"Entrepreneurs and small businesses are often in need of affordable technology assistance. With limited budgets, many of the existing solutions are too costly. The idea of reaching out to tech savvy college students on a part-time basis not only makes financial sense but also develops these soon-to-be-graduates for the workforce. This concept can even enhances local economic development initiatives by addressing brain drain while encouraging students to pursue entrepreneurship." So states TechStudents.net, a service that connects small business with technology students.
"12Management is a management science portal that summarizes over 300 management methods, models and organizational theories, combining scientific rigor with practical relevance. The methods are classified into 12 (partly overlapping) management disciplines."
Via this post from Business & Technology Reinvention.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 12/30/2005
What all firms have in common is the ability to integrate legal considerations into the firm?s overall strategy, not only to stay out of trouble but also to create value and manage risk. That?s what winning legally is all about. So contends Constance E. Bagley, associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, in this interview from HBS Working Knowledge. From the interview:
"Q: How can managers ensure that legal strategy aligns with corporate strategy?
A: Framing is critical here. There are legal aspects to every corporate strategy. Law is not separate and apart from what managers do. The law affects each of Porter's Five Forces as well as the resources and capabilities of the firm. The availability of patents may be key to deciding what barriers to entry exist. The enforceability of covenants not to compete and assignments of inventions may determine who captures the value of knowledge created by employees. The risk of product liability may make it unwise to pursue certain marketing strategies..."
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 12/29/2005
"The questions we ask determine the answers we get. And it is from these answers that we create the actions of our day-to-day lives. This simple progression of questions to answers to actions implies that if we want more effective and productive actions, we can start by asking ourselves better questions....Will it take some time? Yes it will. But it will be time well-spent...Schedule a two hour appointment (or schedule 10 minutes each day and do one question a day) with yourself in a quiet place, with your Journal, computer or just a pad of paper and record your answers to these questions.
1. What did I learn this year?...
2. What did I accomplish this year?...
3. Which accomplishments am I proudest of?...
4. Knowing what I know now, what would I have done differently in the past year?...
5. What will be my greatest lasting memories of this year?...
6. In what ways did I contribute?...
7. What were my biggest challenges or obstacles?...
8. What obstacles did I overcome? And how did you do it?...
9. Who are the most interesting people I met?...
10. How have they changed my life?...
11. How am I different now than I was at the start of the year?...
12. What am I most grateful for?...
13. What else do I want to reflect on?...
These are thirteen powerful questions. But the power comes not from asking them, but from answering them..."
Read more in this post from getmotivation.com.
This J-Walk Blog post offers an instructive perspective on sending copyright infringement "cease and desist" to bloggers. I wonder if offering a license or otherwise granting the J-Walk blog permission to use the copyrighted material might have better served the interests of the copyright holder, the National Geographic Society. The post is reprinted below:
"Today I received a certified letter from Susan Borke, the Deputy General Counsel of the National Geographic Society. She claims that the J-Walk Blog contains nine (9) instances of unauthorized use of photographs and excerpts from several National Geographic articles. I must remove them all.
Problem is, she didn't give any specific URLs. I could find only three photos (which I've deleted). She also claims "unauthorized use of the NGS name and logo." I've never reproduced their logo. Is she telling me that I can't even write "National Geographic" in a blog entry?
So what did she accomplish by sending me a form letter?
1. She has changed my opinion of the NGS. In the past, I've always had a very positive attitude about the organization. Not any more.
2. Over the years, I've probably sent 5,000 or so visitors to their site. Now, I will never link to a National Geographic site again.
Nice job, Deputy General Counsel."
Reprinting a post from Texas Venture Capital Web 2.0 Blog. Please see the post for a link to the article mentioned:
"CIO Magazine has a great list of the 'Top Five Open Source Events of 2005' on their website. The list:
Red Hat makes money from free software
Sun is making everything open source (except Java)
Motorola uses Linux in their phones
Firefox created 100MM downloads
VCs invested $400MM in open source start ups in 2005
They ask the question: What will happen in 2006?"
The Tuck Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship offers for download informative case studies and other excellent teaching materials that are used in Tuck's MBA courses. Topics covered include angel investing, buyouts, private equity deal structures, private placement memoranda, venture capital due diligence, private equity asset allocation, venture capital portfolio management, limited partnership agreements and exit strategies.
This collection of articles from angelscorner.com provides useful information on accepting and making private equity investments, as well as business planning, financial planning, business valuation, marketing and tax issues.
"While ROI analysis is a must-do for any self-respecting management team, ROI is often misused and little understood.
Over the years, after countless ROI analyses for leading software providers, my opinions have fundamentally shifted about the use of ROI analysis and how meaningful ROI results can be. In short, my take on ROI has shifted away from the belief that the results of ROI are factual and the goal of the ROI exercise is to find the answer...the real teaching of ROI is not in solving the equation, but in learning through the process. ROI is a journey not a destination."
Read more in this excellent article from Darwin Online.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 12/27/2005
"Welcome to the Corporate Gibberish Generator on AndrewDavidson.com. Enter your company name and click...to generate several paragraphs of corporate gibberish suitable for pasting into your prospectus. (The gibberish is geared more toward Internet and technology companies.)" Here, for example, is a bit o' BizzBangBuzz gettin' jibby wit' it:
"We here at BizzBangBuzz have come to know that it is better to repurpose vertically than to matrix ultra-magnetically...better to revolutionize intuitively than to architect dynamically...BizzBangBuzz has refactored the concept of leading-edge, proactive fractal Total Quality Control. Think customer-directed. Think six-sigma, social-network-based. Think cross-media. But don't think all three at the same time..."
"While a bold idea, unflagging determination and patient financial backers are all crucial to successful start-ups, entrepreneurs must also focus on less dramatic aspects of running a company, according to seasoned entrepreneurs who spoke at the 8th Annual Wharton Entrepreneurship Conference.
This means paying attention to investment relationships, exit strategies and the mechanics of building a business, including hiring, firing, marketing and distribution..."
Read more in this Knowledge@Wharton article for CNET.
Well worth reading is this summary from Joe Hadzima "of the important information conveyed by some 50 speakers in over 100 hours of practical presentations at the M.I.T. Business Plan Competitions Seminars over the past six years." An example of the advice offered:
"Everything Must Tie Together. The Business Plan should be internally consistent and tie to any presentation you will make. This seems obvious, but I can't tell you how many times I have seen plans which present a cluttered, inconsistent message. We all have difficulty critiquing our own work, so have your plan reviewed by several people who haven't been involved in putting it together and ask them for frank feedback."
Wow, I have seen way more movies than usual this year. Here is my list grouped by categories. I recommend any movie I have awarded three or more stars to.
**** Four Stars
Good Night and Good Luck
Pride and Prejudice
Walk the Line
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
***1/2 Three Point Five Stars
The Constant Gardener
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
*** Three Stars
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
Me and You and Everyone We Know
March of the Penguins
Hustle & Flow
Lord of War
Everything is Illuminated
The Corpse Bride
A History of Violence
The Weather Man
**1/2 Two Point Five Stars
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The Wedding Crashers
The 40 Year-old Virgin
Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story
"One of the first decisions that you will have to make as a business owner is how the company should be structured. This decision will have long-term implications, so consult with an accountant and attorney to help you select the form of ownership that is right for you. In making a choice, you will want to take into account the following:
Your vision regarding the size and nature of your business.
The level of control you wish to have.
The level of 'structure' you are willing to deal with.
The business's vulnerability to lawsuits.
Tax implications of the different ownership structures.
Expected profit (or loss) of the business.
Whether or not you need to re-invest earnings into the business.
Your need for access to cash out of the business for yourself. "
Read more in this guide from the SBA that explains the basics regarding the essential choices - sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and limited liability company.
This Intellectual Property Guide prepared by the Small Business and Technology Development Center, a business development service of the University of North Carolina, provides a good overview and resources for businesses and inventors. The Guide covers the basics of Patent, Trademarks and Copyrights.
