Tag Archives: collaboration

Box has reportedly, secretly, filed for an IPO


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Aaron Levie_Headshot
Summary:Cloud collaboration star Box has filed for an IPO, according to a report in Quartz. It would be a wise move for the company, which is riding mega goodwill — and mega challenges — as it scales its business and its infrastructure.

Cloud collaboration pioneer Box has filed paperwork for its initial public offering, according to a report on Quartz. The article cites an unnamed source who said Box filed its S-1 form in secret — as did Twitter over the summer — taking advantage of a provision in the JOBS Act for companies earning less than $1 billion in annual revenue.

While the exact timing might have come as a surprise, if the report is accurate, it was no secret that Box has been positioning itself for an IPO for some time.

The company has been growing like crazy, too, and racking up stacks of venture capital along the way. Box Founder and CEO Aaron Levie told us on a podcast appearance in September that the company grew revenue 150 percent in 2012 and expected it to increase another 100 percent in 2013. The company announced a $100 million round of venture capital financing in December (part of about $250 million it has raised since its 2005 launch) at a valuation of nearly $2 billion.

If recent IPOs by other companies with Box’s level of goodwill are any indication, going public could be very lucrative for Box. It might be necessary, too, as the company attempts to scale up its research and engineering efforts. As the company’s user bases and account sizes grow, it might need to invest significantly in better infrastructure and better data analysis to ensure the product keeps up.

Full Article Here – > http://gigaom.com/2014/01/30/box-has-reportedly-secretly-filed-for-an-ipo/

THE SUM OF THE WHOLE


Moises GoldmanHigher Education and the Economy

Moises Goldman PhD – guest writer

In today’s digital environment, the words entrepreneurship and innovation are the flavor of the day. Universities and even certain high schools believe they are preparing their students to go out into the world armed with the necessary tools to excel. But are they? Continue reading

What’s Worse Than a Coworker Who Undermines You?

What’s Worse Than a Coworker Who Undermines You?


What’s Worse Than a Coworker Who Undermines You?

Bad colleagues can wreak havoc. One of the signs of a bad coworker is a pattern of persistent undermining—intentionally hindering a colleague’s success, reputation, or relationships. If you’ve ever had a coworker actively interfere with your productivity, try to make you look bad, steal your ideas, or give you false information, you’ve been the victim of undermining.

The opposite of an underminer is a supporter. When colleagues are supportive, they go out of their way to be givers rather than takers, working to enhance our productivity, make us look good, share ideas, and provide timely help.

Most people assume that relationships are either bad or good. Our coworkers are either takers who undermine us or givers who support us. But research shows otherwise: negative and positive relationships are independent. Many of us have ambivalent relationships with a colleague who undermines us in some situations but supports us in others. What are the implications of these ambivalent relationships?

In a fascinating study led by Michelle Duffy, police officers filled out a survey about how often their closest colleague undermined and supported them. Officers who felt undermined were less committed at work, experienced more physical health problems, and were more likely to take unauthorized breaks and be absent from work. Being undermined was a major source of stress.

But when the underminer was also supportive, things got worse. The officers experienced even lower commitment, had more health issues, and missed more work. It can actually worse to have a colleague who alternates between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde than to work with Mr. Hyde all the time. When a colleague is a pure taker, you know what to expect, and you can devise strategies for minimizing your exposure and collaboration. But if that colleague takes in some situations and gives in others, it’s harder to avoid the relationship altogether, and it can be quite unpredictable. As Duffy’s team explains, “it takes more emotional energy and coping resources to deal with individuals who are inconsistent.”

Frenemies are worse than enemies, and it’s not just in the workplace. Psychologist Bert Uchino finds the same patterns in everyday relationships. In one study, his team surveyed older adults about how the ten most important people in their networks responded to requests assistance. Some relationships were consistently helpful, others made things worse rather than better, and some were ambivalent, featuring a mix of the two. The adults completed two anxiety-provoking tasks: delivering a speech with minimal preparation and taking a rapid-fire math test. Uchino’s team tracked their heart rates.

The more ambivalent ties people had, the more their heart rates spiked during the speech and the math test. Having close connections that were both undermining and supportive was associated with greater stress. In another study of several hundred adults, the more ambivalent relationships they had, the more likely they were to be stressed, depressed, and dissatisfied with their lives.

