5 Tips for Riding the Startup Roller Coaster (Without Tossing Your Cookies)

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The startup journey can be a rough ride. One minute, it seems like you’re steadily ticking up a steep hill toward blue skies, then whoosh! Down you go. In the early stages of a business, there’s no stability. Revenue is uncertain. You have no idea whether the customers in your market want what you have — or how to get it to them. It can feel like the best (or worst) roller coaster you’ve ever ridden. Funding struggles can make the startup journey even rougher. Venture-backed startups face intense pressure to consistently grow their revenue, and according to the National Venture Capital Association, an estimated 25 to 30 percent of VC-backed businesses fail. I think the reality is a much higher number than reported. Other startups are funded from the team’s collective back pocket, so when the startup suffers, so does everyone on board. But the startup roller coaster doesn’t have to be a hellish experience. With the right attitude, you can make those highs higher and those lows much more bearable. Here are a few tips for holding down your lunch in the face of pressure and uncertainty:

Think about values, not direction.

Meeting deadlines and milestones are common aggravators in the startup world, and it’s tough to remain optimistic when the obstacles seem insurmountable. But when everybody is so focused on relentless forward motion — instead of doing their best and appreciating the present — it can be destructive to your startup’s progress. By focusing on your core values (e.g., making users happy) instead of where you want to be three months from now, every day of work will become more enjoyable, and you’ll gain unstoppable momentum.

Enjoy the high points.

Another reason startups suffer is blazing through the achievements that make the whole journey worth it. When you experience a “win,” take the time to relish it. This isn’t easy and has been, admittedly, something that I have too often glossed over. Focusing on your high points can help you stay on track when you hit a snag and remind yourself why you started your company in the first place. And if you have lots to look forward to, like social events with your team or celebratory beer breaks for good progress, you’ll be more likely to power through the low points.

Shift your perspective on low points.

If you see the dips in your success as failures, they’ll act like failures, which means slowing you down and stalling your motivation. But if you treat them as valuable parts of your journey — a failed experiment or even as a startup rite of passage— they’ll make you stronger, teach you valuable lessons, and allow you to keep pushing forward with confidence.

Keep lines of communication open.

You often don’t know you have a communication problem until something goes wrong. Then, when a problem arises, everyone starts talking. Emails fly back and forth. People freak out. Keeping lines of communication open when it’s business as usual is great practice for putting out fires. Don’t just communicate when things hit the fan. By then, it’s too late. Collaboration is critical in a startup, but this can only happen when people are communicating honestly with one another.

Practice good karma.

If you focus on keeping your users or customers happy, delivering what they’re looking for, and making their lives easier, they’ll be much more likely to become loyal to your product or service. This kind of good karma can really speed up your journey to success and put money in the bank. By staying focused on your values and your customers, celebrating the highs, appreciating the lows, and constantly practicing good communication, you can ride the startup roller coaster without losing your mind (or your lunch). When you finally crest that hill and get a good view from the top, you’ll be able to remember your humble roots with a smile. If you don’t appreciate the journey, even the best outcome will feel lackluster. Zvi Band is the founder and CEO of Contactually, a relationship-marketing platform that maximizes value and drives greater ROI from personal and professional networks. Zvi frequently participates in thought leadership panels at Tech Cocktail, WordPress DC, DC PHP, and DCRUG events. He loves solving new problems and building new products and services.

Why Entrepreneurs Need To Take Breaks

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As an entrepreneur, it can be extremely difficult to take time out and re-calibrate.

Everything you are is focused on bringing your vision come to life, and making all of the stress, personal sacrifice and fatigue worthwhile.

But does it actually increase your chance of success to take a time out? Step back and make sure you’re making the right choices, and there isn’t a great opportunity staring you in the face. It is very easy to miss the obvious when you are buried in growing a company.

You must be willing to go over and above and push yourself more than the average person. No question. But what is rarely talked about are the physical and mental downsides of not taking breaks from your obsession.

Mental Downside Of Being Hyper-Focused

There is a never ending litany of people saying that the only way to be successful is to be focused, give it your all and it will all be worth it. I completely agree with this (and have lived it) but personally feel this needs to be further defined.

