How Venture Capitalists Think

This post from Joi Ito explains the process one firm uses in sourcing, evaluating, investing in and exiting venture capital investments. Among the many nuggets of useful information:

"Valuation is based in part on the risk involved in the business. There are clear milestones that decrease the risk in any business. Risk usually decreases as each milestone is hit. A typical series of milestones might be: team on board, competitive analysis and due diligence of business plan done, technology developed and prototype shipped, first customer signed, cash flow break-even, evidence of geometric grown in revenues and a scalable business, buyer/IPO in sight.

From the perspective of the entrepreneur, it's better to take the minimum amount of money necessary and raise money as risk starts to decrease since the entrepreneur can demand a higher valuation and be diluted less. The problem is, raising money takes time and energy away from the business so you want to minimize the number of times you have to raise money."

The Entrepreneur's Library

TheEntrepreneur's Library [from Cayenne Consulting] is a directory of over 600 resources created to help you build, grow, and run your venture. Some of the topics covered include:

Getting Started
General Resources, Legal Structure,
Directors & Advisors
Planning & Research
Business Plan, Competitive Analysis,
Market Research Tools, Market Research Firms, General Research
Funding Your Business
Getting Ready, Funding Mechanics & Deal Structure, Venture Capital, Business Loans, Angels, Grants, Public Markets
Running Your Business
Marketing & PR, Financial Management, Human Resources, Ethics, Management & Culture, Insurance, Real Estate, Tax, SOHO
Legal Resources & Issues, Intellectual Property, Legal Structure News & Views
General Business, Tech Business

Death Knell for Traditional Software Licensing?

"Nicholas Carr writes about the death of the traditional software licensing model and views of software as a service. Quoting from Christopher Koch:

'It's unreasonable to expect vendors to discount up front and then cut maintenance fees on the back end - they have to get their money somehow. Customers bombard them with requests for new features and functions they say they want in the next version. There has to be some kind of ongoing payment arrangement to keep that cycle going. But the lack of transparency has killed the model. Customers don't know how much money the vendors are really making and when.

When you're paying for software endlessly without knowing whether you can afford to upgrade the software when a new version comes out, or how much you will be charged for new software that the vendor develops, or how much of a say you will have in that development, you are tempted to simply reject the entire model out of hand. I think we're there. When CIOs say they don't trust the model even if they get the software practically for free up front, then something is clearly wrong here.'"

For pertinent links, please see this post from robhyndman.com from which the foregoing was reprinted.


The Process of Forming a Company

"John Nesheim, in his best-selling book High Tech Start Up: The Complete Handbook for Creating Successful New High Tech Companies, concludes from his research that there are 14 stages in taking a venture from idea to IPO, as follows:

Stage 1: Getting the Idea
Stage 2: Meeting Around the Kitchen Table
Stage 3: Getting the Founders' Commitments
Stage 4: Pullout from Employer
Stage 5: Creating the Business Plan
Stage 6: Filling the Management Team
Stage 7: Raising Seed Capital
Stage 8: Incorporating and Cash in the Bank
Stage 9: Finding a Home
Stage 10: Starting Up
Stage 11: Raising Secondary Rounds of Capital
Stage 12: Launching the First Product
Stage 13: Raising Working Capital
Stage 14: Initial Public Offering

Chapter 3 of High Tech Start Up, reprinted in this startupventuretoolbox.com article, describes the main focus activity, time required, typical participants, help needed, major costs, main risks, output and ROI for each of these stages. Although written for a hi-tech company, this discussion is also generally applicable to most other new ventures."

Small Business Articles from Microsoft

Topics covered in this series of small business articles from Microsoft include:


Technology continues to change the way small businesses operate. Find the latest information and advice on everything from speeding up your broadband connection to selling online to using intranets and extranets.


Look here for sales and marketing advice to grow your customer base. You'll find articles on market research, online marketing, customer service and acquisition, advertising and branding, holiday marketing, and privacy and spam.


Managing a small business means managing relationships with customers and employees. Look here for advice on customer relations, employee relations, recruiting and staffing, pay and benefits, and leadership and training.


Expert advice on small business finance issues including getting financing, budgeting, reducing your taxes, travel planning, legal and other expenses, business insurance, and automating your business with finance software.


Starting a business is an education in itself. Look here for advice such as how to write a business plan, where to seek financing, business entities to consider and business names to avoid. You'll also find tips for successful home-based businesses."

PatentScope Portal Launched by WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has recently launched PatentScope, a new web portal for all patent-related information and services concerning the international patent filing system (Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) System).

Existing information on PCT filing, electronic filing and other patent-related resources is available through this new portal. In addition, new sections have been introduced on patent data, statistics and current issues. The patent data section provides access, through a PCT Online File Inspection System, to the complete collection of published international patent applications filed under the PCT system (now more than a million) from 1978 to the present day.


Venture Capital Financing Issues Explained

This excellent and comprehensive article [from White & Lee, LLP] provides a detailed overview of the process and issues that arise in venture capital financings - typically for technology-based emerging growth companies. For more on this topic from the venture capitalist point of view, see this great series of articles from Brad Feld.

