Startups and Entrepreneurship
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Startups and Entrepreneurship
Articles I read and like which help me run my startups better
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7 things going against you as a first-time entrepreneur

7 things going against you as a first-time entrepreneur | Startups and Entrepreneurship |
Entrepreneurship is a game that you win in the long term. It is a game that is beyond just you. It is a myth to think that you alone will have it all under control, however smart you are.

If you are a first-time entrepreneur in any industry, odds are well against you. You already know this, too, but you go ahead with your (ad)venture. Hats off to your courage, but that’s not sufficient enough to cross all the hurdles.

1. Not being able to see escalating friction

There is literally zero friction for your ideas when they are in your head. The friction escalates at an alarming rate as you move through the following phases:

* Reflecting on your idea and self-validating

* Asking people close to you, not necessarily those that are knowledgeable

* Sharing it with people who think similarly to you

* Market research

* Recruiting partners whom you will pay (vendors of any kind)

* Talking to potential prospects

* Talking to potential investors

If you don’t understand the level of friction at each stage, you will notice that you will enter the stage terribly unprepared and fail miserably.

2. Confusing activity with progress

In a startup, there are so many things to do and so many things that you can do. Lot of activity can happen under the radar without ever talking to a potential customer. Interestingly, you can create work that will create more work. For instance, you decide to file for not one but five patents. That will spawn some work. This work will spawn more work in terms of queries from USPTO, and those queries will spawn some more work.

The sad part is that you can start misattributing several activities to progress.

In general, any activity that cannot create value to your customers in a measurable way needs to be questioned. There is a good chance that it’s just activity leading nowhere.

3. Lack of valuable accomplishments

Unless you have built a product that is shockingly awesome, you need to have built an identity that will bring credibility to the venture. Somebody should be able to easily understand and appreciate why you are the right person to take this venture forward. If they don’t believe in you, the derivative will be that they will lose belief in the venture.

People do judge a book by its cover and a founder by his or her previous valuable accomplishments. You might as well get prepared for it.

4. Not knowing what not to do

Time is the most precious asset you have. It is not only important for you to know what to do but most important to know what not to do.

How do you get to know that?

It comes from experience.

But you are a first-time entrepreneur, so experience is out of the question. This is where you surround yourself with people who have been there and done that and are willing to help.

5. Concluding for convenience

It is better to call a spade a spade and move on. When you take a misstep or face a setback, it is better to quickly acknowledge that you goofed up and clear the air for the next set of actions.

When you engage in blame game to conveniently wiggle out of the uncomfortable situations, nobody wins. If you are surrounded by smart people, they will see through it; and if you are not surrounded by smart people, you have a bigger problem at hand already.

By design your first foray into entrepreneurship will be uncomfortable, and that is part of growth. By posturing as anyone other than a student of the craft, you will be doing a dis-service to yourself and others around you.

6. Trying to fix your weaknesses fast

Trying to fix your weaknesses during your first entrepreneurship journey will be like trying to change tires on a moving vehicle. There is no trial run in entrepreneurship; everything is real.

The only way to win the game is to play to your strengths, invest in your strengths, and invest in the team that will compensate your for your weaknesses.

7. Believing that you will have it all in control

There is a thin line between confidence and hubris. Your hubris might appear to you as extreme confidence until you are humbled. There is an African saying that is apt in this and many scenarios. It goes something like this: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Entrepreneurship is a game that you win in the long term. It is a game that is beyond just you. It is a myth to think that you alone will have it all under control, however smart you are.

As you would have guessed, there are many more hurdles along the way. Whatever your adventure, it will be a humbling experience that will help you grow by leaps and bounds along the way.

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Why It's Insane to Pay $132 Million for a Soccer Player -- And Why It Isn't

Why It's Insane to Pay $132 Million for a Soccer Player -- And Why It Isn't | Startups and Entrepreneurship |

The news — finally made official — that Spanish soccer club Real Madrid has lured Welsh player Gareth Bale away from English team Tottenham Hotspur for a world-record transfer fee of $132 million (or €100 million) has had the soccer industry on edge for weeks.

Even before the deal was confirmed, insiders rushed to condemn it. Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger referred to the staggering sum as "a joke," while new FC Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino upped the ante by saying the planned transfer showed “a lack of respect to the world in general.”

It does seem crazy to spend such a vast amount of money on one player, especially in a decidedly weak Spanish economy where unemployment is sky high and where many businesses — including Real Madrid, and indeed the majority of Spanish soccer clubs — face high levels of debt. And to offer Bale a salary of hundreds of thousands of dollars a week when so many people struggle to make ends meet seems downright absurd.

