Book Review: 10 Powerful Personas By Kevin Vogelsang

Ever wonder what makes a leader great?  Ever spend time thinking about what the strengths are in your personality or how you might be able to become more like great people around you? Kevin Vogelsang has and he’s written a book to help you answer those questions.  In his just released book “10 Powerful Personas, Kevin examines key attributes of 10 different qualities found in leaders. I learned a lot from the book and I’d like to share a few of the lessons here:

1) Leaders come from everywhere

One of the most interesting things about Kevin’s book is the balance in people he uses as examples of different leaders.  He uses everyone from General Patton to his football coach to his mother as examples of the different powerful personas to great effect.  Because of his wide variety of examples, it made me think about who around me, both famous and friend, that exhibited the traits he describes; it was an excellent reminder that you can really learn from anyone around you if you simply raise your awareness and look for it.

<Click here to read the other reasons at GreenhornConnect.com>

New Year’s Resolutions Check Up

I’m two weeks into my resolutions for New Year’s and so I wanted to check up on how I was doing. I figured I might as well share my progress:

8 Resolutions in 2010

1) Improve my Punctuality: I’ve gotten a little better, but I’m still far from perfect. Going to keep at it.

2)  Improve Time Management: I’ve found that by making a list broken down by project (I’m involved in 3 startups these days) right before I go to bed, I wake up ready to get all the things done. It’s working, but will probably keep evolving.

3) Get Back to the Gym: I finally made it back to the gym on Wednesday and then went again on Friday. It felt better than I expected getting back into. Apparently the pull ups and situps I’d been doing in my apartment kept me from losing too much strength. I am incredibly sore right now, but that comes with the territory. I also feel energized, so it’s a fair tradeoff. I just need to get a routine going and I’ll be good.

4) Get back to Running: Waiting for warmer weather…

5) Read a Book per Week: I’m 2 for 2 so far as I’ve made it through Trust Agents and Crush It. I’m now onto a bit heavier reading with 4 Steps to the Epiphany, so we’ll see if I can get through that in a week as well. Taking books with me on the subway has definitely helped a lot. I didn’t realize how much time I was wasting each day just not thinking while on the subway. You’ll now know what I’m reading if you see me at an event at night as I’m taking reading material for the trips to and from.

6) Post More Often: This is my 6th post of the year, so that’s going well. I’ve also successfully started writing shorter posts as evidenced by my business card and winter wardrobe posts.

7) Keep learning: This one wasn’t so much anything new as trying to do more of the same.  A number of you have been great in providing me more feedback and comments, so please keep it coming!

8.) Pay it forward: I still help who I can. The best example is the other night at an event a woman was lamenting that she couldn’t find much support as a woman entrepreneur. I was able to pass her along info of all the resources for women entrepreneurs listed at Greenhorn Connect.

So all in all…doing well. Need to keep improving in the punctuality department, build the gym back into my routine fully and stick with the book reading regimen.

How are YOU doing on your resolutions?

The Young Entrepreneur’s Guide, Part V: Making it Official

Many people have written tips, guides and questions for aspiring entrepreneurs.  Many of them are excellent, but I don’t think anyone has captured the essence of the stages a young entrepreneur goes through and specific advice for what they should do at each stage.  As part of our efforts at GreenhornConnect.com, we want to create a central location that provides the information that an aspiring entrepreneur needs to go from starting out (Is this for me? What should I do?) to evaluating an idea (What goes into a business plan? How do I build a team?)  to being a real business (Do I need investment? What tools should I use?).

In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing different sections of this guide in my blog, pulling from my experiences, what I’ve read and advice I’ve heard from others. If you read this and think something is missing or disagree with any of the advice, please comment; I want this to be the best guide possible and will gladly give you credit for your contribution. Thanks.

Thus far: See Part I: Starting from Scratch, Part II: Getting Out There, Part III: Building a Reputation, Network and a Following & Part IV: Working on Your Idea

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Part V: Making it official

You’ve vetted the idea and have a small team, here’s what you do to get serious and launch your business.

1) Get a Name and Social Media set up:

It’s important to have a name for your business. It needs to be simple, memorable and relevant to your area of work.  If it’s hard to spell, people won’t remember it. If they don’t see the connection to your business, it can also be forgettable. There are more tips for naming your business here.   Make sure the URL for your name is available as a “dot com.” If it’s not, either negotiate to buy it (if it’s not in use) or  for another name.

