Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

Sabotaging Your Own Success

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Looks like it’s been a few months since I’ve posted on this site. I guess I’ve been a little busy with my other 20 or so blogs.

Luckily today I came across a post called “Stop Sabotaging Your Own Success: A Manifesto” that really got me thinking and ready to share my own story.

The crux of the post for me is Don’t be afraid to try things you don’t think you can do.

As I read through the various quotes in the post, I remembered back to what I believe is one of the most pivotal choices I made back early in my college career. The choice itself was actually somewhat inconsequential. In fact, looking back the choice really seems like a quite simple and silly choice. It barely even resembles a choice, but for some reason I had an internal fear that doing this would be outside of my comfort zone.

The story starts back in college on a Saturday when I was bored and really wanted to get out and play some sports of some sort. I didn’t care what sport, I just wanted to get some exercise and sports adds that competitive ingredient which makes the exercise fun. I headed over to a park close by the University thinking I might be able to find a game of football, soccer, or maybe even some volleyball. None of those were found, but there was a group of people playing ultimate frisbee.

I remembered back to my childhood days where I’d played at least a couple games of ultimate frisbee and so I asked if I could join in. Turns out, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I figured I’d played ultimate frisbee before and that this wouldn’t be a big deal. Little did I know that this group really played ultimate frisbee. They could throw the frisbee in so many different ways including what I now know is called the forehand or flick. Plus, they had cleats and I was just wearing regular sneakers.

After thinking I could throw the frisbee deep each time I touched it, one of the other players kindly instructed me that I shouldn’t just huck the disc as far as I could each time I got it hoping that someone from my team might be lucky enough to get to wherever the frisbee might end up. Instead, I should be more patient and look for the “easy” throws that I knew I could make to my teammates. Even if that meant I was throwing a short one behind me to someone who could throw better than me.

Needless to say, I obviously wasn’t as good at ultimate frisbee as I thought I was when I asked to play. While we were sitting down at the end of the game, I overheard a couple of the people talking about an ultimate frisbee city league. I heard them talking about putting a team together. For some reason they didn’t ask me to be on their team. My ego assumes the team was full, but I imagine I might have gotten a request to play had I been more skilled at ultimate frisbee.

However, I must admit that I was intrigued that their was an ultimate frisbee city league. I’d never heard of such a thing and so after a quick online search (This was before it was called a Google search) I found the website for the ultimate frisbee city league. Turns out, they accepted team signups or individual signups.

I’d like to say that I just ignored this past experience and signed up. To be honest, I nearly “sabotaged myself.” I remember thinking that maybe I wasn’t good enough to play. I remember thinking that maybe they wouldn’t want me to play. I remember thinking that maybe I wouldn’t fit in. I remember thinking that maybe I’d sign up and they wouldn’t let me play. The idea of riding the bench didn’t sound like fun. Particularly if I used my poor college student money to sign up to play.

Despite these emotions, I signed up anyway. However, the emotions continued even on the first day I went to play in the opening game. I had no idea what to expect and I’d already learned that I had A LOT to learn about playing ultimate frisbee.

The AMAZING thing is that I went ahead and did it anyway. I’m a very calculated person that always made very calculated choices. However, this time the calculations didn’t necessarily add up and I went ahead and did it anyway.

Don’t ask me why, but for some reason before I signed up for this ultimate frisbee city league I felt like this was an incredible stretch. For me at that time, It WAS! However, I think it taught me an amazing thing. I can learn to do things I’m not very good at and it’s ok to take the risk and try.

This lesson has served me very well and been re-taught to me over and over as I’ve learned to stretch myself in new, valuable, and unexpected ways.

You might thinking…what about the end of the story? What happened once I showed up at the city league?

I ended up getting put on what I believe was likely the only team that accepted players that singed up individually. They were from the next town over and not very athletic. Although, a number of them had been playing ultimate frisbee for quite a while. So, I was lucky enough to become the fast one who would run deep. Plus, little by little these veterans taught me all the things I was doing wrong and how I could do better.

