Interview: The Myth of the Lone Entrepreneur

cover170x170I was recently interviewed on a new podcast called Planet Business in a wide ranging conversation titled The Myth of The Lone Entrepreneur. We covered many things, from my early career transition, to my newest project(s) to how to deal with failure and depression resulting from challenging times as an entrepreneur. It was a great conversation, and one I think many will find interesting and entertaining.

From their page:

Nick Hughes, the visionary behind Founders LIVE! and Feature Friday, gets real with us about the ups and downs of Entrepreneurship. Nick shares how he stepped into to the role of entrepreneurship through organizing community events and creating platforms to learn and share with fellow leaders in Seattle and beyond.

What Is Founders LIVE And How Can Someone Join?

Blogging has been a way of life for me for the past 5 years. Through telling stories of entrepreneurship, documenting my own journey and wrapping in little nuggets of wisdom I picked up along the way, my words touched people in ways I never imagined. A few years ago I also started creating videos detailing others journey’s, aiming to capture the raw authentic truth of entrepreneurship. It worked.

Screenshot 2016-05-02 at 2.47.13 PMYet I recently came to a crossroads in the creative side of my life, and have been contemplating which long and winding road I should take next. I’VE COME TO DISCOVER THERE’S MORE UNDERNEATH ALL THIS CREATIVITY. The common theme in all these experiments is seeing the inspiration grow in people and how they desire to be a part of something bigger.

So about a month ago something became much more clear to me.

It’s not about Me, it’s about Us.

I didn’t want to just start another blog, or another social network. I wanted to create a space for creatives, entrepreneurs and go-getters to connect with like minded people and be provided a channel to display their talents – be it crafting pithy nuggets of wisdom, writing blog posts, conducting interviews, distributing podcasts or creating fascinating videos or music.  I believe we’d all be better founders and entrepreneurs if a space such as Founders LIVE served us entertaining and educational content each day, and allowed us to connect with equally talented people with one click. I also believe everyone has a unique set of talents. Founders LIVE allows you to share yours, and discover other talented people and enjoy what they have to offer.

So what is Founders LIVE and why use it?

Connection

At its core, Founders LIVE is an exclusive network of talented and creative individuals. By providing a space to connect with like-minded people, Founders LIVE goes above and beyond a simple blog with interesting content. Watch as your experience comes alive through meeting new people, chatting about new ideas, helping someone with challenges and possibly meeting a new business partner.

A Well of Talent

In addition to a mobile first network, Founders LIVE is a platform for talented people to showcase and distribute their work. Authors are free to publish blog posts from within the app or point to their own blogs outside of it. Video producers are encouraged to upload their latest creative works and gain valuable feedback from the community. Podcasters on-board new listeners when they disseminate their latest podcasts within the community. Founders LIVE is a channel to see and be seen, to read and be read, and to hear and be heard.

Knowledge and Learning

Acknowledging many of us are not the creative type and opt to consume more content than we create, Founders LIVE is organized so that you can simply sit back and learn new and useful tidbits each day from our members. From the employee who is just considering leaving their job wanting to start a company, to the rookie founder who can’t sleep at night because they have no idea what to do next, to the veteran entrepreneur who enjoys publishing all their secrets of success, Founders LIVE is overflowing with golden nuggets of entrepreneurial wisdom craving to be eaten up each day.

Monthly Membership

[FIRST 200 MEMBERS ARE FREE FOR LIFE! Join now before it’s too late.]

We support Founders LIVE with a monthly membership fee of $5. This allows  us keep the quality of members and value to you very high.

Your contribution will be used to help our strong community grow globally, organize and run events and meetups, conduct live chats and cover our costs to ensure this community becomes your secret weapon in achieving your dreams.

We understand most social networks and content sites on the web are free, yet Founders LIVE is not your average WordPress blog or LinkedIn group. It’s a full fledged mobile network connecting you to a vast sea of talented people and incredibly insightful content. For the price of a Starbucks coffee each month, its a dang good investment in you and your future.

For your assurance, we employ a REFUND POLICY: You have 30 days to try out the Membership. If you feel that it’s just not your thing, we’re happy to offer you a full refund within 30 days of your initial purchase only.

[FIRST 200 MEMBERS ARE FREE FOR LIFE! Join now before it’s too late.]

What to do First

Say Hello! And swim around the app to find content and people you find interesting.

One thing that makes Founders LIVE great is the ability to follow Topics so that you can always see the conversations that are most relevant to you. Feel free to post in Topics or message another member privately if you want to learn more about their experience. You’ll quickly realize Founders LIVE will be your go-to daily resource for entrepreneurial goodness.

Founders LIVE -A Creative New Project That Needs YOU!

It must be Spring, the time for new things and emergence into a bright new world because that is what I seem to be doing lately.

I recently came to a crossroads in the creative side of my life, and have been contemplating which long and winding road I should take next. Yes I have posted on here my blog for years (thanks for reading!) and created scores of video conversations (thanks for watching!) with all the enjoyment, excitement and satisfaction that comes with sharing those nuggets out to the world. I have also been experimenting with events, meetups and live shows all the while conducting social observations and reading people like a hawk… AND I’VE COME TO DISCOVER THERE’S MORE UNDERNEATH ALL THIS CREATIVITY. The common theme in all these experiments is seeing the inspiration grow in people get and how they desire to be a part of something bigger.

All I can say is it’s gotdamn infectious.

So here I am offering a new approach to content creation and community engagement. I didn’t want to just start another blog, or another social network. But then I thought why not combine both… I realized I wanted to create a platform for creatives, entrepreneurs and go-getters to connect with like minded people and if desired, be provided a channel to display their talents – be it crafting pithy nuggets of wisdom, writing blog posts, conducting interviews, distributing podcasts or creating fascinating videos, art or music. More importantly, I wanted to create a central channel for others to find this type of valuable content and in the process maybe become better people. And to open a space where all of us creatives can see and be seen, to read and be read, and to hear and be heard. I believe everyone has a unique set of talents. Founders LIVE allows you to share yours, and discover other talented people and enjoy what they have to offer.

So here you are – Founders LIVE. Some things to know.

1) You are the first to know about this. OMG. Join with satisfaction you will be the first of many to be a part of this exclusive club connecting with like-minded individuals and being in awe of (hopefully) thousands of talented people. Quickly join, say hi and share with people you may think are a good fit.

2) Membership to Founders LIVE will be $5 per month. Yes, great things in this world actually cost money. Here’s a little more info on the app.

3) THE FIRST 100 PEOPLE TO JOIN WILL BE FREE FOR LIFE. Zero dollars. This means you should probably, no… most definitely click this link and join simply because it doesn’t cost you anything and the worst thing that happens is you never go back. I’d hate for you to delay and have to pay $60 per year when you don’t have too!

4) I plan on holding (and encouraging others to hold) cool and entertaining live events, talks, podcasts, shows, pitch contests and experimenting with other cool ideas on Founders LIVE from time to time, so SEE #3 and follow said instructions.

5) Does someone actually have to be a founder to join? Nope, it’s just a catchy name!  If you feel you really aren’t a creative, entrepreneur or go-getter who would add their content, see #4 and follow said instructions.

Lastly, I want to give thanks from the bottom of my heart for everyone’s support, for being a loyal reader and a fellow creative entrepreneur, and inspiring me during the times my hopes were hanging dry on a vine wondering when the next rainstorm would come. I hope I give back as much as I receive and please join me in creating something fun, cool and unique in this world.

