The Social Network – Review, etc…

{Note: Do I need a SPOILER alert?  I wouldn’t think for a movie like this but who knows…don’t read on if discussing the movie would ruin it for you?}

I just saw the Social Network and was quite impressed.  It’s very well done story that weaves the lawsuits by the Winklevosses (the Harvard rowers that came to Zuck to make something similar to Facebook) and Eduardo Saverin (his initial business co-founder) into the backstory of Facebook’s early growth from Harvard exclusive site to over a million users.

First…a few things it missed:

1) Fundraising…

They only vaguely touched on it, and basically they suddenly had money, possibly after a stunt of Sean Parker getting Zuckerberg to give the middle finger to an investor.  There was no mention of trying to raise in Boston, which at least around here people talk as if he did.

2) Concept of time…

It was really hard to tell how long went by for Facebook between launching at Harvard and having 1 million users. The movie made it feel like it happened in under a year….and amazingly I just checked and Quora answers it was actually 10 months: http://www.quora.com/How-long-did-it-take-Facebook-to-reach-one-million-users So while maybe it was accurate, it wasn’t easy to track other than knowing there was a summer when they moved to the valley.

3) The move to the Valley…

This movie made it seem like it was totally inevitable and that Mark thought it was the only place to be (possibly partially motivated by Sean Parker).  I’m wondering how much that was the case.  I guess we’ll have to wait for Zuck’s autobiography, but even then…I wonder if he’d have rose-colored glasses at that point.

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So at the root of the story you have 4 key characters: Zuck, Eduardo, the Winklevosses (yeah, they’re one person or 2 halves…your choice) and Sean Parker.  Despite people freaking out about Zuck being painted poorly in this, I’d argue he did fine comparably… a bit of character noting:

Eduardo Saverin

Oh poor Eduardo. He puts up some early cash and tries to be the “good business guy.”  Unfortunately, he comes off as clueless and worthless to the company.  And it’s not for failing of Zuck trying; he repeatedly asks him to join him in the Valley, where he could have done some good. But instead, he was trying to convince advertisers, which wouldn’t hit Facebook until November 2007.  He seemed totally unqualified to be the business cofounder and also unwilling to do what it actually took to be a good cofounder to Zuck and so it’s hard for me to feel bad for him.   Given his settlement is undisclosed, I’d bet he got a bunch of shares back (note Wikipedia says he has 5%, which still makes him a billionaire).  Meanwhile, his absence in the Valley opened the door for Sean Parker…

Sean Parker

Leach. Social parasite.  Delusional.  All words it seems like would be appropriate for Parker.  Given I’d always heard that Shawn Fanning (of Northeastern!) founded Napster I was a bit surprised to hear his name associated. I tried Googling and while he’s credited, I couldn’t find much of an origin story as to how Sean joined (But I did find this *awesome* post by Don Dodge about Napster).  In the Social Network, he comes off as a party animal who wins the favor of Zuck and gives a few intros while also bringing trouble (his cocaine incident at the end of the movie, it turns out, was also when he was dismissed from the company…but not until after he had 7% of the company).  I find it hard to believe that he accidentally was in the neighborhood with Zuck and instead planned that and the subsequent partying that led Zuck to an opportunity to invite him into the house.  With Eduardo gone, it gave a leach the opportunity to move in.

I’m sure his intros helped and I bet he gave some good feedback from his past startup experiences, but you have to take the bad with the good…and at least in the movie Sean is painted as someone not to be associated with (I wonder how that intern felt about her cocaine charge…).

The Winklevosses

Ah, the essence of Harvard elitism.  Born with a silver spoon.  Gifted athletes.  Powerful families.  Great stature and an expectation that they deserve more and that the powers will protect them.  They had an idea for a site for Harvard. And they got $63 Million.  Must be nice.  I don’t know how you justify it, but I’m guessing Zuck must have done at least a few stupid things when he first “agreed” to work with them that gave them a shred of a case.  I also suspect that Zuck was willing to settle to get rid of the distraction; an underrated portion of this is the fact that Zuck was so committed to his team and even said so flatly to the lawyer as he emphasized part of his mind was on Facebook and not just on his questioning.  As if they hadn’t already hit the genetic lottery being 6’3″ and Olympic-level rowers from a rich and powerful family, they got the $63 million.  Disgusting….but maybe that’s because I’m an entrepreneur.

