My Journey in Radical Transparency

What are you the best at that you enjoy doing the most?

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San Diego nExT: Part 2 of 5- The Challenge

As with any situation, for there to be opportunity there must be challenges that are worth addressing. I’ve focused my attention on those affecting our startup ecosystem. It’s very difficult to identify a single root cause for any of these challenges. However, we can work together to create a positive set of outcomes that lead to more progress.

Education

Throughout school we’ve been taught to study for the test and by answering the questions correct you succeed. The problem is that’s not the way most things work in life. Rarely do you get a manual that tells you the right decision so you can recall it at some point in the future. The ironic part of all this is that our education starts off in the right way. As babies we’re constantly experimenting and learning from running tests. As we get older this tends to get extracted from the process in an attempt to make things more efficient.

We find this happening all the way through college where students come out with a degree but they’re not equipped with all the skills needed to immediately contribute to an organization. Concepts and theories are very important to understand and can be helpful. However, they’re no replacement for practical implementation and the ability to adapt. It’s never been more important to continuously learn.

How can we measure our success based on our ability to learn?

Business

I consistently hear the same thing from investors. First, there are only 4 or 5 investable tech companies that come out of San Diego each year. This comment makes me wonder “who’s responsibility is it to create more investable companies?” The answer I hear is “Good entrepreneurs will find a way to make it happen.” Second, capital is efficient and will get to the best opportunities. Yet, when you look at the cap tables of some of the best up and coming companies the majority of their funding has come from out of the area.

Both of these statement have merit however, using this as an excuse to not participate in the earliest stages of our ecosystem is short sighted and detrimental. The missing facts are:

1) Good entrepreneurs will also go to where they think they have the best opportunity to succeed.

2) Outside capital doesn’t get redeployed in the ecosystem after a successful outcome. This makes for a very challenging startup environment.

3) Exits are not the only way for companies to add value to a community.

From entrepreneurs the two things we hear are. First, there’s not enough local investment dollars to go around. Second, it’s hard to find good talent here. There’s a second job syndrome that prevents someone from taking a good job offer because of concerns that there are limited opportunities in the area if things don’t work out.

Again, good merit to both statements. However, we know that there are some active investors in the community and capital is efficient. Right? We also have the military bases and a top computer science programs right in our back yard. Where’s the talent all go? The most common answer is “back home.” .

How can we measure the success of our ecosystem based on the quality of support for entrepreneurs?

Government

Politics get in the way of governing. It’s impossible for any one politician to know everything there is about their district. They must rely on others to help them understand as well as rely on the support of others to help them get elected. The programs created to resolve the issues of the past don’t fit in the world of constant rapid change. We need to find ways to be more versatile and still keep the accountability and measurable outcomes required to promote the outcomes to constituents.

Applying the old solution to a new problem in a different way isn’t going to solve the current problem. The greatest challenge is that our government officials have a set of solutions that have been applied in a certain way so they know it’s OK to use them. Changing the way those work opens up an all new set of questions that can be hard to address. They want to help, it’s tough to know the best way given the current set of tools at their disposal. If you want to be innovative and the first question you ask is “Where has this successfully been done before?” you’ve missed the point!

How can we create an environment where testing new combinations of innovative ideas is valued and celebrated?

Health

There’s a negative connotation around San Diego for being known as the place that people go when they’re tired of working so hard. There’s a lot of talk about having a good work/life balance. The challenge is this implies the two concepts are opposites that need to be balanced. Why can’t we just live? More and more we understand that they’re both important and that our ability to have experience throughout is key to a positive lifestyle. With today’s focus on healthy living, a cleaner environment, and working well together the current workforce values quality of life at both home and work.

How can we create a positive message around living life?

Art

In a recent talk Dr. Don Norman from the UC San Diego Design Lab said “San Diego isn’t known for great creativity and innovation even though we’re full of it.” Really great things are happening, this highlights the need to celebrate and share our creative community. It’s strange to walk around an urban environment and have most of the public art only on display in tourist areas. With so many blank walls on the sides of buildings, open courtyards, and bland lobbies it’s a wonder anyone thinks of us as being creative.

