Gut

In the end there is no recipe for a startup or for business. I caution people all the time from overly following my advice. I am VERY careful in board meetings and in startup pitches to tell entrepreneurs, “I feel very strongly about my opinion on this topic. I’m pretty sure I’m right based on my own experiences as a startup founder for reasons A, B, C. But I can’t say for sure what will apply to your business. You’ll have to make the hard judgment call. My job is just to be your sparring partner.

Saying not to take others advice is itself terrible advice. Take more advice. Mix people’s views into a cup. Stir them around. Think about the motives or experiences of those offering advice. Think about whom you trust based on past advice. Think about your own situation and overlay it against the frameworks that others offer.

Triangulate. But in the end follow your own gut. That’s why you’re a founder.

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Via Chandra Gollapudi
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Exactly. Gather information, then trust your own judgment. no one can decide for you.

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Will your new business idea succeed?

Will your new business idea succeed? | Competitive Edge |

"What if you can test your idea without wasting time and money?"

That's a question worth thinking about. 

Many of people have ideas, and every now and then they come across ideas that might be worth pursuing. Most however, do nothing with those ideas due many reasons such as:

They simply don’t know where to start -  

“I have a great idea! but no clue on what to do with it”. The thought
process of turning an idea to a product can be daunting to certain
individuals, especially when it exists outside of their field of knowledge.

They’re afraid of FAILURE -

The word “failure” above is in all-caps because thats how much people get intimidated by the idea of it. Will my idea work? Is this going to be worth all my time and money? What if I fail?

One way of finding out if an idea is feasible and worth pursuing is to
produce a MVP (Minimum Viable Product). 

QuickMVP is a website that does just that. It helps you test any business idea in just five minutes, without writing any code. Through building a landing page and creating a Google Ad, you can see how real customers respond to your idea before investing precious time and money.

Here's the basic setup:

Landing Page

* Get it live in 3 minutes
* Plain and simple--test your idea, not your design
* Connect any domain name
* Customize the CSS and add your own HTML (optional)
* Test unlimited ideas

Google Ad Creator

* Takes 2 minutes with no expertise necessary
* Add keywords and a budget and you're done
* Automatically optimized for Google's Algorithm

QuickMVP is designed specifically for validating new business ideas and it helps you identify the important metrics to decide if an idea is worth pursuing.

Let us know in the comments if you try QuickMVP. Did it work out for you? 

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Sounds like a great tool for testing new ideas and startup businesses. Give it a try.

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Why our startup has no bosses, no office, and a four-day work week - Quartz

Why our startup has no bosses, no office, and a four-day work week - Quartz | Competitive Edge |

As Paul Graham, entrepreneur, programmer and also founder of YCombinator used to say: “For a programmer, the cost of attending a meeting is always higher.”

In 2008, my study partner Hernán Amiune and I had finished studying computer engineer at Catholic University of Córdoba Argentina.

During our last years at university, we had done some internships in companies such as HP, IBM, and Intel. It was the moment we realized there was a mistake in their work methods.

We couldn’t understand why people without technical knowledge had to tell programmers “what” to do and, furthermore, they had to supervise “how” programmers did it.

So, when we created Project eMT, a comparison search engine for Latin America, we decided to work in a different way: without project managers. Six years later, we operate in Chile, Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia together with 34 engineers that are part of our team, and we still work without traditional management structures and work weeks, and have managed to grow our annual revenue by 204%.

Here’s how we do it.

No bosses

At big tech companies we frequently observed how programmers would do bad work in a short period of time and receive praise from their bosses. Over time, this leads to the standard: “let’s program with low quality but as fast as possible.”

As Google CEO Larry Page used to say: “Engineers shouldn’t be supervised by project managers with limited technical knowledge.”

On the other hand, as programmers, we used to find it profoundly annoying that our bosses would set meetings with us at any moment based on their needs. This may seem striking, but it’s essential.

A developer needs an average of four consecutive hours of uninterrupted work to be able to carry out a good quality job with significant advances. Consequently, the ideal day would be for a programmer to work in the morning from 9am to 1pm and in the afternoon from 2pm to 6pm, in order to reach maximum productivity.

If for example, our boss assigns a meeting at 11am, then the morning is lost since I have to get ready for the meeting, attend the meeting, greet everybody, discuss the topics, then I have to go back to my desk and pick up exactly from where I had left off, see what I was doing and keep on programming. With all these activities, the whole morning is practically lost.

As Paul Graham, entrepreneur, programmer and also founder of YCombinator used to say: “For a programmer, the cost of attending a meeting is always higher.”

No office

The truth is that when we started, having a workspace wasn’t an option. When we were taking our first steps we didn’t have the resources to rent an office.

The scenario stayed the same until the second year when we were finally able to move to an excellent office with the amenities that we had always dreamt of (like ping pong tables, video games, private and personal chef, gym equipment and huge TVs).

This stage only lasted eight months until we decided to go back to working remotely for a variety of reasons.

To start with, the time we waste by commuting to the office whether it is by public transportation or by driving our own cars is on average one hour to get there and one hour to get back home. That is to say, if we work nine hours a day, we are wasting an extra 22% of time just on commuting. We also have to add the cost of the rent and the cost of commuting to and from the office.

But the economic reason is not the most important one, nor the main reason for going back to working without an office; instead it was the physical and mental tiredness that commuting causes. That time could be used to achieve a much more important goal like spending time be with your family.

Lastly, we work today in five countries and we believe that the habit of working remotely will allow us to continue growing.

Four-day work week

Reducing the length of our work week is a relatively new aspect for our startup; we implemented it almost 2 years ago and until now it has been an excellent decision.

In the industrial era, there was a belief that the more you worked in the, the better the results were; that’s why we have to work 5 days a week and be with our families just 2 days.

In a technology project like ours, more doesn’t always mean better.

What we need is that engineers are satisfied with their jobs and motivated to do them well. We are not interested in the amount they produce; quality is what is essential.

This is strongly aligned with the goal of hiring the best programmers. Indicating that we just work four days a week is an exclusive differential: it allows us to hire only the best people and have a spectacular level of retention.

According to our own experience, an excellent programmer can do in half the time and with better quality what an average programmer does.

What’s more, we are tired of listening to and reading about the balance between work and family. For us, this is the best answer to this historical problem: you can now be with your family 50% more of time.

Step by step

  1. As a starting point, we eliminated meetings completely (one-on-one and group meetings). From that moment on, every internal communication is done through written text. There are no calls, physical meetings, nor teleconferences.

This may sound disruptive, but we have been doing it for internal communication for three years now and it’s something totally normal for us.

Indeed, after reading about how a manufacturing enterprise saved an equivalent to eliminating 200 job positions through reducing the duration of meetings to only 30 minutes and with a maximum of seven people per meeting, we realized we were on the right track.

  1. Furthermore, there is no more agenda; nobody can include a meeting in our work day or organize our schedule. The job is organized by each one of us based on our timetables and knowledge.

In this way, any type of communication, being exclusively through text, becomes an asynchronous communication. This means that we can program (code) fully focused for four consecutive hours without being interrupted and then, when we have the time, we can advance and answer.

  1. Another essential factor was that we eliminated email communication; we definitely got tired of using the email as a to-do list. The email wasn’t designed for this, let alone designed with enough efficiency to perform that role.

We changed from a work methodology that had historically worked through a “push” mechanism to one with a “pull” mechanism. This basically means that nobody can send me a job-related email to tell me what to do (push). I am the one now who selects my next tasks (pull).

Both the meetings and emails elimination is supported by a tool we developed internally and we called “iAutonomous”. It’s simply a SAAS (Software as a Service) app that allows each member of our startup to participate in and create a new project or task.

Like this, we will all see a list of activities in progress inside our enterprise and we can create and participate in those tasks that need our help in order to be successfully completed.

In this tool, we can see what each of the members is doing in real time. We don’t need a boss telling us what to do or if we did it correctly or incorrectly. We are all programmers and we know exactly how our peers work.

Be picky

I personally consider that there is just one main aspect that has been essential to us: the quality of the engineers we hire. The most important thing lies in their capacity of being proactive.

The people that work with us are entrepreneurs themselves—they don’t need someone evaluating whether they work or not.

What is even more problematic is that those engineers that are not proactive cause great damage to our working culture. High-performance engineers will only want to work with another one that works even more and that does things correctly (meaning, writes great code!).

We have made mistakes hiring programmers that didn’t have that profile. But in days—weeks at the latest—we have managed to detect this. I suggest you don’t hesitate to end work relationships that are not working out; it’s not good for neither of the parties. If they need to be supervised, they will surely find their place in any other company (with managers).

I recommend starting with these new habits from the first day. This will be much easier than changing them later.

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Via Günter Schumacher
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Great article. Who want bosses? And a 4 day workweek makes the quality of your life so much better, especially when doing work as a programmer/coder.

Rescooped by Marc Kneepkens from Daily Magazine!

The Truth About What It’s Like Working For Uber | LinkedIn

The Truth About What It’s Like Working For Uber | LinkedIn | Competitive Edge |

I was a Community Manager on the East Coast for Uber for almost a year (February 2013 – December 2013). After being ‘out’ for about nine months, I’ve had a chance to reflect on my time there. I’ve also been encouraged to, due to the number of people who’ve reached out to me, asking how it was, since they themselves are considering applying.

This makes sense. It’s smart to talk to someone who works at a company before deciding to work there. It’s even smarter to talk to someone who currently works there and someone who used to.

