Some Amazing Tips To Make Board Meetings Suck Less

Board room, board meeting, board members, startups

When should your startup have a Board of Directors? That’s a question that many young startups either ask, or at least pretend they know the answer to. First off until you have venture money on board, a Board of Directors isn’t necessary. You may choose to assemble an advisory board, but it’s typically when you get VC’s to the table that they want to have a formal seat at it.

Now you may run into an angel that gives you a big chunk of seed money and wants to get on your board. When you decide to take that money you want to also make sure you want that particular angel involved in your decision making process. You may want to pass on that angel and find someone who will let you grow to a series A round before adding decision makers into your company.

Rule number one in this case is very important:

Investment and Equity does not necessarily = board seat.

We will dive more into the board in another post, but as a general rule of thumb, once you start adding a board of directors, you’re not the only one calling the shots.

Of course the opposite also holds true. You may know someone, an investor or not, that strategically makes a lot of sense for your business. You may also have someone that adds clout to your board. In that case you may want to add them to your board, but again take into consideration what that means for your startup.

First Round Review, First Round Capital’s blog for entrepreneurs and by entrepreneurs, took a really good look at “The Secret To Making Board Meetings Suck Less.”  Jeff Bonforte co-founder of Xobni which sold to Yahoo, Mike Maples CEO of Floodgate, Dan Rosensweig CEO of Chegg, and Nirav Tolia all weighed in on this important discussion.

Once you have a board of directors you have to have board meetings. Those can be extremely intimidating for almost any entrepreneur turned CEO. If you’ve been an entrepreneur all of your life or left a traditional “job” to become an entrepreneur your first board meeting may feel like you have bosses, because you do.

“Board meetings are the height of insecurity for a CEO. Basically it’s a group of people who can both judge you and fire you based on that judgment,”  Bonforte told First Round Review.  Bonforte found that board meetings at his previous startup iDrive were nerve racking and that was stemming from the fact that his board was constantly criticizing and “attacking” him. He decided that from then on he would find board members vested in helping him rather than attacking him.

Bonforte gives these reasons that board meetings typically suck:

  • Board meetings are long, grueling, and hard to focus.
  • It’s nearly impossible to capture your company’s story accurately when you’re obligated to only talk about certain things, i.e. how money’s getting spent.
  • You can’t always get who you want on your board. Sometimes you have a choice, but most of the time one or two members will not have been your first pick and there’s nothing you can do about it.
  • Too many boards are too big, and too many board members invite observers and general hangers on — all who want to chime in with something to sound smart.
  • If you present a deck from the front of a boardroom, you’re asking to be judged and picked apart. It’s like you’re pitching your company all over again, only this time to people who can take it away from you.

The single biggest take away from Bonforte on all of this is:

“Every single entrepreneur forgets that the board works for them,” Bonforte says. “They’re in meetings getting their asses kicked and walking out with even more work to do. They feel like they have to prove their vision instead of proving that everyone in the room should be working together to solve the problem. As the CEO, you feel like it’s your job to carry the ball across the line, but it’s also the board’s job too.”

Bonforte and the other CEO’s offer some great, and some very simple, tips to making board meetings suck less like, don’t stand up and don’t do your deck from the front of the room.
Check out the rest of this important information at First Round Review.

Dead Tags Can Hurt Your Startup, ObservePoint Can Help

ObservePoint, Utah Startup, Startups, Startup Interview

The general consensus among website analytics experts is that 20% of tags on most websites for companies big and small are tagged incorrectly.

Provo, Utah startup ObservePoint has found that this discrepancy can amount to big losses for companies dependent on web traffic. The newest trend in web analytics companies are those that are doing “tag auditing”. ObservePoint is one of those companies.

In a recent case study, ObservePoint found that they’ve been able to increase the amount a site can sell ad and banner space for by 100% simply because the traffic site owners are reporting is actually lower as a result of tag “mis-firings”.

The same can be true for the other end of the spectrum as well.  In some cases they’ve seen sites with up to 37% inflation because there are multiple instances of the same tag on a page that fire and then traffic numbers are inflated.

As mobile and web advertising continues to increase ten-fold, media buyers are desperately looking for the most accurate traffic. To find that, there is a need to look past traditional SEO and directly to tag auditing, which is where ObservePoint comes in.

ObservePoint founders Rob Seolas and John Pestana both come from solid web traffic and analytics backgrounds. Seolas was the co-founder of iLead Media an internet sales lead generation startup that was acquired by Think Partnership in 2005. Pestana was co-founder at Omniture which was acquired by Adobe in 2009.

Now they’ve put their collective smarts together to help companies optimize not just their sites but right down to the tags.

We got a chance to talk with ObsevePoint. Check out the rest of the interview below.

What does your company do?

ObservePoint keeps tag and web analytic data honest by going through a site and auditing each page’s tags to verify whether or not they are firing and reporting accurate data

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds

When starting ObservePoint both founders Rob Seolas and John Pestana set out to solve the problem of correcting the accuracy in online marketing and web analytics data. Each founder had a solid background in understanding how companies measure web traffic and produce web leads.

