9 Questions That Will Determine Whether Your Startup Idea Is Worth Pursuing

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What is one important question I can ask to evaluate whether a startup idea I have is worth pursuing?

1. How Much Time and Financial Investment Will It Take?

Jeff JahnHow much time and financial investment will it take to get the idea to an MVP (minimum viable product) stage? Generally speaking, I only pursue a concept if it can reach an MVP stage within three weeks of development time. That may seem short, but taking much longer puts you at risk of making too many assumptions. That can result in a product or idea that doesn’t come close to hitting the mark.

– Jeff JahnDynamiX

2. Will You Be Excited About It in 5 Years?

Ross ResnickWithout unrelenting passion and deep enthusiasm for the venture, it will fail. It doesn’t matter how solid the idea sounds on paper. Without an emotionally invested leader committed to succeeding at all costs over a lengthy period of time, it will fail. Starting a company becomes your life when you start a new venture — you have to want to live the life the new venture will bring along with it.

– Ross ResnickRoaming Hunger

3. How Big of a Pain Point is This Problem?

Tim JahnYou need to determine how big of a pain point your solution solves. If the pain point isn’t big enough, your customers won’t care enough to pay you for it. If the point paint is huge, your customers will be shoving money down your throat to get their problem fixed. If it’s truly a huge pain, then pursue it.

– Tim Jahnmatchist

4. Would You Be OK if It Didn’t Work Out?

Faraz KhanWould you be willing to risk the time, money and energy even if the idea didn’t come to fruition? If your answer is yes, then you’ll have enough energy to push through the inevitable hard times, both personal and financial. On top of validating the idea, attaining financing, acquiring customers and delivering the product, you will have to deal with your personal stress and life — so brace yourself.

– Faraz KhanGo Direct Lead Generation

5. Does Your Product Create a New Habit or Improve an Old One?

Nick ReeseIt’s no secret that habits are both hard to start and stop. Anytime I hear a startup idea that requires the user creating a new habit, I’m always concerned. On the other hand, any time a new product or service is capitalizing on an existing habit and making it better, I know the adoption phase won’t be an uphill battle.

– Nick ReeseBroadbandNow

 

6. Would You Use It if It Had Terrible UX?

adam_RoozenValuable tools are valuable tools. If you strip away all of the glitz and glamour and it’s still something you would use (not “want to” use), then the idea has potential. Great UXs and positive PR help scale a user base, but it doesn’t define whether a tool is essential or not.

– Adam RoozenEchidna, Inc.

 

7. What’s Wrong With the Idea?

Andrew KucheriavyEven the world’s best ideas have flaws. You just need to identify them and understand how serious they are. Have an unbiased person play devil’s advocate and poke holes in your idea. Once you uncover potential problems, determine whether you can prevent or overcome them by patching the idea or finding a suitable workaround.

– Andrew KucheriavyIntechnic

8. Is It a Product or Only a Feature?

David CiccarelliIt’s hard to build a sustainable business around a feature. People buy solutions to their problems, defined as benefits and packaged as a well-rounded product offering. They don’t use single features for very long. Why? Because the startup that offers a better product will soon include your break-through feature. Double check that you’re building a product, not just a nice-to-have feature.

– David CiccarelliVoices.com

9. How Much of the Market Can You Capture?

Jayna CookeYou first need to understand the overall market size. Next, decide what you think you can realistically do to capture that market. Most people are confident they can capture at least 10 percent, but in reality they only get about one percent. Ten percent is a lot more than it looks like on paper.

– Jayna CookeEVENTup

12 Things You Should Do After a Promising Meeting With a Potential Investor

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What’s one thing I should do AFTER a promising meeting with a potential investor?

1. Check In

Alec BowersShow initiative after the meeting and proactively address your follow-up points (at the end of the meeting you should have set some items to follow up with). Don’t wait longer than 8 to 12 hours. Investors want to see your initiative, your attention to detail and how good you are at executing follow up. Many a startup has lost investors due to poor/incomplete follow up.