So let me tell you what it’s really like working for Uber:

PROS1. The Team Is Extraordinary

The people at Uber are freaking awesome (apparently, the real f-word caused some people to stop reading). There’s no other way to put it. They’re astonishingly smart, motivated, talented, warm, friendly, and very hardworking. Uber is extraordinarily picky about who they hire, and they do a good job of bringing in brilliant people.

For me, my peers were the best part of the job. They not only had my back most of the time, but they were super fun. For the most part (not all the time, but the vast majority of the time), I felt like I could reach out to anyone there, and they’d make time for me.

As a rule, people at Uber are generous and bighearted and intelligent and sharp and creative and cool.

2. They’re Fair

For the most part, Uber is a pretty flat meritocracy. They’re ready to listen to anyone, if what they say is of value. Good ideas are noticed, respected, and implemented. There are obviously some politics (I don’t believe any large organization of human beings can totally avoid that), but it’s not the predominant company culture.

Instead, they’re extremely focused on metrics and analytics. Your success is largely based on your performance in terms of numbers, not whether someone likes you or you’re someone’s cousin or you’ve been there longer.

3. It’s A Crazy Awesome Ride (pun unintended)

There’s nothing like being on the inside of an insanely popular and insanely high-growth tech startup. Uber’s growth is unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it. The weekly all-team meetings, held via Skype since Uber is now in 100+ cities all over the world, are awe-inspiring. It’s unreal watching baby cities grow into monster cities, or small teams blossom into huge ones. Working for Uber is like being on the inside of a real live game of SimCity.

It’s an incredible feeling to know that you’re part of it.

4. People’s Reactions To, “So, what do you do?” Are Awesome

It usually goes down like this:

Rando #1: “So, what do you do?”
You: “I work for Uber.”
Rando #1: “What!??! That’s so cool!”
Rando #2:I love Uber!”
Rando #3: *just looks at you in awe*

CONSIt’s Stressful

Really, really stressful.

I did an informal poll while I was at Uber, asking people in different departments and different cities: “On a scale of 1-10, how stressed were you at your last position, and how stressed are you at Uber?” I routinely got answers of 2-6 pre-Uber, and 8-10 at Uber. One guy said, “At my last job, maybe like a 4. At Uber? Normally ... 8. This week? 11.”

At Stanford, we had a saying that students there are like ducks on a pond. On the surface, they look like they’re effortlessly floating along; under the surface, they’re paddling like mofos, their hearts going a million miles a minute just to keep up.

That’s Uber. Everyone looks like they’re doing fine, but they’re really working 80-100 weeks and even then, constantly feel like they’re behind. Working for Uber is a sprint, with marathon hours.

It’s Disjointed

Uber is still in the awkward gangly phase of a burgeoning startup. The thing is, it’s not really a startup anymore. It’s a big company with things like corporate values and policies and rules and guidelines. So expectations of employees are really high, but without all the support that comes with that.

As a CM (Community Manager), it was hard sometimes to rally all the things I needed help with, without pissing people off. I was dependent on teammates in design or engineering who were all the way across the country, many of whom I’d never met in person. It was nerve-wracking to not be in control, especially when I had time-sensitive needs and there was limited communication. I often felt powerless, but when I pointed this out I felt like I was just looked at as a complainer. A similar problem was echoed by others around me, those who experienced parts of Uber as rigid, not always willing to make the right systemic changes due to wanting to go at a breakneck pace all the time.

At Uber, you’re not always going to be given everything you need, to do the job you’re expected to do. The right systems simply aren’t in place yet; it’s all still being built. Things can be stressful or difficult, but without the recognition that they are, which can be challenging to deal with. It’s easy to feel alone, even while you’re surrounded by amazing people.

There Is No Work/Life Balance

At Uber, you work nights, weekends, and holidays. Some teams split it up so you get some real time off during the week/weekend, but that’s rare (FYI, some of this may have changed, since things at Uber shift so rapidly, but I doubt it. It’s ingrained in the culture). What’s not rare is to sign on to Hipchat (the way the entire company stays in touch) at 11pm on a Saturday night, and see lots of colleagues online, working, as well. Fortunately, you can work from home, and most teams are pretty flexible about that, but it’s still important to understand that you will be working *all* the time.

Uber does a good job about being upfront about this; they describe it to potential new hires as “the Uber lifestyle.” You’re expected to pitch in and do whatever it takes to have your city succeed, no matter when or how long it takes, and everyone hired is willing to do so.

Joining Uber is like joining the Firm from that John Grisham book … The Firm. Once you’re in, you’re in. Think of it like getting into the military, only cooler and you probably won’t die.


So, would I recommend working for Uber?

It depends on who you are and what you want.

If you’re young and hungry with few attachments, it’s a great option. For someone single, just out of college who just moved to the area, not wanting to get into a relationship or hang out with a lot of people outside the company, it’s practically ideal (practically). You’ll meet incredible people and be part of a strong culture. You’ll constantly be working, but you’ll never be bored and you won’t mind as much because most if not all of your friends will be at the company.

However, if you’re already somewhat established in your life (mid- to late 20s, early 30s, or in a relationship), it’s going to be hard. It will be ‘normal’ to spend your entire workweek working until 9pm or 10pm every day, then work an all-day event on Saturday, for Uber. You’ll miss seeing your friends and family, and resent the constant feeling that you’re not doing enough, despite working so much. This may wear on you over time, and eventually you may burn out.

As for me, my story has a happy ending (not that kind, but it’s still good). I’m happier at my current job than I ever was at Uber. We’re OpiaTalk, a tech startup in the eCommerce space, out of Baltimore. We help retailers make the most of their organic traffic – our social commerce widget turns browsers into buyers, hyper-converting traffic and driving opted-in leads at 4-5x industry average. Our team rocks, and I’m proud to be our Director of Communications. (That's us on the left -- I'm the crazy-looking one in the brown dress!).

Now, I wake up excited about my job and I also have real weekends, which has me feeling rested and ready for the week. During my time off I feel like I’m truly off, which is pretty much the best freaking feeling ever. At Uber, I constantly fantasized about leaving; it was never sustainable. OpiaTalk is sustainable because I work hard, and I have a life outside it.

Finally, I really wasn’t in the right role at Uber, and my manager wasn’t willing to work out a way to put me in one better suited to me in a timeline that worked. At my current job, I play to my strengths, and I feel truly supported by my boss. Shoutout to you, Tom Popomaronis: I love you, your mentorship, your humor, your entrepreneurial fire, your drive, and your heart. It’s why I’ll stick with you through anything, and why I’m pumped to be on the team you’ve built, that we continue to build together. Thanks for including me and for believing in me.


thought long and hard about whether to publish this. My hope is that it came across the way it was intended: as an honest and thoughtful distillation of my own experiences and observations of what I still see as one of the coolest modern companies to come out of the United States.

You want to talk about disruption? Uber has actually disrupted the tech/transportation industry. The world is literally different because of this company, and I say that as a young woman who is guaranteed a safe ride home in most cities where she goes. #Gamechanger. I also respect how Uber helps empower an entire generation of drivers with safe, flexible jobs – an opinion based primarily off my own one-on-one discussions with countless drivers about what Uber allows for them and their families.

I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to work for Uber for a variety of reasons, including gaining a better understanding of where I truly belong and how I want my work life to feel. That was an invaluable lesson, even if was a painful process. Sometimes, yes, it’s important to stick with a position for your own professional growth; other times sticking with it just leads to suffering. Here's the truth: Some jobs fit your personality, and some don’t. Some company cultures fit you; some don’t.

I can’t tell anyone what to do; I can only offer up my perspective. I hope it was Uber helpful. ;)


Melanie is Director of Communications for OpiaTalk, the social shopping widget for retailers. OpiaTalk releases a time-sensitive promo on your site once a certain amount of visitors click, and also drives opted-in leads. Our latest client is seeing 19% conversions (nope, not a typo!). We call ourselves the hyper-conversion widget; check us out at or contact

And if you identify as a Millennial, I've got a quick 4-minute survey I'd love for you to take. If you do it, I'll be as happy as a teenage boy watching Anaconda.

Melanie welcomes connection of all types, including the LinkedIn variety:

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Via Official AndreasCY
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Want to work for a startup? Take a look at this very honest article. I love it, it puts everything in perspective. And yes, not all startups are alike.

Official AndreasCY's curator insight, September 2, 2:25 PM

An ex-employee on what it's really like to work for Uber:

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Startup Mentors — How Do You Filter Out The Good, The Bad And The Ugly? | TechCrunch

Startup Mentors — How Do You Filter Out The Good, The Bad And The Ugly? | TechCrunch | Competitive Edge |

In light of the recent brouhaha over the actions of a particular European investor who had a habit of attaching himself to accelerators as a ‘mentor’, it seems an appropriate time to do a quick rundown on the kinds of things entrepreneurs need to look for in genuine potential mentor to them and their companies. Because, in case you have been hiding under a rock, there a lot of new ’mentors’ flooding towards technology startups, and it would be good if everyone had a clear idea of how this relationship should play out.

I asked on Twitter and on Facebook for some fast feedback on this and got what I think is a pretty representative list of ideas around what due diligence you should do when looking for a mentor for your startup. (Apologies if I don’t name-check everyone who contributed, but to give you a flavour…)

Matt Clifford of Entrepreneur First, thinks there are three main issues.