Once you have chosen your name, you need to secure it in social media.  Go grab the name on Twitter, create a fan page on Facebook (you don’t have to publish it yet), and secure other social media usernames you think you might use (Youtube, Flickr, etc).  If you’re finding that many of them aren’t available, you may want to consider looking for a different name.  Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan’s book, Inbound Marketing has a great checklist for startups for this area.  Start using them to build a buzz for your company before you launch. Get involved in the conversation and gather a following.

2) Choose Your Service Providers

When you get started, the first service provider you’re going to need is a lawyer. Ben Hron of VCReady Law wrote a great post about when it’s time to formalize your business.  You definitely do not want to wait too long to do this. Incorporating or forming an LLC not only protects you from personal liability, but it forces you to put in writing your agreements with any partner you have.  You can do online forms to get this done yourself , but as the saying goes, “you wouldn’t do your own surgery, so why would you do your own legal work?”  Facebook started as a Florida LLC and had to have that undone when they moved to Silicon Valley. Do it right the first time and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and money later.

Once you’ve created your business as a legal entity, you’ll need to get a bank account opened and start keeping good financial records for your business.  You can do these yourself, or there are always good bookkeepers and accountants out there to help as your business grows in complexity.

When you’re selecting your service providers, remember that they’re an extension of your business team; choose people you feel comfortable with and who share your vision.  You should feel like they’re on your side and can help your business grow and develop.  If you feel like your service provider doesn’t understand you or that you have to be on the defensive against them, you should keep looking. It’s worth a week or two delay to find the right one.

3) Get an Alpha Out There (aka – Find Customers)

The best way to prove your idea is to get out there and find customers. This can be a splash page for your website simply asking people to give you their email address if they’re interested in your product (have a few fake screenshots or other information explaining what you are).  There’s a lot of great content out there about releasing your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) by Eric Ries and in Steve Blank’s Four Steps to the Epiphany. It’s a lot better to develop your product with your customers giving feedback than trying to prognosticate amongst your team in a bubble.  You’ll also build buzz for your product this way.

In the end, any business is about finding people to pay for what you are providing. The incubator program, Y Combinator, emphasizes this best with their shirts they give to new entrants to their program: “Build Something People Want.” Once you find your first customers, you can adapt your product, remove the warts and account for their feedback.  Be careful! Though you want to listen to your customers, you do not want to use them to create an infinite feature list. “Feature creep” can easily derail a product. Focus on being very good at a few things and deliver that to customers that are looking for those solutions.  This is not easy…we struggle with this at Greenhorn Connect all of the time.

Coming Soon: Part VI: Other Tips for Along the Way

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This is ongoing series to try to build a comprehensive, lasting guide for aspiring entrepreneurs. I would greatly appreciate any input in the comments below to make this the best it can be.  Thanks!

GreenhornTV Episode 2: Global Entrepreneurship Week

GreenhornTV: Episode 2
Week of Nov. 16th - Nov.22: Global Entrepreneurship

This week we have Global Entrepreneurship Week, which is a celebration of all things entrepreneruship. If you’ve been putting off getting out there and into the community, this is the week to finally make it out there. There are multiple events every day and night that are going to be great for you regardless of the industry you’re interested in.

Specifically in Boston, Northeastern University is leading the charge with a week pack full of events. Most are free and all of them are open to the public, so check it out. If that’s not enough, Northeastern’s new venture accelerator program, IDEA, is kicking off Monday.

Check out the notes below to see all that’s going on and follow the links for registration information and more.

MONDAY: November 16th

Northeastern University E-Week:
Entrepreneurship Networking Lunch
Description: “A networking lunch for students who want to learn more about Northeastern’s active and extensive entrepreneurship community. Student entrepreneurship organizations, faculty who teach entrepreneurship programs, and students who study across campus and share a passion for learning about and starting new ventures are welcome to join in and participate.”
Location: Raytheon Amphitheatre, Egan Center
When: 11:30am to 1:00pm

Entry Level Entrepreneurs: Making the Leap
Description: “What are the questions commonly faced by budding entrepreneurs as they near the pinnacles of their academic careers? Should they dive into Entrepreneurship headfirst or focus on building a career? Panelists: Dominic Coryell (Founder, Garment Valet), Simon Dao (STE Lecturer, MIT alum and serial entrepreneur), and Adam Walder (Founder, UndergroundHipHop.com)
Location: 108 Snell Engineering
When: 6:00pm to 8:00pm

“The Tough Get Growing: How to Succeed in a Down Economy” presented by the MIT Enterprise Forum
Description: The current economic climate doesn’t mean companies can’t succeed. It just means the WAY a company succeeds has its own unique challenges. Hear the real-world experiences of entrepreneurs, the lessons they learned going from start-up to success story, and the research and best practices that will help you to get growing.
Location: MIT’s Kresge Auditorium
When: 6:00pm to 9:30pm (Panel 6:00-7:30pm, Networking after)
Price: FREE for Students, $25 – Forum Members, $25 – Non-members..