Join here > founderslive.com.

I also have created a new blog founderslivemedia.com which I will probably be posting more from so might want to check that out as well.

Creating Your Own Wake

As a founder your survival is a function of how you create your own wake.

Wikipedia defines a wake as:

A wake is the region of recirculating flow immediately behind a moving or stationary solid body, caused by the flow of surrounding fluid around the body. There is formation of vortex in the wake which is the region of low pressure in it.

…The formation of these waves in liquids is analogous to the generation of shockwaves in compressible flow, such as those generated by rockets and aircraft traveling supersonic through air.

wake

Circulating flow.

Vortex.

Pressure.

Shockwaves.

If you read the entire definition you’ll likely get lost in a hell of a lot of science but those are the words that jump out to me when I read the definition of wake. It doesn’t just apply only to water either, if we could see movements of air we’d be seeing the impacts of wakes and shockwaves all around us.

To me, in human terms wake simply means your lasting impact on the world around you.

I have been thinking about this phenomenon recently since I made the leap back into entrepreneurship as a founder, (re)discovering all the painful and challenging issues you deal with as you are just starting out. So many things are working against you and the inertia of the world is quite similar to the inertia of water. A boat doesn’t create a wake unless its moving. Same for us. Forward progress in life requires some sort of energetic force to drive you forward, pushing against the inertia of the world and creating a wake that ripples outwardly away from you and positively impacting others around you.

There’s some social science for ya.

One of the most important lessons I learned in the last couple of years is you can make the entrepreneurial path a little easier by creating a wake around/behind yourself. This is not easy, because it requires effort and energy to do things we generally don’t want to do.  Going above and beyond our normal comfort zone to stand out is almost the antithesis to what we as humans feel we want to be doing each day/week/month.

But standing out – creating a wake impacting others – is what is required of you as a first time founder who is desperately wanting to make it to the next level. That or get lost in the thousands of others vying for the same attention, money and position.

What would a wake look like in real life? How would it involve humans, social interactions, business decisions, etc?

I find the key to gaining an edge when just starting out is finding specific actions to take to create a wake in an industry – shockwaves that keep spreading and impacting people you might not even have direct contact with.

Start writing on topics people in your industry might find interesting, posting them on social media and guest posting on other media outlets. Who cares what you write about (okay that’s kind of harsh but you get what I am saying) and what others might comment on, just having a voice and putting it out there places you at the top 10% in your industry. Be consistent in your writing efforts and don’t worry your audience will find you. Create video or other visual content which is entertaining and educational and that others can share with their networks. It doesn’t exactly matter what you record and put out, it just matters that you start and don’t stop so others start to recognize you. Organize local events and meetups around relevant industry topics so you can help others connect with each other. Be seen and be known. Work on and release products which are both interesting and have high potential to change your industry. Who knows, you might learn something new! Carry yourself, shake hands and talk in a way where people will be impressed.

These are the things people remember, they are what people share with others and what sticks in a room once you leave. That’s your wake.

 

Look No Further Than Shinebox Films For Your Next Videographer

10100696_300x300A few months ago I was desperately searching for a new film crew for Founders RAW and after interviewing a number of other candidates I was introduced to Ahamed and Dominic at Shinebox Films. We met over coffee and even after just a few minutes I quickly knew these guys were going to be my next film crew. I hope you (or them) do not mind this unsolicited praise as I simply would like to voice my satisfaction thus far with Shinebox Films.

The unique thing about producing Founders RAW is there are a few nonnegotiables I have as we put these segments together. First, we must be on location at a neutral place, typically at a bar or restaurant. My intention here is to create a naturally comfortable environment for myself and another individual to have a quality conversation, and for you the viewer to feel like you are a fly on the wall in the bar listening to us chat. This is not easy for a film crew to accomplish, and Shinebox has done a great job accomodating this challenging request. The other nonnegotiable is the level of quality – visual, audio, content, editing – they all must be world class. That or no one will want to keep watching these clips and over time the project will whither away. I will definitely say Ahamed and Dominic have fulfilled their promise of putting an incredibly high quality into their work.

And as you can see below, they haven’t disappointed. This is a clip from a recent Founders RAW conversation with Seattle Angel Investor Gary Rubens where you see their work in action. We filmed in the Pharmacy, which is a Speakeasy in the downstairs of The Temple in Pioneer Square. Notice the quality of Ahamed and Dominic’s editing work as well as aligning Gary and I in chairs in a well lit area so as to create a casual conversation between two friends.

Another conversation we shot in the fall was with Nathanael Nienaber, the CEO of on-demand moving service Ghostruck. We shot this specific episode in Easy Joe’s bar in downtown Seattle. The lighting and background in this shot is damn near perfect.

Here is a short description from the Shinebox website:

Shinebox Films imagines, executes and delivers moving pictures that convert  ideas and goals into compelling visual messages. Whether your project is a few seconds or a few hours we have the creativity and experience to make you and your passions shine.

We offer full support and service before, during and after filming so you don’t have to get bogged down in the details. We’re here to help no matter how much experience you have with videos and can help you navigate the often intimidating universe of videos.

If you want to engage viewers with your message we have the proven creative and technical skills to do so.

In an age full of videos we deliver the unexpected. We’re ready to make the world take notice of what you have to share. Send us a message or stop by for coffee at our office in downtown Seattle.

These guys fit my mold and I would suggest any company looking for high quality videos reach out to Shinebox Films via their website, email them here info@shineboxfilms.com or shoot me an email and I can connect you with them directly. You won’t be disappointed.

Founders RAW: Rahul Sood Full Conversation

I recently had the awesome opportunity to sit down with Rahul Sood, CEO and cofounder of e-sports betting platform Unikrn. Simply put, as a safe, legal and fun way to gather, game and bet on eSports, Unikrn is at the cusp of an industry just about to explode onto the world scene. In fact, I’ll suggest it already has given there are tournaments where people can compete for multi-million dollar winnings in front of tens of thousands of fans in sports arenas. Crazy stuff.

It’s an interesting conversation since Rahul has a very intriguing past. He started his first company right out of high school, sold it to HP years later and then started Microsoft Ventures within the global tech behemoth.

Lots of gems in here, better watch the whole thing!

Give Yourself Permission To Fail

Giving myself permission to fail has been a reoccurring thought as of late, and reading a recent post from Keen.io CEO Michelle Wetzler really solidified it for me.

After a few years in the back seat helping others in the building process I am back in the founding position. As I get back into the drivers seat I am reminded that my mental approach to this next journey determines so much of my trajectory and overall success.

If I am scared to fail, I most likely will fail. If I am worried we’ll go broke, we most likely will go broke. If I think I am not good enough to be CEO and not fit to lead a successful company, I most definitely will be those things.

BUT if I reverse that thinking I can reverse the psychology as well.  If I believe I’ll be successful, I most likely will. If I am confident in our finances, we most likely will stay afloat. If I think I am good enough to be CEO and fit to lead a successful company, I most definitely will be those things. And if I open myself up to possibility of failure I see that it is not that bad.

Michelle sums it up perfectly.

Giving myself permission to fail has been one of the most liberating, stress-relieving, and rewarding things I’ve done in last year.

The only way we can become a truly great company is if we open ourselves to the possibility that we might not be.

And you know what? It’s okay if we’re not. If Keen busts, we’ll all find new grand adventures. Some us could start a new company together, or get boring jobs at big co’s, or sail around the world, who knows, the world is full of lots of amazing opportunities.

