Entrepreneurial

Startups – so easy a 12-year-old can do it

– Steve Blank is a teacher, writer, and serial entrepreneur. He teaches at Stanford University, U.C. Berkeley’s Haas Business School and at Columbia. He is the author of “The Four Steps to the Epiphany” and “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost”. This article originally appeared on www.steveblank.com. The views expressed are his own. –

Maybe because it’s a company town and everyone in Silicon Valley has a family connection to entrepreneurship. Or maybe I just encountered the most entrepreneurial 12-year-olds ever assembled under one roof. Or maybe we’re now teaching entrepreneurial thinking in middle schools. Either way, I had an astounding evening as one of the judges at the Girls Middle School 7th grade Entrepreneurial night.

In this school every seventh-grade girl becomes part of a team of four or five who create and run their own business. The students write business plans, request startup capital from investors, receive funding for their companies, make product samples, manufacture inventory, and sell their products to real-world customers. This class is experiential learning at its best.

It was amazing to read their plans talking about income, revenue, cost of goods, fixed and variable costs, profit and liquidity. (I don’t think I understood cost of goods until I was 30.) As they built their business, having to work with a team meant the girls learned firsthand the importance of creativity, teamwork, communication, consensus building, personal responsibility, and compromise. (Next time I have to adjudicate between founders in a real startup, I can now say: “I’ve seen 12-year-olds get along better than you.”)

One highlight of the girls Entrepreneurial Program is the annual “Entrepreneurial Night” that showcases the newly created businesses for both the school and the wider Silicon Valley community. All of the teams had booths where they sold their products as if in a trade show. Then after a break, each of the 12 teams got up in front of the audience of several hundred (and the judges) and presented a Powerpoint summary of their business and progress to date. (I couldn’t write or deliver a pitch that good until my third startup.)

Super angels and the startup bloodletting of 2011

– Mark Boslet is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. The views expressed are his own. –

Super angels have been super active over the past year. Now their business models will be put to the test, and a bloodletting of startups may be on the way.

Both they and the new crop of micro-cap funds actively pursued seed and early stage opportunities in 2010. They funded scores of companies, including many in the Internet space, where shoestring startup costs make business plan experimentation relatively painless.

Can social media make your company smarter?

USA-LAW/BRAINYou’ve started a fan page for your company on Facebook. You’ve attracted a few followers on Twitter. You’ve got a presence on Foursquare, and you’ve started offering deals to customers through Groupon. Seems you’ve got that whole social media thing figured out.

Or do you? While social media presents, first and foremost, a cheap marketing and advertising option to help businesses generate leads and drive up revenue, some experts insist it’s about more than just setting up a few profiles and then moving on.

“Social technologies are to me holistic technologies, a lot like PCs or the Internet,” said Scott Klososky, a social media business consultant who’s releasing three new books on the subject this year. “I tell clients that they need to be using social tools as much internally as they do externally, as much to cut costs as they do to drive revenue.”

6 essential tips for a young entrepreneur

USA/-Cara Mico is the executive director at Demeter Design and a contributor to Under30CEO. The opinions expressed are her own. -

If I could write a letter to my nine-year-old self, what would it say? Maybe I would have skipped the year in private art school ($30,000 before interest) and opted for a year apprenticeship in Venice (which in theory would have made me money).

More importantly, where would I be? I am 27 and the executive director of a successful non-profit environmental consulting firm. After 5 years of blood, sweat, tears we have a functional board, and have worked with other non-profits throughout Oregon conducting watershed assessments and endangered species habitat restoration planning.

3 worst ways to find a potential investor

stop-sign-e1286542310834- Adam Hoeksema is the founder and CEO of ExecutivePlan and a contributor to Under30CEO. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Only one to four percent of angel investor applicants successfully raise angel investment, according to the Angel Capital Education Foundation. I suspect that part of the reason that the success rate is so low is because entrepreneurs are using the following ill-advised tactics to meet potential investors.

The Office Visit

So maybe you are located out in San Francisco, California and you hop on to California Venture Capital to locate a VC firm in your neighborhood.  It turns out that there are dozens of VC firms nearby so you throw on your best suit, stuff a pile of business cards in your pocket and follow your GPS to the front door of Sequoia Capital.  Obviously you will be stopped at the front desk unless you have an appointment.  Maybe you are good enough to sweet talk your way past the receptionist and you simply push your way in to introduce yourself to Mr. VC.  Venture capitalists might like ambitious entrepreneurs, but don’t fool yourself, this tactic is not ambitious, it is disrespectful and will certainly end in failure.

