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Thursday, August 30, 2012

10 Startups Changing the World And What We Can Learn From Them

For lots of startup founders, a big money valuation is just half the goal. Many startups are motivated by a singular drive to change the way we view and interact with the world around us. And while every startup can teach us something, the most disruptive often have the most profound lessons. Here are 10 of today’s most visionary startups to admire, and more importantly, model:
Instagram is a popular photo sharing app that uses filters to enhance photos. After being released on the Android market, it set download records and built a community of over 50 million loyal users. With no marketing budget, Instagram relied entirely on an almost fanatical community of fans to spread the word, and sold to Facebook for almost $1 billion. Lesson: Build a community, nurture it, and the users will market you.
2) 2tor
Founded in 2008 by heavyweight education entrepreneurs, 2tor partners with top U. S. universities –including GeorgetownUNCUSC and most recently Washington University in St. Louis – bring their degree programs online. Its mission is to transform higher education by bringing it online without sacrificing quality, student experience or graduation and job placement rates. With $96 million raised in venture capital and clear success cases to date, 2tor has emerged as the market leader in the rapidly evolving School-as-a-Service sector. Lesson learned? Industry reform is always possible – it just takes some creative thinking.
Global Giving has transformed the way people invest in the developing world. Through developing a network of donors who fund grassroots projects the world over, Global Giving has raised over $65 million dollars and funded over 5K projects. Lesson: Giving back can create a vibrant social community.
Pinterest – a virtual pinboard that allows users to quickly and easily share images – has quickly grown into the third largest social network. With a growing community that shares thousands of visual collections, Pinterest has re-invented the social network. Pinterest teaches an important lesson: keep your site simple and easy-to-use and users will flock.
5) Airbnb
Airbnb, a website that lets people with extra space rent it out to travelers, took the hotel industry and turned it upside-down. The company grew to a $1 billion valuation in 2011, despite a huge PR scandal involving a burglarized home and less-than-stellar customer service. Airbnb responded quickly, improved customer service, instituted protections for hosts, and is now more popular than ever. Lesson: a PR disaster is only a disaster if you let it become one.
6) Square
Square has grown into a billion plus dollar company by providing mobile merchants a method to accept credit card payments. The company relies on growing its user base by giving the device and the app away for free, and generates revenue with a small percentage on transactions. Square teaches us that sometimes giving away your product for free can be the ticket to generating strong revenues.
The world’s most popular shoe e-tailer began with a simple premise: focus on your customers and the rest will fall into place. Zappos has stayed true to that principle and in the process, redefined the definition of customer service. Its customer-centric policies have paid off – the company was acquired in 2009 for $1.2 billion. Zappos.com teaches us an important lesson: be great to your customers, and they’ll be great to you.
Despite high unemployment, many firms are finding it difficult to attract and retain top talent. Enter BetterWorks, a workplace recognition and rewards platform that lets businesses engage their staff through innovative rewards through local partners. And it works, boosting engagement and productivity significantly. The takeaway: treat your employees well. They ARE your business.
9) Docstoc
Created by Jason Nazar and Alon Schwartz, Docstoc brought social to the dry world of professional documents. Though it began as a document hosting and sharing site, it evolved first by allowing users to sell uploaded documents, then by encouraging business professionals to participate, and finally by hiring a team of lawyers and business writers to create original content. Lesson: revenue models shouldn’t be static; they should grow along with the company.
Better Place is a forward-thinking startup that builds transportation infrastructure for electronic vehicles. By investing in the infrastructure of tomorrow, Better Place is paving the way for greener and more efficient automobile technology. Better Place teaches us that targeting future markets and developing products for them can be a viable business model.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

7 Frugal Startup Tips from Millionaire Entrepreneurs

You don't win in business by wasting money. Even the most successful entrepreneurs pinched pennies in the early days--and many still do. Here, several multimillionaires share their best cost-cutting tips when you're trying to get your startup off the ground.

