Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Through research, direct observation, and interviewing, Sherry Lowry has focused deeply on developing a keen understanding of WHO actually ENACTS visions. Most of us have great ideas. Bootstrappers know nothing REALLY happens, though, until there are effective ACTIONS around such. Bottom line, something has to also be sold or put into action literally. We will have a first-hand look at what thousands agree ARE qualities, behaviors, mind-sets and core characteristics of those actually carrying out visions: their own, of their projects, and of their companies and organizations when they are employed or contracted.
Sherry Lowry has founded and led 7 business entities within 7 different industries, the smallest being a solo, the largest becoming a 20,000 client international organization. Though none focused only locally, all have been based out of her native Texas. At the time, each has been on an emerging edge. The Lowry Group for the past 17 yrs of this career has been focusing on the emerging futures of already successful business founders/owners – and their own “next great adventures.” Sometimes this is a reinvention or expansion within their existing business, or it may be actively planning their legacies. Along the way, Sherry has become something of a specialist in 5 generations in the current workplace/workforce, and it is out of this interest that her most current research has also seeded then flourished.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
1. WILCO Entrepreneur Community (11/11)
2. Metropolitan Breakfast Club: (11/17)
I will also sharing the scene in other forums:
1. Leadership Austin Experience (11/9)
2. National Black MBA Conference (11/12)
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Sorry if I have bombarded you, but I am just learning this email campaign business ... the hard way. And the seminar business ...
One thing's for sure about bootstrapping, you don't have time or energy to lose sleep worrying over stuff! Just do it ... did someone already think up that line?
If you want to come to my seminar on Saturday (October 9), you will learn a LOT, I promise. Really about business and industry in general. I view retailing as the most fundamental form of commerce, the root of it all.
And if you go to the event brite link, you can enter the discount code BOOTSTRAP to get the low, low, low price of $199. You can also show up on Saturday, but I can't guarantee we will have a set of the printed materials ready for you.
Here's a little home video to tweak your interest http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uOdVh-8re4.
Hope to see you there,
(firstname.lastname@example.org is the fastest way to reach me)
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
At last night's Bootstrap meeting we announced the launch of version 3.0: @BootstrapU, a social learning platform for bootstrappers, created in collaboration with Simversity. We signed up our first 20 participants for this free DEMO version and will launch the entire series in 2011.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Other than adding up their own costs and adding a % margin on top of that, most businesses have little knowledge of how to price their products. We are going to look at a few of the best tricks and tips for developing your pricing model for your business. Whether you are trying to build a SAS subscription model or running a retail store and fighting prices on commodities, we'll identify some of the key considerations to know when pricing your products.
Our presenter Christopher Hastings has studied at both the Acton School of Business and the London School of Economics, building expertise in both entrepreneurship and international development. He is the founder of two startups, one focused on providing CPAs with the tools they need to counsel entrepreneurs (including on topics of pricing) and the other focused on location analysis for economic development. Despite having written textbook chapters on entrepreneurship and run budgets of 150MM+ supply chain projects, he is never happier than when working one on one with entrepreneurs to improve their businesses.
Date: August 23, 7:00 p.m.
Business Success Center
Chase Bank Tower
7600 Burnet Rd.
Austin, TX 78757
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Join campus2careers for an informal happy hour at Tech Ranch Austin Friday, July 30 at 4:00PM and participate in a demo of the campus2careers website that connects top student talent to startups and small businesses. Your organization needs these resources and the students need the experience and class or internship credit. Come find out how to get matched with the top student talent in Central TX this Friday at 4:00PM. To register go to: http://tracampus2careers.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine recently named Austin the number one Best City for the Next Decade. In praising Austin, the ranking highlighted Meet the Lender, a city-run business loan fair, as a key example of the resources available for small businesses and start-ups.
This year, even more small businesses will have the opportunity to be a part of the next decade’s success. On Thursday August 5th, from 3 to 7PM, the City of Austin Small Business Development Program (SBDP) will host the 7th annual Meet the Lender exposition. The event, held at Palmer Events Center, brings representatives from dozens of local banks, community lenders, and other investors to the same place at the same time. In this informal setting, business owners can go from booth to booth to learn how to secure financing for their business and start forming critical relationships with lenders.
