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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Shopping for Startup Capital Outside of Silicon Valley

BY  | May 16, 2014

Shopping for Startup Capital Outside of Silicon Valley
Image credit: Shutterstock

While it's still true that the bulk of venture capital dollars go to startups in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, over the past decade a number of other metropolitan areas have begun to make a dent in the tally of investments.  
The San Francisco-Oakland area and San Jose-Sunnyvale area landed the atop a list of the top 20 locations for venture capital investment, with both California regions responsible for generating 40 percent of all the venture capital deals in 2012, according to Atlantic editor Richard Florida.
Rounding out the top 10 were Boston, New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Austin, Chicago and Washington, D.C., accounting for 38 percent of all the venture capital dollars invested, just 2 percent behind San Francisco and the Silicon Valley's share.
Yet, in addition to traditional venture capital funding, entrepreneurs can also turn to seed investors to help them fund their companies. Health care, mobile and internet startups claimed nearly 80 percent of angel group dollars in 2013 according to the Halo Report 2013. Of particular interest is the fact that 15 of the top 20 most active seed funds are not based in the Bay Area but are in states in the Northeast (New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut) as well as Western cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Seattle.
Here are six tips for entrepreneurs on the hunt to raise funds for their startups:
1. Start networking locally. Be sure to use LinkedIn as a power tool for networking. Who are the angel investors and or venture capitalists in the startup's home community. Determine how to be introduced to them. Which alumni groups operate in the area and are suitable for networking with?
Many college or alumni groups have started entrepreneurial groups that are helping startups through mentoring and perhaps offering seed funding such as my organization, UCLA VC Fund. It is crucial to find and build relationships in a network that will provide a personal referral to potential investors.
2. Research crowdfunding opportunities. Several online resources are now available such as AngelList, which has extensive listings and ratings of angel investors. For project funding also check out crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo
3. Check out other investor hot beds. Explore cities such as New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Boulder, Colo. A good place to start the research is CB Insights' list of the "150 most active seed investors of 2013." But, be sure that it's possible to tap into those cities through a tie through the startup’s location, customers, founders or other early investors or advisors.
4. Focus on cities where people are interested in the industry. Have a biotech startup? Be sure to research venture capital firms in Boston or Los Angeles and scratch Washington, D.C., off the list. For a media-tech company, try Los Angeles or New York City. A little business sector research can go a long way.
5. Learn as much as possible about a targeted investment firm. Investment firms are ultimately a collection of individuals, so get to know the organization and also the partners themselves. What is their background? Which partner has the most relevant expertise for the startup's underlying business sector? What is the success rate for the firm's prior investments? Does the firm have similar or conflicting investments?
Remember a venture firm will most likely request a seat on the startup's board of directors as a condition of investment. This person will spend a lot of time with the startup. Be just as careful in selecting the firm and individual partner as when selecting friends or a mate.
6. Understand what kind of funding is needed. Have a financial plan so it's clear the amount of money needed from an investor. This will also help to set expectations about what can be achieved by the company and in what time frame. So entrepreneurs just starting out with a partner and a great idea are best off looking for angel funding. But those with a fleshed-out business plan and product could be on the road to raising the first venture capital Series A round.  
Michael Howse is an executive board member of the UCLA Venture Capital Fund. He is the former CEO of Bigfoot Networks, a venture-backed startup that was acquired by Qualcomm. He previously served as entrepreneur-in-residence at U.S. Venture Partners and was founder and CEO of PacketHop, a wireless systems company. As a marketing executive, Howse worked at Silicon Valley startups S3 and 3dfx Interacitive.