1. Cash in credit card rewards. Before the success of the George Forman grill super-charged sales at his direct-response television marketing firm, Rick Cesari became resourceful in using his credit card points to buy event tickets or thank high-performing employees by sending them on weekend getaways. Today, the founder of Seattle, Wash.-based Cesari Direct, charges between $125,000 to $200,000 on an Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card, and still uses the rewards to save several thousand dollars each year on employee perks at his $5 million company.
2. Skip the fancy furniture. "I didn't buy new furniture for the first six years I was in business," says Brett D. Reizen, CEO of Entertainment Benefits Group, LLC, Aventura, Florida, a $100 million provider of travel and entertainment services. Of course, you can start by checking out local used furniture shops or search on Craigslist. There are also furniture rental services like CORT, which can reduce the upfront cash you need to outfit your office. It also sells that rental furniture at deep discounts when clients are done with it. Find more online at CubeClerk, an office furniture marketplace.
3. Recycle and reuse shipping supplies. Even though his online garden supply retail business, Growers House, skyrocketed to $2 million in revenue in its first nine months, founder Nate Lipton only spent $300 on shipping supplies. Whenever the Tucson, Ariz.-based business receives its shipments it turns around and reuses all the boxes. If you're shipping via Priority Mail, the U.S. Postal Service also offers free boxes and envelopes. Of course, there are discount cardboard box sellers, such as UsedCardboardBoxes.com, you can turn to as well.
4. Be creative about space. Instead of springing for a posh office to sell RetroFitness health club franchises, founder Eric Casaburi used an extra room in one of his health clubs. It wasn't pretty, he says, but it saved him more than $10,000 in office rent and also fit with the company's bare-bones brand image. Co-working spaces are another option to cut costs. Cambridge, Mass.-based HubSpot was headquartered in a Boston co-working space until it hit 100 employees, sharing conference rooms, coffee machines, and even a receptionist and phone system. LooseCubes and CityFeet are good directories of shared and co-working office spaces.
5. Check out deal sites. Liz Gaspari, co-founder of Gaspari Nutrition, an $8 million nutritional supplements company based in Lakewood, N.J., uses daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial to offer employee perks. Whether it's through discounted meals and shows or gym memberships, the coupons have saved the company hundreds of dollars, she says. When it comes to business purchases, sites like RapidBuyr and Bizydeal can help you save on computers, office furniture and supplies, and even training courses.
6. Cross-train employees. Startups are no place for a "that's not my job" attitude. After Jeff Platt began to train employees to fill multiple roles at his Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Parks, he saved more than 5 percent on payroll for the $15.7 million Los Angeles-based recreation company. Casaburi did the same thing at RetroFitness, attending his first International Franchise Association trade show with the manager of one of his gyms acting as a franchise sales representative. "Having employees move from hat to hat to hat saves you money and keeps your operations lean," he says.
7. Do your own research. In his boot-strapping startup days, Casaburi also used to conduct his own market reach by sitting in parking lots of prospective locations and counting the car and foot traffic to see if there was enough activity to support a new gym. He analyzed every metric, such as population, vehicle and foot traffic, and other aspects of his most successful locations and tried to find locations that had similar activity and characteristics. Now that he's staffed up, he no longer does this himself, but he estimates he's saved more than $100,000 per year in salary or consulting fees before he hired help. Instead of hanging out in parking lots, you can take advantage of technology like ZoomProspector, a free service that lets you find communities by parameters like community size, education levels, and recent job growth.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

The Gold Medal Mindset: 8 Olympic Quotes for Entrepreneurs

The Gold Medal Mindset: 8 Olympic Quotes for Entrepreneurs

Great Olympians and entrepreneurs share the mindset of a champion.
In honor of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, I present eight of the greatest Olympic quotes of all time from American athletes – and I’ve spun them into lessons for entrepreneurial success.