The principle issues discussed in the White & Lee article include the following:

1. Creation of the Securities.
2. Liquidation Preference.
3. Dividend Rights
4. Redemption Rights.
5. Conversion Rights.
6. Antidilution Protection.
7. Investor Protective Rights
8. Board Seats
9. Representations and Warranties
10. Registration Rights
11. Preemptive Rights of First Refusal
12. Co-Sale Rights.

Some of the many highlights in the article include:

"It is the rare company that can fund its needs internally... Companies that are able to operate without outside sources of capital typically choose this path so as (a) not to give up management control and equity share to the investors, (b) control the rate of growth of the company, (c) focus on goals other than making money (though pursuing personal goals and making money are not necessarily mutually exclusive), and (d) delay or avoid altogether a liquidity event such as an IPO, merger or acquisition. Further, the companies that can fund operations internally typically have low capital requirements - and fully established services or product lines within a short period of formation. Most companies, however, must fund operations in private financings until they mature...

Private companies are almost always valued on the present value of future cash flows during a growth/maturity period of from 3 to 5 years. Venture investors typically apply one of several forms of discounted cash flow analysis to formulate a range of acceptable company valuations. These valuations rest on investor assumptions on product introduction, market growth, earnings and capital market multipliers that will applied to earnings. Management should have its own analysis of these factors, and discuss these considerations with the investors in order that both sides may feel comfortable with the value that has been established. Once company value is set, the investors' equity participation is easily determined as the ratio of the aggregate investment to the accepted value of the Company..."

The paper concludes:

"The resolution of the issues described in this paper depends almost entirely on the attractiveness of the Company to the investment community. Concessions on the terms of investment will not cause the investment to be made if the Company is not sound - as evidenced by its business plans, its identification and approach to the market - and other factors considered in the valuation of the Company. Once the Company has generated serious investor interest, then these issues become important...Ultimately, all parties must be satisfied with the terms of the investment in order to avoid future misunderstandings."

Top Ten Tech Trends

From this post from Steve Rubel comes his list of 10 trends to keep an eye on in the next 10 years. He cites:

1. The Long Tail
2. The Read Write Web/Web 2.0
3. Timeshifting
4. Collaborative Categorization
5. Citizen Marketing
6. The Daily Me
7. It’s All a Conversation
8. What’s Inside is Outside
9. Trust Marketing
10. Decentralized Communication

Via this post from Between Lawyers

Forbes Best of the Web Small Business Blogs

I cross post many items from this blog to The Startup Law Blog that I maintain at the Allbusiness.com Small Business Blog Center.

I am pleased to report that Forbes.com selected the blog center as one of its Best of the Web blogs covering Small Business.

I am particularly gratified that the Forbes.com review singled out my posts for special mention.


Giving VCs a Winning Pitch

"Entrepreneurs are always hungry for advice about how to approach venture capitalists for funding. After more than 25 years in the business -- both as a lawyer who represented entrepreneurs seeking VC funding as well as a VC evaluating pitches -- I've distilled my best advice into what I call the '10 Commandments for Entrepreneurs.' The 10 rules that follow are about how to make a pitch, not about what business idea you should pitch."

1. Target Your Pitch...
2. Be On Time -- or Better Yet, Be Early...
3. Tease, Don't Overwhelm...
4. Know Your Audience...
5. Get to the Point -- Fast!...
6. Pour New Wine in Old Bottles...
7. Limit Yourself to the Baker's Dozen...
8. Know What You Don't Know -- and Admit It...
9. Be Like Goldilocks...
10. Control the Meeting..."

Read more in this businessweek.com article.

Crash Course in Copyright Tutorial

"The [UT System] Copyright Crash Course Online Tutorial will help you learn about how ownership of copyrighted materials works, what is fair use and when and how to get permission to use someone else's materials."


Examples of Term Sheets and Other Investment Documents

Torsten Jacobi offers search tips and results leading to a series of useful sample documents and case studies, emphasizing the entrepreneur's advantage in becoming familiar with example documents to understand them better and to support your lawyer in negotiations. He states:

'This is what my search yielded...:

A) A pretty good term sheet example for an Australian company

B) The Columbia Law School contributes a pretty realistic case study for a fantasy firm

C) Celtic House Venture Partners was so nice to contribute this 1:1 realistic term sheet

So you are one stop away to your 'Do-it-yourself Venture Kit'. For a complete 'repository' also check here.

Two more links that came in thiS search and are too good to be forgotten:

- an MIT Entrepreneurial Finance open course ware document with hints how to finance your startup

- a presentation from Sweden based Yavor Adel about 'How and when to attract venture capital'"

Please visit this post from TJ's Weblog for links to the cited documents.

How to Build a Successful Website

This Guide from Chris Beasley offers a detailed, step by step explanation of how to build a successful (i.e. profitable) website, stating:

'What's great about the Internet is that everyone is on a level playing field. Due to the relatively cheap or free access to search engines you can compete with big websites with minimal investment on your part. You don't need lots of money to run a popular profitable website, all you need is time and know-how, and the time requirement isn't even that much. While some websites may require more maintenance than others a typical site can be managed in your spare time, in the evenings or on weekends.