Mark Zuckerberg

Ah, the best for last.  Mark comes off slightly bitter, a little bit Gen Y entitled and a bit of an invincibility complex (he didn’t seem to think anyone could touch him).   He obviously didn’t treat the poor BU girl he degraded on his blog very well and overally seemed a bit cold to most.  I don’t think he’s the first (and certainly not the last) slightly socially awkward, resentful of the jocks/cool kids, dorky kid who is cold and calculating.  He’s just the first to be the public-facing founder of a startup that had a story interesting enough to justify a book and a movie.

In the end, he built Facebook. Did he lead on the Winklevosses? It appears that way, but he did it because he wanted to beat those elitist houses he didn’t think he’d be able to get into.  I’m sure he knew those guys might be able launch a Harvard site better than him because of their connections, so he strung them along to buy time to launch his version.  As we say in the startup community constantly…it’s about execution and these guys could never be bothered to really build something.

Meanwhile…Mark gave Eduardo every opportunity to be a part of it and he just couldn’t figure it out that he needed to come to the Valley.  He was hung up on making money and apparently had no concept of getting investment to cover costs before they figured out how to make money.  This of course opened the door for Sean Parker to weasel his way in, which had its obvious benefits and drawbacks.

Sometimes you learn more from success than failure and often it’s hard to explain why something succeeded except to combine a little serendipity and good timing. Despite these warts being dramatized and put into film, I believe they all played an important part in making Facebook what it is today.  Startups are a contact sport, so expect to get a little mud on you if you put your hat in the game.

Book Review: Mastering the VC Game by Jeff Bussgang

As a young entrepreneur, it’s not easy to understand how venture capital really works. There are tons of horror stories that spread through the community like urban legends and phrases like “Term sheets” and “Down Rounds” can sound foreign.  Amidst all of these questions is an aura of uncertainty about how the whole system really works. Fortunately, there’s Jeff Bussgang’s book, Mastering the VC Game to help.

This book should be a must read for any young entrepreneur who thinks they may ever want funding. It’s that good. Here’s a few reasons I love the book:

It Answers My Questions:

For a long time, I’ve had a million different questions about how it all works from start to finish and why certain aspects of the investment process are they way they are.  In Mastering the VC Game, Jeff breaks it all down in simple terms that have immeasurably raised my understanding how it all works. He’s also fair to both entrepreneurs and VCs alike, in explaining on how varying motivations can lead to all those conflicts and horror stores we hear about.

Thanks to this book, I now have a basic framework and understanding to build off of should I ever pursue funding.  I thought I was going to have to go to a ton of events about funding to understand venture financing, but this book is much clearer than putting together piecemeal information from events.

Read the other reasons at Greenhorn Connect…

Why you may not want to talk to panelists after events…

As I’ve been out in the community going to events and spreading the word about Greenhorn Connect, I’ve seen my share of panel discussions.  One lesson I’ve learned from all those panels is that regardless of how the panel itself went or if you think you have a great idea, question or thought to share with a panelist, you generally don’t gain much by approaching panelists after events.

Every conversation with a panelist has generally gone the same. They’re tired. They just want to go home/run and catch their plane/get a drink.  They’ve heard a million pitches thanks to all the other panels they’ve been on and so they’re usually on autopilot in the conversation trying to just find the quickest way to the exit.  I totally understand this and respect this.

So what do I recommend you do instead?  If you have a great thought…make sure you share it during the Q&A. If you didn’t get to…use it as a conversation topic with other members of the audience. Anyone who doesn’t run up to approach the panelist is also likely to be more interested in making meaningful networking connections and share good conversation.

Please don’t take this as a jab at panelists. In fact, this is more of a recognition of the difficulties of being a panelist. It is rightfully tiring to be on a panel and usually if you’re part of the panel, it’s because you’re an influential/important person in the area of discussion, which likely means you’re insanely busy.  I also know that many people are dying to talk to you just so they can say they did or to dump their pitch on you or push their business card down your throat.  I never want to be that person and so I generally now make it a rule not to bother approaching panelists I don’t already know well.  I’d rather talk to a few more of the people in the audience that obviously shared my interest in the topic of the panel and make those meaningful connections that won’t just lead to the awkward “I’ll contact you in a month or two” and “sorry, I forgot my business cards” kind of discussions.

**Disclaimer #1** If you have something exceptionally relevant to discuss with a panelist and this is the only chance you’ll ever have to talk to them, then by all means, approach them. I think in general though, you’re better off working through your network to get an introduction to the person; this qualifies you and gives more context than “another eager audience member that wants to give me their card…”

**Disclaimer #2** If I’m ever on a panel, please don’t think this post means I don’t want to talk to you. Just realize that you should have more to say than “you should hear my pitch” or  “I’d like to meet you.”  Is there something related to what I’m working on or something I talked about in the panel that’s particularly relevant to what you’re doing or a question you have?