Studies show that optimal mental efficiency happens on 7.06 hours of sleep. There is significant decline with less than 6.47 hours or more than 8.03. Since you are making important decisions as a business owner, it is vital you operate at your peak mental ability as much as humanly possible.

Will this be possible all the time? Of course not. Just make sure you keep this reality in the back of your head. The last thing you want to do is make a dumb decision on a lack of sleep!

Physical Downside Of Being Hyper-Focused

I really don’t need to even dive into this. We all know what happens when we work to much and exercise to little, but did you know that stress has a direct impact on your immune system and rate of metabolism?

The hormone cortisol is released as part of your “fight or flight” response to stress. While there are temporary benefits to this, in the long term there is a significant reduction in both your immune system and digestive track. This leads to greater risk of serious diseases in general, and the slow down of your metabilism has been linked to things like diabetes and intestinal blockage.

Another study shows that AGE DOESN’T MATTER in how the body reacts to stress!

Personal Downside Of Being Hyper-Focused

Beating back weight gain, overcoming illness and getting caught up on sleep can usually be accomplished when you’ve either failed miserably or reached the mountain top.

The bad decisions made in business and more importantly your personal life are not so easily vanquished.

Losing clients, friends, significant others, or relationships with your children have serious impact on your mental health. While you may be able to suppress these issues in the short term, they will catch up with you.

There was a study released last year showing that married business owners had a divorce rate of 82%. With a national average of just under 50%, this is to great a coincidence to ignore.

In short, you need to think long and hard about how much these relationships mean to you. Not only can they damage you emotionally in the long term, destruction of your personal life will make business success that much harder.

Taking Breaks Doesn’t Mean Losing Focus

Having experienced almost everything mentioned in this article personally, I want to say that this has not turned off my entrepreneurial fire in the slightest.

It has just made me take the occasional timeout, re-calibrate, make sure the decisions being make are good ones, spend time with my daughter, friends and build great relationships with clients.

If you do the same, it will make those late nights and short term sacrifices easier to deal with and make them more rewarding when you have people to share them with!

Why I Came Out of the Mommy Closet

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I have a dirty little secret.

I’ve spent years–well, not hiding it exactly. Just choosing not to showcase it.

But, now it’s time to air my dirty laundry. So to speak.

I’m a mother.

Yup. That’s it. My big secret. And you’re probably wondering why it’s even such a big deal.

Even though I’m proud of my 3 boys, I put a lot of thought into whether or not to incorporate them into my professional life. There are several reasons any woman would consider the same choice I made.

You’re Just Starting Out

There are lots of women who successfully make a name for themselves as a mom. They build blogs or businesses around having a family.

For these women, being loud and proud about motherhood is essential to their personal branding.

But, for women building businesses apart from their families, it can be distracting to talk about motherhood. One friend who is a partner at a venture capital firm told me that she loses Twitter followers every time she tweets about parenting.

In the era of social media and personal branding, you have to think long and hard about what you share. If talking about your family dilutes your brand, it might be best to keep quiet.

That Pesky Glass Ceiling

Like it or not, there is still a glass ceiling for most women.

Draw attention to your uterus and watch that ceiling drop even lower.

In our Serious Startups episode on parenting, Kane expressed surprise that this is true in startups as well as corporate culture.

“There are no rules in startups,” he said incredulously.

But the harsh reality is that there are rules in everything. Startups are a tough environment for mothers because the very nature of entrepreneurship is all-consuming. There is no time for “distractions,” even if they’re cute.

A quick survey of the startup tech scene reveals 2 main demographics for both founders and investors: “men” and “women without children.”

There are exceptions, of course. But, in general, moms starting a non-family-focused business face a huge uphill battle both practically and reputation-wise.

Keep Your Privates Private

The first 2 reasons I’ve talked about can be overcome with time and success. After a certain level of accomplishment or proving yourself, it’s rarely a big deal to reveal your secret.

This last one, though, can apply to moms at any level.

Sometimes, it’s just nobody’s business.

Imagine how awful it would be if everyone had access to all the cute/horrible pictures and stories from your childhood. A simple Google search would show employers pictures of 2-year-old you being potty trained or your mom’s tweets about the time you ate dog poop. That’s reality for the next generation.

Many moms choose to keep their motherhood quiet in order to give their kids a clean digital record.