I spent the entire summer working on throwing the forehand and finally mastered it. At the end of the league I was invited to play on the club team that was traveling to another college to play against other college teams. I eventually went on to play at sectionals and regional tournaments in a number of different states having the time of my life.

In fact, ~11 years later I’m still playing ultimate frisbee as often as possible. I even help organize the non-profit Las Vegas Ultimate frisbee organization. When my first son was born I had him holding a frisbee the first day home.

Imagine if I’d been too afraid to sign up and “Sabotaged My Own Success.” I’d not only have missed out on learning something I now love, but I’d have set a terrible pattern for future choices.

A Steve Jobs Approach to Product Development

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Today I was reading a post from one of my favorite VC bloggers, Brad Feld, in which he included a really inspiring video (embedded below). In this video Steve Jobs is responding a pretty caustic question from the audience. Turns out that the question doesn’t really matter, but Steve Jobs offers a fascinating insight into the idea of developing with the customer in mind first as opposed to seeing how a technology can benefit the customer.

I love ideas like this that provide a new lens for looking at a business. I am quite sure that as I talk about ideas for businesses with people I’m now going to regularly ask them about the customer experience they want to achieve. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure a number of the responses to that question will go something like, “Umm…Yeah…Ummm…That’s a good question. I just really love this simple technology that’s able to do XYZ function.” Helping them understand the customer focused approach will be a challenge.

I hope others hold me accountable for it too.

Premature Scaling and Killing Your Startup

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

I was reading some random blog link I got on Twitter that had the great title of “Premature Scaling Kills Startups – The Startup Genome.” At first I thought it was going to be a post about the Human Genome. I guess my recent post about the Human Genome and EMR might have influenced that thought. Turns out, the post was talking about the “genomic data” of a startup company. Something I actually love more than the Human Genome.

You should go read the whole post, but his list of bullet points at the end hit me:

  • The team size of startups that scale prematurely is 3 times bigger than the consistent startups at the same stage
  • 74% of high growth Internet startups fail due to premature scaling
  • Startups that scale properly grow about 20 times faster than startups that scale prematurely
  • 93% of startups that scale prematurely never break the $100k revenue per month threshold

He also provided 2 summary items which help you get the most out of the bullet points above. I’d describe them simply as:

  • Scale Consistently
  • Constrain Your Scaling As Long As Possible

Great advice!

2011 Tech Nevada Honors – #vegastech

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

TechNevada Honors is an annual event to celebrate those individuals and companies that have greatly enhanced the growth and prestige of the technology community in Nevada. Considering many of the great things happening with Vegas Tech and particularly this great list of Las Vegas Startups, I hope that we see a bunch of those startup companies featured at the Tech Nevada Honors event.

Qualifications for the awards are outlined on the nomination form (PDF). Nominations must be made in the following categories:
CIO/CTO of the Year
Tech Company of the Year
Tech Entrepreneur of the Year
Tech Transplant of the Year
Tech Educator of the Year
Tech Start Up of the Year
Tech Star in the Public Sector
Technology Hall of Fame
Green Company of the Year

Tech Nevada Honors is hosted by Technology Business Alliance of Nevada (TBAN). The Awards Banquet will be held on the evening of October 19, 2011, at the Springs Preserve, 333 South Valley View Boulevard – Las Vegas, NV 89107. Limited seating & Sponsorship (PDF) are still available if your company is interested in sponsoring this event.

The Humble – Confidence Dichotomy of Successful Entrepeneurs

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

When reading this post by Brad Feld, I was reminded of the challenge that is being an entrepreneur and leading a company. In Brad’s post he talks about a couple of strong, capable entrepreneurs that were starting to have self doubt. Brad suggests a way out of this self doubt using inquiry. Go read his post to learn about that.

