By Andy J. Semotiuk I recently spoke to a person who told me about their profitable “concierge service” that involves helping pregnant women come to America to give birth so their children can acquire U.S. citizenship. She is not the only one offering such help. Apparently there are a number of “baby care centers” in the United States that offer expectant mothers a place to give birth to an American citizen child. …read more
A recent article in Business News Daily talks about the other side of the entrepreneurial coin. On one side of the coin, there is the business acumen. Does the product work? Is the product scalable? Is the market research all laid out?
On the flip side, there is a more psychological side of entrepreneurship. Now a days, many young people are becoming increasingly displeased with their 9 to 5 jobs, so they turn towards business school or simply starting their own business. A lot of people think that becoming their own boss and developing their own product will fix all of their problems. As an entrepreneur, there is an abundance of freedom and various possibilities, but this is only half of it. The reality of the whole situation is that there is a lot of hard work that comes with running a company. A lot of discipline is required throughout the entire process. There is a certain emotional and mental preparedness that early entrepreneurs must keep in mind before initiating this long journey.
The article continues to ask a couple of questions that young entrepreneurs should ask themselves before starting on this journey. The first question is: Why do I want to do this? There are many entrepreneurs out there that easily get excited about an idea because of the opportunities to make money. They don’t have a clear vision of why they are creating such a product and the value that they want to instill in the world. Passion, drive, and discipline are necessary for when the going gets tough, which it will.
The next question: Am i sure that the job that I have now can’t fulfill these desires? Some people simply need more structure and a clearer brand. A lot of people jump into entrepreneurship only because they are not content with their current job. The simple solution to this might be that they need a new job.
Question #3: Do I have a strong network base? The network base is huge when it comes to starting a business. Having people to bounce ideas off of, having people in different industries that can help expand the brand will only make scaling easier.
The last question is What time frame am I comfortable with? A business owner needs to have a time frame in mind so that they are psychologically prepared for the journey ahead. This will allow for a more structured attack rather than a sporadic day by day life filled with uncertainty at every corner.
A recent article on Fast Company’s blog describes four entrepreneurship lessons learned by Chet Kittleson while working dead-end jobs. Over the course of his career, Chet has worked as a pizza delivery driver, salesman, boat cleaner, landscaper, dishwasher, shoe stocker, house painter and cloths folder. Each one of these jobs taught him something different and made him into the entrepreneur that he his today. Chet organizes this article into four key entrepreneurial lessons.
He starts out by promoting perspective as a key aspect in becoming a good entrepreneur. Perspective helps people get through tough times, and as an entrepreneur, there will be plenty of tough times to get through. Having gone through numerous dead-end jobs can help an entrepreneur gain perspective to help him through his own rough times. An entrepreneur will feel less pain if he has already gone through low pay, no benefits, and working overtime. Perspective helps the entrepreneur stay focused rather than dwelling on the negative.
The next word of advice is empathy. Empathy is the emotional understanding of another person’s state of mind. When dealing with customer’s it is always essential to empathize with their needs. By empathizing rather than catering to your own needs, you are able to develop a better relationship with your customer. In various jobs, a customer base might come from a completely different mindset than the employees. It is essential to focus on their needs because that is what customer service is all about.
Going off of empathy, customer service is the next word of advice. In the business world, there will be a lot of people who are different. From a global entrepreneurship standpoint, one must embrace the differences and focus on the task at hand. Learning to cope with customer service takes time, but it is important to understand the employer-customer dynamic when entering the business world.
The last word of advice that Chet has for us is drive. Working hard is essential in any position of entrepreneurship. Perspective can help fuel drive and lead people to work harder than they have ever worked before. If someone works hard at whatever they do, keeps customers happy, and maintains a good perspective, this can really help bolster an entrepreneurial career.
A new article in Forbes magazine discusses the steps that new tech startups have to take to get off the ground. Jeff Wald and Jeffery Leventhal wrote this article. They go on to claim that growing a tech startup involves a mix of fortitude, attitude, work ethic, risk management, with a touch of irrationality. Each stage of evolving a startup is almost like the beginning of a new company. At each stage of developing a startup; the environment, work pace, and culture can be vastly different. Jeff and Jeffery describe the growth in three phases.
