Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Monday, October 29, 2012
Now is the best time in history to start your own business. But depending on what kind of company you’re building, you have to figure out if your idea is poised to capture a trend - or doomed to miss one and face a much tougher road to success.
To learn about the impact of properly timing a trend - or of missing one - we asked 8 successful young entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) for their experiences. And we also got their advice on how to perfectly time your business:
1. Missed Opportunities Open New Doors
It was 2011 when we started building a platform for social media. By then, Buddy Media had already raised over $90 million, Wildfire announced that they had over 10,000 customers, and companies like Vitrue and Involver were the industry titans. Some potential investors told us we were late to the party. However, in hindsight, and especially in light of all of the recent acquisitions of the aforementioned, I believe we had a core advantage to really plug into the “second wave” of social, which has the potential to be even more disruptive than the first. We were able to speak to people who were already using a social media platform and figure out what needs still weren’t being met. By staying small and nimble, we were able to quickly adapt to the rapidly changing landscape of social media. - Abby Ross, Blueye Creative
2. Revisit Past Failures
There’s no lack of ideas that were “before their time.” Many business models that failed in the early 2000s are now incredibly successful because now, the timing is right, the technology is here, and it’s easier than ever before to achieve scale. As an example, my company SitePoint tried selling eBooks back in 2000 and no one bought into it. It was a complete and utter disaster and forced us to print and ship physical books – which sold like hot cakes. The reason is simple, people were still getting used to the idea of shopping online, and paying for digital goods was still a foreign concept to many. Fast forward a few years, with the iTunes revolution, Kindle and iPad, and all of a sudden, eBook sales are trending sharply upward every year. - Matt Mickiewicz, Flippa and 99designs
3. Some Ideas Transcend Timing & Trends
Timing is everything – if your idea is reliant on time. If you want to create a flash valuation or raise a certain amount of money quickly, then it’s of utmost importance. And it’s important for tech in general. But I believe that there are other ideas – rooted in timeless truths – that are not restricted to a certain epoch or Zeitgeist. If your idea is rooted in one of these things, then timing is far less important. If you’re a social entrepreneur fighting for human dignity in a particular area, for example, then it’s less critical whether you start today or tomorrow. My personal view is that I want to be involved with an organization that I believe will be important a thousand years from now. If I find an idea worthy of that standard, then I know it’s rooted in something essential. - Luke Burgis, ActivPrayer
4. Timing Boosts Your Success Potential
Bad Idea + Wrong Time = Biggest Failure Ever. Bad Idea + Right Time = Total Failure. Good Idea + Wrong Time = Likely Failure. Good Idea + Right Time = Best Chance of Success. Timing is essential. A business can come to market before people are truly ready or after too many market leaders have established footing for you to truly get through the door, but in the end, I still think that a phenomenal idea that is well-executed can survive average or even poor timing. For example, last year, I would have said that the app Path was too late to the social media market, but the company has executed the business in such an amazing way that it no longer matters that it followed Twitter and Facebook. Path scratches an itch that those networks don’t, and it does it so well that it is growing like crazy. - Shaun King, HopeMob
5. Start Your Own Trend
Timing is not everything. Some people get lucky but, over time, it is the ones who adhere to proven principles and have enough self-knowledge that continuously succeed. Trends come and go; change is constant. So, to paraphrase Gandhi, be the change you wish to see in the world. Great companies start trends and make movements – they don’t follow others, nor are they solely motivated by their greed to take advantage of fickle market whims. Believe in your own ideas, test your ideas, accept that you’re going to fail sometimes – or maybe a lot at first – and do it all in your own authentic style. Too often we focus on trying to “getting it right” within the context of others' point of view. Rather, we should strive to get it right within our own perspective. - Matthew Ackerson, PetoVera
6. Overnight Successes Don’t Exist
It often takes longer than you expect for an idea to catch on. What that means is that when you’re working on an idea and worried that it’s “too early,” you need to be patient. Grow slowly and conserve cash until the market is truly ready. Many of the best companies start out when only the earliest of adopters are ready for it; with the patience and dedication of learning from those customers, they become prepared for the bigger opportunity that eventually exists. The challenge is keeping your finances tight during that time and seizing every opportunity to grow and learn from the market. Then what you may have been working on for years will suddenly seem like it has the “perfect timing.” - Jason Evanish, Greenhorn Connect