As far as how much you can make? The sky's the limit, however keep your head firmly planted on earth. It is possible to have a monthly income of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars off a website(s) you run in your spare time, that is an attainable goal. It is also possible to make much more than that, but expecting more is a less realistic goal. Don't go into your website project with the expectation of millions of dollars, chances are it isn't going to happen. However, if you are after supplemental income that will last residually for a long time (quite possibly the rest of your life), then this guide will tell you how to do it.

There are no miracles here or magic systems, you will need to follow the correct steps and you will need to work on things. Your first site might fail, your second one too, but maybe your third site will be the one to succeed. After I launched my first commercial site it took me a year and a half before I started making good money, and then another 8 months before I started making great money. There wasn't anything magical about it when I finally became a successful self-employed website publisher. It was the result of work, sacrifice, and learning from my mistakes. I have taken everything I learned in my road to success and placed it here. This guide bridges the gap between those who know how to build a website, and those who know how to build a successful website."


Business Plan Outline

"A Business Plan has two objectives:

-Demonstrate management's thorough understanding of its company, its products, and its market.

-Allow investors to find what they want quickly, without getting distracted by material that does not interest them.

Here is an example [from Nanyang Ventures] of one acceptable format and the type of information investors expect each section in the plan to provide:"


Software for the Fortune 5 Million

"The most innovative software designed over the next 10 years will 1. be web-based, 2. will come from small teams, 3. will come from self-funded companies, and 4. will be for the "side-business" or 1-10 person business market...

When you think small business, think 1-10 people not 50-100. There’s an endless supply of 1-10 person companies. Who cares about the Fortune 500? It’s time to care about the Fortune 5,000,000. Forget the enterprise market. Forget the mid-sized company market. Build for the true small businesses — the side-businesses — and you’ll find a thirsty, neglected market waiting for you."

Read more in this post form Signal vs. Noise.


E&Y Outline for a Business Plan

This Outline for a Business Plan from Ernst & Young LLP (pdf) describes the business plan as a proven approach for entrepreneurs consisting of a written presentation of where a company is going, how it will get there, and what it will look like once it arrives.

Trade Secret Protection Case

The Guiding Rights Blog reports:

"A recent Illinois trade secret decision highlights the security measures companies should take to preserve proprietary rights in customer lists. Liebert Corp v. Mazur, 2005 WL 762954 (Ill. 1st Dist., April 5, 2005):

1. Limit computer access on a need-to-know basis.
2. Restrict access to physical copies.
3. Prevent employees from taking copies when they leave the company.
4. Require employees to sign confidentiality agreements.
5. Advise employees that lists are confidential.
6. Label the lists as confidential."


Do the Startup Hokey Pokey

In this interview with entrepreneur Niel Robertson, "Niel talks about his four rules of market timing. These rules help him determine whether the market is ready for an idea and he tries to apply them to any business idea he is thinking about. They are:

-New dog, old tricks: Look for things where company invest in new technology platforms to essentially do what they are already doing.

-Throwing good money after bad: Look for situations where companies commit to a technology choice and then either scrimps on the initial implementation or poorly scopes the project. If you can find systemic instances of this, they�ll need to throw new technology into the mix to get what they originally wanted.

-Earthquake: The pain of a problem rarely comes at once - it comes in waves - just like an earthquake. If the small ones come first, you've got an opportunity. If the big one comes first, forget it.

-Hokey Pokey: This one is my favorite. Companies inevitably decide to bring things in house or outsource them over and over again. If you can find a hokey pokey situation, it's ripe for innovation."

From this post by Brad Feld.

USPTO Provides Small Business IP Resources

"While every IP-based business is vulnerable to piracy and counterfeiting, small businesses can be at a particular disadvantage because they lack the resources and expertise available to larger corporations.

Small businesses may also often lack the familiarity with the process of protecting intellectual property: research conducted in the spring of 2005 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) indicates that only 15 percent of small businesses that do business overseas know that that a U.S. patent or trademark provides protection only in the United States.

It has never been more essential for you to consider patenting your idea or registering your name as a trademark, especially if you are a small business owner or are starting a small business.

The USPTO has created this Web site to help small businesses consider the benefits of strong IP protection - both in the United States and overseas - and decide whether it is right for them.

This site includes important information on whether and when to file for intellectual property protection, what type of protection to file for, where to file, and how to go about it."

Via this post from The Invent Blog | The Patent Blog of Stephen M. Nipper.


How to Protect and Benefit From Your Ideas

This booklet from the American Intellectual Property Association is intended to assist the independent or novice inventor in protecting, evaluating and commercializing new ideas and inventions and "to help individuals profit from their ideas. It is not intended as a “do-it-yourself” book which will allow you to do without the services of a lawyer. However, it is intended to provide you with basic information which will help you to decide whether or not to go to a lawyer in the first place, and which will help you to understand what the lawyer says to you if you do consult with a specific lawyer who specializes in the practice of intellectual property law."

