Is Your Startup Pitch Venture Ready?

The Pitch Checklist

How do investors evaluate your startup company? Let me take some of the mystery out of the process and tell you one approach. It’s not the only approach and different investors will put different weighting on different parts of your company. The goal of the post is to help you be self-aware and ask your yourself if now is the right time to pitch your idea to investors for funding. This is a different process then pitching your idea for validation.

Please remember that your personal/business need for investment is not at all correlated to your ability to actually raise money. Your business may require money. But the stage and traction of the business will be what is required to actually raise the money.

The following are listed in no particular order – think of this as a set of criteria as a whole. First the list, then the breakdown, with examples of the reason for the scores. This scoring applies to “Venture Scale” companies, not all companies. Venture Scale is where an institutional investor (investing other people’s money) can get a 10X-100X return on their investment. Other investors may look for smaller returns, but in general VC’s are looking for the potential for outsized returns.

Scoring

All scores should be ranked on a 1-4 scale. I know my statistics friends will hate this method because there isn’t an odd number and the range is so small. By contrast, using a Net Promoter Version of 0-10 implies a level of precision that isn’t useful at this stage. Using 1-4 eliminated the middle score of human nature, being nice. Providing a “3” on the equivalent 1-5 scale doesn’t provide any useful feedback to the team. Founders will read the middle score as a false positive. In Seattle, it’s called “Seattle Nice”, people don’t want to give you honest feedback. It’s hard to give and many founders don’t take it well. The Founder Institute did a 1-5 Scale at but asked mentors not to use the three.

This is by no means is Quantitate Venture Capital. There are areas that can be measured for investment. However, this process is simply assigning numbers to predominantly qualitative criteria. Even so, it’s a critical qualitative measure.

  1. The evaluator hates (strongly dislikes) your idea – hate is such a strong word… so think of it as a “1”
  2.  We don’t like it – not as negative as a 1, but still… you may have missed something in your pitch or a major milestone. Think about attending a Pitch Clinic or “6 Month Startup – Ideation to Revenue” and get some coaching.
  3. We like it! That’s not a 4, we don’t love it, but it’s a good place to start!
  4. We Love it!

 

Judging Criteria

Event Name: _________________________

Event Location: _________________________

Event Date: _________________________

Company Name:
Presenter(s):
Event Name:
         Evaluator 1
Notes/Comments
Team
Domain Experts Diversity Serially successful Founders From great companies Functionally competent (hacker, hustler, designer/marketer)
               1-4
Idea/Problem 
Big “category” Idea Early/Late continuum Technically Achievable “Pain pill or vitamin” In our investment thesis
               1-4
Product
Customer first focus Clear Value Prop Design/Ease of use Clear launch and scale offering
               1-4
Market/Customer
How big is the market – TAM/SOM Unmet customer need How many incumbents Nascent Go-to-market system
               1-4
Competition
Barriers to Entry Differentiation Well funded competitors in Crunchbase
               1-4
Business Model/Finance
High transactional value Clear Profit Model Capital Efficient -anything about previous financing/cap table? Scalable No “Bad” things on Cap Table
               1-4
Traction
Customer adoption Customer Engagement Early Revenue Know the Unit Economics
               1-4
Timing
Emerging innovation “Meta” factors are favorable Established demand
               1-4
Intellectual Property
IP Required IP in process
               1-4
                                                                         Total               9-36

Notes on Scoring Examples

The examples below are just that, examples. Each investor is going to look at your startup company through their own lens. This is designed so you can both do a self-evaluation and understand how you will likely be judged. Scoring high does not mean they will invest in your company. Investors tend to invest in markets they know. For example, if your business is a B2C game and the investor does enterprise software. I’ve also found that people seldom invest in markets that are new to them, in one case I was running a company in China and investors were either intersted in the country or the business but if they didn’t know China they wouldn’t invest.

