A version of this article originally appeared in Forbes. I recently had the pleasure of connecting with author, investor and serial entrepreneur Brad Feld. The forum was an LA dinner hosted by the good folks at Cross Campus and was attended by about a dozen of Southern California's most active institutional investors. During our discussion of Brad's book, Startup Communities, the subject of Los Angeles becoming the next "Silicon Beach" was raised. Although the term was used tongue-in-cheek, Brad made it clear that no town should aspire to become the next "silicon" anything. Rather, he believes startup communities should focus on establishing a unique identity, based upon their endemic, "energy, activities and innovations."
A version of this article previously appeared on Inc. The worlds of standup comedy and business presentations are not as disparate as they may appear at first glance. Comedians are entrepreneurs. They often write their own material, book their gigs, arrange their travel and negotiate and collect their compensation from club owners. In addition, both comedians and entrepreneurs must engage and entertain their demanding audiences. As such, there is much entrepreneurs can learn from their comic brethren.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. How did a small, open source software company from Finland capture billions in market share from Oracle? Marten Mickos, CEO of Eucalyptus Systems, knows the answer and he delights in telling the story of how MySQL ate Oracle's lunch and dinner. You can watch Marten tell his entertaining story in the following 15-minute excerpt from his UC Santa Barbara talk. Note: I am a micro-Angel investor in Eucalyptus.
A version of this article previously appeared on Inc. The words "failure" and "the Beatles" seldom appear in the same sentence. However, the Beatles' early career was a series of failures, culminating in their unsuccessful audition with the leading record company of their era, Decca Records. This particular failure nearly caused the band to breakup. At the time of Decca's rebuff, the Beatles had been performing under various monikers for nearly five years. Most groups would have returned to Liverpool and continued to play occasional gigs while beginning their working class careers. Fortunately, the Beatles were not "most groups."
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. In order to extract value beyond your Angel investors' cash, you must first assess three important parameters: (i) the relative strength of their personal brand, (ii) their ability to add operational value, and (iii) the amount of care and feeding they will demand from you. Angel investors are often the sole source of funding for startups at the critical pre-launch stage. Ideally, such early-stage investors should have the experiences and motivation to help their ventures establish a sustainable business model, rather than simply writing a check before moving on to their next investment.
Photo Courtesy of Beth Sipula - all rights reserved A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. In his latest film Argo, Ben Affleck simultaneously tackles the roles of producer, director, writer and leading actor. These varied responsibilities are analogous to those of a startup CEO, as movie production crews are essentially temporary ventures. Just like a high-tech startup CEO, Ben was tasked with: identifying a great idea, raising money, recruiting the team, building a commercial product, positioning marketing and distributing the product and eventually exiting the venture.
A version of this article previously appeared on Inc. Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon album (DSOTM) only reached #1 on the US charts for a single week. However, it remained in the Top 200 for an astounding 14 years and 3 months. Despite being released in 1973, a remastered version of the album sold 800,000 copies in 2003. By 2012, total sales exceeded 50 million copies and founding band member Roger Waters was cited by Forbes as the second highest paid musician of the year, pulling in $88 million. Entrepreneurs can learn a great deal from the manner in which Pink Floyd created DSOTM. Their deep understanding of their customers, an uncompromising drive to create a quality product and the courage to ignore the music industry's formulaic approach to producing hits resulted in the creation one of the top selling non-compilation albums of all time.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Someone on Quora recently asked me to answer the following question: Why Do Digital Entrepreneurs Hate MBAs? As I stated in my Quora answer, "hate" is the wrong word. Tech entrepreneurs' consternation with MBAs does not rise to the level of loathing. Rather, entrepreneurs' frustrations are often due to an incongruence between an MBA's expectations versus the value they can deliver to a startup.
A version of this article previously appeared on Inc. Someone on Quora recently asked me to answer the following question: How can I avoid repeating the big job disappointments of my past? This caused me to ponder some of my career choices. As I thought about my past career missteps, I had to admit to myself that in each case there were clear warning signs that I chose to either discount or ignore entirely.
A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. Because of the rapid pace with which Venture Capitalists review investment opportunities, they must employ pattern matching techniques which include identifying common fundraising deal breakers. Fortunately, most deal breakers can be avoided, with a bit of pro-active thought and deft execution.