– Alec BowersAbraxas Biosystems

2. Act on Their Feedback

Jason LaIt’s essential to be a prudent entrepreneur and address potential investors’ feedback before scheduling another meeting with them. Investors believe in the adage “actions speak louder than words,” so demonstrate that you have taken action to address their concerns. Some entrepreneurs are so enthusiastic about their venture that they ignore valuable feedback and continue to solicit financing.

– Jason Thanh La, Merchant Service Group, LLC & K5 Ventures

3. Ask Questions

Bhavin ParikhA common mistake that founders make is coming across as too desperate. You want to show investors that they need to prove themselves to you as well — you are a scarce resource. In your follow up, you‘ll want to thank them for their time, but you also want to ask them to sell themselves to you with questions like, “Can you give me an intro to a founder you‘ve invested in?” You need to play the game!

– Bhavin ParikhMagoosh Inc

4. Keep Them Updated

Sohin ShahEven if a meeting goes well, it doesn’t guarantee closing. The best way to work towards converting interest into commitment is by keeping the investor in the loop on progress and new initiatives. This helps build their confidence in you, in your product/company and allows them to feel like a part of the team.

– Sohin ShahIFunding

5. Improve Your Fundraising Deck

Aaron SchwartzAfter you thank the investor, suggest next steps and take three minutes to celebrate, you must re-focus on your fundraise. Take all of the feedback from the meeting and use it to improve your deck. First, reflect on which insights impressed the investor, and emphasize them in the future. And just as importantly, take the questions they had and make sure you‘re better prepared for the next meeting.

– Aaron SchwartzModify Watches

6. Re-engage With Them

Blair ThomasIt’s important to keep your deck up to date and find constructive and effective ways to re-engage with your potential investor. Keep communication high by providing news of new milestones, new opportunities and goals won, and by creating a general feedback loop. This can go a longway in keeping your investor interested. Show them you‘re a highly proactive owner.

– Blair ThomasEMerchantBroker

7. Track Everything

john ramptonRight after a promising meeting (or sometimes before) you‘re going to be sending them a pitch deck. Make sure you‘re tracking everything. I personally use PandaDoc for this. It will show you what pages they are looking at, not looking at and how long they are looking at each page. Next, follow up with them accordingly.

– John RamptonDue

8. Send a Memorable Gift

Drew GurleyYou have a small time frame to make a big impression. A great way to follow up is to use a memorable and unique gift. I actually learned this in a boot camp a couple years ago from a corporate gifting guru. A thoughtful gift doesn’t need to be expensive; it needs to show you paid attention and care about the relationship. Send it quickly and stay top of mind.

– Drew GurleyRedbird Advisors

9. Do What You Say You Are Going to Do

Shawn SchulzeSo many investor meetings are full of discussion, ideas and intentions. If you propose all of the things you are working on and thatyou intend to do, then show the investor that you are doing them. Talk is just talk. Follow up with the investor to give them a concise list of progress being made. Show them you are progressing and committed to doing what you say you are going to do.

– Shawn SchulzeSeniorCare.com

10. Say Thank You

Nicole MunozThanking someone for their time and consideration shows that you are thoughtful and appreciative. Be sure to mention that you truly appreciate their attention. Try to slip in any loose ends you feel weren’t addressed. Let them know you‘ll follow up in a few days/weeks to touch base again in case they have any more questions. Lay the groundwork to ask for referrals at the next meeting.

– Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now

11. Send Favorable Market Research

David CiccarelliInvestors want to know that others have quantified the size of the market opportunity. It’s one thing for you to give your assessment, but it’s much stronger for the investor to learn about the industry and current trends in a third-party report. If you don’t have access to the full PDF report, consider linking to an article on eMarketer, Forrester, or Gartner in your follow up note.

