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Startup Advice (8)

Manny Fernandez is the CEO/Co-Founder of DreamFunded and Founder of SF Angels Group.

Manny was SF Angel of the Year and he has also been named “Top 100 Angel Investors to Follow”.

Manny went from being a serial entrepreneur to becoming a successful investor who has raised millions of dollars.

At our Lifograph event he shared with us the following 10 tips for raising money on AngelList.

1. Start with people who know you

This can include family and friends whom you know. Tell them about what you are doing, and ask them to support you.

 

2. Increase your followers on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter

Make sure you have professional profiles and actively seek new followers.

 

3. Increase your followers on AngelList

A great way for increasing your followers is to follow other people, who may follow you back.

 

4. Follow other investors on AngelList

When you follow other investors you have a better chance to get your startup noticed.


5. Create great fundraising materials

Money follows leadership, and the best leaders know how to tell great stories. So become a good storyteller and connect with investors at an emotional level. Don’t forget to include information about your startup’s traction.

6. Have a great video

This can be a simple video that speaks to what people care about. Talk to people’s emotions.


7. Ask for small dollar amounts

Smaller amounts will not be intimidating and the numbers will add up.

 

8. Figure out who can introduce you to investors

Invest time in finding the right people to make warm introductions to the investors you are targeting. Lifograph could become a great tool for finding who might be the right person for an intro.

9. Find a lead investor

People follow the leader, and if you can get a big name investor to invest in you, other investors may be interested in your startup too.

 

10. Believe in your ability to raise money

Sometimes founders doubt themselves and their startup's ability to raise money. Believe in yourself. Confidence pays off. Be a leader and the investors (and their money) will follow you.

Money follows leadership, and the best leaders know how to tell great stories.

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With over 25 years of experience in the tech world, Ron Weissman has worked side by side with the legendary Steve Jobs, has taken companies such as Verity to new heights of profitability and invested in numerous others as a venture capitalist with Apax Partners.

Ron is also an angel investor at Band of Angels, one of the oldest angel groups in the country with 150+ members.

He currently sits on the boards of many tech companies, as well as on the Board of Directors of VC Taskforce.

Lifograph University Graduation Ceremony

Ron was the inaugural speaker at Lifograph University, an educational program that trains Lifographers, i.e. content curators at Lifograph.

Ron opened his speech by recognizing the graduating Lifographer cohort and the enormous scope of the project they are undertaking. He acknowledged the challenge they are faced with: filtering massive amounts of data in the noisy news environment of today’s internet age.

Then he shared his story about how he started working with Steve Jobs and what he learned during the process.

5 Lessons Learned from Working with Steve Jobs

Ron was an Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland and he also ran academic computing at Brown University before he was tapped by Steve Jobs to evangelize NeXT Computer around the world.

1. Hire Differently

As a highly successful college dropout, Steve was skeptical about brand name universities.

When interviewing candidates, he was more interested in what prospective hires had accomplished at their previous positions, rather than the number of acronyms behind their names or the pedigree of their college credentials.

To wit, this is why Steve recruited Prof. Ron Weissman from the ivory towers of academia even though his background was in history, not primarily entrenched in technology.

Ron told the story about how Steve hired former Flying Karamazov Brothers (FKB) juggler Randy Nelson who ended up becoming a world-class corporate trainer at Pixar.

Steve’s ability to spot and recruit talent from uncanny places was especially valuable for Apple as these ‘outsiders’ are the types of people who can bring a creative and fresh outlook to problems which might not be as adeptly addressed by those ‘within the Matrix’, so to speak.

2. Watch your team closely

The audience chuckled as Ron described how Steve was notorious for sneaking up on clueless employees at any given moment and asking them difficult questions about their current projects.

In a culture where “micromanaging” is somewhat denigrated, Ron believed that Steve’s ubiquitous presence around the Apple campus and his tendency to deeply engage and even challenge everyone he encountered fostered a heightened level of accountability.

This brand of ‘imposed conscientiousness’ probably led to above average performance across the board. Even though the engineers and artists at Apple dreaded having to defend their ideas under duress, it meant that they had to think through their work product just a bit more than they usually would.

Again, this probably resulted in the high quality products that the Apple brand is now synonymous with.

3. Focus, Focus, Focus

Ron passionately repeated these words while looking at each attendee in the eye. Amongst Steve Jobs’ myriad abilities, one of the main reasons why Apple was and still is outrageously successful was most likely Steve’s uncompromising commitment to simplicity and esthetics in the design values around all Apple’s products.