(FYI: Even though I’m now out of the closet, I still won’t ever publish my kids pictures or names.)

There Comes a Time In Every Mom’s Life…

There are several great reasons for moms to stay quiet about their kids. But sometimes, it’s time to come clean.

As we talked before filming the parenting show, I realized how many women share my dilemma. We’re entrepreneurs, we have kids, and sometimes both of those things work together. Sometimes they don’t.

Either way, it can be isolating–even more than typical entrepreneurship. Admitting my “fatal flaw” to the world is just one more way to battle that isolation and the status quo.

After all, it’s great to know we’re not alone in our rocketship.

Do Good Things Come to Those Who Wait?

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They say that “Good things come to those who wait,” but is it true?

Since shifting my focus from short term profit to a long term, multi-faceted game plan, I often find myself wondering if it’s worth it. What I’m doing makes sense assuming everything goes as planned, but that doesn’t make it easier to be patient.

So in an attempt to both pacify my own impatience, and hopefully share a few things I’ve learned in the last 18 months of being patient, let’s dive into a few reasons patience is worth it in entrepreneurship.

Meeting People of Influence

While I personally hate “who you know” being such a factor of success, it’s amazing what doors open when you take the time to build relationships with people of influence. In the past, I used sheer aggression in marketing and value proposition to build my companies.

Did that work? It sure did, but looking back I realized that the amount of time and energy spent should have been split in direct business development and relationship building.

This go around, instead of being consumed with trying to convince everyone my logic is the greatest thing since sliced bread, I’m taking the time to prove myself on a much smaller scale. This is leading to relationships with people who are opening doors that will ultimately make my long term objectives easier to attain.

As an added bonus, when I started to diversify my relationships, it became easier to find people who thought my logic was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Finding Better Ways To Communicate

As an entrepreneur, one of the biggest sources of frustration is not being able to convince everyone your idea is a good one. Very often that is because it’s hard to compact years of planning into 5 minutes of conversation and actually relay the big picture.

Convincing people who don’t matter in the big picture is easy. The ones that can make or break you is hard. If you can’t paint the picture quickly you’ll get shut down in less than 30 seconds.

Once you get over the slap to your confidence and accept that you can’t convince everyone, it becomes a worthwhile challenge to figure out new ways to be a communications artist. Not only does this have short term value in achieving your goal, being able to communicate effectively to different personality types is a priceless skill in leadership.

Learning To Suppress Ego

Being successful in a variety of areas makes you confident. While confidence is an extremely essential aspect of success, learning when to be humble is a hard but worthwhile.

There is always someone bigger and better than you. The quicker you learn that reality the quicker you will be able to connect and learn from them. This is not to say you should become a “yes man” and never challenge their opinion.

Learning to shut up and listen enables you to learn faster and also helps build a relationship. When others recognize you respect their opinion and experience, they are much more likely to help you in return. This applies to people of influence, your team, and potential partners or customers.

Building An Even Better Mousetrap

Looking back on the plan I’ve been working on for over 2 years now, the way it’s grown is remarkable. Different components of it are being implemented all over the world by other people, which just gives me more confidence that my logic is correct.

As pieces of the puzzle are confirmed, it makes it that much easier to convince those who I’ve been building relationships with that the macro vision being built is worthwhile. While it would be extremely satisfying to say it was my idea first, history proves that being the first to market doesn’t always mean you win.

It’s often those who build a slightly better version of the proverbial mousetrap who win.

So Is Patience Worth It?

As much as it pains me to say it, I think being patient will be worth it.

Spending time building relationships, learning to communicate better, and seeing what works and what doesn’t, enables you to put together a better mousetrap without having to convince everyone that it’s a good idea. Now you just have to convince them it’s a better version.

This leads back to learning to suppress your ego.

As an entrepreneur it’s extremely hard to not strive to be the man on top as quickly as possible. It’s the way we are wired and what separates us from those happy with the status quo and no drive to challenge it.

So I guess time will tell if patience will turn out to be a virtue. But I can say it has made me a better man. It has caused me to build relationships with people who will help turn my dream into reality, exposed my flaws and strengths, and given insight into becoming a person of true merit.

Financial success can be fleeting, but character built through patience is priceless.