Yet the Gareth Bale transfer is only the latest in a string of big signings this summer. In his eagerness to criticize Barcelona's arch rival, Martino might have overlooked the fact that his own club is among the heaviest spenders in the world of football year after year. This summer, the club paid a reported $67 million for Brazilian star forward Neymar, while selling another player, David Villa, for $7 million only three years after having paid over $50 million for him.

And that's just one club: I could list dozens of other examples at clubs such as Manchester City, Chelsea, Paris Saint German, and Monaco. Knowing the money for Bale was on its way, Tottenham Hotspur itself has been a big spender, too.

And whether we like it or not, the soccer industry is far from the only sector of the economy that is turning into a so-called "winner-take-all market" in which the few who have risen to the top of their profession (think of professional athletes, best-selling authors and Grammy-winning pop singers, but also Fortune 500 executives, salespeople, and investment bankers) can earn extremely high fees while a much larger group of also-rans in these sectors barely earn a living.

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The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship | Startups and Entrepreneurship |

No one said building a company was easy. But it's time to be honest about how brutal it really is--and the price so many founders secretly pay.

Successful entrepreneurs achieve hero status in our culture. We idolize the Mark Zuckerbergs and the Elon Musks. And we celebrate the blazingly fast growth of the Inc. 500 companies. But many of those entrepreneurs, like Smith, harbor secret demons: Before they made it big, they struggled through moments of near-debilitating anxiety and despair--times when it seemed everything might crumble.

Lately, more entrepreneurs have begun speaking out about their internal struggles in an attempt to combat the stigma on depression and anxiety that makes it hard for sufferers to seek help. In a deeply personal post called "When Death Feels Like a Good Option," Ben Huh, the CEO of the Cheezburger Network humor websites, wrote about his suicidal thoughts following a failed start-up in 2001. Sean Percival, a former MySpace vice president and co-founder of the children's clothing start-up Wittlebee, penned a piece called "When It's Not All Good, Ask for Help" on his website. "I was to the edge and back a few times this past year with my business and own depression," he wrote. "If you're about to lose it, please contact me." 

Entrepreneurs often juggle many roles and face countless setbacks--lost customers, disputes with partners, increased competition, staffing problems--all while struggling to make payroll. "There are traumatic events all the way along the line," says psychiatrist and former entrepreneur Michael A. Freeman, who is researching mental health and entrepreneurship.

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Go big or go home - A Young Entrepreneur in London

Go big or go home - A Young Entrepreneur in London | Startups and Entrepreneurship |

For a few years now, I’ve been investing in technology startups for a very specific reason. I’ve built a number of businesses, but when I turned my attention to the online software space, I quickly discovered that it required a completely different approach to anything I had done before. Creating a property development business or an education consultancy required a certain level of professionalism and dedication, but the bar for making an online startup work turned out to be much much higher.

Alongside reading, researching and studying, and actually setting up my own first software company – 42 Tasks – I realised that the fastest way to acquire the knowledge and skillset that I needed to succeed was to learn from people who had already done so. I know many entrepreneurs, and spend a lot of time with them – mainly because when you’re involved in fast-growth businesses, it is difficult to find the usual topics of conversation interesting.

You get acclimatised to big ups and huge downs – to amazing breakthroughs one day and to huge failures the next. I remember Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, saying that he flatly refused to go to parties and talk about what a great discount someone got on their new garden furniture. I completely agree, and so choose to spend time with people who enjoy talking about grand visions and great opportunities.

I knew that I needed to grow this network and surround myself by ever more experienced and successful entrepreneurs. Initially, I approached some of the people I most respected, and asked for their time to mentor me. But I quickly realised that the power balance in a relationship of this nature was always severely skewed, and I would always be asking for favours and waiting for them to find time for me.

This wasn’t going to work. I had a lot of respect for their achievements, but nonetheless saw them as peers and expected the same respect for my own achievements as well. The mentor relationship didn’t lead to this. It became clear that I needed to find another way.

After a lot of thinking, I noticed that even the most experienced, and wealthy, technology entrepreneurs didn’t fund their companies entirely on their own. They liked to optimise the risk profile of their capital, and to get other people involved in their business in order to leverage their intellect and turn them into brand ambassadors. They would raise money to validate their business, and its market valuation. By becoming an angel investor, I would be able to achieve the exact goal which I initially set for myself.

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How the age of design-centric e-commerce might not lend itself to sales

How the age of design-centric e-commerce might not lend itself to sales | Startups and Entrepreneurship |
We’ve seen a rise of e-commerce companies recently that have tackled the dual problems of discovery and boredom: They’ve made shopping a fun, emotional experience. But can they translate that to sales?


