You don’t want to compete with this kid. Believe me. Just watch his intensity as he pitches his business to some of the private equity luminaries in the city. I’m a judge at this event and try not to show my feelings of awe as he answers all the tough questions in a pressure-cooker environment without so much as a flinch. There’s an intimidating team behind him too. They’re all in middle school. Middle school! Continue reading
I am tired of the word “entrepreneurship.” That might sound weird—but I am. The problem, I think, is that entrepreneurship went from being a means to an end, to an end in itself.
People used to see a problem in the world, and realize that founding a startup would be the best way to solve that problem. Now graduates want to run a startup, and then look for a problem to solve, which is ass-backwards.
Oftentimes, the best founders stumble into being an entrepreneur because they realize that what they’ve been trying to do has already actually been formalized for them via a startup, and that the entrepreneurial community can help support their dreams, and guide them.
But when I ask someone what they do, and they tell me they “do startups” a little piece of me dies inside.
Sometimes I do that by accident, myself! I screw up!
I fall into that trap too when I get lazy, and I don’t want to explain myself. People accept the answer and move on. But from now on, my answer will be “I invest in Internet companies by building their software in exchange for equity.”
I don’t do it because I wanted to run a startup—hell I woulda done finance if I liked it better—but I did it because I was convinced that I saw a problem no one was solving. I became obsessed with solving that problem.
I have the same issue with people who tell me “they want to be a senator.” I’d much rather hear them tell me they want to make America better, or fight for an issue, and the best way to do so would be to hold a position in office.
Titles or social structures ought to serve as vehicles, not goals.
There are many institutions that teach entrepreneurship—that help people take their ideas and build them. I think that’s fine—they are positive pieces of the community, but convincing people to be entrepreneurs is not the right thing to do. It’s the reason we see so many bad ideas.
So stop doing entrepreneurship. Start pursuing whatever your dream is. If founding a startup is the best way to pursue that dream, solve that problem you’re obsessed with or reach your end game—fine. But don’t be “an entrepreneur” and then look for a problem.
22-year-old, 5’9″, 170 lbs, male, New York, NYUpdated February 13, 2014
I write a lot about love and dating. Over the past year, I’ve had more conversations with my female peers in startups and entrepreneurship about these issues than any other topic. Very few young women in startups are in healthy relationships, but that doesn’t mean we don’t strive for them or thrive in them. For some reason, we have a hard time starting and building romantic relationships. I haven’t been able to work out the exact formula for why we have so much trouble but I am certain that it has a fair amount to do with men’s fears about who we are and what we do.
The seven statements bolded below are reasons that we kick ass. They were compiled with the help of a group of girls, some of whom I am close friends with and others whom I have never met in person. Together, we picked out the things that we feel make us not only unique, but also strong and powerful women. Importantly, they are also traits that help us build relationships. Hopefully, they will make you at least consider dating a Girl in Startups.
She enjoys taking risks. Deciding to start your own venture, or work for an early stage one, is attractive to people who are comfortable walking the line between massive success and failure, who see their $12,000 a year paycheck as a world of future possibilities, and who can’t stop pushing forward. Because of this, she is confident in her abilities. Her decisions reflect her as a person. Not only does she accept this, she owns it. She is hard to derail and she gets shit done. Big risks can yield big rewards, but she knows that she has to work her butt off to make it happen.
Whether she is building a deck or editing code, she can spend all night working because she has passion for what she does. She is dedicated to her work, family, friends, and relationships and when she sets her mind to something she sees it to the end. Sometimes this means she takes forever to answer your texts. But don’t worry — from pitching to VC’s to managing a cohort of interns, she knows what good communication looks like and can use it as much outside of work as she does in the office. If she’s not texting you, facebook messaging you, or sending a carrier pigeon every 15 minutes it is because she understands that the best communication is done in person. Bonus is, when you ask her how her day was, you’re actually curious because you have no clue what she was up to.