Do You Have the Stomach for This?

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Recently I went through a little entrepreneurial funk.

I know I probably shouldn’t admit that in public, but if we’re honest, we know everyone has them. If you’re anything like me, this thought process probably sounds familiar:

  • Crap. I don’t know if I’ll pay the bills this month.

  • I’ve worked 18 hour days every day for a year, but I can’t pay my freaking bills.

  • What’s the best thing I can do right now to make sure the bills get paid?

  • Damn! I don’t want to spend all my time only thinking about the short term. I have dreams…and goals…and and and…!

  • Screw it. What’s the point?

At this point, you’re wondering if your mother was right and you should get a “real job.” Oh, the peace of a regular paycheck, semi-normal work hours, and that long lost thing called a weekend.

I’m not going to tell you to suck it up and keep going. Maybe you’re not cut out for this. Maybe you should do yourself and the rest of the world a favor and find that nice stable job after all. Hey, there’s no shame there, even if we like to glamourize entrepreneurship to the point of it becoming unrecognizable.

I’m not going to tell you to keep chasing your dreams, because this is gut check time. This is when it’s time to really ask yourself, “Do I have the stomach for this?”

What’s your risk tolerance?

This is where you factor in all those people who matter to you. Do you have a spouse and kids? Are their needs being met in some way, preferably that doesn’t involve massive debt?

I’m not saying parents can’t be entrepreneurs, even struggling ones. I’m a single mom, so this is the big question that really hits home for me. My conclusion is that the future I’m building for my kids outweighs the struggles of the present.

But, that may not be your conclusion, which leads to the next question…

What’s your big picture–and is it worth it?

Do you have a long term goal? Or are you just wanting to “be an entrepreneur”? I promise you, being an entrepreneur for its own sake is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Take some time away from the daily grind and really define your goals–concrete things you actually want to accomplish. At the end of the day, will those dreams provide a payoff that exceeds your current struggles?

If not, maybe you should consider a new path, at least until you can define a long term goal worth chasing.

What do your advisers say?

I’m very lucky to have smart business partners who care not just about our business but about me and my family. When both of them consistently said I should not give up yet, I knew they were seeing the bigger picture I was missing.

Talk to people you trust, who know you and your unique situation. Listen to their advice, and when things seem darkest remember that they are probably seeing the pieces you’re missing.

How sleep deprived are you?

You might think this is out of place, but trust me. You don’t want to make major decisions on a sleep deprived brain.

Do whatever is necessary to get a few nights of consistent sleep. Melatonin works wonders for me, and everything starts to make more sense when you catch up on sleep.

What does your gut say?

And, then sometimes, you can’t quantify your thought process. Sometimes the answer is to simply follow your instinct. During my most recent funk, my instinct was to keep going, even when fear was telling me to stop.

If your instinct is to take a break or even stop altogether, go with it. You’ll be happier, healthier, and saner than the rest of us.

Going through hard times is never fun. But, it’s almost always a gift in disguise. Walking through the dark days will reaffirm your passion and vision, making you more confident the next time you struggle.

Or, it will be a big red flag that says it’s time for a new path.

3 Ways Business Success Requires Being Human

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Let’s face it. In the world of technology we’ve become so obsessed with the latest innovative way to solve a problem and lower human demand, we’ve forgotten these tools are all invented to help benefit our fellow humans.

This has led to significant issues in customer service, company culture, employee loyalty, and company growth. These factors combine to create failures which seem outlandish, but when looked at in depth clearly reveal a lack of baseline humanity.

In an attempt to streamline productivity, we have begun to view these tools as the most essential part of success and not the people behind them. Employees are treated as disposable cogs and not vital pieces of what the company is and strives to become.

So how can we counter this problem and leverage the amazing advancements at our fingertips without ultimately destroying our society?

1. Remember Innovation Requires Imagination

While there is hope that someday artificial intelligence will enable us to be taken care of without having to work, and all issues will be solved without requiring human focus, that day isn’t here yet.

In the meantime, it is essential for us to remember on a daily basis that everything around us in the modern world is a result of human imagination and hard work. From the dawn of time, everything developed has required a reason which benefits mankind. Without creative thought we would still be living in the stone age.

