Category Archives: startups

Mini MBA For Free – Thanks TVC!

I spent yesterday morning with about 30 other entrepreneurs, learning about some real-world legal, HR, and funding issues that startups typically face. The program was one of six that Technology Ventures Corporation (TVC) puts on in rotation. The program is free, and they even include a decent continental breakfast! Interestingly, TVC is funded by Lockheed Martin and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. The event was hosted by SRI at their headquarters in Menlo Park, CA.

Ralph Kokka, a lawyer with Randick, O’Dea & Tooliatos, started us off with a presentation on the pros and cons of the various forms a business might take, such as LLC, S Corp, and C Corp. He hit the high and low points of each, with a focus on the concerns of startups looking for funding. There were many questions and he did an excellent job of answering them while keeping his presentation moving.

Sherry McVicar then walked us through the most important HR considerations for a startup. She pointed out common pitfalls such as mis-categorizing workers contractor vs. employee or exempt vs. non-exempt. She also explained what benefits are mandatory, and when these requirements kick in. For example:

  • All companies must provide leave for jury duty.
  • Companies with 5 or more employees must provide pregnancy leave.
  • Companies with 50 or more employees must provide family and medical leave.

TVC‘s very own Ralph Patterson rounded out the day with a presentation entitled “13 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make.” The mistakes that he pointed out were all issues that would keep professional investors from funding a company. The mistakes included:

  • Assuming too much debt
  • Acquiring too many shareholders too early
  • Pitching the product instead of the business
  • Too many Powerpoint slides
  • Not having a business plan

The event was interesting and informative, and I’ll be back to checkout the other 5 installments:

  • Entering the Entrepreneurial World
  • Market Research and the Marketing Plan
  • Financial Management
  • Preparing and Presenting the Business Plan
  • Attracting Equity Investors and Lessons Learned

Big thanks to Juan Montermoso, who told me about this event.

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Entrepreneurs, Managers, and You

One of the podcasts that I enjoy is The Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders lecture series from Stanford. The speakers tend to be smart, insightful, and inspiring. This morning I listened to the show from February 7th, which featured Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn.

Reid really grasps the differences between being an entrepreneur and being a manager. Listening to him compare and contrast the two will help you, no matter which you are. He also explains how even those who choose to have jobs are more and more entrepreneurial these days. You need to treat yourself as a product, and your career as your business. You even need a ‘business plan’ for your career.

If you want to network with me on LinkedIn, you can find my profile here.

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The Soul of an Entrepreneur

Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur yourself or just an entrevoyeur, there’s much to be gleaned from the musings of a distinguished group of business adventurers over at My Way, The Entrepreneur Collective, which aggregates feeds from a dozen individual entrepreneurs’ blogs.  Blogging here are some really superb and entertaining folk, including Tom Evslin, whose post Why A Great Programmer is Worth 50 Good Ones is a classic all managers should read, the always brilliant Chris Yeh, and Ben Casnocha, whose Business Rules of Thumb wiki is full of gems like this:

First-rate men hire first-rate men…second-rate men hire third-rate
men…these third-rate men will then employ the bulk of your company’s
employees and they tend to select fourth-rate people. – Richard M. White. 

Here be much wisdom.

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I spent yesterday working on the business plan for The Technical Management Institute. It’s mostly there (like 20 pages worth), except for the financials. Even though we are not looking for financing, I think it makes sense to put a couple of days into building projected: balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements, and a break-even analysis. A call to a good friend of mine at FactSet got me some good pointers and information about what to include. Then this page at SCORE set me up with templates for doing all of these documents. Life is good.

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