Where are you based?

ObservePoint is located in the Silicon Slopes, or more officially Provo, Utah.

What’s the startup scene like where you are based?

Provo is a city about an hour south of Salt Lake City, which has a vibrant start-up community. It was been named to a number of business lists as a top place to start a business. Forbes named it at the No. 1 place for business and careers.

Provo’s technology and start-up pedigree runs deep and many of the area’s tech startups can be linked to Novell and WordPerfect. Since the Novell and WordPerfect days the Silicon Slopes – a name coined by John’s previous partner and Omniture co-founder, Josh James– there have been hundreds of tech companies that have launched and gone on to be acquired by bigger out-of-state companies or private equity. In the past six years that list includes Altiris (by Symantec for $800M), Omniture (by Adobe for $1.2B), (by Permira Funds for $1.6B), Vivint (by Blackstone Group for $2B), among others.

In addition to the acquisitions, Angels and VCs have been active and investing heavily in Provo-area companies like Qualtrics ($70M), ($35M), and Domo ($125M) to name a few. Other non-Utah-based companies like eBay, Adobe, HP and American Express have established significant presences in the area.


Add the fact that Google Fiber recently chose Provo, and it’s been a pretty good year for the region.


What problem do you solve?

Most web analysts know that their analytics data is dirty, but they either don’t know how to detect and clean it up or they know they and their superiors have come to expect it and sweep it under the rug.

A major hurdle is the thousands of hours it would take to go through each page to check AND test each tag to make sure it is firing correctly. At least that’s how it was before ObservePoint came around. What we’ve found is that on average, websites have a 20 percent error rate in their web analytics data due to tagging problems.

When we tell a web analyst they show us the tags and proudly state that the tags are there. However, they don’t really know whether the tag is firing and reporting the data accurately. In addition to tags not being present or firing on the page we have found that some sites have a huge inflation rate because of tag duplication on one page and each of them report that as unique traffic. This inaccurate data is troublesome because companies are basing major decisions on this information.

ObservePoint automates the auditing for all the tags on a website. We run a thorough scan of the site and test each tag to make sure it is firing. After that we present reports of the pages that have problems so they know what they need to fix.

Why now?

The idea and the development and testing of the technology started in 2007. However, we believed that the issue would become more prominent in the next few years and that foresight is paying off because companies are starting to realize that they can’t continue to make decisions based on bad data.

Also, the tag management space has shone a bright light on the headache that is managing each tag. Companies are starting to add a tag management platform, but that can create a false sense of security when it comes to data quality. Really, tag management platforms need to be audited the same way an analytics tag does to ensure that data is collected correctly.

We are called into a lot of new tag management implementations to audit them and companies are shocked when they find that the tag management system hasn’t solved their data quality issues.

What are some of the milestones your startup has already reached?

Besides having record revenue years, one of our major milestones happened earlier this year when we were invited into Adobe’s Enterprise Solution Partner Program. That was a big step and one that John and Rob hoped would happen since the beginning.

What are your next milestones?

On the technology front, we’re working on adding the #1 requested capability – that is to audit tags that fire on click. (Currently, only page-load tags are catalogued.) This requires some major back-end technology changes, and that will add a new and improved user interface, better performance, comparison to historical data, and a slew of other features.

We recently passed a milestone of no longer thinking of ourselves as being in start-up mode as we are in growth mode. We’ve been taking on clients for about two years, but our technology is already much more mature than that. We’re well ahead of everyone else in terms of understanding tagging issues and as such, we are now taking on customers at our fastest pace ever and we don’t expect that to slow down for the foreseeable future

Where can people find out more? Any social media links you want to share?

All our information is on our website: Also, we have a free Chrome plug-in tool that we’ve developed that allows Web analysts and QA people to see the tags on their site right inside the browser. It can be found on our website –

People can also learn more through our social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.


Should You Really Be Giving Startup Advice [INFOGRAPHIC]

Today it seems like everybody has startup advice. Should you be listening to mine? Well that’s certainly up to you. In fact it’s always up to you who you decide to listen to and who you don’t. However there are a lot of people out there giving startup advice that may not be qualified to do so.

While nobody should just be classified into groups or stereotyped, here are some folks I am wary of. Also, I do have manners so I do at least listen to anyone who can break me of my ADD and actually captures my attention.

Small business and executive coaches with little or no references.

Small businesses are great. They impact the local economy the way startups would like to. They also permeate with an older, more traditional crowd than most startups can. A good friend of mine Pam Cooper, the founder of Boosterville, once told me that when going to small business folks, it’s easier to get money for a day care center or a dry cleaners than a a world changing startup.

Memphis-based self-proclaimed small business expert Tom Pease actually has some great advice for small business owners in his new book Small Business Survial 101. He’s made a lot of money with his copier machine business and tends to offer more traditional SMB advice. He doesn’t know a lick about scalable and high growth potential startups.

There are thousands just like him as well. Now if you’re one of those people who can take the good tidbits from different kinds of folks and form your own conclusions, you may be ok listening to “small business gurus.”