Where you’ll see Greenhorn: Spending the day at NU then over to MIT for the big panel.

TUESDAY: November 17th

MassChallenge’s MassAccess: Speed Networking, Cambridge
Description: The event provides an opportunity for students, entrepreneurs, industry leaders, service providers and investors to discuss innovative ideas and prime future collaboration through speed dating style meetings.
Location: Microsoft – NERD Center – 1 Memorial Drive – Cambridge, MA
When: 3:30pm to 7:00pm
Price: FREE

Free and Cheap Content Marketing
Description: Writing and publishing content is an incredibly important part of marketing today. Whether you’re building Thought Leadership or just hoping for some SEO awesomeness, the written word is more powerful than ever. This presentation will take you through those initial questions of how to get started and make great content.
Location: Workbar Boston, 129 South St, Boston, MA 02111
When: 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Price: FREE

Entretech Forum: Making Your Name in a Changing Game Industry
Description: “How young entrepreneurs and their start-ups canbe successful in today’s changing gaming industry. The panelists bring a wide range of experiences as developers, entrepreneurs, and executives from the industry’s premier companies. They will discuss international competition, getting funded, publishing your games, changing gaming platforms, and the strategies that will help you make your name in this dynamic industry.”
Location: 101 Churchill, Northeastern University
When: 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Price: Free for students, $10 for faculty/staff, $25 for the community

Where You’ll See Greenhorn: Taking part in the Speed Networking in the late afternoon with MassChallenge and then heading to the MITX Interactive Awards. (Thanks Dart Boston!)

WEDNESDAY: November 18th

Invention to Venture: Basics of Technology Entrepreneurship
Description: All day workshop showing you how to turn your technology idea into a commercial opportunity. Presentations will focus on venture capital, marketing, intellectual property, business plans, and related topics. The guest speakers are experts drawn from the region including Bob Davis of Highland Capital Partners.
Location: Pavilion at the Northeastern University Alumni Center
When: 8:00am to 5:00pm
Price: $10 Students, $25 Faculty Members & NEU Staff and $50 Community

Contrasting Entrepreneurship in Japan and the Untied States
Description: In this panel discussion, entrepreneurship in Japan and the United States will be contrasted. This panel event is being produced through Northeastern’s collaboration with Waseda University in Japan. The event will also include a discussion of a joint entrepreneurship project between the schools.
Location: 108 Snell
When: 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Price: FREE

Fireside Chat and Panel with Noam Wasserman
Description: Fireside Chat & Panel Discussion with moderator Noam Wasserman, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School and panelists: Brian Halligan, Founder and CEO of Hubspot, Pito Salas, Co-Founder and CTO of eRoom, and Leah Busque, Founder and CEO of RunMyErrand. Topics: Founders, entrepreneurship, startup company culture, challenges, etc.
Location: The Vilna Shul, 18 Philips St, Boston, MA
When: 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Price: FREE

Where You’ll See Greenhorn: Learning more about Japanese and American schools.

THURSDAY: November 19th

Social Media – The New Frontier for Recruitment (MITX Special Event)
Description: Come hear from a panel of experts as they address the opportunities and challenges of social media recruitment.
Location: Digitas, 33 Arch St, Boston MA
When: 8:00am to 10:00am
Price: FREE

Eric Ries’s LEAN Startups Talk
Description: Eric Ries from http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/ will be speaking in a special engagement.
Location: MIT
When: 6:30pm to 9:00pm
Price: FREE (registration is full…watch the video to find out how you might be able to still get a ticket)

The Health Sciences Entrepreneurs present: Great idea? What’s next?
Description: Join us at roundtables with seasoned entrepreneurs on the tools of entrepreneurship. Choose from: Funding: from credit card to venture capital, YOUR business plan, ABC’s of starting a business, and more…
Location: Curry Student Center Ballroom, Northeastern University
When: 6:15pm to 9:00pm
Price: Free to NU alumni; $15 to non-alumni and friends of NU