This One Thing Can Make or Break Your Consulting Business

May 17, 2014, Entrepreneur Express
This excerpt is part of's Second-Quarter Startup Kit which explores the fundamentals of starting up in a wide range of industries.
In Start Your Own Consulting Business, the staff at Entrepreneur Press and writer Eileen Figure Sandlin explain how you can start a profitable consulting business, no matter whether your consulting business will focus on HR placement, computer troubleshooting, or anything else you can dream up. In this edited excerpt, the authors offer tips on providing customer service that will help you land new business again and again.
To succeed as a consultant, you must do everything you can to set yourself apart from the competition. You want to give your clients a reason to say, "I'm really glad I chose this consultant." One way to ensure this is to provide the best customer service on the planet.
One great way to do this is by communicating with your client often about whether his or her expectations are being met and if the project is progressing as desired. "At the end of the first month of a project, I always ask my clients whether they think value is being achieved," says California trainer and coach Susan Bock, who is a past president of the Association of Professional Consultants. "I'll give them a full refund and won't proceed any further if I determine it's not possible to deal with their unrealized expectations."
Fred Elbel, a web design and computer consultant in Lakewood, Colorado, takes a different approach to customer service: He actually gives information away free as a way to make a favorable impression. "I give a lot of free advice to customers--in fact, sometimes too much," he admits. "It could be information like how to back up a computer system. But what happens is that clients remember how I helped them, and they'll call me when they don't have the time or skill to tackle other problems."
To succeed as a consultant, you need to develop a win-win style of customer service. This means that both you and your client must view everything you do as something positive, a means of moving forward and/or a way to solve a problem. Your ultimate success depends on your ability to use your inner resources and strengths, as well as your ability to do whatever it takes to solve your clients' problems and challenges and to be positive and energized while you do it. When you do these things, both you and your client will come out winners.
While solving problems and addressing challenges are certainly a consultant's main functions, there's another important task consultants must undertake, says Melinda Patrician, a Virginia public relations consultant. "One thing I highly recommend," she says, "is to get to know what the power structure is in that organization and get to know the support staff as well as your contact person." Understanding the organization will help you make better decisions and give better advice. It also helps you to know who the go-to person is when you need input or a decision made relating to the project you're handling.
Successful consultants live by these 10 customer service credos:
1. Accept full responsibility for your actions. Concentrate on giving your very best, no matter how good, bad or indifferent your client may be.
2. Develop an attitude of optimism and positive expectations. Begin to expect the very best from yourself, and soon others around you will see what a powerful force you present. Remember, optimists are simply people who've learned how to discipline their attitudes to their advantage.
3. Motivate yourself to have a "never give up" style. Make your clients feel you're there for them no matter what. In other words, go above and beyond the call of duty to fulfill your end of the agreement.
4. Keep improving your communications skills. When there's a breakdown in communication, chaos results. Practice your listening skills. Sometimes clients may not be clear about what they want, so ask questions so you're sure you understand what's expected of you.
5. Believe in yourself. When you have a high level of self-esteem, the sky's the limit.
6. Be flexible. Any consultant who can maintain a high degree of flexibility will gain a good reputation and have no trouble attracting new clients.
7. Set goals. When you have a plan of action with certain goals in mind, your goals will be easier to achieve. Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
8. Organize yourself. This will impress your clients and help you become a more successful consultant.
9. Seek more than one solution to a problem. You also should always look for creative ways to solve those problems. Walt Disney, a true visionary if ever there was one, was a firm believer in the power of brainstorming; you should be, too!
10. Be happy! When you're happy, those around you will be happy, too.

Secrets of Consulting Success

Erin Blaskie, an author and internet marketing specialist, offers these suggestions for becoming a successful consultant:
Implement ideas fast. Don't hold back, and don't dilly-dally with details or try to be perfect. Get ideas out there, and tweak them as you go.
Use your strengths, and delegate the rest. Don't try to do everything yourself. Let's face it--to be successful, you need to learn that you aren't the best person to do everything in your business. Find the right people to help you out, and they'll pay for themselves.
Do only what you love. If you take on work you don't love, you run the risk of doing a poor job or taking light-years to complete a task. No one is meant or expected to do everything. Rather, we're meant to do the work we're passionate about because that makes us successful.
Work only with people who energize you. Find clients you're inspired by, who embrace your talents and who understand the way you work.
Limit your overhead. Stay in the green, and you'll become more successful. Think of how much less stress you'll have when money isn't an issue!
Be generous. Don't be afraid to give away information or help out your fellow businessperson for nothing in return. It feels great, and people will remember you.
Joining experts, editors and business writers, Entrepreneur Press delivers everything you need to know about starting and running more than 55 of today's hottest businesses. Learn more about Entrepreneur's Startup Series, available at