There’s also a significant divide between the creative and entrepreneurial communities. This is particularly frustrating considering all the different ways the two group could gain value by working together.

How can we be creative and build more interactivity and engagement in our community?

nExT: Part 3 of 5- The Solution

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San Diego nExT: Part 1 of 5- The Opportunity

Since arriving in San Diego, I’ve often been asked to share my view of the startup ecosystem here. I’ve been waiting to talk broadly about it until I’d had a chance to discover things for myself. I’m happy to say, the time has come to share. Now some may think this is Brant’s Rant too. It’s not.

My verdict? There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity in San Diego. If I thought otherwise, I wouldn’t have chosen to stay. The question then becomes how I came to that conclusion.

When evaluating a community it helps to use a framework that creates a common language. My initial review is focused on the five primary pillars of a community:

  • Education
  • Business
  • Government
  • Health
  • Art

In many communities at least one of these has significant issues and becomes the topic of local scorn. You tend to hear, “If only X were better, then we could be great.” Here’s what I’ve discovered in San Diego, so far.

Education

There’s a fantastic educational infrastructure in place here in San Diego. From primary through postsecondary there are many areas to celebrate. The most notable of these (in today’s economy) is the university system’s ability to do research and educate software engineers. This is the envy of many startup ecosystems around the world.

Business

San Diego also has very strong business growth in a variety of sectors. From the outside, the most notable industries are Biotech, Semiconductors and Tourism. Once here, you realize there’s much more to the story. You can find companies in everything from cyber security, digital marketing, hardware, fitness tech, big data and more.

Government

The local and regional political leaders in San Diego are interested in helping. They continue to stay engaged and listen to the requests of their constituents. Knowing the best way to help, given the resources available, is not always easy or straightforward. That said, having leaders that are taking steps to make a difference is much better than the inaction you sometimes find elsewhere.

Health

Another incredible strength of San Diego is health. From the top ranked hospitals and primary care to the safety in the city, this is a very strong pillar. The peace of mind this provides can’t be underestimated.

Art

Last, but certainly not least, San Diego is home to an amazing arts scene. From fine art galleries and artists to the theaters and musicians, this city has great variety to offer. This also merges into the applied arts of makers, architects and builders and the product of all this can be found in every neighborhood throughout the city. This is just the beginning of our development through design thinking and fostering creativity.

As you can see, I believe San Diego has five strong pillars that make it the amazing ecosystem it has become. If that weren’t enough, these traditional pillars are complemented by the military presence here and the bi-national culture in the area. These additional two pillar are only available in a few key areas and are rarely seen in a single community. This is a major differentiator for the region.

From a high level view San Diego has it all, plus some. Why would you want to be anywhere else?

Of course, this is just one opinion. I’m always interested in discussing other views. What aspects of each community pillar do you like the most?

nExT Up: Part 2- The Challenge

 

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Not to Become Comfortably Numb

This is one of the greatest personal challenges of modern life. The crazy part is we’re taught it’s something we’re supposed to achieve. Go to school, find a spouse, get a job, buy a house, have a family, and then you get to retire. Bleh, growing complacent and becoming numb is the worst thing that can happen. We’ve all had to happen to us, you find yourself staying in more often not wanting to use the energy to go out and participate.  You get to the point where that becomes the norm.  I’ve had this happen again recently. I say again because breaking this cycle was one of the reasons why we moved to Las Vegas. Admittedly it’s necessary at times, I’m not talking about chilling out to recharge. The problem happens when gravity sets in and you can break free.

Talking about “Why Not” really puts things in perspective. Recently, I was listening to NPR during their annual silent auction. One of the available items was a ticket package for a team to participate in the Cotopaxi Questival. Now, just a couple weeks prior I had heard the Cotopaxi founder, Davis Smith, speak at StartSLC. In his talk he discussed his journey and the why behind the company. One of the ways they’ve been able to share their values is by hosting Questivals (a 24hr team adventure race.) It was in that moment while listening to the radio that I thought “Why Not.” So I put in the bid.

