Last night I attended a Women@Austin event where they gave the first Elevate award to someone who has had a great impact on women entrepreneurs. It went to my long time mentor and adviser, Jimmy Treybig, founder of Tandem Computers.
Jimmy is one of the few people to take a company from $0 to $2.3 billion. I feel so lucky to have had him as a mentor, friend, and adviser over the last 15 years. Check out page 26 for an article I co-wrote on him for the Rice Alumni magazine called Successful Companies Require Successful Teams! He gave a great speech last night on the importance of women in the entrepreneurial community and how the fundraising process works for both women and men.
I was asked to contribute a quote about Jimmy for the award. Janice Ryan, co-founder of Women@Austin, read an excerpt of my quote as well as quotes from others before he was given his award. Here’s my full quote:
“Jimmy is one of my favorite people to talk with about business and life. He’s always made himself available to discuss my ideas, encourage me, and offer me different ways of looking at things. He’s been a wonderful cheerleader for me during great times and challenging times. He tends to look at the whole person and evaluates them through a lens of whether they are smart, kind, have the ability to create great opportunities in their chosen market, and can lead/motivate a team of talented people…regardless of their gender, ethnicity, kid situation, or even if they have blue hair or tattoos! Plus, he always buys me nice lunches”
I look forward to the next Women@Austin event. There were some very accomplished and powerful women in the room last night. The energy was palpable!
It’s been a while for many things in my life but as it relates to this blog, it’s been a an extra long while since I’ve posted. Many good and time consuming things have happened (and keep happening) that have kept me slightly preoccupied.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading some really good stuff (mostly short articles):
Below is an image about self service customer support tools created by Salesforce. I am wondering about beginning to write more formally about best practices in client services in a start-up, technology environment on my blog. It’s what I do for a living. I generally run client services and operations from beginning to end. I have managed all kinds of internal and external customers. I’ve been told (who knows if it’s actually true) that I’m a strong business networker with a credible reputation. Two of my Strength’s Finder strengths are “Woo” and “Communication” so it might be a good idea for me to start sharing some of my ideas on customer service. I will continue pondering…
It’s been a busy summer and an extremely busy year. Since late last year, we sold our old house, leased back/lived in a remodel that wasn’t ours, lived in a hotel for 3 weeks, I started a new job (yes another start up!), bought a new house that has required a lot of patience to get the builder (oh, I so want to link to the builder!) to do what was promised, worked on my songs, attended indoor soccer games, hung out with friends, managed not to take a real vacation, juggled multiple summer camps, and dealt with some heavy kid-related personal transition stuff. Just par for course in my life apparently. If I had not been exposed to the vagaries of the entrepreneurial life, I’m not sure I would have emerged in the functioning state that I have.
I like things to be somewhat loosely organized and have some sort of structure/plan, but it seems like life and other people don’t really care so they pile things on based on their life and not mine with no regard to whether the kids or I can handle it or not. I remember someone once told me that people dump on people because they know they can handle it because they have survived bad treatment before. So, if I (or others) became a puddle on the floor (as my realtor once told me I had every right to do) when really hard stuff happens, they would treat me with more consideration? That is weird logic if you ask me!
My kids have seen me act mostly with grace and on a few occasions express some natural human frustration, but overall I hope I’m modeling pick-yourself-up-and-move-on habits for them. Life isn’t fair. It’s not easy. Business isn’t easy. People completely abandon you. You lose your job. Teammates leave. The market changes. BUT, really great people show up to support you if you are genuine, try hard, and you smile in the face of adversity. I am lucky beyond belief in that area as big-hearted people have shown up for me constantly & consistently. Ironically, the people who I thought would be there for me and/or the kids disappeared.
I’m excited to start blogging about the new start-up I joined and plan to do so in a few months after we get through a funding round. It is a good job (link to post about what a good job is) with the potential of more than adequate comp should the risk we are taking pay off some day. So far the team, the location, the idea, and the market are all amazing! Time will tell. And even though I like to have some organization in a world of chaos, I love going into work not knowing exactly what I’ll be doing that day. I am 95% sure that having a job where I knew exactly what I was going to do the whole day would bore & irritate the heck out of me. I guess you have to be careful about what you ask for (or are programmed for) and what you do when the universe decides to give you a complicated present!