There is no doubt that Pinterest has inspired a population of people to look for beautiful images on the web, and these companies like Fab and The Fancy have risen to the challenge of producing beautiful items to browse. But in working to solve the problems of discovery and boredom in online shopping, can these companies translate consumer interest and engagement into actually making a purchase?

recently we’ve seen an explosion of these design-focused e-commerce companies that are drawing consumers through a totally different approach. From Warby Parker mailing you a box of glasses to try on and model in your own home, toTrue & Co charming customers with a Q&A about how your bra fits, to Fab giving you endless entertainment with wacky and clever home items, there’s no doubt that these companies want to make your shopping experience fun. They create pleasurable, cool experiences. But the question remains: does this consumer experience get people to buy?

The difference is about intent — Warby Parker and Fab have made browsing a fun experience, but when you’re going to Amazon, it’s much more likely that you’re going there to buy something. So could the former capture the behavior so common on the latter? Fab has planned a major expansion to move beyond flash sales to carrying more regular merchandise, so this could be a successful tactic.


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The Four Worst Innovation Assassins

Is there a corporate leader who doesn't extol the virtues of innovation these days? Yet if innovation is so important, why do so many companies have so much trouble with it?


The reflexive response is that it is a human capital problem — that is, that most people just don't have what it takes to successfully innovate. I reject that view. Academic research in fact shows that almost anyone can become a competent innovator (with sufficient practice). I've seen countless examples of ordinary individuals displaying the creativity, ingenuity, and perseverance of the world's great innovators.


Those people can only be effective in the right context, but, ironically, many of the things leaders do to encourage innovation actually kill it. Look carefully at your company and you might spot one of four types of unintentional innovation assassins.

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Adaptability is Genius & Generosity

Adaptability is nature’s genius. Species that can adapt, evolve and survive.

There are those who think adaptability is genius in nature but not in people. They see people skills adaptability as weakness and lack of authenticity. To them, an adaptable person is a chameleon. Yet this is not true. Adaptability doesn’t make you a chameleon; what’s in your heart does.


With a generous heart, adaptability is genius. It is the brilliance in leadership, teamwork, customer service, innovation, career, people skills, personal relationships and much much more.

Adaptability is the capacity to see differences and changes and the willingness and skill to respond for a positive result. Adaptability is not submission and surrender. Adaptability and authenticity are not opposites nor mutually exclusive.

In Leadership.

Adaptability is the keen sense of what changes will impact the organization and the skill to change appropriately. A changing workforce, competitive products, global markets, educational strengths and shortfalls, laws and regulations, political shifts, human tragedies all create the need to adapt. Adaptability is the organization’s genius to survive.

In Innovation.

Innovation is adaptability in action. It requires leaders and teams to overcome comfort and love of what they previously created. Adaptability is the generosity to overcome habit and the genius to focus on what is needed going forward.

In Teamwork.

Teamwork is the practice of growth and change to achieve a shared success. Without adaptability, it doesn’t happen. Several things can derail team success: personality type differences, various learning styles, conative approaches, communication preferences, goal orientations, etc…

Adaptability bridges these differences into collective success. It requires both the genius of how to adapt and the generosity to put the team ahead of personal preference.

In Career.

No matter how great our plans, our schooling, or our intelligence, achieving career success is rarely a straight line up. Adaptability facilitates career success.Shifting gears when our dream job doesn’t materialize keeps us moving forward. Being open and adaptable to coaching and mentoring creates career fit.

Social networking done with mutual give and take is the generosity of adaptability in action. It is the genius of tapping shared human needs for mutual success.

In Customer Service.

If we don’t adapt to customers, they become another company’s customers. Sometimes when their needs are outside of our company’s mission, this is acceptable. Companies do fail when they try to become everything to everybody. Yet adaptability to customers within our mission is essential for success.

Adapting to customers shows our generous hearts that touch theirs. Adaptability creates memorable customer experiences that keep them coming back for more. This is the genius of shared success. 

In People Skills.

People skills are the outward expression of both our identity and adaptability. People skills adaptability doesn’t undermine our authenticity. It truly shows whether we are flexible and open-minded vs. rigid and closed-minded. It shows our genius in spotting others’ styles and needs. It communicates our generosity to interact (not just act).

Mutual give and take — adaptability — is the essence of forming positive relationships with others. Those who won’t and don’t may dominate for awhile yet lose in the end. Our street smarts are a form of adaptability that protect us from those with evil intent!

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10 Killer Resources for Small Businesses and Start-ups

10 Killer Resources for Small Businesses and Start-ups | Startups and Entrepreneurship |

Looking to get your startup or small business on the path to success? There are lots of resources that can help you know how to approach your marketing, partners, suppliers, design, and legal matters, which are all crucial to the success of your business.


Here are 10 killer resources that will help you take your business from idea to successful execution.