As you might have guessed I won the auction and then had to really figure things out. We had less than a week to put all this together. Who in their right mind would be willing to join us and give up their weekend with less than a week’s notice and run around town doing crazy activities? When it came to forming our team we wanted to take an opportunity to expand on current connections. The relationship process happens in stages. First, you collide with someone then, you share interests and connect until finally, you can build a relationship. We have tons of collisions that form many connections. However, relationships take time and we haven’t made that a priority. Here’s a chance to make that happen. We couldn’t have asked for a better team to come together.

24 hours prior to the start all participants receive a list of about 300 potential activities to perform during the Questival. There’s an assigned point value to use as a baseline. However, bonus points are awarded for creativity and some other subjective criteria. The activities are designed to be fun, helpful, and to take you completely out of your comfort zone. They require you to talk to strangers, do crazy activities, record them and post on social media; None of which we’re used to doing on a daily basis. However, it’s amazing how empowering just participating in the event can be. It’s so easy to just walk up to a stranger, explain that “you know it’s crazy but…” and then ask for their help with some task. In fact, that’s all it took almost 100 percent of the time. It’s how we got 3 ladies who were just eating breakfast at the campground to participate in arm wrestling in leg wrestling.  Another young woman allowed us to escort her across the street while one of us wore a Burt mask.  Each time we asked they started with a bit of a concerned look, but then came around and helped us out.

The Questival itself is just an excuse to start the conversion. What a great excuse, it helped us strengthen relationships, help others in the community and have a ton of fun doing it.  We had an amazing time as you can see in the video here:

I’d like to thank everyone at Cotopaxi and especially the Questival host team. Also thanks to our team, KODJAM (Karen, Oksana, Dylan, Jen, Andy and Mike) for creating such an amazing and memorable experience. You’re the best!

The event is so amazing that I’m still thinking about the tasks that we didn’t get to do. For example one of the tasks is to create a blog post about the event. Since I waited this long, I won’t be getting the points… We continue to see additional tasks all around us.

None of this is an earth shattering, life changing event but, it’s the little things in life that mean the most. We’ve begun to developed several great new relationships that I’m excited to continue. We broke out of our gravity and created an amazing experience. Do you know when you’re numb? What do you do to break out of it?

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Journey to True Transparency

Transparency is hard and it's scary. I'm having trouble getting comfortable with it myself. We tend to think of a distopian 1984 situation with government oversight and big brother watching. This is not the case at all. That's a closed network with information only flowing in one direction. Very scary, Yes. Transparent, no. Consider what happens as you open up the network and have information flowing in both directions, all the time. That's what happens with True Transparency.

What does it mean to have true transparency?

We need to develop a common language around this topic for private companies and startups . First let's define the different types of transparency.  Dan Kador (@dkador) from Keen IO identifies a couple different types of transparency.

 
Inadvertent Transparency
Dan talks about this as:
"the kind that’s forced upon the entity that’s trying to keep secrets. Whistleblowers are the most obvious example here. Most of us who can remember a time before the internet existed look favorably on these folks. Snowden’s a perfect example of this. Similarly, Wikileaks revealed some uncomfortable truths (despite whatever we might think about Assange). Alayne Fleischmann has a lot to say about our broken financial systems. These three forced the NSA, the U.S. Government, and Chase, respectively, to publicize (some of) their secrets."
 
You can now add Sony Pictures to the list. With this type of transparency the information is forced out into the open. The source must then to react to whatever situation is created. Many times this makes them go on the defense and it's not pretty. This begs the question, why was the information held so closely in the first place? Of course there's always a reason but, are those still valid? What if the information was readily available?
 
Voluntary Transparency
Dan defines this as:
"the kind that’s freely shared. There’s a ton of that out there right now. It’s especially prevalent in the startup world. Companies writing about their plans for the newly raised round of capital. Companies writing about how they run their businesses. Hell, even companies running with completely open books."
 
