This article previously appeared in Forbes. It is that time of year again - annual planning season. Dynamic, growing startups consistently identify more ideas and opportunities than they have the time or resources to pursue, including: entering into potential partnerships, developing new products and accessing emerging markets. During my many years as an entrepreneur, I developed the Impact Matrix to help me prioritize such significant, long-term initiatives. I now use the Impact Matrix as a venture capital investor to help our portfolio companies objectively evaluate which initiatives they should pursue in the near-term, which they should re-considered in the future and which should be dismissed entirely.
This article previously appeared in Forbes. I recently spoke with Michael Bleigh, Co-Founder and CEO of Divshot. I reached out to Michael after their surprising day at the top of Hacker News during early September. The innocuous post, which was simply titled "Divshot" generated over 110 comments and was awarded nearly 200 points by Hacker News' notoriously jaded readers.
This article previously appeared in Forbes. If Steve Blank and Eric Reis, two of the Founding Fathers of the Lean Startup Movement formed a band, they would produce music like the Kingsmen's Louie, Louie. The song is akin to a lean startup's minimally viable product (MVP). In less than an hour and at the cost of $50, the Kingsmen created an international hit and established garage rock as a mainstream musical genre.
This article previously appeared in Forbes. Citrix's CEO, Mark Templeton, recently shared his insights regarding achieving personal and professional success as part of UC Santa Barbara’s Distinguished Lecture Series. The underlying theme of Mark's talk was: "Success Isn't What Happens To Other People - It Can Happen To You." Mark knows a bit about success and what it takes to reach the top of one's industry. Mark began his career at Citrix as a middle manager in its Marketing Department, eventually rising to the ranks of CEO. He was later fired from this role, only to be re-hired as CEO a couple years later. During Mark's tenure, Citrix has grown from 50 employees and few million dollars of revenue to a company 7,000 employees strong, generating revenue in excess of $2.4 billion.
This article previously appeared in Forbes. Note: This is an installment in the Iconic Advice series. Other installments include: Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Mark Cuban, Richard Branson, Walt Disney, Mark Zuckerberg,Michael Dell and Larry Ellison. Oprah Winfrey is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of her generation. Raised by her grandmother in rural Mississippi until age six and then by her mother, who worked as a maid in Milwaukee, Ms. Winfrey was an unlikely candidate to become one of the most dominant media personalities of modern America. The tremendous challenges she overcame make Oprah’s career especially inspiring. The fact that she has handled her success so adeptly, despite her impoverished childhood, is astounding.
This article previously appeared in Forbes. As a venture capitalist, I am asked to provide feedback on a fair number of PowerPoint and Keynote slide decks. I usually only have time to perform a cursory review. Even so, I find myself repeatedly making the same recommendations, which I have codified below.
I always walk away smarter after speaking with Steve Blank. In addition to being a thought leader within the Lean Startup Movement, Steve is also a professor at Stanford and Berkley. However, many people are not aware that prior to entering academia, Steve was a wily and creative marketing entrepreneur.
This article previously appeared in Forbes. Not surprisingly, the most influential startup bloggers are those with the largest number of Twitter followers. However, given the rash of accusations regarding Internet personalities purchasing bogus followers, it seems fair to ask, "Which startup bloggers have the most legitimate Twitter followers?"
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. One the most frequent questions asked of me by entrepreneurs is, "How can I become a Venture Capitalist?" The inquiry is common because being a VC is (to an entrepreneur, at least) a sexy job. You control substantial amounts of capital, have tremendous autonomy, a flexible work schedule and you get to play Santa by bestowing financial gifts upon worthy entrepreneurs. You also can vicariously share in the success of those around you and, if you are so inclined, you can give yourself more credit than you deserve for other people's success. There are many paths into the VC world, but they can generally be lumped into two categories: (i) serial entrepreneurship, and (ii) tech-oriented investment banking. I define a "VC" as, "a professional investor who deploys third-party funds into relatively early-stage companies." In contrast, an Angel Investor is someone who invests their own capital. All you need do to become an Angel is identify a promising venture and write a check.
Nearly every entrepreneur has heard the refrain, "Get back to me when you have some traction,” while seeking funding. From an unsophisticated investor, this response might be a non-confrontational way of saying "No." However, when uttered by most Venture Capitalists (VCs) it conveys a desire to obtain validation of your venture's value proposition from dispassionate, objective third parties. In this context, your "value proposition" is defined as the utility you claim users will derive from your solution. When you hear the word "traction" think "objective validation." Once people who do not know you and have no vested interest in your company's success begin expending their time, money and resources to leverage your value proposition, you are gaining traction.