Startup Tips From College Dropouts: Zuckerberg, Jobs, Gates, Dell, Ellison, Branson and Disney

This article originally appeared on Forbes HERE.

According to a January 2012 Forbes article, nearly 16% of the 400 most affluent Americans do not have a college degree. When one considers the 400 richest people on the entire planet, the percentage of non-college graduates doubles. Shocking? Hardly.

PayPal Co-founder Peter Thiel has granted 24 people under 21 years old $100,000 each, with plans to allocate additional scholarships in coming years. The primary stipulation is that each Thiel Fellow must drop out of college, for at least two years, and pursue their “entrepreneurial ventures, research and self-education.”

For many entrepreneurs, college has little appeal. Academia’s arbitrary, bureaucratic structure, combined with its predominant focus on theoretical issues, causes many entrepreneurs to depart college early. Others, such as Walt Disney and Richard Branson never even enroll.

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7 Business Mistakes Serial Entrepreneurs Never Make (Twice)

“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, I helped create companies which achieved two IPOs and two trade sales totaling $385 million. During those same 15-years, I made innumerable mistakes.

Entrepreneurship is best learned experientially, both directly and through the experiences of others. Hopefully this article and the accompanying six-minute video will help you avoid learning these mission-critical lessons the hard way.

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Entrepreneurs Must Kick Down The Door When Opportunity Knocks

Because Your Big Break May Start As A Little One

This article originally appeared on Forbes HERE.

Ever heard of the band “Five Cool What?” No? I am not surprised. When opportunity knocked, rather than busting open the door, they first asked, “What do you want?”

In 1987 the band was discovered by Ron Fair, a rising executive at Chrysalis Records. Ron brought the band into Chrysalis’ headquarters and introduced them to his staff. According to one of the band members, “They were swooning over us.”

Once the tour concluded, the group returned to Ron’s office where he notified them that he would initially sign them to a development deal. He made it clear that this approach would allow the band to re-cut a few of their demos, which he would use to persuade the label to sign the band to a full-fledged recording contract.

Without consulting anyone else in the group, one of the members leaned forward and dramatically delivered a line that would haunt each band member for the remainder of their musical careers, “Ron. That deal sounds like a field goal. We’re looking for a touchdown.” Not surprisingly, Five Cool What never spoke with Ron again and failed to score a safety, let alone a touchdown.

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6 Steps To Raising Venture Capital – Hint: Preparation Matters More Than Your Pitch

“One of the big misconceptions in baseball is that playing the game keeps you in shape to pitch. I wish that was true. It’s not.” Steven Ellis, Professional Pitcher

Major League baseball pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than they actually do pitching. The same should be true of an entrepreneur who is attempting to secure money from sophisticated investors.

The steps outlined below represent an ideal approach to raising capital from sophisticated investors. Unfortunately, your fundraising efforts will be less linear. You might be at Step 2 with one VC and Step 3 with another. However, the greater degree you can sequentially follow these steps and maintain your discussions with each venture capitalist (VC) at relatively the same stage, the sooner you can spend less time in the company of investors and get back to running your business.

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When Intent And Content Align, Online Ads Suck A Whole Lot Less

During my tenure at Expertcity (creator of GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting), one of my responsibilities was leading our online marketing, a role I retained until our eventual acquisition by Citrix. When we launched GoToMyPC in 2001, the rules of online marketing were still being written. Along with GoToMyPC, companies like Netflix, Classmates and ZoneLabs were learning from each other. Since then, the craft of advertising online has matured from an art to a science.

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Don’t Pitch Your Idea To Venture Capitalists, They Don’t Care

This entry originally appeared on Forbes HERE

Although it is tempting to overly intellectualize modern-day venture capital, its underlying construct has been part of human society for thousands of years. From the earliest days of seafaring traders, affluent dilettantes have been entrusting their capital to less-affluent, enterprising workers willing to share a portion of the resulting gain with their benefactors.

Two early venture capitalists were King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, who backed Christopher Columbus. The traits these royal investors sought in Columbus are surprisingly similar to the characteristics modern investors look for when evaluating startup teams.

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Discover The Hidden Persuasion Techniques Concealed In Online Ads

In his book Enchantment , Guy Kawasaki encourages entrepreneurs to immerse their audience in their “cause”, in order to enchant them. One of the immersion techniques Guy promotes is to offer a hands-on trial, in which the prospective customer can touch, feel and experience your product before purchasing it.

If you care to learn more about the enchantment process, you may want to watch my interview with Guy HERE, in which he provides a number of enchanting tips and tricks.

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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”

Steve Blank Discusses The Origin And Future Of The Lean Startup Movement

Article first published as Steve Blank Discusses Origin And Future Of Lean Startup Movement on Technorati.

The Startup Owner's ManualI recently spoke with Steve Blank, author of the new book The Startup Owner’s Manual. Steve is also a Stanford Professor and noted marketing entrepreneur. He is credited with pioneering the Lean Startup Movement in 2005 via the publication of his bestselling, Four Steps To The Epiphany.

No matter how much you think you know about Steve’s lean startup philosophy, Eric Ries’ contributions to the movement, or the methodologies by which companies have put lean startup tenets into practice, I am confident you will be enlightened and entertained by Steve’s frank and insightful remarks.  Continue reading “Steve Blank Discusses The Origin And Future Of The Lean Startup Movement”

Entrepreneurship Is A Compulsion, Not A Choice

This entry originally appeared at Live Your Legend.

Frame“It is difficult to see the picture when you are inside the frame.”
Eugene Kleiner, Co-founder Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers

A small percentage of people in each free-market society generate the jobs for everyone else. These entrepreneurs do not risk everything, work outrageous hours and put themselves under extreme pressure because they want to.  They certainly do not do it for the promise of riches. They do it because they have to, because they are driven to create something from nothing. Continue reading “Entrepreneurship Is A Compulsion, Not A Choice”