– David CiccarelliVoices.com

12. Call Another Potential Investor

Justin BoggsDon’t stop until that money hits the bank account. So, calling the next investor increases your odds of getting a check, plus you will carry that positive energy into the call. Additionally, telling the next investor how good the previous investor meeting went puts the pressure on them to get in the game.

– Justin BoggsZeeBerry.com

Learn more about Monthly Investor Updates:

Watch the interview with Justin Miller and learn how his monthly updates helped land his startup with $10 million in funding: http://vergehq.com/2015/08/24/how-monthly-investor-updates-scored-10-million/

11 Tips for Starting a Conversation With a Potential Investor

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

I landed a short meeting with a potential investor thanks to a warm introduction. Where do I start the conversation?

1. Get to Know Them

Diana GoodwinBefore diving into the details of your business, start with some lighter conversation topics, perhaps by bringing up the person who made the introduction. And let the conversation naturally flow to business talk. The meeting shouldn’t just be about money — it’s important to make sure you get along on a personal level as well.

– Diana GoodwinAquaMobile Swim School

2. Be Clear and Concise

Zachary BurkesLook, we’re all incredibly busy — imagine having people pulling you in every direction to invest in their next great idea. It has to be exhausting. One way to separate yourself from the pack is to be clear, concise and effective in how you communicate your company and product. If you can’t explain your company in 30 seconds, it’s either too complex or you don’t understand it well enough.

– Zachary BurkesGatekeeper Innovation Inc.

3. Start With Background

Mark CenicolaThe first step is getting to know each other. Find out as much about the investor’s background as possible and provide them with your background. Keep in mind that an investment doesn’t happen in a single meeting. Finding common ground can create mutual trust, create a basis for an ongoing relationship and ultimately lead to an investment.

– Mark CenicolaBannerView.com

4. Sell Your Method, Not Your Product

Murray NewlandsTell the investor how big the market is and how much money they are going to make from investing in your company that is inevitably going to succeed. Far to many founders start with demonstrating the product and talking about functionality without selling the problem and the business case first. If there is no problem or business case, it doesn’t matter how great your product is.

– Murray NewlandsDue.com

5. Ask Questions to Build Trust

Joseph WallaYou’re either raising or you’re not raising. And unless you’re having five investor meetings a day for weeks on end, you’re probably not raising. In this case you should use the meeting as an opportunity to build the relationship without indicating that you want money. Ask the investorsquestions to qualify them. Building trust in a genuine way is priceless, so take advantage of the not-raising mindset.

– Joseph WallaHelloSign

6. Discuss the Person Who Made the Introduction

Jason LaYou should start the conversation by talking about how you know the person who made the introduction, including why the person thought you and the investor should meet. You want to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework by displaying knowledge of the investor’s past projects. The next step is to present your pitch. Investors are busy, so don’t waste time.

Jason LaMerchant Service Group, LLC

7. Find Out What Caught Their Eye

David CiccarelliInvestors hear about thousands of ideas each year and sit through hundreds of pitches; they’ve seen it all. The fact that you’ve landed an in-person meeting means that you are doing something new or have a unique approach. Find out what that is. I’d open the meeting with, “Before we get started, can I ask what specifically caught your eye?” That becomes your hook for future meetings.

– David CiccarelliVoices.com

8. Ask Questions About Past Investments

Jayna CookeIt is so important to understand what the potential investor is looking to invest in. Ask them questions about their past investments that have done really well. Find a way to compare yourself and your ideas with them. Take this as a launching point and have your deck ready with information that you know they will want to talk about.

– Jayna CookeEVENTup

9. Build Rapport

Joshua LeeStart by building rapport. They’re already warm to you so let them get to know who you are and what you’re about outside of your company. Investors want to know your character and a big part of that is what you stand for outside the business arena. They’re looking to reduce risk. Knowing the reason you’ll fight so hard for your business and your big “why” signals to them how serious you are.