In my opinion, though, if you run into an “Executive Coach” that can’t rattle off a list of 5 millionaires they’re working with, he or she is probably just another out of work sales person.

Startup organizations with founders or directors who have never themselves started anything.

I don’t need you to have multi million dollar exits, but you do need to at least have started something. Even if you’ve failed a bunch of times, you get more credibility points than if you haven’t started anything. You need to be in my world for me to listen to your advice about my world.

There are a lot of folks out there who have come from finance and business backgrounds who know that starting up right now is a hot topic, and they want to be part of what’s cool and hip. That’s great and perhaps there is a place for you in the ecosystem as a “feeder,” but not giving advice.

A lot of people I’ve met who fit that description tend to be less risk averse and eager to throw in the towel. Often they can be too concerned with image to get down and grind.

This is all just my opinion, but most entrepreneurs and startup people will agree with me.

Who should you listen to? Valerie Coffman, a data scientist and entrepreneur, has come up with this flow chart from her website 

Startup Advice, Startup Tips, nibletz




New Mexico Hosting 3 Startup Weekends November 15th, Including Teen Albuquerque

Startup Weekend, New Mexico startup, Taylor Chavez, Teen startup weekend, Teen StartupsNew Mexico is a beautiful state. We make an annual trip out to Russell’s Truck Stop and Car Museum every January on the way to CES. It’s not a state that comes to mind when you think startup hub, but since we’re the voice of startups everywhere else, we’ve covered New Mexico quite a bit. Well they continue to find ways to cultivate their startup community.

In November New Mexico will be hosting three Startup Weekend events. Now the only other states (as far as we can tell) that have hosted three Startup Weekend’s in one month are California, Texas, and Florida. So that says a lot right there.

As the Albuquerque Business First put it, New Mexico will see 162 Startup Weekend hours in November instead of the typical 54. What’s even better is that one of the Startup Weekends is all about teenagers. To take that a step further, the new Teen Albuquerque Startup Weekend was started by a girl.

Taylor Chavez (14), attended the first Startup Weekend Mexico with her father Lawrence, who was a coach for that event. The teenager was so intrigued that when Startup Weekend rolled around to Albuquerque last June she went as a participant and joined a team called Crimson Curriculum, which she described as a STEM education tool that uses Lego’s to teach kids complex engineering concepts.

What makes this story even better is that I found that information out from Chavez’ TedX talk that she did last month called “Let Me Tell You About My Summer.” She tells the standing room only audience at TedX Albuquerque about Startup Weekend with the same excitement other girls her age would talk about seeing One Direction, Taylor Swift, or Justin Bieber.

After you watch her TedX video you’ll see why she was an integral part of her Startup Weekend team’s presentation, which went on to win first place.


Teenagers participating, and even winning, traditional Startup Weekends isn’t new. Back in June we brought you the story of 14 year old Nathan Eyal, who won Tampa Bay’s Startup Weekend. We’ve also told you about Las Vegas tween Ethan Duggan who launched his app at SXSW. And of course there’s the story of 14 year old Emerson Walker, who won Cincinnati’s Startup Weekend and has already received venture funding for his startup.

This time around in Albuquerque though, the event has been organized by teenagers for teenagers. We’re looking forward to hearing more about Albuquerque’s Teen Startup Weekend next month. If you’re a teenager in the area you can register here  for the event that runs November 15th- 17th. 

Farmington, New Mexico’s first Startup Weekend event is also November 15th-17th. This is the traditional tech startup focused event. You can register here.

Finally, Las Cruces Startup Weekend is also November 15-17th and if you’re close to Las Cruces you can register here.

Uber Jumps In To Help DC’s Furloughed Federal Workers

Uber, DC startup, furlough, shutdown, startups

We’re now in the 16th day of the federal government shutdown. Startups are trying to help furloughed employees in whatever ways they can.

Last week we reported that Washington DC-based 1776 had launched a website to help match employees with job opportunities and volunteer work for startups. Sure everyone needs money, but some furloughed employees have expressed the fact that they are also bored to tears. The site gives them an opportunity to work with something innovative and exciting. It gives the startup access to a potentially high qualified employee base.

Now the San Francisco based car hailing startup Uber has responded to the needs of the furloughed federal workers in the DC area.

Through Friday, Uber is offering their UberX product free for two rides up to $20 each.

While the Uber app is known for it’s black sedan and SUV service, UberX is a taxicab alternative. Rather than sedan service, users of UberX are picked up in midrange vehicles like Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry and similar type vehicles.  All of the vehicles seat up to four people.

Uber is introducing the UberX product to the DC market, where their original service is still going very strong. At the same time it allows them to expose the service to the capital’s federal work force of hundreds of thousands which have gone without pay for over two weeks. It is important to note that the promotion is actually open to anyone in the DC area, but those affected by the shutdown will find that the company’s promotion came at the right time.

How does it work?