#1 Your Biggest Competition is You

“The only victory that counts is the one over yourself.”
Jesse Owens, American Sprinter and Long Jumper
When Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, he didn’t just defeat athletes from all over the world. He also helped defeat the message of “Aryan racial superiority” that Adolph Hitler hoped the Germany-held games would spread.
In a way, Owens was racing against racism. But in his mind, he was just racing against himself. As Owens set a world record in 100m dash, the only competition that mattered was the internal battle going on in Owens’ body and mind.

Entrepreneurs can be Their Own Greatest Enemy – or Ally

While business is perceived as a very competitive environment, most startups are faced with little outside competition early on. A successful idea for a new business, product, or website usually exists in a niche of its own, free from direct competition.
The battle then, is in the mind of the entrepreneur. Does she or he have the ingenuity, the drive, and the perseverance to turn their idea into reality?

Adopting the Gold Medal Mindset:

“I Didn’t Set Out to Beat the World; I Just Set Out to Do My Absolute Best.”
Al Oerter, four-time gold medal winner in the discus throw
Instead of thinking about every other business, product, or website as your competition, focus your competitive energy internally. When you create an excellent, one-of-a-kind business, the competition is irrelevant.

#2 Do What You Love

“The first thing is to love your sport. Never do it to please someone else. It has to be yours.”
Peggy Fleming, gold medalist in figure skating in 1968
If you’ve heard this advice before, that’s because it’s profound and important.
When Peggy Flemming was 12 years old, her coach William Kipp died suddenly in a plane crash. If it weren’t for her intense love for figure skating, she surely would have been discouraged from continuing her training with a new coach. Instead, she won Olympic gold eight years later.

Entrepreneurs Must Love their Businesses

If you start a business that you don’t really care about, you’re going to be hard-pressed to persevere when the going gets tough. Centering your business on something you truly love and believe in is the foundation for entrepreneurial success.

Adopting the Gold Medal Mindset:

No Olympian has ever medaled in an event they didn’t like. In life, we should all do what we love and love what we do.

#3 Ignore Nay-Sayers

“When anyone tells me I can’t do anything, I’m just not listening anymore.”
Florence Griffith-Joyner, three-time gold medalist in 1988
Florence Griffith-Joyner (a.k.a. “Flo-Jo”) is considered the fastest woman of all time, based on the fact that she holds the record in both the 100m and 200m. But even she had people telling her that she didn’t have what it takes to win gold.

Entrepreneurs Inevitably have Critics

One difficult lesson for every entrepreneur to learn is how to separate positive, constructive criticism from useless, pessimistic nay-saying. The former helps you adjust your business and make it more successful, the latter will simply discourage you from continuing on your path to success.
Some people simply don’t believe that greatness can be achieved. They’ll tell you that your business is destined to fail, but they would have told the same thing to Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. In other words, their opinion isn’t worth your time.

Adopting the Gold Medal Mindset:

At every sporting event, there’s someone booing. At every comedy show, there’s a heckler. And for every musician, there’s a music critic.
Recognize that nay-sayers are going to be there no matter what, so there’s no reason to take it personally.  Instead, have Flo-Jo’s attitude and stop listening when someone tells you that you can’t do something.

#4 Don’t Get Caught Up with Tomorrow

“I’m trying to do the best I can. I’m not concerned with tomorrow, but with what goes on today.”
Mark Spitz, gold medalist in swimming in 1972 and 1968
There’s an old sports cliché: “We’re just going to take it one day at a time.”
But like most clichés, there’s a good reason it’s so often repeated.
The only day you can accomplish anything is today. On training days, you can’t be day-dreaming about winning the main event. When the day has finally come for you to perform, all you can focus on is your performance – not the medal ceremony.

Entrepreneurs Can’t Afford to Daydream

Sometimes it feels like a catch-22: you can’t succeed as an entrepreneur unless you have a great vision for the future, but you also can’t succeed if you’re always looking ahead and never taking care of the grunt-work of building your business day-in-and-day-out.
Successful entrepreneurs manage to do both. But they spend much more time focusing on the present than imagining how great their businesses will be down the road.