One implication of this evidence is that it could be wise to avoid ambivalent relationships, even more so than purely negative relationships. But a different strategy might also be effective. Although receiving support from the same person who undermines us is stressful, receiving support from a different person can serve as a buffer. In the study of police officers, Duffy’s team found that having a supportive boss partially reduced the negative effects of an ambivalent coworker. Indeed, after reviewing several decades of research on good and bad bosses, psychologist Robert Sutton concludes that one of the most critical roles for a boss is to serve as a human shield, protecting people against the slings and arrows of bad relationships.

When we’re being undermined by one person, we recognize the importance of seeking support from someone else. But it may be even more critical to invest in those supportive relationships when dealing with someone who’s guilty of both undermining and supporting us.

For more on how relationships affect our success and well-being, see Adam’s new book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller.

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Photo: Dilbert cartoon. Credit: Scott Adams, http://www.dilbert.com; Top: JSlavy/Shutterstock.com

(VIA. Adam Grant – Linkedin – Wharton professor and author of GIVE AND TAKE)

mitef1

WHAT IS AN OFFICE?


MIT Enterprise Forum

As I heard it –

What is an office? Yes, I’m really asking that question. What makes an office an office? What might it be in the future, because it sure isn’t going to be what it once was. Sitting in the huge conference room at the IBM Innovation Center in Chicago, I hear serious ideas thrown around that question. The room dwarfs the oversized projection screen and four 60” flat-screen monitors flank the seats. The MIT Enterprise Forum is presenting THE FUTURE OF THE OFFICE, and tonight, this room is my office. There are more Ph.Ds. in the room than MBAs. MIT’s events are always as good as it gets. I like these events so much that I joined the executive committee and I never join committees. Tonight, I am treated to an outstanding panel:

  • Hugh Musick – Moderator – Dean & Director of Exec Education at IIT
  • Jeff Calusinski – IBM distinguished engineer – one of only 400 in the entire company
  • Brian Shapland – Forward thinker at Steelcase
  • Ross Kimbarovsky – Entrepreneur extraordinaire at CrowdSPRING

As moderator, Hugh Musick issues the challenge: What is an office today? What might it be in the future? If anyone can work with anyone, anywhere, anytime, what’s in the future? Further, what’s the value of culture in this distributed world? And how does culture promote work? Hugh turns it over to Ross Kimbarovsky of CrowdSPRING..

Ross starts with a story about a friend who asks a waiter to bring her special tea pot. Imagine having your own personal teapot and your own personal tea at your favorite restaurant. That’s a good analogy for the way people see the workplace these days, and the younger the employees, the more divergent their expectations about the ways they engage with employers and co-workers.

Next, Hugh makes a striking point. Work is now continuous—not the old 40 hrs. Productivity is no longer measured by time at a desk. A big cultural change is underway—not just in the works, but happening right now to you and me. The factory is no longer downstairs from office—it’s overseas. The middle class is growing worldwide. Management is becoming less top-down. Collaboration is the way successful companies do business today. Working is informal compared to anything in past experience. This is real. Practical. These aren’t dreams.

Brian’s company, Steelcase, makes high-end office furniture. How do they adapt to shrinking demand? He talks about stepping back for a new look and sees three key global work trends

  • Less square feet per worker. Yes, that’s already a fact despite the economy.
  • Today, only 72% of people consider the office as THE place to work.
  • There are 75M people in Gen Y. Today’s eighth graders will soon replace baby boomers in the workplace. These kids reject the traditional workplace.

Is your workplace ready for that kind of change?

Ross—people don’t know what they need. As they work in a new culture, their wants and needs change. Originally, people wanted video games and Ping-Pong tables, but that changed. Now people want flex hours, remote work. As the needs of the workplace change, companies keep adapting. “Thinking long term isn’t the real world anymore.” Whoa—they could do a big debate over that single statement, but I get his point.