…To give yourself permission to fail, you have to untangle your ego from your work. Having your ego tied up in your work is a handicap. You can’t think strategically or take risks when you and your personal well-being are on the line.

Basically, embracing reality frees you up to be everything you were meant to be. By not being paralyzed by what could happen, you are free to create what should happen.

This is an important lesson for founders, especially first timers who fall victim to impostor syndrome. Wikipedia defines it as “a term coined in the 1970s by psychologists and researchers to informally describe people who are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved.”

Another way to think of impostor syndrome is to be so frightened by your future (be it positive or negative) that you simply don’t believe you are doing the right things or are the right person for the job. You question every little decision you should make, you aren’t sure if you should go left or right. You think your peers see a different version of you, a lesser qualified person sitting in the front seat pretending they know what they are doing.  You start believing you are an impostor and thus end up failing in the end.

This is all wrong and can be mitigated by giving yourself permission to fail before you even start. That way you are free to make the correct decisions, knowing failure is just part of the process. It sounds crazy but a simple change in perspective makes all the difference. I have found the best perspective is that the world is full of lots of amazing opportunities, and if you fail at this one there’s always the next one.

That, my friends, is why I am back in the drivers seat.

Taking Time To Reflect

It’s been a great year. I definitely had some ups and downs but as a whole I’m appreciative of the year I had and excited for what lies ahead. At the end of the year it’s always great to unplug, get away and gather your thoughts without distraction. I’ve been lucky to escape to the ocean for some rest, relaxation and reflection. Here’s where I am spending my holiday. 

   
    
    
   

 
  

The Agony And Ecstasy of Entrepreneurship

Given my recent news of making the leap once again, I figured it was fitting to dive further in detail on what entrepreneurship is all about. This piece was written a few months back for a project I will talk more about once it becomes public, but should give you a good idea of the ups and downs of founder life.

Many people wonder what it takes to launch and grow a successful business today. Many also question what actually goes on in the mind of an entrepreneur.  Pure ambition, hopes of everlasting wealth, or recognition for changing the world are often cited as driving forces behind founders of successful companies. On the other hand some perceive starting a company as the epitome of stroking our own selfish and egotistical desires at the expense of others. Regardless of perspective, entrepreneurship is an enigma in our world – something we observe everyday yet still perplexes us as to what it actually is and why people choose to embrace it.

These questions got me thinking about what we do and why we do it, and how to best describe entrepreneurship. What most will discover is the challenge of entrepreneurship is not necessarily one of execution as it is psychological balance. I often talk about The Agony and The Ecstasy of Entrepreneurship, the never ending yo-yo effect of running a company and the toll it can take on the person who is not prepared. The agony can be described as an immense downward pressure, something akin to gasping for air when lacking oxygen. Starting a company requires creating almost everything out of thin air and demands extraordinary feats to pull off.  Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Your progress will take twice as long as you expect and if you are an impatient person like myself it can be extremely difficult.  If entrepreneurship can be described as a roller-coaster ride, the agonizing times are the extreme downward dips a company founder and their stomach must constantly endure.

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Those who make it out of the dips shoot straight up to the highs and experience periods of ecstasy and bliss.  Similar to a chemical induced euphoria these naturally created feelings are what keep founders plowing through the entrepreneurial journey. A great meeting with a high profile investor, media coverage about a new product release or acquisition, and landing a new customer or partnership leading to a potentially lucrative deal are all exciting and exhilarating experiences. These euphoric feelings are what we live for as entrepreneurs.  And they are addictive.  They are additive because these types of positive experiences release dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain which result in a heightened state of emotion, and become what founders heavily rely on while they keep pushing forward.

What makes the journey so crazy is the shifts between ecstasy to agony seem to creep up like little critters in the night. One day you are on top of the world, thinking there’s nothing between you and one billion people touching your product. The next day you don’t know what just happened and if you are still leading a solvent company. Amazingly that same chemical process takes place as we experiment with sex, drugs and alcohol, as well as what is found in people who are diagnosed with mental disorders. I find it interesting how entrepreneurship and mental disorders are so close in relation yet looked upon from society in such extreme opposites. It’s important to keep in mind how damaging the cycle of Agony and Ecstasy can be to the entrepreneur if not identified and dealt with appropriately.

If entrepreneurship is analogous to a disease then it is a collection of many mental disorders found in appropriate combinations brought together to form a uniquely talented individual. Consequently, this individual has a choice on how they wield their sword. Entrepreneurs are all in – all the time. Entrepreneurs love what they do and obsess over it to a fault. It is a predisposition; a path that has already been laid out for chosen individuals. It is a character trait, a labor of love, a zeal that cannot be trained, a condition that cannot be treated, an illness that cannot be caught. And like any disease, if not treated appropriately entrepreneurship can be very damaging to oneself and others. If you find yourself holding the sword you must take precaution in how you use it.

Don’t be fooled, running a company can be one of the most difficult things a person will ever do in their life. If you are an entrepreneur – or choose to become one – prepare to be challenged more than you ever have in your life. You will be challenged physically. You will be challenged emotionally. You will also be challenged psychologically more than you ever thought possible.  You will ask yourself why you are doing this and to what cost is it worth. Technically, socially, professionally, psychologically and financially you will be stretched way past what you ever thought you could deal with.

Yet, it is also one of the most rewarding things a person can choose do with their lifetime. If pursued correctly, entrepreneurship is the gravity that pulls out greatness within each person. It is the grand stage on which we display our unique gifts and talents to the world. And it allows an environment for us to teach and employ others so they may also live healthy and fruitful lives. I have discovered it is the crucible we enter as rough, ugly and jagged only to emerge in time polished, beautiful and priceless.

So what is entrepreneurship again? I have found the crux in the entrepreneurial path is self actualization –  the place where the founder comes full circle on what, how and why they have embarked on the journey in the first place. Their life only make sense when they look back upon what they’ve done and connect the dots from where they have come.  It is in this place true entrepreneurs are born and true greatness can be achieved.

I don’t know… we may never know for sure what entrepreneurship really is but what I try to illustrate is how vital the entrepreneurial journey is in discovering yourself, your vision and your legacy. I hope this doesn’t scare you. In fact, I hope you are intrigued and invigorated. In the end, through entrepreneurship I hope you can gain a better understanding of who you are and how you will choose to leave your lasting legacy.

Founders RAW: Rahul Sood – How to Build A Luxury Brand

I recently sat down for a Founders RAW conversation with Rahul Sood to talk about entpreneurship and various aspects of startup life. Rahul is cofounder and CEO of Unikrn, a Mark Cuban backed startup in the massively growing esports industry. Below is a short clip on how to build a luxury brand.

Goodbye and Hello

I’ve contemplated writing this post for more than 3 weeks now – and low and behold – today is the right day to share what’s been happening in my life and take a bit of a dive on the new direction.

Don’t worry, there’s good news at the end.

First a little background and to make sense of why I have not written since November. Two days before Thanksgiving I was laid off from the startup where I had been working full time for a year and a half. Yep, laid off and by one of my best friends to make it even worse. Due to budgeting and funding constraints the founders let half the team go, without warning and under very unfortunate circumstances. I’ll save other details to protect the involved but although I wish them well suffice it to say I was blindsided and quite disappointed.

Thanksgiving, of all weeks!

Being on the receiving end of that sort of news during Thanksgiving week makes it a lot harder to give thanks to your family and to the world, I’ll tell you that much for sure. The sudden change placed me in a quite challenging situation for this holiday season, but one I know I can get through with support from family and friends.