– Joshua LeeStandOut Authority

10. Find Common Ground

Christopher KellyFind some common ground and keep the conversation lighthearted before diving into business. After you have established a personal connection, the investor is more apt to help you. This help could come in the form of honest feedback, connections, added time or maybe even funding.

– Christopher KellyConvene

11. Be Prepared

Alfredo AtanacioBecause investors have limited time, you need to be prepared with a pitch that explains your business or idea in 30 seconds. You need to show the value you will deliver to the market and how the investor will get his money back. Remember that the meeting is not about you; it’s about the investor and what can you offer them.

– Alfredo AtanacioUassist.ME

10 Signs Your Are Relying Too Heavily on Technology to Run Your Business

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

At what point are you relying too much on technology to run your business? Why?

1. When Automation Replaces Personal Interaction

Shawn PoratIf all or most of your communication with customers and prospects consists of automated messages, you are missing out on the chance to connect with people in a more direct manner. Smaller companies in particular should take the time to answer social media comments and emails personally whenever possible, especially regarding specific comments, questions and inquiries.

– Shawn PoratFortune Cookie Advertising

2. When No One Has Work if the Internet Goes Down

john ramptonWhen the Internet goes down and you have 100 people in your office doing nothing but twiddling their thumbs, this is a problem. People should know that they can still get some of their job done, have leads to call, etc.

– John RamptonDue

 

3. When You Begin to Lose Business

Nicole MunozOccasionally, a client will contact us with a confusing issue. They switched to online services and lost a lot of business. Simply, online marketing means you’ve moved to a digital format, not that you can take the human element out of your operations. You’ll need to invest in educating customers on the new way to work with you, especially if it’s an older customer base.

– Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now

4. When You Don’t Understand Your Business

Adam Roozen“Too much” technology is not inherently a bad thing. It’s possible that your business can be fully automated and you can disappear. The risk comes in when you no longer understand your business because the technology is beyond your understanding. Without understanding, you don’t have control. Without control, you can’t mitigate risk.

– Adam RoozenEchidna, Inc.

5. When it Replaces Higher Level Decision Making

Randy RayessMany times technology and data allow us to make smarter decisions and can be very useful. However, there are still many higher level decisions that we have to make based on intuition and experience that will allow us to innovate and be creative.

– Randy RayessVenturePact

 

6. When You Don’t Talk to People to Sell Your Service

Andy KaruzaToo many entrepreneurs are trying to automate lead generation through CPC advertising. However, the best and most proven way of closing the deal will always be talking to people directly. This will not only create a better connection with your customer, but it will allow you to walk them through the solution and answer any objections.

– Andy KaruzaSpotSurvey

7. When You Can’t Remember Meeting Your Last Client

Nicolas GremionFor those of us that live online, it’s not often you get to meet clients or business associates in person. And while a lot can be said and done via email or even video chat, it’s not always the same. So try to get out to the odd industry event, conference or even try to get together with some clients from time to time. It will can be refreshing, inspiring and beneficial.

– Nicolas GremionFree-eBooks.net

8. When Buying New Tech Becomes the Answer to Every Problem

Manpreet SinghAdopting new tech is costly; it drains productivity as teams retrain. So, if you’re the early adopter with all the latest tech solutions (to problems you discovered during a sales pitch) like a kid watching too much TV, you may lack imagination for problem solving. Low ROI, team management, inefficiencies, CRM: there’s an app for all of that and more, but they aren’t always the answer.

– Manpreet SinghTalkLocal

9. When You’re Messaging a Colleague Right Next to You

Kofi KankamWhen you’re sitting three feet or a cubicle over from one of your colleagues who is not in a meeting and you decide to use a messaging platform to ask a quick question or have a 15-second dialogue, you know technology has taken over your business by eroding face-to-face interaction.

– Kofi KankamAdmit.me

10. When You Start to Misuse It

Thomas MinieriTechnology is about one thing: speed! Modern business moves at the speed of light. So the question is: what are you trying to make faster? If you use technology to connect with and service customers faster, then you can’t have enough of it. If you use technology to replace connecting with and servicing customers, then you’re going to have problems.

