Archive for the ‘startups’ Category
Learning From Others – My Conversations With a Serial-CEO, Entrepreneur, Inventor, and Venture Advisor to Kleiner Perkins
Photo by JennyHuang
“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton
I’m not perfect, and sometimes I think I know more than others. This is a highly fallible position to be in, even with all the experiences I have been through it is still limited and I can always learn something for everyone. Depending on what school of philosophy you look to “true knowledge” is never attainable (or at least a very difficult thing to obtain) and given this viewpoint it is an individuals goal to be open to all experiences with no prejudices and biases.
Given this, one of the toughest personal traits to develop is humility and the ability to put one’s ego aside and learn from other individuals. It’s a very easy thing to say out loud that you are humble but its a very hard thing to internally convince yourself you are truly equal to everyone and to take the time to actually learn from all people.
Without getting to philosophical I had a very humbling experience this week after having lunch with Russell Bik who has by far one of the most impressive and experienced backgrounds of anyone I’ve met before. Russell Bik, is a Cal Poly grad, serial entrepreneurial (was on the early teams of Intel and Sun Microsystems), CEO of multiple Kleiner Perkin’s portfolio companies, and a venture adviser to the Kleiner Perkin’s fund.
During lunch I forced myself to put all preconceived biases aside and attempted to suck in every bit of knowledge he shared with me. We talked about a whole range of topics such as the startup vs. corporate lifestyle, best practices of teams, advisors, negotiation, and courage.
Here are a few of the lessons I took away that I want to share with everyone:
Startup vs. Corporate Life and Career Decisions (Which I’ve wrote about before here)
- You don’t want your only work experience to be a string of failed startups
- It’s good to have corporate experience with a growing company
- Of course there are always exceptions to the rule (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, etc)
- The reality is most startups fail
- You don’t want to have just corporate experience though, you need a blending of entrepreneurship and corporate
- The downside to corporate experience is you feel like you need to play in the proper channels/bureaucracy vs. in a startup culture you get things done no matter what
Working in Teams
- Companies are all about the right mix of team members
- Each discipline of the team (engineering, production, business) is all equal in taking the company to realization and need to be compensated as such.
Value of MBA’s
- There are 2 main benefits to a MBA
- You experience what is possible and you become not afraid to attain that reality
- Develop relationships with other Alums from that school
Grades and School
- Grades tend to fall once you experience the real world and understand the skills needed to compete in this environment
- Listen to people who have been there and done it before, only the ones who have actually experienced that particular situation
- Look very closely to the body cues of people and how they react to the things you say (check out this presentation for more info)
Photo by HaMeD!caL
With June around the corner students around the globe will be graduating from college and making a major decision in their lives: Do I get a corporate job? Or do I choose the path of entrepreneurship and create my own career path?
With my graduation date set for June 14th I have been contemplating the same questions over and over again, and I’ve heard a ton of advice from a ton of different people. I wanted to share some of the best I’ve heard and share the story of what I am planning on doing.
- The textbook path to life
- The throw out and write your own textbook path to life
Path #1 - The textbook path to life is a very familiar path, this is the path where you go to college, strive to get good grades, work a few internships, interview with a lot of companies, pick a good stable corporation, continue working the corporate ladder, have a successful life, and be happy.
This is definitely the path of least resistance. The positives are you can work your 9-5 and then after work completely forget about everything related to work and peruse your own interests whether they are partying with friends, traveling to cool places, a hobby, keeping up to date with sports, etc. You work hard during “work time” but your work and life outside of work are kept separate. Life is somewhat predictable, your emotions are easily controllable, and your mind is clear and free of all the worries of work and its much easier to enjoy.
Path #2 - The throw out and write your own textbook path to life is the scary path to life. This is the path where your family and close friends ask what are you doing with your life?! This is the path that has no set rules, no set boundaries, and it is very unique to each person.
This is definitely the path of most resistance. The positives are you can do what you love and express your values & beliefs through the career path you choose. You have the opportunity to make a huge difference and impact to the world but this potential comes at a cost. In this path life unpredictable, your emotions become much harder to control and much more volatile, and the line between work and life can easily become blurry if not cross over completely.
Jun Loayza, a new friend of mine, who I met at UCLA wrote this very intriguing post on the subject:
In it he shares his personal experience of corporate life and his transition to the entrepreneurial life. Here are a few things I took away from his post:
- The corporate life has lower responsibility (there whole team of people who can pick up the slack)
- The corporate life was comfortable and relaxing
- The corporate life did not use his talents to the maximum capacity
- The startup life is a much more riskier proposition
- The startup life is much more time intensive (Jun works 100+ hours a week)
- The startup life forces you to push yourself to your limit and take on much more personal responsibility (there is no safety net)
- The startup life is not better than the corporate life and vice versa, it all depends on what type of person you are and the situation you are in.
She wrote an interesting post touching on the corporate life vs. entrepreneurial life with the focus group of the top engineering students from one of the worlds top Universities, Stanford.
Here are some interesting points I got from the article:
- Working for a big corporation leads to a narrow skill-set
- The skills required for entrepreneurship are “frighteningly” wide
- Working for a startup might be a better preparatory step to working in a corporation
- Consulting and corporate experience is valuable for a short period of time
I definitely subscribe the lifestyle of entrepreneurship (hence the name of my blog) much of which has been installed in me though my experiences growing up and especially during college at Cal Poly, check out my About Page for more about these experiences. With graduation coming up in June though I am now finally starting to realize the huge risk I am taking and the amount of work I am going to need to do.