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Habits of the World's Wealthiest People (Infographic)

Habits of the World's Wealthiest People (Infographic)

By Nina Zipkin

, Jan. 16, 2014
What do Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffett have in common, in addition to their fairly sizable net worths? More than you might think.
An infographic developed by social-media marketing company NowSourcing details some of the qualities and traits shared by the rich (we're talking those who earn more than $160,000 a year and have $3.2 million in assets). If you want to take a page out of Bill Gates' playbook, wake up early, exercise, read more (definitely cut back on your reality TV intake) and write a daily to-do list.
For more tips and statistics, including a gender breakdown and where the world's nearly 31.7 million millionaires call home, check out the infographic below.
Habits of the World's Wealthiest People
Nina Zipkin is an editorial assistant at

Shark Tank's Daymond John on Lessons From His Worst Mistakes

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Meetup CEO: We're Doing What Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter Can't Do

by Catherine Clifford, Dec. 13, 2013
“That’s one-word: Meetup, with a capital M and not a capital U. People sometimes screw that up,” says Scott Heiferman, as he speaks to me from a couch in the middle of his company's New York City headquarters one Tuesday in November. “I am a bit of a brand design freak.” The main Meetup office is one long, open room with workstations that all look nearly alike. Everything is accented in red to match the Meetup nametag logo.
Heiferman doesn’t beat around the bush much: He’s what you might call a straight shooter. He swears a decent amount and is aggressively focused on growing Meetup, the site he founded that allows people to create social events around a common activity or interest.
Officially founded in 2002, Meetup has kept a relatively low profile for a global company with an impressive and growing global reach. That’s kind of on purpose. Meetup has zero marketing, communications, public relations, business development or partnership-building staffers.
Meetup also doesn't run ads. Heiferman says advertisements are distracting and ugly. In fact, when he checked out before his conversation with me, he was ultra-annoyed by the ads he encountered. And he made sure to point that out.
In many ways, Heiferman's vision for Meetup is as straightforward as his personality. He wants the site to be about helping people form communities offline. “This is the people, the people, self-organizing to help each other. And it is the most beautiful thing in the world,” Heiferman says. “Google doesn’t do that. YouTube doesn’t do that. Facebook doesn’t do that. Twitter doesn’t do that.”
More than 10 million events have been scheduled through Meetup, which hosts more than 140,000 groups worldwide. International growth has been the fastest of late, and hot spots of growth include France, Spain, Asia and India. The number of non-U.S. meetups has doubled in the past year.
Meetup CEO: We're Doing What Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter Can't Do
Hefierman is perched on the arm of the couch in the black sweatshirt.
Image credit: Randy Au from Meetup
To keep pace with the growth, Meetup has been hiring as fast as it can, says Heiferman. The night before this interview, Heiferman had been out on a “Meetup crawl,” wherein a handful of new employees drop in on a half-dozen Meetups near the corporate headquarters in Lower Manhattan. The latest batch of new hires dropped into a Scottish dancing Meetup, a robotic hacker Meetup, a Meetup to learn how to speak English, a pickling Meetup and an Arabic-language Meetup, among others.
Diversity is part of the identity of Meetup. No single Meetup category – whether it be surfing or sockmaking – makes up more than 10 percent of the total and none of the cities where Meetups are hosted can claim they host more than 10 percent of all Meetups. The point is simply to bring people together -- to give strangers a forum to not be strangers anymore.
The concept for Meetup started germinating in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, when Heiferman was living in Lower Manhattan. Heiferman met, talked to and connected with more of his neighbors in the days following than he ever had before. And he was touched by the power of simple, local community. “The germ of every Meetup and all this good stuff that comes out of it is the opportunity to say ‘Hello,’” says Heiferman.
And what power there is in the Meetup “hello.” Everything from business to love has been born from the connections generated on Meetup. For example, once-upon-a-time investment banker Dale Choonoolal used to run soccer Meetups in and around New York City as a way to meet fellow sport enthusiasts. The Meetups were so popular that Choonoolal ditched his finance job and has been able to earn as much as six figures in a year just running soccer Meetups. In one of those co-ed soccer Meetups, two members – Justine Freitas and Bikash Gurung – met and ended up getting married.
Meetup CEO: We're Doing What Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter Can't Do
Justine Freitas and Bikash Gurung met at a soccer Meetup and ended up getting married.
Image credit: Dale Choonoolal
Meetup’s revenue comes from Meetup Organizer user’s fees: Organizers pay $19 for one month’s access to the Meetup network, $45 for three months or $72 for six months. Attendees, who account for about 98 percent of users on the site, pay nothing to sign up for the Meetup service. Also, Meetup has very recently started giving Meetup Organizers the option to collect dues from the attendees on the website. Meetup collects a processing fee for that service.
Use of Meetup in the U.S. generally trends with the population density, but there are some cities where Meetup is used more heavily than others. For example, the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina is especially Meetup-dense, notes Heiferman. “If you wear a Meetup t-shirt down there -- and I have experienced this -- it’s like Jesus down there." While people like to come up with reasons why certain cities are more Meetup popular than others, Heiferman doesn’t buy it. “I think it is the randomness of serendipity that something just -- catches wind.”
Heiferman is a big believer in the importance of timing. And he has also learned to trust his own intuition. After leaving a successful career in advertising and before launching Meetup, Heiferman started a photo sharing social network called Fotolog. This was in the first couple years of the new millennium, and Heiferman says his concept was too early. People weren’t as comfortable with taking, posting and sharing images as they are now. Also, the average smartphone camera was not good enough to make taking and sharing photos as rewarding as it is today. Heiferman sold Fotolog in 2007.
As wrong as he was about the timing of a photo-social site, Heiferman says he is perfectly on target with Meetup. “The prime-time for Meetup is still a few years away,” he says.
If Heiferman is correct, we will be hearing a lot more about Meetup in coming years, even if not from Meetup directly. That's because, despite their mission of bringing groups of people together, Meetup staffers aren’t much for talking with other businesses. “We don’t take meetings. We don’t talk to anyone. We just focus on the product. And we are growing like hell,” says Heiferman.
To which this reporter could only ask: “So why are you talking to me?”
Heiferman smiles a bit. “To make sure we are not being so weird,” he says.  
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