Steve Jobs' single-minded, focused approach, meant a very disciplined pursuit of “less is more” and saying “no” to a whole lot of opportunities.

The ability to select a specific target market and to build niche, dominant products, ultimately proved to be Apple’s ticket to MVC (Most Valuable Company) glory.

4. Wipe the slate clean and start over

When something wasn't working at Apple, Steve was a big proponent of rebuilding an existing product from the ground up.

This flexibility and willingness to quickly accept defeat and move ahead with a completely clean slate set the stage for Apple’s agility and was the reason it thrived in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

Previously renowned household-brand companies such as DEC, which were too slow to restructure their original product roadmaps and quickly abandon sinking ships, did not survive the rise of the microcomputer.

5. Don't just build good products, build GREAT products

For Jobs, it wasn't enough to just be better than the competition. His focus was on building products that were orders of magnitude more competitive.

This is the approach which led to Apple’s revolutionary smartphone and tablet which have literally transformed computing and the transition from the desktop into the pocket.

Steve Jobs' single-minded, focused approach, meant a very disciplined pursuit of “less is more” and saying “no” to a whole lot of opportunities.

The Lifograph University graduating cohort and their guests left inspired to think independently and achieve more by focusing on less, just like Steve Jobs did.

Adapted from an original blog written by Eli Angote, graduating Lifographer and founder of  TheBestNotary.net.

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Ron Weissman is an angel investor at Band of Angels, one of the oldest angel groups in the country with over 150 members.

He currently sits on the boards of many tech companies, as well as on the Board of Directors of VC Taskforce.

Ron was the inaugural speaker at Lifograph University, an educational program that trains Lifographers, i.e. content curators at Lifograph.


Towards the end of his speech, Ron, well known for his acute sense of humor, made a shocking statement:

“I only invest in DUMB companies”.

After enjoying the bewildered look on the audience faces, he elaborated on what he meant by ‘DUMB’:

 

Why I Invest in DUMB companies

1. (D) - Dominate

I invest in companies that aim to completely own their market segment or industry. Strive to be number 1 or 2 in the market. Everybody else gets lost in the clutter.

2. (U) - Unusual

I invest in the types of startups which have products that are not just better, but TEN times better than the competition. To succeed you need to be many orders of magnitude better in your market.

3. (M) - Metrics

I invest in founders who can back up their hypotheses with factual, verifiable data. Data takes out the guess work and provides clarity.

4. (B) - Business

I invest in entrepreneurs who get excited about the financial aspects of their idea, not just the technology side. It is not enough to build a cool products. You need to have a clear monetization plan.

After his explanation the audience heaved a massive, collective sigh of relief.

And that night, the startup entrepreneurs left the room thinking about how they could build DUMB companies…

To succeed you need to be many orders of magnitude better in your market.

Adapted from an original blog written by Eli Angote, graduating Lifographer and founder of TheBestNotary.net.

To follow Ron’s timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com

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Startup Tips I Learned from Steve Jobs

Manny Fernandez is the CEO/Co-Founder of DreamFunded and Founder of SF Angel Group.

He was a guest speaker at our Lifograph event and below are some of his thoughts.

1. Be a leader

Steve Jobs was a college dropout, but he was a leader. He was able to rally up investors and employees to create an amazing product.

Leadership is something you develop over time. You have to embrace the idea of being a leader, then get followers to support you.

2. Find a mega-market, early

Steve Jobs found early a mass market. His vision was that everyone will have a personal computer.

As an entrepreneur you need to skate where the puck is going. Be alert to new trends and take advantage of massive shifts in the market.

3. Find a great cofounder

Steve Jobs needed a cofounder with technical skills who could build a computer, so he went to HomeBrew Computer Club where he eventually met Steve Wozniak.

To find a cofounder you should network with people who have a strong interest in your industry. Attend meetups, industry conferences, hackathons, and other related events to meet like-minded people you can work with on your startup.

To follow Manny's timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com

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Gary Swart’s Journey through Silicon Valley

After the merger of oDesk with Elance, it took Gary Swart, former CEO of oDesk, 90 days to finally shed the “weight,” or mental burden, of being a CEO for eight years. It was an intense time for him building a company that reached $1B in work booked through the oDesk platform.

Winding down from the CEO role was not easy, but Gary quickly joined Polaris Ventures as a venture partner.

Gary told his story at a Lifograph event for entrepreneurs and other professionals.

Gary Swart was always willing to trade a “secure” job for the chance to make a difference. He began in Silicon Valley as an early employee at Pure Software, a small startup that grew quickly.