Naming is so (not) Important

The name of your business is everything.  It’s the first impression of your business. It tells people what you’re about and sets the expectations.  You only name your business once, so you have to love the idea. And yet…in the world of domain camping, millions of social media accounts to reserve and a never ending battle for customer mind-space, there’s a lot of factors to satisfy.

Naming Greenhorn Connect took many weeks of thinking about what the name should be and then suddenly just came to mind and we ran with it. We’re now in that “nothing sounds right and we can’t think of anything good” phase for Doodlebugging.  Much like with Greenhorn, bounties offered to others isn’t yielding anything great either (if you’d like to suggest a name, and we use it…we’ll give you $50.)  Still, I’m sure we’ll end up with something…it’s just annoying and feels like a waste of mind space and productive time to think about it.

I’ve read all the tips about making it memorable, getting the dot com of your name and what makes the best choice from a trademark perspective, but does anyone have any real tips for coming up with a name after you remember those basics?

8 Resolutions in 2010

With the turning of the new year, it’s that time when people make resolutions. Yes, most people make them and soon break them, but I’m hoping to be different.  These are issues I’ve recognized and was already working to improve before the New Year. I’m simply using the turning of the year to make these goals public; I think by putting them out there for the world to see, you put a bit more pressure on yourself to deliver.  So, below are my resolutions and a few items for how YOU can help me make these all happen.

8 Resolutions in 2010

1) Improve my Punctuality: I’ve had many meetings over the past few months and unfortunately, I’ve had a bad habit of not making it on time to many of them. Sometimes it’s a beyond my control like when the T didn’t run for an hour while Obama spoke at MIT, but often, I’m just not giving myself enough time to get places.

How You can help me: Hold me accountable for punctuality. I’m open to creative ideas. Currently Cort, who films GreenhornTV for me, has it that I owe him a beer for every 5 min late I am. So far, I haven’t been late yet since we made that arrangement.

2)  Improve Time Management: As I launched Greenhorn Connect, I took the approach of doing everything all the time. That’s not a good strategy. I’ve gotten better as time has gone by, but I still find myself losing some days to doing things, but not Getting Things Done.

How You can help me: Any suggestions on how I can become more effective and efficient (books, articles or tips) are much appreciated. Thanks Apollo and Mike for your help already!

3) Get Back to the Gym: For my first 6+ years in Boston, I was a regular at Northeastern’s awesome gym, the Marino Center.  No matter how busy I was through undergraduate and graduate school, I always made time for the gym every other day.  Since I launched Greenhorn Connect, I’ve watched my gym attendance dwindle to not having made it since before Thanksgiving.  Fortunately, I have a pull up bar in my apartment and I’ve been getting creative by creating quick 20 minute workouts in my apartment, but it would be much better if I got back to my old workout routines that are a bit more diverse.

4) Get back to Running: I was a pretty good runner in high school on my cross country and track teams. I racked up a few thousand miles in that time and really look back at it as some of my favorite memories from high school. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to hammer out a routine in Boston that compared and so I’ve progressively lost my endurance.  I can’t run on concrete (not that I think anyone really can without injury) and this isn’t suburban PA so I can’t run on the roads.  This means I need to get out and take advantage of the 2 great locations near me: the Esplanade and Jamaica Pond.  This one will probably wait until spring when weather improves.

How You can help me: I think having the team really helped me stick to my running, so if anyone lives in the Back Bay area and is looking for a running partner or knows of any running groups, let me know.  I think I’d be running in the 7-8 min mile pace right now, looking to run 3-5 miles a day.

5) Read a Book per Week: I saw this come across the Twitter scape and thought it was great: Read a Book a Week for a Year. At first I said to myself, “I’m so busy! I don’t have time to read THAT much!” Then I read that post…and I realized, that’s like 30-40 pages a day. That’s not so bad. I can do that! So, I just started this on Jan 1st and am 3 for 3 as of this writing for getting my pages knocked out each day. As I hopefully progress on this I plan to also write reviews on Greenhorn Connect for the books I like best.

How You can help me: Two ways: 1) Recommend any books you suggest I read. 2) Loan me a book. Yes, I know I can go to a library, but if I borrow it from you, I bet you’ve read it and could then compare thoughts on the book briefly.