Suggested Steps for CAN-SPAM Compliance

"Several steps can be taken to enhance compliance with the [CAN-SPAM] Act and other spam laws:

First and foremost, perform a self-assessment of your company's practices with respect to e-mails...
Include an easy and obvious opt-out mechanism for the e-mail recipient...
Maintain records of opt-out requests...
Comply with opt-out requests within 10 business days...
Make sure that any third parties that market your products are aware of and also comply with the Act...
If appropriate for your company, include affirmative consent language, in a clear and conspicuous manner on your website...
Your e-mail message should clearly identify your company as the sender of the message...
Be clear about the nature of your message—use accurate subject headings... and use the ADV...label at the beginning of the subject line of the message. (For sexually explicit materials...comply with the requirements of 16 C.F.R. sec. 316)
Do not provide your e-mail address list to third parties (including an affiliated entity if its line of business is not similar to yours) without at least giving notice to (and preferably getting the consent of) the e-mail address holders and the opportunity to opt-out, and confirming that the sharing of such information is legally allowed and in compliance with your privacy statements.
Include in the e-mail message your company's physical address.
Include in the e-mail message a link to your company's privacy policy."

Read more in this PLI - All-Star Briefing from Marla Hoehn

Follow Your Heart; Follow Your Dream

Words to Consider

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."

--Henry David Thoreau

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

--Steve Jobs in his Stanford 2005 commencement address.


"Whatever you plan to do, whether you plan to travel the world next year, go to graduate school, join the workforce, or take some time off to think, don't just listen to your head. Listen to your heart. It's the best career counselor there is. Do what you really love to do and if you don't know quite what that is yet, well, keep searching, because if you find it, you'll bring that something extra to your work that will help ensure you will not be automated or outsourced."

Thomas L. Friedman in his Williams College 2005 commencement address.


"People who say, 'Be practical,' don't realize that following your heart is the most practical thing one can do. There is no greater way to ensure success than being true to who you are. On the other hand, there is nothing more likely to block that success than turning away from your calling. Living at cross-purposes with your true nature creates struggle and lack of fulfillment at a deep level. It is hard to be someone other than yourself.

The lesson is clear:

As impractical as it may sound, the safest and most secure way to lead your life is to follow your dream."

--Douglas Bloch, from "Listening to Your Inner Voice" Copyright 1991


PA Legislative Fix For Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Plans

"Pennsylvania's Governor Rendell recently signed House Bill 176 effectively overturning the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court's recent decision in Ignatz v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 2004 WL 1057453 (Pa. Commw. May 12, 2004). Under the House Bill, elective deferrals into nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements will now be taxed at the time of distribution and not at the time of deferral."

Read more in this BIPC article found via this Benefitsblog post.


A Miracle Worker

Originally uploaded by TigerTigerTiger.
I know my post is off topic, but this story by Jennifer Bails about an extraordinary man, Dr. Abraham Twerski, pychiatrist, rabbi, addictions counselor -- miracle worker -- is worth reading. She writes:

"One set of arms extends from an elderly Hasidic rabbi with a sugar-spun beard, clad in a frock coat and velvet yarmulke. His appearance is more reminiscent of prewar Eastern Europe than modern-day Western Pennsylvania.

Completing the embrace is a young addict, with pained, tired eyes that belie his age. We don't know his name or his demon of choice.

It could be alcohol or heroin or pain-killers or something else. The particular substance doesn't matter. Not really, anyway...

Hugs for Dr. Abraham Twerski come by the dozens here during his monthly visits to the nonprofit drug and alcohol treatment center he founded in 1972...

[Dr. Twerski's story is] of a rabbi -- descended from the 18th-century Baal Shem Tov, Master of the Good Name, the mystic founder of the Hasidic movement -- who became a psychiatrist specializing in drug and alcohol addiction.

Twerski, 74, is a world-renowned expert on substance abuse, religious scholar and beloved spiritual guru...

Twerski has recorded his wisdom in 50 books, some translated into several languages, with titles like "Getting up when you're down," "Living each day," and "When do good things start?" a collaborative effort with Peanuts comic strip creator and friend Charles Schulz...

His lectures on stress, self-esteem and faith still draw standing-room-only crowds. He appears in eight videotapes and publishes a weekly advice column called "Dear Rabbi" in a Jewish newspaper.

But Twerski's real accomplishment is the nearly 45,000 people he estimates that he has helped to usher from the dark, desperate depths of addiction to sobriety."

John Doerr's Startup Manual

Fast Company visited John Doerr in his Sand Hill Road office outside Palo Alto in 1997 and asked him to put his web of personal experiences to work advising us on the challenges of startup life. His answers still ring true today. For instance

"Let's say you're advising a 28-year-old engineer or marketer who's worked at a successful high-tech company for a few years and is moving up the ranks. Then one morning, his pals say, "We're all meeting at the House of Pancakes at 9 p.m. We've got an idea for a startup. Do you want to come?" Should he go?

Absolutely. Remember, Compaq was conceived at the House of Pancakes. But before throwing in with the group, I'd advise the 28-year-old to think carefully about the business opportunity, the markets, and the technology. And think hardest about the team.

Why the team? Doesn't the best technology and product win?

In the world today, there's plenty of technology, plenty of entrepreneurs, plenty of money, plenty of venture capital. What's in short supply is great teams. Your biggest challenge will be building a great team. There's enormous change underway in every facet of the world. Some is technology driven, some is market driven. All that change creates unprecedented opportunity. But to take full advantage of those opportunities, focus on the team. Teams win."