Phase 1 is the idea phase. It involves thinking about a new concept that involves a new, easier, and innovative way of doing things. They describe this phase as staying in your garage until 4am in the morning with friends. They are having a lot of fun with large amounts of stress. There are typically a few people in stage one. There is little structure or process, and a lot of caffeine and gut feelings. There is no need for financing or charts in Phase 1; the people who make it past this phase just find a way to get it done and move on to Phase 2.
Phase 2 is the building phase. This is the phase where the team builds their budget, process, and organization. The team might even have to rebuild itself. If people from Phase 1 are not interested in structure or organizing a real company, then they have to go. This is when the real organization needs to begin. This is the phase where the founders are taking the idea and turning it into a real company. Phase 2 is when the founders have to grow up and finally start their own company.
Phase 3 is the optimization phase. This is the phase when the company is optimizing their budgets, organization, and process. They are finding the best way to make their product work at the lowest cost. This is when the company is thinking in terms of “the long term.” The company is adding a finance team and an HR team as well as integrating sales and marketing. The founders are consistently thinking about scaling different aspects of the company. Debt needs to be paid back and the product needs to fit to scale.
This article is based off of this Forbes article.
In a recent article by Bloomberg, Urban Compass Inc. has just received a $360 million valuation after receiving $40 million from investors. The New York startup’s revenues have jumped 10-fold in the last year, so investors are keeping a keen eye on this company. Urban Compass is a tech startup that makes buying and renting apartments easier in New York City. They list properties and connect real estate agents with people searching for apartments. This app is beneficial for both brokers and people searching for apartments. Users are able to get down to precise specifics on what they want when looking for apartments, and brokers are easily able to connect and maintain in contact with clients through the mobile application.
Ori Allon, co-founder of Urban Compass, states that their services are about to expand to such cities as Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. Urban Compass is attempting to take the dishonesty out of searching for an apartments and make the entire process a more transparent and effortless.
Allon and Urban Compass’ CEO, Robert Reffkin, are experienced when it comes to business and finance. Allon has already sold companies to Google and Twitter, while Reffkin was the chief of staff for Goldman Sachs. Their latest round of investments have been from Thrive Capital, Founders Fund, .406 Ventures, and the CEO of American Express, Kenneth Chenault.
Urban Compass currently employs close to 150 people as they are moving to a new office location in Union Square. Half of the staff is made up of licensed real estate sales people, as Allon hopes to reach over 200 licensed real estate sales people within the next year. The brokers are easily able to use Urban Compass’ software to maintain relationships with clients and keep tabs of their hectic schedules. Searching for an apartment in NYC is hectic, so it’s about time that better software has come out to fix this industry with many holes in it.
This blog post is based off of this Bloomberg article.
A surprising move leaves many industry insiders shocked, after , a Taxi and Limousine Commission office switched to the mobile based taxi startup, Uber. Ashwini Chhabra was the deputy commissioner for policy and planning at the Taxi and Limousine Commission. A couple of weeks ago, Ashwini announced that his new position at Uber will be head of policy development and community engagement. This move seems to illustrate a more cooperative relationship between the TLC and Uber.
The TLC is infamous for squashing innovation and newcomers to the industry. Uber moved to NYC is 2012 and the TLC immediately jumped on their backs with threats of fines and licenses suspensions if they so dare to take away fairs from yellow cabs. Because of these threats, Uber announced that they would move their services to a more open and innovation friendly city such as Toronto or Boston. The more Uber ran its services in New York; however, the more rave reviews started piling in. 18 months after their immersion into NYC in 2012, city officials approved their innovative technology. After this, more and more people began using the user-friendly Uber app as their main taxi service. The app is easy to use, and with its live GPS system that almost instantly attaches the user to a nearby car, people see little reason to go out and search for a taxi.
