Techstars Entrepreneur’s Toolkit Can Help You Do More Faster

At Techstars we believe that entrepreneurs create a better future, which is why we are building the Worldwide Network that Helps Entrepreneurs Succeed. It’s also why we created the Techstars Entrepreneur’s Toolkit, an online educational resource to help entrepreneurs learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. The Techstars Entrepreneur’s Toolkit is a “Learn by Doing” resource filled with foundational content from our global accelerator programs aimed at helping entrepreneurs everywhere create a better world.

One of Techstars most important values is Give First – we believe in giving time and energy to help you succeed without any expectation of a specific return. The Techstars Entrepreneur’s Toolkit is a prime example of this value in action. By providing tools and thought leadership content from some of the best people in our Network, we hope to help entrepreneurs #DoMoreFaster, encourage 1:1 connections with mentors, develop inner confidence, and build a better future, better world.

Entrepreneurship is not something you can just read about and hope for the best, it’s about learning by doing with support from skilled mentors and the lessons learned from those who have built successful companies. The Techstars Entrepreneur’s Toolkit contains a menu of foundational content provided by some of the most knowledgeable entrepreneurs and experts in our network.

The Techstars Entrepreneur’s Toolkit includes:

Build Your Lean Canvas

Check Your Progress

Get More Done

Give Your Elevator Pitch

Grow Your Business

Make Progress

Master Your Pitch

Understand Your Customers

21 Ways to Blow Up Your Company

Engage with Mentors

Brand Your Business

By gaining access to some of the best practices, techniques, and advice from our experts, entrepreneurs will be able to learn how to get through the pains of building a business, enhance their engagement with mentors, and develop new approaches to problems.

Techstars designed this educational resource to appeal to all types of learners by offering various ways to consume content. Entrepreneurs walk through bite-size videos paired with supporting text, complete self-guided worksheets, and engage in “Get Out of the Building” practices to help them dive deeper into a topic and take immediate action on their own business. 

Entrepreneurs can use the Techstars Entrepreneur’s Toolkit as a resource to grow their entrepreneurial education, freshen up skill sets, help them through stumbling blocks, or dig deeper into a topic. We will be adding more foundational topics to the Techstars Entrepreneur’s Toolkit in the coming year to expand this resource and help entrepreneurs everywhere succeed.

While there is an aspect of good luck when building a business, there’s an underlying art and science to entrepreneurship. And the more we can share our knowledge with others building businesses, the more problems we can solve together for the greater good.

Start using the Techstars Entrepreneur’s Toolkit HERE.








Not “wanted” by investors? There is a way to become a better founder

Written by Toma Kondrate

unnamed-1 Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/

All investors surely know how to select startups based on their founders’ personal and professional qualities. But does every founder know if he was really meant to be one? Having a marvelous idea is not enough, on the contrary, it’s just a start line for the rocky journey to successful entrepreneurship.

If such thing as founder’s DNA exists, then probably some of the founders are screwed already by lacking magic genes in their blood. However, if you have a brilliant product and want to get investors’ money, there are certain things that qualify you as a “wanted” or “desperate” founder. So what is the secret formula?

Get your genie out of the bottle

There are plenty of reasons why angel investors, venture capital funds, startup accelerators wouldn’t want to take a risk on you. If you’re a criminal, a lazy-ass or a liar, you’re already in the black list with almost zero chances to make it to entrepreneur. In any other case, you may prepare yourself for a successful venture. StartupHighway, the first Baltic startup accelerator, names few tips on how to win the startup lottery and minimize the risk of failures.

# 1 Get ready for the test

The first phase of your entrepreneurial potential’s evaluation is an examination of your personal qualities and skill sets. Every investor wants to know who they are going to deal with and you’ll get to the top of the list if you’re smart, resourceful, venturous, flexible, innovative and farsighted. Your determination to go until the end is your ticket to big wins. If you pass the test, congrats, it means you fit into the category of founders who are “ambitious and ready to take on their idea to the next level”.

# 2 Shape a decisive vision

Obviously, having a superb idea is not enough. You have to know everything behind it – problem it’s solving, market size, potential growth, even the exit strategy. Investors are not funding startups because they’re simply good-hearted, the truth is they want the payback without the long time lag. The earlier you understand it, the better founder it makes you. In fact, change and adapt your vision as you go – combine it with a real time data. As Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, once said, “You don’t necessarily ever end up at that big vision that you were thinking about.”

