Lessons Learned from a Lifetime Dedicated to Entrepreneurship

If you’re planning to start a business or a startup, it’s valuable to learn about life and the flow of business from people who have navigated their own paths to success. Though it’s true, no matter who you learn from or what college you attend, ultimately, everyone has to make his or her own way to success. However, no one can make it without borrowing a proven effective strategy or two from someone else.

David Turner Morgenthaler died in June of this year after achieving great success with his venture capital firm, Morgenthaler Ventures.

Turner, known as a successful investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist will also go down in history for his instrumental roles in amending ERISA legislation and lowering the US capital gains tax to 28% from 49%.

Small Biz Trends contributor Scott Shane shared some of the valuable business lessons he learned from Morgenthaler over the years.

What Can Entrepreneurs, Startup Founders and Investors Learn from Morgenthaler?

On Startup Founding and Success

  • Startup success is challenging. Most of the factors that contribute to a startup’s success aren’t factors founders can control. In fact, Morgenthaler equated startup success to, “making lightning strike the bottom of a swimming pool on a sunny day.”
  • Startup investing isn’t a guaranteed money maker. Startup investments only produce returns about 10% of the time. Investors should be prepared to lose money often.

On Investing, Entrepreneurship and Business Strategy

  • Successful investing can come from doing adequate research and knowing everything about a company’s management, their organization, their market and their industry.
  • However, the most important element in the equation is the entrepreneur or management team. The right person/people can change organizational factors and create success. In fact, he felt most startups and entrepreneurial endeavors failed because the business owners and founders, (the people), made mistakes.
  • Successful business heads gather in places where realistic success is plentiful. They leave dead places where new business and investment can’t flourish. This is why you see so many entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

On Intelligence

  • Intelligence is not the same thing as getting a lucky break and profiting from it.
  • It’s not being an intellectual snob and discounting the input of everyone around you with a good idea; and
  • Good ideas must also be provable. They must be possible. They must conform to the standards of natural laws like gravity etc.

Manager-Employee Relationships: 6 Ways to Take Growth to the Next Level

As negative experiences with supervisors constitute the number one reasons employees leave companies, it is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of maintaining positive relations between managers and employees. Particularly important in small, Startup businesses where managers and employees tend to work extremely closely, building and maintaining strong relationships forms an important part of the company’s foundation.

Here are six simple steps how managers can build mutual trust and respect with their employees, ensuring long-term dedication and retention.

  1. Listen: Taking employees seriously shows respect and encourages communication. Opening the doors for communication dramatically improves the manager-employee relationship as employees know their voices are heard, their opinions matter, and they have a say in their jobs.
  2. Cut the Crap: Say what is true and needs to be said. Flattery, rumors, avoiding real issues, and other kinds of unnecessary word-play do not fool anyone.
  3. Appreciate: Take the time to thank employees for a job well done. Not only does this demonstrate attention and involvement, it inspires them to keep up good work, knowing that it does not go unnoticed.
  4. Work Together: Projects that result in more interaction also result in mentoring and growth on both sides. The obvious result is employee growth, but other benefits include building mutual respect and rapport, sharing the work-load.
  5. Feedback: Positive or negative, employees sometimes need an outside voice to give feedback before they can fully understand their performance. Managerial input offers them the chance to understand their work from a new and necessary perspective.
  6. Growth: Managers who provide purposeful opportunities for growth for their employees are investing in both the employee and the company — a fact that is not lost on the employees.

Following the basic strategies of listening, honesty, being appreciative, purposeful mentoring, consistent feedback, and strategic growth opportunities sets up a positive atmosphere of communication and respect by demonstrating interest in the employees’ productivity and their overall work experience. With time and commitment, building these traits can change the atmosphere of a workplace, securing dedicated employees and building strong and effective teams.

Keep Your Startup Pruned to Achieve Optimum Growth

Necessary Endings

In his book, Necessary Endings, the management guru, Dr. Henry Cloud, creates an analogy between growing a prize-winning rose bush and developing a successful business. Per Dr. Cloud, one of the keys to success in both endeavors is to “prune” or cut away parts of the rose bush or the business to focus all energy on the strongest and best branches. A startup can follow this advice through all stages of its growth to develop a viable and long-lasting business structure.

Prune the Deadweight

Pruning focuses on eliminating the three parts of a business that can prevent it from achieving its maximum potential. First, and perhaps most obvious, a business needs to cut its deadweight. A Startup, in particular, cannot afford any non-functioning parts that drain resources from a business structure. An entrepreneur may find it difficult, for example, to jettison an idea that catalyzed some part of a startup, but if that idea has stopped bearing fruit, it needs to be discarded in favor of the concepts that are working. The same holds true for employees or partners who may have been around to help a startup at its inception but who are no longer contributing to the startup’s growth.