TECHNOLOGY

To today’s young workers, technology is oxygen. Values have changed. To many, an iPad is worth 5K in salary. Ross points out that in the past, people needed all sorts of expensive office equipment. That limited what they could do away from the office and made remote work an obstacle. It was just too expensive to provide the essentials for every employee. Now, global telephony enables work anywhere, any time. Cloud Computing allows people to be productive away from the office. People sometimes work at 2am and take off the middle of the day. People are comfortable working where they want, when they want.

Hugh—The PC enables people to do things they never did before. Kids today are a true producer class. Tech lets them make anything they want. Movies, recordings, etc.

Jeff addresses the subject of technology in collaboration. Nobody needs to solve a problem alone any more. If two can collaborate face-to-face, many on social media can do even better. The old model was, get in front of clients, customers, employees. The new model is, get in front of community. Influence is key and sharing creates influence.

Ross points out a huge structural change. Because of technology, small companies can now compete with giants. His company, Crowdsping, is 19 people managing 100K+ people.

At the same time, traditional corporate environments are getting more and more entrenched. They don’t reward innovation. They don’t understand new structures. The way people want to work and the way they choose to work is vastly different from the way big corporations think people need to work. This gives small nimble companies a competitive advantage.

CULTURE

Today’s young workforce functions differently than their older counterparts. These people want a relationship with everybody in the room and constant feedback. They want the freedom to connect with the company president. But they’re satisfied with a relationship that’s digital.

According to Ross, you can’t legislate culture. You create culture by fostering the desired environment. Culture is defined by the way people cooperate, collaborate, innovate. It’s not done by building better offices. Culture drives work. Office space doesn’t do that.

Brian believes that if the culture doesn’t support the new ways of working, it won’t function in the workplace. Technology now lets you sit in a comfortable chair when 10 years ago people saw that as goofing off. Mentorship is huge in retaining workers today and a big part of encouraging collaboration. An interesting shift is the trend toward reverse mentoring. Reverse mentoring is more important than ever because experienced workers need to embrace unfamiliar technology. That’s a cultural reversal that can’t be denied.

Ross asks, if you have a non-distributed team, how do you design your office? One workplace may be fancy, another functional. Either style can work if it fits the culture. CrowdSPRING doesn’t have offices at all—just one big room and a couple of conference rooms. No cubicals, just open desks. Yet some face-to-face time is still needed to model collaboration. He freely admits that his model may not work for another company and recommends that you drive your structure by your company’s cultural needs, not by management’s needs.

TRUST

Trust is a different concept than it once was. Many kids today have online relationships with people they’ve never seen. What will be the impact of today’s eighth graders when they come into the workforce? These kids are comfortable with digital connections and a paperless office.

Sustainability is a big issue. People switch jobs at a higher rate than ever before. The successful companies will foster change that reverses that trend. The #1 priority is a company’s commitment to sustainability, and that comes from trust.

Ross makes a huge point: Trust is digital—“Do or do not,” as Yoda would say. Small companies ask people to do the work and trust that they can. To emulate that, large companies need to form small teams that have trust in each other, much the way Google does.

At this point, we go to Q&A. Ron May is saying that the panel is spooning out Pablum. Hasn’t he been listening? I know Ron May. His mama didn’t raise no dummies. If he missed it, much of the audience must have missed it, too. I admit that the subject is highly targeted but the abstractions the conversation throws out are nothing short of fascinating. We’re talking about the basic structure, culture, and human issues of the way we work. We’re at Point A and most of us didn’t even think about it. We’re heading for Point B, which will be really different. And that’s clearly the case once you recognize Point A. The ramifications are staggering. I lean back and recognize how glad I am that I came tonight.

QUESTION—“How do you address the issue that different parts of a large company may need different types of offices?”

Jeff—“IBM is 100% mobile.” What did I just hear? A hundred percent? Think about that for a moment. A big company like IBM. Then he points out that mobile means different things to different departments. For some that may be only one day a week away from the office. That’s still a big shift. Then he answers the question directly. “It has to vary by department.” Sales is mobile all the time while manufacturing can’t work away from the factory all that much.

Brian—Steelcase designs a different space to fit the particular group. People don’t want to be in cubicles, but there has to be privacy when needed. Imagine that. An office furniture outfit thinking in terms of company culture and human needs, using technology to make a fit on an individual basis. How many desk makers think that way?