# 3 Assemble your team precisely

Great startups are made by great teams. You don’t have to be a superman or “I can do it all by myself” guy to set up a world-class business. The power lies in the professional skills of your teammates, so choose your fellows wisely. Avoid the overlap of competencies and cover the most needed skill sets by bringing the right people on board. Think about Guy Kawasaki’s Law of Pre-Money Valuation saying that “for every full-time engineer, add $500,000; for every full-time M.B.A., subtract $250,000” while selecting new team members on board. The aim is to share the trust and compliment each other’s weaknesses, but also to exchange know-how.

# 4 Be resistant to negative answers

Choose to test and fail fast in order to get closer to your wins. Learn to hear “No” and don’t take it for an answer. Imagine it’s a game without game over, simple as that. Each investor counts on your ability to combat failures as that’s how they presume your overall capability to handle future business.  If a founder successfully completes the startup level, he will have to pass business scalability level by becoming a powerful entrepreneur. In other words, once you learn how to be a great founder, you’ll encounter next challenge – how to be a great executive.

# 5 Don’t hold on to stereotypes

There are no proven rules when it’s best to start a business. No matter how old you are, how many universities you’ve graduated from or how many books you’ve read – do it now and here. Your skills that you have , your set of beliefs and ideas at this very moment are what can make you a “wanted” founder right now, not after few years. Bear in mind, that procrastination is your enemy in every aspect of your business.

# 6 Get loose from obligations

Your marital status, bank loans, part-time jobs and even previous unfinished projects – are things that hold you back from getting funded by investors or startup accelerators. And hey, don’t take it personally, there’s just no place for unnecessary problems in investors’ world. What they need is full focus on your startup, hard work and overtime you are going to devote.

Founders at their nature – do they exist?

There is no one exceptionally true way to measure “how founder” you are. Ben Yoskivitz points out a great observation in his article about Founders DNA. He says “it’s fair to say that investors of all kinds (angels, venture, seed accelerators, etc.) use their own “guts” to get “a rough feeling” of entrepreneurs and use that as a significant barometer for determining their own interest”. That’s a human nature to make decisions based on the first impression and sixth sense.

Speaking of human nature, another expert in the field, Founder Institute takes a different approach to measure founders’ eligibility by analyzing Predictive Admissions test’s results. According to them, entrepreneurship is destined by personality traits mainly. There is no need to have a company or even a business idea to prove it. The interesting infographic reveals that a great entrepreneur is defined by his professional experience, high fluid intelligence, high openness and moderate agreeableness. And, likewise, the bad founder’s qualities are excuse-making, emotional instability, predatory aggressiveness, deceit and narcissism. With that said, if you have a wrong personality, there’s nothing left as to just deal with it.

It takes many things to unlock success in starting a business – character traits, such as willingness to learn, surpassing expectations, passion for growing; and business acumen. Investors will choose to rely on you because of your business sense, creative thinking, fearless decision making and credibility. You have to be able to walk in the dark and figure out when you’re on the right track. You must feel comfortable in chaos and uncertainty and maintain the fine line between panic and ambition to go further. If you possess all of these features, you’re probably ready to start knocking on investors’ doors.








How can your business boost safety?

Health and safety in the workplace is of paramount importance, so it’s important to ask yourself one question: Are you doing enough to keep your employees and members of the public safe? While a risk assessment is good way to spot hazards and work out what improvements you need to make, you might also want to consider the following safety solutions.

Safety cameras and reverse sensors for vehicles

Whether you run a waste management company, a bus and coach service or have a fleet of trucks, trailers and vans, you might want to invest in a range of safety devices for your vehicles. These vehicle cameras from Brigade, for example, are designed to improve all-round vision of the vehicle and surrounding area and make it much easier to reverse and manoeuvre through tight spaces. What’s more, ultrasonic obstacle detection systems also increase safety when turning or making-low speed manoeuvres and reversing warning alarms prevent accidents and injuries.

While it can be easy to label this modern technology as an unnecessary fad, it’s essential to bear in mind that according to the Health and Safety Executive, nearly a quarter of all deaths involving vehicles at work occur during reversing. Many other reversing accidents do not result in injury but cause costly damage to vehicles, equipment and premises, so it is well-worth taking all the precautions you can in order to boost the safety of your company.

As well as protecting your employees and limiting accidents, high-tech camera systems can also save you from being accused of causing an accident when it wasn’t your fault. The council receive many complaints of damage to parked vehicles, so if you don’t have time for lawsuits, court cases and unwanted bills, simply pop a visual aid onto your vehicles and record everything you do.