ACCION and BYE Panel on Alternative Financing:
Description: We’ll be exploring traditional and non-traditional financing options for young entrepreneurs. Panel discussion led by Morgan First and featuring ACCION USA’s Elizabeth Garlow, GeekHouse Bikes founder Marty Walsh and Urban Adventours Chief Wheel officer, Andrew Prescott.
Location: 110 Chauncy Street, Boston, MA (Home of Pinyadda)
When: 6:00pm to 8:00pm
Price: Free

DartBoston’s Pokin Holes #Pokinholes
Description: Podcast/live stream show for young people starting companies to get feedback from the most talented young professionals students and entrepreneurs in Boston. This week:
Location: Bentley University in Waltham, MA
When: 6:45pm to 11:00pm
Price: FREE

Where You’ll See Greenhorn: MITX Social Media event in the morning, then Eric Ries’s talk and DartBoston (time permitting) in the evening.

Events you should register for now:

2009 @BostonTweetup Awards Mega Tweetup
* Save the date! More info to come. Think Award Show / Tweetup / Networking event / Red Carpet
* Dec. 3rd, 2009, 6pm to 10pm at Microsoft NERD

Boston Startup Weekend
* Startup Weekend recruits a highly motivated group of developers, business managers, startup enthusiasts, marketing gurus, graphic artists and more to a 54 hour event that builds communities, companies and projects.
* Dec. 4th, 2009, 6pm to Dec. 6th, 2009 @ 10pm

DartBoston’s 2nd Episode of Capitalize
* The Dart community invades the boardroom of Flybridge capital to show another Dart member pitching their product to a VC.
* Dec. 15th, 2009

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GreenhornConnect.com Beta 2.0 Launches
* We’re relaunching the site, so check out the new site this Monday night to see a bigger, better site. We’re excited and you should be too.

If you have an event you’d like promoted or would like to sponsor GreenhornTV, please contact us at: Jason [at] GreenhornConnect [dot] com

The Young Entrepreneur’s Guide, Part IV: Working on Your Idea

Many people have written tips, guides and questions for aspiring entrepreneurs.  Many of them are excellent, but I don’t think anyone has captured the essence of the stages a young entrepreneur goes through and specific advice for what they should do at each stage.  As part of our efforts at GreenhornConnect.com, we want to create a central location that provides the information that an aspiring entrepreneur needs to go from starting out (Is this for me? What should I do?) to evaluating an idea (What goes into a business plan? How do I build a team?)  to being a real business (Do I need investment? What tools should I use?).

In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing different sections of this guide in my blog, pulling from my experiences, what I’ve read and advice I’ve heard from others. If you read this and think something is missing or disagree with any of the advice, please comment; I want this to be the best guide possible and will gladly give you credit for your contribution. Thanks.

Thus far: See Part I: Starting from Scratch, Part II: Getting Out There & Part III: Building a Reputation, Network and a Following

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PART IV: Working on Your Idea

You’re takin part in the conversation and have built a network. You finally have that great idea you want to pursue. Now what?

1) Vet Your Idea

Just like you did your homework before going out to networking events, you need to again dig in and do some work.  With all of the technology at our fingertips, it has never been easier to research a business.  To get started, you need to consider trying the following:

A) Search using Google and Twitter for key terms related to the problem you’re solving.  This will give you an idea of how many people have the problem you’re solving as well as show you who your competition may be.
B) Search the companies you found that are competition. Are their customers satisfied? Is your idea superior in some way? Industry forums and message boards are great, free focus groups.
C) Consider how your idea creates value both for the user and your business. You need to be able to make more money than it costs to produce.
D) Talk to your target customers! Understand their problems…confirm or disprove your assumptions.
E) Search out additional resources for suggestions for vetting your idea.

The key is to have answered the basic questions of your business: What is the problem you are solving? How are you solving it? Do you have a basic business model that could be profitable? How are you different than the competition?  These are the first questions any fellow entrepreneur you meet will ask you.

2) Build a Team

Everyone remembers having those terrible project groups in school. At times you probably said, “I could do this all myself and it would be done better and faster.”  Well, in the real world, you’d often be wrong.

There is great debate over whether solo entrepreneurs are as likely to succeed as teams, and really the answer is that this is a gray area.  The type of business idea you have will greatly affect the number of people needed to execute your plan.  If it’s a smaller business, it is very likely that you can use consultants and contract work to cover the skills you lack.  It has never been easier to do this thanks to sites like 99designsMFG and Outright.

