Recently, I was interviewed by the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation about The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum, of which they are a sponsor. Following is the transcript of the interview. I have been a Board Member of this tremendous organization for the past 4 years.
CONNECTpreneur recently entered our 9th year. To date, we have hosted 47 events, the last 4 being “virtual” events. Over 20,000 business leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs from around the world have attended our events. Our website is connectpreneur.org. Please check us out!
THE BIG IDEA
IN CONVERSATION WITH TIEN WONG, CEO, OPUS8, AND
FOUNDER & HOST, CONNECTPRENEUR
Get to know CONNECTpreneur, a unique forum which attracts the region’s top entrepreneurs, investors, innovators and game changers. Organizers of the top tech and investor networking events in the region.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO MAKE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN BUSINESS LEADERS OF ALL STRIPES – CEOS, VCS AND ANGELS – TO EARLY STAGE COMPANIES?
Not just for early stage companies, but all businesses of all sizes, the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” still applies very relevantly. People want to do business with people. Early stage companies, in particular, have many needs: capital, talent, customers, vendors, partners, product development, marketing, etc. and having a large and deep network gives an entrepreneur a huge advantage in the marketplace, for obvious reasons. There is a proven correlation between the size and quality of one’s network, and one’s overall success — in entrepreneurship and most endeavors.
WHAT IS THE SECRET SAUCE THAT MAKES CONNECTPRENEUR A TOP TECH NETWORKING EVENT IN THE REGION?
It’s our ability to attract the region’s top entrepreneurs, investors, innovators and game changers. We pride ourselves on organizing the top tech and investor networking events in Montgomery County and the Washington region as a whole. We think that the reason that over 70% of our surveyed attendees rate CONNECTpreneur as the “number one” tech and networking event in the Mid-Atlantic region is because of the high quality and seniority of our attendees, which is unprecedented. Over 20% of our attendees are accredited angel investors or VCs, over half are CEOs and founders, and we intentionally keep the ratio of service providers as low as possible. This makes for more meaningful connectivity among the participants.
HOW DOES CONNECTPRENEUR SUPPORT FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS AND ENTREPRENEURS OF COLOR?
CONNECTpreneur is very intentional about providing a diverse set of presenters and speakers in our programming. Our community of entrepreneurs and investors is highly diverse, and our selection committee is very tuned in to the benefits of gender and cultural diversity. We actively work with and partner with local, regional, and national players who share our values of “double bottom line” ethics which value social impact as well as financial gain. Some of our partners include Maryland Tech Council, TEDCO, Startup Grind, Founder Institute, Halcyon and Conscious Venture Labs to name a few.
WHY IS MONTGOMERY COUNTY A GOOD LOCATION FOR AN INNOVATIVE STARTUP COMPANY? AND, WHAT’S YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR SUCCESS?
Montgomery County is a top tier County nationally for startups, and that’s evidenced by numerous awesome success stories. MoCo has a tremendously educated talent base, world class government institutions, top schools, and a large base of angel and high net worth private investors who can provide seed funding. The best advice for success is to understand thoroughly your customer and their needs and pain points very deeply. That way you can get to “product market fit” more quickly, de-risk your opportunity, and be more capital efficient. Too many companies get enamored with their product and design, or culture, or getting media coverage whereas the true essence of any successful business is to provide excellent products and solutions to its customers and sell into their markets like crazy.
WHAT ARE SOME UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS OF AN EARLY STAGE COMPANY THAT SPARK YOUR INTEREST TO EXTEND AN INVITE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE FORUM?
We are looking for presenting companies which have truly disruptive ideas, products and/or solutions which could be sold into huge markets. And of course, the most important criteria are the quality, expertise, and coachability of the founding team. We have had presenters from all kinds of sectors including life sciences, cyber, telecom, blockchain, wireless, mobility, e-commerce, marketplaces, fintech, medical devices, IoT, etc.
Learn more about CONNECTpreneur at our website: connectpreneur.org
This is a Guest blog post from Jeff Cherry, Founder and Managing Partner of The Conscious Venture Fund and Founding Partner of The Laudato Si Startup Challenge. He is a tech CEO and mentor, investor, philanthropist, and community builder.
I recently listened to a thought-provoking episode of the TED Radio Hour on NPR entitled What We Value. Its premise was that this economic and societal crisis in which we find ourselves is accelerating the move towards a new set of values when it comes to the practice of capitalism. Those of us in the social impact and Conscious Capitalism space are heartened to see this discussion gaining momentum, but the question remains: How will capitalism change now that the unhealthy state of business and our major societal institutions have been laid bare?
There are many indications that this shift was in the offing far before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Although late to the game, the statement released by the Business Roundtable in August 2019 signaled a transformative move away from the outdated notion of shareholder primacy and towards a more human and effective form of business. It certainly garnered the attention of the press. And others in the business mainstream who had been either unaware or hostile to the market forces driving this change, are now finding it hard to ignore discussions of stakeholder management and whether business should have a broader role in society.