Read more in John Doerr's Startup Manual

Free Excel Financial Analysis Spreadsheets

Matt H. Evans CPA, CMA, CFM presents an extensive collection of free excel spreadsheets including the five most popular:

Capital Budgeting Analysis (xls) - Basic program for doing capital budgeting analysis with inclusion of opportunity costs, working capital requirements, etc.
NPV and IRR (xls) - Explains Internal Rate of Return, compares projects, etc.
Free Cash Flow (xls) - Cash flow worksheets - subsidized and unsubsidized.
Balanced Scorecard - Set of templates for building a balanced scorecard.
Excel Workbook 1-2 - Set of worksheets for evaluating financial performance and forecasting

The Open Source Startups are Coming...The Open Source Startups are Coming

"Open-source applications are very real, and the ones attracting the attention and venture capital have a core of committed developers operating in the open-source community. The question is whether they'll mature into enterprise-class applications...The open-source model is giving birth to for-profit companies like SugarCRM, Greenplum, and Pentaho. These companies are building a new generation of business applications for managing Web content, customer relations, and enterprise resources that are cheaper and may be more dynamic than their commercial counterparts. And their approach just might succeed in changing the way software gets made and sold...The question pivots on whether business customers are willing to put their trust in a bundle of software that's partly controlled by businesses with managers and revenue expectations--and partly not controlled at all. A growing number of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are betting that they will."

Read more in this InformationWeek article.

Philip Brooks' Patent Infringement Updates

A big welcome to the blogosphere to my friend and patent infringement investigator Philip Brooks who recently launched his blog, Philip Brooks' Patent Infringement Updates. Check out his latest post Are Patent Trolls Just a Myth? for an interesting summary of the issues involved in patent trolling.


Summertime -- and the Business Needs a Checkup

"Summertime -- traditionally a slow time at many companies -- is a good time to evaluate your company's current processes and procedures, identify ways to improve current controls and determine if adequate resources are available for upcoming projects, according to Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources in Menlo Park, Calif. McDonald recommends that small-business owners consider the following questions:

1. Is it time to update your financial systems?...
2. Does your company have a three-, five- and ten-year business plan?...
3. Is your business secure? E-mail viruses and worms, unauthorized systems access and data theft are among the many threats that can leave your company vulnerable...
4. Are business costs under control?...
5. Are you adhering to current accounting best practices?...
6. Have you experienced another taxing tax season?...
7. How do you rate on the corporate governance scale?...
8. Are you holding on to your best people?...
9. Are you losing market share to the competition?...
10.Has your company been a victim of fraud? While small businesses are not required to establish an internal audit function, many bring in internal auditors, who can implement checks and balances to help the company improve internal controls and better detect and prevent fraud."

From the Family Business Magazine E-Newsletter.


Management Skills Articles

Follow this link to an excellent series of articles on Basic Management Skills which appeared in IEE Engineering Management Journal bimonthly from Oct 1991 until Apr 1993 (and which won the journal Premium Award. Topics covered include:

Teams and Groups.
Presentation Skills.
Time Management.
Quality in the Team.
Writing Skills (expanded here).
Managing People.
Oral Communication.
Project Planning.
Becoming a Great Manager.

In particular, the article on presentation skills, holds up very well even though it was written before the widespread use of powerpoint.


Business Plan Archive

"In partnership with the Library of Congress, the Center for History and New Media, and the University of Maryland Libraries, the Business Plan Archive collects and preserves business plans and related planning documents from the Birth of the Dot Com Era so that future generations will be able to learn from this remarkable episode in the history of technology and entrepreneurship."

Sample Business Plans and Guides

A selection of sample business plans and business planning and cash flow forecasting guides may by found at this Small Business BC webpage.


Attack of the Weasel Words - Not

As a language lover, I too cringe at the overuse of jargon, jibberish and lifeless babble highlighted in the article and interview, Attack of the Weasel Words from MSNBC.com.

There is only one problem. The story has nothing to do with "weasel words." Is it not ironic that an attack on lazy language usage features a headline that demonstrates a lazy use of language?

As explained in this Manila Times article:

[A] reference to “weasel words” was actually made as early as 1900, when a political writer by the name of Stewart Chaplin described them as “words that suck the life out of the words next to them, just as a weasel sucks the egg and leaves the shell.”

In contemporary times, of course, weasel words are those terms or phrases we deliberately slip into the language to create the illusion of truth. They do no great harm when they simply take the form of “may,” “might,” “could,” and “should,” which are polite hedges for commitments we really don’t intend to keep (“I should be there if plans don’t miscarry.”)...

Weasel words likewise come in handy in the face of uncertainty or inadequate information. We rescue our faltering or floundering arguments in formal writing or discourse with such artful modifiers as “it may seem likely that,” “but the possibility also exists,” and “to a certain degree,” as in this statement: “It may seem likely that, as claimed by my usually reliable sources, that the information presented by my political opponent is possibly misleading to a certain degree.”
We lawyers are particularly fond of weasel words. A well placed "substantially" or "material" or "may" or "should" may give your client the opening needed to win an argument.