Team

  1. Solo Founder or Part-time founder. Investors don’t like solo founders. It has nothing to do with how amazing you are personally, mind you. We just know that it takes more than one person to build a company. Solo founders tend to auger in on an idea vs feedback from the team when it’s time to make a change.
  2. Incomplete team or not balanced (lacking a tech or marketing role). Offshore development with no plan to bring on as employees
  3. A balanced team with complementary skill sets, market experience, startup experience. Some track record together.
  4. Experienced startup team with industry experience,

Bonus points – well balanced in gender, diverse. The data shows that diverse teams produce better results. Also, an early stage investor is going to be with you for 7-10 years so likability matters.

Negative points – married co-founders? Sorry, though I’m a fan, investors view it as a compounding risk. A relationship ending poorly is the fear, real or not. Just know what you’re in for, you don’t have to change, but that doesn’t’ mean the investor will view you differently.

Big Idea/Problem

  1. You’re doing the next “Groupon” or insert any other crowded market of competitors (Food Delivery, Home Repair, Travel Rankings). You’re solving a problem that isn’t really a problem. I love the internet connected belt idea, not.
  2. You’re a feature of someone else’s product or a tool. It doesn’t mean you are a bad tool, but it likely won’t be Venture Scale. Think plugins for WordPress or Shopify vs Shopify itself.
  3. Good market, though not huge, could change a market but not the world. Think about a product that has a limited geography, e.g. only Brasil and Portuguese.
  4. Disruptive ideas are very unique. When you find an idea that really could be a $1B idea it’s special. Big market with the right timing solving a genuinely big problem.

Bonus points – unique ideas are amazing and every idea is crazy right before it works. Excitement is valuable as people like to rally around a great idea.

Negative points – Your Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), no real investor is going to sign an NDA unless you have a cure for cancer or a real scientific discovery. Don’t worry about someone stealing your idea, worry that you’ll waste three years of your life not discovering that your idea had a fatal flaw that other people could have shown you.

Product

  1. A concept on a napkin – the concept might be interesting it’s just that, only a concept. No working prototype – there are a number of ways you can get a prototype showing for cheap. Here’s a link to a Series of posts for how to build an MVP starting with a specification.
  2. Working prototype, but ugly. This is where the developer is the designer. Think about a home that has pipes and plumbing showing in the walls because the plumbing design (code) was so awesome it didn’t’ need an interior designer. Functional but ugly seldom gets a second chance. Minimum Viable Product (MVP) show’s what’s possible. At very least a PowerPoint demo including design.
  3. All of the pieces are they and your gaining valuable customer feedback from people. Basic functionality should be included, not just a WordPress site.
  4. Function and design, it works and it’s beautiful. MVP moves to KAP, Kick-Ass Product. You’ll know it’s a KAP if people go to download it after you do your demo.

Bonus Points – you’ve taken customer feedback and built an email list of prospects that give you feedback and have a regular cadence of shipping (two weeks). That email list should be growing every week as you get feedback.

Negative Points – live demo doesn’t work. It’s a “platform”, platforms happen when you have “scale”, not at your launch. Though that may be your aspiration you don’t have that today and it usually means you don’t know what customer you are going to serve.

Market/Customer

The Market and Customer are two sides of the same coin but warrant some explanation. TAM/SAM/SOM/LAM are terms that address the “macro” market as a whole. Customer reflects the “micro” of the market

  1. Small Markets suck. Selling to customers that don’t have money means you are doing a non-profit. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news here, but an app for the homeless needs to be funded by grants and donations not by investors that expect a return on investment. Customer’s that don’t have money to spend on your product is also a problem
  2. You have a great launch feature, but the market and customer need a complete solution in order to use it. This means you’re going to need to raise more capital before getting
  3. It’s a good market, but no longer growing.
  4. You know both your market (large and growing) and your customer (persona). Nascent or new markets are exceptional, e.g. Uber or AirBnB.

Bonus Points – if you have experience in this industry or unique knowledge or a complex market.