  • Enter promo code DCLOVESuberX in the Uber app.
  • Slide the car type selector to ‘uberX’—this promotion does not apply to uberTAXI, UberBLACK, or UberSUV.
  • Take up to two free rides before Friday, 10/18, at 11:59PM.
  • DCLOVESuberX covers DC area rides up to $20. Trust us—at these rates, $20 will get you far!

Here is a list of participating businesses:

201 Bar
9:30 Club
Al Dente
Atlas Fitness
Atlas Underground
Art Jamz
Bacchus Wine Cellar
Bethesda Blues & Jazz Club
Blowout Bar
Boundary Stone
Brasserie Beck
Cactus Cantina
Cafe Deluxe
Capella Washington Restaurant
Capitol Hill Fitness
Capitol Lounge
Cashion’s Eat Place
Charlie Palmer Steak
Chef Geoff’s
Chez Billy
Co Co. Sala
Daisy Baby Boutique
Darlington House
DC Improv
Duo Boutique
Edgar Bar & Kitchen
Farmer Fishers Bakers
Fia’s Fabulous Finds
The Front Page
Granville Moore’s
Gymboree – Play & Music
H Street Country Club
Hela Spa
I.M.P. International Spy Museum
Hank’s Oyster Bar
Lauriol Plaza
Liberty Tree
Lisner Auditorium
Mangolens Photography
Marcel’s by Robert Wiedmaier
Mellow Mushroom
Merriweather Post Pavillion
Mussel Bar and Grille
Muncheez Mania
Pure Barre
Queen Vic
Qi Spa
Redwood Bethesda
Scratch DC
Sculpt DC
Shakespeare Theatre
Skin Beauty Lounge
Smith & Wollensky
Sticky Rice
Spirit Cruises
The Sweet Lobby
Tango DC
Tom Yum District
Tortilla Coast
Tusuva Body & Skin Care
U St Music Hall
Union Pub
Velocity 5 – Arlington
Whitlow’s on Wilson
Willow Fashion
Wildwood Kitchen 
Zest American Bistro


Speek Partners With Dell, Also Gets Praise From Edward Norton & Sophia Bush

Speek, DC Startup, Edward Norton, Sophia Bush, DellWell Tuesday morning we started working on a big story about Speek, a great Washington DC startup we’ve been covering since before they launched. Speek is the “easiest way to conference” and it really is. Speek’s co-founders John Bracken and Danny Boice are big supporters of Nibletz and Everywhere Else.

So we were excited when Boice emailed us to tell us about an exciting new partnership with Dell. The partnership, which went live yesterday afternoon, has the Fortune 50 computer manufacturer promoting Speek through several of their digital marketing channels to over 10 million+ of the company’s business customers. Speek is the only startup that’s part of this new partnership which Dell calls “Dell Marketplace”.

Dell’s Marketplace is launching on Dell’s Center For Entrepreneurs. That site is a highly curated collection of companies that provide services for the entrepreneur community. Dell has embraced the entrepreneurial community with several efforts including recruiting Ingred Vanderveldt as their Entrepreneur in Residence.

Through the Marketplace Dell offers entrepreneurrs access to special deals from companies ranging from FedEx to Speek. Our good friends at Influence & Co are also featured in the Marketplace.

But that wasn’t the only big news this week for the DC based startup. On Wednesday afternoon the company received tweets praising their conference calling platform from Academy Award winning actor (and Maryland native) Edward Norton and Teen Choice Award winning star Sophia Bush.

Norton started his day off with a string of tweets about Speek




He also tweeted another four messages including a link to a special deal for his followers (hint click here and take advantage)



Also Wednesday morning, Sophia Bush, who played young entrepreneurial starlet Brooke Davis on the CW hit series One Tree Hill, also said she was obsessed with Speek.



What’s all the hype about? Sign up for your Speek account here at

You can conference call me anytime at

Check out the new Dell Marketplace for entrepreneurs here. 

See Speek co-founder Danny Boice at this huge national startup conference in Memphis.


Ben Milne Threw Away Cash, What It Means For Startups Like Dwolla

Ben Milne, Dwolla, Des Moines startup, mobile walletPlastic credit cards and debit cards have taken over a lot of people’s use of cash. More often than not, when I’m walking in a major city and I’m asked by a homeless person for money, my go to (and true) reason for not giving a guy a quarter or a dollar is I simply don’t carry cash.

Now, mobile wallet startups are starting to replace credit cards. Pocket loads are shrinking thanks to startups like Dwolla and PayTango and companies like Google and Paypal. And things are only going to get easier, at least for some.

While speaking at the Money2020 conference in Las Vegas this week, Business Insider reports that Milne told an interesting story to the audience. He mistakenly threw away cash because he thought it was an old burrito wrapper.

“I reached into my pocket the other day and felt crumpled paper in there,” Milne told the audience. “I thought I had absentmindedly put my burrito wrapper from lunch in there, but it was actually some dollar bills.”

Milne was speaking about how easy money transactions are going to be.