Wear the correct personal protective gear

It’s the duty of each and every employer to provide the correct personal protective equipment (PPE). This could be anything from hard hats and protective footwear, to durable gloves and high-visibility clothes depending on the type of job you’re doing.  Protective respiratory equipment also comes under PPE, so you must assess the risks of each and every job role and make sure your staff are well equipped for their duties.

What’s more, if your employees are constantly out on the road driving fleet vehicles and such like, it’s also a good idea to think outside the box and provide them with items that could help in an emergency such as a satellite navigation system, road map, torch, blanket, company mobile phone with emergency contact numbers (including the breakdown and recovery services your business uses), emergency funds, jump leads, a first aid kit and such like.

Running a business comes with many responsibilities, with health and safety being one of the top priorities for any employer. So, if you’re looking to make your company as secure as possible, try putting the above tips in action and make sure everyone stays safe.








Career Goals For 2015

Sort yourself with a new organisational system. Get your emails arranged into folders, file your important paperwork and get a diary and planner on the go. It’s not glamorous stuff but you’ll be pleased at how much more efficient you’ll be. Your career can easily get off track if you allow yourself to slip into sloppy practises – but you can address this in 2015.

Update your CV. Even if you’re not applying for a job it’s always worth keeping on top of your CV. Not only will it mean that you keep an important document up to date but it’ll also force you to reflect on what you’ve achieved and what, if anything, you want to do next. You’ll also be primed and ready should the job of your dreams pop up on Jobstoday. Tie this in with creating or updating your LinkedIn profile – which can be a useful shop window and a way of picking up useful tips to further your own career. 

Challenge yourself to raise your game. Performing well in your job is one sure-fire way to get noticed and move your career on. Set your sights on one particular aspect of your job and zero in on that. Look at how you can improve and set your own personal targets to do better. 

Create your own personal website or blog. The world wide web has room for everyone to showcase their own personal talents. A website or blog can be a useful way of proving your worth to a potential employer as well as giving you an outlet to write or upload information about a passion or hobby – and also a way of people getting in contact with you. It needn’t be expensive or too time consuming either. 

Enter yourself into a suitable training programme. Find out what courses you can take on in your company or with an outside body and use them to develop your skills and add another string to your bow. It’ll boost your career and give you a fresh challenge to get your teeth into. You might also be able to become an expert in a particular field and be someone others turn to for help and advice.

Engage in a discussion about pay. Don’t bottle up any concerns you might have about your salary – book in a chat with your boss and get it off your chest. Keep the conversation professional and courteous and listen to what they have to say. You might want to offer to take on more responsibility in order to earn more. If you don’t ask you might miss out, pick your moment and get this done in 2015.

Downtime is vital – make more space for it in your schedule. Your home life and career are not completely disconnected. One way to succeed in your career is to strike a healthy work/life balance. If you’re not going in to work fresh because you’ve been agonising over work for hours at night you will struggle to succeed. It’s tough to get this right so factor some time in your diary for leisure activities and stick to them.








Ask An Entrepreneur: 4 Tips On Partnering With Foreign Suppliers

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 4.59.10 PMAnswer provided by: Olga and Shane Rai, Co-Founders VinoRai, LLC – importers of quality Turkish wines. Bringing the Turkish wine renaissance to America.

Previous Employment: Olga- Marketing consulting at Accenture and other consulting firms followed by two years of marketing and strategy at Starbucks Corporate.

Shane – IT strategy and implementation consulting at Deloitte Consulting for seven years followed by two years of product management building social intelligence products for a UK based customer experience technology company.

———–

There are many reasons why a business would consider partnering with foreign suppliers.

– Cost efficiency
– The superior quality of goods or services
– A personal or emotional connection to an overseas land

For us at VinoRai, our raison d’être is introducing the United States to a unique experience that only a foreign partner can provide.

Our unique experience is wines – wines from Turkey. Our honeymoon adventure to Turkey a few years earlier led to this fortunate and serendipitous discovery of wines that we soon realized weren’t just only unique to Turkey but also embodied the deep and rich history of the region.

Turkey is regarded as one of the birthplaces of grape domestication and ancient wine making, and home to 800+ grape varieties many of which are unique to the country. While many established wineries exist in Turkey today dating back to early 20th century, the last 10-15 years has seen an encouraging surge in new and prolific wine producers after the wine industry was opened to privatization. Many are heralding this Turkey’s wine renaissance and it is poised to blossom further.