I gotta be honest, it was tough to swallow. How could “I” be let go from a company I felt really needed me? And how does our ego hit so hard upside the head?

Screenshot 2015-12-16 at 5.06.59 PM

The best thing about being let go so unexpectedly is you are given back your time, which provided me a chance to reflect on the trajectory in my life as an entrepreneur and where I was currently heading. I realized I was not at all where I wanted to be professionally and not utilizing my strengths in the ways in which I wanted.

Through it all I can now honestly say I am relieved and energized. As a fighter and a survivor (and most importantly an entrepreneur) this news simply gives me a stronger fire in the belly to strike out on my own and create things that need to exist in the world. It was the excuse I was waiting for, and it served as a nudge from the world to get my ass going again after a few years hiatus.

We should be thankful for every door that closes in our face – there’s probably a damn good reason it needed to be slammed.

See, I had been working on some things during my downtime which oh-so-subtly was getting me very excited, and now I am afforded the time and energy to dive into them full time. I am here to announce I will officially launch them in early 2016.

Yes, I said thing(s).

Two. Things. I. Think. Can. Be. Really. Cool.

And. Maybe. Even. Really. Big.

I am not at liberty to let too much out of the bag yet so a few hints and previews will have to do at this time.  One of them is a really cool new experience for sports fans around the world. I am sure we all have seen the crazy growth (and commercials) of Daily Fantasy Sports and yet might not really know how to play them or feel comfortable with the whole – legal or illegal – sports gambling experience. We definitely aren’t launching another version of DraftKings or FanDuel! But we will be launching a much more lightweight, fun, mobile, and social sports experience where you can share your sports knowledge with the world during your favorite sporting events. If this sounds at all familiar, it is since we are resurrecting an idea I had about 3 years ago but then shelved it due to timing challenges. We’ve determined the time is now and are working under the hood as we speak.

The other startup is best categorized as an entertainment and media brand, and was born out of the combination of a few of my side projects – Founders RAW and Feature Friday, an event I hold in Seattle each month where I pick 5 local startups to demo to a crowd of attendees. Although it won’t be like either one of those projects what I can mention is it will be video based and web distributed. We haven’t found anything identical out there but you will definitely notice similarities to other “shows” or “series” you might see on NBC or FOX. I can also say is it will be fun, entertaining, competitive and hopefully watched by people around the world.

There you have it – not one but two new things to keep me busy during the day and up at night!

I once heard a saying:

“When you see a ship disappear on the ocean horizon, it always appears to someone standing somewhere else in the world. When you say goodbye, someone else is saying hello.”

I might have just butchered that quote but I think you get the picture of where I am at and what I am feeling right now. It’s looking like 2016 will be unlike any other year in my life. I hope it is for you too.

image courtesy of Flickr user kylehixson

Coasting To Perfection

Am I doing all I can each day to reach my own pinnacle in life? Have I done everything possible to become the person I was created to be or am I just coasting along the highway…?

A post today piqued my interest and spurred this intense inner monologue. MG Siegler writes about a recent SI article on Michael Phelps which details his comeback and rehabilitation from alcohol related incidents.  The article touches on a variety of events in his career but what jumped out to me was a very interesting and possibly troubling assessment by Phelps himself, where he simply admits he has never given it his all. Ever. Even after numerous Olympics and all the medal records he feels he under-performed and still has his best inside him. Siegler ties that thought back to all of us:

“we don’t often hear about someone at the pinnacle of what they’re doing also failing to give their all — and yet, that’s clearly the case with Phelps….. And so in a way, I think that’s a more interesting point from which to look inward. If you’re really fucking up and squandering your talents, it’s pretty obvious for everyone to see. But what if you’re only not “giving it your all” and coasting on doing the minimum to still be successful — even very successful? Or maybe not even the minimum, but something less than all you’ve got. I think a lot of people are guilty of this. Maybe even most people. Certainly I am, in some regard.”

So I ask you, are you just coasting through your life?

It’s a troubling thought if you really consider the question when its asked another way: will you ever reach your full potential with your current output of energy, focus and determination?

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I ponder this question quite a bit and maybe it’s the reason I have a number of current projects/companies ongoing in my life. It’s almost as if I can’t not do them. I don’t want to ever look back and realize I could have done more, that I should have applied myself more fully to the things and people in my life, and that I coasted lazily while others looked upon me with slight disappointment knowing I was fully talented and capable of greatness but in the end never doing anything worthwhile.

Wasted talent they’d say.

This is why I push myself to write even on days when I don’t want to or don’t feel like it. I want to follow my writing talent as far as it will possibly take me.

This is why I get in front of the camera and shoot more Founders RAW conversations.  Setting aside the enjoyment I get from doing them it’s not easy being comfortable in front of a camera and I believe people need to hear the messages we are putting out. I also want to follow my talent in media creation as far as it will possibly take me.

This is why I get on stage in front of hundreds of people each month and host Feature Friday events in Seattle – a monthly event which highlights 5 new up-and-coming area startups. This pushes me to become very comfortable on stage in front of crowds and calms the public speaking nerves, a wise move given public speaking is the #1 fear in the world.

This is why I push myself to build new apps and create whole new companies. I don’t ever want to find myself out of the loop on the latest trends, as well as sometimes it just takes a few cycles before the big idea takes hold.

This is not rocket science but I do these things so that I get better at them until a time comes where they are second nature to me. This is the 10,000 hours stuff Malcolm Gladwell talks about. It is said by the time the Beattles led the “British Invasion” with Beattlemania and brought their music into America they had already played together as a band live so many times they had eclipsed their 10,000 hours threshold and were very very tight as a band. That’s why they were so damn good so early on.

But it didn’t come overnight.

The Beattles believed – as I am starting to now – you are only as good as you choose to be. And “to choose” means you determine to do whatever it takes, however long it takes, with whatever means you have at your disposal to achieve you potential. Anything less is just cheating yourself and the greater world in the process.

Some have it easy you might say. They are naturally talented and without doing EVERYTHING THEY CAN they turn out to be Olympic champions and record setters. LeBron James, Michael Phelps, ect.. Simply more talented than anyone else. I say good for them.

But I am more impressed with the one who wasn’t God gifted with the most talent in the world yet works so diligently at their craft they become one with it, they become the legends we read about. The Wright Brothers. Steve Jobs, etc. The ones who came from nowhere, with no money and no connections, no Ivy League schooling, no Silver Spoon or lucky sperm club card to show off.

These people will it into existence. They are the ones we love to read about and crave to hear speak in public.

My guess is you fit that bill just as I do. So do yourself a favor each day and ask yourself if you are giving it your all – and be honest with your answer. My guess is you’ll be surprised at how much farther within yourself you can dig.

THE NEWS POISONS YOUR BRAIN, SO STOP WATCHING!!

I am in the middle of a massive mental overhaul and it feels great.

Not that I really felt I needed it or was in danger going off the cliff, but I understand continual refinement is one of the secrets to life so recently I pushed into hitting a greater mental/emotional/professional learning curve.  With that I will say I think it’s time we start taking back our minds and not walking around the world like brainless mummies.

You are in charge of what goes into your mind and what you think about. It starts with what you choose to pay attention to and let into your conscious – subconscious even. If the brainless mummy comment was a bit harsh… well that is exactly what the media thinks of you.

I am talking about the news (industry in general) and how much of a bullshit clickbait crockshow it has become. Just look at a quick screenshot of cnn.com today.