These ever-expanding discussions about the purpose of business in society are now taking place in the context of what does a return to “normal” look like in the economy. And a growing sentiment that the normal we were experiencing — where greed, inequity, declining living standards, crony capitalism, rent-seeking, regulatory capture, share buy-backs, corporate welfare and environmental depletion were the norm — isn’t in fact normal. Nor a state of being for which we should collectively yearn. As you might imagine, I agree.
The challenge we face now then, is how do we actually execute on this new idea? Many people talk about business for good and changing the purpose of the firm. But in the real world of competitive advantage, pricing models, customer needs, shareholder demands, supplier, employee and community relationships, knowing what to do is hard. We speak to entrepreneurs all the time who are philosophically aligned with a new narrative about business. They can cite anecdotes about others who have been successful, and they lack a cognitive frame that they can use to build an organization that embodies this day-in and day-out.
I’ve written at length about why I believe a focus on stakeholders in business and capitalism needs to replace the old story. In this article, the first of a two-part series, I’ll describe a framework to begin the journey to business as an institute of societal well-being: Or Human Capitalism.
The New Narrative of Business in Society: Human Capitalism What does a new story about the practice of business and capitalism look like in practical terms?
In order to fully bring this new narrative to life, I believe we need to re-define the purpose of business as a societal institution. Then, we need to translate that definition into tools that real entrepreneurs and executives can use every day to guide how they formulate strategy, individual decision making and implementation.
When a new cohort of the Conscious Venture Lab convenes, I ask a question to frame the work we’ll be doing over the ensuing 16-weeks: “What kind of world could we create if investors, executives and entrepreneurs cared as much about people as they care about profit?” It isn’t a question I expect any of the teams to answer outright. It’s a rhetorical challenge to think about how these ideas impact their businesses and the broader society.
Over the last few months, I’ve reframed that question: What kind of world could we create if we decided our first duty in business was to simply care for each other? This is the essence of Human Capitalism.
This version of the question doesn’t pit people against profit, which I believe is a false construct. Instead, it captures the meaning we’re all experiencing in this moment: can we be a complete society if the overarching purpose of business is only to increase profits and not primarily to improve the human condition? Both of these questions are variations of the age-old investigation of “What is a business for?” Academics, economists, politicians, social scientists and businesspeople have been asking this question for decades, if not longer.
Liesel Pritzker Simmons, co-founder of the impact investing firm Bluehaven Initiative, has said, “A crisis gives us an excuse to have conviction earlier.” What we are experiencing in this moment has emphasized how interconnected we are as a society and as a world. It has emphasized the importance of health as a public imperative. The importance of economic, community and personal resiliency as interdependent societal imperatives to which individuals and all societal institutions, even businesses, need to contribute. This crisis is bringing along those who may not have reached a level of conviction to move to a more human form of capitalism had things stayed … normal.
In this new reality it’s clear that the question about what type of world we want to create can no longer remain abstract or rhetorical. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the truth, that a focus on our interdependent well-being is necessary for society’s survival. Succeed together or fail together the choice is ours, but we can no longer hide behind a narrative that separates individual financial self-interest from our mutual survival.
In the post-COVID world, the new narrative of business in society is a narrative about authentic caring, societal resilience and collective well-being.
Practical Ways to Integrate Human Capitalism Herb Kelleher, the legendary founder of Southwest Airlines, once said, “The business of business is people — yesterday, today and forever….” But what does it actually mean to structure your business around people? What can you do tomorrow to transform the structure of your business, respond to this new reality and become the type of leader that society needs?
Caring is Job 1: Above all there is one thing leaders must do first in order to be successful in this new world: They must actually care! To be clear, leaders who embrace the idea of caring for stakeholders as a core value and primary motivation for running a business will be well-positioned to succeed in this new world. They’ll be more able to execute on the ideas described later in this article and more likely to attract talent, customers and investors in a post-COVID world of business as a vital instrument of society.
At first this seems obvious and perhaps, some would say, no different than the status quo. But the nuance of authentically treating employees, suppliers, customers and communities as individuals deserving of your care for their own sake, as opposed to primarily as fodder for creating returns is critically important. Not only to how your company will be perceived, but authentic caring — or the lack thereof — will have a tremendous impact on your competitive performance. People understand instinctively if you are treating them fairly simply as a form of manipulation for other ends. And, unless you’ve created a true culture of caring in your organization, you’ll be tempted to abandon that care when it comes into conflict with your “real goals.” The best leaders however will understand this simple truth: how we think about creating financial value is now, more than ever, clearly tied to the way we create societal value. Authentically caring is a key component of this new narrative.
With that as our foundation, there are two things that every leader can do to build caring into the operational DNA of their business:
First, adopt a specific set of guiding principals about what it means to care for each other in service of societal well-being. And second,
Institute a practical business operating system that provides a framework for living into those guiding principals.
