The Advice All Entrepreneurs Should Ignore

advice for entrepreneurs

In 2011, my friend Kostas and I saw an opportunity. If we developed a hyper-accurate keyboard app — one that enabled users to type without looking at the screen — we could change the way people interacted with mobile technology.

We could eliminate the apologetic email signatures, stop walking into things while texting, and truly ditch our laptops. It would break down barriers to the “Internet of Things.”

Everyone said it couldn’t be done, but that was only because no one had done it. Where others saw something impossible, Kostas and I saw an opportunity to be first in a space with huge potential for growth.

Counter the “It’ll Never Work” Objections

When your ideas are ambitious, the tech industry will inevitably try to make you quit.

One of the first people to shoot us down was an angel investor. We had barely finished pitching when he rejected us outright. A touchpad keyboard for the blind wasn’t feasible, he said. Apple’s iOS didn’t allow real integration of third-party keyboards; without the iPhone, the app could never truly be successful.

I countered both objections. Within minutes of our departure, he emailed our mutual contact, complaining that we were “strong-headed” and “ill-informed.” This was a preview of the most common objection we faced: “It’s never been done before.”

Too many people mistake things that haven’t been done for things that can’t be done. Real opportunities come from ideas that haven’t yet been acted upon.

The Benefits of Attempting Something New

Creating an opportunity from something new provides a competitive advantage in the form of:

  1. Brand awareness: Attempting the impossible generates attention. People want to support innovation, and they’ll spread the word for you.
  2. Access to untapped markets: If your product fulfills an unmet need, you’ll have few competitors and many eager customers. Even if you’re small, you can corner the market with a first-mover advantage.
  3. Future potential: By opening the door to multiple opportunities, you’re maximizing your capacity to succeed.
  4. Satisfaction and recruitment: Not only does innovation bolster morale, but it also attracts top talent.

What You Need When Attempting the “Impossible”

Had we listened to our critics, we would have never started. But when developing a revolutionary new product, it’s not the critics who matter — it’s your user base. You need a devoted group of early users who can offer feedback and help improve your product.

During development, I learned that the iPhone’s accessibility options made it popular with blind users, so we brought our prototype to the blind community. Their skepticism quickly gave way to excitement, and for some, the experience was so overwhelming that they wept.

The prototype was basic. But suddenly we had thousands of real users invested in the growth of the product. Their feedback helped each version evolve by leaps and bounds.

Once you have your passionate early users, you also need to find a way to turn perceived barriers into opportunities. When we released a public beta of our app on iOS, many people thought we were crazy due to Apple’s restrictions on third-party keyboards. But in February, we opened our API to any developer who wanted to use it, transforming the restriction into an opportunity for growth.

Never Be Afraid to Do Things Differently

This historical iOS barrier was enough for plenty of people to reject our idea altogether. But because we pursued the opportunity, we are now celebrating 1 million downloads.

Many entrepreneurs fail because they’re afraid to do things differently. But learning to create opportunity is a skill like any other. You can become better by networking, keeping an ear to the ground, and positioning yourself to capitalize on the shifting market. It’s also important to devote several hours a week to trying things that are new, crazy and potentially groundbreaking.

If you ignore opportunity, it will vanish. But when you embrace it, there will always be more.

Ioannis Verdelis is the co-founder and COO of Fleksy, a revolutionary keyboard that makes typing on a touchscreen so easy you can type without even looking. Connect with him on Twitter

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.

How Crashing A Trade Show Saved Helprace


Startups can greatly benefit from attending conferences, especially if they are fighting tooth and nail to build awareness. That’s what founder Gregory Koldirkaev had to resort to when he decided to take on Zendesk and Getsatisfaction with his own customer service platform, Helprace.

After getting a small investment a decade ago, a small group of software engineers were recruited to develop a knowledge-based software. In a year, the client base grew into the hundreds. Then came the market crash, reducing the team to virtually zero.This forced a pivot into the customer service software market. Enter the need to leverage trade shows to pitch the new value proposition and get clients. There was a little problem, however. Cash flow had ground to a halt and there was a $1000 in the bank.

It was time to make a gamble. One of the world’s top customer service conferences was approaching fast. Every minute lost sitting idly in the IT industry means digging your own grave, but with the cost to register as a visitor in the prestigious Atlantic City conference priced in the thousands, it was time to get creative!