Screenshot 2015-11-17 at 2.03.07 PM

It’s as if CNN just reported on the end of the world.

Evacuated.

Terror.

Explosions.

Scared.

Clicks.

Dollars.

Cha-Ching!

That’s what’s going on and I am done with it. So should you.

News and media outlets have long left you in the dust and pretty much focus only on what will bring the most revenue in the bank. They show shock, terror and scare over anything else. It’s all about money and you are being poisoned in the process.

No wonder there are so many shootings and terrorist attacks around the world now. If media stopped reporting it maybe they would stop bombing buildings and killing innocent people since their names wouldn’t be plastered everywhere.

Maybe confused teenage kids who want their 15 minutes of fame on TV and social media would choose another path other than to walk into school and start shooting. But how did they get that idea in the first place??

Oh wait… right.

It’s a challenging topic especially now due to weekly terrorist threats and the latest Paris bombings leading to an unfortunate death toll numbered in the hundreds. My heart goes out to any affected. But it pains me to see this happening and only frustrates me when I see and hear about it.

It actually makes me mad. To the point where I might act on that anger. And that’s why I don’t do it anymore and for the sake of society I hope others do the same.

For an even worse stroll down scaryville-our-society-is-going-to-hell-in-a-hand-basket lane just turn on your local news. Murders. Rapes. Kidnappings. Robberies. Fires. OMG. We have a responsibility to take control of our thoughts and emotions, and never-ending scare tactics meant to keep us glued to the TV or computer screen do not help us achieve peace of mind.

You know what does achieve peace of mind?

Reading positive things.

Meditating each day on the good you will do in the world.

Spending quality time with loved ones and friends.

Putting the newspaper down, shutting the TV off, clicking off the website and then going out to do good in the world.

Go to work and do your part to move the world forward, no matter how big or small your impact may be. Don’t worry about missing out on events in the world – the important stuff happening around the world and in your own city will find you. Until it does, protect your own mind and spirit with all you have since that is all you have.

This I know for sure: Making your own world as positive and generous as possible starts with shutting out the negative messages of the media, which starts in your mind and that is 100% under your control.

 

Do Something Everyday That Terrifies You

1805756738_ec05607189_zHere’s some advice that might be scary to you: Do something everyday that terrifies you.

It’s a simple sentence yes, but its consequences reach far and wide. Having courage to do things that scare you is the essence of growth and progress, in both your personal and professional life.

I noticed this phenomenon recently in my own life when I chose to start meditating every day. Before I started, I viewed mediation as a foreign activity, something only eastern religions practiced. But actually, I was scared about doing it for some weird reason, namely because it was new and different to me.

Yet I decided to lean into my fear, push it aside and dive right in. Five months later and I am still going strong, maybe missing one day per week on the weekends when something comes up in the morning and I am not able to sit quietly. I can’t even describe the benefits I have enjoyed and the new growth opportunities I have opened up simply because I am sitting quietly each day and contemplating this crazy world we live in.

I also learned doing terrifying things are good for the soul when I reach out to people and sit down with them for a Founders RAW conversation. More and more of my guests are noteworthy people who have founded well known companies or are successful in their previous ventures.

I think to myself “they get hit up all the time so why would they answer my email? And why would they want to talk with me anyway?!”

But you know what?

I send it anyway.

And they answer it!

Meeting set, great conversation had, sweet new Founders RAW video for you all to watch, and new contact/friend made.

All because I chose to be uncomfortable and reach out to someone who might turn me down or not respond to my request. It’s crazy how your mind twists reality to scare you from doing things each day that would totally change your life. You have to acknowledge the warning but then push past it.

Ask for the sale.

Ask the guy or girl out.

Ask the investor for more money.

Jump off the cliff into the water.

Write the blog post you’ve been thinking about.

Smile at the stranger.

Talk to the stranger.

Post the picture.

Build the prototype.

Recruit the team.

Start the company.

Ask for the raise.

Join the new company offering you a promotion.

Move to the new city if you feel the pull.

Guys and girls – the principle works. Do something new and scary each day of your life and you’ll be shocked at what happens next.

People Are More Impressed With Who You Are Than What You Do

We’ve all been asked that dreaded question at a networking event.

“So… what do you do?”

I drive myself insane wondering why people lead with that question in social situations. My guess is they are just nervous and it’s the first and easiest thing that comes to mind and then out of their mouths.

Yet, it’s the dumbest and worst question to lead with once you shake hands with someone. It shows the other person you are about to judge them and looking for the lowest hanging fruit to make your snap judgement. So do yourself and the person in front of you a favor and don’t ask it anymore.

So what SHOULD you ask?

Anything. Except for the above question anything is fair game. Ask about their clothes. Ask about their background or where they came from. Inquire about something unrelated to the topic of the evenings event like the weather, local sports team, the coffee shop where you are sitting, a funny off-the-cuff joke about the random people you are watching. Really, anything will work here. Absolving yourself of the “what do you do” question will invariably raise you right to the top of the list of people the other person wants to converse with.

But why is this so?

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The “what do you do” question makes people feel like they are being interrogated. Especially if the person you find yourself talking with has recently made a huge life change and is in between jobs or startups. Take it from me, when in that phase of life this is the last question any of us want to answer. And the thing is you never know who has recently made that decision or is currently in that phase so better to be cautious and not take a salt shaker and dump it on someones fresh wound right out of the gate.

The “what do you do” question also makes people feel uneasy since its origins can be found in us humans trying to compare ourselves to others. Instinctively, our goal is to find someone who we feel superior to so we can make ourselves feel better, even for a brief moment. If I ask you what do you do and you tell me “I’m a lawyer” or “I just sold my startup to Google” I now know where we stand economically and socially. If you respond with a lower status job description I also know where we stand and feel better about myself.

But what about the people who ask the question only so you ask them the same question so then they can pitch you their business? Same result holds here: not a good idea to lead with your elevator pitch to a stranger that didn’t ask for it. I don’t know about you but I don’t want the first interaction with every person I meet to be a pitch session about what they are working on and how I can get involved. This is also a very shallow and quite self-serving interaction and again puts people on the defensive.

What I have found works best is to be genuinely interested in other people, and ask questions about them and what they care about. Becoming interested in others is quite easy if you don’t lead with “what do you do” questions. I try to challenge myself and get creative in how I converse with people, how much I can get them to talk about their ideas and passions. Initiating conversations without asking about profession or job shows the other person you are genuinely interested in their story and them as people, not just about professional comparisons. One or two great questions or comments unrelated to their profession can jump start a quality interaction with pretty much anyone.  I have found this is the best and quickest way to illustrate who I am and my inner character without saying a thing – outside of asking the intriguing questions.  The less I say the more I listen – and thus show who I am – resulting in a strong trusted connection with the other person.

The crazy and counter-intuitive thing about this strategy is once you start a conversation with another person not asking about their profession the other person will inevitably bring it up, but on their own terms. And since you didn’t come across as aggressive or interrogating you will find they are very engaged in the conversation and will walk away thinking you were one of the best conversationalists they have ever encountered even though they did most of the talking.

And in this way you will find each and every conversation is a way to learn something new about the world, something new about another person and a fun way to add to your wisdom of the world.

Seek first to understand, then be understood.

Picking The Brains of Seattle Angels And VC’s

I recently had the opportunity to lead a panel discussion on raising capital during Seattle Startup Week. The room was jam packed with 150 people, and the panel included 4 investors – 2 Angel Investors and 2 Venture Capitalists. A friend of mine took massive notes and passed them onto me.  You can read them below, lots of nuggets in there.

