Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

Startup Weekend Comes to Las Vegas

Friday, April 29th, 2011

I’m really excited to tell you about Startup Weekend finally coming to Las Vegas. I’ve wanted to participate in Startup Weekend for quite a while. In fact, I was friends with one of the first people involved in Startup Weekend and I can’t say I wasn’t a little bit envious of him being part of it. Well, now it’s coming to Las Vegas.

If you don’t know what Startup Weekend is, it’s an intense 54 hour weekend of working on some cool project. You start with an idea and finish with a launched product. The basis for a potential business. Plus, we’ve already landed Zappos as a Startup Weekend Las Vegas sponsor and Kevin Rose (of Digg fame) as a judge. Plus, more announcements on the way.

Registration for Startup Weekend Las Vegas is open and only $75 for the Early Bird registration through May 25, 2011. It’s going to be a fun weekend, so go register now.

Ok, if you’re still not convinced, here’s the rest of the details about how the event works and a great video which captures the essence of Startup Weekend quite well.

| About SW |
Startup Weekend is a 501(c)3 non-profit that brings together the entrepreneurial, web development and design communities for one weekend with one goal: Going from idea to launch! Here’s a quick video of the recent events in Philly: watch. I believe it captures the essence of the Startup Weekend, a launchpad that we’re truly excited to bring to Vegas!

The weekend is easily broken down into PitchBuildPresentFriday is pitch night when anyone with an idea gets one minute to pitch to the crowd. The crowd votes on the top 8-10 ideas and we start to form teams and build. We build all day Saturday until around 4:00 on Sunday (with some awesome meals mixed in). Finally, Sunday is launch day where teams will have the opportunity to present their ideas to investors, industry leaders. A few awesome ideas and their entrepreneurs have even gone on to receive funding.

| Judges | Sunday (6/26) – 5 PM – 8:30 PM
There are so many ideas that come out of Startup Weekends. Some of them are wacky and a lot set out to rule the world. Judges are encouraged to give valuable advice/feedback in addition to just asking questions. We have a list of 5 basic criteria for the winners circle:
1. Execution (what teams have actually accomplished over the weekend; i.e. deliverable)
2. Presentation (self-explanatory)
3. Viability (financially speaking)
4. Innovation (is the concept unique? disruptive?)
5. Breakthrough Potential (maybe it’s popular among first adopters, but can it be scaled to a larger market?)

| Speakers |
Friday (6/24) 7PM – 7:45PM
We’re going to have two speakers and a local startup do a demo before we begin pitching. Speakers will have 10 minutes of full on attention to speak on topics like: bootstrapping vs. raising funds, the local investment ecosystem and team dynamics and the importance of picking the right people and communicating effectively. The audience will then have 5 minutes of Q&A. Slides are ok but not required.

| Mentors |
Generally speaking, mentors spend about two hours on Saturday and/or Sunday meeting with teams or individuals. We plan on having some awesome ideas launched in Vegas, so we understand if you want to stay longer.

Saturday – 10AM to 6 PM and/or
Sunday – 10AM to 5PM

| Help Spread the word |
– Checkout startupweekend.org and lasvegas.startupweekend.org
– Follow us: @SWVegas
– Send anyone you feel would be interested in attending, sponsoring or judging our way at:lasvegas@startupweekend.org.

Friday:
6:00pm – Registration starts (pizza served)
7:00pm – Kickoff & Speakers
7:30pm – Pitches Begin – (60 seconds per person)
9:00pm – Attendees vote for the top ideas
9:15pm – Teams start forming and discussing ideas
10:00pm – 1:00am – Teams begin to work

[Recharge on Fremont E]

[Yoga]
Saturday:
9:00am – Doors open. Breakfast & coffee
9:30am – Teams continue working. Mentors arrive and begin working with teams.
12:00pm – Lunch
6:30pm – Dinner
7:30pm – Mid weekend check-in, status reports, call for help
12:00 midnight – Finished for the day. Stay and work as late as the venue will allow.