How to crash the conference without paying those pesky fees?

Staring at potential failure of his startup, Gregory had a Eureka moment. He called and called the organizers, explaining how he was a tech entrepreneur and unable to afford the ticket. Luckily, he was able to squeeze out the guest invitation he so desperately needed. (If that doesn’t work for you, think of people you know who are exhibiting and ask them to get you a free pass.)

“After hearing the news, I began dissecting my visit right there and then,” laughs Gregory. “I realized I’m going to be around people who paid all that money, who were meant to be there.”

Make the Conference Work For You

Being on your feet and pitching your product for 10 hours straight will exhaust you, so get enough sleep and plan out every move the night before.

“I made sure to have my phone ready to show relevant videos or demos before I even walked up to the booth,” recalls Gregory. “It was a great way to refresh my memory and and recap relevant discussion material.”

Large trade shows can seem overwhelming, and you can waste a good chunk of your day wandering around without getting much done. Make sure to divide up your time between the exhibitors and leave a window at the end to visit the booths you might have missed.

So Was It Worth The Risk?

Gregory booked a flight from Chicago to Atlantic City. He checked into a cheap $40 motel room 30 minutes away (to save money, of course), and was in first when the doors opened.

When all was said and done, Gregory netted hundreds of high quality leads and networking prospects. This enabled Helprace to get going with the new model and has led to many great clients and growing success.

As startup founders we always have to be willing to push the envelope, take educated gambles and be willing to fail. We can’t always control the outcome, but we do have to be ready to seize opportunity when it comes our way!

In situations like this, I, for one, can’t think of a better way to invest $300. Can you?

What is Helprace anyway?

helpraceHelprace is an emerging provider of cloud-based customer service solutions. It consists of a helpdesk ticketing system, community and a knowledge base for end-users. Users can ask a question, share an idea, report a problem or give praise. This data is seamlessly integrated into the admin interface, and support agents can directly participate in conversations. Learn more at


Why Go Big or Go Home is Terrible Advice

Red keyboard keys spelling BIG

You know what’s really sexy?


Big user numbers. Big engagement numbers. Big markets. Big press stories.

In theory, if you line these all up, you’ll soon be looking at big profits. And, we all know that when it comes to profits, size definitely matters.

The problem is that going big or going home is terrible advice. Here’s why:

Size is Relative

What is “big” exactly? It’s a relative term that relies on comparison.

  • Should you shoot to be the biggest company in the city? Your state?
  • Are you only successful if you’re the market leader?
  • Do you need to be the biggest company in the world??

The truth is that small and medium-sized companies are successful every day. They make a lot of money, provide employment, and make their founders wealthy, even if you never hear about them on Twitter.

Jason Lemkin recently advised founders to shoot for an order of magnitude bigger. Success is really about the math, and for the majority of entrepreneurs going big isn’t necessary to make the numbers add up.

Motivation (And Personality) Matter

Newsflash: entrepreneurship is hard enough. Building something from nothing is hard, no matter what your goal is.

Trying to be the next Facebook/Google/Uber, etc? That’s a level of sacrifice most founders just aren’t made to handle.

A lot of articles would now chastise you and make you feel like you’ll never be worthy or “part of it” if you aren’t cut out to be the CEO of a $20 billion company.

But, imagine a world in which we’re all Mark Zuckerberg or Travis Kalanick.

The truth is we all have different personalities, motivations, and responsibilities. And that’s okay! As the saying goes, “It takes all kinds of people to make the world go ‘round.” The same applies to business and entrepreneurship. It takes all kinds of companies to create a full economic ecosystem.

“Know thyself” is indispensable wisdom. When you understand your own true personality, motivations, and desires, it’s a lot easier to know what kind of business you should build–and it’s totally acceptable if it’s not change-the-world big.

Heroes Are Outliers

Along those lines, it’s imperative to remember that those mega companies we all admire are outliers.

Depending on who you ask, something like 75-99% of startups fail.  Of the small percentage that “succeed,” almost all of them are acquired.

2013 saw the largest tech IPO class since 2000 with 188 companies going public. That’s 188 out of the thousands of companies started each year. And let’s be honest, the only one we really remember is Twitter.

On the flip side, there are thousands of entrepreneurs making great money pursuing their own ideas, even though they’ll never be featured on TechCrunch or close a $1.2 billion financing round.