When asked "What are the “weasel words” you dislike most?" the author of the book being promoted, responds:
"Implemented." You'll see implemented everywhere. In this language, you “implement” rather than speak or do. And then there is enhanced. Everything is being enhanced. That word is being used in place of other more precise and descriptive words. You can enhance your marriage or your job. You can even implement your enhancements. And "input" is another good one. Companies talk about “input into our people.” This reflects technology and accounting [ideas]. It all has to do with input and outcomes.
It may all have to do with input and outcomes, but it has nothing to do with "weasel words."


How to Open a Restaurant

"Think you can stand the heat? Then get in that kitchen! We've got all the information you need to start your own restaurant, be it a fast-food joint, a coffeehouse, a deli or a full-service establishment. Start with our extensive how-to, read the profiles of successful restaurateurs and food franchisees, and be sure to check out our articles on food trends and lists of top food franchises."

Read more in this Entrepreneur.com How-to Guide.

Is Your Boss a Psychopath?

Is it true "that corporations are 'sociopathic' (a synonym for 'psychopathic') because they ruthlessly seek their own selfish interests -- 'shareholder value' -- without regard for the harms they cause to others, such as environmental damage...Are corporations fundamentally psychopathic organizations that attract similarly disposed people? It's a compelling idea, especially given the recent evidence. Such scandals as Enron and WorldCom aren't just aberrations; they represent what can happen when some basic currents in our business culture turn malignant. We're worshipful of top executives who seem charismatic, visionary, and tough. So long as they're lifting profits and stock prices, we're willing to overlook that they can also be callous, conning, manipulative, deceitful, verbally and psychologically abusive, remorseless, exploitative, self-delusional, irresponsible, and megalomaniacal. So we collude in the elevation of leaders who are sadly insensitive to hurting others and society at large."

On the other hand, is it true that "it's extremely unlikely for an entrepreneurial founder-CEO to be a corporate psychopath because the company is an extension of his own ego -- something he promotes rather than plunders. "The psychopath has no allegiance to the company at all, just to self," ... "A psychopath is playing a short-term parasitic game." That was the profile of Fastow and Dunlap -- guys out to profit for themselves without any concern for the companies and lives they were wrecking. In contrast, Jobs and Ellison want their own companies to thrive forever -- indeed, to dominate their industries and take over other fields as well. "An entrepreneurial founder-CEO might have a narcissistic tendency that looks like psychopathy," Babiak says. "But they have a vested interest: Their identity is wrapped up with the company's existence. They're loyal to the company."

Read more in this fascinating article from FastCompany.


Explore Exporting Opportunities

"Many firms in the US have the ability to participate in the international marketplace. Unfortunately, many companies ignore opportunities outside the US... [thus] missing out on a tremendous opportunity...

Why do firms export? The many reasons can be boiled down to only a few, easily remembered phrases:

To increase profits
To smooth out fluctuations in demand in the domestic market
To gain access to the latest technologies
To increase capacity utilization
To learn what competitors are doing

The Center for Information Technologies Export Process Assistant (ExPA)could prove valuable to small and medium - sized firms planning to begin exporting. This electronic guide helps educate users on the export process. It can help businesses and individuals understand the complexities of the lucrative export market and the domestic and foreign issues that exporters face. This understanding can lessen the anxiety that many firms and individuals feel when faced with a new and complex situation. For those firms that are currently exporting, the Assistant can be used as a training tool, both for new employees and as a refresher course.

The ExPA also gives easy access to the vast amount of export - related information on the Internet. By connecting to online databases, the user can quickly and easily obtain market - specific information. This information covers overseas markets, trade data, trade leads, overseas business practices, and sources of assistance available to the exporter."

See also this website [Exportinfo.org] produced and hosted by students in the University of Washington Business School.


H&R Block Enters Small Business Market

From the The Accounting Blog:

"H&R Block has launched a new business employing CPAs to serve the needs of small business owners. The new venture, H&R Block Small Business Resources, will offer services such as tax preparation and planning, payroll processing, bookkeeping, and financial advisory services, and will target businesses with 25 or fewer employees. The recently acquired offices are located in Tucson, Ariz.; Rancho Palos Verdes and Walnut Creek, Calif.; Fort Wayne and Rochester, Ind.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Wakefield, Mass.; Livonia, Mich.; Omaha, Neb.; Dublin, Ohio; and Roanoke, Va. H&R Block expects to expand the number of offices, services, and products over the next several years."

It's Your LIfe: Go For It

Timothy Lebold writes about his recent decision to resign his job and pursue his entrepreneurial dreams:

"Given that the time we spend on this earth is indeed finite, why do we spend so much time doing things that we don’t want to do?...

Entrepreneurship is the epitome of change and discomfort. To have simply no idea what the day will hold or how the bills are going to get paid is something that could make climbing Everest seem easy. But if it is what you want to do and the challenge that you enjoy, get out there and go for it. Swing for the fences. Strive for greatness.

Entrepreneurship thrives under distress and discomfort. Great innovation, great businesses, great things are created under pressure, not when a safety net exists...There is no fun, no reward for being unhappy, indecisive, bored or simply not doing what you want to do. Have a position, a dream, and stick to it until you make it happen...