From a Philip Brooks' Patent Infringement Updates post. Please refer to Mr. Brook's post for related links.
"Christopher A. Colvin of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP and Tom Steiglehner of Silver Point Capital present 10 questions as a framework for evaluating a company's intellectual property portfolio in the December print issue of the Journal of Corporate Renewal from the Turnaround Management Association.
What are the company's three most valuable IP assets?
What are the company's three least valuable IP assets?
What is the company's offensive IP strategy?
What is the company's defensive IP strategy?...
What is the company's foreign IP strategy?
What will the company's IP portfolio look like in five years? 10 years?
Has the company 'locked up' its IP assets?
Who is managing the company's IP portfolio?
Has IP management contributed to business shortcomings?
Is the company's IP strategy thoroughly integrated with its overall business plan?"
"Our primary mission in creating the Business Plan Archive is to enable entrepreneurs of the future to learn from the lessons of the past. In the interest of sparking discussion and ideas, here are ten lessons we take from our observations of the dot com shakeout.
Nothing changes overnight.
New stuff doesn't replace old stuff.
Too early to market? Too bad.
Many startups were fundamentally uncreative and "un-Internet
All we, like sheep, will go astray (with enough pressure).
Free is folly.
We used narrowcast to broadcast.
The $50 million rule can kill.
It's hugely difficult to build chicken and egg simultaneously.
Prediction tools must improve."
Read more at Business Plan Archive.
Venture capitalist Danny Rimer has made investments in companies across the field. In this BusinessWeek interview, venture capitalist, Danny Rimer talks about the criteria he uses in making an investment in an open source software company, stating:
"Early on we had to come up with key criteria. It's not difficult to create a successful small business if you're an open-source vendor. But we're a VC firm looking to make returns [of 10 times our initial investment] for [our investors]. We're looking for $100 million in revenue potential. A small business that's highly profitable, making $15 million a year, is not going to move the dial for us. We're looking to invest in major software vendors.
So what are those criteria?
I call them the three Cs. These are necessary from the onset to make it an attractive story. The first is community. There has to be a huge amount of interest in it. [MySQL, Zend, and TrollTech] were already incredibly popular [when we invested]. The community is your marketing and evangelism arm. They're going to contribute and make sure this piece of software truly becomes mainstream.
The second C is commodity. Open-source companies absolutely can't have a new, innovative technology. They have to be smarter approaches to existing technology. They have to be [technologies] that developers and buyers already understand...
The third C is price cushion. There has to be a big enough difference between what proprietary vendors are charging and open source is charging, so that over time open-source companies can charge more and still have enough of a price cushion to make it interesting for customers."
"Chris Campbell has compiled an excellent nut & bolts guide to starting your business...He covers chosing a structure, finding an accountant, bookkeeping, taxes, deductions, lawyers, copyright, contracts, and invoices, among other things." For links to the guide, please see this post from Startup Fever.
Reporting on the results of a recent study:
"'When people feel happy, they tend to feel confident, optimistic, and energetic and others find them likable and sociable,' said Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California, Riverside. 'Happy people are thus able to benefit from these perceptions.'...
Among the good things that come from happiness: positive perceptions of self and others, sociability, creativity, a strong immune system, and effective coping skills."
Read more in this article from LiveScience
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 12/19/2005
"When you start a new business, you need money to get it off the ground. You need the money to rent or purchase space for the business, furniture and equipment, supplies, professional fees such as legal and accounting, as well as continuing the research and development of your product or service. You may also need money to pay employees. There are several places where you can get the money that a new business needs, but first you need to think about which type of funding will work best for your company."
This article from Howstuffworks explains in understandable terms the differences among various types of financing, helps you decide which is best for your company, and gives you tips on obtaining the funding you need to get your business off to a running start.
"The ideal business sells the world...offers a product which enjoys an "inelastic" demand....which cannot be easily substituted or copied...has minimal labor requirements...low overhead...does not require big cash outlays or major investments in equipment...has cash billings...is relatively free of all kinds of government and industry regulations...easily moveable...satisfies your intellectual (and often emotional) needs...leaves you with free time...[and] is one in which your income is not limited by your personal output..."
Read more in this article from Richard Russell.
This post from Philip Brooks points to an article written by "J. Timothy Cromley, CPA, for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) about the '20 Steps for Pricing a Patent.' He is an accredited senior appraiser in business valuations, a professional engineer and a registered U.S. patent attorney providing professional business valuation services for the Valuation Advisory Services Group of JPMorgan Chase & Co. "
"In spirit of the holidays, here is a list [from Don Hinchcliffe]of some of the best Web 2.0 software...You may have heard of some of these, but hopefully you'll find a few nice new Christmas presents under your Web 2.0 tree." Found via this post from robhyndman.com.
This is the index to a series of posts by Chris Newham about the fourteen features of proposed model of leadership, A Vision of Leadership. Chris solicits your comments about the proposal.
The model is driven by two pairs of values that are often perceived as competing: lead and follow, implement and innovate. The index follows the order of posting. Each model feature is italicized in the post title. Found via this Random Thoughts from a CTO post.
- Missing, a Follower
- Visions of Leadership
- A Vision of Leadership - A Tetrahedral Model
- A Vision of Leadership - A Heartfelt Vision
- Respect Empowers Follower and Leader
- Realizing Drives Innovation and Implementation
- Structuring - How Leaders Implement
- Responding - Follow and Innovate
- Conforming - Follow and Implement
- Improvising - Lead and Innovate
- Six Practices Through Others' Eyes
- Visualization - The First Face of Leadership
- Organization for Implementation
- Innovation vs Implementation
- Contribution - The Essence of Following
- Collaboration for Innovation
- Donald Trump and A Vision of Leadership
- Lean Leadership
- Innovation Occurs on a Foundation of Organization
- Implementation Energized by Collaboration
- Lead While Staying Grounded
- A Conscious Decision to Follow is an Act of Leadership
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 12/16/2005
The Service Corp of Retired Executives offers a collection of small business templates at Template Gallery. Included are templates for business plans, break-even analysis, making a loan request and many other useful planning tools. The templates as available as Word or Excel documents as well as PDF format.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 12/10/2005
Continuing the current trend of large-scale mergers and acquisitions, it was announced today at a press conference that Christmas and Hannukah will merge. An industry source said that the deal had been in the works for about 1300 years.
While details were not available at press time, it is believed that the overhead cost of having twelve days of Christmas and eight days of Hannukah was becoming prohibitive for both sides. By combining forces, we're told, the world will be able to enjoy consistently high-quality service during the fifteen days of Christmukah, as the new holiday is being called.
Massive layoffs are expected, with lords-a-leaping and maids-a-milking being the hardest hit.
As part of the conditions of the agreement, the letters on the dreidel currently in hebrew, will be replaced by latin, thus becoming unintelligible to a wider audience.
Also, instead of translating to "a great miracle happened there," the message on the dreidel will be the more generic "miraculous stuff happens."
In exchange, it is believed that Jews will be allowed to use Santa Claus and his vast merchandising resources for buying and delivering their gifts.
In fact, one of the sticking points holding up the agreement for at least three hundred years was the question of whether Jewish children could leave milk and cookies for Santa even after having eaten meat for dinner. A breakthrough came last year, when Oreos were finally declared to be kosher.
All sides appeared happy about this. A spokesman for Christmas, Inc., declined to say whether a takeover of Kwanzaa might not be in the works as well. He merely pointed out that were it not for the independent existence of Kwanzaa, the merger between Christmas and Hanukkah might indeed be seen as an unfair cornering of the U.S. holiday market. Fortunately for all concerned, he said, Kwanzaa will help to maintain the competitive balance.
He then closed the press conference by leading all present in a rousing rendition of "Oy, Come All Ye Faithful."
(An oldie but a goodie)
This post from Fresh Inc. offers year end tax tips including:
"Pay off accounts...Make capital investments...Stock up on supplies...Distribute profits...Save for retirement...Make charitable donations...Get slow movers off your books...Adjust your estimated taxes..."