This is when information is pro-actively shared. There are significant benefits to this. First, it's a great motivator for accountability. Second, it builds trust. Third, there are no concerns about containing information. This can be done in a variety of different ways for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, we're seeing it done at times as a marketing stunt. Only releasing good news after it happens is not transparency.
 
The third type is where Dan and I diverge. He talks about emotional transparency:
“something that leaves you feeling vulnerable”
 
This is where the thought process is discussed in addition to the data that's being shared. This is a very important concept but, it's one that's better discussed within the context of "types of information." This will be addressed in a future post. My next type is:

Exclusionary Transparency

This may seem like an oxymoron but, it's very important to frame the conversation. There's an implied value around transparency that all the pertinent information is being shared.  This also creates an implied context around the data. If this is not the case it's important to define the areas that are not being revealed. Every organization has exclusionary policies. These range from salaries to hiring and firing, research and development to product launches. This helps build the full context around the topic by defining what you don't know.

True Transparency

There's one additional element required to have true transparency. In addition to voluntary and exclusionary there must also be a consistent flow of data. If it's not on a consistent basis then it can't be true transparency. The consistent flow is what reinforces the trust. It's imperative that the information is being shared no matter what story it tells. Many times we see inconsistent timing of the information being shared. This calls into question the purpose of the data and erodes trust.
 
Ultimately everything we do is transparent to some degree. We leave behind a trail of information that can be pieced together to form a story. The main question is how involved do you want to be in the creation of that story?

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Why Not?

Transparency has been a key term being discussed in many of my conversations. I know it’s important when running a business. How then should it apply to me personally? I began by wondering what I would need to filter. I couldn’t talk about all the discussions that I’m having about new opportunities… could I? On the other hand if transparency is the goal then why filter at all? Ultimately it all comes down to one simple question: Why Not?

Unless the answer was going to create a significant moral dilemma, cause harm to myself or others, or be illegal then why not go ahead and do it. I was able to live like this for a couple of years. It allowed me to make changes and have experiences that I never would have even considered before. In recent years I’ve gone back to filtering life with a stricter set of criteria. I’m no longer as open to gaining new experiences. This needs to change.

I’m going to commit to blogging once again and working through my decision making process in the open. Right now the most pressing issue is what’s next? I don’t have a specific project that I’m working on right now. There are many great conversation happening about what could be next but, there’s still much work to be done before I can decide.

I’m talking to a half-dozen people about new opportunities. They have not signed on for this journey yet. I’m going to send them each a note to see if they are OK bringing our conversation into the open. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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RE: Startup Communities: Creating A Great Entrepreneurial Ecosystem In Your City

I’ve been working to expand my concept for startup ecosystem development. As it turns out Brad Feld is writing a book on it. I’m working on a full reply that details what I’ve found both here in Utah and over in Las Vegas. Until then here’s my reply to his recent post:

Startup Communities: Creating A Great Entrepreneurial Ecosystem In Your City by Brad Feld

I’m deep into writing my latest book. For now, the title is “Startup Communities: Creating A Great Entrepreneurial Ecosystem In Your City.” I’m open to different titles – if you’ve got ideas just put them in the comments.

Following is the current table of contents. It’s still pretty dynamic as I’m adding stuff while I’m writing. I’ve also got a bunch of guest sections coming from all over the US (I’ve got a dozen so far) so as they come in, I’m trying to fit them in (which often generates a new, or different section). If you are a leader in your entrepreneurial community and have something you want to add, email me 500 – 1000 words.

I’m looking for feedback on this table of contents. If anything jumps out at you as wrong, unclear, in the wrong place, or missing, please leave me your thoughts in the comments.

My current goal is to have a first draft ready for circulation finished by 12/31/11. I plan to have the book published and available by 2/29/12. I’m self-publishing this one so there will be no delay in getting it out. I also plan to price it low so it has the potential for broad distribution.

