The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur

September 30, 2008

Today my friend and serial entrepreneur Mike Michalowicz came out with his new book The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. The book provides insight for cash strapped visionaries with little or no entrepreneurial experience. Mike is an expert entrepreneur as he’s founded, operated, and sold two multi-million dollar companies. Mike also authors a great entrepreneurial blog he updates daily. Join me in congratulating Mike in his first book release.


From EmTech08: Desh Deshpande

September 25, 2008

Desh Deshpande, serial entrepreneur and Chairman of the Board at A123 Systems, just left the EmTech stage. Desh had great entrepreneurial insights, but the one that sticks out refers to the current economy. Desh believes over the past ten years the top students from best US universities were graduating and going to financial firms; with the current condition and unknown future of the US financial systems, Desh believes the top graduates will stop taking high paying Wall St. positions and will become the next generation of entrepreneurs powered by technological innovation.

Desh was also asked, “What comes first, the company or the rights to the Intellectual Property?” The ‘ol “Chicken or the egg” question. It depends. If the intellectual property (IP) is for the long-term and projected to have a long lifecycle, then licensing the IP comes first (without the IP there is no company). If the IP is in a rapidly innovative arena, then the company comes first, because the IP may be antiquated by the time it gets licensed. In an innovative arena the company must hire innovation savvy employees and not rely on intellectual property; if the company relies on the IP then it may survive for the short term, but will struggle with growth.

TR35 Winners: EmTech08

September 24, 2008

And the winners are…

TR35 Humanitarian of the Year – Aimee Rose – ICx Technologies

TR35 Innovator of the Year – JB Starubel Tesla Motors, Inc.

From EmTech08:

September 24, 2008

I’m currently at the Emerging Technologies Conference (EmTech08) put on by the MIT Technology Review.  This morning Gina Bianchini, founder of Ning (a platform for creating online social networks) gave an engaging presentation stressing the importants of consumer usability, simplicity, and web 2.0 revenue generation.  Ning was launched a little over a year ago and already has over 500,000 social networks.  Gina is a serial entrepreneur with a MBA from Stanford.  I highly recommend visiting Ning and playing around.  More to come on her specific usability, simplicity, and revenue generation points…

We’re All Salesmen: The Power of “Why”

September 18, 2008

As entrepreneurs, at times we’re accountants, at times we’re marketers, at times we’re human resources; overseeing all aspects of our companies makes us feel safe. We wear many hats along our journeys, but with growth responsibilities must be delegated. We hire competent employees, and hand our hats off, but one hat seems to stick to our heads; the sales hat. To be a viable entrepreneur one must be passionate about his/her company. Passion is demonstrated by sharing ones company to inspire others. An Inspiring message is in essence a sales pitch. If you are a passionate inspirational entrepreneur then you are a salesman, even if you don’t realize it. For this reason, all entrepreneurs must study sales and build their own salesman’s toolbox. The salesman’s toolbox is a compilation of best practices learned through experience, study, and guidance. One tool every entrepreneur must have in his/her toolbox is the “why” tool. The most powerful tool in a salesman’s toolbox is the word “Why?”

Why is “Why” the most powerful tool? “Why” is a salesman’s most powerful tool because it’s the shovel that digs the truth. Asking prospects “why” squashes objections and uncovers the truth behind pushback, for an example I’ll take the role of a computer salesman trying to sell a computer to an 80 year-old hardware store owner named Ray. I walk in, greet Ray, and notice Ray is taking inventory… with a pen and paper! I think to myself, “great opportunity!” I ask Ray if he’s ever used a computer, he answers “no.” I ask “why?” Ray says, “I’m too old.” I wasn’t born yesterday, if my 90 year-old retired grandfather is able to use a computer, then an active 80 year-old hardware store owner sure can. I ask, “Why are you too old?” Ray answers, “I’ve never used a computer, why start now?” I reply, “Why not start now?” I’m filtering threw Ray’s smokescreens; I’m making him think. Ray says, “Because they’re just too complicated.” I respond, “Why do you think computers are too complicated?” Ray adds, “I actually tried to use a computer about 20 years ago. It was too complicated.” I just uncovered incredible information! Knowing Ray found computers 20 years ago complicated is no surprise, because 20 years ago computers were complicated! I dug the truth out of Ray by using the power of “why.” I uncovered the true reason why he objected to using computers, and I can tailor my sales message to show him the simplicity of using a modern computer. Now the easy part starts, all I need to do is demonstrate my passion and inspire him to purchase one of my computers.