– Thomas MinieriPlanet Ballroom International, Inc.

8 Universal Qualities of Great Pitch Decks

“Send me your deck.”

Early entrepreneurs hear this a lot. And it’s because a pitch deck is a great way for an investor or potential customer to quickly size up your company. 

So, don’t leave this important communications piece to chance. We interviewed eight experienced entrepreneurs to get their perspective on the important aspects of an effective pitch deck.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What’s one lesser known thing you can include in a pitch deck that will really wow a VC?

1. Revenue

Danny BoiceWe very deliberately set out to have a solid revenue story for investors from day one. I know this sounds like common sense, but it’s unfortunately quite rare. I can’t believe how many investors we’ve pitched to who couldn’t believe that we had revenue our first month in business.

– Danny BoiceTrustify

2. A Personal Connection

Kristopher JonesDo research on the personal background of the person(s) you are sharing a deck with, and find one or more things in common to create a lasting personal connection. Maybe you went to the same college or high school. Maybe you are both Philadelphia Eagles fans (that would make three of us) or both attended Burning Man. A genuine personal connection can impress a VC and set the tone for discussion.

– Kristopher JonesLSEO.com

3. Synergies With Their Current Investments

Daniele GallardoI found that it is really important to understand the portfolio of your VC or strategic partner. Browsing the companies that they funded in the past gives you an understanding of what is important to them. If the companies are in the realm of what you do, it is often very simple to find synergies that the VC would really love to see in your deck. Do the homework for them, and show them!

– Daniele Gallardo, Actasys

4. Lessons Learned

jared-brownTelling VCs that you’ve made mistakes and sharing what you’ve learned from them will definitely make you stand out from the other startups that might be pretending to be perfect. You’ll show them that you’re adaptable, resilient and perceptive — all qualities they’re looking for in a potential investment. Then show how the lessons added to the value of your product or expanded your market reach.

– Jared BrownHubstaff

5. People Who Believe in You and How to Contact Them

dave-nevogtIf you already have influencers and advisors on board, show VCs who the three or four most important ones are and how to best get in contact with them. Having established entrepreneurs and businesspeople who will sing your praises to potential investors is an important signal of credibility, and in some cases, it can sway a VC that’s potentially interested but still needs some reassurance.

– Dave NevogtHubstaff.com

6. Video

Miles JenningsVideo and imagery are what attracts attention most from any audience you are trying to speak to, even an audience of VCs. Include a short video in your pitch that shows who you really are as a company, what you have accomplished and what your goals are. The video will make your story more tangible and will give a VC an inside look at your company and what you have to offer.

– Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

7. Thorough Financials

Jason LaAs an active investor in early stage companies, I review pitch decks every week, and I would be impressed by a thorough discussion of key metrics beyond mere sales projections. This should include compound annual growth rate, customer acquisition cost and return on equity as well as a timeline of the cost to achieve specific milestones. Thorough financials demonstrate solid business acumen.

– Jason La, Merchant Service Group, LLC

8. Future Vision of the Industry

Mike SeimanInclude the vision of the future of your industry. Too many people get caught up in the numbers and forget to tell a story. VCs want to know the bigger picture – where your company and your industry is going. In the end, marketing and finance decks aren’t that different. Both tell VCs a story and focus on getting them to invest in that vision.

– Mike SeimanCPXi

16 Things Recent Grads Who Want to Work at Startups Should Know

Tons of fresh grads want to live the startup life, but what should you know before you jump into your first post-grad startup? 16 entrepreneurs offer their best tips.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give recent grads hoping to work for a startup?