QUESTION—“How do you measure value in a mobile collaboration? It may be easy to monitor sales, but what about everybody else?” As I listen to this question, I am keenly aware of the dehumanizing aspect of it. It’s a big corporate idea. How do you measure a human being?

Jeff—Many corporations, purchase technology, then put it in corner and tell their people, “Go use it,” with the expectation that people know how to use it. You’ve got to be purposeful in asking, “What is the expected outcome and how do we accomplish it?” It’s worth paying attention to this. People who are empowered download documents and do their own self-service. We no longer need to be directly involved in each function. Work is done in context. The real measurement is “outcome-based” And he’s right. We’ve come to the point where we no longer care about method. It’s the result that counts. That makes for acceptance of all kinds of eccentric work styles never tolerated before.

Ross—ROI is tough to measure, especially in social media. Ask instead, “Did this person contribute to revenue in a positive way?” That sounds to me like the previous answer. Results.

Brian—Companies are developing new metrics because customers are asking for them. We’re developing products to do the same thing. For example, an ergonomic chair that reduces repetitive stress injury. That outcome can be measured.

Hugh—”Metrics have changed. How do you measure what it costs to not do something you could have done?” I’m struck by his question. Clearly, you can’t, but the impact is massive.

Ross—It’s more difficult to measure productivity in large companies. Much of revenue these days is driven by exclusive projects—driven by people who spent a Friday doing “something else.” I find myself nodding in agreement. The best ideas happen at times that used to be seen as waste.

NEW MODELS

Jeff—“IBM’s Watson was developed through a collaboration across the globe, driven by mobile technology. Nobody had a budget.” No budget? Think of that. He goes on: “It took 4 years and represented a huge departure from the way IBM used to do things. Economic aspects are driving a lot of this. The question of “Where will we go?” is no longer limited to a small group of people. The old model legislated innovation. Now it’s all about people collaborating.” Yes, I can relate what he’s saying. This year I purchased mind mapping software that allows brainstorming and collaboration across the globe at a very high level.

Brian – “The Internet allows a synthesis of information. Information is power. Everybody can work better as a result. Even competitors are collaborating.” Again, I am struck by just how strange that would have sounded only a few years ago.

QUESTION—“How do you keep people from hiding in a big company? People work from home and get by with the minimum.”

Jeff—“You always have your A, B and C players. At IBM, one group produced a higher defect rate than others, so they had to move back to the office.” Jeff then ramps up the stakes to address the real problem looming over all of us. Help will soon be needed in the form of analytics because people need filters to deal with the overload of information. Something is needed to filter the masses of data. Watson did its job through statistics. Now the working environment needs to be smarter. It will tell us what we need to be doing. Does that sound like the Hal 9000? Then he shifts gears and talks about Amazon’s crowd sourcing model, built around ratings and reviews by the public that allows natural filtering. The same result using the Internet, but no Hal.

Jeff—today you are evaluated by manager who rates you at end of the year. That may change to another model—the way you are rated by your entire community. This is important. How are you rated by your network of 100 people?

Brian—“The way you motivate people and stop the cycle of hiding and doing nothing is actually very simple. It’s about being very explicit about expectations and goals.” That seems to sum it up for me.

QUESTION—“As the thinkers of tomorrow, how do you educate our children to fit what the world will become 5-20 years from now?”

Ross—Turns out his wife is a teacher. School districts have entrenched cultures, just like corporations. It’s even more difficult because of small budgets, small teams of busy people. There is a need to educate educators on new technologies as it becomes available. He compares Microsoft Word to Google Docs and points out the disconnect between what students already know and use and what teachers teach. His wife helps educators know what kids already know and use. So we’re back to the subject of reverse mentoring.

Brian—Steelcase Learn Lab is a classroom prototype, changing one-way directional teaching to three-screen multi-input. Students want to learn from each other. The technology makes every seat in the room seem like it’s in the middle. Nobody is at the back of the class.

Jeff—IBM and City of Chicago are working on this very concept.

QUESTION—“How do you encourage good work habits?”

Ross answers with a strong idea: If we were to create a company to compete with our company, what would we do? A lot of companies don’t ask their employees what the work space should look like. Keep asking what people need. Be ready for constant change. Don’t pass policies and build walls you can’t tear down.