Austin has been recognized as one of the best U.S. cities to launch a new business and SBDP, a division of the City’s Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office (EGRSO), continues to offer no-cost and low-cost opportunities and resources for entrepreneurs wanting to begin or grow their businesses and successfully compete in today’s business environment.
“Small business owners aren’t always aware of the incredible and varied resources there are available to help them be successful,” said Rosy Jalifi, EGRSO Assistant Director. “We want to connect entrepreneurs to those resources. When Austin’s small businesses are successful, the City of Austin is successful and local jobs are created.”
The expected 400 or more attendees at Meet the Lender can also register to take a Business Resource Orientation class or a class outlining the City’s zoning, permitting and development processes during the fair. There is no cost to attend any part of Meet the Lender and free parking will be available in the Palmer Event Center garage. For more information or to register for the event call 974.7800 or visit our site and here's a video clip from last year’s event.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Topic: "Smarketing: How to market an international company in the US on a shoestring"
When: Monday, July 26, 2010 7:00 PM
Where: Business Success Center
Chase Bank Tower 7600 Burnet Rd.
Austin, TX 78757
By use of white papers, case studies, press releases, blogging and social media, small international companies can implement the "Smarketing" methodology to enter the U.S. market: a hybrid of sales and marketing, in order to penetrate the fortresses corporate decision-makers set up to protect themselves from sales people, create buzz, and generate sales.
Fernando Labastida specializes in providing content marketing services for Latin American software companies wanting to penetrate the U.S. market. He's been a sales and marketing professional for the last 20 years, having worked for several Austin start-ups, including Powered, Vignette and Sunset Direct.
Monday, July 12, 2010
My colleagues and I are in town from New York doing a video on local entrepreneurs who rely on skilled immigrant workers. Some of our questions for the piece have to do with the caps and restrictions on H-1B visas and how those caps affect small businesses in the tech industry.
Our work is purely journalistic and educational.
We will be in Austin until Wednesday, July 14th, and are looking to talk to any interesting entrepreneurs who can speak about these issues from personal experiences. We always appreciate a character.
If you would like to know more, including our platform for the video, please email me: dghigliotty AT visibileeconomy DOT com.
Friday, June 18, 2010
What happens when folks talk a bunch and the talk makes its way into the presentations at a crowd sourcing event? Crowd talking! Come hear how it works. Join us at ATC/RISE Rave 3.0 on June 29, from 5:30 - 8:30 at ATT Executive Conference Center. Additional detail below.
What is Rave 3.0 about?
This Rave 3.0’s conversation is tech talent. Two standout presenters have the floor, Valerie Hausladen and Steven Tomlinson. They speak of passion and fortitude and the courage that finds careers that matter. It’s time for careers that fit our inner and outer fabric. These speakers will share practical stuff about how to get there. The good news, they’ll have 300 experts to help them!
What does Rave stand for?
R-A-V-E is Random – Access :: Various – Experts. Point blank: the event welcomes the audience and its expertise. The Rave design seeks each person’s thoughts: this event is all ears. At the event the audience helps make the night happen with questions and energy that will drive the talks forward.
How is Rave 3.0 different from other speakers’ forums?
From the start the Rave series has courted an irreverence for tradition. Initially, the crowd picked the speakers. Novel. Now, the crowd offers its voice. Really. To do that, version 3.0 brings social media to bare with Twitter, Facebook, email, blogs, and “question advocates”. All these things, and people, will move the crowd’s insights into the moment, to become part of it. The clear intent: make the voice of the people heard– loud and clear.
All right, what is “crowd talking?”
Crowd talking is what happens when a crowd truly voices its thoughts, feelings, and experiences. If the event increases the odds that the audience gets heard it is a job well done. This event leverages audience ideas with Twitter, Facebook, and old school stuff, for example, assigning folks to roam the room asking for content. Specifically, question advocates will capture the questions and thoughts of the audience. The speakers will then riff off of what gets heard as the talks progress. The crowd’s voice comes alive in real time, real fast.
