This Startup Should Have Fired Uber, Tinder, Pinterest, Dropbox, Evernote, Tumblr, HootSuite and Instagram

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

Jazzhr logo 4_17
Despite the fact that JazzHR was a nascent startup in 2012, it boasted an impressive customer roster, including: Uber, Tinder, Pinterest, Dropbox, Evernote, HootSuite, Tumblr and Instagram. Surprisingly, it was these same customers that caused the company’s focus to blur, and therefore temporarily lose its way. NOTE: I am a Board Member and an investor in JazzHR, thus I share responsibility for the company’s target market missteps.

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Unlike You, Mark Zuckerberg And Bill Gates Can Go Both Ways

Article first published as Unlike You, Mark Zuckerberg And Bill Gates Can Go Both Ways on Technorati.

Karch on SandKarch in the GymKarch Kiraly (pronounced “cartch kur-ai”) is an anomaly. He is the only person to win Olympic gold medals in both indoor and beach volleyball.

Just as Karch is a rarity, so are entrepreneurs who are equally facile at startups and Big Dumb Companies (BDCs). Many of these gifted few are household names, partly because they represent such a rare breed: Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. All of these Founders managed their startups from launch to BDC success. Continue reading “Unlike You, Mark Zuckerberg And Bill Gates Can Go Both Ways”

Ten Rookie Startup Mistakes You Won’t Make

Eleanor Roosevelt“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”
Eleanor Roosevelt – US Diplomat & Wife of President Franklin Roosevelt

As an entrepreneur and startup investor, I have helped create companies which achieved two IPOs which collectively raised over $100 million, as well as two acquisitions which totaled $385 million. During those same 25-years, I also made innumerable mistakes.

Entrepreneurship is best learned experientially. However, it is my hope that this article will help you avoid learning the following lessons the hard way.

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Entrepreneurs Should Go For The Quick Buck – Then Stop

SirensOdysseus could not help himself. He knew the risks, but he had to hear the alluring sound of the Sirens’ song.

In Greek mythology, the Sirens were a combination of birds and women who sang to passing sailors, enticing them to approach the shore and crash on its hidden shoals.

To avoid wrecking his ship, Odysseus instructed his crew to plug their ears and ignore his orders, no matter how much he implored them to approach the Sirens’ island.

Many entrepreneurs encounter a similar dilemma. They often identify expeditious ways to make money in the early days of their adVentures, which allow them to reduce the amount of capital they must raise from outside investors. Unfortunately, such initially alluring business models can ultimately result in their ruin. Thus, entrepreneurs must decide when to stop listening to the Sirens’ song of a quick buck and position their company to take advantage of long-term, sustainable business models.

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How Do I Identify A Great adVenture Opportunity? The Answer Is Obvious, Yet Insightful

Larry CoxQuestion: How do I identify a great adVenture opportunity?

Answer: (Passion + Solvable) * Sufficient Reward = Great adVenture

Venture Ideas are like hobbies. You do not discover a hobby, hobbies discover you. Hobbies arise from activities that you initially engage in casually and you eventually fall in love with.

Thus, adVenture opportunities will generally arise from your proclivities and interests. In the normal course of pursuing areas that naturally interest you, if identify a problem that you are passionate about solving and the resulting reward is sufficient to satisfy your desires, you will eventually realize that you have stumbled upon a great adVenture.

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Intellectual Property – Worthless To A Startup, Priceless To A Big Dumb Company

Tribeswoman“Good Lord Boyet, my beauty, though but mean,
Needs not the painted flourish of your praise:
Beauty is bought by judgment of the eye,
Not uttered by base sale of chapmen’s tongues”
William Shakespeare, British Playwright, from Love’s Labour’s Lost, 1598

Intellectual Property (IP) is an ugly thing at a startup. It requires you to expend your two most valuable resources, your time and your money. Yet, it does nothing to help you execute your business model.
However, to a Big Dumb Company (BDC), a startup’s IP is a thing of beauty. Although BDCs often act irrationally, in this instance, their perception of beauty is highly rational.
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Maximize Your Exit By Not Selling Your Company

In 1987, a representative of Michael Jackson approached the modest Sycamore Valley ranch house and knocked on the door. The owner of the ranch was shocked by the visitor’s message. He told the homeowner that he represented someone who wanted to purchase the ranch at a substantial premium over its current fair market value. He also indicated that the offer was non-negotiable and the home owner had to respond either “Yes” or “No” in a matter of hours.

Although this is a somewhat unusual real estate transaction, it reflects a surprisingly common scenario in the world of mergers and acquisitions, with one important distinction.

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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?

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Pour And Stir II – Managing Your Cost Per Customer

 “I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half.” John Wanamaker

If Mr. Wanamaker had access to the Internet, his oft-repeated quote, would have never been uttered. In the “good old days”, pre- 1999, advertising dollars were largely gambled away.

As noted in Pour and Stir Part I, the key to the successful execution of this strategy is managing the following equation:

     The cost to acquire a customer < lifetime value of a customer

This entry focuses on how you can minimize your cost per customer acquired by systematically establishing the infrastructure necessary to track the results obtained from a variety of online and offline marketing vehicles.

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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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