After Completing This TechStars Exercise, Everyone On Your Team Will Pitch Like A Founder

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

I was invited to lead a Techstars LA workshop, focused on honing their elevator pitches. In my UCSB classes, my students practice their Personal Pitch in front of their peers, who give them constructive feedback. I decided to tweak this exercise for the Techstars entrepreneurs, using the format described below.

John Greathouse, listening to Lauren Tracy, Co-founder of Blue Fever, pitch her startup

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How Trying To Assassinate Hitler Led To The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

I recently enjoyed John Covach’s History Of Rock Coursera course. In an early lecture, he explains how the Nazis’ desire to protect Hitler from assignation led to the invention of recording technology that was ultimately used by musicians to create multi-track recordings, such as the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

This story of technology diffusion is illustrative of the Hummingbird Effect, in which a technological innovation results in unintended, non-obvious outcomes. Entrepreneurs who study historical Hummingbird Effects are better positioned to anticipate the unintended, non-obvious consequences spawned by today’s technologies.

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What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From The Comanche’s Tech Absorption Curve

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

In an astonishingly short time period, the Comanche Native Americans progressed from a technologically primitive tribe (nomadic, little use of textiles, basketry or pottery), to becoming the most powerful society of the Southern Plains, controlling the Comecheria, a territory encompassing parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. Historians such as S.C. Gwynne cited the tribe’s adoption of horse husbandry as one of the most rapid societal transformations in recorded history.

As Geoffrey Moore points out in his classic book, Crossing The Chasm, identifying early adopters is critical to a startup’s ultimate success. Inherent in the breathtaking rate at which the Comanche people became the “Lords of the Planes” are some lessons for entrepreneurs searching for their early adopters.

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Who’s In Your Club For Your Mutual Improvement?

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

One of my former students, Sieva Kozinsky, Co-Founder & CEO of StudySoup recently shared his startup insights with my UC Santa Barbara students.

He offered my students a litany of compelling suggestions. However, the one that stood out to me was the importance of curating their peer groups in advance of graduating and starting an entrepreneurial career. By way of example, he described the Junto Club, a Bay Area group he co-founded, whose goal is the professional and personal advancement of its members. Sieva’s club is based on a similar group created by Benjamin Franklin.

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Change The Way You Negotiate

A version of this article previously appeared Forbes.

Entrepreneurs have to be wily in all of their transactions, especially long-term commitments, such as property leases. In speaking with Steve Bermudez, former senior executive at Citrix, I was surprised that he was able to make money on some of his leases, by baking into his agreements the ability for Citrix to share in the upside realized by its landlord upon a sale of the property.

Steve and his team augmented this deca-million dollar windfall by wisely negotiating tax credits with local municipalities early in the process, which strengthened his hand with potential landlords and resulted in an additional multi-million dollar impact to the company’s bottom line.

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The Life This Wearable Saves Might Be Yours

A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes.

Have you ever had a couple of drinks, started to feel a mild buzz and wondered if you’re over the legal limit? If you’ve had drinks in a public setting, the answer is likely “Heck yes.”

A Santa Barbara based company, Milo Sensors, is tackling this problem via a wearable that constantly alerts your smartphone of your blood alcohol level. No longer will people have to estimate how impaired they may, or may not be, based on how much they have eaten, how many drinks they’ve had and how quickly they consumed them.

If consumer adoption becomes widespread, Milo’s unique solution could dramatically reduce the incidence of buzzed driving.

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Parenting An Entrepreneur – This Folktale Will Teach Your Children To Create Something From Nothing

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

Marcia Brown’s 1947 retelling of the classic French folktale Stone Soup is a de facto playbook for how to start a venture.

In Ms. Brown’s version of this oft-told tale, three soldiers enter a small town during a time of war. Initially, all of the villagers flee to their modest homes and shun the soldiers’ request for food and lodging. However, the villagers do not realize that these travelers are not merely foraging soldiers. They soon learn that they are entrepreneurs who will launch a magical venture that involves a restorative meal, a communal celebration and reassurance that better days are ahead.

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Non-millennial Bootstrapping – These 50-Something Entrepreneurs Rejected VC $ And Nailed It

A version of this article previously appeared Forbes.

Jim Semick (left) with his Co-Founder, Greg Goodman

I have been watching ProductPlan for several years, as the founders are both friends and pillars of the Santa Barbara Startup Community. Without taking a dime of outside capital, the company has achieved impressive success in a competitive, SaaS market segment, landing companies such as Nike, Intuit, NASA, AutoDesk and PBS. What makes their story more remarkable, in the age of 20-something billionaires, is that both of the company’s founders are in their 50’s.

Curious to learn more about the pain and joys of bootstrapping a business, I sat down with Jim Semick, the company’s Co-Founder and Chief Strategist.

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8 Reasons Startups Should Not End Their Year on December 31st

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

During a Invoca Board meeting, an interesting idea was raised by Brett Queener, a former Salesforce senior executive. He noted that early in Salesforce’s tenure, the company changed its fiscal year to end on January 31st, rather than the traditional calendar year end.

This approach has been commonly used by retailers since the start of the last century. However, it remains fairly rare within the tech world. Intrigued, I conferred with Brett after the meeting and identified a number of advantages (some obvious, some less so) that a tech company can derive from a non-traditional fiscal year, especially one which does NOT end on the last month of a calendar quarter (i.e., March, June, September or December). <Note: I am an investor in Invoca via Rincon Venture Partners>

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