Rebecca Zorowitz1. Be Nimble and Ready to Work Hard

At a startup, you will be required to wear many hats and to make order out of chaos. Startups typically don’t have a concrete infrastructure already in place. Working for a startup is not for people who need a distinctive job description. It is for people who are nimble, ready to roll with the punches and ready to work their hearts out. Every day will be different, and that is part of the thrill.
Rebecca Zorowitz, Ooh La La Brands

 

Travis Steffen2. Don’t Scour Job Boards

If I were a recent grad, I’d think about the organization I’d kill to be a part of. I’d then make it my life’s mission to get a meeting with an executive at that company to let them know that I’m the perfect person to work for them — even if a position doesn’t exist — and I’d work for free until a position opened up. This shows a passion that most employers never see. I’d hire you on the spot.
Travis Steffen, Cyber Superpowers

 

jeff epstein3. Be Useful and Overdeliver

You’ll have the opportunity to wear many hats. Make an impact and learn as much as you can — embrace it! Earn a reputation for being a tireless worker and exceed their expectations.
Jeff Epstein, Ambassador

 

 

Ashley Mady4. Seize Opportunities

Be prepared to do anything and everything! The more you do, the more valuable you’ll become. Ease the life of everyone around you, seize every opportunity and always do more than you are asked.
Ashley Mady, Brandberry

 

 

Doug Bend5. Show Your Startup Passion

Startups want to hire someone who loves the product and is a great fit for their team and culture. Do your homework on the startup and the founders before your interview, and discuss why you would be great fit and why you believe in their product. Most importantly, you’ll likely be working longer hours for a smaller salary, so be honest with yourself about whether that belief is genuine.
Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

 

brewster6. Immerse Yourself

It’s quite easy these days to expose yourself to entrepreneurship as a student. With resources like Startup Weekend, Hackathons and online courses, you can fully immerse yourself in startup culture, thinking and product development before working at one. As a hiring manager, I look for recent grads who’ve demonstrated interest and understanding by immersing themselves in entrepreneurship.
Brewster Stanislaw, Inside Social

 

John Rood7. Learn Technical Skills

Even if you plan to work in marketing or business development, you’ll be taken more seriously and will have more opportunities if you understand basic coding. There are lots of opportunities to learn, either for free or for a small investment. If you aren’t willing/able to commit to learning hard skills, the startup life might not be for you.
John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation

 

Caitlin McCabe8. Don’t Be Afraid to Jump Around

Startup cultures can range from corporate to frat house, so don’t be afraid to look into another startup if the culture isn’t a fit. Teams at startups tend to spend a lot of time together so it’s important that the organization structure is a fit.
Caitlin McCabe, Real Bullets Branding

 

Tracy Foster9. Concentrate on Your Cover Letter

Make sure you have a strong cover letter. Resumes are great, but a strong cover letter does so much more to communicate who you are, what your level of interest is in the startup and why you’d be a great fit for the team. Be sure to have someone you trust proofread for you.
Tracy Foster, ONA

 

Maren Hogan10. Get Social

Startups are all over social; it’s one of their biggest marketing tools. Follow and connect with them on every social platform they have. This gets your name, face and personality in front of them before you apply.
Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media

 

 

Santiago Halty11. Embrace Diversification

In a startup, you do not have the luxury of specializing in one specific task. For example, if you are doing sales you may end up doing sales, marketing, outreach and social media. Embrace this diversification as it provides a wealth of opportunities for experience that would not be possible in a well-established company.
Santiago Halty, Senda Athletics

 

Erica Bell12. Follow Your Passion

Working for a startup takes a tremendous amount of drive and endurance — you’ll need passion to survive! Working alongside a team of people dedicated to a shared passion is extremely rewarding, so do your research and apply for jobs at companies that really excite you. Excitement is crucial to your success!
Erica Bell, Hukkster

13. Give First

Oisin HanrahanYou may not find their job postings listed on the typical career sites, so you’ll need to get creative and contribute to the community first. Do your research. Discover the startups that interest you and what you can do to help them.
Oisin Hanrahan, Handybook

 

 