What I’m Not Saying

I’m a big fan of innovative, change the world ideas. I fully believe we haven’t reached the edge of our ability to create new technology that will improve or enhance lives (and, yes, make money). So, if you have that kind of idea and drive, absolutely go big.

If you don’t, though, it’s time to stop drinking the go big Kool-Aid.

How Much Should You Spend On Marketing?

If you’re wondering what your marketing budget should be, you’re not alone. This is the million-dollar question: How can you be sure you’re spending the right amount of money on the right types of marketing? Many say it’s an art, not a science. Others argue that there is a clear equation that can help you to calculate exactly how much of your marketing dollars to place where. Simply figure out the equation, enter your variables, and voila.

incontent3In truth, it’s a little bit of both. With a little thought, a little math, a little data, and a little creativity, it is possible to have a good idea of how much to invest in marketing for the highest possible return. In terms of “return,” I have a strong finance view. Simply put, the role of marketing is to create leads and business opportunities. You should always return to this metric. 

The key to ROI marketing is to not only determine your marketing budget, but to consistently building your company revenue. Your ROI always needs to link back to actual sales.

Return on Investment Marketing

ROI marketing is a measurement tool. It measures how much profit you make on a given marketing investment. To figure out the return on your investment, you need to identify a few figures to plug into your ROI formulas (as long as you are consistent, you can define your terms however you choose):

  • Cost of goods sold (COGS): The actual cost to produce your product (or provide your service)
  • Marketing investment: Media cost or production cost
  • Revenue: Your total revenue or your gross or net profit

The Components of ROI Marketing

There are six key components of ROI marketing:

  1. Understanding lifetime customer value. Once you know this, you can begin to figure out how much you should expect to spend on new customer acquisition. To calculate the lifetime value of a customer, you need to identify the following variables: average annual revenue per customer, average gross profit margin (before any marketing expense), cost of capital, and average number of years per customer.
  2. Estimating target acquisition cost per customer cost. Look at your company data. Take the total cost of your marketing budget and divide by the number of customers you won with this investment. This is your historic acquisition price.
  3. Determining your marketing budget. Divide your target revenue by the average customer revenue. Then multiply this number by the target acquisition price. Once you have your ROI goal and overall annual revenue goal, calculate your targeted marketing spend.
  4. Predicting which tactic will help you to realize your customer acquisition goals. Use the by-product of your calculations to make some informed decisions as to which marketing strategy will be most successful in helping you to achieve your goals.
  5. Setting your marketing ROI goal. Once you have established your ROI threshold, stick to it. If a marketing initiative isn’t hitting the threshold, cut it. Put your marketing dollars where you know they will have a greater impact.
  6. Monitoring your ROI. Measure, measure, and measure again. Use your results to continuously improve your campaigns and maximize your marketing dollars.

ROI Marketing: More Than a Measurement

How you choose to track your marketing spend and calculate your ROI marketing can differ from company to company. It’s important that you make the effort to add some rigor to your marketing activities. Even if your calculations aren’t exact, they can still show you clear trends of which marketing activities are getting real results and which aren’t. And again, results means actual sales.

With a small business, you can’t afford to waste your funds on marketing with low ROI. But calculating the best marketing spend isn’t just about managing your costs; it’s also about making sure that you are using your limited money to get the best ROI. You don’t want to miss any opportunities to help your business to acquire customers and earn revenue.

Ultimately, ROI marketing is more than a measure, it’s also a philosophy. But you can’t implement ROI marketing without making a larger organizational change. This is no small task.

Some early-stage startups with limited funding might view marketing as a low priority; an unnecessary cost. In fact, marketing is not just an outlay of capital. It’s an investment back into your company — not a drain on it. ROI marketing helps you to justify your investments, supporting the old adage that you need money to make money.

A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog.

David Ehrenberg is the founder and CEO of Early Growth Financial Services, an outsourced financial services firm that provides early-stage companies with day-to-day transactional accounting, CFO service, tax, and valuation services and support. He’s a financial expert and startup mentor whose passion is helping businesses focus on what they do best. Follow David @EarlyGrowthFS.

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.

Michael Abbott On The Fine Art Of Firing

6S3A2487This is part 2 of a 3 part series on hiring and firing wisdom gleaned from Michael Abbott. Find part 1 here.