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 12/09/2005
The National Venture Capital Association offers this
"'template' set of model legal documents for venture capital investments put together by a group of leading venture capital attorneys. The model venture capital financing documents consist of:
Stock Purchase Agreement
Certificate of Incorporation
Investor Rights Agreement
Right of First Refusal and Co-Sale Agreement
Management Rights Letter
...The model documents aim to:
-reflect and in a number of instances, guide and establish industry norms
-be fair, avoid bias toward the VC or the company/entrepreneur
-present a range of potential options, reflecting a variety of financing terms
-include explanatory commentary where necessary or helpful
-anticipate and eliminate traps for the unwary (e.g., unenforceable or unworkable provisions)
-provide a comprehensive set of internally consistent financing documents
-promote consistency among transactions
-reduce transaction costs and time"
This article from Howstuffworks provides an easily understandable overview of business bankruptcy stating:
"Bankruptcy is one of the most complex areas of law, incorporating elements of contract law, corporate law, tax law and real estate law. In recent years, several high-profile corporations like Enron, WorldCom and Adelphia have filed for bankruptcy. Although businesses only accounted for about 2 percent of all bankruptcy filings in the United States last year, commercial bankruptcies can have a big impact on the economy because there can be a lot of money at stake.
In this article, we'll explain the different types of bankruptcy filings under United States law, figure out who pays what to whom, and describe the process of reorganizing a company and running it under bankruptcy."
The Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship of Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business provides a comprehensive Private Equity Glossary featuring everything from "'A'-Round" to "Zombie."
In case you were wondering: "A" Round is "a financing event whereby venture capitalists become involved in a fast-growth company that was previously financed by founders and/or angels." And a Zombie is "a company that has received capital from investors but has only generated sufficient revenues and cash flow to maintain its operations without significant growth."
Please see this post from Dane Carlson for another glossary of VentureSpeak from 3i.
I avoid using the sappy, vapid phrase "Happy Holidays." I much prefer greeting others with "Merry Christmas" and, the more traditional, "Season's Greetings."
I find it hard to understand how anyone could be offended by such a greeting. For instance, many of my friends and colleagues are Jewish, and I am relatively certain that none of them has ever been offended by hearing a hearty "Merry Christmas" greeting from me. Nor am I offended when I am wished a joyous and happy new year when Rosh Hashana rolls around. If someone is wishing for me happiness and blessings, then I am all for it.
As Dave Hoggard puts it:
"My traditional holiday greeting is not intended as an insult or to disparage anyone, I just truly dislike the phrase "Happy Holidays". "Merry Christmas" means something. "Habari Gani" means something. "Happy Chanukah" means something. "Happy Holidays" means nothing more than "I hold no traditions nor beliefs dear and don't think you should either, but I hope your few days off of work are pleasant."
Or as David C. Stolinsky, M.D., who is Jewish, states in this provocative article:
"This year it seems that fewer people wish one another "Merry Christmas." Instead, in an effort not to give offense, they say "Happy Holidays."
Obviously, Christmas means the most to Christians, who make up the large majority of Americans. Yet non-Christians can also enjoy the beauty of the season, and they can honor the holiday without observing it – unless they are eager to take offense...
Some would distort freedom of religion into freedom from religion. They take offense at anything that does not accord with their own beliefs – or lack of belief. They insist that the nation revolve around them...
Is there too much happiness in the world? Is there a shortage of sadness and grief? Does hearing "Joy to the world" really cause a problem?
Is there too much friendship in the world? Is there a deficiency of hatred and strife? Does "Peace on earth, good will toward men" really sound oppressive?...
Is there too much fellowship in the world? Is there a dearth of hostility and ill will? Does a hearty "Merry Christmas!" really give offense?
Is there too much light in the world? Is there a scarcity of darkness and gloom? Do pretty lights really cause distress?
A wise man said that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. But what would he have thought of those who curse the candle?"
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 12/06/2005
The Carbolic Smoke Ball is a blog from one Judge Rufus Peckham in the style of the Onion, but, funnier (so claims a recent post with which I must agree). Just having the headlines show up in my rss reader ordinarily makes me smile. Some examples of headlines from recent "stories."
Lego Forced To Vacate World Headquarters Because Plastic Floors Can't Support Weight Of Employees
First 'Face Transplant' Patient Slips Out Of Hospital Without Paying Bill -- Because No One Recognized Her
Venus De Milo To Get Breast Enlargement To Boost Crowds At The Louvre
Ex-People's Court Judge Wapner Brought In To Speed Saddam Hussein Trial To Conclusion; Verdict Expected In 15 Minutes
FDA Recalls Insecticide "Raid" Because Of High Incidence Of Life-Threatening Disease In Insects
MIT Study Shows That Heat At Adequate Temperatures Can Prevent Freezing
Company Hits It Big Publishing Physician Waiting Room Magazines That Appear To Be Outdated
Most Hate Crimes Driven By Loathing And Detestation
Ted Williams' Head Thawed Out For Annual Press Conference
The gifted storyteller and former radio broadcaster John Henry Faulk recorded his Christmas story in 1974 for the program Voices in the Wind. You may read and listen to this wonderful story about the joy of simplicity, sharing and fellowship by visiting NPR : John Henry Faulk's 'Christmas Story'. Many thanks to Tammy Lenski's Strategic Conversations for the link.
"Ilana DeBare has a good column in the San Francisco Chronicle Small Business Section on bootstrapping. She interviews Bruce Maxwell, a serial entrepreneur, on the topic. Maxwell says, 'Bootstrapping is founded on two simple techniques. The first is time-shifting your payables into the future...The Second technique is barter.'"
For a link to the column, please see post from Mary Sullivan's Way to Grow.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 12/05/2005
"Starting a successful company involves solving a critical problem for a targeted group of customers. To be able to do that, you have to understand the customer extremely well, and be an expert in their interests, needs and problems.
It's not a coincidence that a lot of successful companies are formed by a few individuals that leave a parent company to start a similar company to meet the needs of their sector. They have worked in the space for a few years, understand the needs very well and create a solution that meets those needs. No amount of market research or interviews will give you that level of understanding, so they have an inherent advantage against competitors...
So, if you're starting a company, find a problem in the fields you are familiar with and focus on that. You'll have a much higher probability of success and likely find yourself with some unfair advantages that you can use..."
Read more in Why VCs Don't Start Companies - Sean on Life.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 12/05/2005
The mission of the NetMBA Business Knowledge Center is to provide high quality business knowledge resources via the Internet. The Center publishes excellent and informative articles in various subjects of business administration. The articles cover both basic and advanced topics, and include frameworks and theories that are useful for solving the more challenging problems of business administration. Subjects covered include Accounting, Economics, Finance, Management, Marketing, Operations, Statistics and Strategic Management. Well worth a look.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 12/02/2005
"Fast growing, entrepreneurial organizations need employees who regularly demonstrate entrepreneurial characteristics and work habits...So what are the characteristics of highly effective "Right Stuff" entrepreneurial employees? Here are a few to keep in mind as you interview potential new hires...
Ability to Deal With Risk....
Read more in this article by Joe Hadzima.
"This paper [from Salman Farmanfarmaian] outlines a methodology for valuing preferred stock and other complex financial instruments used primarily in ventre capital. Although venture capitalists appear to have a solid understanding of the capital structures they create, the analytical framework described here, as well as the graphical interpretations used to show the payout to stakeholders in a liquidation event, can serve in explaining some seemingly complex capital structures to management teams or stockholders who might have less sophisticated financial backgrounds."
This post from The Entrepreneurial Mind points to Tekrati Analyst Cafe: Analyst Blogs as a rich source of technology oriented industry information, stating:
"Not only is industry data like this is critical for effective start-up planning, but also for managing the growth of a business. Business planning should be a process, not an event...[T]he market you are entering is probably under going dynamic change. This change is what in most cases creates the opportunity you are pursuing. You are entering what Peter Vaill calls permanent white water.