5 Signs You're Standing In Your Own Way to Success

By Stephen Key, Sep. 12, 2013
While a lot of the entrepreneurs I've met and mentored in the past decade have been successful, I've probably met as many, if not more, unsuccessful entrepreneurs. Each of them seemed to make a lot of the same mistakes -- ones that could be easily remedied, but when left unaddressed, could mean the difference between success and failure.
Here are five signs you're getting in your own way to success and how to move over and let yourself be the best you can be:
1. You're unable to complete a task before starting a new one.
Some entrepreneurs just cannot finish. For whatever reason, it doesn't matter how much time they have or how many resources are available to them -- they can't focus and get something done. Maybe it's the fear that their final product could be better, or they're worried it isn't perfect and they won't be able to make changes later.
But Seth Godin got it right in his book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? when he wrote: "The only purpose of starting is to finish, and while the projects we do are never really finished, they must ship." If you miss deadlines and are always late, in the end, you'll have little to show for yourself.
I always say, if it's 80 percent there, it's good enough. Because: you must ship.
2. You micro-manage everything.
Unsuccessful entrepreneurs want to do everything themselves. They don't believe anyone else can get a job done as well as they can. But even if they were actually right about this -- which is doubtful since no one is good at everything -- it's an unsustainable business philosophy.
If you want to grow your business and become a leader, you're going to have to learn to trust others. Everyone needs a support team -- even the most competent people.
3. You're always right.
I've noticed that it's difficult for some entrepreneurs to admit when they've made a mistake. But if you fail to acknowledge a mistake, you miss out on a learning opportunity. Mistakes are stepping stones to success.