6) Post More Often: Keeping the Greenhorn Connect Blog going became my priority over the past couple of months, but now I think it’s starting to stabilize. I like the idea of having things I write here and on Greenhorn Connect (much like there are New Years Resolutions at both places). I’m going to try to commit to posting more often. To help that, I’m going to try adopting a new Seth Godin-like style here where I just write a couple paragraphs about a thought I have and leave it open for continued thought by you and I.

7) Keep learning: Since I started grad school in September 2008, I feel like I’ve been drinking from the fire hose in learning about entrepreneurship. I look at everything I do as a learning experience and that’s led to zero regrets in my somewhat unorthodox journey.  I hope to keep that mindset in 2010 and continue to leverage past experiences to develop future success.

How You can help me: Give me constructive criticism. I really take all the advice and feedback I get from people to heart. I find many are apprehensive to give feedback, but it’s the only way you can truly improve. So please…share your advice, suggestions and criticisms…I’m listening, and more importantly, acting on them.

8.) Pay it forward: One of the things I’ve learned over the past few months is that often, you can’t help those that are helping you. Instead, the best thing you can do is pay it forward and help others regardless of what they can do for you.  I’ve met with a number of people to share what I’ve learned from Greenhorn Connect and other recent experiences and look forward to helping when and how I can in the future.

How I can help You: Ask! You don’t know unless you try. If I can help you I will.

To me, these are more than resolutions; they’re part of my evolution. I think they actually all tie together as there’s a greater theme of curiosity, learning and organization.  Success in one is likely help success in the others.   Please comment or contact me if you can help with any of those or I can help you.

Startup Weekend Report: Friday

I should be asleep right now….but I’m too excited about my team and our idea to sleep right now. I’m also inspired to share the experience for those of you that can’t make it:

Friday was a really fun night.  Pizza, beer and good networking started off the night.  After a healthy hour of that , we all sat down for some introductions by the founder and some key people in the audience.  Marc Nager, the organizer of the event, went through all the great sponsors (yes, Greenhorn is one…but the help I gave is nothing compared to the amazing donations by Microsoft, Sun,  and some others) and talked a little about how the event would go.  Then, he introduced us all to Shawn Broderick of TechStars and gave awesome State official, Jason Schupbach, a chance to speak. Jason was kind enough to give a plug to Greenhorn Connect as the resource hub for local entrepreneurs.  A lot of people approached me at the next open portion of the event, specifically because of what he said, so thanks, Jason! After all those intros, we got into the ideas…

It started with about 20 people raising their hands saying they wanted to pitch ideas, but by the end, 31 ideas were pitched.  We had everything from a yard/garage sale app to a meeting scheduling tool to plug in to emails to a custom, crowd-sourced label maker for alchohol to a video game, that according to the presenter, gets you “high”.  After all those pitches, we had to narrow it down, so we were given 30 minutes to go talk to those that pitched before “voting.”

In true entrepreneur fashion, we voted with our proverbial “wallets.”  Marc gave us each $2 we could put in any envelope(s) we chose (each idea had an envelope).  Money was then tallied and given to the pitchers.  With the money in hand they were congratulated for getting “your first investment.”  People were then instructed to find their team.  I started out talking to a team that had a couple of my friends and fellow Darties on it that was related closely to the interests of Greenhorn.  However, the lure of the idea that really stood out as the only one totally meeting my criteria was too much and I jumped over to work with them.

My criteria for picking the company to work with was very simple:
A) Clear way to make money from the start
B) An idea that could be broken down enough to create a nice demo/alpha in the weekend

So the idea that worked best for that I felt was the Media Release Date Aggregate. Their pitch was simple, yet brilliant: We all have favorite movies, artists and authors whose release of their work we anticipate greatly. It’s a chore to manage and stay aware of when those are coming out (I currently manually input them in a special google calendar, which is tedious).  So, their solution is a site that pulls it all together in one place. You just mark what you’re interested in and they let you know when it’s out.  Revenue can come from 2 great channels: 1) big studios and labels can promote their items on the site to targeted customers and 2) Users will be given links to buy their movie tickets, go to amazon and buy the book/cd, etc (landing a sweet referral fee).  Appreciating the simplicity and definitely being a potential customer has me sold.