Firstly, he says, “you can’t get a (good) mentor by asking someone to be your mentor.”

He says a lot of young entrepreneurs think they need a mentor, so they assume that they should go around asking for on. But, the “best mentor relationships seem to develop organically. The entrepreneur has a series of interactions with someone and after a while both sides realise they’re getting value from the conversations and – de facto – the person has become a mentor.”

Secondly, “asking good questions is the key to being a good mentee (but is hard work).” A question like “What should I do?” is way too vague. You’ll get the most out of mentors when you ask them real, important, very specific questions that provide a lot of context, says Clifford.

Thirdly, first-time founders usually “want the wrong mentors.” First timers picking a “celebrity mentor” or one who is far, far ahead, is often a bad idea and they are much better off with someone “two to five years ahead of them on a similar journey” says Clifford.

Most of the day-to-day challenges founders face are highly stage-specific, he says. Is this the right person to help you get your first 1,000 users, for instance? “Hire more sales people” is not really an answer, and someone who’s been in that same place very recently is usually better.

Startups can of course help themselves by clubbing together and sharing information on mentors. Perhaps write a notional “mentor spec”?

But still, the basic questions apply: what they’ve done or achieved besides mentoring and advising.

Entrepreneur Ian Broom tells me: “I get mentors to agree a contract, like a staff member, and set expectations. Especially if you’re offering equity, it’s crucial the mentor vests like everyone else.”

James Bromley of Swiftkey adds that you should ask for references. And are they “ground level practical”? Also check if the mentor is a frequent ‘conference bore’, rather than actually working.

Matthias Metternich of says you should check out the prospective mentor’s network and whether they’d be open to making relevant introductions to others. He also advises getting mentors who fulfil functional roles and who can go deep. “We have separate mentors for mobile, bus dev, branding, marketing, hiring, etc”

Mentors who are still “doers” are more valuable.

And keep them in the loop: “No one can mentor well without understanding what’s up – it’s a two-way street,” points out Metternich .

Russell Buckley, formerly of Admob now partner of Ballpark Ventures, says you shouldn’t over-pay mentors and Non-Execs, and wrote about here.

He agrees that vesting options along with other staff members means “you can fire people who don’t deliver to the stated expectations.”

“I’m also encouraging some of the companies I work with to set OKRs or KPIs (depending on the tools they use) for their Board and advisors. Not a popular idea with many Directors, but I would like to see it as normal. After all, most investor/directors sell themselves as adding value prior to the investment, so why not hold them accountable?”

Use tools to check out a mentor’s credentials and investments such as Companies House /

And looking through their AngelList, LinkedIn and Twitter / social profiles etc is an obvious move but sometimes forgotten.

Eileen Tso Burbidge of Passion Capital says if the mentor has written catchy blog posts that can even qualify as usefulness as a mentor.

Then there is Jason Lemkin’s 2.5x rule which is: “After 2 1/2 meetings, after 2 1/2 intros to VCs or potential VP hires, after 2 1/2 times they “help” … you need to “pay” or they go away. Until then, you don’t have to pay. And many people if they are interested in you will make a few connections and help for free. 2-3 times.”

The simplest way to pay mentors he says is to give them some stock options and if you can, let them invest in your seed, “A and B rounds IF they want to”. But, don’t connect the two. “The first is a (for now) unquantifiable “payment” for helping. The second is a “thank you”. Don’t confuse the two, but try to do both.”

Michael Geer, COO of Dream Industries in Moscow, emailed be a few choice thoughts. “Mentorship takes the perfect timing of the team looking for mentorship and the mentor actually having the bandwidth and desire to mentor. That is much harder to get when just one side reaches out.” He says it comes together roost naturally when his mentorships have “started from accelerators or classes I’ve taught.”

He notes a drawback: many teams are either not ready to listen or not at the right stage to actually action some mentors’ most valuable advice when one side or the other reaches out. “Of course, when the timing is right, both sides learn and gain a lot.”

But how do you avoid bad mentors?

Matt Clifford says: “This is a very effective way of avoiding bad mentors, especially financially motivated ones: they just won’t last out the repeated interactions.”

In other words, bad mentors don’t burnt out, they fade away…

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Mentors can make a real difference. Find out what to look for.

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Stanford Professors Want To Teach You How To Scale Your Business Without Screwing It Up | TechCrunch

Stanford Professors Want To Teach You How To Scale Your Business Without Screwing It Up | TechCrunch | Competitive Edge |

After eight years of studying best practices for expanding a business, a pair of Stanford professors are scaling up the size of their classroom with their first foray into massive open online courses (MOOC).

Huggy Rao and Robert Sutton, the authors of “Scaling Up Excellence: Getting To More Without Settling For Less,” will bring the lessons they learned from their research to the virtual classroom. When their five-week, free MOOC launches on Sept. 15, it will feature interviews with prominent investors like Ben Horowitz and Michael Dearing.

Normally Rao and Sutton teach the book in their executive education classrooms, but true to their research, they found the MOOC to be a scaling tool that could help them reach more readers.

“They can not only consume the book as in reading it, but more importantly they can actually apply it to their own venture or startup idea,” said Rao, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Sutton, a professor at the Stanford School of Engineering, said the pair has experience in teaching for-credit online courses in the past. He said this is most likely the only time that the course will be offered in the free MOOC format.

“It will particularly be helpful to entrepreneurs trying to scale their ventures [...] because when people think about scaling they think about the footprint,” Rao said. “The footprint won’t survive and it certainly won’t thrive unless you have a mindset to sustain it.

Because the course is a MOOC, it is open to everyone, but Rao and Sutton said fledgling entrepreneurs would benefit the most from the class. The course specifically focuses on what small ventures can do once they get funding and are looking to scale their businesses. In addition to offering advice from famous investors, Rao and Sutton will include interviews with successful entrepreneurs, including some who they used for their own research.

The course will include an interview with the founders of Pulse and an executive from Survey Monkey.

Sutton called the Pulse founders Ankit Gupta and Akshay Kothari “stars” of the scaling book, saying they told a story that gave him and Rao important perspective that they hope to share with the MOOC students. When Gupta and Kothari were scaling their business, they began to run into many more problems. They realized that by splitting into smaller subgroups and then reporting what each group did at the end of the day, they could be more effective and efficient.

“To us that’s a scaling problem that comes up quite frequently,” Sutton said. “It’s one that a lot of founders run into.”

When it comes to scaling a venture, Sutton said there should be three ideas that students take away from the course. The first is that it’s a process of both addition and subtraction.

“There’s always the stuff that’s getting in the way,” Sutton said.

The second is that there needs to be a combination of patience and impatience. Founders need to work aggressively everyday, but also be patient for the long-term awards that work will bring. The third lesson is what Sutton calls “the grass is browner problem,” which means scaling startups is more messy than stories and research after the fact would lead you to believe.

“Scaling requires that you drop your tools and develop new tools,” Rao said.

“What got you there won’t get you to the next level,” Sutton added.

Students must register for the course by Sept. 12.

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Box, Dropbox and Hightail Pivot to New Business Models

Box, Dropbox and Hightail Pivot to New Business Models | Competitive Edge |

Box, Dropbox and Hightail are rethinking their core business models, focusing on specific industries or bolstering customer service.

SAN FRANCISCO — Nothing concentrates minds at a tech start-up like living in the middle of a price war between Amazon and Google.

Just ask executives at companies like Box, Dropbox and Hightail. They pioneered a new kind of Internet service that allows people and companies to store all kinds of electronic files in an easy-to-use online locker. But as often happens, the much bigger companies liked the idea so much they decided to do the same thing — at a much lower price.

“These guys will drive prices to zero,” said Aaron Levie, co-founder and chief executive of Box. “You do not want to wait for Google or Amazon to keep cutting prices on you. ‘Free’ is not a business model.”

So how do you avoid free? Box is trying to cater to special data storage needs, like digital versions of X-rays for health care companies and other tasks specific to different kinds of customers. Hightail is trying to do something similar for customers like law firms. And Dropbox? It is trying to make sure that its consumer-minded service stays easier to use than what the big guys provide.

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“It’s very tough just to be in the storage business,” said Brad Garlinghouse, the chief executive of Hightail. “We don’t think that is what we’re selling anymore.”

In the tech industry, they call this sort of reinvention of the core business model a “pivot.” Another way to describe it is a fight for survival.

Box, founded in 2005, has attracted $512 million in investment, and in March it filed papers for an initial public offering of stock. In July, the company said it had 39,000 businesses paying $15 to $35 a month a user. It is hard to know how many people that is, since some businesses have just a couple of people, and others include General Electric and Eli Lilly.

Dropbox has 300 million customers worldwide and actually runs inside Amazon Web Services, as do parts of Box. Many Dropbox customers pay nothing and get two gigabytes of storage capacity a month, the equivalent of 1,000 books or seven minutes of high-definition television. A version for $10 a month offers 100 gigabytes.

Hightail, which used to be called YouSendIt, says it has over a half-million business customers paying $25 a month or more, depending on the features chosen.

“There’s a place for all of them,” said Amita Potnis, an analyst at IDC. “Amazon’s focus is really computing itself. The smaller ones have to focus on ways businesses actually use it.” For example, she said, the services can help companies collaborate with each other online instead of sending emails back and forth with attachments.

While devices and apps get most of the attention, data storage is every bit as important, particularly as objects like phones, tablets, cars and thermostats become appendages of the Internet. Throw in trends like collaboration and big data analysis, and all those bits of data become more dynamic than something in a file cabinet. They are fluid and being entered and retrieved from many points.