The world is a vast, beautiful place filled with great experiences, great people and great opportunity. If you have not traveled, go travel. You wont miss your desk that much. If you want to open a business, write a business plan and line up the financing. You wont miss those beers at the bar that much. If you want to change careers, go back to school. You wont miss the 9 to 5. The most important thing is, do what you want to do. Not what others want you to do or what you think others want you to do."

New Law Protects Disclosure of Work History

"Pennsylvania employers that disclose information about current or former employees to a prospective employer will enjoy a presumption that the disclosure was in good faith...Employees will be able to rebut the presumption of good faith only by presenting 'clear and convincing evidence' that the employer disclosed information that:

-the employer knew or should have known was false
-the employer knew was materially misleading
-was false and disclosed with reckless disregard for the truth; or
-was probibited from disclosure by contract or other law. "

Read more in this post from For Your Benefit.


Private Offering Information

"The Pacific Venture Club has added a new section on Private Offerings for entrepreneurs who are interested in issuing private offerings. Private offerings are the most common form of investor financing used by entrepreneurs. The new section features brief explanations of the private offering process as well as links to the SEC's regulations for private offerings. "

Nail Your Idea in the First Paragraph

This post from the Dealmaker discusses what to include and what not to include in your business plan if you want to capture the attention of a VC stating:

"An entrepreneur msut really nail the idea in the first paragraph, otherwise they risk losing the attention of the VC.

The VCs want to see clarity of thinking, honesty, and milestones, milestones, milestones.

The worst plans do things like become overly precise about what revenues will look like in year 5, tend to ignore the likelihood of competition, and say things like 'we will establish a standard for this indsutry,' which makes most VCs head in the other direction."

Blogger Looking for a Good IP Attorney

Steve Pavlina author of the Personal Development Blog - Steve Pavlina faces a dilemma. He has become a published author (sort of) without intending to be. As he puts it:

"I recently learned that a book was published last year that includes plagiarized copies of at least two of my articles...

This was done without my permission, and no credit was given to me in the book. The author is passing off my work as his own. This book is currently still selling both online and in bookstores and was published by a major book publisher. I wrote these articles years before the book was published. They’ve been very popular online, each read by tens of thousands of people.

This wasn’t just a case of borrowing ideas, which would be perfectly legal, since mere ideas aren’t copyrightable. The book reproduced most of my text verbatim, paragraph for paragraph, word for word — at least six pages total (it could be more though, since I haven’t scanned the whole book yet). Even my personal stories were included with minimal rewording to make them seem as if they were the author’s own. Imagine someone trying to resell your memories and personal experiences as his own. Reminds me of an old Seinfeld episode where J. Peterman tries to buy Kramer’s memories….

There are several different ways I could pursue this, but I haven’t yet decided whether I want to go the full legal route or try a different approach. Nevertheless, if anyone here can recommend a good IP attorney (or is one) with experience in copyright infringement, please let me know."

I was wondering whether the IP attorneys who read this blog would be interested in helping Steve or offering suggestions as to what his best options are. If you respond to my post or post to your own blog, I will forward the responses to Steve. You may also wish to contact Steve directly as he requested.

WIPO Publishes Patent Guide for Small Business

"Entrepreneurs, inventors and small and medium-sized businesses can now consult a World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) publication that explains, in practical terms, using concrete examples, how patents can be used to further strategic business goals. The guide, entitled 'Inventing the Future: An Introduction to Patents for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises,' is the third in the 'Intellectual Property for Business' series....

The guide explores some of the most frequently asked questions about the patent system, providing companies with hints and tips on how to go about developing a patent strategy that is suited to their needs. While readers are advised to consult a patent expert when seeking to protect, exploit or enforce a patent, the guide provides practical information to help readers understand the basics and to enable them to ask the right questions when consulting a patenting expert."

Read more in IP Frontline aricle.

Patent Licence or Assignment: That is the Question

"Licensing [a Patent] is not necessarily always the best or most advantageous commercialisation pathway. Sometimes, assignment might be. Similarly, assignment is not necessarily always the best or most advantageous commercialisation pathway. Sometimes, licensing instead might be.

On each occasion an assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of assignment versus licensing needs to be made. Neither is necessarily the better course to take to the exclusion of the other. The benefits of royalties, as against the benefits of receiving a once only lump sum need to be assessed, with all other implications, to reach a conclusion whether on a particular occasion, a license, or an assignment is to be the preferred course."

Read more in this article from WIPO.


Ten Strategies to Improve Your Business

"Over the last few years, we have seen some exceptional strategies implemented by some of our portfolio companies and others in the market to give them an advantage over their competition. I decided to make a list of the ideas that stood out in my mind that other companies could implement - regardless of the industry focus.

1. Service your competitor's customers when they have problems...
2. Understand your competitive advantage...
3. Hire smart people...
4. Create a positive image in the community for your company...
5. Understand who your best customers are and shower them with attention. Also learn how your can sell more to this important customer group....
6. Don't spend a lot of time focusing on raising capital...
7. Work with partners, not service providers...
8. Spend time with others in the market that have "done it before" and pick their brain...
9. Be obsessed with success...
10. Offer strong packages to attract and retain your employees"

Read more in this Southeast VC post.