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10 Lessons For Entrepreneurs From Coach John Wooden

10 Lessons For Entrepreneurs From Coach John Wooden | Startups and Entrepreneurship |

1. “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”


2. “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”


3. “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”


4. “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”


5. “You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.”


6. “The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones.”


7. “Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.”


8. “If I am through learning, I am through.”


9. “I don’t believe in praying to win.”


10. “Defense is a definite part of the game, and a great part of defense is learning to play it without fouling.”


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Leadership is based on skills not personality

Leadership is based on skills not personality | Startups and Entrepreneurship |

I am a firm believer that great leaders do not come out of any particular personality mould. In executive coaching I have worked with, outstanding leaders all of whom had different personalities. Contrary to what some believe about leadership they were not all lively extroverts who had magnetic and charismatic personalities.


The mark of great leaders is that they do certain things very well and consistently. It doesn’t matter whether this is in the sales or the finance function – the same things are required in both. In executive coaching I find that sometimes people panic when they are given their first real leadership role. This is often because they have a model leader in their mind and they worry that they will not be able to live up to that image. As we go through our executive coaching they realise they too can be a great leader if they can, in their own way, do the things described in here.

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Why Speed (Not Perfection) is Everything Online

Why Speed (Not Perfection) is Everything Online | Startups and Entrepreneurship |
We all want our products to be perfect, but the market doesn't reward us for that.


Long development cycles with an emphasis on perfection bring a lot of risk. Long ago, I was a product manager at a major enterprise software company, and we had 18 month development cycles to ship new products. We wrote detailed technical specifications, talked to customers, collaborated with developers, and endlessly tweaked things before we were comfortable with shipping the product.


In today's environment, and particularly at a consumer web company, that kind of lag gives competitors all the time they need to blow you out of the water.

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How Indians defied gravity and achieved success in Silicon Valley

How Indians defied gravity and achieved success in Silicon Valley | Startups and Entrepreneurship |

If you visited Silicon Valley in the ’50s and ’60s, the only Indians you would meet would be a few low-level engineers who came to the U.S. to study and ended up staying. Indians were stereotyped as beggars and snake charmers, and finding them in leadership positions in the technology industry was unimaginable.

Then in the ’70s and ’80s, waves of IIT graduates migrated to the Valley. (IIT’s are India’s top engineering colleges.) It was a time in India, under a socialist government, that people with capitalist ambitions felt stifled. One by one they mastered the Valley’s unwritten rules of engagement and shattered its glass ceiling. Engineers such as Vinod Dham started creating breakthrough technologies such as the Pentium chip, and entrepreneurs such as Kanwal Rekhi and Vinod Khosla co-founded companies like Excelan and Sun Microsystems. They also started helping each other and formed their own entrepreneurial networks.


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Get Out of Your Own Way! Six Common Startup Misperceptions - Forbes

Get Out of Your Own Way! Six Common Startup Misperceptions - Forbes | Startups and Entrepreneurship |

My life revolves around startups. I read about startup news and trends over my morning coffee. I spend my days advising my portfolio companies and interacting with members of the startup community. I travel to conferences regularly, where I meet startup founders outside of my city.


Because of my immersion in the startup world, I’ve witnessed a lot of trip-ups. Here are six common misperceptions about launching a venture – and what you should know:


“I need venture capital.” Despite how some startup news outlets treat it, raising funds is the means, not the end. There are plenty of companies that have raised large amounts, only to fail spectacularly. Conversely, there are highly successful companies that bootstrapped the entire way. High-growth companies that require long periods of unprofitable user acquisition are great candidates for venture capital. But, in reality, they are a tiny minority of startups. Look to get your company what it needs – and not a penny more.


“If I build it, sales will come.” As Steve Blank is famous for saying, no startup has failed for a lack of code. Of course, product matters, but sales will likely be your biggest challenge. People are busy and distracted. Outside of your friends and family, no one really cares that you have an amazing solution. From day one, be sales-focused. Look at your company first as a sales company, and you’ll put yourself in the best possible position.


“People are a commodity.” Uh, no. Based on my experience, “A” talent is worth approximately five times more than “B” talent. People can be your biggest asset or your biggest pain in the ass. Focus on recruiting top talent, and then let them do their thing. Treat your talent well, and you’ll be in great shape to grow and establish a strong company culture. Neglect your people, and it will be disastrous.


“We’ll worry about an operating agreement later.” As they say, people are funny about money. Entrepreneurship is messy, but your agreements should be organized. Keep things clean, crisp, and clear from the beginning, or risk years of heartache, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings. If you don’t have documents in place now, do it this week. If you’re thinking about starting something, start here.