DIY PR: 5 rules for getting the publicity you want

USA-ECONOMY/- Danita King is Principal and Founder of PR Noir and a contributor to Under30 CEO. The opinions expressed are her own. -

Now, it seems a bit antithetical for an owner of a PR firm to teach others the tricks of the PR trade. I thought, “Do I really want to give away the secrets to PR success?” But then I thought long and hard about what it means to be an entrepreneur and the sometimes financial roller coaster the thrill of sole proprietorship can bring. What if I had a different type of business? Would I be able to afford an expensive PR agency? Probably not. If I were making cut backs, would my PR expenses be one of the first things to go? Probably so. If I had to tackle PR on my own, would I appreciate and try to soak up any tips I could acquire? Heck yeah!

So, the entrepreneur (and not the publicist) in me is giving the green light on some DIY PR tips that will help your company get the publicity and exposure you want, so you can focus on what you do best — running your business efficiently and successfully.

4 pieces of advice on health insurance for entrepreneurs

USA/ – Ryan Hanley is a Commercial Account Executive for the Guilderland Agency, Inc. and a contributor to Under30CEO. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Health insurance is expensive.  There is no way to get around that fact and anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something you don’t need.  Unfortunately for a young business, the burden of health insurance is even more important than that of a larger or more mature business, (in development, not demeanor).

A Case for Health Insurance

For an entrepreneur skimping on insurance, especially health insurance, is playing Russian Roulette with your future.  At no time in your business’s growth will the health and wellness of employees be more important than the start-up years.  Think about the set-back in growth if the founder of a 2nd year business became ill and had to miss a month.  A terrifying scenario for most young businesses. Now think about that same situation coupled with the stress of the same business founder coming straight out of pocket for all medical expenses.  I’ve seen this situation where money earmarked for business growth is diverted towards medical costs and it’s not pretty.

Baby boomer inventions that changed the world

Patrick J. Kiger is the co-author of two books, “Poplorica: A Popular History of the Fads, Mavericks, Inventions and Lore that Shaped Modern America” and “Oops: 20 Life Lessons From the Fiascoes That Shaped America“. This article originally appeared on Second Act. The views expressed are his own. –

Try this free-association exercise. When you hear the word inventor, what names pop into your head? Chances are, you’ll think of some long-dead genius from the 19th or early 20th century, such as Thomas Edison, creator of the phonograph, motion pictures and the first practical light bulb, or Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone.

Or maybe, if you’re a little more knowledgeable about the history of technology, you’ll summon up Nikola Tesla, inventor of the alternating current mode of power generation, whose brainchild flows through the outlet that lights your home and illuminates the computer screen upon which you are reading this. Or you might think of Guglielmo Marconi, the early 20th century tinkerer credited with inventing the wireless communication technology that led to everything from garage door openers to the smartphone clipped to your belt.

Hot healthcare investing trends for 2011

– Dr. David J. Brailer is the chairman for San Francisco-based venture firm Health Evolution Partners and served as the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology under President George W. Bush. The views expressed are his own. –

2011 will be a chaotic and unpredictable year for investors.

We will see the first big changes of health reform play through – regardless of what the incoming Congress does. No one can predict what health reform means, particularly alongside the dwindling of the financial crisis and the ongoing jobs bust. The only sure thing is that 2011 won’t be a replay of the last two years where safe deals got done and a lot of companies traded from investor to investor.

Here are a few trends – and a few pitfalls – to pay attention to:

1. Please, no more meaningful use. Health information technology has been hyped into the stratosphere, and every entrepreneur is trying to raise capital while they can. Many are spinning their wheels because they mistake the investment bubble for their own shrewdness. The market will figure out in 2011 that federal subsidies will happen far slower than planned or that they may be cut back by a deficit-hawk Congress. Once the bubble pops and people get their feet back on Earth, deals will start to happen again. There are some very good health information technology companies coming to market in 2011 and they are going to rock healthcare in the coming years.

Grow revenues before seeking VC funding

– Russell Rothstein is the founder and CEO of business social networking site SalesSpider. The views expressed are his own. –

Small businesses owners want to grow their companies, but their ability to expand operations is limited by their own profitability or otherwise lack of capital.

Faced with this dilemma, many turn to venture capital firms (VCs), which embrace high-risk, high-growth startups and offer the money and management they desperately need to meet the growing demand for their product.

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