Ground breaking stuff, this crowd talk?
Will this event be ground breaking? Hard to tell until it happens. One thing is for sure: the challenge of maxing out the crowd’s voice is worth it, whatever crowd you are part of. That’s because of the power of the wisdom of the crowd. Awesome stuff.
So why I am blogging about this?
The idea for RAVE 3.0 was a product of the imaginations of Steven Tomlinson, Kevin Leahy, and myself. The team putting the event together includes the phenomenal groups ATC and RISE led by the capable Julie Huls and Georgie Thomsen, respectively. So you know its going to be a rock star event with such leaders, speakers, and creators. So sign up by clicking on the link and RSVPing on the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=108588169185734
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Web developers have pounded into our heads the notion of new content as being the lifeblood of search engine optimization, but most companies have yet to figure out a strategy that consistently provides relevant content to their target audience.
If you’re struggling with the development of new content, I suggest that you view your website content in a different way.
In the media world, the editor controls the content of the medium. They decide what stories get published, and those decisions are based on content that they know will resonate with their demographic (because they understand their audience–the same way that you should understand your customer). It’s true in print, TV and radio, and it should also be true in regards to your website.
If the main goal of your website is to serve as a marketing vehicle that attracts potential customers and communicates with existing ones, then you need to view it as an e-publication–and your marketing department should become your newsroom–with the editor at the helm.
The process for developing relevant content on your website begins exactly the same way–determine who your audience is, understand their issues, develop an editorial strategy that helps them solve those issues (such as an editorial calendar), and assign those stories to your writers (blogs, articles, press releases). Your writers could be your internal marketing department, or people in your organization with content expertise, or they could be external writers such as freelance journalists and marketing agencies. Most importantly, develop deadlines so you can publish your material on a consistent basis.
Once you’ve started this ball rolling, there are many ways to leverage the distribution. People will start finding your relevant content through searches (pull strategy) and you can link to that content in your newsletters and announcements that all lead back to your website (push strategy).
To ensure conversion, make sure you have ways to engage your prospects–but that’s a whole other story. (See Brian Massey)
Friday, June 11, 2010
6:30 - 7:00 Social
7:00 - 7:10 Introduction
7:10 - 7:30 Demo 1
7:30 - 7:50 Demo 2
7:50 - 8:10 Demo 3
8:10 - 8:30 Demo 4
Can't make this one? Check out more about Bootstrap Austin at the following sites:
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
Running or starting a business? Simply thinking about becoming an entrepreneur? The Austin Business Journal has a new web site to complement our weekly print ABJ Entrepreneur section
Go online today and ...
- Connect with your peers
- Get the latest news relevant to entrepreneurs
- Browse advice and how-to columns from seasoned entrepreneurs and experts
- Find links to local organizations and support systems for entrepreneurs
- Check out the calendar to see scheduled entrepreneur events across Central Texas
and much more!
Log on to ABJEntrepreneur.com today to discover how the Austin Business Journal is breaking the mold to keep Central Texas the Entrepreneurship Capital of the World.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Forty of us were invited to give our thoughts on the major ways the City could address business owners concerns. The Summit was limited to two hours. Pretty short and sweet.
We had been asked to prepare to discuss three questions:
1. What steps could the City take to better assist small local business owners with planning and development?
2. What steps could the City take to help create a better overall environment for small local business owners to succeed?
3. What are some specific obstacles you have encountered in interacting with the City, and how do you believe these could be addressed?
After we determined the issues for our table, we were given three minutes to present those to the whole group. A total of about sixteen different items were presented as needing City attention with several "dittoes" as time got shorter and other tables came up with similar issues.
By an odd quirk of fate, this very "public" meeting had not been posted in advance. This meant that the Mayor and Council had to rotate in and out of the room so they would not violate the Open Meetings ruling.
Without taking anything away from the Summit or the report that is being assembled by Rosie Jalifi and the City's Small Business Development Program staff, I want to mention four concerns I have.