Your plan is full of assumptions, not just facts. Assumptions need to be tested and refined. Sometimes they need to be abandoned if proven wrong. The plan is more like a general map of a river. It shows where you will be headed, but the key to your success in navigating this river is in your ability to adjust.."
Ed Sim offers these tips for the first VC meeting:
"1. Be flexible...
2. Have a well-honed elevator pitch...
3. The Slide Deck: make it short and sweet, 15-20 slides will do...
4. Listen and ask questions: try to get feedback about your business and the opportunity...
4. The Demo...I like them live, but...there are 20 things that can happen in a demo, 19 of which can go wrong. So be prepared and have a cached version of your service to walk through.
5. Next steps: In any meeting, never forget to ask about the next steps...
A couple of other points to add:
Pre-meeting: Research the VC...
A couple of don'ts: don't be late, don't be arrogant, and don't ask for an NDA before you start the pitch."
According to various studies, approximately 80,000 new blogs launch every day, including dozens of legally-oriented "blawgs." No one knows how many blawgs exist, but whatever the number, monitoring them would amount to a full-time job. For this reason, the folks at The TechnoLawyer Community have published BlawgWorld 2006, an eBook designed to take you on a journey through 51 of the most influential blawgs.
To receive your free copy of BlawgWorld 2006 visit http://www.blawgworld.com and register at no charge.
There are 25 million living Americans veterans - all having proudly served our country. When their tour of duty ends many dream of becoming business owners. And the US Small Business Administration can help.
In the November edition of SBA Solutions, discover what resources and finance options are available to vets. Plus, tips for anyone starting a business. Also visit the SBA's Office of Veterans Business Development that formulates, executes, and promotes policies and programs to assist veteran entrepreneurs for more about the resources and lending programs designed especially for veterans.
Good article from Post Money Value on the proper way for a technology company to conduct an employee exit interview. Hightlights include:
1. Do the interview yourself until you hit 100 people...
2. Say Thank You.
First words spoken at an exit interview. Thank you for working here and contributing, all of us appreciate it. And mean it. Say thank you.
3. If a re-hire, then give them a priority ?come on back? pass...
4. Free software/services/equipment for over X number of years...
5. Keep a connection...
Respect will get you armies of people you aren?t paying for, perspective you probably need, and help you won?t have to ask for...Good people move on for lots of reasons and assuming bad stuff wasn?t the prime reason, it makes good sense to retain some value in that relationship."
Businessballsis a free online self-help, and training and development resource for people and organizations, run by Alan Chapman, in Leicester, England. The site features "free materials, articles, and ideas for ethical personal and organizational development, compassionate leadership, self-help and self-fulfillment...for learning, self-help and for helping others, and for bringing more compassion and humanity to organizations and beyond."
"Passion. Vision. Focus. Courage. Will. These are just a few signature traits of successful entrepreneurs. But where do these traits come from? Are they hard-wired into our DNA or acquired over time, like wrenches in a toolbox?
Thomas Harrison, a former cell biologist turned marketing guru...concurs that there are indeed born entrepreneurs, he concedes that others may have latent traits, which can be teased out and developed by using the eight techniques described in his book.
Are you in the lucky gene club? Find out by taking this entrepreneurial personality quiz [from Forbes.com] , adapted from Harrison's book. The 30 questions are geared toward measuring five broad aspects of personality: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Just choose an answer for each question, and check the results when you're done."
David Beisel compiled this list of the Seven Founding Sins ? common mistakes which often divert entrepreneurs off the path towards success.
"Inauthenticity...A founding team should not only have the relevant experience, but also immediate and authentic understanding of the end-users?/customers? need...
Sloth...founding a company is not a full-time job. It?s a full-time life...
Extravagance...employees treat resources with the same respect that those in power do.
Taciturnity...Founders need to ensure that all of the constituents who are involved in making the company a success...are regularly updated....
Arrogance...Founders must realize the limits of their abilities and seek help/input when others on the team are more informed or in a better position to make decisions...
Indecisiveness...In the end, tough choices are indeed tough, founding entrepreneurs need to make them..."
Read more in this Genuine VC post.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 11/25/2005
"O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
by Samuel Pugh
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 11/24/2005
"Forecasting is a pain, so we adopted the model of as 12-month rolling forecast with quarterly reforecasts (and correspondingly quarterly incentive comp structures) out of necessity. For early stage companies in emerging industries, there are simply too many moving parts in the business to provide enough visibility to produce an accurate 12-month budget. There are really four factors at work here:
- Recurring revenue: for any business that has a recurring revenue model, missing your numbers in a given month or quarter makes it nearly impossible to get back on track for the rest of the year since next quarter's number depend on making this quarter's numbers...."
So forecasting early and often is a great solution to this problem, and it's a particularly effective tool to keep the team motivated. Read more in this Matt Blumberg post.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 11/23/2005
"Among the most frequently asked questions I get from start-up companies is: How much should I pay for licensing in a technology?...While most companies seem to use a valuation method I like to call "pulling a number out of the air," there are three primary methods used by licensing professionals to assess the value of IP assets. These are the Cost Method, Market Method and Income Method. With all of these methods, good data and data projection are critical in determining the appropriate numbers.
In the Cost Method, the value is the cost incurred in developing or purchasing the relevant technology or intellectual property....
In the Market Method, the method for determining value is to learn what comparable technologies have licensed for recently....
In the Income Method, value is the estimated revenues the technology is likely to produce (and savings it is likely to generate) and comparing this to the estimated cost to generate the same revenues or savings from other sources, that is, total annual returns. Basically, it's a method of determining what you can afford (or not afford) to pay in the end..."
Read more in this Patent Baristas post.
For a limited time, you can access the dozens of 10-12 page executive summaries from this TEC webpage. These roughly 10-page summaries provide excellent overviews of many pressing issues facing business owners and executives today.
The Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute offers this online version of the Uniform Commercial Code stating:
"This on-line version of the U.C.C. does not include the official comments...For the U.C.C. as enacted by a particular state and proposed revisions to articles click here"
To help you get your head around the different ways you can finance the growth of your business, Entrepreneur.com has compiled these mini-guides to raising money that cover basic information on the following 19 different financing sources.
1. Start-Up Financing
2. Equipment Leasing
3. Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs)
5. Asset-Based Loans
6. Bank-Term Loans
7. SBA-Guaranteed Loans
8. Private Loan Guarantees
9. 504 Loans
10. Royalty Financing
11. Federal Government Venture Capital
12. Angel Investors
13. Electronic Matching Services
14. Business Incubators
15. 401(k) Financing
16. Direct Public Offerings
17. Reverse Merger
18. Initial Public Offering
19. Institutional Venture Capital
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 11/20/2005
"After about a year in the making, our site Kauffman eVenturing is ready for its public coming out party! The site is designed for busy entrepreneurs, and is well on its way to being packed with relevant, practical and timely information on how to manage and expand your business.
We will offer original articles, written by entrepreneurs drawing on their own experiences, and an in-depth aggregation of the 'best of the best' existing articles and tools to guide you on the path to high growth. The site will cover many topics organized around six key subject areas:
Finance & Accounting
People / HR
Sales & Marketing
Products & Services
The Entrepreneur "
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 11/18/2005
"Recent tax law changes have put increased focus on private company common stock valuations. This new law, IRC Section 409A, applies to "discounted" stock options (options having an exercise price that is less than the stock's grant date fair market value), and imposes significant penalties on noncomplying awards. This puts private companies under increased pressure to be able to support and defend their valuation determinations. Proposed regulations issued in connection with the new law set forth protective presumptions on which private companies may (and should) rely in making valuation decisions."
The Heller Ehrman Venture Law Group has prepared and assembled these private company valuation materials including a summary of principles useful in valuing early stage companies, that will be helpful to companies as they adjust to these developments.
Thanks to my colleague, James Cummins, for the link.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 11/15/2005
"There are games where the final score sums up all you need to know.
And then there are games where a simple tally of goals or points is woefully inadequate, like reducing Bob Dylan's songs to notes on a sheet of paper.