Here in Part-1, I’ll discuss a set of guiding principles we’ve created at the Conscious Venture Lab to help entrepreneurs execute upon these cultures of caring.
Guiding Principles: The Five Promises of Collective Well-Being In order to seed this new culture of caring into the DNA of your operations, it is crucially important that you articulate and codify a set of guiding principles that the entire company can use to organize your thought processes and create operating norms, policies, procedures and metrics that will keep your culture on track in good times and in challenging times…like during a pandemic.
Companies that will lead us into a more effective model of capitalism and a future of broadly-shared prosperity have structured their business to deliver on what I call The Five Promises of Collective Well-Being, through which we vow to use business to make the world:
More sustainable and
More prosperous for all.
Let’s examine each principle:
Business as a path to a More Just society: Leaders who are best at this will work to create social justice by structuring their organizations to level the playing field and authentically create access to opportunity for all those in their ecosystem who want to contribute.
Conscious Venture Lab and SHIFT Ventures portfolio companies Hungry Harvest and R3 Score have built this promise into their business models, which drives impact and returns.
Hungry Harvest creates a more just world by providing fresh food to communities that wouldn’t otherwise have access to it and dignified work opportunities to people in need. As a result, they create scores of “Harvest Heroes” who loyally buy wholesome food from the company that otherwise would have gone to waste. In the process they have increase sales by more than 34,000% over the last 4 years.
R3Score creates a more just world by providing a dignified return to civil society for millions of formerly incarcerated Americans and allowing banks a way to engage with people they would otherwise ignore. Thereby expanding the banks’ customer base, putting financial assets to work that would otherwise lay fallow and giving the 1-in-3 Americans with a criminal record the opportunity to build a new life.
Business as a path to a More Joyous life: Leaders who bring more joy into the world will do so by focusing on a combination of the quality of the human interactions in their operations, eliminating misery as a core aspect of their business and/or creating products that bring authentic joy to more lives.
One of my personal favorite companies, Union Square Hospitality Group, uses a culture of caring and enlightened hospitality to bring joy to employees, customers and suppliers alike.
Startup Aqus Water, that was a part of the Vatican Laudato Si Challenge in 2017, has created a product that puts “three years of clean water in the palm of (the) hand(s)” of people in places where lack of clean water has been causing extreme hardship for centuries. With more than 780 MM people in the world lacking access to clean water, bringing joy will undoubtedly bring prosperity to many.
Business as a path to More Equitable communities: When leaders focus on creating a mutual exchange of value between all stakeholders, they move their organizations away from the negative consequences of shareholder primacy and create more equitable communities for everyone. Paradoxically, an equitable approach to business, or removing the shareholder blinders, often creates new paths to greater value for shareholders.
Greyston Bakery in Yonkers New York is a pioneer of open hiring. They create a more equitable world by focusing not on the tyranny of weeding people out in the hiring process but by providing the dignity of work to anyone who wants it.
Here in Baltimore, Jacob Hsu and his company Catalyte have created an entirely new way of identifying undervalued individuals who have the aptitude to become exceptional engineers. Creating new paths to equity and unleashing massive financial potential for communities, his clients and the company.
Business as a path to a More Sustainable world: The winning leaders of the new narrative think and plan for the long-term. They understand that sustainability in every sense is the key to enduring organizational health. They establish a circle of growth for the planet, the people who serve or are served by the organization and the organization itself.
Billion-dollar clothing company Patagonia has rejected the world of “fast fashion” by creating high quality, long-lasting products and offering a repair and reuse program to discourage customers from buying things they don’t need.
Business as a path to a More Prosperous existence for us all: The best leaders view value creation with a polarity, or both/and mindset. They actively look to create real wealth for employees, customers, communities, suppliers and shareholders. They work to manage the polarity of creating value for all stakeholders by asking themselves questions like: “How do we simultaneously achieve the upside of paying our employees as much as possible, and, the upside of creating great returns for shareholders?” This is in contrast to shareholder value leaders who see all stakeholder relationships as tradeoffs that need to be solved for the benefit of shareholders.
Starbucks has fed more than 10 million people through its FoodShare program, redoubled its commitment to eliminate gender pay equity gaps, and committed to becoming “… resource positive — storing more carbon than we emit, eliminating waste and providing more clean fresh water than we use …” — all while rewarding shareholders handsomely — even during the coronavirus pandemic.
Why Human CAPITALISM? In Part-2 of this series I will discuss how the tenets of Conscious Capitalism and stakeholder management will allow organizations to clear the clutter and build these principles into everyday operations.