 

SEATTLE STARTUP WEEK: Pick the Brains of Local Angel Investors – 10/27/15

Seattle Startup Week is an incredible opportunity for those involved in, or interested in, startups, funding, networking, learning or just enjoying all of the resources that we have here in the Seattle area for entrepreneurs, investors and connectors. Thank you to Zillow for hosting the event, to the many sponsors of the events and especially Chase, the primary sponsor.

Tuesday evening’s investor event was oversold with standing room only. It provided the audience with the opportunity to hear ideas from experienced investors in a panel format, then ask specific questions of the investors. The panel included Josh Maher, Angel investor and head of the Seattle Angel Conference; Yi-Jian Ngo, Managing Director for the Alliance of Angels; Tim Porter, Managing Director of Madrona Venture Group and Gary Rubens, Angel investor and CEO of Start it Labs. The panel was led by Nick Hughes as moderator. Nick is an entrepreneur and Director of Business Development at Knotis.

The session started with each panel member introducing themselves and providing a little background on how they ended up being a startup investor. Josh Maher is not only an angel investor, but an author. He wrote the book “Startup Wealth: How the Best Angel Investors Make Money in Startups”. Look it up on Amazon. Josh is essentially involved at the intersection of startups and Angels. As head of the Angel Conference, he represents 430 Angel investors. Tim Porter, Managing Director for Madrona Venture Group, attributes his current position to his wife, who knew someone at Madrona and referred him to them when he was ready to make a change. Madrona, a Venture Capital company, is focused on Business to Business investing in the Northwest and Tim’s focus is primarily SaaS (software as a service) applied to both horizontal and vertical applications. Yi-Jian is a network engineer by background and inadvertently ended up in the Angel world when AT&T changed their corporate venture fund and recruited him as a founding team member. As Managing Director of the Alliance of Angels his focus is mobile and enterprise/infrastructure software and services with a global focus. Gary Rubens found the ability to be an angel investor when he sold his company, ATGStores.com, to Lowe’s in 2012. He is currently CEO of Start it Labs and gives back to the community, not only helping startups, but also helping worthy causes. He heads the meetup “Angels, Pitches and Beers” held at the SURF Incubator. With over 1400 members, they have a meeting Thursday, October 29, 2015, starting at 5:30 PM.

After the introductions, Nick asked the panel “How did you start as an investor”? Josh said that it was primarily luck and timing (and I’m sure a fair amount of work to create that luck and timing). Yi also said it was luck when he was offered to be a founding team member of the AT&T corporate venture fund. As noted above, Tim attributes his current position to his wife knowing Greg Gottesman at Madrona. However, he started toward that position by being involved in a startup, Teledesic, in 1996. He then subsequently had stints at Goldman Sachs and Microsoft. Gary’s ability to be an angel investor began with his sale to Lowe’s for a lot of money. Following that, he invested in people in the startup world, became a philanthropist and studied angel investing so he could be more effective.

The next question Nick asked was “What do you look for in a startup”. Gary began by saying the most important aspect was the team. The team has to have passion for what they are doing and they have to work together. They also have to have a good business model and be able to pivot as a team when circumstances dictate, or in some cases be willing to drop the venture and move on. Tim echoed Gary’s thoughts on the team being critical. He also said it was important to have a market or product that made sense. In other words, what was the value proposition they were offering. Were they solving a problem? Why was now the best time for their solution? Yi also echoed that the team was most important. Without an effective team, the chances for success were diminished greatly. Josh said that the others had basically covered the question, but he added that it is very important to get to know the people early on. You can’t really make an informed decision one month after meeting the team or the founder. You need to know how they work together and whether or not they have the ability to execute. A side note to this is for entrepreneurs to develop a relationship with investors well before they actually need money. Ask for advice as you’re getting started and keep the investor informed as to your progress.

The next question from Nick was “What is one mistake or problem that many founders make or face”? Gary said that many times the founder doesn’t ask for enough money and they find themselves needing money before they’ve met their next milestone. Another mistake is not getting sufficient market validation before embarking on their product journey. It’s important to know that there is a market for whatever you are developing, that it is a market of sufficient scale to warrant your investment of time and money and also that prospective customers will actually pay for what you’re offering. It’s also important to know what your cost is versus what someone is actually willing to pay for your product. Tim echoed Gary’s comments re customer validation. What does the product do? Why is it a good business? Do you know your competition? Ji said that one of the problems he sees is founders who say they have no competition when they haven’t even done the research to find out who may be competing in their field. Everyone has some competition, even if it’s just an existing technology that does some of what you are offering. Ji also suggested not asking for an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). The investor should be on your side. The last thing they want is for anyone to think that they may take your creation and give that information to someone else or do something with it themselves. They certainly don’t have the time for that. As entrepreneurs need to focus on their business, so do investors. Of most importance to every investor is their integrity. You shouldn’t need an NDA from a qualified investor and you shouldn’t ask. Josh commented by saying that your investors should be considered as partners, not just someone supplying you with funding. Expect them to contribute to your success by providing counsel and sharing connections that they may have to help you. The investors want to know what your business potential might be and how they can help it grow.

Nick then asked for the current state of the market for funding startups. Gary suggested that many view this as somewhat of a bubble in funding with valuations that are too high and unreasonable expectations. Tim said that there is a disconnect between public markets and private markets. Although there seems to be a shift from greed to fear, deals are still getting done. In addition, valuations have started to come down somewhat. Ji said that the environment for startups has been friendly. He also suggested that a startup should take money now, if they can get it, before things begin to turn further. Typical deals now are at valuations of $2 to $5 million with up to 40% of equity given for funding.

Josh said that it’s important to consider your cash burn and make sure you ask for enough to get you to the next milestone. He also said that the entrepreneur could likely give up to 40% equity in their company. Gary said it is extremely important to use your money wisely. You need to prove your business model and you can’t always count on raising money. Make it last. Tim said that it is important to know what your long-term value is. Ji noted that you not only need to track your metrics, but be able to pivot and make adjustments when situations warrant. How you use your money is critical. Josh said that if you’re spending a dollar and only getting one or two users, your model may not be sustainable. You not only need multiples of users, but users that will stick over time.

There was an audience question about crowdfunding. Some consider a successful campaign on Kickstarter or Indiegogo as validation of the product or service. However, Josh said that a company that gets that validation, yet can’t follow through and deliver product to the funders, may not be a good prospect for investment. Ji said that a successful crowdfunding effort can show traction and market interest. Gary agreed that there could be market validation, but there should also be other considerations. Do the metrics work? Will it be profitable?

Another question had to do with exit strategies. With three to five years being the usual timeline, would a shorter exit increase the valuation/money raised? Gary said that your primary focus should be on developing a good product or service and not concentrating so much on the exit. It you are successful with your product, you will probably be bought out. Ji said that most angels are looking for a 10x return in three to five years. Josh echoed Gary’s comment that the focus shouldn’t be on selling the company, but first making it successful.

A questions was asked about the difference between Angels and VC’s. Angels usually invest their own money. VC’s may invest their own money, others money or invest money using a fund format. Josh said there are three types of investors: Visionaries, or those that relate to the product or service and believe in it; those that go by the numbers or metrics and finally those that use a combination of the first two. All of them will bring up the team, but those that review the company by the numbers would be similar to a value investor. Those that are visionaries want to believe in the product or service, and usually have sufficient background in that technology to make a good decision. Tim said that you should go for at least 18 months of operation funding.