The scoreboard shows that Yale upset No. 3 seed Duke 2-1 on Sunday to advance to the third round of the NCAA women's soccer tournament. But those numbers reveal little about one of the most dramatic endings in the tournament's history. Like saying the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Oakland A's 5-4 in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series or Colorado beat Michigan 27-26 on the gridiron in 1994, the score alone deprives those were weren't on hand of an amazing story.
Anyone in attendance on Sunday won't soon forget the game's frantic final seconds, culminating in Yale senior Laurel Karnes putting the ball in the back of the Duke net with just one second remaining..."
Read more in this ESPN.com piece. Thanks to darling daughter for the link to this great article.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 11/14/2005
This article by Jaqueline A. Daunt provides an excellent overview of the issues facing technology companies that are either looking at being aquired as an exit strategy or are seeking to grow through acquistions, stating:
"A recent survey showed that between two and five emerging technology companies (TechCos) are acquired for every one that does an initial public offering (IPO). Acquisitions can provide strategic, operating and financial benefits to both TechCo and the company acquiring it (LargeCo). A strategic acquisition can provide TechCo's shareholders with earlier liquidity than an IPO, with less risk and dilution. It also can provide TechCo with the immediate leverage of LargeCo's established manufacturing or distribution infrastructure, without the dilution, time and risk of internal development.
A strategic acquisition can provide LargeCo with the new products and technologies necessary to maintain its competitive advantage, growth rate and profitability. Ill-conceived or badly done acquisitions, however, can result in expense and disruption to both businesses, the discontinuance of good technologies and products, employee dissatisfaction and defection, and poor operating results by the combined company. By understanding the key factors that lead to a successful acquisition, TechCo and LargeCo can improve the probability of achieving one."
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 11/14/2005
"For any new business, you should predict what gross sales volume level you will have to achieve before you reach the break-even point and then, of course, build to make a profit. For early-stage businesses, you should be able to assess your early prediction and determine how accurate they were, and monitor whether you are actually on track to make the profits you need. Even the mature business would be wise to look at their current break-even point and perhaps find ways to lower that benchmark to increase profits. "
Read more in this article from businesstown.com.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 11/13/2005
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
"The poem 'In Flanders Fields' by the Canadian army physician John McCrae remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915.
The most asked question is: why poppies?
Wild poppies flower when other plants in their direct neighbourhood are dead. Their seeds can lie on the ground for years and years, but only when there are no more competing flowers or shrubs in the vicinity (for instance when someone firmly roots up the ground), these seeds will sprout.
There was enough rooted up soil on the battlefield of the Western Front; in fact the whole front consisted of churned up soil. So in May 1915, when McCrae wrote his poem, around him bloodred poppies blossomed like no one had ever seen before."
Find much more on this poem and its author here
For those who would wish to pray for veterans, here is a short prayer
Please God take care of all the Veterans.
Look out for them and watch over them.
They protected people and strived to keep them safe.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 11/11/2005
"IP has become fully integrated within the fields of art, science, commerce and law, yet understanding the overlap and implications of this integration can be challenging. As a basic primer, here are 10 things you should know about IP portfolios:
1. There Are Different Types of IP and Associated Protections...
2. IP Rights Can Overlap...
3. Just Because You Have a Patent, Doesn?t Mean You Can Practice the Invention...
4. It Can Be Expensive to Procure and Maintain IP Rights...
5. It Can Also Be Expensive to Ignore Other?s IP Rights...
6. Getting the IP Right Is Only Half of the Equation; You May Need to Enforce the Right...
7. Choosing an IP Practitioner Is a Significant Decision...
8. IP Rights Are Not a Requisite for Commercial Success, But They Can Be of Great Help...
9. Valuation of IP Rights Can Be Difficult; Know When to Hold ?Em and Know When to Fold ?Em...
10. Common Sense Is Underrated When Developing IP Portfolio Strategy..."
Read more in this Goodwin Procter article from Mondaq (free registration required).
Mind Your Own Business is a website "where you can find the links to turn your entrepreneurial dreams into reality. Created by the U.S. Small Business Administration and Junior Achievement, this site walks you through five easy steps of business ownership - whether you've just had a brainstorm for your first business venture or you've been at it a few years.
So go Mind Your Own Business, and find out about the challenges and rewards of being an entrepreneur."
"East Palo Alto Micro-Business Initiative, which does business as "Start Up," is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote economic development in and around East Palo Alto, California, by providing training, capital, and other assistance to help establish and support locally-owned and operated small businesses...Start Up graduates own and operate a number of successful enterprises. Most of these start out as home-based, part-time income supplement streams but may go on to be full-time self-employment resources for the entrepreneurs and their employees."
Among the many business resources that are accessible from the website is this step by step guide to creating a business plan.
"You should be greatly concerned about who owns the work you specially commission. For example, unless there is a special kind of agreement in place before any work begins, someone who contributes material to your new book or web site can, in theory, sell that same material elsewhere without your permission. Worse still, if there is no written agreement, and you want to adapt that material, or publish it elsewhere, you will probably need that person's permission.
Similarly, if you hire someone to illustrate one of your short stories, unless there is a written agreement that says otherwise, you may be surprised to learn that the illustrator has become your coauthor. These seemingly odd results follow from the fact that under copyright law, authors are presumed to own the copyright in the works they create. The best way to avoid these problems is by having a written agreement in place before any work begins."
Read more in this article by Attorney Lloyd J. Jassin.
"Paul Graham, an essayist and programming language designer, has an interesting essay about the 'venture capital squeeze.'
To summarize, he says VCs have found themselves in competition with acquirers, with Google first on the list. Companies like Google have realized they can acquire a company early, and bypass venture capitalists. Graham proposes VCs, in response, should let entrepreneurs partially 'cash out' early, so that the entrepreneur's interests are aligned with the long-term huge results that VCs crave. "
Read more in this SiliconBeat summary article or read the Paul Graham essay The Venture Capital Squeeze.
"W. Edwards Deming in the 1950's proposed that business processes should be analyzed and measured to identify sources of variations that cause products to deviate from customer requirements. He recommended that business processes be placed in a continuous feedback loop so that managers can identify and change the parts of the process that need improvements. As a teacher, Deming created a (rather oversimplified) diagram to illustrate this continuous process, commonly known as the PDCA cycle for Plan, Do, Check, Act*:
PLAN: Design or revise business process components to improve results
DO: Implement the plan and measure its performance
CHECK: Assess the measurements and report the results to decision makers
ACT: Decide on changes needed to improve the process "
Read more in this balanced scorecard article.
This list of articles and links from MIT Professor Hadzima is worth exploring for useful information about organizing and operating an entrepreneurial enterprise.
Reprinted below are the major topics covered in the Technology Entrepreneur's Guidebook (pdf). I draw your attention in particular to the "Accounting Policies" and "Legal Issues" sections that provide good overviews of basic issues.
A Sensible Approach to Writing a Good Business Plan
Raising Venture Capital
Accounting Policies and Procedures for Early Stage Companies
Legal Issues for Early Stage Entrepreneurs
Managing Explosive Growth in Technology Companies
Choosing an Exit Strategy
Did I hear this correctly? During last night's football game, I swear I heard a lawyer advertisement seeking potential plaintiffs for pain patches gone wrong state,
"If you have suffered serious injury or death, please call...."
Won't this be difficult for the deceased to do?
Some interesting observations from The Lazy Way to Success:
"When you start a business, what must lead the way should be your own interest in or love for whatever it is you want to do. Loving what you do miraculously attracts all the necessary resources, people and opportunities....Your passion doesn’t have to be about any particular product or service. For me, my passion is the process – building teams, collaborating with others, wrestling with creative challenges, supplying customers with value, entertaining paradigm-shifting ideas, dreaming of the potential for fast growth, and being socially responsible to all the stakeholders, not to mention Mother Earth. I am passionate about those things, so if all those elements are present, then it doesn’t make a lick of difference if the end-product is ice cream or telecommunications...or whatever."