People hide the truth. We don’t like saying no.  It’s human nature.  It’s OK.  The solution is to open your salesman’s toolbox and utilize your “why” tool.  Understand the power of “why,” use it, and inspire people with your passion to complete the sale.

Better Late Then Never: TechCrunch50 Review

September 13, 2008

In anticipation of next week’s EmTech08 conference in Cambridge I’ve been reading blogs about last week’s TechCrunch50 event from California. Many of the participants seem gimmicky, but few stand out as viable businesses. Yammer (the winner), and iamnews (the peoples choice award recipient) deserve recognition as the top two companies at TechCrunch50.

Based out of West Hollywood, California Yammer is Twitter for the business environment. ‘“Yammer is a tool for making companies and organizations more productive through the exchange of short frequent answers to one simple question: “What are you working on?”’ – Yammer should be used for collaboration, not as a tool to micromanage. If you see it as a tool to spy on employees then you either need to reevaluate your workforce or change your management style. Yammer is a tool for collaboration; allowing users with valid business e-mail addresses to discuss ideas, post news, ask questions, and share links and other information over private feeds; it’s instant messaging on steroids. Yammer’s entrance into the complexity filled corporate social networking arena is the first answer to provide a simple solution for business collaboration.

imanews is a simple idea: let people contribute to the news. Their about statement is clear: “iamnews is an open newsroom platform. We empower publishers and reporters by giving them powerful, easy to use tools for co-creation of news in real time.” iamnews targets bloggers and small publishers that don’t have the resources to create news . Web Publishers are used to ensure accurate reporting. If iamnews’ system ensures accurate reporting (and I hope it truly does), then it could be a competitive threat to the traditional reporting of AP and Reuters. iamnews ‘ competitive advantage is providing original and unique video and photography to current events, but I still struggle with their ability to ensure accurate news text. The availability of original and unique photo and video connected to individual news stories is enough for me to see potential for long-term viability.

There are other TechCrunch50 participating and demo companies that have viable products, but I chose to present only the two winners. Again, in my opinion many were gimmicky, but I strongly recommend you take look and share what companies you find interesting.

Technical Know How: Ask For Help

September 8, 2008

The summer is officially over; I’m back to Business School and back to the daily grind. After a weekend in the Cape (where I received one of the worst sunburns ever), I’ve begun one of the most interesting projects I’ve ever been a part of in my life. This school year I am working on a project with a group of five engineering students to develop an educational mobile application for higher education students. The con of the project is that I have to pay for the college credits earned while working on it, but the pro is it’s an opportunity of a lifetime. I hope by working on this project I will solve a question that I’ve struggled with in the past: How does someone with no experience in engineering create a technical product?

The simple answer is: He Doesn’t! No one person can possess all the information in the world; at times people need to call upon others to help. Repeatedly we see examples of leaders rounding themselves out by hiring complementary pieces. Two vibrant examples occurred in the past month when Barack Obama chose Joe Biden, and John McCain chose Sarah Palin as their respective Vice Presidential Candidates. Obama and McCain’s decisions were based upon choosing a partner who encompassed the characteristics and knowledge they lacked. As entrepreneurs we need to acknowledge that we can only be experts in so many things; we have time constraints and other areas that need our attention. I hope the 5 engineering students I am partnering with teach me as much as I can understand about the engineering and code writing needed to create mobile applications, but I know that I will never be an expert engineer or code writer. The 5 engineering students complement my marketing, accounting, sales, organizational, and leadership skills. I would find the task of creating a mobile application on my own almost impossible, just as the 5 engineering students would find bringing an emerging technology to market. The team dynamic of a complementary knowledge base is one main reason why I am excited about this project. I know I cannot create a sophisticated technical product by myself, so in a way I am asking others for help in this opportunity of a lifetime.