For now, a note before we end to my main audience: The Skeptics:
I spend the majority of every waking hour thinking about how to support entrepreneurs who have previously been neglected and who are creating world changing companies despite the immense hurdles they face. I also spend a majority of that time thinking about how to invest on behalf of my limited partners in a way that will create exceptional returns. I am a capitalist who believes capitalism can and should be practiced in a way that unleashes its power to elevate all humanity. That we can create a more humane form of commerce and human cooperation. What I am suggesting is that capitalism, like any man-made system, must evolve as society evolves. To paraphrase my friend and mentor Ed Freeman, professor at the Darden School at The University of Virginia, the alternative to capitalism as we know it today is not socialism, but a better, more human form of capitalism.
For those who would push back on these ideas as leaving shareholders behind and giving away profits I would simply ask you to suspend disbelief for a bit. Take a few minutes to think not about what you might lose, but about what you might gain. What kind of world could we create if we decided our first duty in business was to care for each other? Look around…I think that time has come.
Jeff Cherry, is CEO and Managing Partner of SHIFT Ventures, and Founder & Executive Director of Conscious Venture Lab, an award-winning and internationally recognized early stage accelerator. He is also Founder and Managing Partner of The Conscious Venture Fund and Founding Partner of The Laudato Si Startup Challenge. Jeff is a pioneer in conscious capitalism and double bottom-line investing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a Guest blog post from Thomas Ma, an awesome up and coming entrepreneur whom I have had the pleasure of watching grow these past few years. He is the LA-based Co-Founder of Sapphire Apps Media. This is great reading for any young person or aspiring entrepreneur. Lots of lessons learned. Enjoy!!
I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was heading home from my last final of the semester to wrap up my junior year in college.
I had no internships lined up, and no idea what I wanted to do with my life. All of my friends had internships and it seemed they had their professional career figured out.
Nope not me. No one called me back. Since it was the last day, I decided to take one final stop at the college career center to see if they could help me out.
This is when I bumped into one of my friend at the career center and we started talking. Suddenly I started to get all these ideas in my head.
From that moment, I went back to my apartment, and continued to carve out my idea. I didn’t stop. I put 100% into it from that day. Of course it started out slowly. I had a lot to learn.
One Fun Fact:
It took me from May 9, 2015 — April 2017 before I had my own company bank account. That’s nearly 2 years!
In light of this 5 year mark, I wanted to put time and share what I would do today especially in this pandemic. My hope is to get other people to progress with their own journey. This advice is good for any type of industry.
1. Marketing yourself on upwork.com
2. Building out your network
3. Be vulnerable and share your journey
4. Learning a New Skill
5. Tools that you should know about
6. Outsourcing Talent
7. Digital Marketing
8. Building your digital brand
1. Create an upwork.com account to market yourself
Study other people in your industry. If you are into consulting, you look up consulting on upwork.com
Look at the following:
Hourly rate, $ they’ve earned, success rate, and country their from.
In this case, Kim has a great profile. He has a high success rate and over 6 figures earned.
Here’s his profile:
Look at is his hourly rate, title and what he is putting in his summary. It’s clear that he’s getting reached a lot.
Below his profile is his work history. Study how much he has earned and how much people are paying him.
Do this for 5–10 of the top earners int his category. This is the benchmark.
Try your best to optimize your profile so that it matches up with some of the best on Upwork. When you apply, at least you will stand out.
As you build your account in the beginning, it’s going to be tough. You’re going to have to be relentless. This means applying to as many jobs as you can. It may even mean not making a lot of $ to build up your profile.
Review and job success rate is critical to standing out as an applicant.
2. Build out your network
When starting out, it’s critical that you have a network. In order to thrive in what you do, you have to surround yourself with like minded people. These are the people who you will hang out with the most and learn from. You will also progress with these people and it’s amazing to celebrate milestones together and also being there for one another when things don’t go as planned.
If you don’t have a business network, it’s okay 🙂 I will share some of the things that I would recommend.
Before you build your network:
Make sure to optimize your social media profile with what you do. That includes Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, etc…
This way people get a sense of what you do when you connect with you.
Here are a few places you can find events or meet people:
The strategy applies to all the platforms below: When you join the platform, go to the search bar and enter keywords that relate to your niche. If you were in fitness, you could try wellness, health, fitness, coaching etc.
Eventbrite (Tons of free online events)
Instagram DM (search out hashtags in your industry and engage with people)
If you join a new group, read what members are posting. Engage with their post if you like it, and add them as a friend.
If they accept you as a friend, shoot them a compliment and let them know you liked their post. If they respond, ask if they are interested in connecting with you via zoom.
While on zoom, spend time genuinely getting to know the person.
Things you can talk about:
How covid has impacted you
Your background on how you started
Sharing what you’re passionate about
Why you started
The purpose of this is to build your own network. If people genuinely get to know you, they’ll support you. You never know who they know.
After you connect, you continue to stay in touch with them and invite them to events that you hear about.
As you continue to evolve your network, you will have access to more events.
This strategy can even be applied to zoom hangouts. To engage on zoom, you can send them a private message and use the same strategy.
In the space of creating your own brand, showing up is half the battle. You have to show up and build your network every day. Make it a goal to fill up your entire calendar with zoom events and zoom meetings.