1. No context.
We did not hear the discussion at the other tables and were only presented with the issue as part of a list. That made it hard to understand the context. It was hard to tell if some of the concerns people listed were universal or more industry specific for instance, home owners vs. music venues; certain kinds of permitting; the power of the Neighborhood Associations.
Since each Council member heard even less of the discussion, I believe their perception is even more compromised. How these are presented in the report is going to be very interesting and a real challenge for staff.
2. Size considerations.
Small is a relative term. Are we talking less than 500 employees (federal definition), less than 100 (State definition) or an even smaller firm, a "micro business", one with less than 20 employees? In the Austin area, over 80% of our small businesses are really micro businesses where the owner is the owner/investor, manager, and employee. Looking around the room, I saw micro businesses.
Again, it would be useful for Council and staff to know what the issues were by size or complexity of the business. It does make a difference when it comes to deciding where the City can or should make changes. As one of these "micro" businesses and as someone who works exclusively with owners of enterprises of this size, I can guarantee you we look at life and work differently than Yellow Cab, one of the other Summit participants.
3. Not enough clarity. Not enough time.
The Summit could have focused on identifying problems or recommending solutions. I think it tried to do too much in too little time. As a result, what I heard from the three-minute presentations from the other tables was a mixture of both. I am not sure what conclusions I would draw if I were either staff or Council.
There is a pattern to draw on. For many years in the 90's, Texas regularly held the Governor's Conference on Small Business. Business owners from all over the state gathered to talk about problems and issues and propose solutions. Then we went to work to get it done. It was great brainstorming and strong networking. This ended in about 2000 and NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business) and other groups started to hold Small Business Legislative Day. Not as good but better than nothing.
As a former delegate to the Governor's and White House Conference and Congressional Summit on Small Business, I have seen real change come from this kind of event but it takes more time than two hours on one day in March.
4. The beginning or the end.
This is my biggest concern.
The Austin City Council has started something with this Small Business Summit. It could really be of major assistance to the City's desire to remain a great place to start and run a business. Or it could be just a "two-hour trick pony", a false start leading nowhere. My hope that is that this gets more attention and resources and that it continues.
Austin has made some efforts. For years, we have had City Commissions for minority and women-owned business. Good work has been done but not enough has been accomplished. In addition, this has left out other businesses (non-minorities) and divided the small business community into two camps. The economic pie is too small for that to continue.
I believe it's time that Austin find ways to support a united small business community while recognizing that we do have some unique concerns because of our size and industry differences.
Recommendation to Other Owners
If you own a business, I encourage you to get involved. Pay attention to what is happening. What happens in Washington is important but a long way away from here. What happens in Austin, happens to you and works either for you or against you.
I am also interested in what are your concerns and issues. Please post a comment or contact me directly at email@example.com. I look forward to continuing this effort and this discussion.
Here's to your success!
Business Success Center
Monday, April 05, 2010
The Experience Subgroup has explored the Bootstrap Experience model, which details how an experience is created, and the transformation that results. This meeting will explore the experience of the Fusebox Fesitval, and the transformation that can result through witnessing it.
We will meet at the Off Center, home of the Rude Mechanicals, an innovative company in the Austin Theater Scene. Here's a map of the Theater Scene by Robert Matney.
Follow @fuseboxfestival on twitter, check out this year's artists on the Fusebox Site.
...and get involved!
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
But before going any further, I'd like to dispel some common misconceptions about both models:
Myth: Lean Startups are cheap startups
Steve Blank wrote a similarly titled post to address this mis-definition. Yet, I still hear lots of people wrongly associate the word "lean" with "cheap". This characterization isn't entirely misguided but it only captures a sliver of what being lean is all about. Eric Ries co-opted the term "Lean" from "Lean Thinking" which comes from manufacturing.
Being lean is not about being cheap but being efficient with resources..
Money is just one of those resources and there is a time to conserve spending (before product/market fit) and a time to spend (after product/market fit).
Myth: Bootstrapped startups never raise money
Most bootstrapped startups start with some form of initial self-funding (sweat equity, credit cards, savings, etc.) and work their way towards sustainability through customer acquired funding. However, given the type and stage of the business, even bootstrapped companies can and often do choose to raise additional capital if that's what's needed for growth.