Managing all that data should be a good business.

The problem for everyone is price. Amazon and Google have for years decimated competition in their respective fields of Internet advertising and retail. As the two companies move to dominate cloud computing, including online storage, they are turning that relentlessness on each other.

In March, Google celebrated the unification of several cloud computing services with price cuts of 68 percent for most customers, to 2.6 cents a gigabyte a month, about one-quarter the price of Dropbox’s premium consumer service.

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Amazon’s Web Services, which had cut prices at least four times since 2008, responded with cuts of its own, including one cut to 2.75 cents a gigabyte for large amounts of storage, and just a penny a month for data used less frequently. It has made further price cuts on other types of storage since then. Many expect Microsoft, which runs its own big cloud business, called Azure, to follow with similar cuts.

Even by the standards of computing, where services seem almost invariably to become cheaper and faster, storage prices have had an exceptional fall. The first gigabyte storage device in 1980 typically cost $120,000 and weighed 550 pounds. Amazon’s cloud-based storage might cost 12 cents a year.

None of the smaller online storage companies doubt that Amazon and Google can make seemingly impossible pricing moves. Both companies also have a scale that means even the tiniest profit can be huge. A.W.S. brags that almost all of Netflix, and Amazon itself, is inside its cloud, along with hundreds of other substantial companies.

Apple’s iCloud storage service and other parts of Apple, along with operations at several large banks, run inside A.W.S., say people familiar with the service who spoke on the condition they not be named so they could sustain relations with the powerful cloud company.

Amazon would not comment on confidential customer agreements. An Apple spokesman noted that Apple had its own data centers in four locations in the United States and said that “the vast majority” of data in services like iTunes, Maps and the App Store ran on its own computers. Apple uses other facilities as well, he said.

Google does not have anything like the Amazon customer list, but its computer network is probably the largest corporate network in the world. It includes custom-made computing and power systems and several thousand engineers to keep it running. According to one person with knowledge of the system, Google spends about $2 billion a quarter on its computing infrastructure.

Google would not comment on its costs. In an email, Tom Kershaw, a product manager for Google’s cloud service, predicted more cost-cutting. “As more customers store more information, for longer, we’re able to make gains in efficiency and pass these savings along to the customer.”

Both Box and Hightail now say they assume that they will offer customers unlimited storage free and push their costs into the prices they charge for other services. “At this point, it’s better just to say ‘unlimited,’ ” Mr. Levie said. “The thing to do is take into account why someone is storing something online and what their needs are.”

Box has hired people with specialties in health care, media and entertainment, hospitality and retailing. Dropbox still has supposed limits on storage in its business offering, but they start at a terabyte, or 1,000 gigabytes, and customers can upgrade from there with seemingly no fee.

This niche approach could work, provided the big companies do not go after these industry-specific storage markets or build more consumer-focused service offerings. Mr. Levie said he thought that was unlikely. “No one is going to build Google Health Care,” he said.

Google’s Mr. Kershaw differed. “Industry-specific solutions are the wave of the future and a key part of what Google is building for our customers,” he said.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Coming up with a great idea in the tech world and putting it out is not a direct road to success anymore. Companies, even successful ones, need to adjust, pivot, and compete with corporations like Google and Amazon. Not an easy task. Complex world.

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10 Things Great Talent Always Does

10 Things Great Talent Always Does | Competitive Edge |
Recruiting top performers for your company can multiply its success.

Finding amazing talent is a tricky process. Making talent recruitment a top priority can multiply the success of an organization.

To recognize great talent, hiring managers can look for the following signs instead of paying attention only to resumes and cover letters.

Here are 10 things people possessing great talent always do:

1. They talk about their long-term goals.

Talented candidates aren’t afraid of their future. In fact, they’re excited about their career and what’s in store.

Ask candidates about their long-term goals during a job interview. Those with great talent will talk about their prospective future with the company and what they plan to accomplish if hired.

2. They’re resourceful and prepared for anything.

Great talent is prepared for any situation. The ability to think and act on the spot is a quality few people have.

People with top-notch talent know their resume inside and out, have their portfolio ready and can answer interview questions without stumbling over their thoughts.

3. They display confidence in any situation.

There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance when identifying top talent. Confident individuals, however, can handle any situation and accept the reality that it’s OK to be wrong.

During the interview, ask candidates about their weaknesses. Look for a candidate who can confidently speak about weaknesses and explain the lessons they have learned.

4. They market their versatility.

Individuals who are truly talented possess a wide range of skills and can transfer them to different roles and succeed.

Ask candidates about a time when they had to try something new or apply their skills in an unusual situation. A good candidate will be able to share an experience or two.

5. They prioritize results.

Talented people care about results. They have a burning passion to accomplish their goals, both in their personal life or career.

Those who possess top talent will talk about what they want to accomplish once hired without the interviewer having to ask.

6. They ask smart questions.

Bright individuals are curious people. Because of this, they’ll ask questions to learn more about an organization and how it functions.

During the interview, a talented candidate will ask questions about what he or she is expected to accomplish if hired. They will inquire about the attributes of the top performers at the company and about what it takes to drive results.

7. They’re extremely flexible.

Many organizations continuously update their goals and implement new strategies. Top talent can adjust to such changes without becoming derailed from success.

Ask candidates about a time when they had to quickly adapt to a new situation and what happened.

8. They’re comfortable with taking risks.

Risk taking is involved at any business. Talented people aren’t afraid of pushing the envelope to discover new ideas.

Ask candidates about a time where they had to take a risk. Their response should provide enough insight about whether they can take big enough risks.

9. They bring passion to the position and organization.

This might seem like a cliché, but passion is a quality that sets apart those with great talent from lackluster candidates.

When a talented person is passionate about what he or she does, that individual is not afraid to tell a prospective employer. In fact, when someone is truly passionate, a hiring manager can see it in the individual's personality and previous experience.

10. They communicate effectively with a variety of stakeholders.

Strong communicators have the ability to take organizations to the next level.

When speaking to candidates over the phone or in person or exchanging emails, pay close attention to how they communicate. This gives employers a better indication of their communication skills.

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The Importance of Staying True to Your Roots as an Entrepreneur

The Importance of Staying True to Your Roots as an Entrepreneur | Competitive Edge |
Staying true to your industry’s roots can return great value to a niche entrepreneurial business.

Should you stay or should you go? This is a question many aspiring entrepreneurs ponder as they are building their startup dream on the side while working a full-time job. It can be a tricky time, as many people need a stable income but also want to focus more time on their entrepreneurial endeavor. So when someone is finally able to quit their 9-to-5 job to pursue their passion, some founders never look back. I recommend taking caution before straying too far from your roots.

Quite often, an entrepreneur's pursuit stems from an area she is an expert in -- a field she has been working in for some time. So why someone would choose to throw away valuable resources established during the course of her career is anyone's guess.

For 10 years, I practiced (and still do) as a registered dental hygienist treating patients. But that was only half the story. In that position, it also became clear that there was a significant need for an online portal focused on connecting dental professionals. I decided to launch DentalPost to fill that void. Because the platform grew so quickly, I began working less and less in the office to dedicate more attention it.  Eventually, I made the conscious decision to don my hygienist coat and return to the dental office once a week, shifting my focus from the tech world back to my physical practice and patients.

Staying true to your industry’s roots can return great value to a niche entrepreneurial business.

Here are a few tips to consider:

Keep more than a foot in the industry door. Nothing substitutes in-person networking and putting live, smiling faces to names. As an entrepreneur you are your brand, the physical representation of your product or service. As you network with others in your field, talk about your business in the context of your physical job. This reinforces credibility and shows you practice what you profess.

Remember real world means real-time marketing research.  We can all learn more about trends and pain points in our industry by standing at coffee pots than by reading comment boxes on your website or social-media pages. Office work allows you to see firsthand the customer side, the employee side and provider side of things. By keeping yourself entrenched in the industry, you are right there among other professionals and constantly hear stories and feedback about “inside” issues and trends. This makes your niche business better. You are able to understand the needs of its players -- who also happen to be your users.

Seek continual inspiration. Consider where you can find inspiration to take your idea to the next level,or reaffirm your commitment to serving your target audience.  I originally fell in love with the dental industry because of the personal connections I foster with my patients. I establish relationships, offer comfort and, in some cases, even help save lives.

Keeping yourself involved in your industry (once a week or a few times a month) and staying true to your entrepreneurial roots keeps you connected.  With this grounding, you will never lose sight of why you built your venture in the first place.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Inspiration comes mostly from what you know and experience. It's a huge treasure, keep on nurturing it.

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New $140 Million Early-Stage Fund Launched in Europe Called Mosaic Ventures

New $140 Million Early-Stage Fund Launched in Europe Called Mosaic Ventures | Competitive Edge |

Three well-known tech investors and execs announced today that they had launched Mosaic Ventures, a new $140 million fund aimed at early-stage investments in Europe. It was created by Mike Chalfen, Simon Levene and Toby Coppel, all of whom have worked across a range of venture firms and Silicon Valley companies over the years. On its website, the group said: “We love renegades who take a fresh look at the world and want to shape it their way.” Bokay, boys!

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Via Raj Nadar
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Yet another seed fund in Europe. Startups are moving all over the world!