Negative Points – you calculate your TAM wrong because you want it to be HUGE! Hypothetically you make headrests for front passenger seats for trucks. In this example, you’d say the market TAM was the entire automotive market vs the subset of seats, subset of passenger seats and real TAM of headrests for passenger seats and further to the automotive subcategory or trucks. It’s a ridiculous example, but you’d be surprised how often founder routinely overblow their TAM! Be realistic about the actual TAM.

Competition

  1. No Competition – this likely means there is no market. The positive version is that you are too early to market and it will take a long time for the market to catch up to your visionary status.
  2. Busy market with a lot of competition that has already been funded. This equals late to market. You know you are late to market if there are already a number of companies that have raised >$10M in the market. Even if your product is better, your ability to raise cash will be very, very limited.
  3. A little late to market but against lethargic competitors in this category. Entrenched incumbents that haven’t yet been disrupted
  4. Early, but not too early is a great place to be. Keep in mind it rarely happens.

Bonus Points – You know the gaps in the market that current competitors are not offering. These gaps have been discovered because of your knowledge of the market and customer interviews (50-100)

Negative Points – being cavalier about the competition. One challenge I see often is people waiving off the competition vs taking the Andy Grove approach

Business Model/Finance

I admit I’m super Geeky about Revenue Models – someone needs to be. There are a lot of products that can be made with technology but shouldn’t be made because the founder hasn’t thought about the cost of selling the product and how to make a reasonable to exceptional profit. Knowing how you are going to make money is critical to the investor. From there point of view, it’s easy to get a check into a company, but hard to get a checkout. If you can’t explain the economics of how you’re going to make money don’t expect a check.

  1. You don’t know how you’re going to make money yet and you’ve only thought about the cost of building the product, not the cost of selling the product and a reasonable margin.
  2. Low transaction value markets – if you only make >10% margins or your margins are in Basis Points (BPS) there isn’t a lot of room for error on execution. You’ve created value for your product but you haven’t captured payment for the value created. Services businesses also fall into low rankings in this category, they don’t scale without adding additional staff. If you productize a service it will help, but they don’t scale like other models.
  3. High transaction or high margin – if you can start with at least one of these you show that you can capture value for the product.
  4. Recurring revenue subscriptions and combination business models (e.g. transaction fee + subscription) win the day for best score. Monthly recurring revenue is the truest gauge of churn. Annual Contract Value (ACV) is a good measure, but if you have a large price point you’ll likely have higher churn as you develop the product. NOTE: you don’t have to accomplish all of these things yet, you just need to know where you are going and have some early traction.

Traction

Revenue is the obvious starting point here but it’s not the only measure. Depending on the customer profile (think enterprise) you may need to be a whole solution before you can charge the customer. Your launch feature may be popular and become an “on-ramp” product that acquires customers for future revenue. Time on site/app may also be a measure of success, especially in the B2C category.

  1. No users – seems obvious but if no one is using it you have a problem. You may need money to fix it, but you’re not likely to get it from an investor.
  2. No payment from users – again, not the only measure
  3. Proof of Concept (POC) or Letters of Intent (LOIs), as well as early revenue, will get a score on the board. It shows a level of commitment from customers.
  4. Strong customer usage or strong initial revenue. Some rare B2C companies can move past word of mouth and into “viral marketing” – they can also become unicorns (again rare!). But if you’ve figured out how to get strong initial customer growth or for people to pay you early you’re going to score well in this category.

Timing

Bill Gross from Idealab talks about why timing is the most important factor of success in this video. It’s the best 7 minutes of video on the internet for Startups. You don’t ultimately control timing, they are outside factors that should influence your decision to start a company. Know, however, that your belief in why it’s the right timing may not sway your investors to that same belief.

