August 17, 2014: The finer points of business competition have been the headlines in recent weeks, and this bears some discussion. There was “donut-gate” here in Austin when BigCommerce sent its recruiters with donuts into other companies’ offices in an effort to steal employees. From the social media I saw, this seemed to cross the line in this town where there is fierce competition for every capable engineer or bona fide creative.
August 10, 2014: When seeking funding for an early stage company, it’s a good idea to temper all that creative energy that fuels your product design and ambition and make your pitch conform to investors’ standardized expectations.
August 3, 2014: The headline above is a direct quote from John Harthorne, Founder & CEO of MassChallenge. He graced us with his presence on July 30 as part of the ImagineAustin Speaker Series. This particular event was held at the Dougherty Arts Center, which offers a wide range of arts programs for children. Judging by the stage set in the accompanying photo, I think his session may have followed Romeo & Juliet.
July 27, 2014: We have a young team working this summer on an interesting robotics project in our Longhorn Startup space known as The FLASK. I anticipated they would enroll in our Lab course this fall, but it appears they have been recruited away by an ambitious new accelerator in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. They’ll be part of an anticipated inaugural class for that particular enterprise.
July 20, 2014: The action over the last few days has for me revolved around three interesting deals that I would put in the Swiss Army Knife (“SAK”) category. Seasoned and skilled entrepreneurs created all three, and in two of the three there have been no external investments to date. These are at the opposite pole from YO, which just closed a $1.5M round at a $10M valuation and only does one thing. But, 2M of us have downloaded it for that one thing.
July 13, 2014: One of Dan Gilbert’s maxims at Quicken Loans is this: “Numbers and money follow, they do not lead.” I came to that conclusion myself early in my career. If you are an entrepreneur, you must do enough calculating up front to ascertain what’s theoretically possible with your idea. Can it make money? How big is the potential market? How much capital will be consumed to reach sustainability? Once you’ve made your best guess as to those answers, you had best set aside your spreadsheets and get busy building your product or service and creating loyal customers.
July 6, 2014: Many of you will recall the 1987 hit movie Fatal Attraction starring Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, and Anne Archer. It was a genuine thriller and had the number one world box office ranking that year. Unfortunately, since none of my students were born until some years later, any references I make to that film in the Longhorn Startup classroom draw quizzical looks. It is relevant to my talk on the vagaries of an entrepreneurial career.
June 29, 2014: This week the topic moves from YO to MO. I’m positing that launching your idea into a market with genuine MOMENTUM at just the right time is the path to a big success. It’s just as treacherous to start too soon as to start too late in your chosen area of opportunity. My colleagues and I have created more than our fair share of premature concepts, most notably in the 80’s using computer controlled laser discs as an image storage and distribution medium before there was a consumer Internet.
June 22, 2014: This week the YO phenomenon burst onto the scene. An app written in 8 hours with the sole function of sending the message “YO” to your friends list captured a $1M+ financing round and made TechCrunch. It appeared to crash under all the usage that publicity generated, and two intrepid GA Tech students were among the first to hack it. If you downloaded the app and got a YO from Elon Musk, don’t take it personally. It’s spoof world at the moment I’m writing this.
June 15, 2014: The last ten days were unusually inspiring for me. After having been named an emeritus member of the board of the Georgia Tech Foundation, I attended its annual summer meeting at Sea Island and enjoyed catching up with many long-time friends and getting to know the newcomers. Having just come of age for an emeritus role, I’m essentially in my freshman year with that group, even though I served on that board some time ago and have made many presentations there over the decades.