Adopting the Gold Medal Mindset:

Remember that for every second an Olympic medalist stands on the podium, they’ve spent hundreds of hours in practice facilities.

#5 Success is Journey

“It’s all about the journey, not the outcome.”
Carl Lewis, gold medalist in 1996, 1992, 1988
As a track-and-field athlete, there’s no greater outcome than setting a world record. Lewis set multiple world records and won nine gold medals, so he knows all about achieving the pinnacle of success.
Yet he says “it’s all about the journey.”

Entrepreneurs must Enjoy the Road Up

As an entrepreneur, there’s always going to be another milestone. Build a million dollar company… and you’re likely to want to build it up to 100 million. This isn’t a problem – unless you expect to get satisfaction and happiness from reaching these ever-changing milestones.
True contentment comes from appreciating the daily struggle.

Adopting the Gold Medal Mindset:

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”
Pierre de Coubertin, founder of modern Olympic Games

#6 Cherish the Challenges

“Hard days are the best because that’s where champions are made. So if you push through the hard days you can get through anything.”
Gabby Douglas, two-time gold medal winner in the 2012 London Olympic Games
Gabby Douglas has had her fair share of hard days – especially in the last week. In this summer’s London Olympics, he’s received criticism for her hairstyle and for shaky performances in individual events.
But for a 16-year-old, she has a remarkably mature perspective on taking on challenges. Her rigorous training schedule has taught her the old adage that “the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fires.”

Entrepreneurs Benefit from Enduring Challenges

While building your business, you’ll inevitably face major difficulties. But it’s meeting and overcoming today’s challenges that empowers you to face the challenges of tomorrow.

Adopting the Gold Medal Mindset:

Next time you’re feeling frustrated by a difficult client or a technical problem with your website, ask yourself how facing this challenge will help make you a better entrepreneur in the future.

#7 Be Prepared when Your Moment Comes

“I am building a fire, and every day I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match.”
Mia Hamm, gold medalist in women’s football in 2004 and 1996
As a football player, you train for thousands of hours all in preparation of one match: the championship.
When that big game comes, the players who perform are those who prepared fully.

Entrepreneurs Should be Ready for their Moment

As an entrepreneur, you never know when your big opportunity to will come or in what form it will present itself to you. That’s why it’s so important to be constantly preparing and adding “more fuel” to your fire every day.

Adopting the Gold Medal Mindset:

“Olympics — A lifetime of training for just ten seconds.”
Jesse Owens
Think about the different ways the different big opportunities that could take your business to the next level. Maybe a viral blog post sends a deluge of traffic to your site. Maybe Google sends you an email that expresses an interest in your services. Maybe you get stuck in an elevator with Bill Gates.
When your big moment comes, make sure you’re ready to capitalize.

#8 Greatness is About Rising to Yourself

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”
Wilma Rudolph, gold medalist in athletics in 1960 and bronze medalist in 1956
Every human being is capable of accomplishing great things.
Gold medalists and successful entrepreneurs are people who make the decision to rise to their personal potential for greatness.

5 More Quotes from Olympians

#1 Accept Failure as Part of Success

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Michael Jordan, gold medalist in basketball in 1992 and 1984

#2 Hard Work is the Silver Bullet

“Nothing can substitute for just plain hard work.”
Andre Agassi, gold medalist in tennis in 1996

#3 Your Age is Just a Number

“Never put an age limit on your dreams.”
Dara Torres, gold medalist in swimming in 2000, 1992 and 1984, silver medalist in 2008 and 1988 and bronze medalist in 2000 and 1988

#4 You Have to Take Risks

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
Muhammad Ali, gold medalist in boxing in 1960

#5 Impossible is Nothing

“I wouldn’t say anything is impossible. I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and put the work and time into it.”
Michael Phelps, gold medalist in swimming in 2008, 2004, and 2012

About Nick

Nick is an American writer, musician, and entrepreneur.
He makes creative web videos with his company Next Level Ink.