  1. Too early or too late – you might be a visionary, but the market may still need to catch up to your idea. The other extreme is that you’re late, see Big Ideas above.
  2. Unclear timing – if you’re here you and the investor may not know enough about the market to make a judgment. If you don’t have any data about the market timing your score is going to fall into the don’t like it category. Think of this timing as “headwinds” that will make it more difficult to grow
  3. A little early or late – in this case, the investment capital is still available and hasn’t been pulled out of the market by 2-3 large players (think $100+ valuations with >$25M raised).
  4. You’re still in front of what could be a new or nascent market. You can think of timing here as “tailwinds”. You may also be in the current “hot space”

IP/Defensible

There are market segments where Intellectual Property (IP) is critical. This may include Patent, Trademarks and Trade Secrets. I’m not a fan of the investor question “what’s your sustainable competitive advantage“? In most modern tech-related companies your advantage will be speed to move and knowledge of the customer (through customer development).  Regardless of IP portfolio, you need to have an answer to the question of how to build a competitive moat over time.

  1. No barriers to entry or defense. This might be because you’re selling someone else’s product (reseller) or your
  2. There is already a great deal of IP created in your market. You have a unique idea and product but the margins will make it difficult to build a defensive position or moat around your business.
  3. You have a path to defensibility. Building IP requires legal budget and time. People with patents tend to overvalue them. People without them tend to “waive their hands” at the value. They both have a place depending on the industry or vertical.
  4. You have speed, IP, and knowledge of the customer. You also have the budget to defend your IP.

The ASK

We know you’re looking for capital, now the question is how much and what are the “use of proceeds” – what you’ll do with the capital.  It’s important to connect these two items into one narrative. The founder usually knows why they are asking for $500k, but in the ask, it genrally comes across as “we need $500k to get us through the next 12 months.”  What the investors hear is, “we’d like to get paid for 12 months.” The real answer is a “we have X, Y and Z milestones lined up over the next 12 months, $500k will allow us to hit those milestones with the necessary team.

If you’re looking for referrals to customers, give the customer profile and what you want. “We’d like introductions to Enterprise IT Managers that are looking for cyber security” don’t make the process dependent on them remembering your ask.

We know you have an ASK, tell us what it is!

Summary

Venture Capital firms tend to “over-index” on trends. Right now the trend is Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Smart capital will lead in that market based on an investment thesis. Others will follow. Then the category will move toward being overfunded. You see this with the use of “buzz word bingo” when startups through terms into their pitch because those are the categories that are getting funded.

Score yourself, your team and progress against this Rubric. It will help you know where you need to improve your progress before meeting with Angels or VCs.








7 Benefits Your VC Should Provide

There’s a new person in your life. It’s probably a guy. He probably wears chinos with a blue shirt. He’s probably standing awkwardly next to the coffee machine in the kitchen of your startup trying (and failing) to make small talk with your backend server team.

The primary reason startups take venture capital is because of just that – the capital. But entrepreneurs should expect their investor to bring a whole lot more than just money to the table.

Every entrepreneur can expect their venture investors to bring seven main benefits to the table. If you already have venture investors, you can use this article as-is. If you are currently considering fundraising, reverse it and ask prospective investors if they are able to support you in these key areas. If not, ask yourself if you’re talking to the right people.

  1. The Long Haul – Mileage may very, but you can assume that your Series A venture investors will be on your board for five to nine years. That’s about the same length as the average marriage in the US.  In other words, it’s a long time. This means you need to build a relationship.  

Like any relationship, you need to start with a positive attitude and work to dispel any niggles in the early days. I’ve seen entrepreneurs immediately slap a new investor with unexpected terms after a term sheet is signed. I’ve seen investors turn up to the first board meeting and demand that every aspect of the business is run a different way, before they attempt to understand the company’s current cadence.

My advice to both is: go slower; there’s plenty of time, you should take it.

  1. The Network – Venture capitalists tend to be networking machines. Their success often depends on it, and the day to day reality of their work means that they meet up to 10 new people every day. In addition to this sheer level of ‘exposure’, VCs occupy a unique position as a ‘gateway’ to new technology and cutting edge industry trends. This means that they are usually able to lean on people they don’t know and often get a meeting if needed.

Before every board meeting or conversation, think of who you need to meet. Use LinkedIn and discover who your investor knows, and ask them to put you in touch. As an entrepreneur, you should exploit this network unashamedly!