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 11/07/2005
The purchase of a residence may be the single largest transaction in which most individuals will ever be involved. For an entrepreneur or small business owner a similar statement can be made about the buying or selling of a business. In short, it is often the deal of a lifetime.
Legal considerations affect even the most basic aspects of such a transaction. For example, the risk of assuming unwanted environmental or employee benefits liabilities may rule out a particular structure for a transaction or prevent the transaction from going forward at all. Consultations between client and counsel at an early planning stage are essential to (1) close the deal in a timely manner, (2) ensure a smooth post-closing transition, (3) avoid surprises about the value of the business, and (4) avoid the assumption of unwanted or unknown liabilities. Read more....
[I am posting a link to an earlier article I wrote to demonstrate a workaround to the Blogger "read more" problem.]
"Achieving excellence in our work is an integral part of feeling genuinely satisfied in life. We want our careers or businesses to blossom, making us financially secure and content with our achievements. Here are seven stepping-stones that lead to career growth and excellence. When used as part of a total action-plan, these stepping-stones can contribute tremendously to the fulfillment that you desire.
1. Make a Commitment to Excellence...
2. Empower Yourself and Others by Continuing to Learn...
3. Multiply Your Efforts through Networking...
4. Communicate Powerfully...
5. Lead with Empathy...
6. Maintain Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Fitness...
7. Serve with Love, Faith, and Gratitude..."
Read more in this article by Steve Brunkhorst for the National Business Association
"Federal and state e-commerce laws provide that electronic contracts and signatures cannot be denied enforceability solely because they are electronic. Electronic records must satisfy similar requirements to their written counterparts so that the enforceability of a record or signature remains valid despite its electronic form. "
For more on the basics of electronic signatures, see LeapLaw's Ledger, November 2005.
You may download from this NFIB website:
"A free publication from the U.S. Department of Labor [that] helps small-business employers understand their rights and responsibilities under federal employment laws. The Employment Law Guide summarizes DOL's most widely applicable laws.
The guide describes statutes and regulations administered by DOL that affect businesses and workers. Each law has it own chapter organized by the standard discussed, such as wage and hour, health and safety or retirement. Within each chapter, sections describe which employers are covered by a certain statute, the basic requirements of each statute, employee rights, opportunities for compliance assistance, sanctions or penalties for non-compliance and correspondence to other federal, state or local laws. To give users a better understanding of each law, chapters link to the statute discussed as well as to interpretive materials and other regulations.
The guide is written in plain language, not legalese. It focuses on giving employers introductory information to help them develop wage, benefit, safety and health and non-discrimination policies for their businesses. The guide gives information to businesses, particularly new businesses, about which DOL laws most likely affect them. An overview describes the most applicable laws and covers three categories: generally applicable regulations, federal contractor regulations and industry specific regulations. "
Many articles have been written about the criteria venture capitalists use in selecting companies in which to invest. This article from Entrepreneur.com is one of them that stresses the latest information received from a recent gathering and is well worth reading in its entirety. A couple of nuggets follow:
"Business Model. Will the numbers map out? In other words, once someone takes a sharp pencil and starts tracing where every revenue dollar comes from and then seriously challenges every expense it'll take to generate that revenue dollar, will you have:
-a profitable model?
-a repeatable model?
-an expandable model?
-a predictable model?
-a defensible model?"
"The team is still an important part of the equation, but the entrepreneur is just as important. Here's what the investors are looking for in both:
-Passion: The entrepreneur must demonstrate a contagious excitement about their vision for the company.
-Tenacity: The entrepreneur must prove they have the stamina and willpower to stay with their vision through thick and thin.
-Flexibility: The entrepreneur must be willing to reevaluate and refocus their plans when things don't work out as anticipated.
-Commitment: The entrepreneur must be willing to invest enough of their own money into this project to convince investors they're serious.
-Teamwork: The entrepreneur's team must prove they can work effectively together.
-Coachability: The entrepreneur and their team must be coachable. No team knows everything they need to know to succeed.
-Knowledge: Investors prefer to back teams that really know their market by having backgrounds that are rich and impressive in the market niche for which the company is engaged."
"In today's IT contracts, it is important to address security issues during the negotiation process rather than trying to sort them out later in litigation. By consulting the 10-point checklist [from DennisKennedy]...,you will have a number of ways to negotiate security protections in your IT contracts by approaching the issues in a number of different directions. You may not get all you ask for, but you should be able to get some protection or get a good sense of how comfortable you will be with a vendor who is not willing to stand behind its security efforts."
Excellent point from this Genuine VC post:
"A startup's office directly speaks to prospective & current employees, customers, and investors. Not only does it communicate an outward and explicit message, but like a face, it provides insight into what's going on underneath the surface."
"Many users of open source software are frightened by the term "derivative works." They worry that they might accidentally create derivative works that will infect their own proprietary software." This is particularly true if the open source software being used or linked to is distributed under the GNU General Public License (GPL) or the Open Software License (OSL), both available at www.opensource.org/licenses. This is so because the GPL and OSL require that derivative works be offered to the public under the terms of the applicable license.
This article by Lawrence Rosen provides a good summary of the issues involved and the emerging law in this area. He suggests the following as guides in determining whether a derivative work has been created:
"Here’s how I would decide in the edge cases that I described above:
· The primary indication of whether a new program is a derivative work is whether the source code of the original program was used, modified, translated or otherwise changed in any way to create the new program. If not, then I would argue that there is not a derivative work.
· The meaning of derivative work will not be broadened to include software created by linking to library programs that were designed and intended to be used as library programs. When a company releases a scientific subroutine library, or a library of objects, for example, people who merely use the library, unmodified, perhaps without even looking at the source code, are not thereby creating derivative works of the library.
· Derivative works are not going to encompass plug-ins and device drivers that are designed to be linked from other off-the-shelf, unmodified, programs. If Linux is designed to accept separately-designed plug-in programs, you don’t create a derivative work by merely running such a program under Linux, even if you have to look at the Linux source code to learn how to do so.
· In most cases we shouldn’t care how the linkage between separate programs was technically done, unless that fact helps to determine whether the creators of the programs designed them with some apparent common understanding of what a derivative work would look like. We should consider subtle market-based factors as indicators of intent, such as whether the resulting program is being sold as an “improved” or “enhanced” version of the original, or whether the original was designed and advertised to be improvable 'like a library.'”
"Many people have great ideas for online businesses, but the truth is that few people can translate those ideas into reality. It's a complex process and it takes knowledge, vision, persistence, technical skill, money, and just as much business acumen as it takes to make a bricks-and-mortar business successful. There are many pitfalls for the unwary, so it helps, before you start, to create a realistic business plan that is as complete as possible."
This article from John Bremner provides a good overview and details specific to the development of an online business. For example, he states, regarding the website aspect of the business plan:
"There are also a number of other questions you need to answer about your solution:
What will be your business domain name?
What are you going to sell?...
What information will you provide for each product? Will you show pictures? If so, how will you obtain them?
Are you going to need a transactional or a display site?
Will you have multiple departments or just one? Will it be a vortal, a portal, a shopping mall, or a single shop?
Is web-space an issue?
Will you be taking credit-card details? If so, who will be your Payment Service Provider, and what will be your security arrangements?
Will you be letting out web space on your site to others as a way of increasing revenue streams, or not?
Are you aiming for a worldwide market, or a local market?
How will you achieve search-engine registration and maintenance?
What will the site look like?...
Who is going to run, update and maintain the site?
How will you keep customer information safe? If you are not using an Applications Service Provider, what will you do about data backups, how will you provide telephone support for visitors to your website, and how will you deal with problems?
How will you keep track of stock and orders, arrange delivery, and deal with complaints, returns, refunds, out of stock items, and order tracking?
What shipping options will you offer?
Will you have a special offers area?
How can you generate additional revenue through your website? Advertising? Subscriptions?"
This Web Site provides definitions as a ready reference to 2,500 of the most commonly used terms encountered by the start-up entrepreneur, the small business person and the student of business theory. Found via this Small Business CEO post. Thanks, Steve.