Pebble Technology wanted to raise $100,000 to make 1,000 wristwatches that can be programmed with different clock faces, and they ended up with $10.3 million. The founder of Pebble is 25 years old.
Designer Casey Hopkins asked for $75,000 to make a luxury iPhone dock out of solid aluminum. He got $1.4 million. That was in February 2012 and his project was the first to surpass $1 million.
Artist Rich Burlew asked for $57,750 to put his comic books back in print, and ended up with $1.3 million.
Ouya asked for $950,000 to create a game console and hit $8.6 million in pledges.
Apparently 10% of the films in this year’s SXSW film festival were funded by kickstarter!That’s incredible!
It seems easy, but there is a finder’s fee: Kickstarter takes 5 percent and Amazon.com Inc. takes another 3 to 5 percent for processing the payments. Recipients are also typically taxed on the funds.
It’s interesting to note that most, if not all, of the people who exceeded their fundraising goals already had a reputation for delivering good products as well as a loyal following. It would be much harder for someone to come out of nowhere and achieve the same results.
It will be interesting to see how long this trend lasts and if lawsuits will arise if people who contribute their money aren’t satisfied with what they get. How does one get a refund?
Love And 6 Other Things Your Subconscious Mind Controls “As a result, scientists are becoming increasingly convinced that how we experience the world – our perception, behavior, memory, and social judgment – is largely driven by the mind’s subliminal processes and not by the conscious ones, as we have long believed.”
I was on the committee to help with my kid’s school (Magellan International School) big annual fundraiser, Noche de Gala. I played a small part in a great event held at the Bob Bullock museum last weekend. The theme was “peace” so most of us wore white dresses or suits. There were many big and smaller items to auction
The lead organizers did an amazing job pulling everything together across multiple facets. I was one of the people in charge of collecting payments on items that were auctioned off and this year we used some cool technology. We downloaded free QR readers to our iPhones or Androids. We scanned the QR codes on the back of the bid card of the person who won an auction item. If the scan was successful, a page popped up hosted by MiniDonations with all their information pre-loaded. We just had to enter their credit card information and the amount and it was processed and subsequently put into the appropriate school account. It was kind of fun and neat to use and made me feel so efficient and powerful! The only thing I would recommend that MiniDonations add to their interface is a field for comments so we could put a note regarding what item the bidder was purchasing.
I always like using technology that makes things easier while being fun to use!
The following is a guest post from Kiva’s press team:
Kiva launches Kiva.org/women and Partners with Dermalogica’s joinFITE to Give Away $100,000 in Loans to Women around the World
KivaFor those of you who have made loans on Kiva.org in the past, this will come as a piece of good news. For those who haven’t – it’s a double whammy: you’re being introduced to Kiva AND finding out about their newest venture!
First, here’s what Kiva does, in a nutshell: Kiva.org is the world’s first and largest microlending website where anyone, anywhere can help alleviate poverty and empower entrepreneurs across the globe through loans as small as $25. Lending through Kiva creates a ripple effect in a local economy because with as little as $25, you enable an entrepreneur to build their business and bring goods to their community. As these businesses grow, so do other opportunities: to employ other members of the community, or to make enough money to send their children to school and learn to perhaps become business owners themselves one day. So your $25 loan might help lift an entire village out of poverty!
The latest piece of good news from the folks at Kiva is that, in honor of International Women’s Day, they are launching Kiva.org/women on March 7, 2012 to help empower women and create sustainable change.
To kickstart it, Dermalogica’s joinFITE program is funding a $100,000 Kiva Women free trial program. What does this mean for you? Free money! You’ll be able to make $25 loans to a female borrower of your choice without fronting a single penny (for as long as the Dermalogica money lasts).