There was a question about patents as they relate to SaaS. In most cases, it’s more important to get to scale quickly as a barrier to entry rather than have a patent. Even if it can be replicated, the first to market usually will win if they are the biggest in the space.

Nick asked what is exciting in the Northwest. What’s working and what worries investors. Gary said that there weren’t enough VC’s like Madrona in the Northwest. Tim (with Madrona) said that 90 percent of their investments were local. Seattle is best in some of the macro tech trends such as cloud services, etc. However, most agreed more capital to invest is needed in our region.

With that, we ran out of time and the meeting ended. It was one of the best sessions I attended and I believe that those who attended appreciated the cogent insights from some of the most experienced investors in our area. A special thanks to all of the sponsors, Perkins Coie as provider of the venue, Nick Hughes as moderator and our panel.

Ken Carlson, Owner

Carlson Specialty Services

 

 

You Gotta Give To Get

I have noticed a trend within myself recently: The more I help others when they ask the more I tend to get from others when I ask.

I am not sure if its a natural phenomenon, me being more attentive to others needs or others starting to be more in-tune with where I sit in our industry. Regardless, I discovered really cool things happen when I am more open to giving to people.

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The giving I am referring to is of my time, relationships and mind-share. This realization has come to my attention as younger founders or less experienced entrepreneurs more frequently reach out to me for help, perspective or introductions. This is natural, fine with me – given they are respectful in their ask – and something I enjoy doing.

Yes, that means I’d be open to responding to you too if you need it!

Interestingly, many times when I meet with someone they are very thankful and surprised with how generous I seem to be.  My response: I feel it’s what we are supposed to do if we are farther down the road in our journey than someone else (referring to providing guidance and intro’s if the situation calls for it.) All I ask is they do it too once they are at a level where they can help others in this way. Most first time founders don’t run in the same circles as investors or wealthy former founders, and they have to get connected somehow, someway. Founders getting introduced to well known people, investors or customers was how pretty much how this whole industry got started. Let’s keep it going…

The interesting thing I notice is how much natural karma is created when you are genuinely more open to helping people when they reach out.

The adage I now live by: help people first and people will no doubt help you.

Leading A Few Panels During Seattle Startup Week

This coming week is Seattle Startup Week, a free five-day event highlighting the amazing startup culture of the Puget Sound. It looks like there will be more than 100 events happening over the next week and should be very fun, entertaining and educational.

In fact, I will be participating in 2 of them as I will be leading panel discussions both Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Below are quick descriptions of each event. If you are free either one of those nights you should come check them out. Here’s the entire schedule.

Pick The Brains of Local Angel Investors and VC’s 

(Tues Oct. 27th at 6pm)

Learn from local Angel investors and VCs in Seattle  about what they look for in a company when they invest.We will be inviting local Angel investors and Venture Capitalists to get insights on the process they use when investing in startups.

Moderators

Nick Hughes

Director of Business Development, Knotis
Nick is an entrepreneur with achievements in e-commerce, digital payments and technology start-ups. He excels at interpersonal communication and leadership, business strategy and product management. | | Currently Director of Business Development for local e-commerce focused Knotis, Nick previously founded the mobile payment startup Seconds as well as recently forming Coinme, a new company built around expanding bitcoin and digital… Read More →


Speakers


Josh Maher

Angel Investor
Josh Maher is the author of Startup Wealth: How the Best Angel Investors Make Money in Startups (http://amzn.to/1NUAoz4). Startup Wealth delivers engaging interviews with early-stage investors in Google, Invisalign, ZipCar, Uber, Twilio, Localytics, and other successful and not so successful companies.  | He’s a passionate supporter of the Seattle startup community, President of Seattle Angel, a non-profit focused on education at the…Read More →


Yi-Jian Ngo

Managing Director, Alliance of Angels
Yi-Jian Ngo, Managing Director, leads the Alliance of Angels. A network engineer by training, Yi-Jian stumbled into the startup world when AT&T rebooted its corporate venture fund and recruited him as a founding team member. Working closely with entrepreneurs and helping them build their companies turned out to be such a blast that he continued that work at Microsoft. Most recently, he was a venture capitalist at Sierra Ventures, where… Read More →


Tim Porter

Managing Director, Madrona Venture Group
Tim is focused on investing in B2B software companies in the Pacific Northwest. He currently is particularly interested in the areas of SaaS applied to both horizontal and vertical applications, cloud infrastructure and automation, data analytics, security, and enterprise mobile. He is a board member or board observer of numerous Madrona portfolio companies. In addition to his work at Madrona, Tim is a member of the three-person Investment… Read More →

Gary Rubens

CEO, Start it Labs
Founded ATGStores.com in 1999 – sold to Lowe’s Home Improvment 2012, Founded Architectural Details, inc in 1990- sold to private buyer in 2007, expertise in ecommerce, online advertising and business growth.He invests in more than 50 companies.
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Raise Capital Like A Superstar

(Wed Oct. 28th at 6:30pm)
Learn from some of the most successful startup capital raisers that received nearly and more than 10M$ in funding. Local CEOs and CFOs and startup founders will share their experiences and advice and learn how to raise capital like a superstar!

Moderators

Nick Hughes

Director of Business Development, Knotis
Nick is an entrepreneur with achievements in e-commerce, digital payments and technology start-ups. He excels at interpersonal communication and leadership, business strategy and product management. | | Currently Director of Business Development for local e-commerce focused Knotis, Nick previously founded the mobile payment startup Seconds as well as recently forming Coinme, a new company built around expanding bitcoin and digital… Read More →


Speakers

Aviel Ginzburg

Co-Founder, Simply Measured

James Gwertzman

CEO, PlayFab, Inc.
James Gwertzman is the CEO and Co-Founder of PlayFab, a Seattle-based company that helps game developers future proof their games with an industry leading live game operations platform. James has over 15 years of experience as a senior executive in the games industry. He believes strongly in the power of alignment, empowerment, and transparency to build truly great business. Prior to PlayFab, James founded and then led the Asia operations for… Read More →

Michael Schutzler

CEO, Washington Technology Industry Association
Michael Schutzler is a successful chief executive with over 30 years experience in  | rapid growth, start-up, and turn-around ventures. As a successful Internet  | entrepreneur, angel investor, and CEO advisor, he has helped raise over $50 Million  | in financing for more than a dozen companies and has served as a coach and mentor  | to more than 50 founders. | Michael spent the first part of his career in the telecom… Read More →

Founders RAW is BACK!

After a year long break, I am excited to announce we are back to filming more Founders RAW conversations.  We filled our need for a new film crew with the addition of Shinebox Films and quickly got to work to complete two new conversations.

For the uninitiated, here’s why I started Founders RAW:

“Founders RAW is actually an experiment.  As founders of an early stage startup we quickly realized how difficult starting a company can be.  And being part of the larger startup community in Seattle we discovered we weren’t alone in our crazy, mind-blowing experiences – apparently others have them too.  The idea started to form once we noticed the frequency of finding ourselves 30 minutes deep in truth sharing and wisdom dropping conversations with founder friends.  We wondered if others would be interested in what we have learned, so we figured why not to bring a camera.  I guess we’ll see what happens.