 

Andy White (@LeanStarter) says:

We like the concept of a startup ecosystem with a core startup community lead by entrepreneurs that can be supported by institutions and organizations. Too many times you see a top down approach that ends up becoming a build it and they will come situation. The only way this partnership can work is when the entrepreneur lead community organically grows large enough that it’s ready for additional resources.

Right now Las Vegas is a fantastic example of an organically grown startup community that’s ready for additional resources from the ecosystem. Individuals from organizations are now getting involved. If they can continue to work together, and not start kingdom building, it’ll be the example we study in years to come.

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Curriculum in Accelerators

Recently I was able to listen to Steve Blank speak at the TechStars founders conference in Las Vegas. Steve covered his current views on being a startup and where to begin. The first tool to use is the Business Model Canvas. He then moved on to talk about Customer Development and how they work together to help a startup focus on the right decisions.After his talk several of us gathered around for a more detailed conversation about these concepts as curriculum in an accelerator. The response from the managing directors, mentors, and entrepreneurs came in three flavors:
1) We’ve been doing this for years but calling it something else.
2) Hadn’t seen it before but it looks useful.
3) We already use this as a framework.

I was amazed at the number of people who were in the first two groups. It seems that many of the accelerators operate under the model that the entrepreneurs should know enough to make good decisions based on the vastly different opinions of the mentor. Every accelerator warns their entrepreneurs about this issue. “You’ll meet with many different mentors with many different experiences and oppinions. It’s up to you to decide what you want to do with your company.” In general I agree with this statement. A startup founder must take ownership over their decisions. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t provide a structure to understand why the decision is being made.

I have trouble believing the ‘We’ve been doing this for years.” crowd. That’s an excused based on hind sight. Humans are terrible at remembering what it really took to get where we’re at. To now be able to look back and say “Yeah, that’s how we did it.” is a little crazy. It’s very easy to fool ourselves into thinking this way. The problem is that it’s been getting done differently for many years and there are still examples of very successful companies. Now, how’d they do it? Unfortunately most of them can’t tell you. Of course there are stories but they just don’t add up to a measurable way to succeed. So unless you believe in being at the right place at the right time then there must be a better way.

We can significantly increase the value of startup accelerators by measuring success through learning and not by funding. Learning comes from your customer and is valuable whether you’re right or wrong. Funding comes from investors and is most valuable only after you’ve learned from your customer. Too many times startups are incorrectly making decisions based on investor feedback because they don’t know how to engage the customer. This is a huge waste of resources and a primary contributor to startup failures.

The capital can be put to much better use if learning to placed at the beginning of the process instead of the end.

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Being Founder-Centric

I recently replied to a  post on Being Founder-Centric.  The author is from New Zealand and is discussing some of the issues they have with their startup ecosystem. As you can imagine they have many of the exact same issue that we are facing. I hope this article can stimulate a conversation around what we can do to create change. It seems we’ve all found plenty of time to define the problem. I’ve included a little excerpt but the entire article is worth a  read.

Being Founder-Centric (Dec 4, by Rowan Simpson)

…What’s missing in all of that? Motorways are not much use in the absence of cars!

Sadly, no matter how much you might want it, you can’t will an innovative eco-system that generates new companies into existence, you have to let one grow. As Dave ten Have said recently, entrepreneurial activity doesn’t come from central planning. So, while it seems like a lot is being done, in my opinion at least, it is mostly splashing and thrashing and not much forward momentum for the people that all of this is supposed to be helping.

The questions we should be asking in each case are:
Is it needed?
Does it work?
Will it get to those who need it?
Will they use it correctly when they get it?

Let’s consider each of these initiatives in the context of this idea-product-impact chain…

Andy White (@LeanStarter) says:

Excellent read, very well thought out description of the problem. However, I’m left wanting for more detail in the solution.