Things to avoid at networking events:
1. Don’t ask the “what do you do” question. That’s straight to the point of what they do and it shows you don’t even want to get to know them for who they are
2. To be efficient with your time, you can state that you have 30 minutes or whatever at the beginning.
3. Don’t talk too much about yourself unless people ask you questions. If you talk a lot, you’ll never be able to learn about the other person. You have to make the other person feel special that you are talking to.
A small recap on networking:
If you are starting out, you can do the following to ensure you progress every week.
Start off by booking one event per day on your calendar
Make a goal of how many zoom connect meetings you want to take. Maybe in the beginning, make a goal to meet 5 people per week and then scale up.
If you meet someone and share common interest, offer to collaborate with them. You can collaborate by co hosting a happy hour with your joint network. This way you meet more people and so does your new friend.
If you are able to host events, you become the go to person for that event. People will get to hear you. This way you expand your network at a faster pace.
If you host great events, make sure to do it on a weekly bases. As you host more events, people will bring their own network.
3. Be vulnerable and share your journey
When I started, I used to take a selfie photo everyday of my Starbucks cup or wherever I was at in the world. I’d post most of the stories on Linkedin.
I wanted to show people what the journey was like. Overtime, I was able to build more followers because people liked hearing my story.
The reason for doing this is because it builds your digital brand. The more people know about you, the more they can potentially help you.
One networking tip here is to connect with people who like your post. Right away you have something in common.
4. Continue to learn
One of my favorite podcast to listen to is NPR how I built this by Guy Raz. It has stories from some of the great entrepreneurs in the world.
It’s nice to hear how someone started and made traction.
Read articles on medium.com especially the entrepreneurship articles
Stay active in the reddit entrepreneur community. A lot of people post insightful advice on there, and it’s an easy way to connect with a small group
When you make your job listing, you want to have the following:
-Catchy Header (study other people)
Clear instructions on exactly what you want and keeping it short and brief
Follow up questions that the applicant should respond to
Here are some I recommend:
What is your hourly rate
What is your working hours
Have you read the instruction? If so, how much and how long would it take to complete
Do you have a portfolio?
All the questions above help filter out who is a good candidate and who isn’t.
If you like their answers, you can give them a small paid tester. If they pass it, you can give them a larger project.
Always let people know if they do good work that you will have more projects for them.
When you find someone you like, you can add them to your roster.
If you master the ability to outsource, you can scale a creative agency. This means you can find clients who need a service. An example is if you had a bunch of designers you liked, you can market yourself as a creative agency who does graphics.
Add your creators work to your portfolio. Show people your work. Find clients who are willing to pay.
Once you find clients who are willing to pay, you give the work to the person you liked.
Recap for Agency via Outsourcing
Test talent. If their good, add them to your roster
Show case their work
Find clients who are in need
If client is in need, then they will pay you for the services.
Give the project to the remote person. Make sure they meet your deadlines
7. Digital Marketing:
Learn how to run paid media ads on Facebook.
Steps I would suggest:
Start to do a deep dive on free courses that they offer online
OPTIMIZE the keywords. They give you 10 for a reason. Think of words people would search if it was someone looking to attend your online class.
Leverage all the keywords in the main title
State the time, timezone, day, and date in the header
Find a clear stock photo that stands out. I use Unsplash.
Add questions they have to answer. In my eventbrite, I ask people where they come from. I also suggest they join my Facebook fitness community.
Facebook Groups are key! It reaches more people. If you post an event, you are able to invite every single member in the group.
Nurturing your audience:
Engage with people before class. Ask them where they are from
Throughout your class find a way to get users to engage. In my fitness class we do virtual high fives and fist bumps
Bring people together after the event. At my events, we take a group photo online
Reach out to people who attended your class and thank them. They’ll appreciate it
Remember people’s first name. Especially if they come back.
Livestream your events. This way more people have access.
Why you should build out a digital brand:
People can learn about you. If they like what you do, they will come back. If they continue to come back, they will bring friends to join them. Overtime, this is your fan base that supports you. It’s important that you are able to identify your super fans.
My hope is that this will give you the small push to get you started.
No matter what happens, be proud of what you do. Do things because you want to. Don’t do it because of someone else telling you what they want for you. It’s your journey. Make sure you can smile and have fun with your choice.
If you are looking for a good community to join, this is the one I created:
Sapphire Stories: A Community of Passionate Doers
Community of Doers who are pursuing their passion. Our goal is to connect and inspire you with your own journey. Follow…
Demonstrating to investors that your business model is sustainable, especially in times of uncertainty or jarring disruption, like we’re facing now with the Coronavirus pandemic, can give you the edge you need to get funded. In my previous article, “Now’s the Time to Get Your Business Funded: Coronavirus Edition,” I highlighted the fact that savvy investors are still looking for great investment opportunities. Those great opportunities include investing in both the idea and the one with whom the idea originated.