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5 Reasons You Should Work For A Startup At Least Once

5 Reasons You Should Work For A Startup At Least Once | Competitive Edge |

They say in business you should think big. But when it comes to your career, have you considered thinking “small”? In my experience, a startup is a roller-coaster ride that can offer you incredible career experiences and teach you some invaluable life lessons.

Startups can make you more efficient than you’ve ever been, and they can help you expand your responsibility and knowledge and learn how any business, despite challenges, can effectively get off the ground.

  1. Start Doing Real Work

The feeling you get when you work for a startup is rather hard to describe. In some respects, it’s a little like taking the red pill and getting ejected from the Matrix. Everything you do in a startup makes a difference. No longer are you surrounded by a safety blanket world where you’re a small cog in a large machine. In a startup, everything you do will contribute to the ultimate success or failure of the business.

In my experience, leaving a large organization and heading to a startup felt liberating. In the early days, it felt like every piece of code I wrote was making a difference. In fact, startups actually push you to identify and focus on what’s absolutely critical, forcing you to think more creatively about how you approach projects and create value. And best of all, you’ll often get to see results first-hand and share in the rewards and glory.

  1. Learning and Responsibility   

I unequivocally say I learned more in my first two months in a startup than I did in the previous five years of my professional career. The reason for this is that everyone in a startup is expected to wear multiple hats. A startup forces you to adopt new skills and responsibilities to make up for the small-sized taking on the huge challenges of building an empire.

In startups, fast learning can also lead to increased responsibility and multiple opportunities to both utilize and accelerate talents and knowledge. All of this can translate into powerful position in the business world and means you’ll have much more to offer as an individual, particularly when it comes time to move on or even start your own business.

  1. Shape the Culture Around You

One of the areas that I’m most proud of at DesignCrowd is that we have built a culture where talented people come together and make work fun (work doesn’t feel like work). There’s nothing more rewarding than feeling excited to come into the office in the morning to tackle the next challenge the world has thrown at us.

You will also find that in startups, you get to shape the culture around you. Entering a larger organization usually means that you’ll be stepping into a predetermined culture, set with existing practices, customs and values. Joining a startup, on the other hand, often means that you can directly contribute to the creation and growth of the business culture, offering ideas and practices that can help shape the working philosophy of the company.

  1. An Environment of Innovation

One of the most rewarding things about startups is that you can find yourself working with a team that is highly passionate and enthusiastic. This can spark inspiration on every level, leading to truly innovative ideas and developments that can help the business stand out against competitors in the greater industry.

Being part of an entrepreneurial team is also a wonderful way to learn how to innovate. Entrepreneurs are great people to learn from — they identify a problem and need to find a new efficient way to solve it.

  1. Starting Your Own Venture

Joining a startup gives you the opportunity to start learning what it takes to be your own boss. While they take personal and financial sacrifice, startups pay you back in opportunities and knowledge on how to take charge of your own venture.

If you’re toying with the idea of one day being your own boss, working in a startup is the ideal place to educate yourself on how to set goals, execute strategies, take your product to market and implement strong business operations. You can also be required to take on other, more administrative business tasks, which can actually equip you with great business know-how.

“You learn that there are lots of details in any enterprise,” says CEO Richard A. Moran. “You might have to name the company, design a logo, find office space, figure out the legal entity, find an insurance carrier and all the thousands of mundane activities that one takes for granted in a larger company.”

The key startup lesson in all of this is to never underestimate the power of working for a startup organisation. Startups can equip you with invaluable hands-on tools and experience, growing your skills, knowledge and even responsibilities rapidly – and that’s something that’s difficult to come by in a medium or larger-sized organization.

Editor’s note: Adam Arbolino is co-founder and CTO of, a logo, web and graphic design marketplace.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Haha, "Start doing real work"! I like this article.

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How to Avoid Letting Choice Overload Your Customers

You need to take advantage of the power of choice in your business without overwhelming consumers.

We have an overwhelming amount of choices--and, as Americans, we make 70 different choices a day on average.

It's no wonder we are often indecisive and feel paralyzed with options.

The Downside of Choice Overload

Barry Schwartz famously described this phenomenon as "the paradox of choice." He writes, "When people have no choice, life is almost unbearable. As the number of available choices increases, as it has in our consumer culture, the autonomy, control, and liberation this variety brings are powerful and positive. But as the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear. As the number of choices grows further, the negatives escalate until we become overloaded. At this point, choice no longer liberates, but debilitates."

This debilitating feeling can have a couple of outcomes:

1. Decision paralysis

Jane Porter wrote on Fast Company about a time she couldn't make a decision, and it's all too relatable. Searching for a toilet brush for her new apartment, she discovered that Amazon sold 1,161 kinds of toilet brushes. After spending nearly an hour reading contradictory reviews and considering her choices, she said she "felt grumpy and tired and simply gave up."

2. Decreased satisfaction

In his TED talk, Schwartz described how, when we do make a choice between a number of options, we end up less satisfied with the outcome than we would have been if we had had fewer. He says this is because it's easy to imagine making different choice that would have been better. The feeling of regret subtracts from our satisfaction--the more options, the easier it is to regret anything at all about the option.

How to Be More Choosy About Your Choices

There are some ways to make these decisions a bit easier, whether you're the one choosing or providing options to customers of your own:

1. Trust the experts.

There's a reason Pandora exploded the way it did. It allowed users to discover new music by simply inputting a favorite song or genre--no choice overload involved. With 100 hours of content uploaded to every minute to YouTube alone, there is a lot of content to sift through on the Web. At my company, Pluto.TV, you simply put your trust in the experts to find the best of the best for you. Actual humans curate our 100+ video channels, so you can simply choose a topic that interests you, sit back, and watch.

2. Put limits on your options.

Even if there are tons of options in front of you, putting a little more thought into your decision can help cut down on frustration. For instance, instead of searching for the best-rated restaurants in your area, identify a specific type of food you're craving and filter by that type. This can help speed up your decision process and, hopefully, increase your satisfaction with your final choice.

3. Offer consumers fewer options.

In a TED talk, Sheena Iyengar discussed a study about the retirement decisions of nearly 1 million Americans from about 650 retirement plans. The study found the more funds that were offered in a plan, the fewer people participated. Furthermore, when there were too many choices, people's decision quality was actually affected negatively. Since too many options leads to reduced engagement and satisfaction, you're doing your customers a favor by paring down their choices.

4. Condition customers for complexity.

Iyengar also pointed out that people can more easily make complex decisions when the complexity is gradually increased. If you condition for complexity, the first decision is one of fewer categories and options than the ones that follow. Utilizing this method makes people more likely to participate in ongoing decisions.

The example she uses to illustrate this point is customizing a car online. With 60 different decisions in total, each choice varies in how many options are offered. Providing the easier choices first--a choice of four types of gears and four types of engines--keeps customers engaged in the process. Then they are able to choose from the 56 car colors available.

Too much choice can be completely overwhelming to even the savviest consumer. Avoid decision paralysis by simplifying choices for your customers, putting trust in experts, and setting limits on your options.

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10 Ways to Destroy Fear While You Startup

10 Ways to Destroy Fear While You Startup | Competitive Edge |

You stand at the edge of the deep-sea of your life, afraid to cast sail.  You know you should, but it seems oh so safe in the harbor.  But is it truly safe? 

If you listen to the crashing waves, you just might hear the words of Maud Muller echoing in your ears:

For of all the sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these. “It might have been!”

So, what is greater?  Is it the pain of trying for what you want and possibly ending up smashed upon the rocks?  Or is it the pain of wondering what might have been?

If you are an adventurer or an entrepreneur, you know as part of this grand voyage you must set sail, cast all fears aside and travel into shark infested waters if you wish to arrive at that tropical island where Cuervo Gold Margaritas flow from glass fountains.

1. THE ROCKING CHAIR TESTSo the first step in considering your fear is to go through the “Rocking Chair Test.”  Imagine yourself when you are 90 years old, sitting on your rocking chair, and consider how you will feel if you didn’t do the thing you are afraid of.  If it does not bother you, then don’t do it.  But if you feel like you missed out and you regret not going for it, then there is the moral imperative to move forward.


Know that fear is always going to be a player in your life.  I know you don’t want to hear it, but if you are human (and I assume you are) fear is always going to have a habit of raising its sea-serpent head just when it seemed there might be calm waters to the horizon.  The trick is understanding fear will show up uninvited and that it is a normal part of life. Just recognize the fear and say to yourself, “oh, there you are,” then focus on managing fear with the strategies below.

First, why do we fear?  According to Anthony Robbins, except for the fear of physical pain, when all is boiled down, we have two main fears.  Either we fear:

1)       We won’t be enough; or

2)       We won’t be loved.

So, just examine your fear.  Is it rational?  How likely is it that the fear will actually bring you pain?  Why do you think you won’t be enough or won’t have love.  Sometimes, just knowing you are acting like an irrational idiot will take the energy out of the fear.

I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.  Mark Twain.


Part of the sting of fear is your feelings of helplessness.  Sit down with a piece of paper and think of at least ten things you can do today to mitigate or protect you from the circumstances you fear.  Then do everything you can do to protect yourself from the unwanted outcome.


Even if the fear is irrational, sometimes you will do something called “looping,” where the fear just keeps repeating itself in your head.  This is what some Buddhist monks call, “bad-ass monkey mind.”  The best cure for monkey mind is to sit quietly in a room, count your breaths and focus on the silence between the thoughts.  Strangely enough, science has unequivocally shown meditation may reshape your brain and your reality.