Even though the concept of Uber seems much better than your typical “hail a taxi scenario,” there are still some concerns with their service revolving around smartphones. Not everyone has smartphones, so some people might find it unfair that they cannot have the same accessibility to a taxi service because of their monetary situation. This has not stopped the TLC from praising Uber’s service and encouraging other similar apps to come out of the woodwork to compete with Uber. Uber is great for people and drivers (who are looking for an easy way to make extra cash) to locate each other when taxi hailing is not very prevalent.
Chhabra’s move is seen to be very timely in the eyes of the public. It will be interesting to see how this former TLC official will impact the developing 3-year company. Chhabra explained that regulators move a lot slower than entrepreneurs, so it is his hope to close that gap as Uber’s head of policy development.
A brand new $50 million dollar venture fund is being established in Davis, California to invest in the early stages of agricultural biotech companies. This fund is being called the AgTech Innovation Fund and it is structured as a limited partnership (LP). AgTech Innovation is looking to invest $250,000 to $500,000 in the initial startup fund for a group of companies in agricultural biotech, and more is to be promised to these companies depending on their degree of success. One of the managing partners of this new fund is John Selep who is a retired technology executive and tenured member of the Sacramento Angels (an angel investing group coming out of Sacramento, California). The other managing partner is Julie Morris who was the original chief financial officer of Marrone Bio Innovations Inc In Davis, CA.
Selep said that this was a good time to invest in these agricultural technology companies. The surrounding area around Davis, CA are a enormous amounts of growing agricultural technology companies and the biggest investors in the bay area are not concerned with how the technology works or the causes; however, they have noticed some interesting happenings regarding the industry.
AgraQuest, founded by Pam Marrone, was a biotech company bought by Bayer CropScience for $425 million in 2012. Her next company closed the Sacramento regions first successful initial public offering in decades with a net of $56.4 million. Another agricultural biotech company in Davis named BioConsortia raised $15 million in their round of funding. Davis is only part of the puzzle in this vast growing industry that is agricultural biotech. Selep is also looking in the Central Valley and Northern California, but Davis is the starting point. AgTech will use resources at the University of California Davis to expand their research and findings. Even though, there is a lot of talking about this fund, AgTech is yet to be actually created. The Sacramento region is booming with companies that are developing seed technologies, as well as farming and sustainability innovations in technology. This fund is not only looking at these technologies as opportunities, but more so towards vast sustainability in the global food production as well as major improvements in the quality of our soil, water, and energy.
Microsoft believes that startups in India have a much greater advantage than startups in any other country. Microsoft has been engaged in developing, licensing, and supporting multiple software products and services; and they believe that India has a huge advantage because they have the world’s best developers. The core of a start-up is technology, and India is way ahead of the curb with its vast number of intelligent developers. Developers are a crucial part of the startup process, bringing the ingenious idea to product form.
Microsoft India has been present for the last 25 years and has taken various initiatives to develop the startup. Microsoft India has also started a Microsoft Ventures project, which is a global initiative company that helps early entrepreneurs develop, license, and bring their products to market. The startups in India are a function of the people, just like any startup. It is about the idea, but mostly the execution of that idea. In this day and age of rising technology, people who have passion and desire to learn the intricacies of technologies will prosper in the startup environment.
Microsoft is noticing this momentum in tech startups, and this is why they are investing so much money in their startup development programs. There is still room for improvement in the Indian startup field. Joseph Landes, general manager of Microsoft India, told IANS in an interview that the area where they could spend more time and money was in user interface and design. People can have the best ideas on the planet, and they can find developers to code it; however, the difficult part is making it user friendly.
Two and a half weeks ago, Microsoft began their JumpStart program to help startups. JumpStart helps startups on the ground floor. For example, some of the simple questions that these early entrepreneurs have are what kind of papers need to be filed to the government to start a company. JumpStart is there with a free live person to contact to answer these ground floor questions.
BizSpark is another resource that early entrepreneurs can use. BizSpark gives startup CEOs the resources and tools they need to be successful. Microsoft also has an Accelerator in Bangalore where they take 15 companies a year and closely mentor and coach them throughout the ground floor of a company.
Really good post by Brenden Mulligan on Tech Crunch showing how Google will look to differentiate Google + from Facebook. Highlights some good strengths and weaknesses. Definitely worth a read: