Founder Story: The 5 Startup Principles of Successful Entrepreneurs

I grabbed sushi with David just days before he took the stage in front of two hundred hungry software entrepreneurs. What was intended to be a quick meet and greet turned into a 3-hour information lunch.

That’s because over the past fifteen years, David DeRam founded and grew six successful software companies including Progeny, which helps securely store genetic data. This dude is smart and if you’re not careful, he’ll drop knowledge on you like a ton of bricks.

In our fireside chat on stage, David was able to distill his entrepreneurial knowledge into 6 high-impact principles of successful entrepreneurs. I’ve summarized some of them below, but I recommend you watch the video to get the full color and context:

The 5 Startup Principles of Successful Entrepreneurs

Place your bets wisely.

We’re all sitting at the table with a stack of chips. How we invest those resources steers our trajectory. And successful entrepreneurs know exactly what they’re investing in and why. Ask yourself:

What are your most valuable resources?

Are you hoarding your chips or are you leveraging them to win more hands and build something incredible?

Know when to make your move.

David’s first company started as a sketch on the back of a napkin at a diner. That business idea could have easily stopped there. But, David and his partners were able to find embrace mindset to move towards entrepreneurship.

Continued personal growth is a big factor for successful entrepreneurs. “If you’re not getting stretched, it’s time to make a move,” David says.

We all find our drive in different places. What motivations can you use to get yourself making big moves each day?

Don’t flinch.

Successful-EntrepreneursYou’ve got to believe in what you do. DeRam loves the free e-book, The Flinch, and encourages new entrepreneurs to stand their ground when faces with that fight-or-flight feeling that holds so many would-be founders back.

“Flinch forward, like a boxer,” says DeRam. You can’t always prevent your instinct to draw back or wince, but if you can train yourself to consistently push past what you perceive as pain, this habit will build a positive momentum with a life of its own.

Become the builder.

Own your vision and go to work on creating it. David uses the hand he’s dealt and the chips available to construct a work environment that inspires him and his team. Successful entrepreneurs maintain a crisp picture of what success looks like and each decision is made with that picture in mind.

Are you building your own reality? Or are you waiting for it to come to you?

It’s time to put on those work gloves!

Shift your time paradigm.

As project managers get more experience, estimates tend to get longer and longer as they encounter a wider range of possible problems. Any responsible project manager has to account for these potential setbacks in an estimate, but that doesn’t mean that every project has to be stretched to the max.

“What is the fastest way we could get that done?” DeRam asks his team. This simple question has become the part of the culture at David’s companies. It shifts the paradigm of the team to focus on possibilities instead of limitations.

My talk with David reminds me that some of the most powerful business principles often come in plain packaging. But the plainly wrapped gifts, which DeRam delivered in our fireside chat, deserve a place on the mantle.

Which ones will make the greatest impact on the core of your business?

Founder Story: How MyJibe Got Acquired Less Than a Year After Launching [Video]

“A lot of luck,” co-founder Mike Langellier will tell you. But there’s a lot more that went into the startup success of MyJibe—a personal finance management app that launched last January and was acquired just nine months later.

So, how do you launch and grow a software startup outside of Silicon Valley and without external investors?  I recently had a chance to sit down with cofounders Mike Langellier and Brandon Dewitt to get their reflections on the experience. It was only fitting that we unraveled the story of this bootstrapped upstart amidst the commotion of a founder-favorite Midwest coffee shop:

Software Acquisition: The MyJibe Story

In this founder story:
Software Acquisition MyJibe

  • Learn why your co-founder determines the success or failure of your startup
  • Get insight on speed and timing (and how accelerator programs like SproutBox can help accelerate the build process)
  • Find out how to turn partnership potential into acquisition offers

What qualities do you look for in a co-founder? How has that impacted your startup process?

Leap Lets you Challenge Your Friends and Lock Down Your Bragging Rights [Pitch Video]

Now we’re importing startup pitches form other Midwest startup hubs. At our last Indianapolis startup event, one founder drove from Cincinnati to share his story about Leap — an iPhone app that after only one month in the iTunes store already has 20,000 active users.

Here’s the pitch:

Leap lets you challenge your friends, record points through photos, and share with others. WARNING: If you’re the competitive type, you may get addicted to this app.

All bragging rights aside, there are tons of engaging features like photo sharing (but with richer context) and deep Facebook integration that makes it simple to share and extra “sticky” to keep you coming back to the app again and again.

 

Leap already has a passionate user base with:

  • 20,000 active users
  • 31,000 photos taken
  • 16,000 challenges created
  • and 12,000 twitter backlinks!

The team is on the hunt for more engineers to build out the product and grow their community. The co-founding team is already a balanced mix of Designer (Nick Cramer), Developer (Ryan Tinker), and Community Builder (James Dickerson). They’re raising a seed round with the help of the Brandery—the Cincinnati based accelerator program that gave birth to Leap—to fuel further growth.

Have you tried it out yet? What do you think of the pitch?

Intrapreneurship Examples: How to Launch a New Product in Under 2 Days

Time and focus are at a premium when you’re pushing to build and launch a new software product in less than two working days. But, I was lucky enough to grab a few moments with the ringleader of an ambitious entrepreneurial circus.

Eric Tobias founded the Midwest-based software company iGo Digital, a product recommendation platform that powers online personalization for clients like Best Buy, Staples, and Amazon. He’s an innovator with a track record of launching and growing other successful web-enabled businesses like Technuity and Batteries.com. His creativity is contagious and, clearly, company-wide innovation fuels the organizations he leads.

Much like the intrapreneurial execution of Factory Week, a week-long hiatus from “business as usual,” Tobias and the iGo team took time out of their schedules to move offsite (to a startup coworking space called the Speak Easy), to build something new and peripheral to their core business. Here’s what he and his team learned with their #iGoInnovate days to build Scribblr, a more effective way to turn your company email signatures into marketing tools:


Intrapreneurship Example, Main Takeaways:

Capitalize on opportunity.

The iGo Digital team found their product inspiration for Scribblr in the opportunity identified by their sales team. Reps were including links to recent blog material and whitepapers in their email signatures and prospects were clicking on those links more frequently than other content.

Opportunity!

Or is it an opportunity? You’ll never know unless you try. And that’s where dedicating time to exploring new opportunities can be so powerful.

Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

It’s no secret that you work different parts of your brain when you remove yourself from familiar environments and plunge into new roles. Tobias’s team learned a lot and refreshed their company-wide camaraderie.

Imagine the empathy you build for your fellow teammate when you’ve actually worked a few days alongside them—or better yet, doing some of their work. You also do some serious flexing of your communication muscles when you have the finite project capacity that two-day off-sites (like iGo Digital’s) deliver.

Get everyone on the same page.

It’s easier to get in a rhythm when everyone’s playing from the same sheet of music. The Scribblr launch team found that things fell into place after they organized their sub-teams and defined their goals.

Don’t save this last tip for intrapreneurial exercises or product launches (though these certainly help to encourage the syncopation). Things always go a little more smoothly when there’s even a rough plan in place.


Have you ever launched a product that wasn’t core to your business? What kinds of opportunities are still on the table?

How SXSW Found Its Swagger in 2012 [video]

Is it just me, or was South by Southwest (SXSW) an entirely different animal this year?

According to Indiana by SXSW, 112 Hoosiers trekked out to Austin, Texas this year for SXSW—the annual convergence of artists and tech weirdos. Thousands of others from the Midwest also caravanned and jetsetted their way down south to pitch their startups, connect with industry phenoms, and fill up with ideas and inspiring experiences.

For the third time, I was one of those weirdos, but from day one I could tell things were going to go a little differently this year.

An immediate Austin monsoon had 40,000 tech conference attendees feeling South by South wet. And by the end of night two, thoroughly dampened clothes more than filled my extra bag (which I had planned to use for all of the sweet startup tees that I look forward to bringing back from SXSW each year).

But it wasn’t until the sun showed its face that Southby-ers really came out to play. Luckily, our cameras caught SXSW in full bloom. Here’s a peek at some of the energy that fed SXSW 2012 (as told through the startup SWAG that wrapped nearly every tech geek in Austin):

This video got me thinking about our startups here in the Midwest and the pride that we take in wearing our favorite startup tees. What does it mean does it mean to you when you wear your startup shirts?

 

Live from SXSW: Interview with Espree Devora

The Verge team is out in Austin for SXSW and we’re getting excited for the founders panel that we will be covering this Sunday at App Sumo HQ. The panel was hand-selected by a friend of mine, Espree Devora, who has a knack for connecting people and getting things done.

She’s an inspiring person and a go-to for business insights and perspective. Check out what she shared in this recent interview we did:

What do you do?

Espree DevoraMy company Save Business Time is the AAA of Small Business Software. For $135 a year you get a SBT Gold Card that grants you access to exclusive discounts on the best business tools. As a small business owner we only have so many hours in a day and not having enough time can literally take the air right out of our tires, derailing our journey down the road to financial success.  SBT gives us the tools we need to get back on track. We are 100% word of mouth. I wanted to create an offer people were so excited to share they’d run to mountain tops to get the word out.

What excites you?

I get an adrenaline rush from seeing my fellow entrepreneurs succeed. Just for the joy of it I spend a lot of time connecting people who would mutually benefit knowing one another. I can’t begin to express how incredible it feels when a connection I make ends up making someone 100s of 1000s of dollars or other huge gains.  It’s incredibly rewarding. May sound silly, but it feels like I am making a small difference this this world.

You decided to start your own company instead of going to work for someone else. What tipped the scale?

I was born an entrepreneur so it was never a thought to “get a job”. That being said in my journey to be a business owner I’ve been… a yacht stewardess, dish washer at Johnny Rockets, graveyard waitress and a ton of other random jobs. But they were all just stepping stones in order to become a business owner full time.

What is it like being a female leader in what is often perceived as a male-dominated industry?

I LOVE IT. I think it gives me an advantage because being a female in technology I stand out.  When I attend a Ruby on Rails meet up, internet mastermind group or any other “nerd fest” they always are seriously confused when a spunky California beach girl with gems on her face walks through the door ready to take action online.

How do you connect with the people who can really help you build your business?

I ask.  It’s that simple. When I see someone who can benefit me I ask for their help  and then I also make sure to look for a way I can benefit them in return for their time.

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This year during SXSW a bunch of successful entrepreneurs got together to produce an unofficial panel called “The Most Important Panel You’ll Ever Attend: How to Get Your First 100 Paying Customers”

Panelists include the founders of Mixergy, AppSumo, Lujure, and Liam Martin (interviewed in the post above). If you’re going to be at SXSW, I highly recommend getting in on this panel (no badge required!) http://appsumo100.eventbrite.com

If you’re not going to be in Austin this weekend, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Our Verge media team will be there to livestream all the action for you, simply sign up here and we’ll send you the details for the interactive livestream.

How do you connect at conferences like SXSW?

How to Hack Your Workday: The Real Benefits of Outsourcing

We’ve all heard horror stories of outsourcing mishaps and virtual assistants gone wild.

But, whether you’re scaling your business or bootstrapping a startup, the benefits of outsourcing jobs and small tasks can be a real game changer. For many of us, the horror stories and lack of guidance are enough to hold us back.

Benefits of OutsourcingSo, when I had the chance to interview someone with years of outsourcing experience, I jumped at the opportunity. Liam Martin is not one of those guys who just talks the talk. He has a successful track record of building profitable, scalable businesses Staff.com and Time Doctor by applying his own field-tested principals for tapping into the benefits of outsourcing. Over the years, he’s learned the hard way, so you don’t have to.

After building my first web design business by leveraging some outsourced talent, I’d like to think that I have some expertise myself in the area of outsourcing benefits. But, after my conversation with Liam, I could tell that he not only knows how to outsource effectively, be he’s also very skilled and helping others learn to do the same.

Here’s the interview with outsourcing expert, Liam Martin…

The Real Benefits of Outsourcing

Benefits of Outsourcing Jobs

How did you get your start with web-based businesses?

I finished grad school just in time to see the economy completely collapse. After months of job searching I decided to start tutoring students online. After a few months I started to hire my friends to tutor students, then their friends and before you knew it we had 100 people in the company, tutoring mostly premed students through skype.