Bootstapping: The Secret to Startup Sucess

"I can offer at least eight solid reasons why Bootstrapping will consistently deliver better results than the "fund-and-burn" model that has become entrenched in Silicon Valley and elsewhere:

1. Bootstrapping ensures that you build your business on a legitimate, real-world value proposition...
2. Bootstrappers initiate the critical sales learning process sooner, not later...
3. Bootstrappers don't waste money; they make it...
4. Bootstrapping accelerates time-to-market and time-to-profitability...
5. Bootstrappers are less likely to make big, fatal financial mistakes...
6. Bootstrappers are forced into unconventional thinking. Necessity truly is the mother of invention...
7. Bootstrappers have more freedom and flexibility...
8. Bootstrappers wind up owning much, if not all, of what they create...

From my personal experience, I could add a ninth reason to this list: Bootstrapping is good, clean fun."

Read more in this SandHill.com article.


The Thompson Memorandum Provides Compliance Incentives

"The Thompson Memorandum sets forth nine factors for United States Attorneys to consider in deciding whether to investigate, charge, or negotiate a plea with an organization. Three of these factors relate to an effective corporate compliance program:

4. the corporation's timely and voluntary disclosure of wrongdoing and its willingness to cooperate in the investigation of its agents, including, if necessary, the waiver of corporate attorney-client and work product protection;

5. the existence and adequacy of the corporation's compliance program;

6. the corporation's remedial actions, including any efforts to implement an effective corporate compliance program or to improve an existing one, to replace responsible management, to discipline or terminate wrongdoers, to pay restitution, and to cooperate with the relevant government agencies . ."

Read more in post from Corporate Compliance Prof Blog.

The Right Lawyer for a Smart Startup

"When the time comes to negotiate with VCs, expect them to suggest an attorney. Thank them politely -- and then go out and get your own expert...

You've received a list of terms from a VC group committing the $4 million in first-round funding you were seeking for your technology company. There are a few items you don't fully understand, and several others you'd like to change...In my view, the entrepreneur's instincts are right on target in this not-uncommon situation. Entrepreneurs who convince VCs to invest in their companies don't gain access to the cash until they have negotiated the actual terms of the investment -- and that negotiation process is far from trivial. It involves important items covering the terms of investment, along with the VC's ongoing involvement in the your business...

You will want a trusted adviser to recognize and advocate your interests. Here are some of the most common challenges:

• The power position of the VC firm...
• Antidilution protection...
• Stock incentive provisions...
• Management team employment agreements...
• Ongoing management decisions...
• Exit strategies and acquisitions...

These kinds of decisions make the choice of a lawyer far more important than many entrepreneurs realize... I highly recommend choosing legal counsel who represent startups and technology companies on a regular basis. Using someone who represents VCs is also a good idea -- as long as those VCs aren't investors in your outfit. After all, the greatest value that a lawyer can contribute to an emerging company is his familiarity with the ever-changing VC landscape..."

Read more in article by By Gabor Garai.

Legal Issues in the Global Information Society

Twenty-three lawyers from Asia, Europe, and the United States have drafted articles for the Center for International Legal Studies on the legal issues facing the new Information Society.

Topics covered include:

Data Protection
Dispute Resolution
Domain Names
Electronic Contracts
Fair Use
Technology Surveillance
Vendor Liability

PDF Versions of the papers are available here until October 2005.

Via this Information Policy post.


Growth of a Nation

Brad Feld points to an awesome ten minute animation of how the states of the United States came together.

A VC Cheat Sheet

This post from Christian Mayaud points to an interesting cheat sheet for newbie VCs from Fred Dotzler of De Novo Ventures that provides useful information for the rest of us as well, especially point 10. The short version follows:

1. Generate deal flow.
2. Keep an open mind.
3. Follow the money.
4. Learn how to identify great people.
5. Be rational on terms of investment.
6. Be patient with startups.
7. Keep track of cash balances.
8. Spend time every week working on all your portfolio companies.
9. Don't get too high on good news.
10. Treat everyone with fairness and dignity.

Emerging Internet Trends

"The Piper Jaffray Global Internet Summit saw dynamic ideas emerging on where the Internet and media are going over the near future. Key themes got developed that gradually built upon each other, leading to several key conclusions indicating that the biggest winners were online media companies (Yahoo, Google), intermediaries (Shopping.com), as well as advertising services companies (aQuantive, Marchex)." The top ten key findings from the Summit deal with these issues:

1) Online Advertising - The Big Winner
2) Changing Traditional Media and Telecom Models
3) Emergence of Mobile Media as the Next Big Opportunity
4) Google's Brand Strength and Dominance in Search
5) Uncertain Future for Music Industry
6) Development of New Web Communities
7) Consolidation Environment with Increasing M&A Activities
8) Limited Upside Potential for Pure eCommerce Players
9) Vertical search shall become more prominent
10) Spyware, Viruses Could Slow Ad Spending

For more, read this post from Sadagopan.


eCommerce Resources

"eCommerceResources.infois a Subject Tracer(tm) Information Blog developed and created by the Virtual Private Library(tm). It is designed to bring together the latest resources and sources on an ongoing basis from the Internet for eCommerce...This site has been developed and maintained by Marcus P. Zillman, M.S., A.M.H.A.; Internet expert, author, keynote speaker, and consultant."