Our team was on fire as soon as we met; we formed a team quickly and ran off to chat and eventually took over a white board and started ironing a lot out in just a little time.  We  have a great spread of talent too…4 developers, 3 business/social media people and a lawyer.  I can’t wait to see what we do.  As I write this, I just got a sample home page mock up from one of the developers. That’s when you know you have a great idea…you can’t help yourself but pour in ideas.

I’ll try to tweet out a few things as we progress tomorrow and write a report tomorrow night, so stay tuned. You can follow my tweets @GreenhornBoston and @Evanish.

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!

Lessons Learned: Under Promise, Over Deliver

As the clock struck midnight tonight, a vision was officially only that; GreenhornConnect failed to relaunch as planned on Monday.  A series of technical difficulties left us unable to put the site up for you to see in all its glory.  We’d been planning this launch, in honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week, for a few weeks and had worked tirelessly to get all of the resources and content in order and start lining up our guest bloggers.  After many Monster energy drinks and little sleep, it was a thrilling, but ultimately draining experience.  We’re now inching close to the actual launch, but I wanted to hit on a few lessons I learned over the last 48 hours:

1) Nothing…I repeat…Nothing ever goes as Planned

If there’s any complexity to a problem, there will be hiccups. And usually, those hiccups will come where you assumed a task would be quick and easy.  We’re all very good at recognizing the big, time consuming tasks we face. Most of us can even budget relatively well how to get them done and project when that will be.  BUT, the problem is, those other things, the stuff we assume will be easy are not budgeted for and not planned for and so it is these problems that derail us.

Why is that, you ask? Well, it’s really simple, actually.  The more experienced and knowledgeable you are about something, the better you understand it. Those big, time consuming tasks, chances are you’ve done them before, so that’s why you can budget them so well.  But those other things…they’re probably something you haven’t done very much of; maybe it’s something you’ve done once in a different way, or it’s a new technique that should make your life easier. Regardless of the reason, it’s the stuff you don’t know that will hurt you.

So what’s the takeaway here?

Leave yourself a cushion for those hiccups to take time to be resolved and try to ask yourself what steps you’re taking for granted.

2) Over Promise, Under Deliver…err….Under Promise, Over Deliver

When you’re a young entrepreneur, you have to build your reputation from scratch. Everything you do is a small token that adds up to credibility and people believing in you.  Every time you do something good…whether it’s ask a good question at an event, impress someone with your knowledge in a conversation, follow through on a request by someone, etc, you’re adding another chip to the reputation pot. Unfortunately, when you do something bad…like don’t follow through on a promise, or offend someone or otherwise make yourself look bad, you lose many chips from the reputation pot.  Run out of chips and you’re in trouble.

So what am I getting at? If you do good things for awhile, you can get away with a mess up or two, but you still always need to be doing everything in your power to demonstrate your capabilities and why you’re not just another person who muses about being an entrepreneur versus someone who GTD (Gets Things Done).

In the case of the site relaunch, I feel like I really messed up. I promised to a lot of people we’d be relaunching Monday morning and that obviously didn’t happen. My problem was I got hung up on how awesome it would be if we did versus the reality of the fact that we had little margin for error to meet that date.  So, to anyone who went to GreenhornConnect.com on Monday and were disappointed to see the same old landing page and resource list, I apologize.  I hope you’ll check back today and see how far it’s come and join us on a journey to continue to develop and grow Greenhorn Connect.  I hope my enthusiasm and passion for this when we’ve met at events shows through in this and hopefully I have a few chips left in that pot.

So what’s the takeaway?

If you promise less than you know you can deliver, then you’ll wow people when you do more than that. (as opposed to disappoint them…)

3) Do Something You Truly Love

The last thing I want to hit on is the passion of entrepreneurship.  Regardless of what your venture is, you have to absolutely love it. It’s gotta be your passion.  Even as I saw one of my roommates going out with his girlfriend for the night as I stayed in to work on the site or as the other slept in while I got up to go to a conference, I never second guessed my choices. I love going to entrepreneurship events and solving this problem for new entrepreneurs.  If I didn’t love this, there’s no way I’d want to do all the behind the scenes labors that go into making a site like Greenhorn a reality. Motivations of profit are always good and a necessary part of business, but cannot trump passion when you’re starting a business.

When you’re searching for ideas for a startup, remember to look for things you love and problems that relate to them. Solve those problems.  Kabir loves music, which led to RiotVineFan Bi loves fashion, so he started Blank Label.  Matt Webster loves craft beer, so he’s running Drink A Better Brew.

GreenhornConnect is my passion and I’m going to try to exceed all expectations and promises from now on. What’s yours?

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!