“I’ve got a couple startups.” As soon as someone says this to you, run. One startup is ridiculously challenging. Two is suicide. Jack Dorsey is well-known for running both Twitter and Square. Besides being a wildly intelligent freak of nature, this stint has recently and publicly taken its toll. In fact, I’ve never seen any startup succeed without it being the singular focus. Pick your best horse and ride it. If it doesn’t work, kill it and pick another horse to ride.


“We’re growing like crazy.” That’s fantastic, but massive growth can be extremely dangerous. It usually interferes with cash flow, magnifies communication challenges, and forces logistical errors. I’ve seen more than a few companies look up one day and realize that they need to either slow things down or risk growing to death. Ultimately, profits matter. Aim to grow at a sustainable, profitable pace.


No one wants to launch a startup that fails, but it’s easier to trip over your own feet than you’d guess. Make sure you realign your expectations and cut these six phrases from your vocabulary. The fastest way to avoid failure is by getting out of your own way.

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“How can they be so good?”: The strange story of Skype

“How can they be so good?”: The strange story of Skype | Startups and Entrepreneurship |

"I don't care about Skype!" millionaire Jaan Tallinn tells me, taking off his blue sunglasses and finding a seat at a cozy open-air restaurant in the old town of Tallinn, Estonia. "The technology is 10 years old—that's an eternity when it comes to the Internet Age. Besides, I have more important things going on now."

Tallinn has five children, and he calls Skype his sixth. So why does he no longer care about his creation?

On August 29, 2003, Skype went live for the first time. By 2012, according to Telegeography, Skype accounted for a whopping 167 billion minutes of cross-border voice and video calling in a year—which itself was a stunning 44 percent growth over 2011. That increase in minutes was "more than twice that achieved by all international carriers in the world, combined." That is to say, Skype today poses a serious threat to the largest telcos on the planet. It also made Jaan Tallinn and other early Skypers rich.

But something changed along the way. Skype is no longer the upstart that refused to put signs on its offices, that dodged international lawyers, and that kept a kiddie pool in the boardroom. This is the real story of how a global brand truly began, told in more detail than ever before by those who launched it.

In 2000, as dot-com fever swept America, an entertainment and news portal called brought together a sextet of European revolutionaries.

It began with two people from the Swedish telecom Tele2—a Swede named Niklas Zennström and a Dane named Janus Friis. Zennström was Tele2 employee no. 23; Friis worked his way up in customer service for a Danish operator.

The Swedish owner of Tele2, Jan Stenbeck, was determined to launch the Everyday portal and launch it quickly. As the Swedes were having trouble, Stefan Öberg, the Marketing Director in Tele2's Estonian office, proposed finding some Estonians for the job. In May 1999, Tele2 published an ad in a daily newspaper calling for competent programmers and offering the hefty sum of 5,000 Estonian kroons (about $330) a day—more than an average Estonian earned in a month at the time.

The work went to Jaan Tallinn, Ahti Heinla, and Priit Kasesalu—Estonian schoolmates and tech fans. They had been into Fidonet, a computer network which preceded the Internet, since the Soviet era. They started a small company, Bluemoon, which made computer games such as Kosmonaut. (In 1989, Kosmonaut became the first Estonian game to be sold abroad.) The game earned its creators $5,000 dollars, which at the time was a large sum for any Estonian. But by the turn of the century, the three friends were down to their last penny and Bluemoon was facing bankruptcy.

Short of money, they applied for and got the Tele2 job. The PHP programming language needed for the work was new to them, but the team learned it in a weekend and completed their test assignment much faster than Tele2 requested.

The last of the Skype sextet, Toivo Annus, was hired in Tallinn to manage the development of The site would soon be complete, with Zennström and Friis working in Luxembourg and Amsterdam, and Annus and the Bluemoon trio working from Tallinn.

Tele2 was thrilled with the Estonians, but the portal failed commercially. Zennström and Friis left Tele2 and lived in Amsterdam for a while. The homeless Friis stayed in Zennström's guest room, and they turned the kitchen into a temporary office.

Together, Zennström and Friis pored over new business ideas. As the US was fascinated at the time with the scandal surrounding Napster, Zennström and Friis planned something similar. But where Napster infuriated the music and movie industries, Zennström and Friis hoped to cooperate with them. They didn't have the slightest doubt about where their new product should be created—in Tallinn, obviously. Kazaa was born.