The best reason for having a team is diversity. You need a variety of skills to run a business as well as the ability to handle many different situations.  It is unlikely that you are great at engineering, sales, finance and management.  By building a team, you bring multiple perspectives to your business and can focus on what you’re best at.  In my experience, just having someone to bounce ideas off of and talk through problems is priceless.

All this being said, if you choose to build a team you have to be very careful in who you choose to be on your team. Choosing a co-founder is like a marriage, only you’ll spend more time with your co-founder than your significant other.  You want this person to be a good business compliment as well as someone you get along with, so they may not be your roommate or best friend.

3) Organize Your Thoughts

There is an ongoing debate over the necessity for writing a business plan, but there is agreement on one concept: you need to think about all the parts that would go into a plan.  When you’re getting started, you don’t need to have all the answers to the questions posed in a business plan, but you do need to start thinking about them.  When you go out and start talking to people about your idea, those are the questions you will most likely be asked.  There are a number of great resources out there to help you with this.

4) Get Out There

The best thing you can do to help your business develop is to get out there. Watch how people react to your pitch and try to refine it. Take note of what questions they have and any issues they raise (try to find some answers).  If you have an issue, don’t be afraid to ask others for assistance; often, even if they can’t help you, they’ll refer you to someone who can. Through this process you may even find a key member of your team.

You’ve got an idea, you’re refining it and building your team…

Coming Soon: Part V: Making it Official

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This is ongoing series to try to build a comprehensive, lasting guide for aspiring entrepreneurs. I would greatly appreciate any input in the comments below to make this the best it can be.  Thanks!

The Young Entrepreneur’s Guide, Part III: Building a Network, Reputation and Following

Many people have written tips, guides and questions for aspiring entrepreneurs.  Many of them are excellent, but I don’t think anyone has captured the essence of the stages a young entrepreneur goes through and specific advice for what they should do at each stage.  As part of our efforts at GreenhornConnect.com, we want to create a central location that provides the information that an aspiring entrepreneur needs to go from starting out (Is this for me? What should I do?) to evaluating an idea (What goes into a business plan? How do I build a team?)  to being a real business (Do I need investment? What tools should I use?).

In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing different sections of this guide in my blog, pulling from my experiences, what I’ve read and advice I’ve heard from others. If you read this and think something is missing or disagree with any of the advice, please comment; I want this to be the best guide possible and will gladly give you credit for your contribution. Thanks.

Thus far: See Part I: Starting from Scratch, Part II: Getting Out There

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Part III: Building a Reputation, Network and a Following

You’re out in the community meeting people, reading and learning…now it’s time to establish a reputation and build a following. Here’s how.

1) Understand Ideas are Free

It’s easy to get in the mindset that someone will steal your idea and that you’re giving away something of value by talking to others about their ideas.  This is completely the wrong mindset. Sharing ideas is exactly what you want to do.  It has an incredible amount of benefits:

A) It gets your ideas out of your head and refined by others.  As the CEO of Zipcar said, “every person you meet is a free consultant.”

B) Everyone in the community wants to help each other. If they can’t directly help you, they are more than happy to connect you with someone they know that can help. They can’t help you if they don’t know what your ideas are.

C) It builds credibility.  People recognize and remember those that share good ideas and ask good questions.

In the end, ideas are like a boomerang; the more you share your thoughts with others, they more they’ll share theirs with you. No one will steal your idea, because they’re already working on what they’re passionate about and your passion will always trump someone who is just copying you.

2) Actions Speak Louder…

As a young entrepreneur, you have to build your reputation from scratch. This means that everything you do makes a small contribution to how people judge you.  The best way to build this reputation is through consistently displaying the qualities people look for.  Are you eager to learn? Do you ask questions and share ideas? Do you follow through on everything you say you’ll do?  Do you help others?  Are you honest? If you under-promise and over-deliver, you will always impress people.  Pay it forward and you’ll be amazed at what others will do for you.

3) Use Twitter

It’s great to be up to date on your industries of interest and the trends and topics of the day for entrepreneurs, but to really make a contribution and get involved, you need to be an active part of the conversation.  The easiest way to do this is with Twitter.

You should already be on twitter, seeing what events are being shared as well as articles and ideas. You can do the same thing. If you like something someone already shared, give it a retweet. If you read something really interesting, make a comment about it and link to it in a tweet.  If you have a question for the community, ask it. You never know who might see it.

Also, in addition to connecting with people on linkedin, follow those people and others you see in the community on twitter. They’ll usually follow you back, which leads to an audience that will notice what you have to say.