Just for the record, Kiva has already been helping women around the world: since its launch in 2005, more than 80% of the loans funded through Kiva have been to women borrowers in 60 countries including the United States. Kiva has connected more than 600,000 women borrowers to nearly 650,000 lenders, crowdfunding more than $200 million in loans to women.
Because women have proven to be such massive agents of change in impoverished communities when given a minimum of resources, this program is designed to focus specifically on them.
Today I had the privilege of attending a fundraising lunch for Little Helping Hands, an Austin based non-profit that assists children/families in in volunteering for great causes in Austin. It was founded by two philanthropic, social entrepreneur parents who wanted to instill those same values in their kids. They organize kid friendly events so other non-profits in Austin can benefit from families and kids who want to volunteer together. Examples include helping to assemble and disassemble computers for organizations like Goodwill and giving out totes full of clothes and goodies to kids in foster care, etc. My good friend Rachel Muir invited me to the event. I am looking forward to finding an event where the kids and I can go volunteer together someday soon. I don’t think my kids realize how lucky they are and how much they have. I think instilling “giving back” values at this age will be valuable for them and whatever community they find themselves living in when they are older.
I link to Wikipedia often in my posts. My guess is 70% or greater of my posts I link to a page on Wikipedia because I find it to be accurate and unbiased, so I just donated. I also use it often as a reference guide (new age encyclopedia) when trying to find out information for personal or work related projects as well as for my kids’ school projects. So, please consider donating now. If you go to any page, you’ll notice the founder’s statement that if everyone who visited donated just $5, they would reach their goal to help keep it free. I donated $50 because I believe it’s a great resource. It’s amazing how many people volunteer their time to make this non-profit company and site reliable and work. This is from the donation site:
From Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales:
This is it. X hours left. We’re at the time of year when people all over the world come together to sustain and protect Wikipedia.
Not everyone can or will donate. And that’s fine, because each year just enough people support Wikipedia with a small donation. If you feel it’s your turn, please make a tax deductible donation of $5, $20, $30 or whatever you can to help us reach our goal before midnight tomorrow.
Most people don’t know this, but I’m a volunteer.
I don’t get paid a cent for my work at Wikipedia, and neither do our thousands of other volunteer authors and editors. When I founded Wikipedia, I could have made it into a for-profit company with advertising banners, but I decided to do something different.
Commerce is fine. Advertising is not evil. But it doesn’t belong here. Not in Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park. It is like a temple for the mind. It is a place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others. It is a unique human project, the first of its kind in history. It is a humanitarian project to bring a free encyclopedia to every single person on the planet.
Every single person.
We’re a small organization, and I’ve worked hard over the years to keep us lean and tight. We fulfill our mission, and leave waste to others.
To do this without resorting to advertising, we need you. It is you who keep this dream alive. It is you who have created Wikipedia. It is you who believe that a place of calm reflection and learning is worth having.
The time has come. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to protect and sustain Wikipedia.
A long time Adviser/Mentor of mine, who also happens to be a very successful investor, sent me a link to the Venture Capital Human Capital (VCHC) report. The findings were interesting but not too surprising (except for possibly the average age of the founding team, given I founded my first company at the “didn’t know any better” age of 26) from my vantage point. I have embedded the report below so you should be able to scroll through the pages.
They say: “In part 1 of our first-ever Venture Capital Human Capital Report, we look at the race of founders, the racial composition of founding teams, age of founding teams and the # of founders of VC backed companies to see if there is any relationship between these characteristics and the VC funding received.” Some of their findings:
87% of Founders are White; All-Asian Teams Raise the Most Funding
Nationally, South Asian and East/Southeast Asians are funded to a similar extent
83% of Teams are all White. All Asian teams raise more money.
Average founding team is age 35 to 44 years old.
39% of founders were CEO/Founders before. Sales/Marketing and Product Management/Development were common previous roles.
Majority of companies have two or more founders, but a third are led by one founder.
I just heard about this and it sounds pretty interesting. You don’t have to relocate to take advantage of this program.