What was one of the biggest lessons you learned in your first year as an entrepreneur?

If you want to grow past being a ‘onetrepreneur’ you must systematize all the processes within your business before moving forward. Once you’ve conquered that and you have a scalable profit funnel, you’re set.

What are the biggest obstacles of outsourcing?

Three things:
  1. Lack of education in the process. Educating someone virtually is completely different from doing it locally and you have to change your management philosophy in order to adapt to virtual companies.
  2. The realization that outsourced employees are smarter than you. Just because you’re paying them a fraction of what you would pay a local employee does not make them less effective. In most cases they are more effective and can usually do jobs better than you ‘the business owner’ can. Delegate work and stay out of their way.
  3. Proper tracking and accountability. Since everyone is working virtually many employers are wary of whether their outsourced employees are getting work done. We have a great solution to that problem but any tracking option that places accountability  and productivity at it’s core will help solve that.

How can new founders realize the full benefits of outsourcing?

Business Process OutsourcingEducate yourself before jumping in. Read a few books and blog posts, speak to other companies that already do it. 1 in 5 employees now work remotely so it shouldn’t be that hard to find a company that can help you.
Next, systematize your business. Write down your top tasks and choose the most time consuming one then create a step by step guide. Give that guide to outsourced employees and ask for input, figure out what changes you need to make until it runs smoothly and you no longer have to do that job. Rinse and repeat.

If you could tell one thing to someone considering starting their first business, what would that be?

Don’t worry about problems of success before you’re successful. Business success boils down to three things. Acquisition, conversion and retention. Don’t worry about the last two if you haven’t figured out the first one.

#####

This year during SXSW a bunch of successful entrepreneurs got together to produce an unofficial panel called “The Most Important Panel You’ll Ever Attend: How to Get Your First 100 Paying Customers”

Panelists include the founders of Mixergy, AppSumo, Lujure, and Liam Martin (interviewed in the post above). If you’re going to be at SXSW, I highly recommend getting in on this panel (no badge required!) http://appsumo100.eventbrite.com

If you’re not going to be in Austin this weekend, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Our Verge media team will be there to livestream all the action for you, simply sign up here and we’ll send you the details for the interactive livestream.

Have you tried outsourcing with virtual assistants or offshore talent? What kinds of questions do you have?

The Compounding Effects of Contributing

Entrepreneurial Giving

Giving is magical.

Whether it’s giving time, giving attention, or giving advice…

Its astonishing effects can be seen in every aspect of life. The simple act of lending a hand is something so small and nearly effortless. But the power of consistent contribution to a common vision creates — as if from thin air — an energy and intention all its own.

I witnessed it first hand at a recent Verge event, where the enthusiasm and passion of 150 software developers, investors, and business founders filled up an old converted warehouse space in the Broad Ripple area of Indianapolis:

Giving gains momentum.

It’s addictive and it attracts other givers. And as the energy of a group of givers builds, the energy compounds.

Smaller and smaller amounts of individual energy produce increasingly impressive effects as the collective group of givers magnifies the intent.

Givers contribute without expectations of receiving anything in return. But if you pay attention, I bet you’ll witness that it’s this group of magicians who gain the most in the long run.

Verge Pitch Night at The Speakeasy: What to Expect

There’s a buzz around the Speakeasy that’s been going since last night.

This evening, 175 founders, software developers, and startup investors will flock to the converted warehouse space of the Speakeasy. Here’s what we have prepared:

There are two pitches from new startups:

Then we’ll have an intimate fire-side conversation with serial software entrepreneur, David DeRam.

If you won’t be joining us in person, you can tune in on the livestream on the Verge Facebook Page. You will be able to ask questions in our Q&A and join the conversation with the Twitter/Google + hashtag #vergestartups.

Will you join us?

How Startup America Regions Hyperconnected in Miami

What happens when you put 20 Startup America Regions from around the country into a room for two days?

Many grew new relationships and sprouted new ideas (just add Miami sunshine). This is what Scott Case, CEO of Startup America, had to say about it:

Scaling Startup America Regions

How does your startup region connect with the global entrepreneurial community?