Prune non-functioning branches

Second, a startup needs to eliminate those branches that are showing signs of sickness with no chance or ever recovering from that sickness. A once-great idea that got a startup off the ground can lose steam as competitors begin to latch onto an idea that the startup might have created. Instead of focusing on a sick or dying branch, cut it off and preserve the startup’s energy for newer and more powerful ideas.

Prune the good ideas, focus on the best

The third and perhaps most difficult part of a startup business that should be pruned are healthy ideas that may be good, but otherwise are not the startup’s best ideas. A rose gardener will prune healthy branches that have two or three buds in favor of the branches that have seven or eight buds. Entrepreneurs are fond of great ideas, but too many ideas can threaten the focus of a startup company. Focusing on the best idea and cutting the remaining good ideas will give the startup the best guarantee of long-term success.

Every entrepreneur will benefit from stepping back from her startup to assess which ideas will give the best chances of future growth, and which other ideas have died or show signs of slowing down.

Great Accelerators and the types of Startups they work with

In many ways, founding a startup is more challenging than starting a traditional business. Of course, entrepreneurs want to make money when they start a traditional business. However, startup founders must prove that their idea will grow into a large corporation. This is quite a bit of pressure.

For this reason, startup founders are a unique breed. Luckily, there’s also a unique source of help if you alone or you and your team are brave enough to say, “One day this concept or product will be as big as Facebook.”

There are many startup accelerators that offer startup founders access to

  • Financial assistance,
  • Specialized business training,
  • Counseling,
  • Legal guidance, and
  • much more.

Most accelerators like to focus on one type of startup. For example, some only work with tech startups. Others work with startups that have a certain structure, like team-based startups.

What to Expect

Most accelerators will offer you mentorship, workspace, operational support and access to funding via introductions to angel investors or outright payments. Program durations run anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Many programs are quite competitive and only accept 2 to 10 startups a year.

Startup Accelerator

Here’s a list of great accelerators and the types of startups they work with.

Tech, Web, Mobile, and Science Accelerators

  • For innovators that plan to combine technology with entertainment to create brand new experiences, Disney is interested.
  • Blue Startups in Honolulu, Hawaii, works with companies focused on technology. Blue pays special attention to startups that want to do business in both the US and Asian marketplaces.
  • StartFast in Syracuse, New York works with startups in the web, mobile and software industries.
  • The Illumina Accelerator program is geared toward scientists in the progressive fields of genomics, clinical research and applied sciences.
  • LightSpeed Innovations in Southern California works with startups in the aerospace industry.
  • Luma Launch, located in Santa Monica, CA seeks to works with startups that combine content presentation with technology.
  • VentureOut in New York City works with technology startups.
  • The SaltMines Group in Vero Beach, Florida works with startups that have designed innovative social media products and mobile apps.
  • The Yield Lab located in St. Louis, Missouri offers help to agricultural technology companies whose product offerings and business concepts encourage sustainability.

Women, Minority, Social Change and Team-Based Accelerators

  • MergeLane in Colorado focuses on women-based startups and the challenges those founders face.
  • Startup52 is a New York City-based accelerator program. This program only works with startups with a strong and diverse team of founders.
  • Capria in Seattle, Washington looks for startups with a product or business concept that focuses on making a global impact, especially in developing countries and emerging markets.
  • Cofound Harlem in New York City has the goal to launch 100 new Harlem-based, community impactful companies by 2020.
  • Gener8tor has locations in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin. The accelerator works with startups that have a strong team of founders.
  • The Sixers Innovation Lab, a JV between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Kimball Office, is looking for promising startups in any industry. The Innovation Lab wants to stimulate startup community growth throughout Philadelphia and New Jersey.

Product Design

  • Matter in New York City and San Francisco is looking for startups that have designed a product that the accelerator can quickly bring to market.

Marketing

  • The Brandery in Cincinnatti, OH offers $50,000 in outright funding and works with business in the marketing, branding and design fields.

Retail and Consumer Goods

  • XRC Labs in New York City is great for startups in the consumer goods and retail market.

As you can see, advancing technology and science, working with others and working towards social change can give your startup a really big foot in the door with many accelerators. However, there are accelerators that fund good startups in all industries. You just have to know where to look.

In addition, for further guidance, Startup Next is a pre-accelerator program that will help a promising startup in any industry get into a top accelerator program.

Startups Case Study: Why SpoonRocket Shut Down

SpoonRocket

Although the on-demand industry is highly popular, not all businesses remain successful. Recently the food-delivery service SpoonRocket announced it was shutting down. Prior to closing, the business accomplished meal sales at a profit, but the cost of operations exceeded the funding they were able to raise. In addition, their business model of cheap, quickly delivered food did not draw in the customer base required to sustain it – many customers reported dissatisfaction with the quality of the meals, preferring to spend more money for tastier alternatives. The management attempted to organize an acquisition instead of terminating the business, but the deal ultimately failed.

