Launching Venture Archive

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. […]

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

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.
Note: This is the third installment in the Startup Team Building series. Read Part I HERE and Part II HERE. When hiring ATM Operators at […]

When Hiring Entrepreneurs, Ignore Their Resumes

Note: This is the third installment in the Startup Team Building series. Read Part I HERE and Part II HERE. When hiring ATM Operators at a Big Dumb Company (BDC), assessing each candidate’s ability to execute predictable tasks is of paramount importance. As such, the recruitment process revolves around applicants’ resumes, which highlight what they have previously done in their professional careers. What is important at a BDC, because most duties performed at mature entities are repetitive, structured and involve minimal ambiguity. Thus, evaluating the tasks a candidate has previously performed is a valid methodology when filling job openings in relatively static organizations.
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, […]

Startups Are A Remix

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” Steve Jobs, Co-Founder Apple, NeXT Computing and Pixar
I recently had lunch with Mark Suster, General Partner at GRP Partners, blogger extraordinaire and overall cool dude. I am writing this entry at 4:00 […]

Lunch With Mark Suster

I recently had lunch with Mark Suster, General Partner at GRP Partners, blogger extraordinaire and overall cool dude. I am writing this entry at 4:00 AM. Mark’s kindness and insights moved me to roll out of bed, fire up my laptop and share my thoughts while they are still fresh.   Mark recently wrote a blog entry titled “Whom Should You Hire At A Startup” that was forwarded to me by about a dozen people, including several of my former students. If you have not read it, please take a quick moment to check it out. Reading it will provide you with a good frame of reference for the remainder of this post.
In the summer of 1999, Expertcity (creator of GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting, acquired by Citrix) released a free service called BuddyHelp. In the spirit of the […]

How To Make Freemium Customers Generate Revenue For Your Startup

In the summer of 1999, Expertcity (creator of GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting, acquired by Citrix) released a free service called BuddyHelp. In the spirit of the “land grab” mentality of the day, we emphasized usage of our screen sharing technology with no thought applied to how we would convert such users into paying customers.
With a few exceptions at the end of their career, the Beatles did not include songs that had previously been released as a single on […]

Balance Minimal Product Viability With Maximum Utility: Maximize Your Startup’s Value Proposition – MVP²

With a few exceptions at the end of their career, the Beatles did not include songs that had previously been released as a single on their UK albums. According to George Martin, The Beatles’ Producer, “At the time, I didn’t want to shortchange the public. Assuming the fans had bought the single, I figured they wouldn’t want to hear it again on the album.” Although this approach was common in the UK, it ran counter to the then current Conventional Wisdom in the US music industry. However, by the release of Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles had gained complete control over their creative works in the US and curtailed Capital Records’ prior practice of including singles on US albums. This tactic provided the Beatles with a strategic advantage over American musicians, as fans knew that if they purchased a particular single, they would not have to pay for it again on a subsequent album. In essence, the Beatles offered a product with a higher value proposition as compared to their American counterparts.
In the early 1970s, the Seven-Up Company devised an ingenious plan to market its flagship soda. The campaign was so successful it eventually catapulted 7-Up’s […]

UnVenture Capitalists: Seek Investors Aligned With Your Interests, Not Their Egos

In the early 1970s, the Seven-Up Company devised an ingenious plan to market its flagship soda. The campaign was so successful it eventually catapulted 7-Up’s sales to rival that of both Coke and Pepsi, making it the third most popular soft drink in the US. The company hired the Dominican actor Geoffrey Holder, who delivered the commercial’s signature tagline with memorable panache, “Maaarvelous, absolutely maaarvelous.” Overnight, “maaarvelous,” spoken in an exaggerated Caribbean accent, became a national catchphrase. What made the commercials noteworthy was not their charismatic pitchman. It was the fact that the Seven-Up Company defined its product by describing what it was not, via the “UnCola” label.  When evaluating a potential Institutional Investor, entrepreneurs should consider what they are not, as much as what they are. Entrepreneurs in search of startup capital are well served to seek an UnVentureCapitalist (UnVC), an investor who understands and appreciates the unique benefits of capital efficiency.
In 1980, following the breakup of the American band The Eagles, Don Henley was asked when the group would reunite. His response, “When hell freezes […]

De-risk Your Startup By Doing It Again: The Joy Of Getting The Band Back Together

In 1980, following the breakup of the American band The Eagles, Don Henley was asked when the group would reunite. His response, “When hell freezes over.” Surprisingly, hell froze over 14-years later, when The Eagles launched a highly lucrative tour and TV special. According to Guitarist Glenn Frey, "We never broke up, we just took a 14-year vacation." The story is familiar. A young band gets into music for the sex, drugs and fame. They record a few songs, have a couple hits and then hit the road. The rigors of touring, along with the instant notoriety and unending public scrutiny cause the band to disintegrate, often to the point of declaring they will never work together again. In many cases, once the money (and sex and drugs) run out, the band members forget the days of rancor and only recall the “good old days” when creating something from nothing was fun. Eventually one of the band mates swallows their pride, picks up the phone and proposes a reunion tour. A similar phenomenon occurs in the startup world, without the drugs or drama endemic in the music industry.
In 1933, baseball card collectors were frustrated. For some reason, they found it impossible to complete their Goudy Gum 240-card set. No matter how many […]

Past Is Prologue As New Industries Emerge: It Ain’t Gonna Be Different

In 1933, baseball card collectors were frustrated. For some reason, they found it impossible to complete their Goudy Gum 240-card set. No matter how many packages of cards they purchased, they failed to find card number #106, which featured Napoleon Lajoie. Enterprising collectors who wrote Goudy and voiced their frustrations were rewarded by receiving the Lajoie card in the mail. All other collectors were out of luck. What was behind the mystery of the missing Lajoie card?
Note: This is Part I in a three-part series on The Perfect Business Model. Click here for Part II, and Part III Authentic, hand-crafted Persian […]

Pour And Stir I – In Pursuit Of The Ideal Business Model

Note: This is Part I in a three-part series on The Perfect Business Model. Click here for Part II, and Part III Authentic, hand-crafted Persian rugs always include intentional imperfections. They are said to be, “Perfectly Imperfect, and Precisely Imprecise.” The same is true with many crafts and architecture created in Muslim cultures. I am not a Muslim scholar, but a layman’s interpretation of this tradition of intentional errors is that it arises from the belief that attempting to emulate God’s perfection is sinful.   Fortunately, entrepreneurs need not fear running afoul of this sin when crafting their business plans, because all of them are inherently imperfect and imprecise.
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