Right Action, Right Time
I've bootstrapped my company for the last 7 years and learnt a lot about bootstrapping from Bijoy Goswami, founder of Bootstrap Austin. Bijoy doesn't limit the definition of bootstrapping to the more commonly held one about building a company without external funding but rather views bootstrapping as a philosophy summarized as "Right Action, Right Time".
This mantra applies just as well to lean startups as it does to bootstrapping:
At every stage of the startup, there are a set of actions that are "right" for the startup, in that they maximize return on time, money, and effort.
A lean/bootstrapped entrepreneur ignores all else.
While bootstrapping and lean startup techniques are not just limited to funding, funding is one of the first problems entrepreneurs tackle. A lot of (especially first-time) entrepreneurs feel that step 1 is writing a business plan and getting funded. However, during the early stages of a startup, all you have is a vision and a set of untested guesses. Selling this to investors without any level of validation is a form of waste.
Waste is any human activity which absorbs resources but creates no value.
Why Premature Fundraising is Waste
Getting funded is not validation
Seed stage investors are just as bad at guessing what products will succeed as you are. Without any product validation to rely on, they hedge their bets against your team's past track record and storytelling ability. So while getting funded at this stage is a testament to your team building and pitching skills, it isn't product validation.
Without validation you have no leverage
More importantly, without validation you don't have product/market credibility which typically comes at a price - reflected in lower valuations and investor-favored term sheets.
Investors measure progress differently
While validated learning is the measure of progress in a lean startup, most investors measure progress through growth. Reconciling the two during the early stages of a startup (when the hockey stick is largely flat) can be highly challenging and distracting.
Getting funded always takes longer than you think
Time is more valuable than money. Would you rather spend 6 months pitching investors so you can refine a story based on an untested product, or spend time pitching customers so you can tell a credible story based on a tested product?
Too much money can actually hurt you
Money is an accelerant, not a silver bullet. It lets you do more of what you're currently doing but not necessarily better. For instance, if you're building an MVP, more money might tempt you to hire more people and wait to build more features both which can actually hurt you and definitely slow you down.
Constraints drive innovation but more importantly force action.
With less money, you have to build less, get it out faster, and learn faster.
Startups that succeed are those that manage to iterate enough times before running out of resources. Time between these iterations is fundamental.
- Eric Ries
What about all the advice and connections?
Raising funding is not the only way to get good advice. You can and should start building a diverse board of advisors early - made up of customer, technical and business advisors. Many are happy just to be asked, others might require a little equity to formalize a relationship.
It is cheaper than ever to startup
The good news is that it is easier than ever to start a company. You don't need a lot of capital to start defining, building, and even iterating a minimum viable product towards product market fit.
When is the right time to raise funding?
It's funny to note how the 37signals folks went from "Outside money being Plan B to Plan Z" between their last 2 books. Once you're on the other side, it's easy to make such a declaration but there are certainly better times than others to consider external funding.
Both Lean Startups and Bootstrapping define 3 distinct stages of a startup.
While completing stage 1 is the minimum gating criteria for fund raising, stage 3 is the ideal time.
Stage 1: Customer Discovery/Ideation
The objective of this stage is to find a problem worth solving i.e. achieve Problem/Solution Fit. The most efficient way of doing this is formulating a set of hypotheses and then testing them through customer interviews and subsequently via landing pages. This stage usually takes weeks or a couple months to complete.
Being able to demonstrate problem/solution fit through customer discovery findings and landing page conversions is much more credible than an untested story. The question then becomes can you execute on a solution to this problem and get customers to pay you.
Stage 2: Customer Validation/Valley of Death
The objective of this stage is to build something people want and validate your business model i.e achieve Product/Market Fit. This is typically the hardest and most uncertain of the 3 stages as you are simultaneously iterating on product and searching for a repeatable and scalable business model. This stage can take months or years to navigate. Many startups end up running out of iterations here and either seek external funding or give-up.
Having built a minimum viable product and gone through a few iteration cycles certainly puts you in a much stronger position to demonstrate your ability to execute and maybe show some early traction albeit still mostly flat.