If you date a Girl in Startups you have to appreciate that she is obsessed with learning. She constantly searches for new information, tests new technologies and products, and is open to new perspectives. Intelligence turns her on, and she reads blogs and articles on tech and entrepreneurship like others read erotic literature. She may have finished college; it’s possible she dropped out. No matter her level of formal education, she’ll always be up for learning something new. Furthermore, she sees failure as one of the best ways to learn. She has learned to be resilient because she flirts with failure on a daily basis. For her, failure isn’t crippling but rather a chance to create something new. She won’t let little bumps throw her off track in her work or in her relationships.
Consider dating a girl in startups, but if you do, know that she won’t automatically make you #1. She is independent, self-sufficient, and will make you work to become a priority in her life. When she makes time for you, it’s because she cares.
*Thank you Sam, Melissa, Maddy, Robin, Becca, Shilpi, Stephanie, Arianna, Ryan and many more for your advice and criticism in writing this piece. I wanted to make sure that it came from the startup community, rather than just one woman’s brain.
**Originally Posted on PippaBiddle.com
I want to do well by doing good, create change, connect changemakers, and never stop laughing. Special Ops at GoBright.coPublished February 11, 2014
In 2000, I was rejected for for a mechanics apprenticeship. So, I decided to stay at university. My degree was as boring as batshit, but I had a few electives available and chose one called ‘Entrepreneurship’.
The fact that university even offered a course on the subject of entrepreneurship was kinda cool… and it was actually pretty good.
As students we had to make up a business idea and then go through the planning process of what we could do to put it into action.
I wish I still had my notes, but in those days there was no such thing as Evernote. Back in 2000, we used to dogpile and hotbot to search the net… but there wasn’t really much on there.
To get information for assignments we went to the library. The thing that saved me in my HR degree was finding a CCH manual about human resources. We stumbled across this in the library and hid it so no one else could find it. It couldn’t leave the building — it was too powerful.
It contained all of the secrets for managing human resources. It told us exactly how to hire and fire, how to recruit amazing talent, how to manage change, how to build a team and how to train. It was the holy grail of HR.
So anyway, back to my entrepreneurship course.
I had no idea about what business I would start or why I took this course. But after the CCH HR manual discovery, I thought “What if you could go on a website and get access to all of the forms and processes required for best practice HR. Position descriptions, employee surveys, HR Audits and training programs on various topics. That would be cool? Wouldn’t it?”
I spent 6 months (!) planning out the idea, working out exactly what topics I’d include, how we’d deliver the documents, how we’d charge and how we’d employ writers (that part was very thorough, I was a HR major after all).
At the end of the 6 months I had an epic plan all figured out. It was a great idea, people were actively paying thousands of dollars for HR staff to do this all the time. They would definitely pay a few hundred for some templates. Nothing like this existed as far as my limited research revealed. I was very organised, meticulous and thorough.
I submitted my final plan and I got a distinction for the subject. Boom!
But there was a problem.
I didn’t launch the fucking thing. It wasn’t part of the marking criteria.
I know if I did launch it, it’s unlikely that I would have had the patience or knowhow to follow through and make it into a business anyway.
I do wonder though, what an idea like that could have turned into in the year 2000. The timing was perfect… it was just after the crash and everything was moving online. HR documents and policies are a great fit for buying online too. I’m sure it could have been a 7 or 8 figure business if everything fell into place.
But I didn’t launch.
This was 6 years before I actually launched a business and 13 years before I launched one based on a decent idea.
I had everything there except for the only thing that every single successful business has in common.
This has been one of my big lessons in business: don’t die wondering.
Now, we launch very quickly. This year I’ve had 3 ideas, and we launched each one in 7 days. This helps me to avoid writing more shoulda, coulda, woulda posts like this in the future.
If you are reading this and you have an idea — I have some advice for you.
Stop talking. Stop planning. Stop ‘strategizing’.
You don’t get a pass on entrepreneurship until then.
2014 will be a year of many big ideas, because it will be the year of the entrepreneur. This year has seen the growing trend of entrepreneurship being embraced as a positive way to create the jobs of the present and the future. From being a dirty word in the past, now entrepreneurship is increasingly being celebrated and encouraged – as it should be.