So while we are rapidly creating things which remove the need for human sweat in many areas, we must not forget the new opportunities becoming available just open doors to leveraging the power of our minds. In reality, the demand for creativity may be greater than ever.

Without business leaders creating environments to help spark creativity, the ability to achieve long term success is drastically reduced.

2. Creating A Positive Work Environment

So many people think it’s just about how much you can pay in salary and benefits which controls how productive your company can become. While being able to remove employee financial stress is extremely important, most people will tell you when looking back on life that it wasn’t “the best paying job” which correlated with their happiness and productivity.

It was a sense of belonging. Being valued for what they brought to the table and accepted for who they are as a human being, not just viewed as an easily replaceable tool. Their favorite managers were the ones who listened and weren’t consumed by personal power and ego.

It’s actually quite simple to create this kind of workplace. First as a leader, subjugate your ego. Listen to others and admit you don’t know everything. Second, make sure those in positions of authority below you understand and follow this mindset. Third, reward those with initiative and ambition. While monetary reward is appreciated, in truth that appreciation is short lived. A kind word has more power than what can be bought.

3. Help Others Achieve Their Dreams

So often managers view productive employees as threats to their position. Business owners often fear losing a great employee to competition or entrepreneurship.

These things are just the reality of life and cannot be avoided, but if you have built amazing relationships on a human level, going separate ways can be less painful, partnerships can be created to benefit all parties, or even new avenues to greater success can be revealed.

What if that person comes to you with an idea that could change your business model or provide a new revenue stream? Should you be greedy and implement that idea without reward? While it may pay off in the short term, the next person with an idea will surely hide it from you. By default you have just limited your own success and likely created competition for yourself.

What if they get an offer they can’t refuse and move onto another company? Fast forward 5 years. They are now CEO and want to buy you out. That human relationship you built makes them want to make a fair deal rather than rip you off in desire for revenge.

What if hard times come and you can’t meet payroll, or need your team to rise to the occasion beyond just being a 9-5 employees? If you have created the type of human-to-human relationships and environments discussed, you will be amazed at how they will be there for you when it counts.

Failure and success have very thin margins of separation. Don’t forget this when you find yourself becoming consumed with ways to reduce the need of human capital. Find ways to maximize it instead!

How to Transform Your Fear of Failure

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Entrepreneurs often struggle when they start doing cold calls. They hate calling others to drum up business and they’re not good at it, either. Their approach is too timid and they give up too soon when they encounter resistance. They don’t manage objections well, so they don’t bring home the bacon.

Fear Of Failure

One of the guys on our team had problems with cold calling. This seemed strange because he was an audacious, bold and outgoing person. But tell him to sell on the phone and he turned into a frightened little chicken.

The cause was obvious: fear of failure. He was scared of rejection. We both knew it. He also rationally understood that this fear did not serve a positive purpose, but he was still stuck in it.

Turning Fears Into Reality

But how could we get him unstuck? How could we shake him up and change this state? I decided to challenge him with a new task: to fail with every call. For the rest of the day, I told him he should call people and make them hang up on him. His mission was to fail miserably.

To make it more fun, I told him to fail in a different way with each call. “Start by speaking painfully slow and unenthusiastic,” I suggested.

Our little coaching conversation turned into the center of attention in the office. Everyone on our team was looking at him when he made the first call. His discomfort was obvious. But he played along. He spoke each word painfully, slowly, with excruciatingly long silences and pauses. It was painful to hear. Everyone in the office had to tap into the core of our self control not to burst out laughing. But there was no holding back once the other person hung up on him. The whole office was going crazy, including him.

The team came up with a new challenge for the second call: stuttering. And so he did; he stuttered his way through half a conversation. After 10 of these calls the atmosphere in the whole room had totally changed.

Changing Your State

I looked him in the eyes and said: ”Now go get’em. Close deals. Take everything you’ve got and make it happen. Have fun!” And suddenly he was a different person. A total transformation of energy: he became fearless and unstoppable, a relentless machine.

But what exactly caused this transformation? It wasn’t a new insight; he already knew that it was just fear holding him back. But he had now transferred that insight from a logical, rational level into an instinctive insight. He had emotionally internalized what he already knew mentally by making failure real. And that led to the breakthrough in his behavior.