7. Timing Sure Does Help
I wouldnít say that timing is everything, but it certainly helps. I launched Money Crashers at the height of the recession and that certainly was to my benefit in the beginning. This is the way I look at it: If you launch a business based on a fading trend, youíre unlikely to succeed. For example, if you're looking to start a small business based on the “daily deal website” business model, you may not have much luck. Some daily deal sites still exist, but many are struggling today. On the other hand, if you come up with a product or service that meets a need people didnít know they had, you can create your own market trend. One example of this is a website called Gradsave. With this website, you can create a way for family and friends to contribute to your child’s 529 plan. - Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
8. Don’t Depend On Timing
If you’re depending on timing to ensure that your company is going to make money, you probably don’t have a sustainable business model on your hands. Timing may help, in terms of getting ahead of the competition, but you need to be sure that you’ve got something that can do well even if the timing gets screwed up. There are exceptions, of course, but personally, I wouldn’t want to run a business that is dependent on catching the wave of a particular fad. It’s just not going to provide long-term growth. - Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.
Sunday, October 28, 2012
A recent study exposed an alarming trend in the tech industry. Immigrant entrepreneurs, who in recent years have launched half the startups in Silicon Valley, are founding drastically fewer companies. Except for one group: Indians. What makes entrepreneurs from India so different?
The startup study was sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation and conducted byVivek Wadhwa, who’s the director of research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University. His data showed that the number of immigrant-founded startups in Silicon Valley has fallen from 52.4% to 43.9% since 2005, a drop that Wadhwa calls “shocking.”
Indian Startups Buck The Trend
But another statistic surprised Wadhwa as well: the number of startups founded by Indians is actually climbing. Against the decline in immigrant-founded startups - and our ever more xenophobic immigration policy - Indians are still launching startups.
“The data showed that Indians are defying gravity and starting more companies,” Wadhwa says. “The number of Indian startups went up from 26% to 33% of all immigrant startups.”
The immigrant founders surveyed in Wadhwa’s study hail from 60 different countries - but a full third of them are from India. What gives? Why are entrepreneurs from the subcontinent such overachievers?
Wadhwa says one reason is that Indian entrepreneurs have a very strong support network here in the U.S. Thirty years ago, when Indians began building momentum in Silicon Valley, that first generation of successful startup founders worked hard to help those who followed. They built organizations and created a U.S. ecosystem of successful Indian entrepreneurs - and, crucially, angel funders - to accelerate newcomers.
“It was a very conscious effort put in place by several dozen successful entrepreneurs,” Wadhwa says.
Indian Startups Are Cool
Another factor is the societal value placed on entrepreneurial endeavor. Indian kids think it’s cool to start companies. They don’t grow up aspiring to be the next Justin Bieber. They want to be the next Sabeer Bhatia.
The founder of Hotmail. “He’s a rock star in India,” Wadhwa says.
How did that happen? Wadhwa gives a brief history lesson. Just a few decades ago India was going nowhere. “The economy was stagnant, India was known as a country of beggars and snake charmers,” Wadhwa says. “Pessimism abounded. India was basically a loser of a country. Suddenly you had these people coming to Silicon Valley making extraordinary amounts of money. This caught the attention of people back home. The media was shocked that Indians could be so successful. Kids started dreaming of coming to Silicon Valley and creating companies like Hotmail.”
So OK. That’s how the Indian community pulled itself to success in Silicon Valley. What’s with other immigrant communities? Why haven’t they done the same?
Can Other Immigrants Emulate The Indians?
Wadhwa thinks Indians benefit from their heritage, which suits them better than many other immigrants to making it in America. They speak English. They come from a democratic society. More than that, they have a serious independent streak.
“Just like here, Indians are free to speak out against the government,” Wadhwa says. “There is a history of breaking the rules, just like here. Culturally, Americans and Indians are similar and that gives Indians a big advantage when they come to America because they fit right in.”