4) Start a Blog

If you have more to say than 140 characters allows, you should consider starting a blog.  It’s a great way to share your thoughts, questions and ideas on an issue or just share an experience you had.  It also works great with Twitter as you can tweet your entry and if people like it, it will get re-tweeted and more people will read it (and likely start following you).

If you have the passion for writing out your ideas in blog form, then go for it.  To truly be effective, you need to blog a few times a week or once a week at absolute minimum. At first that my seem daunting, but in my experience, that’s not as hard as it seems. There are many great ideas out there for what to blog about; just decide what your blog’s focus will be and give it a shot. If you’re passionate about the subject, you’ll find that writing about it will come much more naturally than your last report for school or work.

There are a lot of great tips for getting started: Here, Here and Here.

5) Tie it All Together

By now you should be on Twitter, LinkedIn and maybe even have a blog. You’re also out there at events.  This means you’re now part of both the real and virtual conversation. To best utilize them, tie them all together.

LinkedIn gives you the ability to directly feed your blog into your LinkedIn page and to provide up to 3 links to other sites from your profile.  These links should be your Twitter profile, your blog and your startup, when you have one.   Meanwhile, Twitter allows you to link directly to one site, so you should then tie it to your blog or LinkedIn.  Finally, most blogs allow for links, so you should link to your Twitter account, LinkedIn and your company.

By doing this, you create a net. No matter how people find you, they can find out everything about you with just a few clicks. This can be really valuable, as anyone can see what you write about (your blog), what your thoughts are (Twitter) and your background/experience (LinkedIn).  This really works. I actually got a job because of my blog; they were able to see my background and interests and out of the blue asked to meet with me.

If you say things that resonate with people, you never know what can happen.

Are you a part of the conversation?

Coming Next Week: Part IV: Working on Your Idea

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This is ongoing series to try to build a comprehensive, lasting guide for aspiring entrepreneurs. I would greatly appreciate any input in the comments below to make this the best it can be.  Thanks!

The Young Entrepreneur’s Guide, Part II: Getting Out There

Many people have written tips, guides and questions for aspiring entrepreneurs.  Many of them are excellent, but I don’t think anyone has captured the essence of the stages a young entrepreneur goes through and specific advice for what they should do at each stage.  As part of our efforts at GreenhornConnect.com, we want to create a central location that provides the information that an aspiring entrepreneur needs to go from starting out (Is this for me? What should I do?) to evaluating an idea (What goes into a business plan? How do I build a team?)  to being a real business (Do I need investment? What tools should I use?).

In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing different sections of this guide in my blog, pulling from my experiences, what I’ve read and advice I’ve heard from others. If you read this and think something is missing or disagree with any of the advice, please comment; I want this to be the best guide possible and will gladly give you credit for your contribution. Thanks.

Thus far: See Part I: Starting from Scratch

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PART II: Getting Out There

You’ve read a lot about startups and love every minute. You’re starting to take interests in specific industries and startups and may have a few ideas of your own. How do you get “plugged in” to the community?

1) What’s Out There?

If you ask any established entrepreneur what events are out there, they’ll tell you that there are too many to count.  If you ask the average aspiring young entrepreneur the same question, they’ll give you a blank stare.  So how do you go from nothing to trying to be 3 places in the same night?

First, take a look at lists of the entrepreneurial organizations in your area.  Pay particular attention to those in industries of your interest. Check out their sites and you’ll find out about any events they hold.  Use your twitter account (if you don’t have one, get one now), start following those organizations as they’ll tweet any new events they or their partner organizations are holding. You can then also find a number of great calendars listing specific events.

2) Where to Start?

Similar to reading material mentioned in Part I, there’s an impressive number of events to consider attending.  It can be intimidating to get out there at first, so to build your confidence up, here’s a list of the best organizations in Boston for young entrepreneurs:

DartBoston
Boston Young Entrepreneurs
Innovation Open Houses
Onein3
Web Innovators Group
Tech Tuesdays

There’s also some great competitions that welcome young entrepreneurs (Mass Challenge & MIT 100K), an organization that will help cover event costs and a site dedicated to delivering all relevant events, organizations and resources for young entrepreneurs.