[Recharge on Fremont E]

[Yoga]
Sunday:
9:00am – Doors open. Breakfast & coffee
11:00pm – Lunch
12:30pm – Mentors arrive…
3:00pm – Gut check. Start prepping for presentations
4:00pm – Dinner
5:00pm – FINAL PRESENTATIONS
7:30pm – Judging & awards
8:30pm – Wrap-up
9:00pm – Wrap Party

Slow and Steady vs Boom and Bust Entrepeneurship

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Seems like Friday’s are when I get my biggest inspiration for posting on this site. I guess that Friday evening is the time that I don’t want to do other work and so I take a little bit of time to think and meditate on things. I think that actually works out quite well.

Tonight I’m thinking about how so many people out there can’t see the long term vision of slow and steady growth. Instead they want to go all out and either crash and burn or hit it big. I’m not saying that the second option is not a good option. In fact, there are hundreds and thousands of amazing businesses that have been built by that approach. I just don’t think I have the stomach for that approach.

Many people might immediately react that well then I must not be an entrepreneur. How could someone as risk averse as I really be an entrepreneur? Let alone an entrepreneur that is going to be successful. They likely then continue to say that my competitors are going to eat me alive. They’ll likely suggest that you have to go fast to stay ahead of the competition. Then, they start to equate “fast” to working long hours at the office, not having a life making the startup company your life, and all the other highly fantasized parts of building a startup company.

Luckily, I’m not alone in this belief. It just seems that very few people are willing to talk about it in public. The notion that you have to give your life to a company to be successful in business, while glamorous in a story about a company, also misses out on some of the best parts of life. I think that the guys behind 37 Signals cover this quite well in their book Rework. It’s quite possibly the best $13 gift my wife’s given me. Not only is it a quick read, but it covers the type of entrepreneurship that I enjoy doing. It exposes all the myths that exist and gives people like me freedom to believe in another path to fulfill my entrepreneurial itch.

That path to me is paved in the principle of slow and steady persistence. It’s lined with working smarter, not harder. It’s foundation requires the passion of the entrepreneur.

I won’t cover all the reasons why I think passion is essential, but imagine it this way. The frenetic boom or bust method of entrepreneurship doesn’t require the same level of passion. You’re moving so quickly that you have no choice. There’s always a zillion things to do and you never know which way is up. It’s fun, exciting and you’re hitting all sorts of interesting milestones all the time. They may not have been effective or efficient, but they were exciting and it’s easy to be passionate about exciting things.

Instead, the slow and steady method of entrepreneurship requires passion to keep going even when the progress you’re making is hard to quantify and hard to see. It requires a certain amount of faith and determination that as long as you persistently do a little bit more each day that the persistent hammering away will be rewarded in the long term. That doesn’t sound fun to most people. That’s why passion matters. When you’re working on something you’re really passionate about, you don’t need the outside acknowledgement that what you’re doing is cool. You’re doing it because you love it and you’d likely do it even if there wasn’t the gold at the end of the rainbow.

In fact, your passion for what you’re doing is so great, that it’s hard for you to even classify it as work because you enjoy doing it so much.

Compare that principle with the warp speed entrepreneurship that takes a big round of investment and wants to grow the company quickly to reach the day of harvest when they sell the company to someone else. I’m not saying this approach is bad or evil. It’s not.

It’s just unfortunate that this boom or bust mentality in entrepreneurship actually discourages so many would be entrepreneurs from pursuing their dreams. Persistent passion can often take you a lot farther than money. However, it takes remembering the long term perspective of the business. Many people might not enjoy the long slow ride that takes you to amazing heights. Although, I think many more would if we helped them understand principles of slow and steady entrepreneurship.

Silicon Las Vegas

Friday, March 11th, 2011

I had this little link stored away in my draft posts. It’s an article about a man named Michael Tchong who sees Las Vegas as a future Silicon Valley. The article is a nice read and does a good job talking about the challenges of internet startups in Las Vegas. However, I agree that there’s some real potential here in Las Vegas for entrepreneurship and specifically internet startups.

I did a little more digging and found Michael Tchong’s website called ubercool (nice name). He also has a twitter account by the same name and it even lists Las Vegas, NV as it’s location. So, I guess he does live in Las Vegas according to Twitter. Although, if you look at his speaking schedule on his website, it looks like he travels a whole lot. He does seem to have a pretty interesting background and so I hope that one day I get to meet him.