QUESTION—“How does recession effect future of office and work? If people can’t get jobs, what will the office look like? What about the digital divide that doesn’t have access to Steelcase and IBM equipment?”

Jeff—Companies are doing more with less—using technology and fewer people.

Ross—CrowdSPRING has developed a network of over 100K designers. They are not pre-qualified. They do not need offices. Younger generations don’t want to work downtown in cubicles any more. Freelancing is more accepted. Companies are actually reducing office space.

Jeff—IBM is not just looking at your degree any more, but your multi-dimensional ability. Perhaps in the future you’ll work part time for two different companies and not in an office at all.

Brian tells us that half of his college friends either own their own businesses or work for a friend who does. The web has enabled an explosion in entrepreneurship. These are small companies. Because of technology, small can out-compete big. Today, you can buy a product online and assemble it yourself.

Afterwards, I talk with friend and luminary, Terrry Flanagan—a guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of business. He sums up the entire office topic in the words of architect, Louis Sullivan. “Form follows function.”

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t-enu

SIX REASONS WHY TECH BELONGS TO THE YOUNG


entrepreneur@nuWhy are young entrepreneurs taking over the tech world? Who gets these kids charged with the kind of passion that induces investors to open their tightly held wallets? They lick their chops like old men lusting after eager young virgins. We’re going to take a closer look at this phenonemon.

I’m at Northwestern’s all-day conference put on by “entrepreneur@nu,” their in-house accelerator for student startups. This session is called “Tech for Non-Techies.” I asked Bill Blaire to cover the keynote address. I want to be here, at this session. I want to hear Mert Iseri who’s on the panel. I’ve seen him present at the Levi mastermind group with his parner Yuri Malina and I already visited their skunkworks on the Northwestern campus for a closer look. These guys are recent grads, young and untested. But I’d be pleased to work with them no matter what the venture. (Well, almost.) Right now, they have something exciting by the tail. But if it morphs in an entirely new direction, it’s a good bet they’ll succeed just as well at whatever that is. Consultants are gathering like wolves but Mert and Yuri don’t need them–not yet, as you will see.

So here I am to hear Mert but I’m in for a surprise. I see what looks like an entire panel of Merts. Yes, every one of them is as electric as my favorite young entrepreneur. They each come from a different background, a different expertise, a different culture. But the reckless abandon is there in all five of them—and it’s addictive. I love it. Truly I do. So do the investors.

THE JOCKEY OR THE HORSE?

My belief in two young entrepreneurs begs a familiar question. Which is more important—the jockey or the horse? I’m backing the jockey this time. Am I right?

I mention this to David Culver of Extraordinary Success – www.extraordinary-success.com. He responds with an interesting comment: “Last time I checked,” he says, “nobody won the Triple Crown, finishing without a horse.” He goes on to say he’s seen plenty of enthusiastic entrepreneurs flame out. But I’m rooting for these two jockeys anyway.

Mert

I believe the entrepreneur is more important than the product or service at the very early stages. I believe this to be true especially if the leader is young. There’s no doubt these young entrepreneurs are smart–scary smart. But more than that, they’re having a whale of a good time. They think business is a blast–a rush. They’ve found a new drug. Instead of greed, they’re driven by joy. Look into their eyes and tell me you want to compete with them. I believe that the young have earned a number of advantages over those who call themselves “seasoned.” I can cite a few good reasons for these beliefs:

1—An early stage product and an early-stage business model will go through multiple iterations during the maturation process. I’m talking huge changes happening fast. Seasoning doesn’t prepare you to handle that kind of rapid change—quite the reverse. But the young seem wired for it—especially students who have no responsibility outside of their class work, their venture.

2—These kids bootstrap on the shoulders of a university-provided ecosystem. Free labs. Free PhD-level advisors. Free prototypes. Plenty of collaboration. We’re talking about a new kind of accelerator. As lean startups and with modern technology they can get up and going quickly. It no longer takes 20 years and millions of dollars to get a company on track. Old folks are financially responsible. These kids have little to lose.