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Five Rules for Collecting Late Payments

Five Rules for Collecting Late Payments | Startups and Entrepreneurship |
To increase your odds of getting paid, act quickly. Maintaining a credit policy can help you avoid getting into the situation, experts say

The warning signs of a customer's cash-flow woes are easy to detect. Reduced orders, slowing payments, a change in phone number or business name, and a reluctance to get on the phone are all signs that trouble is brewing. Requests for duplicate invoice documentation or claims that "the check is in the mail" are also obvious stalling techniques. How should you respond to delinquent customers to improve your odds of getting paid? As business bankruptcies near a 16-year high, an informed response and a thorough credit policy are fundamentally necessary. Consider adopting the following five rules:

1. Initiate direct contact after a payment deadline is missed. The biggest mistake small business owners make is waiting too long to follow-up. The probability of collecting on a delinquent account drops dramatically each month following the due date, from 81 percent after two months to 52 percent after six months, according to the Commercial Collection Agency Assn. If an invoice remains outstanding for 12 months, the chance of collection drops to less than 25 percent, the trade group says.

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How to help your startup turn a profit in 4 simple steps

How to help your startup turn a profit in 4 simple steps | Startups and Entrepreneurship |

Sales are the bloodstream for most businesses, and tech startups are no exception. It’s always better to be earn money, not just raise it, as money you earn doesn’t dilute your ownership and reassures your investors.

However, figuring out the way your startup should make money could be challenging, especially for us left­-brained founders.

This post is about choosing the right sales strategy and channels for your startup from the start. It may sound overwhelming, but, don’t worry, it’s written for dummies, just like I was a couple of years ago…

Step 1: Figure out the LTV (customer lifetime value)
Step 2: Choose your sales channels
Step 3: Test your channels
Step 4: Focus and grow
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Focus, credit lines and a good accountant: 8 entrepreneurs' tips on boostrapping a startup

Focus, credit lines and a good accountant: 8 entrepreneurs' tips on boostrapping a startup | Startups and Entrepreneurship |

We talk a lot about venture capital around here, but the truth is that most companies will never take VC money. Data from the Small Business Administration suggests that 99 percent of new businesses started each year will not get venture capital at startup.


Thanks to lower costs associated with starting a web-based company, many health IT companies have gotten off the ground – and some even to profitability - without taking any outside investment money.


But it’s not an easy undertaking. Here are some words of wisdom I rounded up on bootstrapping a startup, from those who have done it themselves.


Its not right for everyone:

Having a well-defined product or service, a small founding team, limited capital needs and a short sales cycle may be indications that bootstrapping is a good option, according to this piece by Les McKeown, a serial entrepreneur-turned-author.

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5 reasons your startup is failing at PR

5 reasons your startup is failing at PR | Startups and Entrepreneurship |

Wondering why your startup is being ignored by the press? It may be a for a good reason.


In an effort to help you get the most out of your communication efforts, I’ve outlined five common PR mistakes that startups often make. Keep this list of don’ts in mind, and make sure your company avoids them as you make your journey into the wilds of PR.

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11 Things That The CIA Can Teach Us About Entrepreneurship

11 Things That The CIA Can Teach Us About Entrepreneurship | Startups and Entrepreneurship |

There’s something that sets CIA agents apart from the rest of us. They are tough, smart, and can improvise during difficult situations. In some ways, they are a lot like entrepreneurs.


This means that if you want to become an entrepreneur, it might be useful to start thinking like a CIA agent. Here are some things you can learn from the CIA and their agents.

  #1 – Be realistic about what the job requires

When people think about the CIA, what comes to mind is what they see on TV: excitement, travel, and glamor. But if that were true, everyone would want to be a CIA agent. The truth is that becoming a CIA agent takes years of hard work, dedication, and focus.

In the same way, it’s easy to think that entrepreneurship is all about having “The Perfect Idea” and raking in millions as a result. But, successful entrepreneurship requires a lot of diligence and work. Watch or read biographies of successful entrepreneurs and see for yourself that sacrifices were made in order for them to reach that level of success.


#2 – People skills are just as important as technical skills

CIA agents are great at reading people. They can sense their strengths, weaknesses, and quickly judge if they’ll be an asset or a threat. As an entrepreneur, you’ll need the same skills during hiring, negotiations, and day to day operations.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the smartest person in the room – without people skills, you will never gain the trust and respect of those around you.



#3 – Be reliable

Unlike what the Hollywood movies would have you believe, good agents are reliable. They don’t miss appointments, forget equipment, or give in to distractions. Doing these things could lead to death. Or worse, war.

While entrepreneurship may not nearly be as dramatic, you still need to be reliable – especially when dealing with customers. This means meeting or exceeding their expectations so that they can trust you when the next transaction comes around.


#4 – Have integrity

Both businessmen and CIA agents need to make the hard decisions that most don’t really want to make. Are you going to compromise what’s best for the long term just to get some short term gains? Will you work with employees who are affordable or with employees whom you know will get the job done?

Just as a CIA agent is loyal to his or her country, so should you be loyal to your business’ goals and those whom you conduct business with.