It’s fun to think about Silicon Las Vegas. There are some tremendous upsides to living in Las Vegas versus Silicon Valley. Not the least of which is the now very inexpensive housing. Of course, there are some challenges as well. This quote from the article linked at the top is one of the largest ones:

Information technology and Web publishing employees comprise less than 1 percent of our workforce, according to the Center for Business and Economic Research at UNLV, meaning Las Vegas isn’t exactly a tech hotbed.

Of course, the fact that UNLV categorizes them as information technology and web publishing (who uses that term?) should say something about the area as well. There’s so little activity they don’t even know how to categorize it.

However, the article is right that Las Vegas could use a few more Zappos like companies to make their home here. While the jobs from those companies would be good. There’s even a greater value of having technology companies like Google and Yahoo located in a city, because many of their employees will end up quiting and starting their own companies. Or they will leave the large tech companies and provide the future work force for the smaller internet startups.

If I were in Las Vegas politics, I’d be working to bring some of those large tech companies to Las Vegas. It would be worth the cost.

A Different Kind of Entrepeneurship

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

I know that there are lots of arguments all over the internet about whether entrepreneurs are born or made and of course the right answer is it’s somewhere in the middle. Some people’s nature would never make it as an entrepreneur and some people’s environment makes it impossible for them to be entrepreneurs.

However, I’m a strong believer that you get what you want. If your heart is set on being an entrepreneur then you’ll more than likely end up with that result. It’s hard to stop a person’s strong desire and passion.

I think one of the biggest problem we have is what we define as an entrepeneur. Don’t get me wrong. I think there is a very big difference between small business and entrepreneurship. For example, a mechanic runs a small business. Unless they have a dozen repair shops. Then, they become entrepeneurs.

However, I think we also love to glorify the entrepreneurs who get hundreds of thousand or millions in funding which they burn through like a women burns through cash in a shoe store.

My favorite is when groups define entrepreneurship by revenue. So what if you have $500k in revenue if you have $1 million in expenses. I’d rather have the entrepreneur with $300k in revenue and $200k in profit. It is certainly a different approach to entrepreneurship, but just as valid as the former in many cases.

The key for me is that an entrepreneur sees a way to make 10 times the amount they were making with the same amount of effort.

Plus, the reality when your an entrepreneur in a place like Las Vegas is you have to be smarter with your money since the investment dollars don’t flow the same way in Las Vegas (at least for internet startups in Vegas). I think this is a really healthy thing and it is why I’m glad to be a different kind of entrepreneur in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Entrepreneurial Community

Monday, January 31st, 2011

This morning I was greeted by an interesting post by one of my favorite entrepreneur bloggers, Brad Feld, about building entrepreneurial communities. I’ve been reading Brad’s blog for a long time and I’ve enjoyed learning about what he’s done to build entrepreneurship in Boulder.

As I read his latest post, this quote jumped out at me:

I continue to study and think hard about the dynamics of entrepreneurial communities around the US and believe that there are at least 100 cities in the US that can have strong, significant, healthy, 20 year plus sustainable entrepreneurial communities.

Of course, I could help but imagine his comments with the lens of the Las Vegas Entrepreneurial community. I think it’s easy to see the reasons why Las Vegas could be a great entrepreneurial hub. Although, I must admit that I don’t really see it taking its proper place as a city of entrepreneurs. At least not in the web and technology space that I take part in.

Certainly there are good companies like Zappos.com in Las Vegas (although they came here years after their founding). There’s also the Vegas Valley Angels, but to be honest they haven’t really been all that active in investing over the past couple years.

Much like any community, I think there’s great interest in entrepreneurship in Las Vegas. In fact, I’ve only written about Las Vegas internet startups a few times on this site and I regularly get search engine referrals from people searching for entrepreneurship in Las Vegas. So, people are interested, but don’t have very many places to turn.

I’m currently buying a house in Las Vegas. My family and I are happy here and don’t really have any interest in moving somewhere else. So, I’m in it for the long haul. I’m really interested to see how entrepreneurship in Las Vegas will grow over time. Hopefully I can be part of that growth and support.