First, You should know you are not alone. These issues are the same ones being faced in a majority of first world countries. There’s an established infrastructures that’s been in place for many years. Those involved are struggling to understand how they can keep their infrastructure and adapt it with these new techniques. It’s a classic innovators dilemma, unfortunately they will not be able to successfully adapt due to legacy scared cows that will keep them from true innovations.

The good news is there’s a better way. As you mentioned, the Lean Startup philosophies are helping to define how to create a customers centric business. The book Nail It then Scale It, takes this structure and wraps it with a systemic process model that can be executed and measured against.

Startup Weekend is also another great opportunity. Most of this has been covered in the above comments. It’s not typically about creating a new business. However, it does take a team through the process of creating one allowing them the understand the process better, build out team dynamics, and see first hand how potential investors look at a deal. To get all this knowledge in one weekend, plus the opportunity to build new relationships it’s truly amazing.

The old model is broke, the fact that we even still have business plan competitions is the clearest sign. Where are the Business Model Competitions? These could be held over a weekend with the focus on customer development and modeling. Working with a one page Business Model Canvas creates a focal point that can’t be achieved by an old business plan. Get to know your customer, identify their pain, and then create a hypothesis for the solution… test, repeat. Given the right focus these steps can be executed in a very short amount of time.

The answer to the question exists. We just need to eat our own dog food and connect with our customers to identify their pain. Stop the “build it and they will come philosophy” and start working with entrepreneurs to create solutions that provide real benefits.

A founder-centric community can be built within a startup ecosystem.

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What can you learn at a Startup Weekend?

This is a guest post from Phil Wolff @evanwolf, the original can be found on Quora. It’s amazing how many of the lessons learned from a weekend project can be applied to your MVP and lean startup.

Each time I’ve gone, and I’ve been to four, I learn something very different about the process and myself. In no particular order…

Decisiveness rules. You won’t have enough information, the right people, or enough time. Just choose. And choose. And choose. Few decisions are worth more than 30 seconds of conversation. Stop discussions and decide, then move. “Next!”

Read the competition instructions closely. Exactly what are you being judged on? What can disqualify you? Are there special benefits if you use a sponsor’s technology? Who owns your IP?

The pain of waiting too long to fire someone. On one project there was a person who dragged the rest of us down, slowing decisions, distracting us, not even attempting to deliver on promises. We knew this 16 hours into the 54 and could have saved ourselves some grief and bought focus by asking him to leave.

The necessity of speaking to an engineer in his/her terms, language. I don’t mean geek. I mean understanding how your engineer thinks about problems, work structure, requirements, etc.

The value of an experience designer. Had a great UX guy from Yahoo! on one project and it helped us hone in on a few key activity flows that delivered nearly all the product’s value.

Nobody votes for atoms. I’ve seen great products that involved things being sold (a learn-to-cook-kit for guys and a custom engraved greeting card via high power laser). VC culture is sour on things that are not infinitely scalable. Doesn’t mean you don’t have a great product, just don’t expect to win.

Beauty and a distinctive, fun appearance sells. Can your product have personality? Personality breaks ties in business models.

Checklists are powerful. They keep you from missing things. Make them as you go, download them if you don’t know what they should have. You are in crisis mode so you will miss important things. Miss fewer with checklists.

Pick team tools before you leave your first sit down meeting. Team listserv, google office/docs, code repository, to do lists, etc. Tool up.

It’s just for fun. Relax. The worst thing that can happen is you don’t win a prize and you wasted a weekend. So have fun, work hard, make friends, and learn something.

It’s not just for fun. Anyone you meet might wind up hiring, recommending, or investing in you. A surprising number of projects turn into real businesses that persist and grow long after the weekend.

Apply the “Law of Two Feet.” If you are not adding value, having fun, or learning, use your two feet and find a project where you can.

Facts. Proof someone will/won’t pay for your product can be found quickly if you start early.

Start quickly. Time is short.

Make a plan. Time is short. Set milestones you can hit, meet your team, pick roles and responsibilities.

Have The Equity Talk before lunch on Saturday. This avoids angry words if you win.