#5 – Surround yourself with satisfied and competent people

Nothing ruins a good mission like someone who’s negative, unhappy, or downright incompetent. This is true whether it’s an intelligence mission or a business mission.

When the people around you are smart, confident, and happy about their choices, their enthusiasm is infectious and will only feed your company’s energy.



#6 – Learn other languages

The best CIA agents can switch from English to French to Farsi in a few seconds. This helps them understand background conversation and blend in when they are in a foreign country.

As an entrepreneur, you’re going to need to learn how to do this if you want your business to operate worldwide. In fact, odds are you won’t have a choice but to work with contractors, customers, and employees from all over the globe – that’s what it’s like to do business today. And, if you’re going to do it successfully, you need to learn how to communicate well with the various people you’ll be in business with in your own country and in the international markets.


#7 – Foster connections in your community

The CIA and other intelligence agencies are one big community. This helps them share information and consult each others’ expertise whenever needed.

Entrepreneurs have to do the same. For example, you might be a great leader, but what if you don’t have the accounting or legal skills to run a business? Or, you might be great at marketing, but what if you aren’t a good designer? You need to find smart, talented people to compensate for the skills and know-how that you lack. To do that, you’ll need to mingle with other entrepreneurs, seek referrals, and get tips on where to find the best people to work with.


#8 – Be financially secure and responsible

Preserving your integrity isn’t all about willpower, it’s also about preventing any issues that may make you weak. A financially troubled CIA agent is a liability. It’s easy for malicious organizations to trap, blackmail, or lure a good agent who has money problems.

The same goes for entrepreneurs. If you’re strapped for funds, you might get tempted to take from the till or you might make the wrong calls just to keep your cash flow going.



#9 – Keep your track record clean

The CIA usually performs thorough background checks on people who want to become agents. They look for signs of a criminal history, drug charges, and other negative activities. This is because the CIA needs to be 100% sure that their agents are accountable, honest, and loyal.

It pays for Entrepreneurs to be vigilant in this area. Business is such a public activity that people are going to unearth negative things about you. The more successful your business is, the more likely this is to happen. To protect yourself and your business, you need a clean record or the cleanest it can be.



#10 – Never stop learning

If a CIA agent stopped keeping up with the latest international intelligence gossip, fighting methods, and equipment, he or she could die in the field.

The same is true for entrepreneurs who get complacent and think that once their business takes off, they no longer have to learn anything new. But with technology constantly changing and with a newer batch of entrepreneurs launching startups every year, you’ll get left behind if you don’t put in the effort to keep up with trends.


#11 – Be physically fit and healthy

When you’re running errands, working day and night, and obsessing about every detail of your business, it’s easy to forget about your physical fitness. You might think that you no longer have the time or energy to take care of your health. The truth is that your physical health is tied to your mental and emotional health – which you need to run your business.

Just as an agent has to keep fit whether there’s a mission or not, you also need to keep working out. This ensures that when there’s a fight, you’re ready in a heartbeat.

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3 Tips for Building an Effective MVP

3 Tips for Building an Effective MVP | Startups and Entrepreneurship |

An MVP or minimum viable product is a product that has only the features and functionality that allow a product to be deployed. When you are launching a new product, you and your team might have numerous brainstorming sessions to come up with different features and functionality to add on to your product instead of launching the main solution to the problem your team is aiming to solve.  Ideas from the brainstorming sessions may seem like great ideas to you and your team, but what matters is whether or not they are important to your consumers.



1. Identify the Audience and the Problem You are Trying to Solve

It is important to first identify who your target audience is, and in what way your product will make their lives easier.  This is especially important when you begin planning the ways in which to test the MVP concept, in terms of how to get in front of that target audience.



2. Essential for MVP vs. Nice to Have

In identifying what features and functionality to include in the MVP, it is important to create separate lists of what are essential features for the MVP and which features would be nice to have. Next, set up interviews with people who would be your ideal consumer. Review these lists with them for valuable feedback.



3. An Iterative Development Strategy

Put together a development plan where you can efficiently launch your MVP to a small group that can begin using the product and provide meaningful feedback. From there, develop a process of iterating changes to the product based on feedback and gather more learning.

These tips will help your business take a product with all of its’ potential wonderful features, and mold it into something your ideal audience will love.

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Productivity Tricks from George Washington - Lifehacker - Lifehacker

Productivity Tricks from George Washington - Lifehacker - Lifehacker | Startups and Entrepreneurship |
Productivity Tricks from George Washington - Lifehacker
In order to become a famous inventor, president, scientist, or just about anything else with a semblance of importance, you have to know how to get things done.
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Term Sheet Basics For Venture Capital In Today's Economy

So you want to raise money from outside investors? Remember that old adage: “No free lunch”? Well, in outside funding the rule applies more than anywhere else. Best to ask yourself, “Have you considered what strings are attached?”