3) Look the Part

Most events take place in the evening so it’s a slightly relaxed environment, but it still means you need to be prepared:

Dress the part: No one wears a suit or tie to the majority of these events, so don’t worry too much. Just make sure you’re not wearing that wrinkly, smelly shirt from the corner of your room and that you’re generally put together.  A good rule of thumb for dress is that the higher the cost of the event, the better the dress required and if the event is during the day on a weekday, it will also be more formal (usually suits or sports coats with no tie).  If in doubt, ask the event organizers or look at pictures from previous occurrences of the event.

Have a Business Card: The reason you’re getting out there is to make connections with others in the community.  Business cards are the currency at these events, so make sure you have one.  It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, and you’re not expected to have a startup even; simply having a card with your name, email, twitter id, and phone number is very effective.  If you don’t have a company, don’t be afraid to list some of your entrepreneurial interests on there (i.e.- “Cleantech Enthusiast”).  For about $15 you can get at home business cards that you can make with Microsoft Word and your printer. Most people won’t notice the difference or care.

Have a LinkedIn profile: LinkedIn is your online resume and contacts manager. After events, go on LinkedIn and look up the people whose cards you got.  Request to connect with them and mention something about meeting them that night in the request message; people appreciate personalization and it shows you were listening.  Don’t feel like you have enough to list on LinkedIn? Add all your work experience you can, including internships and if substantial, volunteer work.  If you’ve done any interesting side projects, list them. And of course, go into detail regarding your education, so people see what your skills and interests are.

4) What to Expect

Many of these events are crowded and overflowing with energy. There will be clusters of people talking excitedly about their startup or a topic of interest to entrepreneurs.  It can be intimidating at first, but try your best to be confident and extroverted.  Remember, if you’ve been reading about the community, there’s a great chance you are familiar with the topic they’re discussing, so don’t be afraid to jump into the conversation.  Cort Johnson, the leader of the young entrepreneur organization, Dart Boston, wrote a great piece about what most of the community is like. Be prepared for it and you’ll be fine.  Asking a good question will always impress older members of the community as it demonstrates your understanding of a topic and a desire to learn more.  Try to think of a few questions that come up as you’re doing your daily reading/skimming and bring them with you to an event.

5) Be Patient

Not every person you meet is going to be the perfect connection and not every event will be of great value to you.  Try to take away at least one good contact from each event you attend and make note of what events you like best.  Try to return to those events and similar ones.  When you meet people you do make a good connection with, ask them what events they like going to and try them out if you haven’t already.  After a while of doing this, you’ll settle in and find that there are certain events you look forward to every week and some people that you always see at events.  The great thing about seeing the same people is that you can “warm up” by saying hello to them at an event before going out and talking with new people.

6) Keep it in Perspective

Networking is an important part of being an entrepreneur; it helps build the connections that will help you find what you need to make your business successful.  It also introduces you to other people with the same “genetic defect” you have, which can be reaffirming. Remember, going to events should be enjoyable and provide some great learning opportunities; if you aren’t having fun, you’re either going to the wrong events or doing something wrong. And if you’re actually missing spending your nights in front of the TV, entrepreneurship may not be for you.

In the end, networking is just a small part of the process of being an entrepreneur. It’s a tool along with many others. Any startup is dependent on customers, which are usually not your fellow entrepreneurs.  So, don’t get too caught up in networking and forget about them.

Are you getting your feet wet by networking and attending community events?

Coming Thursday: Part III: Building a Reputation, Network and Following

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This is ongoing series to try to build a comprehensive, lasting guide for aspiring entrepreneurs. I would greatly appreciate any input in the comments below to make this the best it can be.  Thanks!

The Young Entrepreneur’s Guide, Part I: Starting from Scratch

Many people have written tips, guides and questions for aspiring entrepreneurs.  Many of them are excellent, but I don’t think anyone has captured the essence of the stages a young entrepreneur goes through and specific advice for what they should do at each stage.  As part of our efforts at GreenhornConnect.com, we want to create a central location that provides the information that an aspiring entrepreneur needs to go from starting out (Is this for me? What should I do?) to evaluating an idea (What goes into a business plan? How do I build a team?)  to being a real business (Do I need investment? What tools should I use?).

In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing different sections of this guide in my blog, pulling from my experiences, what I’ve read and advice I’ve heard from others. If you read this and think something is missing or disagree with any of the advice, please comment; I want this to be the best guide possible and will gladly give you credit for your contribution. Thanks.

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PART I: Starting from Scratch
You recently had the epiphany you want to be an entrepreneur, but really haven’t gotten started yet.  Here’s what to do…

1) Is this for You?