Pitch Sustainability In Any Market
As part of your funding story and pitch deck, it is important in today’s environment to present the ways in which you can navigate operating the business and even excelling despite quarantines and partial lockdowns being in place. Some sustainability concepts to consider include:
Business Model – Where does your business reside along the industry vertical or value chain?
Sales Model – How do you interact with and sell to customers (i.e., brick-and-mortar, direct sales, e-commerce)
Organization Model – What is the composition of your workforce? Do you require staff to be on premises? Are you dependent on contractors or outsourced partners?
Product or Service Offering – Is your offering something that will be of value during a major disruptive social or economic event?
Materials Supply – Will shutdowns like we are experiencing now impact your ability to obtain the raw materials, inputs, and supplies required to deliver your product to market?
Expertise – Who on your leadership team or advisory board has the experience and expertise in helping organizations navigate through crises and times of instability?
Finances and Cost Structure – Do you have a lean enough cost structure and a good enough understanding of the financials to ensure a proper runway for funding to growth?
Employee and Customer Sentiment – Do you have a clear understanding of the mindset your target customer has during “regular” times versus during a crisis like we’re facing today? What about your employees…do you know how a crisis will impact their ability to effectively deliver for your customers?
New Marketing or Channel Opportunities – Have you explored changes you can make to your product offering, pricing, payment terms, customer segments, delivery methods, marketing strategies, partnerships, and co-branding initiatives that would better meet the needs of the market during a crisis?
Investors want to invest in people with great ideas, but even more so with those who understand how to bring those great ideas to the market, whatever condition that market is in, successfully. Show them that you and your team have that expertise as part of your funding story and pitch deck. Now is the time, because if not now, when?
To learn more on how to create an epic fundraising story for digital presentations to investors, contact me for a complimentary consultation by phone at 314-578-0958 or by email at email@example.com.
Ines LeBow is the CEO, Transformation Executive for ETS. She is a known catalyst for business operations, bringing 30+ years of hands-on experience. Ines has a long history of being recruited into senior executive roles to improve the execution of business operations and to drive revenue growth. You can see her LinkedIn Profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/ineslebow, view the ETS website at http://www.transformationsolutions.pro, or email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The event is regarded by many as “The Best Networking Event in DC.” InTheCapital calls CONNECTpreneur a “NETWORKING JACKPOT” of the DC Region’s TOP Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders, CXOs, Angels, and VCs.
Heavy NETWORKING before, during, and after the event
The venue is the Tysons Corner Marriott in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. A plated breakfast is included. CONNECTpreneur is a quarterly networking mashup, which has been attended by over 2500 business leaders in the past 3 years. We expect another SELL OUT crowd, so there will be no on-site registration.
The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur FALL Forum is a “NETWORKING MASHUP” of 210+ of the DC Region’s TOP Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders, CXOs, Angels, and VCs. Most of the attendees are “INVITATION ONLY,” and we are limiting service provider participation in order to maximize the experience for our Attendees and Sponsors.
Presented by LORE Systems, this UNIQUE EVENT is like NONE OTHER in our region, due to the high quality of our attendees and participants, as well as our program and unprecedented networking.
Come see what happens when you put a group of “A List” business leaders and entrepreneurs in one room for a few hours!
Over 210 attendees, includng 120+ CEOs/Presidents and 40 angels/VCs
Over 120 CEOs/Presidents, plus 40+ angel and VC investors including New Enterprise Associates, Novak Biddle, Core Capital, CIT, Blu Venture Investors, Blue Water Capital, Dingman Center Angels, Neuberger & Co. Ventures, Saratoga Investment Corp., Washington DC Archangels, Angel Venture Forum, Fortify.vc, Endeavor DC, Maryland Venture Fund, National Capital Companies, Enhanced Capital, White Hall Capital, MTECH Ventures, Mosaic Capital, Opus8, VentureCross Partners, McLean Capital, Starise Ventures, Blue Heron Capital, Duncaster Investments, Private Capital Network, Next-Stage Development Group, Berman Enterprises, Grindstone Partners, Next Stage Development Group, Atlantic Capital Group, Lancaster Angel Network, Harrell Partners, Stanford Venture Advisors, MD Center for Entrepreneurship, Skada Capital, Great Falls Capital, Bayberry Capital, Hafezi Capital, Keiretsu Forum, and CADRE.
Last week, the State of Maryland became the first state in the USA to use an online auction to raise funds for a venture capital program. The auction yielded $84 million, a whopping 20% more than the original forecasted goal of $70 million. On September 24, 2011, I wrote a brief summary of the InvestMaryland program.