External equity, debt or some combination are viable means of financing your growing business and taking the venture to new levels. That’s what Venture Capitalists (VCs) can help you achieve. But never forget that VCs have financial goals of their own. Before you sign the term sheet, you had better understand the fine print. This article is intended as a primer to term sheet basics.


Outside funding offers many advantages to growing businesses, such as working capital to fuel faster growth and stronger capitalization to lower future lending costs. However, taking outside money changes the way you manage your company in ways that as an entrepreneur you may not like. You probably won’t work for yourself any more; there will be a Board to report to. You’ll have fiduciary responsibilities to your shareholders, and, depending on how your financing is structured, potentially wider reporting requirements which could include audited financial statements for compliance with financing covenants or SEC requirements. Before you seek capital, it is important to understand the ins and outs of a term sheet, so you can make informed decisions about your future operations. This knowledge will not only enhance your stature and credibility with funding sources, but will help you safeguard your business vision.

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There Is No Magic Pill For Great Leadership

There Is No Magic Pill For Great Leadership | Startups and Entrepreneurship |
Here's how great leadership is created:


Really getting to know your people. You have to be willing to put in the time to really get to know your people so that you can work with them to build on their strengths. Put down your smartphone, walk around your desk, and invite one of your people to lunch. While dining, sit there and really listen to what your employee is saying. Ask them to describe their dreams and aspirations. Then go back to your office and come up with a plan to help this person and others achieve what is important to them.


This is what great leaders do. They are always thinking what they can do to support those who work for them. In turn, these leaders have loyal employees who know that they'd be hard pressed to find a leader who has that much of a personal interest in them as the one they have.


Spending the money required to get the results you hope to achieve. I asked one of the executives that I interviewed what was the biggest myth surrounding the attraction and retention of top talent. He replied by saying that executives think they can do this without spending a lot of money or in some cases, any money. This simply isn't true.


The organization that this executive works for is constantly spending money to boost the performance of their people and it shows. They are leaders in their field. You wouldn't expect the top baseball team in the nation to be at the top of their game without the help of outside experts would you? Coaches are provided for these players who are already the best in the nation. And you know what? Most get better.

Spend the money and help your people achieve their full potential. Or if you prefer, spend nothing and use this money on returning products to unhappy customers or hiring new people to replace the ones who keep leaving.


Don't tell outside experts how to do their jobs. You wouldn't go into your car dealer and tell him to change out the engine because you heard rumblings under the hood, would you? No, you'd ask the mechanic to take a look under the hood and diagnose the problem. You'd then ask what your options were. I get calls weekly from companies asking me to come in and do training. I always ask why. Sometimes the person calling really doesn't know why this is necessary and other times the solution they are provided me as the expert isn't the best or least expensive way to resolve their challenge.


An outside adviser can usually see things more clearly than those who are immersed in the organization. However, they can't do so if you insist on telling them how to do their job.


Creating great leadership in your organization requires a commitment from top to bottom. There is no pill for great leadership. If someone tries to sell you one as a prescription for what ails your organization, get a second opinion.

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Improving Your Leadership ROI

Improving Your Leadership ROI | Startups and Entrepreneurship |

Inside many of us who aspire to lead is a burning desire to make a difference. We’re not satisfied with sitting on the sidelines or waiting for someone to tell us what to do. We may not get it right but we’ll be damned if we’re going to go down without a fight. In the immortal words of Def Leppard we’d rather “burn out than fade away”. If you don’t know what I’m talking about this might be a good place to stop reading this post. If you do, then you can already feel the emotion building in your chest.


We enter this profession, sometimes as a calling, often unexpectedly. Once we’re in we’re hooked. Then the real work begins. We begin to understand the values that will define our leadership. We learn hard lessons and fight through failures. Each experience shapes our character; bending us toward our destiny. If we endure, we may experience brief passages of external success or reward but for most of us the real treasure is in the belief that we have done some good in the world that will carry on when we are gone. The hope that somehow we’ve left an impression in the lives of others. That our influence made a difference.


Every story will come to an end. Sometimes in our timing and sometimes before we expected and beyond our control. When the story ends what do you want people to remember? What are the words, experiences and images you will have impressed in the minds of those you have been gifted to serve?


The human impact of your leadership is your leadership ROI, (Return on Influence).

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The Race to Trademark Sweet Revenge- Business on Main Videos

The Race to Trademark Sweet Revenge- Business on Main Videos | Startups and Entrepreneurship |
News on Main (03/26/12): Marlo Scott had no idea how big her cupcake and wine bar would become. Now, she's racing to broadly protect the name behind her success.
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