There has been a surge in the excitement surrounding start-ups, from Silicon Valley to Silicon Roundabout and beyond. Many internet start-ups came to fruition, and big businesses went public, creating enormous wealth for their founders. That generation are now setting up new businesses, helping to create more jobs and stimulate more innovation. Jack Dorsey from Twitter didn’t rest on his laurels after launching Twitter, he is now taking Square from strength to strength and I expect to see more entrepreneurial ideas from Jack and his peers in the coming year.
I believe 2014 will be the year of the entrepreneur more than just in California. When visiting Africa, Australia, Europe, South America and the US this year, there was a real appetite for entrepreneurship wherever we went. We launched Virgin StartUp in the UK, and are receiving lots of applications from new businesses hungry to succeed. In South Africa and the Caribbean the Branson Centres of Entrepreneurship are overflowing with talented individuals eager to unleash their ideas onto the world. With the right support (financial and otherwise) they can and will.
The entrepreneurs who will succeed in 2014 will need to focus upon having a purpose beyond profit for their business. A great example of this in the British Virgin Islands is an entrepreneur named Gumption, who we gave a loan to start a glass-bottom boat company. He has paid back his entrepreneurial loan in full, and is now focusing upon his company becoming a force for good, helping protect turtles as well as entertain tourists.
Technology is helping every business, large and small to move forwards, which will only increase in the coming year. Now, entrepreneurs can build companies at a fraction of the cost in the past. All of the little things that used to add up to big headaches for new businesses, from accounting to website development, are now available to small businesses, giving them the same capabilities as large enterprises at a cost they can afford. Because of this, new entrepreneurs have more time to think about the bigger picture and work out how to grow their business, rather than fretting about every detail.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still a thousand and one things for every entrepreneur to focus upon, and you need a great team of people around you and good delegation skills to utilise them. But now new businesses have more of a fighting chance.
So, what is your big idea for 2014? Why not decide to set up the business you have always wanted? Screw it, just do it!
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I’ll admit it. In high school, I was an uninspired student. I was passionate about my own hobbies and projects outside of school, but the day-to-day grind of classroom learning wasn’t experiential enough. A lot of the innovators I admire, it turns out, fell into the same boat: Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were all high school or college dropouts.
So at 16, with some savings and a loan from my parents, I decided to start my first business: a paintball supply company. While my classmates were enjoying summer vacation, I was getting real-world lessons in marketing and logistics.
By the time graduation approached, I knew I wanted to dedicate myself to entrepreneurship. But as I pored over lists of bursaries and scholarships, I found lots of opportunities for people interested in sports, music and drama … and really nothing for people like me. As a young entrepreneur, I felt I was stumbling in the dark without anyone to guide me. A little mentorship and guidance could have radically accelerated the entire process and improved the odds of success. The reality is that, even with lots of heart and perseverance and hustle, I still had to get pretty lucky to be where I am now.
This is why last month, I launched The Next Big Thing, a charitable foundation to identify the world’s brightest young entrepreneurs. Through the The Next Big Thing, I want to help those who are like me, “unconventionally driven.” And right now we’re seeking 10 promising innovators from the ages of 18-23 who will be selected for a special 6-month program in Vancouver, Canada.
The chosen group of young entrepreneurs will use my company HootSuite’s headquarters as a homebase to work on their individual business plans, connect with mentors (including Dragon’s Den-ers and Ted Talk-ers) and collaborate with partners like the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. And they’ll be supported with $10,000 each in grant funding so that they can focus their time and effort on turning their ideas into viable businesses.
Our goals are simple: Get tomorrow’s most promising entrepreneurs out of the classroom and into the business world. Remove the usual obstacles—grades, degrees and work experience. Reward ingenuity and accelerate the pace at which a good idea becomes a business reality.
