Entrepreneurship, Leadership

The Key to Startup Success?

A friend of mine recently asked me what I thought the key to a successful startup was. Even though I’m involved in the entrepreneurship community and have heard many others speak on this topic, I wanted to make sure I gave him a thoughtful answer. I kept thinking of everything I’ve learned over my number of years engaged in entrepreneurship from both an operator and facilitator standpoint: Business Model Canvas, Learn Canvas, the importance of customer development, user experience design, etc. The one thing that kept sticking in my mind, however, is the need for great people. What I mean by this is leaders who have complementary skills with the ability to productively work in concert to accomplish a goal. There are several important parts of this definition:

Leaders – individuals who can inspire and enable the success of others. This includes the recruiting, training, and retaining of employees and cofounders.

Complimentary Skills – See previous post.

Productively Work in Concert – This doesn’t mean that founders have to cover favorite bands at the local coffee shop every night, but teams should have compatible working styles.

To Accomplish a Goal – Your end goal will change along the journey but whatever it changes to, the team must still work together to reach it.

Want your startup to have the best chance of success? Have the best team possible. You need only read the latest startup news in your favorite tech publications to see the impact this can have. By the way, this doesn’t just apply to the startup world: in any size corporation, the most fundamentally important asset is great people. Tweet at me with #startuphire, and tell me whether you agree or disagree!

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Community, Entrepreneurship, Technology

Technology / Government / Data

No, not that kind of technology. This week, the legislative committee I chair in Stamford kicked off what I hope will be an ongoing conversation about the use of technology and data in our government. It is very exciting to think about the opportunities that are available to not only improve the quality of life for many in the city, but also increase the operational efficiency of how the city operates. Stamford also has the potential to be on the leading edge of not just opening up data for viewing, but enabling the use of data through APIs. Our ability to make these long-term investments takes more than just a wish, and I look forward to working with local, state, and private officials to see Stamford become a true “smart city.”

It has been fantastic for me to view these opportunities from both a government and private sector perspective. I am very thankful for the opportunities I have been given to learn as much as I have. I hope it will serve me well in the future, as AOL co-founder Steve Case predicts. Too often, we see governments in the United States (and perhaps elsewhere) trying to shape technological solutions to their purported needs rather than being adaptive to the rapid evolution of available solutions. Part of the reason for this is the embedded process of these types of institutions (ie bureaucracy), but that doesn’t mean our governments can’t be a little more agile; it just takes some evolving of their own.

How would you like to see cities effectively use technology and data? Tweet at me with #SmartCity to let me know!

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Community, Entrepreneurship

Other Side of the Island: Startup Weekend New Jersey

newJersey_v02

I didn’t have to do much traveling to facilitate Startup Weekend New Jersey, but the amount of energy here would have certainly made a longer trip worth it. There were some great pitches on Friday night, and I’m excited to see these teams progress over this weekend and beyond. One in particular (that shall go nameless since they are still developing) is an app that, if developed, I would use immediately and every single day.

The space where this event is being held is very dynamic. If you’re a New Jersey company looking for coworking space, I definitely recommend checking out JuiceTank. Private, semi-private, and open space is available (with parking!!).

Startup Weekend is an organization that is focused on building entrepreneurship communities around the world. Now, we can add New Jersey to that long list. Looking forward to Sunday night pitches!

Be sure to follow the action on Twitter, or tweet at me directly.

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Community, Entrepreneurship

A Facilitator’s Journey: Startup Weekend Lancaster

That was quite the drive. But after hours of road time through the back hills of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, I have arrived at the small city of Lancaster. As preparation to facilitate the Startup Weekend event this weekend, I learned how to correctly pronounce the city’s name. This is one of the smallest events I have been to with less than 40 people attending. The experience is great, just the same, though. Friday night pitches were creative, and I heard some fantastic ideas: everything from 3D printed coffee-top designs to a ride sharing app.

As of the time of this writing, the teams have coalesced into four (maybe five) teams, and are working hard to flush out their ideas and start some software and customer development. I am continuously impressed by the level of passion individuals bring to their work at Startup Weekend events, even if the idea isn’t originally theirs. Can’t wait for Sunday night presentations!

Follow some of the action on Twitter, and be sure to tweet at me with #startups. Go teams!

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Entrepreneurship

On Shoulders of Giants

In the last 15 years, we have seen tremendous disruption of certain industries, with everything from human resources (Linkedin) to movie rentals (Netflix) being affected. Not every startup can be a Linkedin or Netflix, however, and most in fact aren’t. Industry disruption, however, it not the only path to success. There are many businesses which leverage existing platforms, both software and hardware, in new and innovative ways. With the right value proposition for those existing stakeholders, there is a very good chance of creating win-win situations.

So when thinking about innovative solutions, don’t just think of how existing infrastructure can be replaced, also consider how that infrastructure can be used in a new and innovative way.

What are some antiquated platforms that are ripe for innovation? Tweet at me with #polishneeded, and let me know!

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Adventure, Entrepreneurship

Unappreciated Detail

Cambodia

I recently returned from a trip to Cambodia where I spent a few days exploring the ancient temples. It was an amazing trip, and I wholly recommend it to anyone interested in these types of excursions. One thing I noticed immediately about  all of the temples was the level of detail put in to them.

To think that these were built hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago with no electricity or modern equipment is incredible.

CambodiaWhat was equally impressive was that this detail could be found inside as well as outside the building that weren’t exactly small. I cannot imagine the thousands of man-hours it took to create these buildings (or the consequences for those who made a mistake on them). As I walked through these temples, I found myself thinking about a lesson I quickly learned in the startup world: focus on your core. At Startup Weekend, we often describe this as an MVP, or minimum viable product. Working for a small startup or a large organization, you have a finite amount of resources to build products and services for your customers. As you work on your product or service, remind yourself of what is necessary and what is superfluous. Without this focus, human and capital resources will quickly become scarce, much like the Khmer Empire.

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