Use These Techniques If You Feel Anxious About Cold Calling

  1. Address the issue and verbalize it.
  2. Instead of trying to avoid failure, aim for failure.
  3. Be creative about different ways to successfully achieve failure.
  4. Have fun and be silly. It will unlock the secret vault of sales power deep inside of you.
  5. Now that you have experienced what failure feels like, realize there is nothing to be afraid of.
  6. Now crush it and see how you can perform once you aim for success.

How have you lost your fear of failure in the past? Please share your stories and experiences so we can all let go of our fears and live more adventurous and successful lives.

A version of this article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Steli Efti is the Co-Founder / CEO of Close.io and an advisor to several startups and entrepreneurs.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Accelerating Startup Innovation Through Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding concept

Everyday I get pitched a new idea.

Choosing which to get involved in as a mentor, investor or connector is becoming easier as my personal network grows (many thanks LinkedIn) but more importantly because the ability to mitigate risk and prove viability quickly is becoming easier.

This is not to say that raising capital is becoming easier. For those of you who read “Open Letter To Angel Investors & VCs” you will understand where I’m going with this article.

In short, let’s quickly discuss new opportunities available to shorten the window of time needed to get seed stage capital, minimum viable product, and secure beta clients.

Crowdfunding Seed Stage Capital

Let’s face reality. Crowdfunding is the future, and if the SEC will ever get out of the way and allow equity crowdfunding to the masses, our current recession would be over in no time. In the meantime, while the regulators argue about how we can spend our money, let’s talk about leveraging this option to both raise initial seed capital to get proof of concept.

Putting together a great campaign is a skill in itself. It requires creative thought, excellent planning, significant time spent on PR strategy and connection with social media influencers. If you are able to put these pieces together with a great product or service, then communicate it well to the target demographic, it is reasonable you can get enough funding to build your proof of concept.

In the end, it boils down to your social media influence and public relations. If those two are accounted for, your chances of success are reasonable.

In the meantime, don’t forget to put as many things in place prior to the end of the campaign you will need to build the MVP. Whether that be vendors, manufacturers or advisers.

Building Minimum Viable Product

Now let’s assume your crowdfunding campaign was a success.

In the age of 3D printing, access to manufacturing globally and web/mobile development advancements, it never ceases to amaze me how so many startup founders REFUSE to quickly build an MVP (minimum viable product) and get to market.

If your campaign is a success, you have a potential customer base built in by default. Not only can you leverage the buzz created, you also have the ability to communicate with these potential customers and get their feedback on what they would like to see. Instead of hiding everything from them until launch, just ask questions.

It is better to make modifications prior to launch, than wait for the bombardment of feedback when you are slammed with customer service, fulfillment and the other headaches which come with company growth. Making pivots is a blunt reality in business. It is better to account for them as early as possible.

Leveraging Beta Clients

Growing your business requires getting an initial client base, whether you call them beta clients, early adopters or just plain customers.

By going the way of crowdfunding and heavy engagement with your backers, you have the opportunity to build a loyal customer base full of brand ambassadors. Not only is this vital to growing the company in the short term, in context of raising additional capital, being able to showcase a rapidly growing customer base enables proving market viability to investors.

While many investors shy away from crowdfunded projects in the early stages, this position is rapidly shifting as acceptance of crowd based idea validation expands. If you are able to prove how many backers have turned into ongoing customers, you now have an extremely valuable weapon at your disposal.

Accelerating Traditional Capital Raise

Since it realistically takes 6+ months to raise seed stage capital for 99% of startups, it makes sense to spend that same amount of time planning out your crowdfunding campaign with the next step goals as outlined above.

Not only does this enable you to be further down the road prior to raising traditional capital, you also have a much stronger position in equity negotiations and might not even need it. Investors are looking for proof of concept, minimum viable product, initial customer base and growing revenue. All of these are signals of risk mitigation on their investment.

By strategically leveraging crowdfunding, you have the opportunity to both accelerate growth of your company and the time spent raising additional capital. When risk is lowered, you will be amazed at how quickly the doors can open up.

This is just a top level of things to think about when planning your entrepreneurial journey in today’s world of opportunity. I would appreciate your feedback and ideas you can share with others getting ready to make the leap!

