Home » Starting a Business
Category Archives: Starting a Business
Fireside Chat with Steve Blank, Hosted by Prof. Len Lodish
Customer Discovery and Customer Validation: Fireside Chat with Steve Blank, Hosted by Professor Len Lodish
A retired eight-time serial entrepreneur-turned-educator and author, Steve Blank has changed how startups are built and how entrepreneurship is taught around the globe. He is author of the bestselling “The Startup Owner’s Manual”, and his earlier seminal work, “The Four Steps to the Epiphany,” credited with launching the Lean Startup movement. During this fireside chat, Steve Blank and Professor Len Lodish discuss the Customer Discovery and Customer Validation phases of the Customer Development Model, a technique startups use to quickly iterate and test each part of their business model.
Barbara Corcoran on the Best Time to Start a Business
Entrepreneur, author, and Shark Tank investor Barbara Corcoran on the best time to start a business
Startup Company Challenges, Dynamics and Best Practices with Tomasz Tunguz (Redpoint Ventures)
Tomasz Tunguz is a partner at Redpoint Ventures and the author of one of the most active and insightful blogs about startups on the internet today. Tomasz speaks to some of the more salient issues that he has written about and posted. These include trends in the early-stage financial markets; best practices when building a startup including marketing tactics, sales team construction, and unit economics; and more.
The Importance of Picking the Right Investor with Carl Showalter
Philip Evans: How data will transform business
Start-up lessons from Patron Billionaire John Paul DeJoria
Business Ideas – 3 Business Lessons From George Lucas by Evan Carmichael
Today we’re going to look at how a young man who wanted to become a professional race car driver changed his career choice after connecting with the right mentor and rose to the top of his industry. This is the story of Star Wars creator George Lucas and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.
“The secret is not to give up hope. It’s very hard not to because if you’re really doing something worthwhile I think you will be pushed to the brink of hopelessness before you come through the other side. You just have to hang in through that.” – George Lucas
George Lucas (born May 14, 1944) is an American film producer, screenwriter, and director, and entrepreneur. He is the founder, chairman and chief executive of Lucasfilm and is best known as the creator of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Lucas’ father owned a small office supply store that Lucas was destined to take over but he had other plans – he wanted to become a professional race car driver. Almost his entire childhood was dedicated to cars.
When he was in a near-fatal car accident just days before his high school graduation, Lucas gave up racing and went to college. He enrolled in the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television because he liked photography and thought “maybe that will be interesting.” The program would change his life. He met Francis Ford Coppola at the film school who served as his mentor and inspired him to become a producer-director. Upon graduation he committed himself to doing films as his profession.
Today Lucas is one of the film industry’s most financially successful directors/producers. His estimated 2011 net worth is $3.2 billion and he’s received numerous honours such as being named among the 100 Greatest Americans by the Discovery Channel and receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Film institute.
Action Item #1: Love what you do
Action Item #2: Find something you’re great at
Action Item #3: Keep going
Lucas wrote the screenplay for Star Wars after being inspired by Flash Gordon and Planet of the Apes. While writing it he thought that it was “too wacky” for the general public but he insisted on finishing it. When the script was finished, only Twentieth Century Fox was willing to take a chance on the movie. In a groundbreaking move at the time, Lucas agreed to give up his director’s salary in exchange for 40% of the film’s box office take as well as all merchandising rights and sequel rights. Breaking all box office records and winning seven Academy Awards, Star Wars made Lucas an instant millionaire as well as a household name.
“I’m extremely grateful that I discovered my passion. I love movies. I love to watch them, I love to make them.”
“It’s hard work making movies…if you don’t really love it, then it ain’t worth it.”
“I got the licensing rights because I figured they wouldn’t promote the film and if I got T-shirts and things out there with the name of the film on them it would help promote the movie.”
Business Ideas – How to Learn, Not Waste Time, and Be Kind Like Benjamin Franklin by Evan Carmichael
Business Ideas – How to Learn, Not Waste Time, and Be Kind Like Benjamin Franklin
Today we’re going to take a closer look at the fifteenth child of seventeen children who only had two years of grammar school education and went on to become an entrepreneur and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. This is the story of Benjamin Franklin and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.