  1. The Next Round – It may seem early, but at some point, you may have to raise another investment round. This may be another private, venture round or a public offering. As most investors focus on particular ‘stages’ of investment (seed, Series A etc), they are likely to have worked with companies at a similar stage to yours, who went on to raise additional funding.

Use that experience. Ask your investor what your next investor is likely to look for. Ask for access to presentations that worked well in the past (assuming confidentiality can be lifted or sensitive information redacted), and – most importantly – before you start your next fund-raise process, ask to present to your existing investors. Their feedback will be invaluable. I’ve had a couple of portfolio companies miss this opportunity, and I won’t let another make this mistake.

  1. The Critical Hire – The typical venture investor usually has a slightly higher level understanding of any given company. Therefore, venture investors are genuinely rather good at painting the big picture of the company. This can be super-useful when convincing that critical, senior hire to join your company.  This is one of my personal favourites. I’ve helped a number of CEOs on this, and nothing feels more awesome than knowing you’re helping build the team.
  1. The Critical Sale – Similar to above, sometime you will have a large potential customer that needs some extra reassurance from someone who, ultimately, has your company’s (financial) back. I have found this to be especially crucial for enterprise software companies. As you can imagine, if you’re selling your solution to a large corporate customer, they often need convincing that you are not going to go bust in the next year. Your investor is often the most authoritative voice on this topic.
  1. The Counsellor – No investor or board member can tell you what to do. That is the great (and also terrifying) thing about being a CEO.  The buck, ultimately, stops with you.

However, a good investor is an experienced soul, and will have been through many similar trials and tribulations that you find yourself battling against. Some will have done it all before themselves – which is one of the reasons our firm has always had a healthy balance of entrepreneurs on the team – and others will have seen it as an investor with other CEOs.  The good investors spot the patterns, and are able to be a thoughtful and engaged listener as you talk through an issue and decide how to deal with it.

On a human level, this can be a rewarding part of the investor/founder relationship – of course there are many conversations on things like pricing strategies, marketing ideas or human resource issues, but the most memorable conversations are always personal. Dealing with an employee who is facing a difficult situation at home, working through the tough steps that need to be taken when a founder exits a company, and confronting failure – whether this is of a person, a team, a product or even the whole company. These things are tough, but they all happen, and a good investor will be by your side when you confront them.

  1. The Exit – whether you’re selling to another company or taking your company public (which may or may not really be an exit in itself) good investors will have experience of this. Again, the best firms will have a mixture of people who have done it with others, and those who have done it themselves. I took my company public so I can talk people through my experience on a personal level, but one of my partners advised on over $500B of IPOs and M&As over his career as a banker which gives him an entirely different perspective on the process. Great firms will have investors with deep experience in this area and be able to bring it bear when you hit that point of your company’s progression.

The best entrepreneurs are resourceful beings who pull in whatever they can from those around them. While that has to be balanced in the case of, say, employees, where there is an obvious power differential, I always encourage CEOs to exploit their venture investors. Let’s be honest, we are perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves!

Of course the investor starts by providing the capital your company needs to grow, but the right kind of investor should deliver a whole lot more too.








Perfection Selection: Where’s the Progress (Comic)

#entrepreneurfail Perfection Selection

“We can’t launch! There are still a million things to do!”

Every entrepreneur at some time reaches a crossroad: he or she will have to choose perfection or choose progress.  The best products and services are never done. Entrepreneurs always have to make that last optimization, that final color change, or the ending code edit. At some point though, the entrepreneur needs to say “enough is enough” and ship the product or service to customers.

The best entrepreneurs realize this, and always choose progress over perfection.  A caveat for new entrepreneurs though – do not sacrifice the quality of your product or service.  Quality matters to a customer. Perfection only matters to an entrepreneur.

Do you choose perfection or do you choose progress? Let us know in the comments below.
This was originally created by Kriti Vichare for #entrepreneurfail: Startup Success.

