Entrepreneurial

Let’s work together to boost entrepreneurialism

michael_gaiss

By Michael Gaiss

  Michael Gaiss is a Senior Vice President at venture capital firm Highland Capital Partners. The opinions expressed here are his own.

More than ever, entrepreneurship will continue to play an instrumental role as geographic regions and small businesses contend with today’s rocky business landscape. While the entrepreneurial fire may be well lit, there are opportunities to better coordinate and amplify it into a raging inferno.

Marketing can help this along by playing a key role in nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship. For regions looking to weather the downturn, help small businesses get off the ground and improve their positioning in the long-term, here are a few tips to consider:

1) Connect and enable the next generation of entrepreneurs. Much can be learned from those who have already done it. Barriers preventing the next generation from connecting with the existing entrepreneur community, as well as each other, need to be removed. Gatherings and one-on-one mentoring can be orchestrated to bring entrepreneurs of all stages together to better enable the free flow of ideas and advice. The challenge is to leverage existing institutions such as associations, universities, venture and angel networks, and relevant service providers to get these off the ground, while encouraging the organic emergence of new networking & mentoring platforms over time. As entrepreneurship evolves, what started as forums for sharing insight and advice matures into a vibrant and proven support ecosystem that entrepreneurs can rely on to help get their startups off the ground.

2) Enhance the supporting infrastructure. People and ideas are key pillars of the entrepreneurial foundation. But access to capital, talented employees, and a supportive business environment are what help many to succeed. Creative programs for facilitating the flow of early capital and/or company-building expertise to entrepreneurs and small businesses can be essential through business development initiatives, active angel networks, and seed capital programs. Of course, not everything should be “just about the entrepreneur.” Top talent is continually needed to fuel the realization of the entrepreneurial dream, but to also propagate the exchange of “entrepreneurial DNA” and best practices to prime the pump with qualified entrepreneurs and employees for future endeavors. Open houses, job fairs & boards and proactive initiatives to recruit and retain talent in a region – both on a permanent and internship basis – are imperative.

from MediaFile:

Facebook’s start-ups strut their stuff

Facebook opened its doors to venture capitalists on Tuesday.******The world's largest social media company, which landed $200 million in funding in May, wasn't trying to drum up any more cash for itself.******Instead, it was promoting a couple dozen start-up companies that leverage its technology and could further the strategy of making Facebook a key building block for Internet businesses and services.******The start-ups were selected by Facebook earlier this year through fbFund, a joint venture between Facebook, Accel and Founders Fund that provides seed funding (typically between $15,000 and $75,000 per start-up) to Facebook application developers.******The start-ups toiled through the summer in Facebook's erstwhile Palo Alto, California headquarters and Tuesday was show-time: a chance to show off their progress and, they hoped, secure a more substantial chunk of funding from the VCs assembled.******Unlike traditional Facebook applications, such as games that run directly within the Facebook Web site, many of the products showcased on Tuesday were stand-alone Web sites that tap into a Web surfer's network of Facebook friends using the Facebook Connect service.******Thread.com, an online dating site, allows people to cull through their Facebook friends' friends, searching for say, single women in a certain age group, and to contact a prospective date via a trusted friend.******Another start-up, Sociable, provides a service that it said can boost sales for online retailers by integrating transactions with Facebook. The company said it was already generating revenue and that concert-promoter LiveNation is a customer.******According to Founders Fund's Dave McClure, who organized Tuesday's event, five fbFund companies are already break-even or profitable, and another three expect to get there by the end of the year - no small feat given the rough economy.******Facebook will need more such success stories as it seeks to transform its own company from the Web's top social networking destination into the underlying social fabric of all Web sites.

VIDEO: New class of startup aims for quick revenues

peHub‘s Dan Primack spoke with Reuters about a new kind of startup that’s designed to develop an idea and then be snapped up by a larger company.

As Primack explains, these startups differ from the traditional sort in that they tend to be interested in creating targeted web services or applications rather than conventional companies with longer-term growth ambitions.

“The hope for these companies isn’t to create the next Google or the next Cisco, the goal is to create a little application that Google or Cisco or Facebook or Twitter wants and then will purchase,” he explains.

Wanted: investors for online job board

elena-bajicIvy Exec, a job posting and recruiting website, targets high-profile professionals by offering exclusivity: job-seekers must first be approved as a member to access the site’s job listings.

“They don’t like to be part of the masses,” explained Ivy Exec founder Elena Bajic (read her entrepreneur journal) about the site’s 25,000 members. “They’re looking for a way to differentiate themselves, an exclusive club and a network of peers. So the fact that they have to get approved to be members of Ivy Exec is very important to them.”