Sometimes you are just stuck in fear and need to move out of your head and onto a different perspective.  Napoleon Hill would often imagine a boardroom of trusted advisers, people he admired and would ask the how they would handle the fear.  Carl Yung would have you imagine first a wise king (or queen) and have you ask for answers to your concerns.  Then Yung would have you follow that same process with a warrior, a lover, and a magical person.


Despite Tom Cruise’s Scientology based rant against drugs, as a last resort, you may want to talk with your doctor about looking into medications that may take your mind off the pain and at least let you step back a bit to get a handle on the fear.


I’ve experienced first-hand the benefits of Neurolinguistic Programming and Human Needs Psychology, which is taught by the Robbins Madanes Center.  If you can find a good practitioner, the results can be amazing.  Here is a video of the process: Video

8) EMDR  

Although this sounds a bit strange, you can help alleviate fear and post traumatic stress with  Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).  The process requires you to move your eyes in a specific pattern, while conjuring images. More than 20 studies have shown its effectiveness and it is endorsed by the US Department of Defense and the American Psychiatric Association.


Also, it helps to understand the fear is mostly an illusion.  Consider the worst case scenario and then think a year ahead, then five years and then ten.  If you’re not going to be worried about it a year from now, why don’t you give yourself a gift of not worrying about it now.


Sometimes fear can disappear just by having a lunch with a friend, going for a run or just doing something different.  Try this three-step process:

1) Get moving.  Get your body moving.  Take deep breaths.

2) Change your focus.  Use your voice to say empowering things.  Tell yourself how powerful and happy you are.  Your mind might say “BS” but if you do it long enough with enough physical emotion, you will soon change your state.

3) Cancel.  Maxwell Maltz, in his book Psycho Cybernetics, instructs that whenever the fearful thought raises its ugly head that you specifically say, “Cancel.  That is not the truth.”  Then you should say something that is empowering.

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Via Deb Bailey, malek
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Excellent article. Often the main problem with moving forward is yourself. Break through the resistance. Observe, contemplate, and just 'do it'.

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Hiring startup engineers? Talk about challenge, not pay

Hiring startup engineers? Talk about challenge, not pay | Competitive Edge |
Here's what matters most to people when considering a job.

Back when I worked at Microsoft and Amazon, I spent a lot of time hiring and building teams. I had the methodology down: Get referrals from strong people already on the team. Look for someone who is uniquely great at something, preferably something that makes them different from the rest of the team. Don’t let problem personalities past the first step no matter how capable they are.

When I decided to take the leap from the corporate world to starting my own company, I figured hiring would be the easy part. But when I sat down to write the copy for the careers page on our company website, I got stuck. I’d always advised job-seeking friends to choose the manager first and the specific job second. Most of my colleagues looking for jobs in the corporate world would talk about what they were looking for in terms of factors like pay and opportunity for continued advancement.

But the more I talked to people at startups, the less relevant these factors seemed to be. Although several people mentioned the potential long-term payoff of sweat equity, they were mostly not motivated by immediate pay; they would have been working at corporate jobs if they had been. They talked a lot about wanting to be part of a team of smart and collaborative people, but few mentioned direct manager as a consideration. Many of them talked about how much they were learning. I never heard anyone discuss promotions.

We didn’t want to advertise our roles in a way that would attract the wrong candidates — or worse, no candidates at all. We are also huge analysis nerds. We wanted to get beyond the anecdotal conversations. Just as we do for any important product or business decision, we decided to get some data.

We wanted to understand what candidates look for when they visit job listings. And not just any candidates but the particular candidates who fit the profile of people we want to hire. Our career site needs to be true to who we are as a company; it’s important to speak to our genuine values and hiring philosophy. It also needs to speak to the unique concerns of the people we want to hire.

I did a quick survey of nearly 350 developers, designers, technical marketers, product managers, sales leaders, and user researchers who work at a mix of corporations, startups, midsize companies, and nonprofits. Participants answered a single question: what are the top three factors that you look for in a job? I suggested some possible answers with the question, including challenge, pay, location, team, manager, flexibility, social purpose, and specific job description, although respondents were free to add any factors of their choosing.

What I had observed anecdotally showed up in the data. Here are the job selection criteria techies mentioned most often in different kinds of organizations, along with the percentage of respondents who mentioned them:

Everyone cares about things not in their top three list. Few people would turn down great pay on a fun team working towards a cause they believe in. But the data shows interesting and relevant differences between what people in different kinds of organizations care about most.

Manager, scope, and growth are corporate terms. Team, challenge, and learning are their startup equivalents. Corporate workers prioritize immediate pay more highly, while people at startups value flexibility. We realized as we looked through this data that the selling points we have to offer people joining Kidgrid aligned well with the factors that people working in startups value. That made us feel like we were on the right track.

Now that we’re up and running, we’re finding that the people we’re the most interested in are the ones who care about team, challenge, and learning, because those are the things we care about too. That’s true whether they currently work at startups, at corporations, or in some other environment. A good culture fit is just a good culture fit.

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How One Man Launched Over 45,000 Entrepreneurs to Fight Unemployment

How One Man Launched Over 45,000 Entrepreneurs to Fight Unemployment | Competitive Edge |
Ugandan entrepreneur takes education into his own hands by creating local self-employment opportunities through pragmatic training programs.

The idea that schools overemphasize theoretical learning at the expense of practical skills is an old one. Maalik Fahd Kayondo thinks Telesat International could be a new solution.

Telesat is a nonprofit trade school in Kampala, Uganda, that prepares students for self-employment in Kampala, Uganda, where for up to 95 percent of the population, self-employment is sometimes the only option. “Five percent of the working population have job security,” says Kayondo, “For others, you work today, and tomorrow you don’t know what is going to happen.” So Telesat focuses on teaching skills relevant to Ugandan market demands, so that students can earn at least a modest income as soon as they finish—skills like farming, bookkeeping, engine repair, candle-making, and book binding.

Kayondo knows about developing practical skills. After leaving Uganda to practice screenwriting in Oxford, he traveled to India to pursue a masters in manufacturing engineering technology at Anna University. Upon arriving back in Uganda in 2004, he was faced with the harsh realities of the nation’s labor scene. “We have over 50,000 youth graduating every year,” he says. “But it is estimated that only 8,000 make it into a productive job.”

I said I had no opportunities anywhere for scholarships but that I could teach his son the skills necessary to live a very good life.

Kayondo felt that part of the problem was that few of those 50,000 graduates each year were learning skills that they could immediately put to use in the workforce. So when a friend asked in 2005 if he could help his son find a university scholarship, Kayondo said that for $100, he could offer a different path. “I said I had no opportunities anywhere for scholarships but that I could teach his son the skills necessary to live a very good life,” he says.

In three weeks, the young man had learned how to repair printers and refill ink cartridges. About two years later, he started his own business doing just that, a business that is still supporting his family seven years later. He ended up being the first of more than 45,000 people Kayondo has helped become financially independent workers through Telesat.

Kayondo formalized his educational service in 2006 as Telesat International. In keeping with Kayondo’s emphasis on immediate, on-the-ground skills, Telesat constantly changes and adapts its course offerings to reflect market demand “We look at the local market demand because we want the people we train to be able to sell within their local communities,” he explains. For example, for $12, students can take a two-day course in making notebooks, which they can sell to secondary schools to the tune of about $15 per day, says Kayondo. That’s roughly five times the average income in Uganda.

Telesat currently has six full-time and two part-time employees and has generated about $500,000 in total revenue. Kayondo is now looking to build a small campus where Telesat can offer machine training and host exhibitions of student products.

Kayondo’s pursuit to empower his Ugandan sisters and brothers is seen through his international efforts as well as his local involvement. He is currently garnering the interest of the United Nations global accelerator committee as a delegate and American nonprofits, such as Bead for Life. Kayondo remains optimistic as he looks to reach 74,450 Ugandans by expanding Telesat International’s curriculum within the next five years.

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Via Samuel Pavin
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Wow, what a story. Sure stimulates the creative juices.

Jan Moore's curator insight, September 11, 2:42 PM

This is a brilliant example for all of us. We can create our own work - if we have the will to do so.

Rescooped by Marc Kneepkens from Entrepreneurs!

Five Startups That Are Reshaping The Web Economy - Forbes

Five Startups That Are Reshaping The Web Economy - Forbes | Competitive Edge |

Five Startups That Are Reshaping The Web Economy

People are always trying to define and explain the different stages of the evolving economy of the Web. It started way back when no one had a clue what the Internet would become and Al Gore was still talking about the ‘Information Superhighway.’ Then, after the web was a bit more mature, technologists started talking about Web 2.0, and all of the user generated platforms and social media. Today, the biggest buzzword might be Internet of Things, and it’s certainly an exciting area of development.

Yet, all of these buzz words seem less important today than they used to be. The Web is a mature and thriving economic powerhouse and no one questions the fact that it is going to continue to grow and evolve at a rapid clip – if not quite as dramatically as it has in the past. Some might see this as a sign that all of the most exciting services have already been developed. With giants like Amazon, Google, and Facebook firmly entrenched, what role is there for startups?

In truth, the opportunity for startups is as great as it’s ever been. While there may be less room for $100 billion dollar companies, there is a lot of room between that and zero. A more mature web economy requires an army of smaller companies to keep it humming along. For these companies, there is not only a great opportunity for growth and wealth creation, but also to help content providers, publishers, and other entrepreneurs tap into the incredible energy that drives web businesses.