TheFunded Founder Institute is a new founder-centric incubator that trains new and seasoned entrepreneurs the best practices for building next generation companies. The unique 4-month program offers remote participation, the industry’s most founder-friendly terms, focused mentorship and training from renowned CEOs, resources from leading service partners, fundraising opportunities at fair market value, and shared equity upside among all participants in the companies formed. Passionate Founders can apply today at www.FounderInstitute.com – registration for the Summer 2009 Semester ends on May 10th, 2009.
Why was the Founder Institute Created?
The National Venture Capital Association recently reported that VC fundraising dropped nearly 40% in Q1 of 2009. In these dire economic times, only the highest quality, most disciplined new businesses will proliferate – and The Founder Institute was created from the ground up to create such businesses. Our focus on quality is evident in our process;
– Institute Founders receive guidance from renowned, experienced start-up CEO Mentors.
– The Institute’s unique equity-sharing model aligns incentives and ensures maximum effort from all parties involved. When one of the Institute’s companies does well, all of the participating companies benefit – and when the Institute’s Mentors help the participating companies, they share in the upside as well.
– The Institute helps Founders secure investment at market rates and under the best possible terms – instead of forcing a valuation or equity purchase at a premature stage.
– The Institute does not require Founders to relocate or live on reduced incomes.
– The Institute sets up regular meetings with investors and the public throughout the company-building process to increase quality and focus.
– Institute Partners provide discounted or free services, so Founders can focus more time and resources on building the business.
Great Founders are often overlooked by the current entrepreneurial ecosystem, and innovative startups have a dramatic positive effect on the global economy. TheFunded Founder Institute aims to help the global economy by helping smart people start new, high-quality businesses.
My friend, Robb Lanum, sent the following email today:
What if they built a world-class theme park [Hard Rock name behind it] and nobody came? It happened. Myrtle Beach, SC. Seven years and $400 million to build. Opened April 2008, closed forever by September 2008. Park put up for auction with starting bid of $35 million in December, auction drew ZERO bids. They made $19.7 million in ticket sales.
What an expensive mistake with a world recognized brand name behind it. The articles mention the reasons they didn’t make it ranging from the economy, inability to raise enough money to properly market the opening, etc. But mostly it says, they couldn’t really figure it out.
Just imagine how many small, entrepreneurial businesses that spend millions of dollars and no one (or not enough people) end up buying their products so they can sustain themselves past the good times of ‘easy money’ into the current times of ‘hard to get’ or ‘no’ money. We’ve started to see those companies disappear. I’m wondering how Hard Rock can take a $400 million plus hit and how that will effect them during the next few years with regards to store openings and closings.
Now think about your start-up and think about whether you should start on that potential 7 year path and millions of dollars without knowing if anyone will show up on the other end.
Now think about your start-up and see if you can bootstrap it with a manageable amount of money, a reasonable time commitment, and have it ready and waiting when the economy turns.
Last year I made New Year resolutions despite not normally liking to do so. I even did a blog post called One Entrepreneur’s 2008 Goals. And guess what? Some of them came true and some of them didn’t. This year I’m not making any resolutions. I’m going to try to go more with the flow. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t have things I’d like to accomplish but I’m not going to make them goals.
Interestingly, I achieved all of my 2008 personal goals. I lost 5 lbs (actually I lost more like 8). I signed up for and took yoga as consistently as is possible with two kids and two jobs. The yoga helped me lose 5 lbs, the other 3 I lost due to stress and an ongoing existential crisis. I’m one of those people who doesn’t eat much and fidgets a lot when I get stressed. I know some people hate me for it, but let me tell you the elevated crazy brain activity more than overrides the weight loss benefit. I mean I don’t get as bad as seeing dead people, but I start saying and doing things that don’t make sense (at least to me), and I start making wild interpretations of other people’s actions (and non-actions) and words that probably don’t make sense but might and if they actually meant what I thought they meant, my world would be turned upside down. Yeah, don’t even try to understand that last sentence.