THE PITCH

Initially free to join, Ivy Exec recently started charging a monthly fee that ranges from $22-$42 depending on the package. On the corporate side, Bajic charges an average of $8,000 for her selective recruitment services, which include pre-screening all job applicants to find a better match. In this way Ivy Exec operates more like a dating site for job seekers.

Twitter-based shopping website seeks retailers

imshoppingBuying something online can be a frustrating process. The shear numbers of websites offering the same product can lead to endless hours of surfing to try to find the right deal. Consumers often become overwhelmed and end up not buying anything at all.

Prashant Nedungadi (see Nedungadi’s personal five-day entrepreneur journal, exclusively for Reuters.com) has been one of those people and decided to use that frustration to launch IMshopping.com, a website that utilizes a combination of software and sales experts to direct buyers to the precise product they’re looking for. What Nedungadi has dubbed “human-assisted shopping” is a network of retail experts, or guides, and the broader community of IMshopping’s more than 30,000 registered users.

IMshopping leverages Twitter to help allow consumers to pose shopping-related questions around the clock.

Experts weigh in on Twitter-based shopping site

IMshopping's Twitter pageYesterday we presented entrepreneur Prashant Nedungadi (read his entrepreneur journal) and his startup website IMshopping.com, which offers a platform whereby consumers can ask specific retail-related questions, through the website directly or via Twitter, and have them answered by an online community of retail experts. (click here to read Nedungadi’s pitch)

Nedungadi launched his website last April and has already received $4.7 million in venture capital investment from SK Telecom, but now needs to find retailers willing to pay to utilize his virtual sales force instead of going the traditional route and hiring their own sales people.

Our panel of experts have watched Nedungadi’s pitch video and gave us their reaction to IMshopping and Nedungadi’s business model.

VCs more risk averse as recession bites: survey

calculatorIt’s no secret that venture capital firms are tightening their belts in order to weather the current economic downturn, but a new survey depicts a larger realignment at work in the industry.

This year’s Global Venture Capital Survey, a joint report produced by Deloitte and national venture capital associations around the world, shows that in addition to reducing their overall investments during the past year, VC firms have also shifted their efforts to focus on later-stage investments.

According to the report, more VCs may be avoiding early-stage investments because acquisitions now take longer to finalize and IPOs are few and far between in the current economic climate. This means it can be tough for VC firms to plot a quick exit strategy.

Young entrepreneurs to watch in the tech sector

Bill Gates was 19 when he came up with the idea for Microsoft. Michael Dell was the same age when he started selling computers out of his dorm room. Who are the teenagers and 20-somethings trying to hatch the big tech and media ideas of tomorrow?

paidContent.org has compiled a list of likely candidates under the age of 21, from web design impresarios to “pimp my MySpace” tycoons.  Taking advantage of the Web’s low barriers to entry means that you often only need a really good idea. catherinecook_woCatherine Cook

Age: 19
Company: myYearbook

Some great ideas come from analysis and introspection. For siblings Catherine and David Cook, it was the result of a snarky comment. “My brother David and I were flipping through our high-school yearbook during my freshman year,” Catherine recalls. “We were looking for a girl in his class—I think he liked her—and he was trying to show me who she was. Once we finally got to the picture he was like, ‘She looks nothing like that.’”

Free financing tool to help startups get legal ball rolling

MILKEN/Leave it to a savvy law firm headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley to develop an online tool that actually generates draft financing term sheets for startups using the simplicity of a web-based questionnaire.

The so-called “Term Sheet Generator” comes courtesy of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a Palo Alto-based firm that’s played legal adviser to the likes of Apple and Sun Micro. It works with the responses and information provided by users to build fully formatted term sheet documents that can help entrepreneurs seeking outside capital get the ball rolling.

As Startup CFO blogger Mark Macleod astutely points out, the tool is no replacement for the advice of a skilled lawyer but can help cut costs when pondering early round funding. This is a sentiment shared by WSGR, which notes in the user terms and conditions that the service is “for general informational purposes only” and does “not constitute advertising, a solicitation or legal advice.”

VC fundraising still in the doldrums

peHUB reports:

Forty U.S.-based venture capital firms raised just $4.3 billion in the first quarter of 2009, according to data released this morning by Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association. The downside is that this represents the lowest number of funds to raise capital since Q3 2003. The upside is that the actual amount of capital raised was higher than the $3.5 billion raised in Q4 2008 (slight solace, but solace nonetheless).

Just three of the funds were first-timers, while the largest raiser was August Capital ($650m for Fund V).

In a prepared statement, NVCA president Mark Heesen said: “First, the majority of venture firms are not actively fundraising at this time because they have either recently raised a fund and are investing those dollars or are waiting until market conditions improve. Second, despite the recession, venture firms with solid track records continue to be able to secure sizable commitments from limited partners as there remains a great deal of promise for future returns from the venture capital asset class.”

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