A version of this article previously appeared in The Wall Street Journal. The reality television show Shark Tank makes for entertaining content but many of its underlying messages are potentially detrimental to tech entrepreneurs. Thus, emerging entrepreneurs should parse fact from fantasy by watching the show with an experienced business pro.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. It happens during nearly every fundraising pitch meeting. The entrepreneur cannot wait to show me their product via a demo. As politely as I can, I dissuade them and explain that there are other ways I prefer to spend our precious time together. Most entrepreneurs seem confused by my reaction and often say something like: “VCs love demos. You’re the first one I’ve met who didn’t want to see our product.” I then explain that I evaluate the veracity of a product by seeking guidance from current, past and prospective users, rather than relying on a product demonstration.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. In 1987, when Rick Astley filmed the video for his hit song Never Gonna Give You Up, he had no idea it would eventually become one of the most viewed videos of all time. By 2016, the video had been watched over 218 million times. Never Gonna Give You Up’s resurgence began in 2007, when a user on an obscure gaming site posted a link to Rick’s video under the heading for a trailer of the not-yet-released Grand Theft Auto IV video game. One year later, the phenomenon had become commonplace and was dubbed “Rickrolling,” a term that is now ubiquitous with any Internet misdirection technique. Many companies unknowingly Rickroll their would-be customers by improperly aligning their products’ capabilities with their marketing messages.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. “How much would you pay to have dinner with a lost loved one?” This was a question that my friend and mentor, Bob Wood and I recently discussed during one of our epic bike rides. We both concluded that we would sacrifice an absurd amount of our wealth to spend a few hours with the dear folks we have lost to old age and illness. This conversation caused me to ponder the obvious reality that busy people, especially entrepreneurs who are building companies, often optimize their time completing short-term operational tasks and lose sight that tomorrow is promised to no one.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Entrepreneurs create their own jobs, why shouldn’t they also create their own degrees? As described in Should Millennial Entrepreneurs Skip College?, most young entrepreneurs benefit greatly from the college experience. However, off-the-shelf majors are typically not suited to the eclectic skills required to succeed in the startup world. In my role as a Professor of Practice within UC Santa Barbara’s entrepreneurial Technology Management Program (TMP), I have worked with my students, led by Randall Dubois, to craft an Individual Major that accommodates the needs of millennial entrepreneurs. I remind my entrepreneurial students that the TMP was begun by students, who petitioned the Dean to add entrepreneurial subject matter to their engineering coursework.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Startups, much like ancient tribes, are comprised of a small number of people who band together to battle a cruel, hostile world. Like the tribe, a nascent venture’s survival is precarious and never guaranteed. Success requires everyone applying their specialized skills in concert toward the group’s common good.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Are you an entrepreneur that is thinking about dropping out of college? Answer the following four questions first. The startup careers of Zuckerberg, Ellison, Disney, Gates, Jobs, Branson and Dell make it seem that the path to entrepreneurial success is enhanced by avoiding a college degree. I even played into this mythology with a provocative article I wrote about college dropout successes. However, as made clear in Should Millennial Entrepreneurs Skip College?, most students benefit greatly from the college experience and are far better off maturing from the age of 18 to 22 in a nurturing environment, rather than attempting to start a business without a college degree. Yet, for a small number of collegians, leaving school to focus on their ventures full time is the appropriate path. What differentiates this small minority of entrepreneurs who are better off dropping out of school (or never enrolling) and running their startups full time?
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Should millennial entrepreneurs go to college? Given the stellar startup careers of non-college graduates like Zuckerberg, Ellison, Disney, Gates, Jobs, Branson and Dell, the answer to this question might surprise you. In sports, outliers generate headlines. Basketball stars LeBrone James and Kobe Bryant achieved immediate success in the NBA as 18-yr old high school graduates. However, what about Kwame Brown and Eddy Curry? Ever heard of Jonathan Bender and Darius Miles? Like James and Bryant, these talented players opted to skip college, in favor of a professional career. Unlike James and Bryant, they were journeymen, not superstars. The same is true in business, where outliers are given an outsized amount of attention. If you believe the mythology surrounding the handful of entrepreneurs who did not obtain a degree, you may think that the path to entrepreneurial success is enhanced by avoiding college. I must admit, I furthered this anti-college narrative with a provocative article about college dropout successes. In my role as a Professor of Practice within UC Santa Barbara’s entrepreneurial Technology Management Program, I am confronted by several millennials each quarter who ask me if they should quit school to work on their ventures. My response is almost always the same; I think dropping out is a very bad idea.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Even Stephen Curry Needs To Practice Entrepreneurship is a contact sport. It cannot be learned from a book or in a classroom. The skills which underlie entrepreneurship are largely learned first-hand, through trial and error. However, you do not need to start a business to begin exercising your entrepreneurial muscles. There are a number of tasks you can perform that will allow you to train in the art of entrepreneurship while you are in school or working at a large organization. The key to effective rehearsing is to first establish the goals you want to achieve. If you don’t know which specific skills you want to improve, you will only get better them by accident.
A version of this article previously appeared Forbes. When I published This Remote Working Experiment Failed And Succeeded on the Wall Street Journal last year, I had no idea it would generate so much social media attention. Given TimeHop’s failed experiment, I was especially intrigued when I learned that a team of a dozen remote entrepreneurs hack the typical corporate structure and creates a company that generated nearly $100 million in revenue. Creating an effective remote team is often difficult, especially for a startup, as the core business issues are ill-defined and the pace is chaotic. Thus, even though it is enticing to start a company based with a remote working structure, it is often a challenge to maintain a decentralized approach as a company expands beyond its founding team.