"It is always nice to have a large company call you and express acquisition interest. That being said, go into the conversations with a skeptical eye and make sure you do not waste your time as these strategic discussions can quickly lead to a dead end if not managed appropriately....If you manage this process appropriately you may find yourself in a great place as many of the best acquisitions happen when companies are bought and not sold. The downside is that these discussions can suck up lots of your precious resources and be a tremendous distraction to your management team."
Read more about this process and the questions to ask of your potential acquirer in this post from Ed Sim.
From a post by Jack Vinson comes another "do-this-instead-of-work meme" for your pleasure. This time you ask Google what you need by doing a quoted search for "yourname needs". Then list the top ten hits, possibly removing the pornographic ones. My list follows:
1. Anthony Needs Coaching In Game Of Life
2. Anthony Needs Your Feedback
3. Anthony needs touches, and to forget the past
4. Anthony needs every second to achieve some measure of atonement.
5. Anthony needs you to know that the kid isn't his.
6. Anthony needs all the help he can get.
7. Anthony needs a new team.
8. Anthony needs to know.
9. Anthony needs to go.
10. Anthony needs to film more.
This excellent article from Jeff Cornwall discusses some of the issues faced by a business founder deciding whether and with whom to partner in starting a business. Some of the questions to ask before "tying the knot" include:
"- Do your share the same vision for the business?
- Do you share the same aspirations for the business? Does one want to build an empire while the other create a simple lifestyle kind of business?
- What are your work habits and work ethic? Are they compatible enough to keep the partnership feeling fair to all the partners?
- How much time off to you plan to take each day, each week, each year?
- How much money will you put into the business?
- How much do you expect to get out of it?
- Who will be the President of the company? What roles will the other friends play?
- How will decisions be made?
- What is everyone's credit rating? Can all help to guarantee a loan, if necessary?
- What if one of you gets married and the new spouse gets a job offer in another city? Would you move away?
- What are your core values and how do you want to see them play out day-to-day in the business?
- How will employees, customers, suppliers, etc. all be treated?
- What will you consider to be real success in this business?"
"Small companies may have a very large number of trade secrets. These trade secrets are not so well bounded and defined as patents, copyrights and trademarks, and so they tend to blend into each other, forming an interlocking mesh of information that does not easily divide into separate, countable and distinct trade secrets. Finally, trade secrets are created and destroyed rapidly in an information economy, making the management of trade secrets a dynamic process."
This article from the Trade Secret Office, Inc. provides a good overview of trade secrets concepts, a methodology for valuing them, a discussion of litigation issues and helpful recommendations for protecting trade secrets including the following:
"* An inventory of the potential trade secret assets should be conducted immediately. In practical terms, this will involve the preparation of a list of trade secrets with documentation of the dates of creation, places of storage, places of use and other key information necessary for the maintenance of these assets on an on-going basis.
* Employee, contractor, and visitor agreements should be implemented. Careful attention should be paid to both confidentiality and ownership issues, with contractual assignment clauses being implemented where necessary.
* With respect to paper documents and tangible items, procedures for locked file cabinets or other security measures should be implemented.
* Electronic security procedures should be implemented, including, at a minimum, the implementation of login protections on personal computers.
* Access to information should be on a need-to-know basis. Sign out/sign in procedures should be used. Confidential documents should be marked “confidential.” Super-confidential documents should be marked “super-confidential,” and access should be severely restricted.
* Locked bins should be used to discard confidential documents, and these bins maintained by an outside company performing onsite document destruction.
* Accounting procedures should be implemented to track the time, effort and money expended on the creation and development of trade secret assets.
* All persons should wear prominently displayed badges while on the premises. A visitor sign in/sign out badge system should be implemented.
* Manufacturing processes should be restricted from public view.
* The company handbook should devote an entire section to trade secrets. There should be ongoing employee education on the importance of identifying and documenting the existence of trade secret assets, with employee economic incentives for complying with this policy.
* The company should implement a strict procedure for trade secret exit interviews."
MIT Enterprise Forum OpenCourseWareis a free educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners around the world. OCW supports MIT's mission to advance knowledge and education, and serve the world in the 21st century. A list of courses available includes:
"Nuts and Bolts of Business Plans
Taught during the Independent Activity Period every January by Joe Hadzima '73, the MIT Enterprise Forum, Inc.'s Chairman of the Board, this class is meant for those interested in starting their own businesses.
Law for the Entrepreneur and Manager
A basic understanding of legal issues that corporations face during their existence.
An examination of the elements of entrepreneurial finance, focusing on technology-based start-up ventures, and the early stages of company development.
This course is aimed at helping students identify, evaluate and develop a marketing strategy that best suits the strategy of their company.
This course clarifies key marketing concepts, methods, and strategic issues relevant for start-up and early-stage entrepreneurs.
Global Entrepreneurship Lab
G-Lab focuses on the issues and challenges facing a global start-up.
Designing and Leading the Entrepreneurial Organization
This subject is about building, running and growing an organization, including establishing a structure and culture that cultivates success.
Managing the Innovation Process
The primary goal of the course is to expose students to a variety of perspectives on innovation through different levels of analysis."
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 10/31/2005
The Small Business Development Center National Information Clearinghouse offers a goodcollection of resource links and sample business plans including several for restaurants, which is what many people think about opening when they first consider becoming entrepreneurs.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 10/31/2005
"My vision was to create the Web’s largest collection of primary documents, images, essays, and other materials relating to famous trials from Salem to Simpson. Trials have long struck me as wonderful vehicles for exploring history and human nature. What better way to understand the 20s than reading about the Scopes, Sacco-Vanzetti, and Leopold and Loeb trials? What provides better insights into the nature of evil than reading the transcripts of the William Calley court-martial or the Nuremberg trials? Would not the Amistad, Shipp, Scottsboro Boys, Sweet, and “Mississippi Burning” trials provide an excellent launching point for a discussion of racism in America? I wanted these materials to be made readily available, in an easily digestible form, for everyone from junior high students to law professors."
So states Professor Douglas Linder of the University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law about his Famous Trials Website. In my view, he has succeeded very well and the site is worth visiting for its fascinating and easily read subject matter -- famous trials from Socrates to Bill Clinton
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 10/30/2005
"Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world.
By choosing a business on our website and then lending money online to that enterprise, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world's working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive monthly email updates that let you know about the progress being made by the small business you've sponsored. These updates include reports on loan repayment progress, photos of new capital equipment, narratives on business growth and standard of living improvements, and more. As loans are repaid, you will get your original loan money back.
How does the loan process work?
By partnering with existing microfinance organizations and institutions, Kiva finds outstanding entrepreneurs who need loan funding. Our expert in-country staff works with these partner organizations to conduct due diligence on each business, and once approved, post each business' profile on our website. This is where you come in. You can choose loan money online, using your credit card or Paypal, in increments as low as $25 toward the loan needs of a business. With your participation, Kiva gives entrepreneurs access to the capital they need to lift themselves out of poverty. "
Found via this Seth Godin post.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 10/30/2005
"The Executive Summary (or Project Summary) is not only a synopsis of the most important parts of the business plan and project, but it is in fact your plan in miniature form. Brevity is the key word in presenting a summary of your business plan....The Executive Summary should be written in a clear, concise, logical manner and should be viewed as a "stand-alone" document. As such, it must accomplish the following if it is to get the reader's attention:
-Must be easy to read and understand
-Capture and hold the interest and attention of the reader
-Encourage the reader to want to read more of the actual business plan
-Highlight the positive aspects of the business, past, present and future
-Succeed in conveying the substantive nature of the rest of the plan
-Show that you have a competent and experienced management team
-Be market-driven and not product-driven
-Identify sales and distribution channels
-Show that you know and understand your competition
-Addresses future direction and strategies
-Provide historical and current financial information and future projections
-State the amount of funds required, financing structure, and repayment, period of loan, investor exit position"
Read more is this detailed summary from the Cynton Company via Mondaq (free registration required).