The Value of Living Modestly

Monday, December 27th, 2010

I’m really glad that somehow I learned very early on in my life to live modestly. I think it’s a principle that has eternal value and many people underestimate its power. I honestly wouldn’t be able to be living the dream and being an entrepreneur in Las Vegas if it weren’t for this principle.

However, I think one of the best features of modesty is the perspective it gives you. When you live a modest lifestyle, then your “splurges” still only amount to what people think are normal. However, from your perspective they’re absolutely fantastic and appreciated. For example, Christmas can be 10 times sweeter at half the cost just by living modestly the rest of the year.

Some of these same principles apply to business. In business it is called boot strapping it or a lean startup or getting by with what’s needed. I’m sure that some times I take them too far. However, I think that generally these principles are great business. At least when you’re building web applications.

There’s something incredibly valuable to a web application to be given constraints on what you can and can’t do. These constraints force you to narrowly focus on what’s most important. It means you have to be completely focused on a specific goal and nail it. There’s not room for fluff and extras which don’t add value.

Living modestly in a startup means you have a longer run way to test out ideas and improve those ideas based on customer feedback. Obviously, once you start seeing traction and you’ve been able to refine your customer acquisition model, then you can apply the gas. However, until then keeping your burn rate low (living modestly) means that you’ll still have enough gas to get to the next gas station.

Although, don’t underestimate the long term value of a company whose DNA is living modestly either.

Wise Entrepreneurship Counsel

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

“If you know what your customers need, deliver against that promise and provide a product or services that has economic value you’ll do well. Double-down on great people, process & IP.”

-Mark Suster in his blog post “In a Strong Wind Even Turkeys Can Fly

Free Screen Sharing Application for Bootstrapped Internet Startups – Join.me

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Today I finally came across a great screen sharing application. I’ve used A LOT of different screen sharing applications, desktop streaming applications, remote desktop applications, etc etc etc and they have their niche, but this one is by far the easiest desktop streaming application that I’ve found (and it’s free).

The application is called Join.me. It’s done by the people behind the LogMeIn suite of products (which are good in their own right for more advanced users). However, Join.me is fantastic for those desktop streams that you want to do with people whose desktop you don’t control. There’s almost NOTHING to install. It uses Flash for the user viewing your desktop and a really simple exe download for the person looking to share.

I plan on using this for demos I’m doing for Giving Sports fundraising. It’s the perfect way to do a sales presentation. You send them a link, they click on it and they get access to your desktop computer. That means you can show them a powerpoint, a web browser, etc etc etc. Anything you run on your desktop you can show them and they don’t have to install anything. They can just click on the link.

I’m also planning on using this for helping my mom. Just yesterday I wished that I had a way to connect to my mom’s computer. It was too much to ask her to create an account and install LogMeIn. Plus, then she’d keep getting these update notices to update the software and it would confuse her. With Join.me she just does the one click download of the exe and then tells me the number. Awesome! Plus, after one use, you just tell her to install the app and it will put a shortcut on her desktop that she can use the next time she needs help.

Oh yes, did I say that it allows remote control of the desktop as well? That’s right, my mom can give me control of her desktop so I can just fix the stuff myself. So, I can not only see her desktop, but I can also fix it. Very nice!

There’s also a conference call number you can provide to people so a whole group could be on the same call. It’s not an 800 number, but that’s not a big deal for me at all. Most people have a cell phone or unlimited long distance.

The only problem I ran into is that it didn’t like my default screen resolution. I submitted a report to Join.me about it and so we’ll see if they respond. I just changed my screen resolution and it worked fine.

Anyway, as you can tell I’m excited. I’d wanted something like this for a while. It’s the perfect addition to a bootstrapped internet startup’s tool box!

Can Blogging Be Entrepreneurship?

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

I debated for quite a while how I would describe myself on my LinkedIn profile. I have a hard time describing what I do and who I am since I just do so many different things.

I finally ended up with the description of “Full time internet entrepreneur and blogger.” I think that kind of describes the two sides of what I do. Certainly there’s a lot of nuances in each of those things and I have some really specific niches, but that kind of describes what I do for a living.

