by: Todd Nuckols
How about a few treats (no tricks) for your October! Check out all the excitement around the region to get you motivated and moving as a starter, hacker, designer .... well whatever you are!
Plug into 804RVA @ (http://www.804rva.com/classes--events.html) . Your premiere community for co-working offers many special opportunities to connect with community. In fact, 804RVA turns 1 this Wednesday, October 3, so stop in for cake and join Jelly Day
Good grief developers – even more opportunity for you to connect at Richmond Code Camp, October 6. Details @ http://richmondcodecamp.org/.
StartRVA (www.meetup.com/StartRVA) is currently recruiting developers and designers Hack4EDU where cash is on the table for 24 hours of your best creative thinking and application development around Department of Education Data. Details @ http://www.apps4va.org/hackathons.html. Takes place October 19-20.
InnoVA Partners is bringing a great education program to help you develop a 36 month strategic plan for your business. Not just a startup plan this curriculum is produced by the Kauffman Foundation with proven business building techniques. If you need a 3 year plan for your business you need to definitely get the details @ http://www.richmondventureforum.com/events?eventId=559494&EventViewMode=EventDetails.
And at the end of October, join the Richmond Venture Forum to celebrate RVA’s Companies to Watch. Happening at the Hippodrom on October 24th, check it out @ http://www.richmondventureforum.com/events?eventId=548359&EventViewMode=EventDetails.
Looking for another 54 hours of madness?! Head out to Charlottesville, the birthplace of our own Startup Weekend leadership team, to make progress on your next big idea or be a help to others. Kicks off Friday October 26th with all the information you need to know at http://charlottesville.startupweekend.org/.
StartRVA and 804RVA also have something BIG brewing for Tuesday, November 13th so save that evening on your calendar and be on the lookout for details regarding that event and maybe a few other October surprises on this same “bat channel” dedicated to helping you build your business, hone your skills, launch your next great idea and help others just like you!
By: Todd Nuckols
What is one of the best things you can do as an new professional to build your business and career?
Get out of the office, learn and connect. What is the second best thing? Do the first thing for free (well as far as I can tell anyway)!
Friday, September 28th and Saturday, September 29th you can dive right into the deep end of the pool at and start improving yourself at Virginia's Young Professionals Summit 2012. On Friday, you have a chance to give back to RVA and on Saturday David Karp, founder and CEO of Tumblr, will be on hand to highlight the event along with breakout sessions covering a range of personal and professional topics. So get ready for a bit of inspiration and learning to take your career to the next level and join us. Head here to learn more or just go for it and RSVP here.
by: Todd Nuckols
With Startup Weekend (rva.statrupweekend.org) coming in just a couple of weeks I am reminded of a question I often hear. In fact, recently a friend of my sister who feels she has a winning business idea wondered: What comes next? How do you start to take your idea and make it a reality?
Well, I am no expert on the topic. But since I have attempted to start a few companies, been lucky enough to know a few people who have done so successfully and read on the topic often I will take a shot at answering: What come next? What is the first step to turning that idea into reality? Well first couple I suppose.
Know Yourself, Plug In, Find a Partner, Build a Deck, and Act
It is important to realize that entrepreneurs and businesses come in several shapes and sizes. And your first steps vary depending on where you are headed. Let me suggest a few variations (in order of my background and understanding).
Internet property/software product business: So you know you are sitting on the next Facebook or Google! Excellent, now get ready to realize that if you have a great idea in this category so do about 20 other people! And many of them know more than you. That means you need to win on execution and if you really need to scale quickly you will be looking at seed and venture funding but that is not the first step. The first step is get someone else to believe. Suggestion: The best way to do that is (my suggestion) to build a minimum viable product (or MVP) and/or start socializing your concept for feedback as quickly as possible. Now if you do not have the talent to build it yourself then find it through events like Startup Weekend (second plug - rva.startupweekend.org), co-working spaces like 804RVA or a local tech meetup! (See Find a Partner)
Service provider/freelance: Here you are essentially selling your talent, typically by the hour or project. As a result it will be harder to finance the business with outside capital. So the first step is that first client and understanding your value proposition, rates and utilization. Fairly straight forward but not always easy! Suggestion: Get that client and watch those margins on delivering service!
Small business (like restaurant ownership for example): In this category you may need some capital financing but in general the business goal is not to achieve ground breaking scale in a matter of months or a few short years. In fact, your goal may be a successful local company that pays the bills nicely. Well, good on ya! Small businesses can fall into special program categories for bank financing or may have physical assets like a location or inventory to leverage. Early keys are finding effective ways to establish your identity in a local community without getting too deep into debt. Cash flow is king in small business. Admittedly, I do not know much about this type of business structure but enough to know it has unique challenges. Suggestion: Think about small business financing and local marketing. Get that business license!
Product/invention (physical good) business: Inventors live here. On the consumer side this can get real complicated, real fast. Yes you have a physical product but that will require inventory, financing for development and real solid channels for selling. In fact, manufacturing may be involved. You need to make an early decision about licensing and be careful about protecting IP and building the right go-to-market relationships. Suggestion: Determine a path – license or build and find a partner channel to help crack the market!