Don’t Tackle An Elephant Head On

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I’ve heard two different philosophies about building a successful company. One school of thought glorifies the idea of “disruption.” These are the Ubers of the world who set out to redefine or create entire industries.

Then there are the founders who believe you should watch what works for others and simply recreate it in order to achieve similar success. This approach can work when taking a model from niche market to niche market or from city to city.

Both models have their champions. And both sets of champions have plenty of bad things to say about the other approach. Personally, I like what I call the “Paul Singh approach.”

Don’t Tackle An Elephant Head On

In our podcast last week, Paul talked about the early days of 500 Startups, taking on giant investing firm Andreessen Horowitz. While Andreessen Horowitz had access to deal flow and didn’t have to work hard at finding investments, 500 Startups was young, unproven, and relatively smaller.

So, Paul and Dave McClure didn’t play the game the same way their larger competitors did. They chose to travel the world, spending most of the year in other cities, speaking and meeting startups. They built their portfolio by going to the companies–the exact opposite strategy most investment firms were using.

This is where “disruption” can play a big role. 500 Startups didn’t invent an industry; but they did re-imagine what an industry could look like and how to get business done. And, as we all know, they were successful with it. If they had chosen to play the same game as larger, more established firms, they probably would’ve lost.

But Know the Rules of the Game

We often hear stories of founders who built successful companies in industries they weren’t familiar with. They attribute their success to “not knowing any better.”

But, that’s not as common as we like to think it is. In the case off 500 Startups, if David and Paul didn’t know much about investing before they started, they learned quickly. After all, it’s vital to understand your industry. More common in real life is the entrepreneur who spent much of her career in a certain industry, saw a problem there, and figured out a way to solve it. Profitably.

If you don’t know the rules of the game you’re playing, you’ll never be able to judge which ones to break and which ones to keep. 99% these are the most important decisions you’ll make as you start up.

Want to know more about the “rules” of the game? We’re launching an awesome webinar series in the next few weeks and would love to have you join us. We’ll be talking about things like idea validation, pitching investors, and crowdfunding. Just pop your email address in the subscribe box, and we’ll keep you updated on all the important details.

Nicole Lazzaro Gamifies Happiness

nicole lazzaro

 

Fast Company called her one of the 100 most influential women in high tech. Gamasutra named her one of the Top 20 women working in video games. Her company has served more than one billion gamers. In other words, XEODesign, Inc. President Nicole Lazzaro knows her stuff when it comes to gaming, and especially regarding gaming’s effects on our emotions.

During her talk at Gamification.co’s Gsummit conference, Lazzaro broadly described what she does as “The Science of Fun.” After her speech, she spoke to TechnologyAdvice’s Clark Buckner about leveraging happiness for better gaming experiences, detailing the brain’s four major chemicals that cause us to feel happy.

A DOSE of Happiness

Our brains release four main chemicals when we feel happy—dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins—and each chemical plays a unique role in influencing our feelings.

Lazzaro noted that dopamine’s often defined as the happiness drug, but that’s a misnomer. Dopamine release occurs when anticipating a happy event rather than during the event itself. In other words, it’s an emotion someone feels when they’re striving toward a goal.

Oxytocin has been referred to as the “cuddle hormone” because it’s often released when in close proximity to another person. However, oxytocin can also be released through other events like eye contact, social bonding, and being attentive to others. Oxytocin helps to deepen existing relationships.

More people are familiar with serotonin’s work in the mind and body. When your serotonin level is up, you’re in a good mood. When it’s down, you’re down. Lazzaro also shed light on the plight of the angry, hungry person: 80 percent of serotonin lives in the guy, so a skipped lunch could lead to a detrimental drop in serotonin.

Endorphins are often associated with our fight-or-flight responses because they’re released to help mask pain. Endorphins provide that extra motivation to finish a challenging task. For example, Lazzaro is a runner and mentioned that endorphins help her break through mental and physical barriers so she can run longer distances over time.

Lazzaro encourages people to discover ways to responsibly release each of these chemicals into their brains more often so they can experience more happiness. Increased happiness often results in increased productivity.