Ask for advice and admit when you're wrong, so you can quickly move forward and do better.
4. You ask questions, but don't really pay attention to the answers.
You know the type of person I'm talking about. They ask for your opinion, but they're only really interested in what you have to say if it's exactly what they already believe. That baffles me. These kinds of entrepreneurs surround themselves with people who will only ever agree with them. That's bad for business. You'll make better decisions if you abandon your stubbornness, truly weigh different points of view and try to understand other perspectives.
5. You always find reasons not to move forward.
The timing isn't right. The economy isn't doing well. You don't have enough capital. Whatever the excuse, you always have one. But guess what? There will always be reasons to not move forward! You just have to decide to press on. Create options for yourself, be flexible and have courage. That's really what it is: having the courage to take on risk.
As entrepreneurs, we all make mistakes. That's part of the fun of being willing to take risks. But over the years I've learned that the more humble and receptive you are, the more likely you'll succeed.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Stephen Key is an inventor, author, speaker and co-founder of InventRight, LLC, a Glenbrook, Nev.-based company that educates entrepreneurs in how to bring ideas to market.

4 Lessons in Success From Millionaire Entrepreneurs

By Lindsay Lavine, Oct. 23, 2013
How great would it be to be a fly on the wall as some of the biggest companies are developed? Or to hear about the challenges entrepreneurs have faced on the road to their first million? Last week at the third annual Chicago Ideas Week, a group of successful entrepreneurs opened up about how they created their companies, shared the successes and struggles faced along the way, and the lessons learned from the experience. Here are their pearls of wisdom:
1. Accept failure as part of the journey.
"The great ones treat failure as a necessary part of their journey. It's not win or lose. It's always win or learn," says Eric Lefkofsky, CEO of Groupon. Lefkofsky shared several anecdotes of past ventures that failed, including Brandon Apparel Group and Starbelly, which he says led him to the brink of bankruptcy in 2001. That year, he started InnerWorkings, a print procurement company that was a success. Lefkofsky insists there was no magic to what worked and what didn't. He kept working and trying new things until eventually he developed InnerWorkings and things clicked.
2. Keep your eyes open for opportunities.
For the founder of Honest Tea, inspiration came at the grocery store. Dr. Barry Nalebuff, a professor at Yale School of Management, was just looking for a good glass of tea. While there were dozens of beverage options already in the marketplace, Nalebuff found water was boring, soda to be liquid candy, and diet drinks dangerous.
He applied economic theory to the beverage market, and found that the best product should be less sweet: Less calories for the customer, less cost for the manufacturer. Nalebuff knew tea was the world's cheapest luxury good, and teamed up with a former student, Seth Goldman, to create Honest Tea in 26 days back in 1998 (they sold Honest Tea to Coca-Cola in 2011). Nalebuff calls it the "Princess and the Pea" theory, after the children's tale: "If something out there's annoying you, that's an opportunity," Nalebuff says.
3. When opportunity knocks, be ready for it.
After Honest Tea launched, Nalebuff was at a yoga retreat and noticed Oprah Winfrey on a nearby mat. Because he always carried samples with him everywhere he went, Nalebuff offered Winfrey a drink, and Honest Tea was subsequently featured in her magazine. "When opportunity strikes, you have to be prepared for it," Nalebuff says.

4. There's no set path to success.
"There's no set path to success, there are many ways to get there." says Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans and a principal of Detroit Venture Partners, an organization that funds start-ups and is leading revitalization efforts in Detroit. Gilbert says he's most proud of creating an environment that lets his employees sell and listen to customers. Both he and Quicken Loans' CEO answer complaint calls. When asked what drives him, Gilbert says, "I like to build. Most entrepreneurs at their core like to build."

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Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Speaker, Trainer, Author