For years Paypal has been the leader in the digital payments space. Millions of people have Paypal, and now with Paypal’s mobile app you can send someone money via the service in just seconds. If they have one of Paypal’s debit cards or they’re signed up for PayPal wallet, users can just as quickly spend the money.  The same is true for Google’s wallet product and the ability to use an Android phone with NFC technology at hundreds of thousands of PayPass locations across the country.

Milne’s own startup Dwolla is making it incredibly easy to send money from one user to another, and they only charge $.25 per transaction (transactions under $10 are free). Milne hopes that sending money via the internet becomes as easy as sending a photo of pop queen Miley Cyrus.

“Our world is already virtual, we just don’t realize it yet,” he said. “If all you have is an Internet connection, you can’t send money around the world very easily, but it’s no problem to send someone a picture of Miley Cyrus. What we’re doing – easy Internet payments – is an inevitability. We may not be the people to do it, though I’m working my ass off to make sure we are.”


Skillshare And Levi’s: Take Amazing Classes And Help Kids

Skillshare, New York startup, Levis, MakeOurMark

The concept is no simpler than it is in the headline. Take classes from New York startup Skillshare’s select offerings of online classes, where you can learn creative skills from visionary experts and share your own experiences, and 100% of the proceeds will go to arts and music education for students in grades k-8.

Skillshare is a New York startup that serves as a marketplace linking people to hundreds of online classes across many disciplines. While there have been a handful of startups that have tried to compete in the space, Skillshare has remained the market leader.

Now, in a unique partnership with Levi’s, not only  is the site offering some premium classes with amazing instructors, it’s all for a good cause.

The classes are taught by renowned artists such as Cubby Graham, David Carson, Bang Bang, Benjamin Samuel, Brock Davis, and Linda Eliasen.  The program is called “The School Of Make Our Mark”

The classes are only $10, with all of that money going towards the musical education program. The classes being offered include:

Urban Explorer Photography: Shooting the forgotten and the familiar, taught by Cubby Graham
Beautiful Ink, Designing Meaningful Tattoos, taught by Bang Bang
Vintage Postcard Design: Back To The Future, taught by Linda Eliasen
Stop Motion Video: Create & Animate, taught by Brock Davis
Creating Typographic Art Inspired By Sound, taught by David Carson
Flash Fiction: How To Tell Pint Sized Stories, taught by Benjamin Samuel

The classes will help you learn new skills, and meet new people across the globe. You will be able to share your completed work with the group and some of the projects will be chosen to go into a time capsule that Levi’s and Skillshare will open in the future.

You can use promocode: OURMARK to take one of the classes for free!

Find out more and sign up now here at


1776 Turns Google Doc Into, 1776, Startups, DC Startup, Government shutfown

Last week we broke the news that the entrepreneurs at 1776 in Washington, DC jumped into action when the federal government was first shut down. The first thing they did was hold an impromptu event which brought together the startups at 1776 with furloughed federal workers in the area.

What came out of that was the Google Doc we reported about last Friday. 1776 found a clear path between workers on furlough and startups that needed paid workers, volunteers or people to do small projects.

They’ve now turned the simple GoogleDoc into which is picking up a lot of traction. The new jobs site, set up to connect furloughed workers with positions in startups, caught the eye of Mashable on Tuesday.

Mashable revealed that all kinds of people are signing up, even people that aren’t on furlough. 1776 cofounder Donna Harris told Mashable that they aren’t going to take down anyone’s profile.

So is it working?

Mashable reports that Josh Hurd, the founder of Nonprofitmetrics, used to find a blogger who he is paying a minimum of $35 per post. Lily Bradley who works for the Department of Health and Human Services is also on furlough. She found a temporary job taking pictures for a startup that pays more than her day job.

1776 does have a warning posted on the website reminding furloughed workers to check their agency’s “ethics guidance” to make sure they are allowed to engage in outside work while on furlough.

1776 even has their own listing looking for someone to do PR & Marketing research.

Building was a community effort between blen and 1776 and built on the open source platform drupal, reportedly in under five hours.


New Leadership Book Contradicts The Startup Lifestyle

Bankable Leadership, Startup Tips, Startup BooksAs I write this I must remind many people to heed what I say not what I do. I’m admittedly one of those startup workaholics that has driven myself to the doctors, and later this week the hospital, because I focused so much on work that I let my health go.

My good friend and bad ass startup chick, Denver Hutt, first drove me to re-examine the 120 hour a week lifestyle when news broke that the She-Ra of the startup community pushed too hard and ignored early onset signs of what is now stage 4 ovarian cancer.

While there are many nights that I work around the clock, there are thankfully equally as many that I don’t.

So what’s the “right” way?

We joke with other startup people all the time that if you’re not coding, writing, developing or working on business development 24 hours a day, you aren’t a real startup founder. We scoff at people that post Facebook updates saying they are having family time while you’re on the grind. Is it jealousy? Are we jealous of the other founders who have work/life balance? Sure sounds like it.

Well a new book called Bankable Leadership by Dr. Tasha Eurich suggests that working around the clock is actually a bad thing. In fact Eurich goes as far as to say, “We actually get stupider when we work too much.”