“If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin (born January 17, 1706) did not come from a family of prominence. Instead, his family could only afford to send him to two years of grammar school and by the time he was 13, Franklin’s father sent him off to apprentice at his older brother’s print company. Here, Franklin helped to compose pamphlets, set up type, sell the paper on the streets and perform other printer-related duties. Franklin also began writing columns under the pseudonym ‘Mrs. Silence Dogood’, who he fabricated to be a middle-aged widow. Dogood was an immediate hit with her writings about the problems and social conditions of women, but when James found out it was actually his younger brother writing her column, he was furious. As a result of James’ ensuing harassment and beatings, Franklin became a fugitive and ran away from his family at the age of 17.
Franklin tried his luck as a printer both in New York and New Jersey, but to no avail. He then moved to Philadelphia, where he did manage to find a job with a printer. But, Franklin was unsatisfied with his prospects there. After a brief stint at a printer’s shop in London, England, Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1726. Four years and much borrowed money later, he had finally set up his own printing house. He began to publish a newspaper called The Pennsylvania Gazette, in which he would regularly give himself space to comment on the most pressing social issues of the time. He cultivated an image of himself as an intellectual and a productive young man and his writings were the beginning of what would earn Franklin significant social respect.
In 1748, Franklin officially retired from the printing business, although he continued writing literature and satirical essays throughout the rest of his life. He began to take a more formal role in public life, becoming councilman, Justice of the Peace in Pennsylvania and elected member of the Assembly. Five years later, he was appointed Joint Deputy Postmaster-General of North America and several other posts. In perhaps his most well known feat, Franklin began working towards independence as part of the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence. In 1787, after he had retired from public office, he attended a series of meetings that would result in the United States Constitution. He became the only Founding Father to sign all three of the country’s major founding documents: The Declaration of Independence, The Treaty of Paris and the U.S. Constitution.
Action Item #1: Always be Learning
Action Item #2: Don’t Waste Time
Action Item #3: Be Kind to One Another
Benjamin Franklin had no real opinions on slavery until he went to England. His wife, Deborah, was not well educated and had problems even writing to him, but pressured him into visiting a grammar school for black children while he was stationed in London. After visiting the school, Franklin found, to his surprise, that black children were just as smart at white children. After coming to this realization, he changed his entire outlook on the way slavery was being conducted in the United States.
Unknown to most people in America, Franklin was one of the first American politicians to advocate the end of slavery in the United States. He had been socially active most of his life, even creating one of the first fire departments in Philadelphia. During the end of his life, he spent a lot of time speaking, writing and publicly admonishing other politicians that believed in slavery. He wanted to start schools for black children and offer them the same things white children had, but in the end, all of his talk would be disregarded. However, his beliefs would eventually lead Abraham Lincoln to the same realization.
“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
“I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.”
“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.”
Business Ideas – 3 Success Lessons from Reed Hastings (Netflix)
Today we’re going to take a closer look at how a Peace Corps volunteer and teacher began a software company at the age of 48. Deciding to switch careers later in life, this man would build the largest movie-rental service in the United States, with more than 23 million subscribers. This is the story of Netflix founder Reed Hastings and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.
“I got the idea for Netflix after my company was acquired. I had a big late fee for ‘Apollo 13.’ It was six weeks late and I owed the video store $40. I had misplaced the cassette. It was all my fault.” – Reed Hastings
Reed Hastings (born October 8, 1960) is an American entrepreneur and founder of Netflix. He used to teach mathematics in Swaziland as an American Peace Corps volunteer. So, when 48 year old Reed Hastings decided to found his own software company, some eyebrows were raised. But Hastings would prove the disbelievers wrong with the subsequent founding of Netflix, the largest movie-rental service via mail in the U.S. With over 23 million subscribers and sales in the billions, Hastings proved he was able to go from living in Africa, to living in affluence.
Hastings’ father was a prominent lawyer who once worked in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Nixon Administration. After graduating with his Bachelor’s Degree and winning awards for his mathematics abilities, Hastings felt the urge to join the Marine Corps. He signed up for their Platoon Leader Class, and spent two years in their boot camp in Quantico, Virginia. In 1983, Hastings found himself in Swaziland working as a mathematics professor for the Peace Corps. He stayed there two years before deciding to return home. Back in the U.S., Hastings was accepted into graduate school at Stanford. His first choice had been M.I.T., but he did not get accepted.
Hastings graduated from Stanford with a Master’s Degree in Computer Science in 1988, and was subsequently hired by Adaptive Technology, where he worked on developing a debugging software tool. But, Hastings wanted more of a challenge, and he wanted to work for himself. Hastings decided the only option was to set off on his own and start a business. In 1991, Hastings quit his job and launched Pure Software, a company dedicated to developing troubleshooting products for software. But, as the company grew, Hastings found that his mathematics and computer background was not enough of a match for running a business. He asked his company’s board of directors to replace him for the good of the company. After finally selling the business, he would wait two years before trying again. In 1998, Hastings founded Netflix as a movie rental by mail service that offered a flat rate subscription fee. Within five years the business was booming.