Recently I’ve been thinking about the idea of whether blogging could really become entrepreneurship. I should first clarify that I think there’s a difference between a entrepreneurship and small business. Entreprenuership is about building a business that can scale. Small business is about doing a job that will provide for your family. With this definition of terms in place, I must admit that I’m stuck wondering if blogging can really become entrepreneurship or if it’s generally destined to just be a small business (ie. Can’t scale. Feeds the family, but you have to keep doing it forever).

The first question that I think must be asked is whether blogging can really be scaled. There are certainly examples where blogs have been scaled up nicely. Techcrunch scaled nicely and had what I’m guessing was a lucrative exit to AOL. I think it’s fair enough to say that blogs like Huffington Post have been able to scale in amazing ways.

I guess the question is whether there are smaller blogs that can scale beyond small business. For every Techcrunch and Huffington Post, there are a dozen Scoble’s and Dooce’s that are both incredibly successful bloggers and I’m sure they make a good living blogging. However, they have such unique voices that without them their blogs really don’t exist. So, they’ll have to keep doing it for a long time it seems. That’s small business and not entrepreneurship (from what I can tell).

Of course, I’m guessing that Scoble and others would argue that it really doesn’t need to scale. If he wanted to scale it, he’d choose to do something different to make it scale. He loves blogging and if he chose to scale it up it would take all the fun out of what he does on his blog. Plus, the end goal isn’t always about money. He makes good (probably even great) money doing something he loves. Why would he ever want to scale it?

Although, I think that deep down most people want to see more traffic to their site and find more ways to monetize the site.

One simple example for me. When I started my EMR and HIPAA blog, I worked really hard to drive as much traffic as possible to the site. After about 6 months and quite a bit of effort, I reached what I thought was the max traffic I could reasonably obtain for that blog: about 1000 pageviews per day. I reasoned that maybe that’s all of the people that were interested in such a narrow niche.

Long story short, Obama announced something called the ARRA EMR Stimulus money (Translation: $18+ billion for EMR). I read about it early and blogged about it early. That’s now paid off in spades as I’ve been able to grow my traffic to 5-7k pageviews a day.

Point being that I was able to scale that blog even though I originally thought that I couldn’t scale it anymore. It did take some outside circumstances to help the situation. Although, it’s also taken quite a bit of effort to maintain and even increase the traffic now that I have it.

The question I’m asking myself now is what else can be done to really take my blogs to the next level? Is it possible to scale blogs into true entrepeneurship?

I’ve also just started some talks with a company that is possibly interested in acquiring one of my blogs. The results of those discussions will hopefully shed some interesting light on that aspect of blogs and entrepreneurship as well. Certainly it’s nice to have a cash cow blog/website that just generates cash for you. That’s small business (a really nice small business, but still small business). Entrepeneurship requires an exit of some sort. I’m not sure what exits are available for a blog.

Open Source Gift Registry

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Seems like people are starting to talk about Christmas already. I know I’ve started thinking about it a bit. Man I love this time of year. All the Holidays right in a row.

Anyway, many people struggle with the challenge of having a list of things that they’d like for Christmas, but then you don’t know if multiple people are going to buy you the same thing. That’s right, then you get 2 of the same thing and 1 person sometimes feels bad if their gift is a lesser model than the other one.

Today I found an open source project that tries to solve this problem. It’s called PHP Gift Registry. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think I’m going to give it a try. Could be interesting to see how it goes.

Basically, you can make a list of things that you’d like (which I like since I always forget things that I want so I need to make a list when I think of them). Then, people can either Reserve or Purchase an item on the list. However, the person that created the list can’t see who else bought it. Only other people can see that info. Pretty slick.

Of course, the entrepreneur in me wondered why we hadn’t seen this type of software out there in mass where people could use it and not have to have the skills to host it themselves. Plus, the affiliate sales you could make from a list like this would be awesome. Not to mention the marketing data that you’d have at your fingertips. If done right, this could do really well.

Personally though, I’d probably want to convert it to a BuddyPress plugin so that then you’d get all the social elements of it. Plus, you could use the invite plugins to make the thing grow virally. Seems like a great extension of the BuddyPress Group API to me.