Compare that to the Chinese experience, he suggests. “In China you’re terrified of authority, you dare not speak out against the government because you’ll be taken away the next day. There is a culture shock from that perspective - people who come from authoritative regimes are afraid of defying authority. But to be an entrepreneur you need to defy authority, you need to break all the rules, you need to take a risk.”
The Indians Are Going Home
Now, a lot of Indian entrepreneurs are taking their risks back home. Although his recent study shows Indians are still starting a lot of companies in Silicon Valley, lately Wadhwa has noticed a change. U.S. immigration and employment laws have grown so unfriendly that even the indefatigable Indians are getting discouraged.
“The tide has turned,” Wadhwa says. “Many people could not get their visas to stay here after they graduated from U.S. schools so they went back to India to start their companies, taking their values, experience and education with them. Taking their money with them.”
Result: the tech startup culture in India is booming. Yes, ours is too. But for how long? Wadhwa wonders.
“We’re exporting our prosperity,” he says. “Even though Indian entrepreneurs have had tremendous success here, their numbers could be even stronger. We could have tens of thousands more startups.”
Instead, the top Indian graduates from U.S. universities are going back to the sub-continent. “Gladly returning home,” Wadhwa says. “Every year I see this more and more. There is a gradual but noticeable change in attitude. Many don’t even think of staying.”
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Friday, October 26, 2012
Google App Engine is down with a major service disruption affecting thousands of customers around the world that use the platform-as-a-service.
The Google Engine team posted the following update:
At approximately 7:30am Pacific time this morning, Google began experiencing slow performance and dropped connections from one of the components of App Engine. The symptoms that service users would experience include slow response and an inability to connect to services. We currently show that a majority of App Engine users and services are affected. Google engineering teams are investigating a number of options for restoring service as quickly as possible, and we will provide another update as information changes, or within 60 minutes.
Dropbox and Tumblr also reported outages, pointing to a potential much larger issue across the web.
On Hacker News, comments on the outage point to the Internet Traffic Report, which shows significant packet loss in the past 24 hours as well as traffic disruptions. The Next Web has a good chronicle of the issues facing the different services.
Nimsoft reports the outage is affecting users around the world, with particular issues in Europe. France is pretty much out entirely. In South America, Chile is entirely down. The United States and Canada are hovering around 70% performance.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Social media has played a huge role in this year’s presidential campaign, not just representing the candidates themselves, but also their biggest supporters: their wives. And Michelle Obama and Ann Romney are no exception.
Traditionally, candidates’ wives have supported their husbands by reaching women voters and humanizing the candidates by highlighting their life outside of the campaign. In the age of social media, the channels for broadcasting these messages are new, but the voice is very similar to first ladies and aspiring first ladies we’ve seen in the past. Social media’s wide reach makes their messages even more prominent and even showcases these remarkable women’s personal accomplishments more than we’ve seen in past campaigns.
To give you a view of each wife’s social media efforts, we’ve compiled the following breakdown of activity from their social channels with compiled screenshots and various social media examples from around the web. Take a look at how both Michelle Obama and Ann Romney have capitalized on the potential of campaigning in the social world.
Here’s the lowdown on the networks both women use and the followings they have. You’ll notice that although Michelle Obama has many more followers in the networks, Ann Romney is relatively new when it comes to social media and hasn’t had as much time to build up a comparable following.
- 1,659,570 followers
- 547 tweets
- This account is run by #Obama2012 campaign staff. Tweets from the First Lady are signed -mo.
- 8.4 million Likes
- Doesn’t seem to update personally
- 41,840 followers
- 53 pins
- People who inspire me
- Recipe ideas
- Around the White House
- Great memories
- 132,865 followers
- 59 tweets
- This account is run by Ann, herself
- 318k likes
- Updates personal – first person
- 12,493 followers
- 167 pins
- July 4th Recipes
- Crafts / DIY
- Things I Love
- Books Worth Reading
Supporting Her Husband
As mentioned above, the candidates’ wives are some of their largest supporters and their social networks provide a unique viewpoint. Both Michelle Obama and Ann Romney do an excellent job of supporting their husbands, not only by advocating for votes and donations, but also backing their respective platforms.