Dr. Eurich holds an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Industrial Organizational Psychology from Colorado State University. She’s spent her entire career working with organizations big and small to mold more effective leaders, and believe it or not it all starts with better time management.

Dr. Eurich’s approach to leadership is fresh, modern, and fun.  Broken down into four easy-to-digest sections, the Bankable Leadership model “can help anyone become bankable-producing results while fostering a healthy work environment that ensures sustainable success,” says Dr. Eurich.  “This balance between people and results lies at the heart of Bankable Leadership.” Based on over 70 years of science, Dr. Eurich helps leaders understand current—and sometimes surprising—research on the best ways to lead.  “This is not fluff.  The science of leadership is strong – and good leadership drives results.”

While most startup founders are going to be interested in what Eurich says about working too many hours, there are other entrepreneurial and startup myths and lessons explored in her book:

  • 70% of leadership is learned and great leaders are made, not born.
  • Why most companies don’t develop leadership skills effectively.
  • How anyone can learn the principles of effective leadership, regardless of his or her background.
  • How organizations can achieve prosperity with the Bankable Leadership model.
  • Why companies treat employees like children and ways to change it.
  • The differences between the “Cool Parent” Leader vs. the “Trail of Dead Bodies” Leader.
  • What “Delusional Development” is and how it is killing many of today’s leaders.

Find out more about Bankable Leadership here at


Co-Founders Lab Heads To Nashville’s Entrepreneur Center Next Week

CoFounders Lab, Nashville Entrepeneur Center, startup event

When Shahab Kaviani sat down and had some time to reflect about his previous startup, HyperOffice, he realized that the cofounding team behind that startup drove its success. He admits that they bootstrapped almost the entire project. He also says in hindsight their timing was lousy, but the cofounding team kept the startup together.

Finding the right cofounders should actually be at the top of the priority list in any startup. CoFounders lab is one of many startups that look to match people with cofounders. FounderSync is one of those startups that uses an online approach. FounderDating uses a hybrid online offline approach merging an online community with in-person events.

Unlike other events that can turn out to be unorganized get togethers where  people only talk to the people they know, Kaviani has gone to great lengths to make sure that CoFounders Lab events are laser focused on one thing, introducing cofounders to each other.

Also unlike other events and startups claiming to connect cofounders, there’s no prerequisite, vetting process, or cliques you need to join to be part of the network. CoFounders lab goes beyond founder dating by cutting out all the superfluous clutter aimed at boosting egos and not connecting founders to help people build real companies.

CoFounders Lab is now headed to Music City USA–Nashville, Tennessee–next week on October 15th. They’re hosting their event at the brand new state of the art entrepreneur center and hope to connect founders with each other and get some real companies off the ground.

The event is Tuesday, October 15th starting at 6:30pm and it’s free. You just need to register here.

Make sure you mark your calendars for Everywhere Else Tennessee, the national startup conference focused on startups “everywhere else” pulls into Memphis Feb 17-19th 2014. More here.


Pilot Jim McKelvey Continues Empowering People With An Individual Accelerator For Programmers

Jim McKelvey, LaunchCode, Startup, St. Louis startup

(img: Flickr)

How the death of a St. Louis Pizza Delivery Boy Sparked Jim McKelvey’s Latest Startup:

I got to spend a lot of quality time on a 1:1 phone interview with Square co-founder Jim McKelvey yesterday. After bumping into McKelvey at numerous events and talking startups or otherwise shooting the shit, I finally had time to dive in with one of St. Louis’ biggest startup community advocates.

We wasted no time during the interview call, so I went right for the “how does a glass blower get into startups, investing and now being a catalyst for the St. Louis startup community?” McKelvey explained that so many people are eager to give just one label to others, when in fact there are multiple labels for just about everyone. McKelvey is a professional, now hobbyist, glass blower. Blowing glass is something he enjoys when he can now, and he hasn’t been a professional glass blower since 1992.

McKelvey was formerly trained as an engineer and making things is something he’s great at. Over the years, one of his other hobbies, flying, has filled a lot of that time that he had for glass blowing, adding “pilot” to the list of labels attached to him.

We were supposed to talk about Six Thirty, the new St. Louis accelerator specifically for fintech (financial tech) startups. McKelvey is one of the co-founders of the Six Thirty accelerator. With companies like ScottTrade, MasterCard, and Wells Fargo (plus many more) based in St. Louis, a fintech accelerator is a natural fit. They even have a fintech fund in St.Louis called FinServe Tech Angels, which is headed by Kyle Wellborn.

McKelvey points to the launch of Square for the reason there was a need for a fintech accelerator

“We were able to build the technology for Square in 3 weeks. We were running transactions in no time. It took 18 months though to get legal,” McKelvey told me. He firmly believes that anyone with a great team, a good idea, and money behind them can launch a product to market. Launching a financial product is a whole other can of worms. Insurance regulations, PCI compliance, licensing and other legal hurdles stand in the way of a great startup just going for it with a financial product.

Through a cohort-based model, 4 companies will get the mentorship, training and connections they need to hopefully see their fintech startups get to market.