 








Gymy does the double at #SWDub

IMG_20150412_230742

54 hours later and we’ve come to the end of the road for #SWDub – April Edition. Just like any other Startup Weekends, we’ve had a fair share of pitching, coaching, mentoring, hacking, pivoting, re-branding, munching, drinking, among other things.

We even had a session with mentors sharing their failure stories.

Of all 11 ideas, here are those that made it to the big stage for prizes:

The team behind Sober Sean was awarded special recognition for showing team spirit. According to Eamon Leonard, a #SWDub judge, this was very important and essential to the success of any venture.

IMG_20150412_195914

 

In 3rd Place – 11th Hour, the startup idea to help pubs and bars get last minute employees. The mobile solution was very impressive and definitely meets a need for businesses.

IMG_20150412_185206

And in 2nd Place – Xiron, an online platform that helps gamers book coaches in order to improve gaming skills through one-on-one play, feedback system, and community rankings and ratings. The judges were mostly impressed with the idea as it explored a sector that has is very underestimated especially when it comes to revenue and profitability.

IMG_20150412_200307

And the winner for the April 2015 edition of Startup Weekend Dublin is Gymy, a startup that describes itself as the Airbnb for Gyms, allowing users make on-demand bookings for gym sessions. The team also won the prize for best pitch from the judges for a very well rounded presentation.

The winning team will be headed to Startup Festival in Berlin, courtesy of the DCU Ryan Academy. They also get to go on to Startup Next, one of Europe’s best incubator. Many thanks to our other sponsors – Bank of Ireland, Google, The T-Shirt Company, European Pioneers, WeDevelop, and Currency Fair.

Till next time, which should be at the June edition of Startup Weekend, keep doing epic sh*t!

That’s all folks!
– @NubiKay. Signing out.








Co-Founder Needed: Toons Need Not Apply (Comic)

#entrepreneurfail Who who you choose cofounder needed

Let’s set the scene: 

It’s a CoFoundersLab Meetup group set in a fun, colorful coworking hub in town. You see introverted onlookers assessing the scene and you see aggressive sales-y types already making their rounds. And you look on and you wonder if you’ll ever find your match here.

Every week, scores of wantrepreneurs and real entrepreneurs attend these events, comb LinkedIn, and network with friends and family to find the perfect startup mate. Unfortunately, most of them are disappointed and discouraged.

If you are looking for a cofounder, you need to be prepared for a taxing, needle-in-the-haystack, diamond-in-the-rough type of search. It is very difficult to find a cofounder with a similar vision, who is  not only complementary in his/her skillset, but also able to challenge you.

In your search, you may meet cartoons along the way that want to be your cofounder:

  • The wantrepreneurs who want to leech onto your business
  • The dabblers who have their fingers in 3+ businesses
  • The know-it-alls who don’t let you get a word in
  • The whisperer who won’t share any details about him/herself
  • The no-clues who can’t communicate their background or ideas well

And In the comic above, it’s difficult to decide who to work with. Our options are:

  1. Fred Flintstone – Loud-mouthed, aggressive, and constantly scheming often with unintended results
  2. George Jetson – Family man who always seems to make the wrong decisions
  3. Inspector Gadget – Generally incompetent but gets by on luck
  4. Shaggy – The cowardly slacker
  5. Miss Piggy – A little too narcissistic
  6. Flying Smurf – Inventive yet not open to collaboration and discussion

So how do you maximize your time at these events, even though the odds are low that you’ll meet your cofounder, love at first handshake?

  1. Read member profiles upfront and have a plan on who you want to talk to
  2. Keep your profile crisp and your venture well-defined so the right people will find yo
  3. Reach early to catch the other overachievers like yourself
  4. Prepare to jump out of fruitless conversations quickly
  5. Often the events are at a coworking space, so you may be able to network with others as well
  6. Aim for a basic intro and remember the selection process is never immediate
  7. Learn what others are doing to see if you can tweak your own elevator pitch or idea

How did you find your cofounder? Which cartoon would you choose as your cofounder? Let us know in the comments below.