After all, tomorrow’s economy depends on today’s entrepreneurs. In the US, new firms and young businesses account for approximately 70 percent of total job creation. Small businesses are the largest employer in the country, representing 53 percent of the country’s workforce and contributing to 46 percent of the nonfarm private GDP. One of the best ways we can ensure a more promising future for us all is to find new and creative ways to support our best and brightest young business leaders.
Thomas Edison, himself dismissed as dumb and scatterbrained in school, may have said it best more than a century ago: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Part of promoting youth entrepreneurship means finding ways to make sure young people don’t give up on great ideas too soon.
I hope this is a small step in that direction.
To find out more about how to apply to The Next Big Thing, visit www.weareTNBT.com.
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Image by NASA HQ PHOTO via Flickr
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Disclaimer: Just a senior reflecting on my undergraduate education. What I’m about to write about is merely based on my experiences as a student at New York University and may not reflect any universal truths. Note that I have a complicated relationship with grammar. Also, different opinions and feedback welcomed.
As I am about to embark on the next chapter of my life, it seems necessary to reflect on my past four years and share my newfound perspective. As the tech scene and entrepreneurship seem to have exploded over the past few years, I think most students have begun to realize that wealth or whatever people consider success is not solely restricted to the old or experienced. Hence, the number of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship offerings in school has skyrocketed in response to this trend. However, based on my interaction with some of my peers, I have come to realize one thing: business school will ruin you. Now this may not apply to everyone (the lucky ones), but I think some of the points I’m going to talk about do apply to the majority. Some the fundamental flaws of attending a business school as an undergrad is that:
1. You think you’re too good for social media
Sorry to burst your $50,000/year bubble, but going to a prestigious school does not mean you’re too good for social media. Apparently there is some stigma among business students that social media is for the incapable. However, I’m pretty sure that all the classes you’ve taken don’t touch upon social media, or how to use it effectively. It’s time to get off your high horse and see that getting an “A” in your marketing class does not mean it is your “expertise.” It also does not mean you know all the answers. As a matter of fact, social media strategy and content generation is not as easy as you think — it requires ingenuity, creativity, and empathy. Bet that wasn’t on the course description. Business school has a way of inflating your ego to a point where an opportunity to learn outside the classroom rather than in it becomes an insult rather than an opportunity for self-improvement.
2. You’re rarely going to use those formulas/models/numbers.
I think if I had to summarize business school in a sentence, it would be “increase revenue, cut overhead.” That may be an overgeneralization, but I think that is what’s being hinted at throughout the four years. Plain and simple, this is capitalism at its core and this ideology fundamentally eliminates many of the other aspects of running a business. As a result, it creates a focus on short-term wins as opposed to long-term victories. Rather, I think it might even be helpful to see that your company(the people) is your business, and everything else is simply a byproduct. Your output is only good as your process, and generally your process relies on the people in your company. It does not hurt to have happy employees with a sense of autonomy because a happy employee means they’re taking ownership of their work. That translates to a better functioning unit, which translates to more wins.
Another issue is that the focus on learning about such minute details in business only prepares you for something like being an accountant, not a business leader. I randomly grabbed a 300-page textbook and skimmed it just to see how relevant it would be to starting a business. Do you really need to know what “days payables outstanding” or “cash conversion cycle” mean? I’m sure it’s helpful to some extent, but probably not a necessity. Exposure to all these terms and models simply erodes your ability to think logically and concisely. Starting a business by thinking about it in terms of such specific details confines your ideas in a box, and the more you think in a box as you start a business, the more limited you will be in the long-run.
3. Jay-Z’s “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man” does not apply to you.
Although there has been a shift towards entrepreneurship, business schools for the most part still want you to go into the corporate world, specifically investment banking, because it means more endowment contribution from graduates. Being an entrepreneur means not working for anyone but yourself, not because it’s the cool thing to do but because it goes against the very fiber of your being. I’ll be damned if I bust my ass so that someone takes 90% of what I earn while s/he is sitting on the toilet. Not to bag on the large corporations, because there are some gems in the mix, but the entire infrastructure of a corporation sucks: it allows them to pay their employees $100k a year when their CEO makes $20 million a year, and the company makes a net profit of $100 million. Trickle-down economy. The sad part is that the employees do all the heavy lifting, and still have to suck up to the “boss man.” If you want to be an entrepreneur, recognize that the $20 million/year CEO you want to work for is just another human being, and that he or she has nothing over you.