Pivot. It’s OK. If you’re doing the wrong thing, change if you can. Big pivot, small pivot. Sooner is better, since… Time is short.

Developers are scarce and powerful. Generally speaking there are fewer programmers than design, marketing, or management types. Also, generally, developers rarely express interest in those other roles. Cool when they do.

Manage scope. Minimum Viable Product, baby. Heck, shoot for minimum product that gives people a feel for what you’re service will do and feel like to customers. Less is more because… Time is short.

Judges apply formal models and criteria as pretexts for their gut feel. Tell the emotional story your customers will respond to. Puppies. Beer. Children. Lust. Greed. Fear. Your judges see thousands of decks and elevator pitches, as many as 20 on a busy Sunday camp night. Emotions and a narrative story help them remember you and your pitch.

Pitch yourself. When you get up for your 30 second elevator pitch on Friday night, pitching more than your idea as viable and investor-worthy (head, plausibility) but that we’ll have fun working together and you should be on my team (heart, belonging). I’ll like you!

Everyone fails, and that’s OK. This is a risk-friendly environment. So do you best and don’t stress. Like any beauty contest, everyone fails but one. So keep your head up and build.

Budget ten to fifteen percent of your working time to rehearsing the demo. Out of the 56-odd hours, you only have about 20 hours of actual work time (assuming sleep, eating, wasted time, commute). Plan at least two hours of standing up and repeating/revising your pitch, getting the words right, getting the order right, making it flow and feel natural so you speak with poise and confidence.

Demonstrations count. The demonstration shows you can execute, and builds trust in the team.

Presentations count more than the engineering. How you tell your story can overcome technical shortcomings. Many pitches even win with mockups or wireframes.

The right idea counts more than its presentation. Duh.

Make sure your team eats, sleeps. Fatigue makes bugs and bad decisions. If you’re going to pull an allnighter on one night, make it Saturday night. Be fresh and bouncing with energy for your pitch

Social skills make finishing possible. Turning strangers into a team, building consensus, resolving doubts and fear, keeping focus – all depend on soft skills. If you don’t have them, find someone who does.

About the Author:

Phil Wolff- I am using my camp-found skills at http://hookflash.com Hookflash is a business communications startup. http://twitter.com/#!/evanwolf  

[Source: Quora]

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SLC Startup Peer Network: Attract, Interact and Transact

Last night we had our first BoomStartup Alumni meeting. The event was attending by 26 startup founders. The goal of these meetings is to create a startup peer network. We are using our existing BoomStartup Alumni and the anchor for this group. Other tech founders in the community are welcome to attend. Last night we had 8 new members join the group. Thank you for your participation we look forward to seeing you next month.

The current meeting format consists of a brief topic overview to help spark thoughts and questions. We then open the meeting for specific questions from the founders. The best questions are very specific and ones that can be addressed with actionable, measurable results. We will then get an update from each of these founders at next months meeting.

This month’s topic was Attract, Interact and Transact. These terms are used to define the phases of a typical customer acquisition process. In a web environment these can loosely be seen as visitors, users and customers. The attract metric is used to define your initial contact with a potential customer. Interact is the action that gives you a contact point, or way to communicate directly. For Transact you need to get some money.

We had a couple of great question brought up around this topic. From these we noted a few suggestions. These can be summarized as follows:

  • Define how you will measure each step. Establish your baseline.
  • A small change in Transact can make a big difference.
  • Without a good Transact phase and Large change in Attract is wasted.
  • The gateway between each is key. How can you remove the barriers?
  • A/B test the change and define success ahead of time.

Most of these concepts have been retooled from the principals developed for Lean Startup. This line of thinking is changing the way we view product development and it’s tie to the rest of the organization. It’s worth the time to understand these concepts. Discover how to eliminate the waste in your startup now.

Next month we’ll be discussing Cohorts, how to define them and what to do once you have. Please comment with any questions.

Details on our next meeting will be here: http://www.meetup.com/BoomStartup/