A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. Sometimes being clueless makes you fearless. This was certainly the case with Hollywood star turned inventor, Hedy Lamarr. In 1937, Ms. Lamarr abandoned a successful European film career to become a Hollywood star. Although successful, she quickly became bored with the vapid nature of stardom, once saying, “Any girl can be glamorous. All she has to do is stand still and look stupid.” Unsatisfied with the intellectual limitations of Hollywood, Ms. Lamarr collaborated with an unlikely partner and together they created a fundamental invention which helped secure their lives of hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women. More significantly, their innovation subsequently became the basis one of the most significant products of the past century.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. There are two schools of thought regarding how to make anything go viral. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell emphasizes the importance of the messenger. In contrast, Jonah Berger’s Contagious: Why Things Catch On proclaims that a properly structured message makes the messenger inconsequential. Which approach is correct? As with most business strategies which migrate from the classroom to the real world, the “correct approach” involves combining the appropriate elements from multiple theories and applying them to your specific situation.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. The Beatles’ Manager, Brian Epstein, was a 30-yr old, former furniture salesman when Beatlemania hit America in 1964. When he was approached by savvy Nicky Byrne to license the Beatles’ name and likeness for various novelty products and toys, he firmly stated that he would not accept a penny less than 10%. Nicky had a difficult time hiding his surprise, as the typical range for such licenses was between 30% to 50% of the product’s price. Mr. Byrne quickly signed dozens agreements with merchandisers that subsequently cost the Beatles approximately $100,000,000 in lost royalties. Mr. Epstein later re-negotiated the Beatles’ share to 45%, but by then, Beatlemania was on the wane and the financial damage had been done.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. 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 business world of mergers and acquisitions, with one important distinction.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. When you can live where you want to live and make money doing what you love to do, you are, by my definition, a screaming success. Six outstanding entrepreneurs have created this sweet flavor of success in one of the most beautiful places on earth – Santa Barbara, California. Santa Barbara has become a high-tech startup mecca, rivaling cities many times its size. The latest evidence of the city’s dynamic startup ecosystem is the recent announcement by Citrix to investment significant resources in the Santa Barbara Innovator’s Program. The community is blessed with a temperate climate (average high temperatures between the mid-60's and mid-70's °F), which motivates accomplished people, who can afford to live anywhere, to make Santa Barbara their home. Many of these individuals become restless in their youthful “retirement” and begin investing and advising young companies. Combine this significant pool of sophisticated Angel capital and expertise with UC Santa Barbara’s world-class entrepreneurial program and throw in a critical mass of entrepreneurs bold enough to build businesses around their passions, it’s understandable how a modest-sized community has produced so many successful tech startups. From Lynda.com’s recent $1.5 billion dollar acquisition by LinkedIn to Bessemer’s substantial investment in ProCore, AppFolio’s recent IPO filing and Sonos’ $130 million secondary, the Santa Barbara tech scene is unquestionably on fire. However, less obvious is Santa Barbara’s rich history as a hotbed of lifestyle startups, a number of which have generated billions in revenue and garnered worldwide recognition.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. Congress' latest attempt to impose an "Internet sales tax" is just another misguided tax grab that will do more harm than good to American small businesses. The Remote Transaction Parity Act (RTPA), introduced by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), purports to simplify sales tax collections while also leveling the playing field between brick and mortar businesses and online sellers. Noble goals, no doubt. Unfortunately, it accomplishes neither.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. Facebook recently joined Google and Twitter by offering a click-to-call functionality in its ads, giving consumers an option to call businesses directly, versus emailing them or completing an online form - effectively making the plain old phone one of the most powerful on/offline marketing tools of the coming decade.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. During my 15-years as a startup executive, I relished being proven wrong. Knowing that I was had made a mistake empowered me to make the correct decision. Being wrong is much preferred to erroneously thinking you are right and relentlessly executing a losing strategy. Effective entrepreneurs reject dogmatism and embrace doubt.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. With top-ranked accelerators Lauchpad LA closing its doors and Y Combinator rebranding itself as a seed fund, it seems fair to ask the question, “Are Accelerators Dead?” Good news: a quick review of TechCrunch’s March 2015 List of Top 20 U.S. Accelerators, which includes two LA-based accelerators in the Top Ten (Mucker Lab and Amplify LA), proves that the overall health of the Accelerator landscape is sound.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. It sounds crazy to offer unlimited vacation time to your startup employees. Something to the left of socialism. Yet that is exactly what Richard Branson announced this past Fall. According to Branson, “We should focus on what people get done, not on how many hours or days worked. Just as we don’t have a nine-to-five policy, we don’t need a vacation policy.”