During the campaign, the both Michelle and Ann use their social networks to remind followers that their lives encompass more than politics. These women are mothers as well, and through sentimental photos that show the other roles of their husbands, the wives humanize their husbands in a way that the candidate might not be able accomplish on his own.
Reaching out to Women Voters
The spouses each have the ability to relate to women voters in a way that their husbands cannot. They often reach out to women voters individually and promote their events through their social networks.
Milestones on Timeline
Both wives have utilized their timelines to show important events. This allows followers a glimpse into the lives of these women.
It’s not all about the campaign trail for these women, it’s also about reaching out to people and donating their personal time to raise awareness for causes each fervently believes in. Ann is known for her support for breast cancer research and Michelle is known for promoting a healthy active lifestyle through her organization, Get Moving.
Both Ann Romney and Michelle Obama’s social media channels demonstrate the time and effort each puts into their husbands campaign, as well as reinforcing their goals. The campaign then becomes visible through another set of eyes and followers are able to see facets of the candidate, which may not be readily visible in the news. The audience is also privy to the lives of these women, and are able to connect to the candidates in a way that may have not been otherwise possible.
Monday, October 22, 2012
When was the last time you took a vacation? For many young entrepreneurs, the answer is probably, “That's a joke, right?” But you just might want to rethink your aversion to time off.
To run a successful company, you’ll need to be there, of course. But you’ll often need to also take time to clear your head or even distance yourself from the business in order to think about how to grow more effectively. Plus, it’s good for you. Working long hours without taking time off to renew yourself can beat up your immune system, making you vulnerable to any mal-intentioned germ that comes along. It's much nicer to take a vacation and enjoy yourself than spend time recovering from not taking enough care of yourself.
In the end, time off can be just as vital — if not more so — as actually running the show. Here are six ways that even uber-busy start-up entrepreneurs can make a vacation work:
- 1. Take a tax deductible vacation. Attend a conference on a topic related to your business. Spending time with other professionals in your field can be incredibly energizing. You can learn something, deduct the cost and skip enough sessions to make a vacation out of it too. Or if there's a company, supplier or customer based in a potential vacation spot, include a visit, giving the tax folks a rationale for deducting some or the entire trip.
- 2. Take a short vacation. Start with a three-day weekend — or even the July 4th Holiday. Place an automatic response on your email, turn off your cell phone and let yourself have most of the day with no work on your plate. Even if you stay home, you can take in a movie or hit that new restaurant everyone's talking about. Consider a trip to some place of interest within a half-day's drive.
- 3. Take a family vacation. How long has it been since you saw Uncle Bob, Aunt Geneva or your brother in grad school? Take a few days and visit them. They'll want to hear about what you're up to, and they'll probably feed and house you — all except your brother, of course. You can relax and not spend too much money beyond transportation.
- 4. Take a road trip. Pack a cooler, grab a map or GPS and cruise the back roads around your home. Pick a destination but get there slowly. Stay in cheap local motels, B&B's or camp out. Time in the car will be good thinking time. You can stop anywhere you want, for as long as you want.
- 5. Stay connected to your business. With smart phones and wifi all over, you don't have to lose touch with your business or your customers. Designate an hour every day to checking messages and emails. Then turn your phone off and enjoy your vacation. After all, you earned it.
- 6. Start slow. Does even a three-day weekend seem like too much right now? How about an hour? How about an afternoon? Take a walk, go to the gym or see a movie. Think about doing something you haven't done in a long time — or ever. Visit the best park in your community and walk through the woods. Even if it's only for a short time, you're giving yourself the sense of what a vacation can do for you. It may give you an incentive to take more time for a real vacation soon.
Remember, one of the reasons why you chose to be an entrepreneur is so that you could be in control of your own life. If you let your business take all of your time and energy, you will soon lose sight of one of the best reasons for being an entrepreneur, the ability to fit your business to your lifestyle. Even as you grow your business, a vacation can be an excellent reminder of the good life you're working toward.