That was the quickest part of our talk, though. McKelvey is actually knee deep in two current working projects. One is Six Thirty; the other is still an “experiment,” but one that he is truly passionate about. LaunchCode is something that truly seems to fulfill McKelvey’s calling right now.

Jim loves teaching, and he loves empowering people. We briefly talked about how now you can walk the streets of Baltimore before a Ravens game or Cincinnati before a Reds game, and see the street vendors accepting credit cards through Square. “I love those kinds of stories” McKelvey said. Those stories show Square has been able to empower people to take their businesses to another level.

LaunchCode is another way people can get to another level.

“There’s only one industry I’ve ever seen where you can go from zero knowledge to a $100,000 salary in one year, and that’s programming,” McKelvey said. There are tens of thousands of folks out there who would absolutely agree.

You need to be driven, have a little bit of scientific or computer knowledge and want to learn, besides the technological tools like a computer. If you have those things you can learn to program.

Throughout his career McKelvey has seen all types of people learn to code and become legitimate programmers. Of course there are the high school computer science misfits, the college graduate engineers, and even people like a WalMart maintenance man who taught himself to code on the side. McKelvey knows that one personally. “He literally mops the floors at a local Walmart and he’s taught himself to code, and he’s good at it”.


Before diving into what LaunchCode is, it’s important to know how McKelvey, who’s admittedly been “rich” for decades, got started with this latest project.

This story begins with pizza, but not in the way you would think with startups.

A friend of McKelvey’s had brought his family over to the US for a better life from Russia. That dream turned tragic for that family in May of 2012 when their 22-year-old son Daniel Maksimenko was shot and killed delivering a pizza in St. Louis. The young man was shot and killed before he even got out of the car, “and for–what–maybe $60,” McKelvey said.

This story has been eating away at McKelvey for quite some time. He didn’t understand why anyone would do something like this. It’s not like the pizza guy carries a lot of cash, and there obviously wasn’t time for an argument.  McKelvey came to the realization that these people weren’t crazy. They did it because they thought they had no other hope.

In the same breath McKelvey points out that there are over 5,000 programming jobs available in St. Louis right this second, but the system is flawed and LaunchCode is changing that.

“When Boeing announces they are bringing 700 jobs to St. Louis, they aren’t bringing 700 jobs. They are bringing 700 job openings,” he points out.

LaunchCode doesn’t have an exact label just yet, and besides everything has multiple labels (see above). I likened LaunchCode to an individualized accelerator for programmers, and McKelvey liked that description.

LaunchCode is bridging the gap between the number of “job openings” and the talent pool. You see, most companies (and when we say most it’s most) require two years experience before hiring a programmer. Schools are churning out programmers left and right, and thousands of people are teaching themselves how to code through online courses and other study at home classes. So when these people are finished learning, they have nowhere to go because they don’t have that experience.

Through LaunchCode Mckelvey has teamed up with 100 businesses in St. Louis ranging from the city’s corporate flagships like ScottTrade, Energizer, and Entreprise, to St. Louis startups like aisle411.

“If you take those 100 startups, just two of them were hiring programmers with less than 2 years experience,” McKelvey said. The other 98% basically just swap employees around.

As an example, McKelvey explained “Say Boeing is working on a new plane and they need developers. They put out a call to their HR channel and recruiters recruit developers from Ralston Purina and Enterprise.” Then those companies hire away someone from another company and so on down the line. New people weren’t put to work; people were just moved around.

The problem has been apparent and glaring at people for decades, and now LaunchCode is fixing it.

McKelvey has convinced these 100 companies both big and small to take a crack at an experiment in peer programming that worked well for Square.

New programmers sign up for LaunchCode. Candidates need to have the basic skills, be eager to learn, take criticism well and a handful of other attributes outlined here. Nothing too hard, really.

While in the program, the new programmer will be paired with an experienced programmer, “mentor” on location with a participating company. During that time the programmer will make $15 per hour and gain a vast knowledge of programming in the real world.

“While we were paying double for one output at Square, we were getting a better quality product,” McKelvey said of peer programming. “When you pair an experienced programmer with a junior programmer, the junior programmer picks up quickly.”

Then you have two experienced programmers.

The program (like an accelerator) lasts 2-3 months. After that time the participating companies will evaluate the new programmer through a more equal lens and decide whether to hire them on full time. These companies all have programming openings, and the candidate will have then spent 2-3 months in their company, in their company culture, and with their company work flow. It seems that staying employed with the company will be pretty easy.

LaunchCode is disrupting the way talent is being hired. McKelvey reminded me several times that LaunchCode is still an experiment. He’s hoping with some success to evaluate LaunchCode to see if expansion vertically, horizontally or both is the next step. In the mean time many have their eyes on what’s going on in St. Louis.

Check out LaunchCode here.







Jim McKelvey image: Bob Lee, Flickr

CEA Teams Up With UpGlobal To Expand Eureka Park, The Startup TechZone

CEA, UpGlobal, Eureka Park, Startups, CES 2014

Two years ago when we covered the first Eureka Park at the International CES in Las Vegas, we were amazed by the amount of good quality startups showcasing there. Last year when we embarked on Eureka Park it had doubled in size and also offered some great talks from the likes of Scott Case, Tony Hsieh and Brad Feld (just to name a few).