Sprig, a strong competitor of SpoonRocket, has attracted many of the customers and ex-employees of the closing business. The SpoonRocket management team actively recommended Sprig as part of their closing announcement, offering discount coupons for SpoonRocket customers who chose to transition. Despite Sprig’s service being slower and the cost higher, many customers find its quality superior and its sustainable, organic sourcing appealing.

Several additional alternatives exist for ex-employees or customers of SpoonRocket. Caviar, a service that partners with restaurants in over a dozen major cities, allows customers to order from their favorite locations. For people who prefer to cook, DoorDash permits customers to order groceries from local suppliers for delivery in less than 45 minutes. Another option, Postmates, is headquartered in San Francisco, and aims to grant customers access to goods from any local store or restaurant.

Regardless of the reasons why food-delivery startup SpoonRocket shut down, the on-demand industry remains strong and its opportunities promising.

About Entrepreneurship worth knowing

Entrepreneurship is not all glitz and glamor like the movies would have you believe. Contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurs don’t work hard for 6 months and then become an overnight success. There is a huge amount of effort that is put forth and sustained for years before success happens.

Even though there are few things in this world that are more satisfying, challenging, and financially lucrative as entrepreneurship, it’s not for everyone. Everyone is not willing to put forth the effort or sacrifice what it takes to make it as an entrepreneur. Here are few thoughts about entrepreneurship that everyone should know.

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It takes a long time to become successful

When a successful entrepreneur is highlighted, it is usually their success and money that is at the forefront of the story. This leads readers to falsely believing that these tech billionaires and super successful entrepreneurs are merely “lucky”.

What they don’t highlight is the struggles and years of hard work and labor. Startup website Funders and Founders highlights the hardships of some of the world’s most successful billionaire entrepreneurs.

One infographic on the site, “Too Late to Start?”, highlights the fact that most of these successful entrepreneurs started their journeys between the ages of 35-39.

There are a million failures before a single win

Another common aspect of the entrepreneurial journey that people seem to ignore is the fact that the most successful entrepreneurs have failed a million times before getting it right. It take an incredible amount of perseverance to continue in the face of failure.

Many entrepreneurs sacrifice having a social life

Another extremely important aspect of being an entrepreneur is having to sacrifice a social life. You don’t realize how much time it takes to nurture friendships, marriages, and relationships with children until you become an entrepreneur. All of this has to sometimes be sacrificed for a certain amount of time to give your business the life it needs to survive.

If you read the stories of the world’s most successful billionaire entrepreneurs, you’ll see that being a successful entrepreneur is anything but easy. Yes, everyone wants to have the money and accolades of successful entrepreneurs but not everyone is ready to do what it takes to get it.

What do you have to say about entrepreneurship? Are you one? How is your story so far?

Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go has, no doubt, taken the world by storm. It’s estimated that the game has more active users than Snapchat. It’s the first widely popular augmented reality game and people have been willing to go to extreme measures to catch ’em all. Pokémon Go uses real world locations and virtual images to sends users on wild quests in search of the elusive Pokémon. Here are some interesting stories that demonstrate Pokémon Go’s influence on its players.

Gotta Catch ’em All

To be the very best you have to catch as many Pokémon as possible. The first one is usually located somewhere close by. But after that, you have to leave the comfort of your home if you want to advance in the game. Try going to places that are heavily populated to begin. Pokémon mostly appear in malls, parks, and tourist attractions.

Pokémon - Cubone

How to Track and Catch Pokémon

The map on your app will show you all the Pokémon that are near you. You can track one by clicking on it. One track will appear if you are close and more if it’s further away. Once you have found the Pokémon you must catch it with your Poké Ball. Throw it by tapping your Poké Ball and flicking it towards your conquest. Don’t hesitate. Throw it immediately to prevent the Pokémon from escaping.

How to Battle

Once you have reached level 5 you can begin battling. You join a Pokémon Gym and battle other players. You have to pick a side; Team Instinct, Team Mystic, and Team Valor are the three opposing teams. To battle you have to enter a gym that is controlled by an opposing team. Select six of your Pokémon to use in battle. You can either attack or dodge. After the battle is over, the winning team gains prestige. Prestige levels determine how difficult it will be to defeat a gym. This is just a glimpse into the complex adventure game, Pokémon Go.

Stabbed, not stirred

ABC 7 reports that Oregon resident Michael Baker was out playing Pokémon Go when he approached what he thought was a fellow Pokémon Go player. Turns out, this other man was not playing Pokémon Go and instead turned around and stabbed Baker. Baker refused any medical service and continued playing.