This post was created by Kriti Vichare for #entrepreneurfail: Startup Success.








Idea Trigger un-Happy: A Business is More than Just an Idea (Comic)

#entrepreneurfail Idea Trigger (Un)Happy

Epiphanies strike all the time in the entrepreneurial mind. 

I’m sure you’ve felt it.  You may be in the shower, about to sleep, or in an awkward social situation and BAM!  On the surface you may have a fantastic idea – the answer that all humanity has been waiting for.  But then, before you know it, the bubble bursts.  This is an example of an #entrepreneurfail.

What happened?  You may have done some research and realized that Google/Amazon/[insert any publicly-traded company name here] has already tried and failed at that idea.  Or, you may have found that there are just no paying consumers. Or, even worse, you find that there are already 5 copycats in the market, each one undercutting the rest.

An entrepreneur’s dilemma is never about not enough ideas; it’s about filtering the flood of ideas.  If you have a great idea, remember what you need instead is a great “problem to solve”.  Only then can you find the clients and customers that are willing and able to pay for your products and services.  Also, consider scoring your ideas using key criteria such as sustainability, barriers to entry, and competitive threats.

If you are a true entrepreneur, these spurts of idea excitement won’t ever stop. As new ideas crop up, we’ve learned to always do our due diligence, focus on our point of difference, and remember that it’s the execution that really matters.

Have you ever been inspired with an amazing idea, just to be bitten by reality? Tell us about it in the comments below.

This comic and post was adapted from  www.entrepreneurfail.com.

 

 








Nature or nurture? Can entrepreneurship be taught? (COMIC)

#entrepreneurfail Early Signs of Entrepreneurship

I recently volunteered as a business plan coach for high school students through the National Foundation of Teaching Entrepreneurship, and was impressed that each and every student (in a mandatory class) was excited about their potential ventures and significantly improved their skills during the session. Is it possible that every child has the potential to become an entrepreneur?

Scientists have always wondered what characteristics are innate, and what traits can be molded based on upbringing. Are there some indicators of future entrepreneurial success? Seems like the jury is out on that question. There are many successful entrepreneurs that started a proverbial lemonade stand and newspaper route, but there’s also a good share of them that launched their first venture in their ripe middle ages.  And MBA programs are teeming with students hoping to learn the nuggets that will help them endeavor into entrepreneurship.

We’ve all heard the tales of massively successful startups and their humble roots in a garage, or a dorm room. What if it has even humbler roots in a baby’s crib! Many experts claim that although some traits are inborn, others can be learned. In a recent TEDx talk, Cameron Herold talks about how to raise kids to be entrepreneurs. Perhaps some of you current entrepreneurs can relate to the stories he tells and perhaps future parents can plan their activities accordingly!  Also, let’s not forget that recently, Entrepreneurship Barbie was launched, helping girls envision a life of fashionable shoes and new ventures. It’s the age of the “kidpreneur” scream many gurus, and here’s a telling infographic to help in that goal.

All in all, the one trait that is truly a deal breaker is experience. I think every child and adult has the potential to become an entrepreneur if he/she has the desire to test, try it, and learn from it at least once.

Were you a kidpreneur? Or at least showed the traits early on? Or did the bug come and bite you later in life? Let us know in the comments below.

This post and comic were adapted from #entrepreneurfail: Startup Success.








Dwelling on your Dwelling: Finding a Startup Office (Comic)

#entrepreneurfail Dwelling on Dwelling Office Finding a Startup Office

Is your filing cabinet under your bed?

 In New York City, San Francisco, or any large metropolis worldwide, you’ll find entrepreneurs who have made a home office a reality. The city provides an alluring location, but the dollar per square foot is obscene. This is why many budding entrepreneurs choose to start in a home office. And in working from home, the magical line between the bed and the desk soon disappears.