Founders RAW is a video blog with conversation style interviews focused on bringing out raw stories early stage founders experience in their challenging entrepreneurial journeys.  We invite founders to talk openly over a beer or a coffee about the “truth” of how they survive and grow their companies.  We post the full conversations on the blog but really, who has time to watch 45 minutes of video?  So we slice up the conversations and post nuggets each day as well as send out daily videos no more than 3 or 4 minutes long to blog subscribers.    Now we all can receive daily nuggets of the entrepreneurial truth.”

This year’s guest’s will include founders from Ghostruck, Unikrn as well as a prominent Seattle Angel Investor along with others to follow. You will see more on those when we complete the editorial process, but I wanted to highlight a handful of conversations we had over the last few years to get you back in the mood.

Brewster Stanislaw, cofounder of Inside Social

Marc Weiser, Founder of RPM Ventures

Simon Crosby, Founder of Bromium

Adam Lieb, Founder of Duxter

Bubbles And Golden Ages… Continued

The following post is an adaptation from the original one I posted on this topic in May of 2011.

I once watched an interview where Fred Wilson offhandedly noted reading a book which transformed the way he looked at markets and the web in general.  I instantly went to Amazon and ordered it and spent the next week reading it front to back.  Whew… it changed my life as well.  I up and quit my job the next month.  Thanks Fred.

Not a day goes by in 2015 we don’t hear the word bubble in some capacity or another. We are on pace for one of the biggest years in Venture Capital deployment since the dot com bubble of 2000. Massive private funding rounds in excess of $1 billion (Uber, et al) coupled with the sickening obsession of Unicorns have created a market with flu like symptoms. Although I cannot predict the future I tend to agree with others who publicly state it feels like we are in for a correction here very soon. If you are a founder of an early stage company, it would do justice to understand the cycle we are in, where exactly we are in it, and what you should do in your specific situation.

Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital by Carlota Perez is one of the greatest overviews of the incredible economic phenomenon known as the bubble.   What we are currently going though – recessions and expansions, bubbles and bursts, highs and lows, whatever you want to call them – they are inevitable.  In fact, the history of the entire world economy is one big cycle which repeats itself over a period of about 60 years.  I cannot do this entire book justice, just take my word for it, go buy it and read it yourself.  You will publicly thank me later just as I just thanked Fred now.  But I will introduce the general phases a new technology (paradigm) encounters so the “layman” technologist, marketer, social media guru or business person can start to see a clearer economic picture.

I hope I am not being too being blunt, but without grasping this concept you are swimming with your cap over your eyes.  You need to understand what is actually going on in this crazy economic world we live in.

Irruption

As a new technology is developed and deployed into our society, it will enter a cycle of adoption.  Interestingly, Perez notes new technologies are created during the maturity phase of the last great technology expansion.  So although we are starting with the irruption phase, let us take for granted the specific technology has already been created and diffused through very early adopter communities.  During the irruption phase, we see a slowing or declining of the old industries and an early adoption of a new technology.  Carlota notes:

The very intense activity of the new paradigm carriers contrast more and more with the decline of the old industries.  A techno-economic split takes place from then on, threatening the survival of the obsolete and creating conditions that will force modernization.

Old print media anyone?  Taxing industry vs Uber and other on-demand ride services? This irruption phase is started with a big bang (invention and initial diffusion) and will propagate within a small community of early adopters.  Note the image above, depicting very low diffusion, even to a point the general masses dismissing the technology altogether.  Amazingly it is contained within this tight group of people and industries for some period of time.  That is until a tipping point is hit. Today, most people who have taken an Uber or Lyft ride – if given a choice – will only take uber from here on out.

Frenzy

Frenzy is a period of massive growth for a new technology.  It is a time of new market creation as well as for rejuvenating old industries.  Once a critical mass of consumers have been hit, the diffusion of the paradigm takes center stage.  Individualism rules the land, as does speculation, wealth creation and ultimately resulting in over-investment flooding the market.   

Frenzy is the later phase of the installation period.  It is a time of new millionaires at one end and growing exclusion at the other, as in the 1880’s to 1890’s, the 1920’s and the 1990’s.   In this phase, financial capital takes over; its immediate interests overule the operation of the whole system.

Notice the part about the growing polarization between the rich and the poor.  Sound familiar? Capital investments soar during this time, creating a false sense of wealth creation.  This craze attracts more and more individuals wanting to get a piece of the action; so late frenzy is financial bubble time.

Turning point

At some point, the bubble has to burst.   Things that go up must come back down.  Interestingly, the turning point is neither an event or a phase, rather it is a process of contextual change. 

The turning point has to do with the balance between individual and social interests within capitalism.  It is the swing of the pendulum from the extreme individualism of Frenzy to giving greater attention to collective well being, usually through the regulatory intervention of the state and the active participation of other forms of civil society.

The turning point is a space for social rethinking and reconsidering.  It is, in fact, the time when the mode of growth that will shape the next few decades is defined.  I would argue we have been in this phase for a while, maybe starting 5-8 years ago After picking up the pieces of the crash of the early 2000’s we are now starting to see realignment in almost every industry known to man.  Name an industry that is not currently being touched by the internet and mobile?  Exactly.



Synergy

This is a time for production.  Since the foundations and infrastructures were laid out during the previous phases, conditions are there for dynamic expansion and economies of scale.   The diffusion of the new paradigm now reaches far and wide, is accepted as standard, and now governs supreme.  It is a time for promise, work and hope.  For many, the future looks bright.   

Synergy is the early half of the deployment period.  This phase can be the true ‘golden age’.  It is likely to be the closest the system ever comes to convergence within the economy of the core countries of the system.

Mary Meeker anyone?  She has identified this expansion phase quite eloquently, particularly in the mobile space.  I would argue we are still at the turning point but on the cusp of this synergy phase.  We should expect to observe massive expansion and economies of scale in almost every industry imaginable for the next few decades.  New industries and markets will emerge.  Old ones will finally die off.  Will it be all golden?  I am not so sure.  But if history is any indication, we shall see an expansion of scale only experienced once every 60 or 70 years.

It was this exact point in the book which urged me finally jump off the fence and into my entrepreneurial pursuits full time.      

Maturity

Once again, the cycle continues.  Every paradigm has a shelf life and can only survive so long.  As it enters maturity, deep questions are asked about the system and the climate is favorable for politics and ideological confrontation.  Markets are saturating and technologies are maturing.  

Gradually the paradigm is taken to its ultimate consequences until it shows up its limitations... yet all the signs of prosperity are still around.  Those who reaped the full benefits of the ‘golden age’ continue to hold onto their belief in the virtues of the system and to proclaim eternal and unstoppable progress, in a complacent blindness, which could be called the ‘Great Society Syndrome’.

During maturity, the stage is set for the decline of the whole mode of growth and for the next technological revolution.  Since we are entering a synergy phase, I will not spend much time on maturity.  According to Perez, the next maturity phase should not be entered for quite some time and the decline of our current paradigm should not influence ones innovation or investment perspective.  Yet it is always smart to keep an eye on something like this.  Interestingly, it is in this period inventors and innovators are tinkering with what will eventually become the next great paradigm.  This begs the question:  What will supplant the internet?  I would suggest not worrying much about the answer to that question and take advantage of the current conditions.  According to Perez, it should be quite good for years to come.

The lesson I see here is to know that we are in a smaller bubble within a larger economic cycle.  The smaller bubbles grow and pop fairly regularly with the net result of growth throughout the 60-70 year larger cycle.  The key is to make sure you have made the correct decisions to protect yourself and your company from the small bubble gyrations.