InvestMaryland will invest in the State’s promising start-up and early stage companies, as early as this summer. The $84 million raised was generated through an online auction of premium tax credits to 11 insurance companies (including Hartford Insurance, New York Life, Chubb, GEICO, and Met Life) with operations in Maryland. The inaugural round of investments will be made in innovative companies this summer through several private venture capital firms and the State’s successful Maryland Venture Fund (MVF),
Said Governor Martin O’Malley, “Our State is well-positioned to be a leader in the new economy as a global hub of innovation – a leader in science, security, health, discovery and information technology. That’s why last year, together with business leaders from across the State and the General Assembly, we chose to invest in our diverse and highly-educated workforce and the skills and talents of our people for the jobs and opportunity of tomorrow.”
Earlier this year, the Authority selected Grant Street Group to prepare for and run the tax credit auction and also recently selected Altius Associates, a London-based firm, to oversee the selection of three to four private venture firms to invest the InvestMaryland funds. The private venture firms will be responsible for investing two-thirds of the funds, which will return 100 percent of the principal and 80 percent of the profits to the State’s general fund. The remaining 33 percent will be invested by 17-year-old Maryland Venture Fund (MVF). The Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority (MSBDFA) will also receive a portion of funds for investment. Returns on the funds invested through the MVF will be reinvested in the program.
InvestMaryland has the potential to create thousands of jobs in Innovation Economy sectors – life sciences and biotechnology, cyber security/IT and clean/green tech and attract billions of follow on capital.
Maryland has an outstanding infrastructure to support an Innovation Economy. The Milken Institute ranks Maryland #2 in the nation for technology and science assets. According to study results, while Maryland received high rankings in human capital investment, research and development inputs, technology and science workforce, and technology concentration and dynamism, it lagged behind other states in risk capital and entrepreneurial infrastructure, demonstrating the need for InvestMaryland and other programs.
How will Altius select the Venture Capital firms? Altius will be evaluating venture capital funds based on management experience, firm experience, investment performance and criteria defined in the legislation.
When will the firms be selected? Venture capital firms will be selected starting June/July 2012 for a projected18-month period and make first round of investments in summer 2012.
What is the investment return to the State? The selected venture firms will return 100 percent of the principal investment by the State before taking any distribution of profits and will then pay 80 percent of the profits to the State. Any returns on investments made through the Maryland Venture Fund go back into the fund for an evergreen program.
What is the projected average investment with venture capital companies? Investment will likely range from as low as $250,000 upwards to $10M.
Is there investment funding available from MVF?Maryland Venture Fund will continue to invest in early stage companies (tech, biotech, clean energy) from $50,000 to $500,000 as initial investments.
Maryland Venture Fund Authority (MVFA) will perform a monitoring role to ensure that investments and reporting meet the legislative guidelines.
In summary, as a member of the MVFA, and as a resident and business owner in Maryland, I am very excited to see this InvestMaryland program being implemented:
This program brings great benefit for taxpayers. It helps create the jobs and companies of tomorrow and builds an economic climate where the most promising ideas and innovations have a chance to mature.
This is a win-win for all constituencies within the State of Maryland. Through this initiative, we can:
Infuse much needed capital into our seed and early stage companies
Recapitalize the State’s successful Maryland Venture Fund
Ensure no up-front cost to taxpayers
Provide a tax benefit to insurance companies who bid today, who can begin claiming credits in 2015.
Thanks for reading. I’d appreciate any Comments or feedback you may have on InvestMaryland.
John Backus, Managing Partner of New Atlantic Ventures, Founder of Draper Atlantic Venture Fund, former CEO, InteliData
1:15 pm – MORE NETWORKING AND DEALMAKING
CONFIRMED PARTICIPANTS (partial list):
Over 110 Entrepreneurs and CXOs, plus another 40+ angels and VCs including Core Capital, Novak Biddle, New Atlantic Ventures, CIT, Capital Source, NEA, Maryland Venture Fund, MAVA, MTECH Ventures, Maryland DBED, Ruxton Ventures, Opus8, VentureCross Partners, McLean Capital, National Capital, Starise Ventures, Dingman Center Angels, Blu Venture Partners, Blue Heron, Washingon DC Archangels, Fortify.vc, Endeavor DC, Private Capital Network, APPTEL, Stanford Venture Advisors, MD Center for Entrepreneurship, SunWalker Group, Skada Capital, Keiretsu Forum, CADRE.
Yanik has, through reflection and analysis of his business experience and interactions with dozens of the world’s top entrepreneurs and business leaders, developed what he calls his “34 Rules “ They can also be found on one of his Blogs: maverickbusinessinsider.com.
So here are YANIK SILVER’S 34 RULES FOR MAVERICK ENTREPRENEURS (I added some commentary of my own in BOLD text below.)
It’s got to be a BIG idea that you, your team and your customers can “get” in seconds. Agree 100% that THINKING BIG is one of the most important things you can do in business. See my Blog Post on “5 KEY LEARNINGS.”
Strive to create 10x — 100x in value for any price you charge. Your rewards are always proportionate to the value you provide.