Firing people is one of the most difficult things that an employer has to do. You are dealing with real human beings who have families and lives that are going to be affected by the decision that you make. However, it is an unavoidable part of building a successful business and maintaining a team of top quality employees who operate with skill and efficiency.

A small group of up and coming industry directors recently had the pleasure of attending a fireside chat with Michael Abbott, an expert on enterprise infrastructure. Abbott is well known for scaling Twitter’s engineering talent team by a factor of five, to over 200 engineers in two years’ time. They discussed a variety of topics, including some of the pitfalls that can beset companies when it comes time to clean house.

One of the most interesting points that came up was how difficult it is to get rid of employees who are almost good enough to keep their job. If someone never shows up or does generally lousy work then it’s a lot easier to let them go, because the reasons are obvious. The quandary lies in firing people who are doing alright, but aren’t excelling.

The problem that many companies have is that they hold on to employees who are doing moderately well, tying up positions that could be held by super stars. This can be due to a sense of loyalty, or a fear of being unable to replace talent, but it leads to the creation of a B team that can’t work with the kind of efficiency that a company needs to succeed.

The consensus that the group came to is that the process of firing can be just as important as the process of hiring. Of course, these are real people, and you can’t help but have empathy for these team members. However, if they aren’t reaching their full potential in the position then your company and the employee will never reach its full potential, and nobody is doing anyone a service there.

Alaina Percival is Head of Developer Outreach for Riviera Partners, a leading technical recruiting firm in Silicon Valley.

The “Must-Attend Conference for Entrepreneurs” Everywhere Else Tennessee is headed back to Memphis this Spring. We’re releasing the first 50 tickets for 50% off exclusively to our newsletter subscribers on Jan 13th. Don’t miss your shot by signing up here!

Your Year-End Startup Accounting Checklist


As we find ourselves hurtling towards the end of the year, there are a number of things you should be staying on top of in order to best manage your company finances and position your startup for greater success in the new year.

Your year-end thought process should take into consideration the following:

  • Payroll. Make sure that you’re filing all of your forms and making payments. It’s important to make sure you’re in good shape to get your employees their W2 forms on time. Also take into account accrued bonuses or special gifts on the books that may not be paid until next year.
  • AR collections. You want to be able to close out all outstanding receivables before year-end so do what you can to collect on unpaid bills. Improving your collection process and expediting payments will help you to maintain better control over your cash flow.
  • GAAP compliance. If your financials are not already GAAP compliant —  that is, in line with generally accepted accounting principles — then now is the time to move in that direction. If seeking a funding round or selling your business is on the horizon, you’ll need clean books to satisfy investors and/or acquiring companies.
  • 1099s. It’s best to stay on top of the 1099 process throughout the year. After all, employees are going to claim income whether you get them a 1099 or not, so you might as well save yourself the hassle and get it to them. You should collect W9s along the way, as you go. It’s easier that way rather than waiting until the end of the year to figure out who you need to file for and trying to chase them down before the year’s end. If you find yourself behind the eight ball in terms of 1099s, keep in mind the due dates for filing: 1099s to recipients on or before 1/31/2014 and to IRS on or before 2/28 (or 3/31 if you’re filing electronically).
  • Reconcile transactions and cash checks. Reissue checks as needed and void as needed. You want to make sure that all of the transactions in your register are reconciled so that you have a clean tax return.
  • Income tax planning. Now’s the time to start identifying your tax needs, thinking about potential tax savings, and engaging with your tax professional who will help identify ways to minimize your taxes.Starting your estimates now will save you from unwelcome surprises come tax time.
  • Valuations. End-of-the-year isn’t necessarily the best time for you to get a valuation. If it’s been less than 12 months since your last one and you haven’t had any events to trigger needing a new one, then you can take this off of your to do list. But keep in mind that a 409a valuation refresh is required annually. You’ll also need a valuation if you are trying to value the common stock of your company, planning to issue stock options, have raised a new round of funding, had a material event, or are looking to sell IP from your company to another.
  • Assess internal controls. Check to see that you have internal controls in place, and that they are working properly. Keep your eyes peeled for weak spots where the potential for fraud or errors runs high.
  • Cut expenses. Examine your business processes to see if and where you can find any opportunities to cut expenses for savings in the new year.
  • Big picture thinking. As you reflect back over the past year, it’s nice to take a moment to dig yourself out from under the minutiae of running a business and think big picture. Refine your vision. Map out your next milestones. What have you been doing well? Where does your company need work? Is it time to pivot?