What hit me about his description of self doubting entrepreneurs was how much of a challenge it is to be an entrepreneur. As the founder and leader, you’re constantly walking the tight rope of humility and confidence. You have to be humble enough to not compare yourself to others (and other companies), while keeping your confidence for the rest of the team.

Both of those characteristics are hard to manage.

I think by our very nature we want to start comparing ourselves to other people. If it’s not in our nature, then it’s in our culture. Either way, the ability to not compare yourself to others is a challenge. When you talk to other entrepreneurs you rarely get the whole story. They only tell you the exciting and wonderful parts of their business. They seem to avoid telling you about their fears, anxieties, pressures, stress, and even failures.

Since all you’re hearing is the great things about other companies, it’s not even fair to compare your business to another. Even if you do hear the challenges of another company, there’s still little value in finding your self worth in your company being better than another company. Guess what? It doesn’t really matter.

Related to the above challenge is the entrepreneurial challenge of remaining confident for the rest of your team. There’s a reason that a coach is so great for an entrepreneur. It gives them someone to share their deepest fears that they’ve kept bottled up from the company because they want to maintain the culture.

I’m not talking about lying or misleading people in your company. You should always speak frankly, honestly and openly with the people who work with them. However, the best CEO’s know when is the time to keep your fears to yourself and when is the time to share those fears with the company. Often some things are better kept unsaid.

Thus the dual life of an entrepreneur. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this challenge. How do you deal with it? What have you seen?

Startup Weekend Las Vegas Thoughts

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

As I posted a couple months ago, I was part of the organizing committee that brought the Startup Weekend event to Las Vegas. By all accounts, it was a huge success. The sold out event was completely packed and full of great startup energy. It makes me wonder how many more people would have come if we hadn’t sold out.

We even got a ton of great media coverage over the course of the weekend. The RJ did a great article on Startup Weekend Las Vegas before the event and Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, talked about it on Jon Ralston’s Face to Face (which I embedded below).

Then, during and after the event we had news coverage from the RJ, ABC Channel 13, Fox, CBS Channel 8, and I’m sure I missed some others. It was really great to have all this coverage of tech startups in Las Vegas.

However, more important than all that coverage was the buzz that happened within the tech and startup community in Las Vegas. The connections that happened thanks to Startup Weekend is what I really wanted to have happen because of Startup Weekend. I wanted startup companies and internet startup minded people to have a chance to meet and come together. That happened in spades during startup weekend.

Whether any of the ideas that were started this weekend at Startup Weekend will continue after the event really doesn’t matter to me. What I do know is that many of the relationships and connections that were made at the event will endure for many many years to come. This is why I call Startup Weekend a raging success.

I was also really excited by the caliber of judges that we had on the Startup Weekend judging panel. I think it was best summarized by a tweet from @JonMumm:

No doubt, it was an incredible opportunity for entrepreneurs in Las Vegas to be able to present and interact with the likes of Tony Hsieh, Kevin Rose, Tom Anderson, Josh Reich, and Ryan Carson. Not bad to have founders and investors from a number of billion dollar companies on the judging panel.

I think the weekend is nicely summed up in a quote of mine the RJ published:

“We learned that Las Vegas has enough tech companies to actually have a tech scene, but none of us knew about each other,” said John Lynn owner of Crashutah.com, a website creation and marketing business in Las Vegas. “This event was the start of bringing those companies together so Las Vegas can begin to build its tech scene.”

Certainly this was the start of something and not the end. The question is, Where will we take it from here?

There’s no one individual that’s going to make it happen. Instead it’s going to take a little bit of effort from a whole lot of people to continue to grow the Las Vegas startup community. I’m committed to continue doing my part to grow the community. I hope everyone will do the same.

I love the quote that says, “Many hands make light work.” That’s definitely applicable to growing the tech startup community in Las Vegas. Let’s all help grow the community.

Fall Back Las Vegas Startup Companies

Monday, June 20th, 2011

I know I’m kind of crazy to admit it, but one of my hobbies is to read venture capitalist and startup entrepreneur blogs. Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to go after VC money for a startup company of my own. I haven’t needed to do so yet, but maybe one day. Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy it as a hobby.