It can be hard to sift through all the amazing (and not so amazing) web companies in business today, so here are five incredible startups that are helping to reshape the web economy:

Sharewall – Moving Beyond The Paywall

Is there a more beautiful word than ‘free’? For consumers of content, it’s clear that the answer is no, but some of the producers of that content might beg to disagree. This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing the Web economy – how are companies going to monetize the massive amounts of content being produced when so many aren’t willing to pay for it? Ads are always an option, but so far they aren’t generating the huge numbers that some publishers were used to back in the days of print. For some, the answer is to lock content down behind a paywall – you may limit your audience, but you’ll generate more revenue per individual piece of content.

Sharewall is a young startup that believes there is another way. Instead of locking down content behind a paywall, users will be able to access content in exchange for a social share. The site wins because its content is passed on to a wider audience and the reader wins even more free content. Beyond that, the company is looking to build a closer relationship between publishers and readers, which will help content providers find new pathways to monetize.

Mobilizr – Monetizing The Selfie

Every decade has its iconic images, and for this decade that might just be the familiar look of someone with an outstretched arm taking a selfie. Most of these selfies usually go straight up to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter where they don’t provide any additional value – well at least to the people who posted them. One startup is looking to tap into this trend and reward users for the multitude of photos they snap with their smartphones.

Mobilizr created a mobile app that allows users to become “brand ambassadors” and get rewarded for the photos they post online. The idea is simple: a brand posts a campaign idea and Mobilizr users post selfies and other images along the guidelines of the campaign. Users are rewarded (with real money) for every like, share, and tweet their images generate. Others have attempted this form of crowdsourced engagement before, but Mobilizr is banking that the power of smartphones and the mobile revolution will help it take off.

Webydo – Power To The Designers

In every industry there are gatekeepers, key players who dictate the pace of change and control the flow of new ideas into the system. In the current web economy, that role is played by developers who have mastered the coding languages that are the behind the scenes force of the Internet. But, that leaves the creative side of the web – designers – on the sidelines of the industry, dependent on developers to make their designs a reality.

Webydo, is a cloud-platform for designers that allows them to build and manage websites without the need for coding. It automates the development process while providing designers with what the company claims is pixel-perfect accuracy of their designs. While I’m sure this isn’t the right fit for the largest and most complicated sites, it does empower designers to take a more leading position in the creation of sites for small businesses and other entrepreneurs. This seems like an exciting step for the web economy that could inject some much needed creative mojo into the designs of hundreds of thousands of SMB sites.

Wibbitz – News Videos For Everyone

As I writer, I’m naturally a fan of the written word. I’m also an entrepreneur, so I recognize the power and the incredible value of video content for news sites and other content providers. Unfortunately, making high quality video content is often an expensive and daunting task that consumes a lot of time and resources.

Wibbitz is hoping to make that process easier for online publishers by automating the process of video creation. The startup has created technology that automatically creates news summary videos based on the text content of a post. It pulls in photos and relevant video clips from news services and provides a human or computer voice to narrate the story. While some readers may be wary of computer generated content, the incredible demand for video news updates shows that Wibbitz has found one corner of the web with tremendous potential.

Atosho – Read, Click, Buy

The world of online media is a harsh place to do businesses. Publishers are faced with the difficult challenge of competing against a vast sea of other websites, while looking for a way to make money when content is expected to be given away for free. Atosho, a Copenhagen-based startup is betting that publishers can turn sites into ecommerce engines as an additional path to monetization.

The platform lets websites sell products without users ever leaving the site. It enables consumers to buy a product directly out of a publisher’s editorial content – whether that’s an article, a product review, an image, or any other digital content that creates demand – and the user completes the purchase right on the site. We have all come to accept ads as a given in free content – perhaps an easy and transparent path to purchase those same advertised products is the logical next step?

The Web is an exciting place to do business, but it’s also proven to be one of the most challenging. These startups, and many others, are working to make sure that there is a rich and varied array of options for professionals doing business on the web. Do any of these startups provide a solution that you need, or do you think there is still a huge problem out there waiting to be solved?

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Via ventureLAB
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

More interesting startups all the time.

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How mobile marketplaces are creating a million new U.S. jobs   

While these jobs require little training or higher education, they usually pay above minimum wage and offer many workers lifestyle flexibility and the opportunity to work close to home.

Online marketplaces such as Uber and Instacart are rapidly transforming the way people get what they want – whether it’s a ride, a meal, or a pet sitter – when they want it. To make that happen, these companies are on a hiring spree, one that’s gone virtually unnoticed by the statisticians and economists who track the labor market.

An analysis by Menlo Ventures suggests that these emerging new businesses are already on track to create one million brand-new jobs in the U.S., many of them well paying and all of them filled in local markets by Americans. And that is likely a conservative estimate.

While these jobs require little training or higher education, they usually pay above minimum wage and offer many workers lifestyle flexibility and the opportunity to work close to home. This is especially important now, when studies indicate that other industries clamoring for employees are frustrated because they don’t have enough nearby applicants with the advanced training or experience to do these often-technical and specialized jobs.

What will drive this job growth? Digital marketplaces are being built on four megatrends of today’s Right-Now Economy, including:

  1. The increasing penetration of smartphones. Nearly one billion smartphones were sold worldwide in 2013, according to Gartner. Couple this with the rise of big data and a dramatic decrease in the cost of software development and you have a technology environment well suited to the marketplace concept.
  2. The rise of Millennials (age 18 to 34) who are digital natives as the dominant consumer group. They are already spending an estimated $1.3 trillion annually and have surpassed baby boomers as the leading consumer demographic group, according to the Hartman Group.
  3. The growing availability of a freelance labor market willing to take jobs with non-traditional hours that fit into their individual lifestyles. By some estimates, there are already 42 million Americans who work freelance, and freelancers are projected to compose more than half the American workforce by 2020.

Latent consumer demand for the services can now be obtained more easily through digital marketplaces. For instance, there are 100 million dog-owning households in the U.S., according to the American Humane Society, yet only 230,000 dog-sitting jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If dog owners have access to a more efficient marketplace of potential dog walkers and dog sitters, there could be a huge opportunity to create new jobs.

Marketplaces are capitalizing on these trends by aggregating supply (whether it’s dog sitters, babysitters or cars for hire), increasing demand by creating easier and better buying experiences for consumers, and adding value to the transaction by providing add-ons that freelancers or small business can’t or don’t offer (such as on-call veterinarians and liability insurance). Technology makes it easier than ever for these companies to expand to new markets, creating strictly local jobs for workers but doing it without having to open costly and risky satellite offices.

To arrive at our job’s estimate, Menlo Ventures looked at the job-creation activities of numerous fast-growing marketplaces, including many in our own portfolio. For example, looking at Uber’s growth in Seattle, the company currently has 900 UberX drivers for a population of 635,000 people, compared to the 300 taxis in the city. By extrapolation, through the use of a current national figure of 170,000 traditional taxis (from the Bureau of Labor Statistics), we estimated that Uber has the potential to expand to at least 360,000 UberX drivers nationally. It’s worth noting that in Seattle alone, there are more than 3,000 peer-to-peer drivers if Lyft and Sidecar are included in the calculation.

Furthermore, Uber pays more than traditional taxi jobs. The average U.S. taxi driver makes $30,000 a year at a rate of $14 an hour. By comparison, fulltime Uber drivers make $39,000 a year at a rate of $18 an hour.

Another example comes from Rover, a dog sitting service. There are 230,000 dog sitters in the U.S., and 430 dog-owning householders per dog sitter. A single dog sitter cannot service that many households. By opening up the supply of dog sitters through a frictionless online marketplace, in markets where Rover operates, the ratio comes down to 261 households per dog sitter. Rover has already created 25,000 new dog sitting jobs.

These figures represent only some of Menlo’s portfolio companies. When you include their competitors and other categories such as food service, creative and technical services, and home improvement services, the estimate can reach of one million – or more – American jobs created by online marketplaces. The same type of growth also is likely in international markets as these American companies expand globally.

Some argue that these are startup companies and that such growth is far from being a guarantee. But these companies are providing necessary consumer services, and once they scale, the network effect will take hold and they will become durable companies – much like Amazon – that will be able to survive and grow through changing economic environments.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

A new economy is being created and growing stronger every day.

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How A Feisty Start-Up Uses A Relaxed Management Style To Take On The Big Banks

How A Feisty Start-Up Uses A Relaxed Management Style To Take On The Big Banks | Competitive Edge |

Every day, it seems, brings a fresh scandal from the financial sector. But what is bad news for the bankers and their investors is good news for those trying to steal away some of their business. A case in point is TransferWise, a young start-up that has recently been seeking to get its message across through provocative ads at bus stops and underground stations across London.

Based (in the modern way) in London and Estonia, the company was born out of a frustration with what the founders saw as excessive hidden bank fees for cross-border money transfers. Taavet Hinrikus, one of the earliest employees of the internet-based phone company Skype, and Kristo Käärmann, a former consultant in the financial sector, hit on the idea when they were each sending money between Britain and the Eurozone and spending huge sums in commission charges on the exchange rates. Kaarmann explains how the friends devised a simple plan. He worked in London, but had a mortgage back in Estonia that he needed to pay in euros, while Hinrikus worked for Skype in Estonia and so was paid in euros, but lived in London, and so needed sterling to pay expenses. Once a month, the two of them checked that day’s mid-market rate on Reuters to find a fair exchange rate. Kaarmann put pounds into Hinrikus’s UK bank account, and Hinrikus topped up his friend’s euro account with euros. Both got the currency they needed, and neither paid a cent in hidden bank fees. Realising that others in the increasingly mobile economy must be in the same situation, they decided to make a business out of it – and TransferWise was born.