The end of the year is a great time to reflect, to informally audit your startup, and to make plans for next year, which include financial forecasts and budgets. Checking off all of the items on this list will help you to start the new year with clean financials and a good reading on where your company is currently and where it’s heading.

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog.


David Ehrenberg is the founder and CEO of Early Growth Financial Services, an outsourced financial services firm that provides early-stage companies with three platforms of financial support: day-to-day transactional accounting, CFO service, and tax and valuation compliance. He’s a financial expert and startup mentor whose passion is helping businesses focus on what they do best. Follow David @EarlyGrowthFS.

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.

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




12 Sources For Practical Business Advice For Your Startup

Startup Advice, Guest Post, Startup Tips, YECQuestion: As a young entrepreneur, what’s your #1 source of practical business advice and why?


Ask Experienced Businesspeople

“Although there are countless pieces of valuable advice that can be found both online and in books, nothing beats getting insight from people in your network. Consulting individuals that have long and diverse careers in the businesses world enables you to get personalized and customized advice from a demographic that has both talked the talk and walked the walk.”

John Berkowitz | Co-Founder & Vice President of National Sales, Yodle

Read the Best Books

“Blogs and social media are awesome, but there’s something really special that happens when you read a book that essentially condenses twenty years of experience from an author. You get to learn from their mistakes, and it also teaches you to apply their ideas in our modern world so you can hone your creative thinking skills too.”

Ask Your Customers

“Business advice is a dime a dozen. The easiest way to know what the right thing to do is to listen to what your customers want and help them achieve their goals.”

Wade Foster | Co-founder, Zapier

Pool From Fellow Entrepreneurs

“Reading a ton of books can only get you so far when you’re trying to build a business from scratch. The great thing about entrepreneurship is that most are willing to share their tips with you. Listen to them, because they have been in your shoes and don’t want you to make the same mistake. Take your ego and pride out of it and listen to them. They may point out something you never thought about.”

Ashley Bodi | co-founder, Business Beware

Learn From Trial and Error

“The business I’ve built isn’t exactly like anyone else’s. That means that one of the best options I have is to actually try everything I can. I’ll try out something I read on a blog, a tip from an older entrepreneur — anything that comes along.”

Go for Google

“Practically anything and everything you would ever want to find today, you can find on Google. It never ceases to amaze me when I have questions on anything and type it into Google, I always find an answer. And many times, there will be a video that will come up and explain something to me or I can listen in to a guru talk about something.”

Take to Twitter

“I’ve found the ability to follow some of the absolute best minds in business, technology, and leadership on Twitter unlocks a wealth of advice and knowledge — though, now the only problem is giving the best tweets the attention they deserve. We’re lucky to live in a time when we can connect directly with people we’ve never been able to access before.”

Derek Flanzraich | CEO and Founder, Greatist

Make Use of Mentors

“I always try to find a mentor in a specific, key area in which I am trying to gain advice for. My father always taught me from an early age: “Life is a minefield — why walk through it yourself when you can seek out and follow the footsteps from someone who has already navigated the minefield successfully?” I’ve used this technique many times.”

Don’t Fear Failure

“Almost every piece of practical advice I’ve learned have come from various failures. When you know what you did wrong, it shows you how to improve and succeed the next time.”

Ben Lang | Founder, Mapped In Israel

Consult Mixergy for Advice

“The interviews by Andrew Warner of Mixergy are some of the most inspiring and informative videos on the web. Andrew has a knack of getting to the core of a founder’s thought process and extracting valuable nuggets of wisdom from them. I definitely recommend that everyone subscribe to Mixergy or watch the videos for free in the week that they are released.”

This Week In Startups

“Twice a week, I tune into This Week In Startups, hosted by Jason Calacanis. His show is full of direct, honest and real entrepreneurial business advice from not only himself, but his amazing co-hosts and guests. ”

Derek Johnson | CEO/Founder, Tatango

Read Peter Drucker for Leadership

“Being a leader is tough, and every entrepreneur has to find her or his own path. But there’s is no excuse for not working on being a great manager. Learn how to set goals with your team; stay on top of tasks; and execute on a daily basis. Read Peter Drucker and learn from the best.”