As I mentioned in my last update, I’ve been doing what I can to help grow the internet startup eco-system in Las Vegas. As I continue to meet more Las Vegas entrepreneurs, I see all sorts of challenges and issues related to the Las Vegas startup eco-system. One of those issues is having more Fall Back Las Vegas Startup Companies.

This is one of the powerful features of a city with a strong startup environment. The numbers are against every startup company. If I remember right, it’s something like 9 of every 10 startup companies fails (and that might be being generous). That means the majority of new companies that are created are going to fail. We need more Las Vegas startup companies so that if and when a startup company fails the founders and employees of those companies know they have other companies they can go and work for.

One beauty of silicon valley and other startup hubs is that the culture accepts companies failing and there are other opportunities if and when it does fail. Certainly even in silicon valley they aren’t happy when the company they’re working for fails. However, at least when it does happen, they have a lot of other companies that will hire them. They don’t have to go start parking cars to pay the bills, but can move on to another startup company. Rinse and repeat.

Ok, I may be oversimplifying it a little bit, but the ability of a city to absorb talented people who worked for a startup company that’s failed is something I’d love to see happen in Las Vegas.

Creating a list of Las Vegas startup companies like we’ve started to do is the first step. Events like Startup Weekend Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Jellies are another step. Little by little, we’ll get there. The strip wasn’t built in a night. A Las Vegas startup eco-system won’t be either.

Father’s Day

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

I guess I should have made my post that I published earlier today about my Father since it is Father’s Day. Although, as I thought about my father, I think they my previous post about all the amazing things I’m doing really just might be the best Father’s Day present I could offer my father.

You have to understand that my day has the entrepreneurial bone in his body. Well, maybe not the bone, but he has it in his head. The desire to be an entrepreneur has always been my father’s dream and it’s always alluded him. He’s tried over and over and never really succeeded at it.

I still remember as a young child sitting around listening to my dad talk about this business or that business. Inevitably he would use a line that went something like this, “If I only have XXXX customers paying $X.XX a month, then I’ll be set.” It didn’t matter if it was Amway, Investing, Life Insurance, or some other company that my dad tried to do. I was always there to sit there and listen.

I think even as a young child I would challenge my dad on his assumptions. I really wanted to learn how it was going to work, what the commission structure was, and how he was going to grow the business. Obviously, I’d inherited that same entrepreneurial bone. I’d ask him hard questions like “How are you going to get XXXX customers.” And the always popular, “What if you only get X customers?”

I certainly was a precocious young kid wasn’t I? I guess I still am. Just ask any entrepreneur that I’ve talked to. I never enjoy people that say “That sounds good.” or “I really like that idea” when I ask them for some feedback on something I’m doing. I prefer someone who’s going to ask me the hard questions and help me to be able to answer them.

So while my Father’s unfortunately never reached his dream of entrepreneurial nirvana, I hope my Father’s proud of all the entrepreneurial success I’ve had. The reality is that without my father I wouldn’t be nearly the entrepreneur that I am today. Not only did I get his genetic traits, but I also learned incredibly valuable lessons from his experiences that made me who I am today.

Thanks Dad!

Life is Good – Busy, but Good

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

The last month or so I’ve been extraordinarily busy. Actually, much busier than I like. However, I love all the projects that I’m working on and so I keep driving them all forward. Here’s a quick summary of what I have going on (in no particular order).

I’ve helped organize Startup Weekend Las Vegas (happens this weekend…Woot!). I’m happy to say that Startup Weekend Las Vegas has sold out. I can’t wait for this weekend.

Along with Startup Weekend, I’ve grown this new passion for trying to do some small part in helping to grow the number of internet startup companies and internet startup entrepreneurs in Las Vegas. I even launched with the help of a number of other people a new blog called Las Vegas Startups. However, the most rewarding part of it all has been the number of interesting Las Vegas internet entrepreneurs that I’ve met since doing these things. It’s a great feeling to be connected to so many interesting and amazing people. I can feel that it’s laying the ground work for something special in Las Vegas.