Stage 3: Customer Creation/Growth
After Product/Market Fit your objective is to SCALE. This is the only time when both you and investors are aligned on the same measure of progress - growth. Now is the best time to raise funding if you still need it. If you've been charging customers all along, you might find you don't need a lot of additional capital which ironically is the best time to raise it.
How do I survive till Product/Market Fit?
Keep your day job
The first stage, finding Problem/Solution fit, can really be done part-time with very little burn. It typically has a lot of waiting time built-in e.g. contacting customers, scheduling interviews, collecting metrics, etc. Until you find a problem worth solving, it really doesn't make sense to quit your day job.
Build an audience
Now is also the best time to start building an audience around your problem domain. Start a blog. Comment on other blogs. Get active with social media in other ways.
Build a Minimum Viable Product
The outcome of stage 1 is a handful of features. Build just those features, and nothing else. Again this can usually be done in your spare time but I'd highly recommend full disclosure with your employer before writing any code. You'd be surprised how supportive they can be. I took on a day job at travelocity shortly after I founded WiredReach and not only did they not have a problem with it but they actually supported me with a flexible working arrangement so I could get work done at different times of the day.
Conserve burn rate
The biggest burn in a software business is people. Hardware is cheap.
Rent don't buy. Don't scale till you have a scaling problem. Don't hire till it hurts.
Charge from day one
Testing pricing early and getting paid is the ultimate customer validation in a lean startup which aligns nicely with bootstrapping where cash flow is king. Make a goal of first covering your hardware/hosting costs, then your people costs.
Sell other related stuff along the way
It is very tempting to take on unrelated consulting to survive but it becomes very hard (if not outright impossible) to build a great product in parallel. Instead look for other related stuff you can sell along the way. License out a piece of your technology, write a book, give workshops, get paid to speak, etc.
Shortly after I started building my p2web framework, I was contacted by another entrepreneur who essentially funded the development of the platform in exchange for a custom application we built on that platform. Not only was this related work, it also helped uncover customer and technology validation.
Speed up learning
A fundamental principle from lean startups is speeding up build/measure/learn cycles and there are a whole lot of techniques at your disposal to do this like continuous deployment, qualitative and quantitative split testing, etc. The key here is keeping your feature set small and spending 80% on existing versus new features. Every addition has to be vetted with validated learning to make the cut. Otherwise kill the feature.
Boostrapping + Lean Startup = Low Burn Startup
Getting to product/market fit or out of the valley of death is the first thing that matters. Until then, bootstrap to buy yourself iterations and apply lean startup techniques to maximize learning from those iterations.
Monday, March 08, 2010
The Experience Austin program is ideal for entrepreneurs or small business owners and is a must for anyone who values networking and a deep understanding of their community as critical for success. The program increases visibility, fosters high value contacts and creates community context. Experience Austin participants leave with a greater love for Austin and local connections that will enrich both their personal and professional lives.
Experience Austin helped me plug into the local leadership scene and quickly survey the major issues that are driving current decisions and future plans in Central Texas. I was also very impressed with the access to experts and their points of view in the areas of civic engagement, economic development, land use, healthcare, education, and the creative culture that makes Austin special. I highly recommend the full program to others who are serious about making a difference but unsure where to begin.
-- Steve Golab, FG SQUARED, fall 2009 participant
When: Friday, April 9, from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm and Tuesdays, April 13, 20, 27, and May 4, from 4:30 until 8:30 pm
Full details and registration
Friday, March 05, 2010
Starting Over at 55
Many people over age 55 are getting a second wind and starting their own business — often for the excitement or to make ends meet. But success isn’t guaranteed.
Monday, March 01, 2010
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
The host organizations are still looking for experienced entrepreneurs to work with the students on the Lemonade Day project. This would entail making a 10-week commitment to working with a group of 15 students to pass on your entrepreneurial experiences and insights and guiding them to be confident and ready to sell some lemonade the first Sunday in May. If you are interested in signing up to volunteer for this worthwhile program, please contact Leanne at firstname.lastname@example.org.