Aaron Schwartz | Founder and CEO, Modify Watches

Entrepreneurs From Everywhere Else Offer Sage Pitch Advice

iLocale, LifeKraze,startup,startup advice, everywhereelse.coBy Bret Bilbrey, University of Memphis Entrepreneurial Journalism Student.

What makes a good pitch? That is what many startup entrepreneurs had to figure out in the “Quick Pitch” contest at 2013.

For Lou Griffith with iLocale, his strategy is to get the person he is pitching to think.

“You want to hit three or four key points in your pitch and then what I like to do is ask questions. That gets them thinking,” said Griffith. “For instance, with iLocale, I might ask them: ‘Do you have a hard time keeping track of your receipts? Wouldn’t it be easier if you could track it on your phone?’”

Many entrepreneurs have their own style of pitching, complete with hooks, key phrases, and taglines. To capture investors’ attention, Ben Wagner of LifeKraze, a social community that lets people post their accomplishments, starts his pitch with “We help people facilitate action.” Richard Billup of Screwpulp, a self-publishing startup, captures investors with the line “Breaking into traditional publishing is like climbing Mount Everest… on roller skates.”

It is important that your pitch be clear, concise, powerful, and visual.

“Be light on the details, that is what a flyer is for,” Griffith said. “The pitch is to connect with the person and form a relationship.”

Thoughts came from startups competing at The Startup Conference, tickets on sale here for next year’s epic event.

Memphis’ Eric Mathews: What!! You Want Us To Just Find You A Technical Co-Founder?

LaunchMemphis,Eric Mathews,startups,startup adviceOne of my favorite interviews with TechStars co-founder David Cohen, is when he is being interviewed by a woman who’s asking great questions. They get into talking and Cohen says something to the effect of, “ya know that startup, that one where all these great ideas are listed and people can just buy them”, the interviewer plays into the question and Cohen says “me neither, because the startup hasn’t been made, ideas are worthless without execution”.

That same idea plays into a blog post written recently by Launch Memphis CEO and Co-President, Eric Mathews about a problem that he, and several other startup community leaders face every day, “Can you find me a technical co-founder”.

Mathews and his Launch Your City organization are responsible for running Emerge Memphis (the local incubator), Launch Memphis (startup initiatives including curriculum, support, and a free coworking space) and Seed Hatchery the cohort based Memphis accelerator.

With that wide range hats on Mathews and the other Launch Your City staff get the “can you find me a technical co-founder” question a lot.  In his blog post he explains a much better way of securing technical talent.

Many people walk in our doors with ideas they believe will change the world and make them rich.  The problem they invariably have is that they can’t build it.  95% of these potential founders have an idea for an mobile app or web app and they want the LaunchYourCity team to play matchmaker to a developer.  These potential founders don’t realize that the developer probably has his own awesome ideas.  Why would he switch from developing his ideas to developing yours?  These potential founders will get no where fast with developers because they have ignored the obvious: a developer is your first investor.

Like all investments you need to earn the right to ask!

Here is the typical scenario. A non-technical founder approaches a potential technical co-founder with just an idea. These potential founders usually have very little skin in the game. They haven’t invested a ton of their own time, but expect a developer to contribute 100s of hours. They haven’t even dipped into their own funds to get something mocked up or designed. These potential founders have not invested energy into determining who the customer is, understanding their buying behaviors, or even determine if they would want the app and pay for it. The outcome is always the same. The developer says no and gets annoyed with wannabe entrepreneurs and gets turned off to the startup world.

This is a very bad outcome for our entire community.  It could all be avoided.

Imagine going to a technical co-founder and saying the following:

“I have been working to validate an idea for a new app over the past couple of weeks.  I didn’t know if this was a good idea so I talked to 50 customers and found out that not only was it good, but also determined what the minimum features would be to satisfy the customer.  Because I wanted to continue to make progress, I taught myself to code a little bit.

“With a logo that I paid a local designer to polish up for me, I was able to get a one page website up and running articulating the features of the future app.  I also was able to code the website to capture email addresses from future customers.  I created a blog to talk about the industry and my perspective on the changes coming.  I got a lot of feedback and interest from the blog — one post has been viewed 10,000 times and has 56 comments.