We’ve now been importing wines from Turkey for a year and a half, and over this period we’ve been fortunate in expanding our portfolio of wine producers to five.

With zero prior knowledge of the trade, there were many on-the-job lessons learned, good and bad, just like many of you have surely experienced or will experience.

For those of you contemplating kick-starting your own venture that would need extensive partnerships with foreign suppliers, we’ve compiled our top 4 things to consider:

Vet, vet and vet some more: it’s imperative to vet your suppliers and their products before you ink that deal and sink those funds. Making onsite visits and in-person meet-ups are a good start but not sufficient. Bring in a few samples or prototypes, test & validate in your market with your customers, and then make a decision. Repeat for every new supplier and product. This iterative model has been our bread and butter approach.

Success needs to be mutual: sounds cliché but can your partnership really thrive if success is mutually exclusive to either of you? Spend the time & money to build a relationship. Genuinely get to know your suppliers, their culture and their business practices. Go visit them, share your market success stories as well as challenges, and seek out government export/import subsidies that might be beneficial to them. Relationship building takes time, so be patient and invest the time. The pay off is well worth it down the road: you’ll get better pricing terms, consistent quality and many other benefits that incrementally will help your business thrive.

Adapt and don’t unnecessarily accept: nothing is perfect, and chances are cultural and business differences will almost certainly exist between you and your foreign supplier. Common yet crucial differences will relate to pricing terms and sense of urgency/timing based on our experiences. Try to uncover these differences as quickly as possible and then decide which ones are acceptable to your business and those that aren’t. Surprises later down the road are always costly and a blow to your relationship building efforts.

Protect yourself: congrats, you’ve built a market for your products. Chances are competition is not too far behind now. What stops your competitors from partnering with your valued suppliers? You can start by seeking exclusivity agreements from your suppliers (if applicable) and seek legal counsel to draft the agreement. Understand what legal action you can undertake later should you (unfortunately) need to.

Olga and Shane Rai can be found on: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vinorai.com.








How to evolve your content marketing strategy for the future

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It’s by now a well known fact that the internet moves quickly. In fact, the transmission of ideas, trends, and information now comes at such a fast pace that we’ve needed to develop a whole new vocabulary to discuss it with. Words like ‘viral’ have taken on entire new senses of meaning, while academic terms like ‘meme’ have entered the common vernacular. New words have also been developed, portmanteaus like ‘newsjacking’ or ‘clickbait’ have penetrated our discussions, both on- and offline.

The job of a content marketer is tough enough already: creating quality content is difficult, and it strains that one muscle that’s the hardest to exercise: creativity. But it’s made harder by the constant and consuming need for originality and novelty. The internet is a cruel, demanding mistress (but we love her, don’t we?), and no strategy is forever. Let’s talk about what we can do to develop a strategy that will work now, in two weeks, and in two years. We’re talking about an enduring strategy that doesn’t rely on cheap gimmicks. It’s time for some future-proofing.

Imitation: the quickest way to get ignored

The internet can smell a poser a mile away. Citizens of the internet see imitations of success all the time, from their Instagram feeds to their YouTube videos. Let’s face it: you probably aren’t as cool as you used to be, and you probably don’t quite have a handle on what the kids are doing these days. It’s okay, it’s happens to all of us. Chances are, by the time you hear about a trend, it’s already on its way out.

You know when you see pictures of people, and can immediately guess what decade it was taken because of how dumb their hair looks? You don’t want that to happen to your content. You want to get the most mileage possible out of each and every piece of content, so you don’t want it to date itself.

Imitators are rarely successful. So please, lay off the Grumpycat. Your future visitors will thank you for sparing them the eyeroll.

What to do instead

This is not to say that you shouldn’t allow current trends to inform your content. Just don’t make them your content. Instead of using a clickbait-type headline that is sure to go out of style (One Weird Trick to Future-Proof Your Content), write for perpetuity. Write for the future world where people are sick of Weird Tricks, but might still be curious about how to future-proof their content: How to Future-Proof your Content and Boost Engagement. The idea is to entice without being a tease.

By stripping the trend out of your content, you gain respectability. People won’t see you as a hopeless poser, but rather a mature and interesting source of useful information. It’s okay to provoke some curiosity, but you need to deliver on that curiosity you’ve inspired by providing real, valuable content. Provide actionable, valuable information, and the traffic will bring itself, with or without trends.