The Best/Worst Movie Of All Time Is A Killer Guide To Startup Success (And Failure)

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

Earlier this year, a decade and a half after the Citizen Kane of bad movies was released, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room returned to 600-theaters. Although a cult favorite for over a decade, The Room broke into the mainstream with the 2017 release of James Franco’s The Disaster Artist, which tells the improbable true story of how Wiseau financed, wrote, directed, cast and starred in The Room.

The Room has the distinction of initially failing abysmally and subsequently succeeding on a global scale. Unlike typical ventures that either succeed or fail in a binary sense, The Room embodies lessons that are instructive to both entrepreneurial success and failure.

Continue reading “The Best/Worst Movie Of All Time Is A Killer Guide To Startup Success (And Failure)”

8 Top Reasons People Want To Be An Entrepreneur

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

Marketing automation company HubSpot performed a non-scientific survey of its users, asking them a variety of entrepreneurial questions. In Which Of These 7 Fears Are Keeping You From Being An Entrepreneur?, I reviewed the survey results related to why some would-be entrepreneurs never take the plunge.

Digging deeper into the data, I found that most of the reasons people cited for wanting to be an entrepreneur made sense, though several were sadly off base.

Continue reading “8 Top Reasons People Want To Be An Entrepreneur”

OK, So Maybe Not ALL MBA Entrepreneurs Are Oxymorons

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

“As much as possible, avoid hiring MBA’s. MBA programs don’t teach people how to create companies … our position is that we hire someone in spite of an MBA, not because of one.” – Elon Musk, Founder Tesla Motors and SpaceX

MBA’s are an easy target for entrepreneurs’ scorn. As Peter Thiel, Co-founder of PayPal and Palantir once put it, MBA’s are “high extrovert/low conviction people.” A nice way of saying they can be arrogant mercenaries.

I too have taken shots at MBA’s, describing why they are not typically well suited for startup life in Why Entrepreneurs Hate (Most) MBAs.

Continue reading “OK, So Maybe Not ALL MBA Entrepreneurs Are Oxymorons”

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.

Continue reading “How Trying To Assassinate Hitler Led To The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper”

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.

Continue reading “The Life This Wearable Saves Might Be Yours”

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.

Continue reading “Parenting An Entrepreneur – This Folktale Will Teach Your Children To Create Something From Nothing”

If I’d Only Known Then… A Boomer’s Millennial Pep Talk

 

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

Earnest Research Logo 3_17

“Point of view is worth 80 IQ points.”

Alan Curtis Kay, Personal Computer Pioneer

I recently was asked to speak at an all-hands meeting at one of my portfolio companies, Earnest Research. I always enjoy such opportunities, as it allows me to share my point of view as a startup veteran with millennials on the front-end of their careers.

When I was running my startups, I seldom took time away from nailing my daily To Do’s to objectively evaluate my team’s progress. Thus, as a serial offender of entrepreneurial myopia, I appreciate the perspective an experienced outsider can share regarding a venture’s true status.

Continue reading “If I’d Only Known Then… A Boomer’s Millennial Pep Talk”

Which School Generated The Most Startup/Tech Forbes 30 Under 30 Phenoms?

Forbes 30 under 30 1_17

I was pleased and proud when I learned that two of my former UC Santa Barbara students, Sieva Kozinsky, Founder of StudySoup and Eric Posen, Co-founder of Naritiv, made Forbes’ 2017 30 Under 30 list.

This caused me to wonder which schools generated the most awardees. To this end, with the help of Cameron Dennis, (one of my outstanding current students who will likely end up on the 30 Under 30 list someday), we researched the alma maters within Forbes’ startup and tech categories.

Continue reading “Which School Generated The Most Startup/Tech Forbes 30 Under 30 Phenoms?”

This Startup Airline Lets You Fly Everyday / Any Day – For A Flat Fee

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As noted in Success, Santa Barbara Style, my definition of success includes living where you want to live and making money doing what you love. For many entrepreneurs in Santa Barbara, achieving such success would be much more difficult if it weren’t for the emergence of an innovative airline – Surf Air.

Surf Air flies to 12 locations within California and members can fly as often as they like, paying a flat membership fee. I initially hesitated because I wanted to travel less, not more, and I was concerned that if I signed up to an “all you can fly” program, I would feel compelled to travel more in order to justify the fixed cost.

Continue reading “This Startup Airline Lets You Fly Everyday / Any Day – For A Flat Fee”

Why A Prominent Startup Executive Wants You To Fail, Get Fired And Focus

Article first published as Why A Prominent Start-up Executive Wants You to Get Fired and Fail on Technorati.

FailureKim Kovacs, Founder and CEO OptionEase, recently spoke to a class of emerging entrepreneurs at UC Santa Barbara. With over 700 customers, OptionEase has become the leading enterprise class SaaS solution for stock option and equity compensation tracking and compliance. Kim shocked some of the students by telling them that she hopes they fail.

In this 8-minute video excerpt from her talk, Kim describes why, “failure is my favorite word at my company now.” Kim also discusses the importance of focus and why she does not hesitate to hire people who have previously been fired. Continue reading “Why A Prominent Startup Executive Wants You To Fail, Get Fired And Focus”

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Follow John’s Startup Oriented Twitter Stream. He promises to never Tweet about sunsets, kittens or awesome burritos.

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