4. You’re one of those people from District 1.
From my understanding, business school is highly competitive with their crazy curves and grade cutoffs. What business school does well is foster an environment for the Hunger Games, where each student has to be cut-throat and hustle to beat the person next to them. When you enter the startup world, or at least in NYC, you start to see that entrepreneurs actually prefer collaboration. A lot of entrepreneurs actually like to provide feedback and advice. They recognize that success is never a one-man job, it is always a team effort. Business students tend to see people as either an asset or an obstacle, and therefore position themselves to be either the winner or the loser. The real world doesn’t really work like that: there can be multiple winners and no losers. Forget all the rules because there are none.
Whether we’re an Einstein or not, not a single one of us knows all the answers (except maybe Google). We all live different lives and have different perspectives, and if anything, there is at least one thing someone knows that you and I do not. Two brains will always be better than one, because (1) having an extra person offers a different perspective and ideas and (2) that brain comes with helping hands, a mouth, and some other stuff. I’m sure we all had that one person in the group who did little to contribute to the group or pretty much anything they say was stupid. It’s not that they weren’t useful, it’s that s/he was not being utilized effectively. Collaboration teaches you to recognize individual strengths and weaknesses, and how melding talent within the group can create a high functioning unit.
5. You are taught in a box, and so you think in a box.
I think this applies more generally to all schools, but there seems to be a consensus that every question on an exam has a specific one-answer solution. “Shit, what’s the answer to question #5? I think it’s A, but B makes sense too. Which one is the right one?!” I’m 99.9% sure that that will never happen when you enter the workforce because there’s no such thing as a right answer. There are good choices and there are bad choices, but with so many factors to consider, a “right answer” is absurd. Knowing that there is an answer to a solution that can be found in a book tells you that it is okay to reuse and recycle. Although there’s nothing wrong with recycling, a continual habit of that trains our brain to look inside the box. And the more we do it, the harder it is to see outside the box. There are answers to problems that we have yet to think of, but they are out there somewhere, in whatever metaphysical space ideas live in.
Entrepreneurs see the world differently — they ask questions, they associate seemingly different ideas, they bridge gaps and connect ideas. This is why I think entrepreneurship cannot be taught in a classroom. To be an entrepreneur is to be willing to experiment, to learn as you go, to take ownership of your lack of knowledge, and to proactively fill that gap in knowledge. But more importantly, entrepreneurs have an insatiable thirst for a challenge and an adventure. With education and its focus on point-based metrics and multiple choice answers, the very idea of teaching(and grading) entrepreneurship is contradictory.
- Contagious Entrepreneurship: People Who Know Entrepreneurs Are More Likely to Become Entrepreneurs, Kauffman Foundation Survey Shows (kauffman.org)
- We’re Asking President Barack Obama to Create a National Entrepreneurs’ Day (grasshopper.com)
- We’re Asking President @BarackObama to Create a National Entrepreneurs’ Day. Join us. (grasshopper.com)
- A Review of Technology-Based Entrepreneurship – Entrepreneurial Behavior and Perspective (twostepsaheadtoday.wordpress.com)
- Drexel, University City Science Center and DreamIt Ventures Partner to Foster Innovation in Philadelphia (prweb.com)
- 16 Entrepreneur Quotes That Will Inspire You (rasmussen.edu)
- Entrepreneurship Basics: Miniseries Recap (rasmussen.edu)
- [e360] Reverse Pitch Connects Corporations With Entrepreneurs (entrepreneurship.org)
- What Can The Boy Scouts Teach You About Being an Entrepreneur? (grasshopper.com)
- [e360] Failure: Another Stepping Stone in Entrepreneurship (entrepreneurship.org)