“I basically risked my life,” Baker said in an interview with ABC 7. “It’s important to me. I gotta basically catch them all.”

Pokemon in Zoos

At the Toledo Zoo, a man and a woman were reported to have scaled a fence in order to try to catch Pokémon. Robin Bartholomy was one of the trespassers.

“It wasn’t the most responsible thing to do, but hey, gotta catch ’em all,” Bartholomy said in an interview with the Toledo Blade. The two, having been spotted by security cameras, were eventually caught by a tiger exhibit.

Dead On

Within days of the game’s release, Shayla Wiggins found a dead body while playing Pokémon Go. She said she hoped to find unique Pokémon by a natural water resource. She might have found Pokémon by the river, but she found something else too.

“I probably would have never went down there if it weren’t for this game,” Wiggins told CNNMoney. “But in a way, I’m thankful. I feel like I helped find his body. He could have been there for days.”

Laaija's Pokémon Adventure

Laaija’s Pokémon Adventure while it lasted.

Pokémon Go in India

In the early days of its release, even though it is not officially launched, Indians were fortunate enough to play Pokémon Go. Unfortunately, it is no longer playable and Indians have to wait for the official release of Pokémon Go.

So while you’re out there on the search for Mewtwo, remember to play responsibly.

React Workshop for JavaScript Developers

React

The Alaris Prime Team, recently, completed a highly performant re-write of the front end visual layer of Aditya Birla’s flagship eCommerce site ABOF.com. The team was able to make the site exceptionally fast, even on a low 3G Bandwidth connection in India. The CEO of ABOF happily claims their site is the fastest eCommerce site in India. You can read more about our journey, experience, and our learnings during that 5-month stint with ABOF.

We believe that it is a good practice to teach others what we experienced. We have decided to do an extensive 2-Day hands-on Workshop on React, for JavaScript Developers – React in-depth for JavaScript Developers.

Seats are limited to a max of 10 developers. Bring your development friendly computers.

We were planning to charge a premium for the workshop to make sure only the most interested developers can join and benefit. However, we have decided against it. but the seats will remain limited to 10.

Donate, and book your seat now – React in-depth for JavaScript Developers

Stop abusing Sass’s ‘&-rule’ while drugged in BEM

BEM is awesome and we all love it. Our team at Razorfish, India have successfully moved bag-n-baggage to writing BEM style class names. The best benefit so far is that it is easier to work together in larger teams and much faster while fixing bugs. The other advantage I’ve seen is that we can move and/or switch team members across projects without having to do an extensive knowledge transfer. They feel right at home and in ease with the patterns across projects.

So, when Sass 3.4 released with a well-defined &-rule, we went crazy and went BEM-BEM with it on everything we wrote. Here is how it goes;

This looks pretty good and harmless. In-fact, you feel that you can now avoid writing that classname, .block multiple times and thus DRY everything. Unfortunately, we realized that the moment we go deeper, wrote more codes, switch/add more people to the team – it was getting harder to do the usual global search to debug the codes.

Well, we ended up not using it. Thus,

What happens now is that we can quickly do a project-wide search for that ‘element’ or the ‘modifier’ with its full namespace as seen in the HTML. The question though, that might arise, is what happens if we have to change the block’s classname. Well, it is matter of an easy find-n-replace. With IDEs capability to select multiple selections, this should not be an issue at all. For instance, you can do a quick CMD + d in Sublime Text and Atom to select all the ‘block’.

So, the thumb-rule is to avoid &-rule for full classnames that you find in HTMLs but use it with ones that you do not really see it in your HTML code – pseudo classes.

Setup Dropbox to manage your screenshots on Mac OS X

There are quite a lot of Screenshot management apps for Mac OS X. I like most of them but I also like Dropbox a lot. With the Screenshot management feature from Dropbox, you can now do away with all those Screenshot apps and use the tool you already have.

First, enable Dropbox to handle your Screenshots.

Dropbox Screenshots

Second, drop your OS X screenshots automatically into Dropbox’s Screenshot folder.

Via the Terminal

Or use a utility such as OnyX

OnyX Screenshot

I’m guessing you can do this on Windows and Linux too if you can automatically drop your screenshots to the Dropbox/Screenshots folder.

Now, the screenshots you take with your OS X is now in Dropbox and the URL is copied and ready to be pasted anywhere.

Aside: I use Hazel to clean up my Screenshots folder to remove file older than a month. You can use any of your favorite cleaning utility to clean yours to avoid Screenshots piling up your Dropbox folder.


Just in case:

  • CMD + SHFT + 3: Fullscreen Screenshot.
  • CMD + SHFT + 4 & drag crosshair: Screenshot of your desired area.
  • CMD + SHFT + 4 & Spacebar: Screenshot specific app, dialog boxes, etc.