Tag Archives: Entrepreneurship

Steve Blank on Why Accountants Don’t Run Startups

Thanks to my friend Philippe Lavie, President of KeyRoad Enterprises, who forwarded a great presentation by Stanford professor and 8-time entrepreneur Steve Blank, describing the techtonic shifts in entrepreneurship over the past decade:.

Here are some highlights, though his whole talk is worth listening to:

  • In fundraising, “$500K is the new $5 million.” Blank cites lots of reasons for this including the presence of angels as a much more powerful group for funding early stage and the shift in major VC funds to becoming much more like hedge funds and not so much early stage.
  • There is a difference between startup and small business. If it’s VC-oriented it has to be scalable to $100 million or more. Most startups are small businesses – and there’s nothing wrong with that!
  • Very few founders survive the transition in fast growth startups, from search for a business model to process and growth-orientation
  • The new “Lean Startup” is an ongoing effort at better customer and agile development
  • Agile Development is critical and means:

o   Continuous deployment
o   Continuous learning
o   Self organizing teams
o   Minimum feature set
o   Pivots

  • William Durant versus Alfred Sloan as founder vs accountant (CEO) respectively of GM. I won’t give you the gloomy take on entrepreneur vs accountant…listen for yourself but entrepreneur skills do not equate to later stage growth skills.
  • Entrepreneurial education will change radically, because “E-School” is not like B-school

And check out Steve’s blog at

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Advanced Diamond Technologies Named One of the “Best Startups” in America

Congratulations to my friend Neil Kane of Advanced Diamond Technologies (ADT) for recently being named one of the best startups in America by Robert X. Cringely! ADT, the world leader in the development of diamond for industrial, electronics, energy and medical applications was chosen as one of 24 entrepreneurial companies out of over 400 to be showcased on Cringley’s Startup Tour – a 13-part cable television series celebrating entrepreneurship.

Cringely is currently touring the country documenting the state of tech innovation and entrepreneurship in the United States to prove that it doesn’t just happen in Silicon Valley! Catch Kane and the rest of the nominated companies when Startup Tour airs in early 2011.

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Now This is The Way to do a Book Tour

This past Friday, September 3rd, I had the opportunity to hear Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappo’s, speak at EO Chicago’s Learning Event. Tony has been traveling the country on a tour bus with a dozen Zappo’s acolytes in support of his first book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.

This is one smart dude. What most impressed me is that he appears to walk the talk. Zappo’s recruits employees not only for competence and skills but equally for fit with culture and personality. He said that either upfront or after a person’s on board, if their skills were superior but personality was difficult, they’d be given the boot. And this is the same company that has famously had a $2,000 cash offer for trainees to leave following their training.

Now if they would just add a tour of the bus, that would’ve been even better.

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Rich Meeusen Helping Solve the World’s Water Supply Shortage

While I was working on How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America, I was asked, why focus on entrepreneurs and why the heartland?

Entrepreneurs are the engine that fuels the world’s progress. Progress does not come from bureaucracy. I wanted to learn from the 45 founders I interviewed and present their advice, insights, and inspiration in their own words, because great ideas and great effort never stop – regardless of economic conditions.

After speaking with the founders, is was clear that some of the most remarkable companies now in existence were launched and grown in the American heartland.

And the need for great entrepreneurs has not diminished. Take the issue of the world’s supply of potable water, for example. Research shows the existing water supply is insufficient to quench the thirst of the current population of the planet. According to The Netherlands’ recent 2030 Project, the world’s supply of potable water is 4.3 trillion cubic meters (TCM), whereas the world’s need at present is 4.5 TCM. Due to this shortage, five million children die every year. By 2030, the world’s need will total 6.9 TCM yet the supply will still be 4.3 TCM. Entrepreneurs, I predict, are going to solve this problem. And there is one location worldwide that has a clear lead, supply of talent, and expertise in water technology. Where is it—Palo Alto? London? Boston? Moscow?

According to Rich Meeusen, chairman and CEO of public company Badger Meter, Inc. (BMI), and co-founder of the Water Council, the answer is Milwaukee. Born from a 100-year history of industry on the Great Lakes, manufacturing in Milwaukee revolved around “wet” industries like tanning and breweries. Of the 11 largest water-related manufacturing companies in the world, five are headquartered or have significant presence in Milwaukee. More than 100 of the leading water technology companies are located in Milwaukee, working on all aspects of quality, desalination, access and use.

The world isn’t making any more water – what we have is what we have. Big issues like these can only be solved through creative new technologies, ideas and processes. Companies being launched and grown right now are our best hope to solve these challenges.

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Steven Berglas Says Purpose is the Secret to Serial Entrepreneurship

I recently read the Forbes article “Why Serial Entrepreneurs Can’t Stop”, by Steven Berglas.  Berglas points out that many entrepreneurs become less likely to take risks once they move out of the startup years because of fear that they will lose what they built.  However, he points out that the “rare breed” of serial entrepreneurs seem to grow bolder with each venture (whether a success or failure).   The secret?  Purpose.

Berglas says that while money may be part of it, above all, the serial entrepreneur wants to change the world.   In good times and bad, they stay relatively calm.  Why? It’s not about a single victory. “Changing the world is a quest. And that work is never done.”

I found many of the founders interviewed to for How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America to be serial entrepreneurs.  Mahendra Vora, for example, has started 18 companies all around IT and IT services. Howard Tullman has started or co-founded at least a dozen. Scott Jones and David Becker are up there as well. All mission-driven people.

Who do you know who’s most prolific, most mission-driven?

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8 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Business – Don Rainey

Check out the great article from Venture Beat called “8 things I wish I knew before starting a business”.  Don Rainey, general partner at Grotech Ventures says there are many experiences that, though he learned lessons from, he wishes he knew from the get go.

1. Things take longer than you ever imagine –

2. Items that do succeed tend to do so quickly

3. People will let you down

4. Good employees are really hard to find

5. Your bad employees rarely quit –

6. You will be lucky and unlucky –

7. Avoid the myth and misery of sunk cost –

8. Fill the pipe, always fill the pipe –

4 and 5 remind me of Howard Tullman talking about hiring. He had lots of pithy insights – here’s one that will be featured in How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America (now available for pre-order on Amazon).

“I used to fall in love with everyone I interviewed and I’d say, ‘We can make anybody successful’ or ‘We can find a job for any talented person.’ And that’s just completely wrong and a really bad idea.”

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Michael Krauss on Winning in Recessions – Pragmatic and Nimble: Podcast

Great comments from Market Strategy Group president and managing partner Michael Krauss on this podcast.  Michael has unique insights on leadership at entrepreneurial companies, and presents findings from their research, how great companies thrive during recessions. Its not theoretical work – his insights were based on studying amazing companies like Groupon, Echo Global, Innerworkings, Nanophase, Richardson Electronics, Zebra and PCTel.

Check out his comments on winners being more pragmatic and nimble. And PCTel’s strategy for attacking microniches.

Get more insights on leading entrepreneurial companies in How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America (now available on Amazon).

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Tom Churchwell on the State of Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital Funding: Podcast

I interviewed Tom Churchwell, founder and managing partner of Midwest Venture Partners, a venture accelerator, to get his thoughts on the state of entrepreneurship and venture capital funding. Tom is a veteran corporate executive and leader who has been involved in early stage funding and advising entrepreneurs for many years. He’s as good as it gets for understanding the game thoroughly.

You can listen to Tom’s brilliant comments here –

Thanks again Tom –

Learn how successful founders got funding for their companies in How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America (now available for pre-order on Amazon)

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