Some of the challenges we have faced working in a home office include:

  1. Lack of camaraderie and employee banter
  2. Difficult to be presentable for last minute meetings
  3. No space to have office meetings
  4. Cabin fever strikes all the time

You can use your flexibility to your advantage if you don’t have a traditional office, though. Just remember, cubicle-dwellers across the world would gladly trade their cage to have your 15-second commute. It is just unfortunate that productivity can wane when your workspace is lonely and cluttered, which is a definite #entrepreneurfail.  To escape the monotony of your home office, you can go to co-working spaces and coffee shops. Sharedesk is a resource to find temporary desk space and on-demand office mates. Here is a list of places with free wifi that may help you in your quest. Alternatively, you can be your own wifi provider, and carry a hotspot. We’ve also used libraries, parks, hotel lobbies and other public spaces to set up shop for the day.

Good luck finding a cordoned-off spot to optimize your output. And now, back to work!

Tell us about your quest to find the perfect spot to work. Let us know in the comments below.

Fails are nothing but a laugh on the road to success. Find more entrepreneurship comics here.  This post is originally from #entrepreneurfail: Startup Success








The Grass is Always Brown: Does Entrepreneurship Guarantee Job Satisfaction? (Comic)

#entrepreneurfail Job Satisfaction
Whenever I speak to entrepreneurs who have left the corporate rat race to pursue their own ventures, their experiences always echo my own. Sure, new small business owners expect additional flexibility, less bureaucracy and longer hours. However, those who leave the corporate world in search of greener pastures in a startup will realize that the job satisfaction trajectory between the two is very different, neither being a clear winner.

At the beginning of a corporate job, or a role within any large organization, there is a sense of pride that comes from the brand, the paycheck, and the responsibility. With time (and, of course, there are exceptions) the satisfaction decreases a bit, and plateaus out. The probability of this happening is consistently high because soon enough the reality of red tape and repetition sets in.  This is when some try to make the leap to a startup.

At the beginning of an entrepreneurial venture, the sentiment and satisfaction is uncertain and riddled with fear and budgetary constraints. The level of job satisfaction is consistently changing: variable but often in a positive trajectory. The stress often can result in more confusion and change in direction. With time there is potential to reach a high level of success and job satisfaction, but the probability of that is extremely low.

This quest for extreme job satisfaction is an #entrepreneurfail.  We all hear about the success stories and the glamour of starting a venture and the shackles of a corporate role but the irony is that neither is fully true.

The most recent count of failed startups is too high to rationally think about. However, we’re a risky bunch, so we think it’s worth the leap!

Did you leave a corporate role to job a startup? How did your job satisfaction change? Which factors affected you the most: salary, time, interesting work or colleagues? Let us know in the comments below.

This comic is from the book Cheating on Your Corporate Job: A Comic Look at the Startup Dream.  It is available for free on February 26th and 27th.








Startup Signs: Starting a Business is like Learning to Drive

#entrepreneurfail Learning to Drive on Startup Street

Take that exit now!

There are many similarities between learning to driving a car and becoming and entrepreneur. Getting behind the wheel vs. Learning how to start a new company: both options can provide a ticket to ultimate freedom!

Here is our list of why entrepreneurship is like driving a car:

  1. It takes a while to learn, but once you get the hang of it, you can apply your skills to other cars (ventures).
  2. You have to learn all the signs and signals really well, and know how to act upon them in real-time.
  3. Keep refueling as necessary.
  4. You’re responsible for those coming along on the ride.
  5. Distractions are lethal. ‘Nuff said.
  6. Periodically check to see all systems are up to date.
  7. You should change gears based on the terrain.
  8. Accelerate to keep up with the cars around you.
  9. Be prepared for traffic jams as they can mess up your whole day.

The good news is you don’t need a license to drive on startup street. So rev up your engines, check your mirrors, and GO! Don’t forget to stick your head out of the window to feel the cool breeze once in a while.

Let us know if you agree – is learning to start a company like learning to drive a car? Did we miss any analogies? Let us know in the comments below.

This was adapted from the post on #entrepreneurfail from Jan 20, 2014.

Get this comic on a T-shirt here!