I even laughed more and that’s because my son is a budding comedian, and I work with some funny people at my day job. The only personal goal that I can’t say with 100% certainty I made significant progress in was “be less concerned with what other people think.” I made some progress, but the trauma of “what will they think of me if I wear a purple peacock hat to a lunch meeting?” still plagues me. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve cared less but I’m waiting for that day I can walk into a room and say whatever is on my mind (well not whatever because it would shock the innocent) and not give a flying flip if people think I’m nuts, a crazy entrepreneur, or a hysterical brown woman because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that what I’m saying is actually wise, intelligible, actionable, and worthy to be said.
I really only knocked out of the park one of my Babble Soft business goals and that was to “find great people to help make it happen.” And that happened when Nicole Johnson joined me as VP of Product Development back in October. We are slowly but surely making things happen and it’s so amazing to have someone as great as she is along for the ride. We don’t know how it will all turn out yet given what’s going on in the world, but I feel honored to be working with such a talented, personable individual, who can fully relate to my life situation of a day job and two little kids!
The other business goals were thwarted by: the economy, my husband leaving his job to consult and start an amazing dual language immersion school called The Magellan School (i.e., hence the day job – health care benefits are very important when you have kids), having to unexpectedly pay a significant portion of my father-in-law’s triple bypass surgery expenses (yes, he was not insured), my mid-life crisis, and a random butterfly flapping its wings in China.
But you know what? Despite not making most of my business goals, life is great. All my close family and friends are healthy. My kids laugh and smile every day which makes me happy. I enjoy my day job because although I’m underpaid (working on changing that slightly), it’s probably the best place I can be to help build the Austin entrepreneurial community and ride out this economic downturn. Plus, I really like the people I work with. I’m a huge believer in fostering an amazing work culture and a positive work environment, and we currently have that at the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) and I have that with Nicole at Babble Soft. So yes, overall my life is pretty darned good.
So my non-resolutions for 2009 are to sing more, laugh more, write more, make more funny faces at my kids, be less repressed, empower people, unashamedly love people, continue to take yoga, find a purple hat (any suggestions?), make some life changing decisions (I already got my hair cut short), and move the ball forward one day at a time on Babble Soft and at ATI.
Oh, did I mention I plan to curse more too! For most of my adult and teenage life many of my friends (most of them guys) have tried to get me to curse more and I saw no need for it. Their jaws would drop on the rare instances I would curse, so I’ll see if I can work in more curse words into my daily (or weekly) discourse (mostly off the blog because I have a hard time writing curse words). It might be awkward at first, but I’ll suck it up and overcome the awkwardness just like Dooce and The Bloggess have been able to. They are some of the top cursing mommy bloggers on the Internet today and I cry laughing (or is that laugh crying?) whenever I read their posts. I mean go read: This is one of those posts about how you can make money off your blog but instead of money you get a coupon for a burrito and tell me you don’t start laughing your ass off. I’ll just have to remember not to curse in front of the kids… Sorry mom!
The title of this post was inspired by a fortune cookie fortune. For those of you who are new readers, I did some posts a while back using fortunes from fortune cookies as blog titles. I thought this one was particularly appropriate given how challenging entrepreneurship can be and given the state of our economy. But here’s the interesting part, the fortune cookie actually read: “Love is like war; easy to begin but hard to stop.”
I felt myself nodding knowingly inside when I read it. How true it is in relation to both Love and Business. How relatively easy it can be to start a business or fall in love. We tell ourselves, it’s just an idea/romantic feeling…let’s see where it goes. One thing after another happens and if you don’t chicken out (or the playing field of potential significant others or stable jobs doesn’t pull you away), you find yourself:
Incorporating your business
Being in a committed relationship
Raising more funds
Buying a house
Releasing new products
Hiring more people
Hiring domestic help or losing your mind
Taking longer to break even
Taking longer to adjust to life with kids
Laying off people
Hiring a marriage counselor
Feeling an air of desperation
Experiencing a mid-life crisis
Closing up shop or going bankrupt
Getting a divorce
Becoming profitable and self sustaining
Living happily ever after!