Action Item #1: Change the Model
Action Item #2: Don’t Underestimate the Competition
Action Item #3: Work Hard
Even though Hastings grew up in a well-to-do family and attended private school, he spent a few years working for the Peace Corps and teaching in Swaziland. After returning to the United States, he would eventually move to California. Unknown to most people, Hastings became very active in educational philanthropy. He would advocate stronger math and science curricula, as well as advocate increasing the number of charter schools, which he believed were better than public schools.
In an effort to change the way the public schools did business, Hastings would organize a drive to get a new proposal on the California ballot during the 2000 elections. Proposition 39 would go on the ballot, but to show his support for education, Hastings would go back to school to get his graduate degree in education. This showed all the residents that he was serious about education and Proposition 39 would eventually be passed by a large majority of residents.
“It was an extremely satisfying experience. Taking smart risks can be very gratifying.”
“Early on, the first concept we launched was rental by mail, but it wasn’t subscription based, so it worked more like Blockbuster. Some people liked it, but it wasn’t very popular. I remember thinking, God, this whole thing could go down.”
“I learned the value of focus. I learned it is better to do one product well than two products in a mediocre way.”
From Homeless to Millionaire – 3 Success Lessons from Chris Gardner
Today we’re going to look at how a high school dropout and homeless man would go from living on the streets and bathing in public restrooms to building one of the most successful stock brokerage firms in America. This is the story of multi-millionaire Chris Gardner and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.
“Find something that you love. Something that gets you so excited you can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning. Forget about money. Be happy.” – Chris Gardner
Chris Gardner (born on February 9, 1954) was the only son of 12 children that was being raised by a single mother. His single mother was trained as a schoolteacher, but wound up taking on numerous part-time jobs in order to provide for her family. Gardner and his siblings were transferred back and forth between relatives and foster homes. His mother had been imprisoned twice; once, for allegedly receiving welfare while working, and the second time for attempting to burn down the house of Gardner’s abusive stepfather. Gardner’s prospects were narrow coming from an environment such as this.
While on a sales call, Gardner met a man who was impeccably dressed and drove a red Ferrari. As fate would have it, the driver of the Ferrari was a stockbroker. When Gardner heard that the man was earning over $80,000 a month, he decided that his future lied in investments. He had no education, no experience, and no connections, but that was not about to stop Gardner from achieving his new dream. Once he had decided to become a stockbroker, Gardner immediately set out to find an investment firm that would give him a chance. In one brokerage firm, Gardner finally found a manager of a training program who was willing to give him a shot. However, when Gardner showed up for his first day of work, the manager who had hired him had been fired and no one else had ever heard of Gardner or his new position. He left with his hopes disappointed.
Nevertheless, Gardner didn’t give up on his dreams. He continued to seek out investment firms, taking odd jobs to pay the bills in the meantime. Dean Witter, a San Francisco-based brokerage firm was interested in Gardner but refused to bring him on board before putting him through ten months of interviews. It would be a grueling ten months. Gardner showed up for his interview in a T-shirt and dirty jeans. He could have fabricated some heroic story to explain his appearance. Instead, Gardner decided to tell the truth. In plain terms, Gardner told his interviewer that the mother of his son had ran off with his child, that he was broke, and that he has just gotten out of jail the day before. As luck would have it, the interviewer had recently been through a nasty divorce and could sympathize with Gardner. He was immediately given a position in the company’s training program. In 1987, Gardner launched his own brokerage firm in Chicago, Gardner Rich. Gardner quickly began to land major clients for his new company, including the pension fund of the Chicago Teacher’s Union. Since then, his business has continued to take off and Gardner hasn’t looked back.
Action Item #1: Get Excited About Something
Action Item #2: Be the Best You Can Be
Action Item #3: Remember Your Roots
“Baby steps count, as long as you are going forward. You add them all up, and one day you look back and you’ll be surprised at where you might get to.”
“That’s when I learned in this business, it’s not a black thing, it’s not a white thing, it’s a green thing. If you can make me money, I don’t care what color you are. So that’s how I deal with that to this day.”
“I was Chris Gardner, father of a son who deserved better than what my daddy could do for me, son of Betty Jean Gardner who said that if I wanted to win I could win.”