3—They live in a Bohemian community of highly intelligent and creative people, wild new ideas, and a spirit of shared innovation. They feed on each other’s ideas and enthusiasm. They multiply each other’s output. Avaricious old men don’t do that. We chain ourselves to our desks. If we ever come up with a new idea, we immediately build fences. And how many of us want to go back to our college-day living standards? University students don’t live under such burdens. Hey, they finally got out of Mom and Dad’s clutches—that’s enough for the time being, right?

4—The university now teaches them an important lesson: Permit yourself to fail. Failure merely affords the opportunity to change direction. It’s called “pivot.” Under circumstances like those, the process isn’t that scary. Philosophically, it’s a paradigm shift. I was never told to fail anywhere between kindergarten and grad school. Were you ever told such a thing?

5—These kids are untamed and impulsive. They learn a lot and learn it fast. But it’s what they don’t know that makes them fearless. Old farts know better. Knowledge breeds risk-aversion. That’s why we don’t start companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, or Microsoft.

6—Do any of you recall the malaise of the ‘70s? No gas–no jobs? Cottage industries sprang up all over. It was a practical way to earn the money to buy peanut butter. That phenomenon is happening again. Unlike computer games and other labor-intensive projects, mobile apps and web-based services are a kind of cottage industry. So this isn’t really new—it’s just different. And it’s a whole lot more exciting than selling macramé at an art fair.

A NEW CLASS OF ENTREPRENEURS

These kids are wildly enthused—their creativity is launched by the fuel of an adrenaline rush. Sparks fly around them. Fireworks. One commented that he’ll probably live only another 15 years because he never sleeps. Is this sounding like a recipe for a new class of successful entrepreneurs? I think so. I’ll ask again: Do you expect to compete with them? Think again.

NorthwesternHas Northwestern found a way to teach the joy of creative drive? Sure looks that way. And why shouldn’t these kids be enthusiastic? They don’t know any better. They’re fresh. Untried. No tire tracks across their backs. For the most part, they have yet to get knocked around by the world. And here they are—at one of the most prestigious schools on the planet, and they’re learning the entrepreneur game from professionals with every possible resource at their fingertips.

When I attended this school they taught venture capitalism. I remember the day they brought in a couple VCs. Those guys had a peculiar message. It was their job to steer us away from venture capital and point us in safer directions. The LBO was the big thing back then. Debt was cheap and easy. Times change. It’s not so simple to borrow any more. I’m convinced that the lousy economy is stirring up the recent explosion of new ventures. And it’s plenty lousy right here in Chicago. Adversity breeds creativity. Northwestern is nurturing it.

If youth is winning out over age and experience in this one arena, I cheer them on. What they’re doing was unthinkable when I was their age. And you have to admire them—they’re doing it so well. This is a highly creative response to tragic circumstances. Jobs are scarce. For many, entrepreneurship is the only career path open after graduation.

OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES

I’ll give you the takeaways from what was a wildly dynamic session:

1 – BUILD A GOOD TEAM—You don’t have to be a tech wizard to work for a tech startup. The purpose of being technical is to build a scalable product that works. A good initial team is made up of three elements: a developer, a designer, and a “Husla” (the business end). These are complimentary skill sets. Each personality type is actively seeking the others. A world of opportunity opens up when you view the future this way. For example, a pure developer focuses on building a solid product but may not be sensitive to other issues. A startup also needs a designer to translate that code into a good customer experience. It also needs a businessman that can sell product and run the operation. Fill out your team with all three elements. One panelist admitted that he hadn’t taken math since HS. He stayed up all weekend and got help from students and a prof for a math test. He failed utterly. Then he visited a huge conglomerate and found his talent in the marketing process. Where do you fit? You need to discover what value you bring—your CORE competency. Work on that element. Translate it into language that customers and decision makers understand. Find somebody smarter than you are in the other areas you need—people that are passionate about your idea. Friends if possible because co-founding a new company is a close relationship. If you don’t know who to bring onboard, get a team of advisors to help you vet people. The university is a great resource for that.

2 – LEARN AS MUCH AS YOU CAN—One panelist developed a mobile app. But when he started out, he didn’t know anything about coding. So he learned all he could. Lots of listening. Lots of reading. Lots of playing with other apps. Another had to learn about payment processing to be able to empathize with customers. Another needed to learn about the medical industry and spent a lot of time searching on Google. If you know a little about disciplines outside your expertise, you make a good team leader. Don’t despair. Just knowing Java is awesome. Yes, top developers know lots of languages, but new languages come along all the time. Keep learning so you’re ready for the next opportunity. How technical do you really want to be? Learn the foundation. That understanding helps you find the tech people you need.