Life sciences: Ok, this is maybe the most complicated of them all and if you are in this category you probably already know the first steps. If not, seek out someone who knows this market. Suggestion: Find a mentor (seek out InnoVArium locally in Richmond) –because I have no clue.
Once you know yourself you need to find your community. The best way to know how to move forward is to follow someone else who has been down the road. It may take a little while to network into the right situation and identify a good mentor but it is well worth it. In RVA you can consider the following (and these lists are clearly not all inclusive, just starter ideas and sometimes they hit multiple categories)!
Internet property/software product business > StartRVA (meetup.com/startrva), Venture Forum (richmondventureforum.com)
Service provider/freelancer > 804RVA (804rva.com), Social Media Club (socialmediaclub.org/chapter/Richmond-va)
Small business > BNI VA (bniva.com)
Product/invention (physical good) business > Virginia Innovators Network (vainnovators.org)
Life sciences: VirginiaBio (vabiog.org) and InnoVArium currently located @ the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce – GRCC,
Find a Partner
If you are still reading you now have an idea, know where it fits and are in the right community (which should lead you directly to your next step). Now, if you do not already have a partner – find one! The one thing everyone knows about building any business is that it is extremely difficult and at times very discouraging. You will need support and accountability to stay with it no matter your passion.
So, with all my heart let me recommend finding a partner. As I have often heard, “If you cannot convince a partner your idea is great then how do you expect to convince anyone else”. This is particularly true for those pursuing web startups! Partnering is all about building passion for the long term and starting your team.
Now, for those loners that may just be freelancing then maybe a partner is not right for you but certainly you should still be finding support outlets to drive sales, share creative ideas and encourage you when times are tough like co-working communities.
Build a Deck
I am not a fan of extensive business plans which is the often recommended official first step. In the world of tweets and lean methodologies plans can seem heavy handed. But a deck? 10 slides that help you lay out your idea and approach is critical.
Realize that this is more about personal discipline of thought than creating and following a plan come heck or high water. As a founder you will be required to lead. To lead you will need to communicate. If you cannot communicate your basic value proposition, competition and core financial assumptions/needs quickly then you are in trouble from the start.
In many categories you will be asking for loans, investment or encouraging new people to join your team. In order to do this you need to be able to present your thoughts with clear call to action. Forcing yourself through a deck and sharing it with others for feedback prepares you for these conversations! Last slide: Next steps – that will get you motivated.
And keep changing that deck and last slide until you arrive at your destination! And if you cannot even get through a deck seriously consider if building a business is right for you.
For those in the internet/software game seek out one of many resources on this topic alone: http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/07/pitchdeck/ & http://www.quora.com/Venture-and-Investor-Pitches/Where-can-I-find-examples-of-successful-Series-A-pitch-decks
Have a bias towards action. It goes without saying that the first step is A STEP. If you don't care for any of my suggestions then find something you do care about and pursue it. ACT.
Now it is your turn. Would you like to share your first steps with others by comment? Add to this list? Trash it and recommend your own. Jump in!
by: Todd Nuckols
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Charles Lattimer. Who is Charles Lattimer you say? Well, he is the founder of something called the Cooperatory. (And I know that does not help either so let me just cut to the chase!) In our conversation, Charles suggested that the future of business idea development was a loosely connected model of sole practitioners that shared capital, services and revenue. This connection of freelance talent would be able to drive ideas forward without the associated hassle of building a business entity.
Since one of my passions is startup culture which definitely needs to access all manner of talent from design to development in an efficient and low cost way the whole notion of essentially crowdsourcing the talent peaks my curiosity. I certainly think that supplementing services outside your startup business entity is essential! It helps control cost, interject innovative thinking and keeps focus sharp as details are tended to by outside experienced professionals. But if the idea is to grow sustainably and challenge the market I think it needs to evolve to a dedicated structure of capital, resources and passionate people – a focused business – and not a mere collaboration. But perhaps I am wrong? Maybe absorbing full time talent is not the path to building a better business. Perhaps, those in the startup world in particular should be thinking about how to collaborate first and own second?
As far as I can tell many of the members of 804RVA are sole practitioners or related to smaller service firms. So, I ask all of you.
What is the future of business?
What is the best way to connect and harness talent for a growing business?
Should startups jump into co-working spaces, as I have suggested to several entrepreneurs, to find resources and personnel who can help them? And how should they engage those professionals?
Do co-working environments need to evolve to provide even more organized connections to capital, projects and ideas or are the informal intersections best?
Jump in. I would love to know what you think.
Entrepreneurs in Action is coming to Richmond
by: Larkin Garbee
Format: Seminar / Reception
Date: 17 May 2012
Topic: "The Do's, Don'ts and Wish I Hadn't Stories of Entrepreneurship" moderated by Philippe Sommer. Panelists: Tom Brandy, Mike Bucci, Tonya Mallory, Chris Scott
Location: Ukrop Auditorium, Robins School of Business
RSVP required, to Nancy Price firstname.lastname@example.org
This is part of a series called Ideas to Action which is organized by scholars from the Darden School in an effort to address the vital role that entrepreneurship and innovation serve in our society. To learn more about the series "Ideas to Action", click here