When you first decide you are really interested in entrepreneurship, the key is to get informed.  It’s easy to say you love startups, but it’s another thing to truly understand what you’re saying.  The best way to determine if it is for you is to start reading.  Read inspirational articles written by entrepreneurs like Ken Morse, Paul Graham and Mark Cuban.  Still interested? Talk to family and friends and try to find people who are entrepreneurs that you can talk to about what it’s like.  After hearing about all the challenges, long hours and risk of failure, if you still want to be an entrepreneur, read on…

2) Try EVERYTHING…Be Curious

A key trait of being an entrepreneur is a desire to learn. When you’re getting started, you should try to take in everything you can to learn about different types of startups and roles you can fill in a startup.  Fill your Google Reader with industries you’re interested in and blogs in areas you want to learn more about.  You don’t have to read every article, just the ones that interest you; simply reading the headlines of the other articles can help you to grasp where different industries are technologically.  There are also great websites, magazines, books, and presentations you can check out.  Ask other entrepreneurs what they read.  Add what you like to your list and leave the rest.

3) Overwhelmed? Don’t know where to start?

If you really need a few starting points, here’s a few sites, blogs and items I personally like best (note: This is somewhat Boston biased, because that’s where I live. Find things in your area to get a view of your local entrepreneurship scene):

Websites:  TechCrunch, Venture Beat, Silicon Alley, Gizmodo, Xconomy
Blogs: OnStartups, Innovation Economy, Startup Lessons Learned
Magazines: Inc Magazine, Popular Science, Technology Review

The takeaway from this is not to copy me; instead, notice the diversity. There are newspapers, tech focused media, business sources and established entrepreneur blogs.  The idea is to get as many perspectives as you can. Try to build a similar list based on your passions and location.

4) Study those you Admire

As you immerse yourself in all of this entrepreneurial content, you’ll start to find certain personalities and businesses keep coming up.  Find the ones that resonate most with you and follow them more closely. If the founder of the company has a blog, read it. If they have a book, buy it. If they’re going to be speaking and you have a chance to see them live or on video, watch it. And if you are fortunate enough to have the chance to sit down with them, make the most of it.  Focus on how they got where they are. Learn from their mistakes and try to understand what made them successful and emulate that.

Still in love with entrepreneurship after starting the learning process?

Now Available: Part II: Getting Out There
See Also: Part III: Building a Reputation, Network and Following & Part IV: Working on Your Idea


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This is ongoing series to try to build a comprehensive, lasting guide for aspiring entrepreneurs. I would greatly appreciate any input in the comments below to make this the best it can be.  Thanks!

Tech Addiction: What it means to ask what we’ll give up…

I just came across the following article from Mashable on a study for Gen Y.  The premise is asking Gen Y members, “Of the activities listed here, which one would you least like to give up for a week?”  I’ve copied the results here:

Gen Y: Of the activities listed here, which one would you least like to give up for a week?

Gen Y: “Of the activities listed here, which one would you least like to give up for a week?”

To me, this is an exercise in common sense. If you simply understand what Gen Y people use each for, it all adds up.  Number one on the list was Emailing, which is not surprising. It’s the hub of everything we do personally and professionally. You can’t do your job, contact your friends or do the most basic free communication without email.  It’s at the core of what you do. Text messaging isn’t far behind, because of again, how we use it.  Setting up to go places, Gen Y people rarely use the phone.  It’s quicker to just say it in a text where you are, where you’re going or just say something quick to a friend…it’s like a DM on Twitter.  When you’re at a noisy bar or in a meeting, you can’t take a phone call, but you can text to share information.  Take away texting, and things would get a lot harder.  The rest are a smattering of our personal interests.  For some, not having TV to watch would leave them bored when they aren’t working. For others, web surfing is a core part of their day.  All that’s left to understand then is the “Visiting Social Networking Websites”…

The reason we use social networks is because it adds value to our lives. Whether you plan your party or are just making a new connection on Facebook, it makes your social life easier and more robust.  Our parents got by on land line phones and handwritten notes.  Social networks are just the furthest down the line in “convenience we need most.”  It’s no different than a survey asking “What food would you least give up?”  Sure some people are chocoholics, but in the end, it’s your “meat and potatoes” (email and text) core of your diet you can’t give up.  That doesn’t mean you don’t love your chocolate (social networks and TV) or that cocoa farmers have anything to worry about…it just means you have a logical priority level.  I’d actually be concerned if more people thought they needed email, phone calls and texts less than their social networks.

I’m glad someone did a study to confirm the obvious.  Our government commissions a lot of those too.