September 7, 2014: This past Wednesday was TechStars Demo Day in Austin, featuring 11 companies, and the opening of fall semester for Longhorn Startup, with 12 teams in our crop, 10 of them new to the program. TechStars always puts on a first-rate show, and we’ll have our student teams ready for their debuts at our own Demo Day on November 20.
September 1, 2014: Bob Metcalfe gave his customary founder’s story about 3Com at our first meeting of the Longhorn Startup class last Thursday. As many times as I have heard that, I always learn something new. Like all entrepreneurial successes of that magnitude, it’s hard to boil down such a complex and interesting story to a one-hour talk aimed at 20ish age undergraduate students.
August 24, 2014: We’ve learned in recent days that Facebook, Twitter, and one of the dating sites are messing with us for testing purposes. Evidently we all acknowledged user agreements in which we agreed to be human subjects. Those of you in academia know the rigors of any research that involves us as subjects, but we’re all fair game in the great world of big data.
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.