However I think I have finally decided what I want to do (at least after I graduate!) but I can’t release all the info about it now. More details to come soon…
What path did you take? How did you make your decision? Share your story in the comment section!
Inspirational Keynote Speech on Entrepreneurship – Ben Casnocha at the UCLA Entrepreneurship Tradeshow
This last Thursday I was a judge for the UCLA Entrepreneurship Tradeshow and the keynote speaker for the event was one of my favorite writers Ben Casnocha author of My Start-Up Life. I’ve heard a lot of successful entrepreneurs speak before and I was expecting Ben to speak about similar things but WOW I have to say his keynote speech was one of the most inspirational talks I have ever seen and I wanted to share his talk with everyone. Here is the transcripted outline of what he said:
Ben started off by reciting the words from the “Think Different” video
My favorite quote from that video: “People who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.”
Then Ben talked about the 2 main philosophies or life paths
1. The Textbook Approach to Life or Path of Least Resistance – Go to a good college, get good grades, get a good paying stable job, climb the corporate ladder, live happy, and have a successful predictable life.
2. The Throw out the Textbook to Life or Hard Path – This is where you take your own blank book or canvas and try to paint a picture that uniquely fits you like a glove. In this path you don’t follow the status quo and you take on opportunities that interest you and experience the journey of life.
Then Ben proceeded to make 3 main points in his talk:
What does Entrepreneurship mean? The common answer is it means starting a company but that is only one small piece of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is much more broad that starting a company, its more of a life philosophy than a business one. In short it’s being the CEO of your own life.
So what traits do entrepreneurs tend to have in common? There are 4 of them:
1. Impact – know your ideas/beliefs are going to affect others
2. Love to Screw Around – Don’t respect the status quo and you don’t strive for a 4.0 GPA (The average GPA of self made millionaires is a 2.6 GPA)
3. Optimism – Entrepreneurs tend to be relentlessly optimistic. Its good to have a bit of self-delusion that you can personally change and affect reality.
4. Persistence – The only universal “trait” of successful entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs have a relentless commitment to self-improvement in all mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical aspects. Ask yourself did I go to bed smarter than when I woke up?
Here are 4 things can you do to improve yourself:
1. Improve your soft assets – these are relationships, knowledge, and connections.
2. Creativity – Recognize that you are creative even if your not “artistic”. Humans are the most creative creatures on the planet and its important to recognize the interplay of the left and right brain.
3. Opportunities – The best way to find opportunities is to shut up and listen, and expose yourself to randomness.
4. Mentors – The worst thing is to go up to a potential mentor and ask, “Will you be my mentor?” It is like going up to a new acquaintance and asking “Will you be my friend?” Instead seek out potential mentors, don’t ask them to be your mentor, develop your relationship for the long term, and realize a deep connection will not happen in weeks but in years. And never be afraid to ask out a person to coffee to learn from them and pick their brain.
The most important point is ACTION. 99% of people bitch about problems and the other 1% do something about them and learn by doing is the absolute best way to learn.
Ben collected these 4 quotes to inspire him to action:
1. “We regret the things we don’t do more than the things we do”
- Mark Twain
2. “We have a strategic plan and its called doing things”
- Herb Keller
3. “Blame Nobody. Expect Nothing. Do Something.”
- Bill Parcells
4. “But I think it is very important for you to do two things: act on your temporary conviction as if it was a real conviction; and when you realize that you are wrong, correct course very quickly.”
- Andy Grove
The 3 main takeaways from Ben Casnocha’s Keynote were:
1. Think like an entrepreneur
2. Commit yourself to self-improvement
3. Start NOW
How do I pitch my business to investors, the media, customers, and my friends and family?
It’s a question that’s been asked many times by entrepreneurs so while I’m not a Pro at Pitching Your Business I thought it was time to share a few resources I’ve used on Pitching Your Business Idea or Company.
- Perfecting your Pitch by Garage Technology Ventures – This is by far the number one resource I recommend to all the Innovation Quest and Cal Poly Business Plan Competition competitors. This is a very good and comprehensive resource on what content to put in your pitch and tips for effective pitching.
- How to Present to Investors by Paul Graham – Paul Graham has literally seen thousands of pitches through his summer incubator Y Combinator and knows a thing or two about pitching your company.
- A Hierarchy of Pitches by Eric Ries – Eric is a Venture Advisor at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the premier VC firm in the world. In this article he talks about 8 key questions you need to talk about in your pitch.
- Pitching Your Company by Dick Costolo – Dick Costolo started the company FeedBurner which was bought by Google for $100 million. In this article he talks about how to prepare for your pitch and things to do while pitching.
- What should I send investors? Part 1: The Elevator Pitch by Venture Hacks – Venture Hacks is one of my favorite all around startup/entrepreneurial resources and their article about pitching is no less. In this article Venture Hacks gives a real life example of a pitch by serial entrepreneur Marc Andreessen, dissects his pitch, and shows you how to write a pitch just as good as Marc’s.
6. UPDATE: I just watched this video: Picking Hacks at Stanford by Nivi from Venture Hacks where he gave a talk on pitching startups to the students in Stanford’s business plan competition. Check it out its a great resource and good addition to the list.
Before your next pitch give these pitching resources a try, share your experiences in the comments, and add more pitching resources that you used below!