You must charge a premium price so you have a large margin to provide an extraordinary value & experience. This is right out of the Steve Jobs Playbook!
Provide a ‘Reason Why’ customers should do business with you and pay you a premium.
Get paid before you deliver your product or service. And when possible figure out how to create recurring revenue from transactions. Collecting cash early allows you to finance your business, and ecurring revenue creates maximum shareholder value.
You get to make the rules for your business. Don’t let industry norms dictate how you’ll work or who you’ll work with. Another Steve Jobsism.
Create your business around your life instead of settling for your life around your business.
Consistently and constantly force yourself to focus on the ‘critically few’ proactive activities that produce exponential results. Don’t get caught up in minutia & bullshit. Focus!
Seek to minimize start-up risk but have maximum upside potential.
Get your idea out there as fast as possible even if it’s not quite ready by setting must-hit deadlines. Let the market tell you if you have a winner or not. If not — move on and fail forward fast! If it’s got potential — then you can make it better. The one great characteristic of internet-based businesses is that the feedback loop is shortened and rapid iteration can be done to perfect the model.
Find partners and team members who are strong where you are weak and appreciate being paid on results.
Your reputation always counts. Honor your obligations and agreements. There’s nothing more important than INTEGRITY.
Never, ever get paid based on hours worked.
Leverage your marketing activities exponentially by using direct response methods and testing.
Measure and track your marketing so you know what’s working and what’s not.
Bootstrap. Having too much capital leads to incredible waste and doing things using conventional means. I love this concept. Bootstrapping builds a culture of resourceful and a “lean and mean” operating philosophy.
Your partners and employees actions are their true core — not what they tell you.
Keep asking the right questions to come up with innovative solutions. “How?”, “What?”, “Where?”, “Who Else?” & “Why?” open up possibilities.
You’ll never have a perfect business and you’ll never be totally “done”. Deal with it. Warren Buffett has said that it’s not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results. See my related Blog Post on Buffett.
Focus most of your time on your core strengths and less time working in areas you suck at.
Make it easier for customers to buy by taking away the risk of the transaction by guaranteeing what you do in a meaningful way. If you are supremely confident in your product or service, you should have no problem guaranteeing it, and every customer loves a guarantee.
Always have something else to sell (via upsell, cross-sell, follow-up offer, etc) whenever a transaction takes place. The hottest buyer in the world is one who just gave you money.
Always go back to your existing customers with exceptional offers and reasons they should give you more money. It’s 5x less expensive to sell to happy customers than go find new ones.
However the flip side is – fire your most annoying customers. They’ll be replaced with the right ones. I have done this and it has worked miracles in getting my Team focused on the higher-value customers. Figure out how to “score” or rank your customers and rationalize the lowest value ones. You can then apply the scoring system to new business opportunities you evaluate, so that you accept the customers you want.
The marketplace and competitors are always trying to beat you down to a commodity. Don’t let that happen. I agree that getting into a commodity position is a losing proposition because someone will ALWAYS be lower in price.
Develop and build your business’s personality that stands out. People want to buy from people.
Create your own category so you can be first in the consumer’s mind.
Go the opposite direction competitors are headed — you’ll stand out. It’s amazing how so many of successful business leaders and investors are CONTRAIAN in their thinking.
Mastermind and collaborate with other smart entrepreneurs if they have futures that are even bigger than their present. You can’t win by yourself. You need peers, advisors, mentors, and others who can help you. Create a group, join a YPO or EO Forum, or a Vistage Group. I am in a YPO Forum and the learnings and experience have been priceless.
Celebrate your victories. It’s too easy to simply move on to your next goal without acknowledging and appreciating the ‘win’. This is a good one. Oftentimes, you see Founders relentlessly clamoring for “more, more, more!” without stopping to celebrate success. This is super important for morale.
Make your business AND doing business with you FUN!
Do the unexpected before and after anything goes wrong so customers are compelled to ‘share your story’.
Get a life! Business and making money are important but your life is the sum total of your experiences. Go out and create experiences & adventures so you can come back renewed and inspired for your next big thing. Life is very short, so enjoy your moments at every opportunity.
Give back! Commit to taking a % of your company’s sales and make a difference. If this becomes a habit like brushing your teeth pretty soon the big checks with lots of zeros won’t be scary to write. If you think you can’t donate a percentage of your sales simply raise your price. The more you give, the more things come back to you. Giving is great for the community, for your company, and your teammates.
This is a big list and, for me, I like #1, #6, and #8. I believe in “Thinking Big.” You’re going to be thinking anyway, so why not Think Big? As for #6, your business will definitely differentiate better if you follow your voice and make your own rules, as opposed to following someone else. The great companies create their own products and solutions. They set the trends. Finally, I can’t say enough about FOCUS (#8), because that’s one of the TOP 5 necessities for success. I blogged about this in my very first Blog Post, SUCCESS FORMULA.
Which one of these 34 RULES do you like best or find most relevant to your business?
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