The DOSE of happiness principles that Lazzaro prescribes for people in general can also be used in games, especially concerning user loyalty. By keeping neuroscience in mind when designing the user experience, a developer or company can work to keep consumers wanting more and playing their game or using their product over and over again.

Ultimately, Lazzaro wants to change the world through positive thinking. Part of that path means “gaming yourself into happiness” because of its many benefits, like more individual productivity and better user loyalty.

To hear more from Nicole Lazzaro on DOSEing your games and your life, listen to the podcast interview below or an earlier interview, “Changing the World Is One Big Game.” Read more of Lazzaro’s fascinating insights at 4k2f.com.

 

The Interview was conducted by Clark Buckner from TechnologyAdvice.com (they provide coverage content on loyalty software for businesses, medical billing tools, gamification trends and much more). Also be sure to check out their Tech Conference Calendar.

6 Things Holding Back Today’s Biotech Entrepreneurs

monetary value

High-risk, high-reward endeavors are intimidating.

The risk frightens most people away, so the rewards find few individuals and organizations. When you consider both the financial rewards and the personal fulfillment of an endeavor, however, the risks become worthwhile and the rewards more deeply satisfying.

The biotech industry is booming with stories of massive success. In 2013, spending by biotech companies on R&D grew at a faster rate than revenue for the first time since the global financial crisis began. What’s more, nearly all of that growth stemmed from 17 U.S.-based companies with annual revenues of more than $500 million.

Onyx Pharmaceuticals was recently sold for $10.4 billion, and Third Rock Ventures hasn’t slowed down since its inception. IPOs in biotech are exceeding expectations.

But money alone isn’t what makes this field so great. Rather, it’s the challenge of piecing together knowledge to work through puzzles that could change lives. Solving these puzzles could mean people live richer lives, loved ones postpone their goodbyes, and trauma victims fully recover faster.

If you look beyond the dollar signs, you can see the healing your solutions bring. However, to find these rewards, you must overcome several common obstacles of the biotech field.

The Hurdles Ahead

Every company that’s made it big has had to overcome substantial barriers. These obstacles exist for almost every biotech entrepreneur, and they include:

1. Side effects. Technology startups might select products that have potential risks or side effects, which the developer won’t know about until later. Health risks or other problems related to the base science can pop up unexpectedly and derail an entire project.

2. Mental pressure. The high chance of failure makes a biotech endeavor feel like walking a tightrope. It doesn’t help that biotech startups have a longer investment and operation cycle than normal companies. For an average company, drug development will take 10 to 15 years from R&D to FDA approval.

Additionally, biotech companies have a separate metric for measuring value because the company can profit from products that are approved to sell on the market. During the long journey of drug development, each milestone is a multiplier to the current evaluated value of the project. It’s like a relay race, with each team member carrying an intangible asset.

3. Initial funding. Startup costs are high with a very long ROI. General tech startups have easy access to the Internet and electronics that allow them to create whatever they want. Entrepreneurs in biotech, however, must have access to labs, research, and specialized employees to get through multiple stages of development and manufacturing.

4. Regulation. Regulation for many new technologies is still in its infancy, so approval may take longer. The FDA regulates all products made by biotech companies, which is a slow and cumbersome process — even if regulations for your particular application already exist.

5. General knowledge. You must have some basic knowledge of the given technology to make critical decisions like path, claim, and indication. Biotech entrepreneurs don’t necessarily have to be scientists, but they do need to know enough about their technology (and all the processes that accompany development and clinical trials) to make their product viable to investors. You must understand how the system works to avoid unnecessary high costs.

6. Timing. You have to understand patent duration and the effective time of comparable intellectual property to ensure that your products are patented and protected. This may lead to more costs for lawyers and licensing.

For example, when you set up a clinical trial, your enrollment site must meet the patient enrollment on time. Otherwise, it slows down progress for all your departments. Biotech entrepreneurs must make the critical decision to set up a backup site and immediately initiate it before that scenario makes too much of a difference.

The road to success in the biotech field is not an easy one. It’s daunting, and the risk of failure is certainly high — but the rewards are incredible. If you jump all the hurdles, you can tap into all areas of knowledge and take on meaningful challenges that can transform lives all over the world.

Kevin Xu is the CEO of MEBO International, a California- and Beijing-based intellectual property management company specializing in applied health systems.