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 10/28/2005
"What is fair use?
We would all appreciate a clear, crisp answer to that one, but far from clear and crisp, fair use is better described as a shadowy territory whose boundaries are disputed, more so now that it includes cyberspace than ever before. In a way, it's like a no-man's land. Enter at your own risk.
Why is it like this and does it have to be this way? Is there no alternative to the vagueness of the "four factor fair use analysis," to fear of lawsuits and frustration with uncertainty? Maybe it is reasonable to simply throw up our hands and say, "What's the use?" After all, many legal scholars, politicians, copyright owners and users and their lawyers agree that fair use is so hard to understand that it fails to provide effective guidance for the use of others' works today. But the fact is, we really must understand and rely on it.
So wouldn't Guidelines help? Many people who think so recently gathered in Washington to negotiate Guidelines for Educational Uses of Digital Works in a two-year-long Conference on Fair Use ("CONFU"). For many, the Guidelines that emerged satisfied the need for clarity; but for some, considerable objections remained. Some CONFU participants and their constituents complained that the Guidelines were too narrow; others that they were too broad; or unfounded in the law; or too premature; or too long; or unclear; and so on. In the minds of many, the Guidelines asked the right questions, but for some, they provided the wrong answers."
The University of Texas decided to take a different approach to guiding its component institutions and faculty, staff and students in the exercise of fair use rights. They call their approach "Rules of Thumb" for the Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials. Like the Guidelines from which they are in some cases derived, the Rules of Thumb are tailored to different uses of others' works. But unlike the Guidelines, they are short, concise, and easy to read.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 10/28/2005
What follows are nuggets gleaned from anexcellent article from To-Done that should help whether you’re speaking at a large conference, giving a small internal presentation to you coworkers or classmates or giving a sales pitch....
Think before you speak. Take pauses...
Visualize a positive outcome...
Keep text to a minimum. No more than 5 bullet points per slide...
Use pictures to get your idea across. They’re easier to remember...
Avoid complicated charts and graphs...
Don’t read your slides. They should support what you are saying, not be what you are saying. The same goes for your notes.
Keep your intro short and strong...
Keep it slow and steady...
Don’t agonize over mistakes, and don’t say you're sorry. Keep confident and if you mess up—move on.
Pause to let strong ideas sink in...
Smile, joke and laugh if appropriate. A little humor can go a long way, but don’t over do it.
Learn from your mistakes....
End strong. Make your finale crisp, clean and powerful.
Be prepared for interruptions and questions. If you are doing well, you’ll have lots of questions."
How To Give A Great Presentation
I wish I would have known about this when I was in school:
"A very good guide on How to Study including the following sections: 1) Introduction, 2) Manage your time, 3) Take notes in class & rewrite them at home, 4) Study hard subjects first & study in a quiet place, 5) Read texts actively & slowly, before & after class, 6) Do your homework, 7) Study for exams, 8) Take Exams, 9) Do research & write essays, 10) Do I really have to do all this?..."
Via this Marcus P. Zillman post.
Here are a few nuggets from Robbie Allen's Startup School Notes regarding the presentation and Q&A session with Langley Steinert, Co-Founder, TripAdvisor:
+Follow your passion...
+Do it for the right reason
Don't do it for money.
Do it because you have passion for the idea...
+Choose your Founders very carefully...
+Be very picky about your first 10 hires...
+Raise as little money as possible
+Don't get big fast – that's why most bubble companies crashed...
Chuckles when he sees press releases stating "I raised $20 million". It should have a subtitle: "I just gave up half my company."
+Explore Angel investors...
+Don't be afraid of change...
+Keep an eye on the exit signs...
Don't pass up a "reasonable" acquisition offer, might be your last..."
The Entrepreneurial Fellows Center of Institute For Entrepreneurial Excellence at the University of Pittsburgh's Katz School of Business is accepting applications for its 2006 program.
The Entrepreneurial Fellows Center (EFC) program, is a ten month entrepreneurial education program that begins in January and provides established business leaders with the opportunity to continue their business education, network and formulate strategic plans to enhance their company's success. Monthly half-day sessions are taught by successful, seasoned entrepreneurs and Katz Graduate School Faculty.
'Some common issues encountered by companies in the management of the company's patent portfolio include:
1. Use preliminary and supplemental claim amendments....
2. Manage continuation or divisional patent applications and/or RCE's....
3. Partition your technology into inventions....
4. Consider the strategy or cost of pursuing improvements or extensions of your existing technology....
5. Consider low-cost procedural options....
6. Utilize appeals, teleconferences, and affidavits during prosecution....
7. Meet your duty of disclosure to the USPTO of known prior art....
8. Learn to let go when you need to and consider alternative approaches....
9. Identify licensing opportunities as well as litigation possibilities....
10. Use reissue, reexamination and interferences..."
Read more in this article by Dennis Fernandez via VC Experts.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 10/26/2005
Reprinting this evhead post:
"Regarding Innovation 2.0 (sorta) Naveed Ahmed writes in with:
"I think to be a successful entrepreneur only 3 things matter:
1] A clear vision of where your company is going.
2] Genuine desire and passion to create amazingly great products/services.
3] Strong conviction that your product/service is going to make a positive difference in your customer's life.'
I like it."
So do I.
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 10/25/2005
Rules of thumb and valuation formulas are a starting point in determining the value of a business. A standard rule of thumb is to value a business at a multiple of EBITDA (earnings before deducting interest, taxes, depreciation and amorization). The most useful formula for approximating value may be the discounted cash flow method which calculates the net present value of the future cash flows of a business based on certain assumptions.
Remember, however, that value is not the same as the price that is paid for a business. For many reasons, such as the relative bargaining positions of the parties and the skills of their negotiators, businesses are often purchased for more or less than their valuations. For instance, a business seller may be anxious to sell because of factors, such as family issues, that have nothing to do with the value of the business. Anxious sellers tend to accept prices that may be below the value of the business from an objective or market based perspective.
Nonetheless, having an accurate picture of the value of a business is essential in determining whether and how to proceed.
This post from The Entrepreneurial Mind summarizes a list from the Christman Group, LLC that equates value with price, but otherwise is instructive as to the types of factors that determine the value of a business for sale:
"Number 10: Industry Outlook
If the outlook for the industry is bright, the price goes up. Buyers look hard at the outlook for a company's gross margins, future growth projections, international economic factors, etc.
Number 9: Depth of Management and of the Sales Team
If an owner wears all of the hats, including generating most of the sales, the price will go down. A strong and experienced management team to operate the business is key value driver.
Number 8: Customer Base
If a company has limited customer concentration with no single customer representing more that 5-10% of revenues the price goes up. If the customer base is made up of “blue chip” companies, the price goes up too.
Number 7: A Good Story to Tell
Telling a company's story is critical in helping the buyer recognize the full value of a business. An extensive confidential offering memorandum that describes the business operation, the marketing and sales programs, its organizational structure, its facilities and equipment, its financial performance, and provides a financial analysis including a believable 5 year financial forecast.
Number 6: Stage of Industry Consolidation
If a company's industry is experiencing consolidating with the big companies getting bigger through acquisition, prices for smaller companies will rise.
Number 5: Company Track Record
If a company can show a track record of consistently growing profits and sales, buyers will pay more.
Number 4: Type of Business
A manufacturing company with a proprietary product will sell for more than a job-shop manufacturer. A distributor that adds value by offering installation, repair, and/or engineering/design will sell for more money than a non-value-added distributor. A service company with a special expertise will sell for more than a similar service company without this expertise.
Number 3: Revenue Size
The larger a company's revenues, generally the higher the price. A business with $25 million of annual sales will sell for more than a company with $5 million in sales.
Number 2: Market Position
A company that dominates its market or has a unique niche in the market will sell for a premium over other companies that do not dominate their markets.
Number 1: Having Multiple Buyers
When there are multiple buyers bidding on a business, the price of the business will exceed the price paid for a business that is sold without competitive bids."
Posted by Anthony Cerminaro at 10/25/2005