Written by  | Posted in Entrepreneurship

Source: http://www.incomediary.com/the-gold-medal-mindset-8-olympic-quotes-for-entrepreneurs

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Starting Up: Surviving Your First Year as an Entrepreneur

The first year of my startup was, without a doubt, the most educational period of my life. There is so much you can’t possibly know about running a business until you’re actually doing it. The mistakes, trials, and successes of that first year left me with a plethora of lessons.
As someone who started a company on my own, I was solely responsible for everything. That meant I had to manage administrative elements, marketing plans, sales, accounts payable, receivables, payroll, business models, you name it. Each and every aspect of my business depended on me like a small child.

Lesson Learned

When it comes down to what I know now that I wish I’d known that first year, accounts payable and receivables (as they relate to cash flow) stand out as an area that I could have handled better.
Every time I made a mistake, I thought my business would go under, so when I screwed up with poor handling of receivables and payables, I thought it spelled certain doom. The problem was that I was paying people far too quickly in relation to when money was coming in.  One day in particular, when I went to send out a bunch of checks, I realized the business bank account didn’t have even close to the amount I needed. That was a terrible day, and a horribly painful lesson. I survived that situation, but what a wakeup call that was.

Three Words of Advice

If you’re serious about starting your own business, then the very first thing you should do is stop reading this article for a few minutes and make a list of  some people you know who have been through the startup process, or people you think would be good at guiding you through it. If you surround yourself with the right people, you can make it through almost anything.
The second piece of advice is to mentally steel yourself for what’s to come. This is hard to do because you can’t knowexactly what’s in store, but prepare yourself for a rollercoaster of emotions. Much of what I thought I knew was wrong, so expect to be bewildered. Every day can end up being the best and worst of your life. One hour, you land a huge client and you’re on top of the world. An hour later, something falls apart and a client is furious, and you feel like a failure. So just go into it understanding that you’re about to experience something unlike anything you’ve done before. If you’re able to control your emotions from pulling you too high or too low, then you’re already ahead of the game.
Thirdly, embrace the fact that you will mess up – a lot. You’ll probably screw up more than you have in your entire life. You may not be used to doing things wrong. Failure might never have been an option for you before. This will change by the end of your first year, so it’s best to just accept this will be the case and use the mishaps as learning experiences. I know firsthand that every mistake makes you that much smarter; you’ll be thankful for them in the long run.

Those Special Supporters

Like I mentioned before, having a good support system is the single most important thing when you step into the startup world. Two people in particular were integral to helping me through that first year.
The first is Alex Friedman, founder of Ruckus Marketing. Alex is one of my best friends and had followed a path very similar to the one I hoped to be headed down. I found myself walking into Alex’s office on numerous occasions to get his advice on one thing or another. Alex excelled at knocking some sense into me when the situation called for it. He’s a straightforward guy and didn’t mince words when it came to things I could improve, which is just what I needed.
My father was the second key component in my support system. Each time (and there were more than I’d like to admit) I was sure my business was failing, I would rush off to my parents’ house in a very nervous state to talk things over with my dad. First, he would calm me down, which was key. Then we talked until the wee hours of the morning, figuring out exactly what I was doing wrong, and what I should do to correct the situation and prevent it from happening again. My father was truly a lifesaver that first year.


My superb support system, coupled with knowing that I was learning from all my mistakes, kept me grounded during my first year as an entrepreneur. Sometimes I feel like I have a PhD in “biffing it,” thanks to all my errors. But I managed to keep the mistakes small in the grand scheme of things, and little by little, I got better at running my company.
I came to realize that as horrible as the mistakes felt, there was always a new day ahead to correct them and improve. My errors didn’t equal Armageddon; they didn’t even mean the end of my business. They were just another step forward on the educational and rocky road of being a business owner. If you’re heading down the same road, buckle up!

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