Many of you probably don’t know of my love for Ultimate Frisbee. Well, it’s real and fantastic. I always say my addiction to ultimate frisbee is my key to staying skinny (or at least relatively skinny). Lately, I’ve been helping to keep the Las Vegas Ultimate frisbee community organized. It’s a completely selfish desire since it’s hard to play ultimate frisbee without other players. I even organized a Las Vegas summer ultimate frisbee league which starts on Monday. We exceeded our registration goal and so life is good.

On the blog side of things, I’ve grown the Healthcare Scene blog network to 14 EMR and Health IT related blogs and still growing. Almost every site in the network is growing and improving in all the important metrics. I think we’re up to 9 people blogging across the network. I certainly couldn’t do it without all their help. July 1st, I’m changing the way I handle ads on the various websites. Let’s hope that the change goes well. Each day I’m in awe at the power of blogging and the influence blogs can have.

The Pure TV Network is doing really well. Pure DWTS, Pure SYTYCD and Pure America’s Got Talent are all killing it with amazing readership (and amazing writers that help me) and we even launched Pure X Factor. I’m lucky to work with the dozen or so writers that participate on those sites. After reading this post, I think they’ll realize why I haven’t had as much time to post myself.

I also just got put in as Scoutmaster. I’d been an Assistant Scoutmaster for the past couple years, so it hasn’t been all that much different. Just getting to know some new leaders and help them understand how scouting works. I love the impact a Scoutmaster can have on these fine Young Men. I can’t wait until July when I’m going up to a high adventure camp for a week. Certainly there’s some level of service required to be a Scoutmaster, but honestly I’ll probably have as much fun at this camp as the boys. Although, don’t tell my wife I said that. That’s the only bad part about scouting, being away from my wife and kids.

On that note, I’ve saved the best for last. I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with my kids lately. Mostly because my wife took off for a week to go on a Sister’s trip. It’s been pretty exciting watching the kids for a week. We’ve had some good time to bond. I’m sure I couldn’t do it all the time like my wife does, but I’m glad I had time to enjoy my children. I’m even happier my wife got a break and some time away from the children. Needless to say, I’ll be very happy to have my wife back.

There’s my update. As you can see, I have one or two things going on right now. Not that any of you really care, but I started writing and just couldn’t stop. There’s something therapeutic about getting it out in the open.

Becoming a Pro Blogger – You Can Do It

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

I just read this inspiring post over on ProBlogger about one man’s journey to become a professional blogger.

I absolutely loved the story, loved the twist in the middle, and loved the guy’s passion for blogging. If it doesn’t inspire you to blog more, then you should just stop blogging now.

However, I disagree with some of the things he says. Here’s the comment I left on the post with a few additions:

Great story and thanks for sharing. I agree that people can do it. I quit my job about a year ago and I feel like it was the best decision I’ve made in my career. Although, I’m not quite as brave as you are and I’m sure many others aren’t either. I prefer to encourage a slow and steady form of blogging that steadily grows into something powerful and wonderful.

To me, it’s more about the choice each night between watching another TV show or building your blog (although, I have a network of TV blogs, so in that case I needed to do both). That’s the hard choice you have to make day in and day out. The problem for most is that they choose the TV over the blog. It’s their life and their choice, but don’t expect a blog to grow without sacrifices.

Plus, you can’t just work long hours. You have to work smart too. If you do that, as you say, you can make it! I know some incredibly passionate bloggers who spend hours and hours committed to their craft. However, for them it was a craft and not a business. To me, that’s working hard, but not smart. If that’s what makes you happy, by all means do it. However, if you want to be a professional blogger, I think you have to treat it like a business. My blogs are as much entrepreneurship as they are journalism.

Also, thankfully my slow and steady approach to blogging has made it so I haven’t even had the cry in the pillow days either.