No one goes into business or marriage believing that one day it might ‘stop’ or end. Yet, 80 to 90% of the time businesses (e.g., technology start-ups, restaurants, retail shops, side businesses) fail or barely break even, and last I heard 50 to 60% of marriages end in divorce and that rate has been increasing over the years. So much so that venture capitalists are actually funding sites like Divorce360.com and Agreed Divorces.com. They should also fund a site called ShutDownYourBusiness.com!
Stopping a business or a marriage is not easy. You get up every day and say to yourself: “Something will happen to make the business work. I’ll get funding. I’ll get that next customer. I can’t stop now!” You coast in your marriage thinking “I’ll keep myself busy and things will get better or make more sense. We’ll make it work for the sake of the kids.” Many times it does get better (after the sleep deprivation wears off) but sometimes you end up like Archie Bunker and Edith Bunker or other such couples who can’t stand each other but stay together because they don’t know what else to do. Or you end up a bitter, washed up individual who finds yourself going through the motions because you have defined yourself as an entrepreneur yet you could never build a sustaining business. You then end up feeling that life is unfair and you never got your well deserved lucky break.
I know this post might sound depressing, but these are the odds you are playing with when you start a business or marriage. Many entrepreneurs will fold up (and have already started to) their businesses due to tough economic times (no funding, no customers, etc.). They will use the bad economy as a welcome excuse for not making it. It is, after all, a justifiable/less ego-destroying way to explain to people why your business didn’t make it.
And by all means, take the opportunity to wrap things up if you can (for your and your family’s sanity) because it is going to be tougher than normal for a while. However, at the same time, the opportunities (volunteer help, cheaper resources, less competition) for being creative will be abundant.
The next few years are going to be interesting. Companies/marriages may fall apart because the changing economy ends up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Or they might outlast the downturn and be stronger on the other side. Many successful entrepreneurs have emerged from down economies and their success is surely a prerequisite for the economy turning around and thriving!
I, for one, am glad to be living in this day and age. In no other time in history (or probably not in any other country) could I have done what I’ve done, tried what I’ve tried, say what I say, write what I write, do what I do, or dream what I dream without being squashed.
What do you think? Is Business and Love like (the US war in Iraq)? Easy to begin but hard to stop?
Raising money is a hard thing to do and often harder when you are raising money for a non-profit. The payback isn’t measured in dollars, in quantifiable ROI (return on investment), or in perks and huge salaries. It’s measured in change. It’s measured in the effect your cause has made on your community…on the world. I have yet to read such an inspiring article/post on the matter of raising funds in a non-profit as the one written by Sasha Dichter, who works at the Acumen Fund, on Seth Godin’s blog called In Defense of Raising Money: a Manifesto for NonProfit CEOs. Whether you are in a non-profit or a company trying to be profitable, it is a MUST read! You can feel his passion in his post.
Here are a few excerpts, but please go read his entire post…it is truly inspiring.
“How good is your idea? How important is your cause? Important enough that you’ve given up another life to lead this life. You’ve given up another job, another steady paycheck, another bigger paycheck to do this all day long, every day, for years if not for decades, to make a change in the world and to right a wrong.”
“Breast cancer has an unbelievable level of awareness in the United States, definitely ahead of all other cancers. Yet breast cancer is actually the 5th leading cause of cancer death in the United States, behind lung, stomach, liver and colon cancer.(2) So why does it get the most attention and the most funding?”
“So why are you so scared to ask people for money? …
How about this instead: “You are incredibly good at making money. I’m incredibly good at making change. The change I want to make in the world, unfortunately, does not itself generate much money. But man oh man does it make change. It’s a hugely important change. And what I know about making this change is as good and as important as what you know about making money. So let’s divide and conquer – you keep on making money, I’ll keep on making change. And if you can lend some of your smarts to the change I’m trying to make, well that’s even better. But most of the time, we both keep on doing what we’re best at, and if we keep on working together the world will be a better place.”
If only we could all feel as passionate about our lives and ideas with this same level of intensity every day, but most of us can’t (maybe even Sasha doesn’t feel this way every day) so we read posts like these and get inspired by someone else’s passion. What a true gift of charity when people share their wisdom and passion…expecting nothing in return…except for maybe a little change.