That was back in 2011 and since them the fledgling company, which has fewer than 100 employees split between London and Tallinn, has picked up numerous awards and accolades as well as attracting funding from investment vehicles headed by the likes of Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson and Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and early backer of Facebook. More importantly, perhaps, it has already helped hundreds of individuals transfer more than $1bn around the world, saving them substantial amounts in foreign currency commission charges. Since Kaarmann points out that the global market is about $200bn a year, that gives TransferWise a tiny share. But – with substantial backers now on board – he and his colleagues believe that they can make inroads, once they educate people. Hence those ads.

Kaarmann – who looks after operations, technology and regulatory issues, while Hinrikus focuses on marketing and related matters – acknowledges that the rapid growth that has already occurred and is set to continue requires a special kind of leadership. “I am a big believer that people don’t need to be managed. They need to know why they are doing what they are doing,” he says. One of the problems for large organizations like the banks with which TransferWise is competing is that it is hard for employees “to see that the things they do make life better for somebody else. The chain between the customer and the person doing the work is very long”. As part of making clear the link between the work done and making things better for TransferWise and its customers, engineers spend time with customers to understand their needs. Possibly more contentiously, Kaarmann is a great believer in measuring effects and believes extensive measurement of employees’ efforts is not a problem, provided they know it is happening. “Building a team fast is tricky and building technology fast is tricky. A lot of the magic is in making sure everybody knows what they are doing and doesn’t need to be told.”

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Great ideas grow into great businesses. This start up proves it.

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6 Things I Wish Somebody Had Told Me When I Started My Small Business

6 Things I Wish Somebody Had Told Me When I Started My Small Business | Competitive Edge |
Nothing is more overrated than learning things the hard way.

I co-founded my business NutraBella, Inc. in 2005 after hearing my pregnant friends complain about their horse-pill sized pre-natal vitamins. We dreamed of giving women better vitamin options with Bellybar.

Fast forward to today where I spend my days on the QuickBooks team working to make small business management easier and more fun.  As I hear from small businesses owners from all walks of life, I am constantly reminded of the things I wish I had known. Owning a small business is a challenge, but here are six tips that will make the road to success easier.

1. Follow your passion and don’t let go. Your business probably stems from something you’re passionate about, but over time, the day-to-day running of the business makes it hard to keep that passion alive.

Fuel it daily by reminding yourself why you started your business. Make sure that you fall in love with a problem, not a solution. If your first solution doesn’t work, fall back on your passion for solving that problem to find another answer for your customer.

2. Cash is king. Running a business is an art and a science. The art is your passion. The science is your business model. Make sure you understand your own business model. It’s not something to abdicate to someone else. Understanding money-in, money-out, is critical to business success. Ignorance is not bliss. If you know how your business is doing at every moment, you can celebrate your success or plan for how to get more cash.

3. Hire smart. Hiring a team is thrilling but also scary. Take time to hire the right people for the right job. Fire them quickly if it doesn’t go well. As a small business owner, you can do anything but you can’t do everything! Hire people who love to do what you hate to do so you can focus on your dream and evangelize your passion.

4. Communicate with partners. Partners can be a great way to bring complementary talent to grow your business but, just like a marriage, it’s critical to communicate values and expectations. Create a business “pre-nup” to set expectations for the partnership.

Like every good marriage, go on date nights and remind yourself why you went into business together in the first place. You can also use it as an opportunity to brainstorm new ideas or talk through problems in a less stressful space.

5. Protect yourself from the unexpected. Think about roadblocks you might hit along the way. Expect the best but prepare for those unexpected hiccups.

Things will happen that you can’t control. Do what you can to protect yourself. Set up systems and processes in your business so that you can take a vacation or care for a sick child. Make sure that things won’t fall apart if you step away for a moment. Respect yourself enough to ensure that you can take care of yourself outside of your business.

6. The buck stops with you, but… You don’t have to be alone! As a small business owner, it can be lonely making all of the decisions. Ask for help. Not everyone has the courage to start a business but most people want to help and support you.

Find other entrepreneurs to learn from. Someone a few years ahead of you can provide invaluable advice. Someone just starting can bring energy and creative ideas. The best advice I ever received came from other entrepreneurs. It takes a village.

Running your own business is one of the most exciting, and challenging, adventures you will embark upon. Take care of yourself as you set the tone and culture of your growing business. Protect yourself to ensure the business will survive the ups and downs. Running your business can be fun with a little bit of planning and with processes to make things run smoothly. Take time to set it up right so you can get back to doing what you love. I’m cheering for you!

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Good advice for small business starters.

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How Data Can Be a Competitive Weapon in Your Content Marketing | Oracle Marketing Cloud

How Data Can Be a Competitive Weapon in Your Content Marketing | Oracle Marketing Cloud | Competitive Edge |

We’re competing for YOUR attention. Each day, you make a countless number of decisions related to content. Which song do you play on your iPhone? Which link do you click in your Twitter feed? Which article do you read at

The answers may be: Bruno Mars, a Buzzfeed article and a feature on abalone divers. Your decisions determine the outcome of numerous mini-competitions. With such strong competitive forces at play, how can we possibly get YOUR attention?

We can write about best practices, how to’s and market overviews, but all that hard work results in a “finished product” that’s not much different from other vendors in our space. To you, they all look the same. So what’s the answer? How can we create content that resonates with YOU?

3. The Answer is: Data, Data, and DATA
Whether it’s from surveys or customers, data that you collect, manage and analyze is unique and valuable. Data is a form of content that your competition cannot copy. It helps you gain awareness, drive conversations and garner trust.

Earlier this year, DNN authored a research report. The report was titled “Marketing Got Complicated: Challenges (and Opportunities) for Marketers at Mid-Sized Companies.”

This was a successful content marketing campaign for us: we created a wealth of content that generated awareness, inbound traffic, mentions on social media and earned media coverage. In the remainder of this post, I’ll share tips on how to do a similar campaign.

1. Ensure Relevancy to Your Target Audience
Our average customer is a marketer at a mid-sized company. We knew that providing useful, persona-based research would be relevant. It’s kind of like saying, “Want to reach mountain biking enthusiasts? Then perform research on mountain bikers.” We heard from a lot of mid-sized company marketers who told us how useful the report was.

2. Ensure You’re Not Duplicating Existing Research

For our next study, we considered doing research on how marketers use content across the stages of the sales cycle. Then we received an email invitation from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. They are doing similar research - it’s actually their fifth annual study.

Because our survey would be too similar to their’s, we decided to hold off. So search for existing (or upcoming) research that’s similar to yours. Pursue new and unique angles, because that helps you stand out from the crowd.

3. Consider Desired Outcomes Ahead of Time
While you’d never want to influence research outcomes, you ought to think about desired results. Surprising results can generate attention. In our research, 79% of marketing executives say it's a challenge to get (and hold) the attention of target customers.

The high percentage surprised some of us and it generated a lot of discussion online. In addition, results can identify contradictions that instruct readers on actions they should take (e.g. 80% of marketers rate measurement as highly important, yet only 40% have deployed web analytics: time to deploy web analytics).

4. Don’t Just Report. Recommend Solutions, Too
If all we did was present a series of charts to marketers at mid-sized companies, they’d probably read the report and yawn. Instead, we provided recommendations related to each of the findings. This made the content more useful and helped us build trust with our readers.

5. Create Many Varieties of Related Content
Your data provides the seeds. Plant those seeds to make a hundred flowers bloom. Using our research report as the seed, the additional content we generated included:

  • Blog posts on our website
  • Contributed blog posts on third party sites
  • LinkedIn posts
  • A live webinar featuring a panel of marketing experts
  • A SlideShare of the webinar
  • The on-demand recording of the webinar
  • A detailed blog summary of the webinar
  • An infographic highlighting some of the key data points
  • Blog posts featuring the expert panel from the webinar

As you can see, we used the unique insights provided by the research to create multiple flavors of content. If each piece of content reaches a different reader, then you’ve dramatically extended the reach of your campaign.

It’s fairly easy to write your next blog post or author your next eBook. Providing data-driven content is more challenging. However, it can create outsized returns. You should continue to publish blog posts and eBooks, but if that’s all that you do, your competition may be eating your lunch. Make data your secret weapon to win your competitors’ dinner and dessert.

For more best practice insight on using data to support your content, check out how the Oracle Marketing Cloud content team turned a research report into a complete integrated marketing program.

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes courtesy of Dennis Shiao, Director of Content Marketing at DNN. Dennis is a contributing author to the book “42 Rules of Product Marketing” and is Editor of the DNN blog. Follow Dennis on Twitter @dshiao. 

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Via denbro, massimo facchinetti, marsancor, Jesús Hernández
denbro's curator insight, August 21, 4:18 PM

Good article that points out how to use content effectively. If each piece of content reaches a different reader, then you’ve dramatically extended the reach of your campaign.

It’s fairly easy to write your next blog post or author your next eBook. Providing data-driven content is more challenging. However, it can create outsized returns. You should continue to publish blog posts and eBooks, but if that’s all that you do, your competition may be eating your lunch. Make data your secret weapon to win your competitors’ dinner and dessert.