This coming year (January 2014), CEA has partnered with the new UpGlobal (the global partnership between Startup America and Startup Weekend) to expand the Eureka Park TechZone.

Now in its third year, the Eureka Park TechZone will span more than 2,000 square meters and showcase more than 200 exhibitors at the 2014 CES. Eureka Park will be located on level one of The Venetian and returns as the vibrant hub for the entrepreneur and startup communities to learn, connect, and inspire.

“The Eureka Park TechZone provides a stage for new companies with technologies for which we don’t yet have product categories, to market their innovation to venture capitalists, media and buyers. Eureka Park’s continued success solidifies the International CES as the ultimate proving ground for innovators of all shapes and sizes in consumer technology,” said Karen Chupka, senior vice president, International CES and Corporate Business Strategy, CEA. “We are thrilled to once again partner with UP Global and the National Science Foundation for the 2014 CES, and can’t wait to experience the ‘Eureka’ ideas that will fuel and transform our lives in the years to come.”

Also new for 2014, the Academia Tech TechZone will be floored within Eureka Park. Academia Tech focuses on the unique technologies coming from colleges and universities. The TechZone will showcase a collection of academic institutions at the 2014 CES, with Columbia University, N.C. State, University of Texas at Austin and Penn State University already confirmed as exhibitors.

CEA today also announces the launch of the Eureka Park: NEXT TechZone, a dedicated area at the 2014 CES, designed for mid-stage startups that have launched a product within the past year. Eureka Park: NEXT will be located on level two in The Venetian Ballroom.

Check out our previous coverage of EurekaPark at the International CES by clicking here.


Cincinnati Startup Pressing Issues Wants To Re-Invent Journalism

Pressing Issues, Cincinnati startup, startup interviews

There are problems with digital journalism, or so says Brad Merrill, the founder of Cincinnati startup Pressing Issues. After years of experience in digital journalism, Merrill and his cohort of journalists decided they wanted to do something new.

“It all started when a group of journalists decided they wanted something new to read. They were looking for a news magazine that not only told them everything that was happening around the world each week, but that did so in an entertaining way. Ideally it would be gleefully sweary and eager to offend the rich and powerful. They realized this meant it probably wouldn’t include any ads,” Merrill told us in an interview.

Pressing Issues is launching today with a model similar to NSFWCorp in Las Vegas. All of the content is subscriber based and behind a paywall. They’ve eliminated ads entirely. Pressing Issues is going to have to demonstrate the strength of their content in bulk and fast.

To do that they are making sure their paid contributors provide thought provoking, and entertaining content, both are important parts for Merrill.

Check out the rest of our interview with Merrill on launch day, below.

What is your startup called?

Pressing Issues

What does your company do?

As the death of real journalism looms over the horizon, we’re paying great journalists to produce investigative pieces and long-form essays about topics other publications aren’t covering, and we’re making their jobs even harder by demanding that their stories be entertaining. We’re employing a paid subscription model with a strict paywall on our digital edition (print is coming in a couple of months!), and we’re going the 100% reader-supported route with no ads.

Who are the founders, and what are their backgrounds?

It all started when a group of journalists decided they wanted something new to read. They were looking for a news magazine that not only told them everything that was happening around the world each week, but that did so in an entertaining way. Ideally it would be gleefully sweary and eager to offend the rich and powerful. They realized this meant it probably wouldn’t include any ads.

Upon realizing that this magazine didn’t actually exist, they decided to create it.

I am founder Brad Merrill, and I’ve written for and edited many digital publications in the past. I’ve long recognized the problems with digital journalism, and I decided that by not being part of the solution, I’m being part of the problem.

Where are you based?

I’m based in Hamilton, Ohio, just outside of Cincinnati. I was very disappointed to have missed out on Everywhere Else – I hope you guys will be back in the area in the future!

What’s the startup scene like where you are based?

As a tech/startup blogger myself, I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with so many brilliant entrepreneurial minds here in the Cincinnati area. The startup community is fantastic.

What problem do you solve?

We don’t have a mission statement, but if we did it would probably say something about “reinventing journalism.” It’s a broken business. Everyone wants to make an app and make journalism smaller and smaller. I say it’s time to make journalism big again. That’s why we’re publishing 3,000-word pieces online, and 10,000-word pieces in print. We’re serious about this.

As for topics, we just like good stories. Bonus points for really big stories. For example, one of our first pieces is about a former cop in Las Vegas who wrote a book encouraging the use of hostage negotiation techniques to manipulate women for sex and, in his words, “get past no.” He’s now in charge of a downtown watch group intended to keep people (particularly women who get off work late) safe in the city—presumably from the very things he advocates in his book. Not the best man for the job, I’d say, so we’re exposing the whole thing.

Where can people find out more? Any social media links you want to share?

People can find out more and subscribe at