3 – GET A TECHNICAL CO-FOUNDER—You don’t need to be the company tech guru. Find a technical co-founder. Outsourcing all the development just doesn’t work. You need a CORE capability to do itty-bitty things and reduce the need to hire outsiders. Outsourcing everything uses up seed money too fast and isn’t the most efficient way to make small changes. It’s especially not a practical way to create a winning unified design. In-house technical competency allows you to put out fires on the spot. You can orchestrate your outsource money more intelligently. You stand a fighting chance of building an end product that isn’t a hodgepodge of aimless code. Also, a co-founder can hear ALL of your ideas–every one of them.

4 – DON’T KEEP SECRETS—Inventors are typically afraid to tell anybody their idea. These kids believe that’s the wrong way to think. They say, there are ten people already working on your idea and they’re smarter than you. If your idea is so simple that it’s easily stolen, then it’s already been invented. These kids believe you should tell everybody your idea and get as much help and feedback as you can. In their world, entrepreneurs love helping each other. Any one of them may have 63 ideas here and 64 ideas there. Impossible to work on them all. They actually need to filter their ideas. What kind of company do YOU want? Are you passionate about solving THAT problem? Get yourself involved in the crazy growth of the Chicago tech community. If you have an idea, go for it. Here’s how far they’ve carried this philosophy: They say, “It’s better to grow the pie as a whole than to fight over individual slices. Instead of taking a fighting stance, gather a community and be the hub. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Make your competitors your friends.”

5 – HAVE A LARGER PURPOSE—Out of all the insights, this one startles me the most. It goes like this: It’s easier to get people excited about saving 100,000 lives than to get them to believe in a device. Be committed to the PURPOSE not the SOLUTION. Otherwise, when you fail you’ll give up. I’m talking about a cause—something you believe in passionately—a larger purpose that keeps you trying when others fail. It’s crucial to hold strong beliefs, loosely held. Go to the customer. Show what you have. If the response is, “I won’t pay for that.” go back and find another solution that serves the PURPOSE. Before working on an idea, ask: “Am I solving an important problem?” The problems that you have in your own life are probably the same ones other people experience. Learn from your personal pain and passion. If you’re working on a larger PURPOSE, other people have the right to work on it too. You will actually welcome it.

6 – TELL A GOOD STORY—Somebody at Northwestern is teaching these kids to tell to do that. They’re poised. They’re concise. They’re on message. I will add to that, “WRITE a good story.” In consulting, I use a complex mindmap that asks one embarrassing question after another. If a client can answer all the questions, I know it’s a real business. One question in particularly seems extraordinarily difficult for entrepreneurs and nobody had ever answered it to my satisfaction. Then Mert did, and got it right—an immediate and strong response—just as if he’d rehearsed it. Amazing.

CLOSING QUOTES

“My entire life, I wanted to solve problems.” – “A lot of people don’t want to be consultants—do what you love.” – “When you’re a student you can take big risks and try new things without knowing what you’re doing.” – “Are you scared? JUST BUILD IT. You’ll be depressed for a little while because you’ll fail, but when you finally succeed, there’s no feeling like it.”

My thanks to Northwestern’s entrepreneur@nu entrepreneur.northwestern.edu for a brilliantly organized event, all the way from advance parking to orange-vested staff that pointed me in the right direction to a conference sparkling with excellent planning and execution.

And special thanks to the young panelists of this session—a group of people who can teach us all:

Elizabeth McCarthy, Moderator

Jeremiah Serapine of GrooveBuggroovebug.com

Stella Fayman of Entrepreneurs Unpluggd and Fee Fightersentrepreneursunpluggd.com and feefighters.com

Zach Johnson of Syndio Socialwww.syndiosocial.com

Mike McGee of Codeacadamywww.codecademy.com

Mert Iseri of SwipeSenseswipesense.com

Check out their sites carefully. They’re just as polished as big money but kids on a shoestring built these.

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