The company was acquired by IBM and Gary become one of the thousands of employees at IBM. Unfortunately, according to Gary, his growth and development stalled. Though his director-level compensation was very good, he had very few “chips on the table” and was not able to make the impact he desired.

So, he left IBM to go work at another startup, Intellibank. His experience at Intellibank is what he calls his “character-building experience,” because “Experience is what you get when you don’t get all the other things you want.”

Intellibank, a company he describes as, “sort of like Dropbox done wrong,” did not make it. However, Gary’s 18 months of experience at a failed startup made him a much better candidate as the CEO of oDesk (currently Upwork after the merger with Elance).

Experience is what you get when you don’t get all the other things you want.”

Four job characteristics that motivate people to stay or leave a company

1. Impact

People want to work at a company that has a clear vision and where they can have a great impact.

2. Growth & development

Money is not enough. People want to continuously grow professionally and personally.

3. Work-life balance

Everyone’s idea of work-life balance is different. Companies need to be flexible.

4. Financial reward

Even though money is not everything, a good paying job will allow the employees to focus on their work.

Gary on company culture

When asked how much time should be spent creating company culture, Gary answered: “a tremendous amount of time,” because,

“You can’t build a great company without great people with a great culture.”

Gary on hiring

Gary considers that personal characteristics are more important than knowledge or skills.

He mentioned his top four aspects that he is looking for in a future employee:

1. Personal characteristics

2. Motivation

3. Skills

4. Knowledge

The people whom you hire need clarity on where the company is going and how it’s going to get there. He gave oDesk as an example. When he first started, the company had two potentially different pathways, but ultimately he had them pick one direction for the company. He had to let go of anyone who did not align with the new vision of the company. When building a company you need to make sure everyone is on the same page, they know what they are responsible for, and how you will measure success for their role.

How to Measure Your Startup’s Potential for Success

When Gary begins to analyze a startup, he needs to first see its product-market fit. He said that there should be such a great need for the product, it’s almost as if people should be “bleeding from the neck” (people should have an explicit pain point), and that there should be a large market share (a lot of people “in pain”). Second, you will need some route to market — this answers the question of, “how are you going to sell your product?”

Gary also suggested looking at the following measures of potential success:

  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), which is the cost associated with convincing a customer to buy your product or service.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (LTV), which is a prediction of the net profit over the entire future relationship with a customer.
  • Is there a “virality" factor present in your business? This refers to whether a friend will tell a friend, or how well your product or service spreads. You should aim for a virality coefficient >1.
  • What would it take to get more “word of mouth?”
    • 1) deliver a better service or product,
    • 2) give people a reason to tell a friend, and
    • 3) give people a way to tell a friend.
  • Any kind of evidence that you can cost-effectively scale the business.

As a VC investor, Gary looks for companies that:

1) have product market fit

2) already have sales, and

3) there is evidence that they’ve nailed a repeat business.

As an example he mentioned a recent investment in Accuvit, whose product uses voice recognition and natural language processing to capture a sales call, and then converts the transcript into relevant data points.

To follow Gary's timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com

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This is Part 2 of “How to Get PR for your Startup” event.

Influencers Murray Newlands and Drew Hendricks talk about "How to get your startup on VentureBeat, Forbes, Huffington Post, Technorati etc."

Murray Newlands contributes to various publications including Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, VentureBeat and The Guardian. 

Drew Hendricks is a journalist who contributes to Forbes, The Huffington Post, Technorati and many others.

They both write about entrepreneurship, tech and social marketing trends and give startup advice.

To follow Drew's and Murray's timeline and see how you might be connected to them join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com

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This is Part 1 of “How to Get PR for your Startup” talk.

Murray Newlands and Drew Hendricks talk about PR for Startups – How to get your startup on VentureBeat, Forbes, Huffington Post, Technorati etc.

Murray Newlands contributes to Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, VentureBeat and The Guardian. 

Drew Hendricks is a journalist who contributes to a variety of different publications including Forbes, The Huffington Post, Technorati and many others.

They write about entrepreneurship, tech and social marketing trends and give startup advice.

To follow Drew's and Murray's timeline and see how you might be connected to them join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com

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On Jan 22, 2015 we hosted Gary Swart - VC at Polaris Partners - for a great talk about startups and venture capital.

In this video he talks about his experience in building oDesk to become a company transacting over $1B annually, and his role as a VC Partner at Polaris Partners, a venture capital firm with over 100 investments, and an active $450MM fund.

To follow Gary's timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com

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