Kim Kaupe14. Be Prepared to be Thrifty

One piece of advice I would give to college grads is be ready to take a pay cut compared to your friends headed off into the corporate grind. Startups are usually tight on cash and offer other incentives like flexible hours, profit-sharing, or remote working abilities. Be ready to get thrifty during your first year out of college. You can still “live the dream,” just on a startup budget!
Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

 

doreen-bloch15. Pretend You’re the CEO

Startups are often lean on people, funds and resources, so if you’re working for a startup, chances are you’ll wear many hats. In order for the startup to thrive, everyone needs to be dedicated. If you’re as strong an advocate for the company as the CEO is, if you’re selling as hard as the CEO and if you know the business just as well as the CEO, you’ll see a reward when the startup takes off.
Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

 

Gerard Murphy16. Live at Home

I understand you don’t want to move into your parents’ basement, but having a free or low cost place to rest, a home-cooked meal and the support of family can be a godsend. Working at a startup is wonderful, but the salaries will be less than your friends will make. You won’t be able to afford to work at a startup if you also live in an expensive apartment. Save the money, live with mom.
Gerard Murphy, Mosaic Storage Systems, Inc.

16 Things Recent Grads Who Want to Work at Startups Should Know

Tons of fresh grads want to live the startup life, but what should you know before you jump into your first post-grad startup? 16 entrepreneurs offer their best tips.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give recent grads hoping to work for a startup?

Rebecca Zorowitz1. Be Nimble and Ready to Work Hard

At a startup, you will be required to wear many hats and to make order out of chaos. Startups typically don’t have a concrete infrastructure already in place. Working for a startup is not for people who need a distinctive job description. It is for people who are nimble, ready to roll with the punches and ready to work their hearts out. Every day will be different, and that is part of the thrill.
Rebecca Zorowitz, Ooh La La Brands

 

Travis Steffen2. Don’t Scour Job Boards

If I were a recent grad, I’d think about the organization I’d kill to be a part of. I’d then make it my life’s mission to get a meeting with an executive at that company to let them know that I’m the perfect person to work for them — even if a position doesn’t exist — and I’d work for free until a position opened up. This shows a passion that most employers never see. I’d hire you on the spot.
Travis Steffen, Cyber Superpowers

 

jeff epstein3. Be Useful and Overdeliver

You’ll have the opportunity to wear many hats. Make an impact and learn as much as you can — embrace it! Earn a reputation for being a tireless worker and exceed their expectations.
Jeff Epstein, Ambassador

 

 

Ashley Mady4. Seize Opportunities

Be prepared to do anything and everything! The more you do, the more valuable you’ll become. Ease the life of everyone around you, seize every opportunity and always do more than you are asked.
Ashley Mady, Brandberry

 

 

Doug Bend5. Show Your Startup Passion

Startups want to hire someone who loves the product and is a great fit for their team and culture. Do your homework on the startup and the founders before your interview, and discuss why you would be great fit and why you believe in their product. Most importantly, you’ll likely be working longer hours for a smaller salary, so be honest with yourself about whether that belief is genuine.
Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

 

brewster6. Immerse Yourself

It’s quite easy these days to expose yourself to entrepreneurship as a student. With resources like Startup Weekend, Hackathons and online courses, you can fully immerse yourself in startup culture, thinking and product development before working at one. As a hiring manager, I look for recent grads who’ve demonstrated interest and understanding by immersing themselves in entrepreneurship.
Brewster Stanislaw, Inside Social

 

John Rood7. Learn Technical Skills

Even if you plan to work in marketing or business development, you’ll be taken more seriously and will have more opportunities if you understand basic coding. There are lots of opportunities to learn, either for free or for a small investment. If you aren’t willing/able to commit to learning hard skills, the startup life might not be for you.
John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation

 

Caitlin McCabe8. Don’t Be Afraid to Jump Around

Startup cultures can range from corporate to frat house, so don’t be afraid to look into another startup if the culture isn’t a fit. Teams at startups tend to spend a lot of time together so it’s important that the organization structure is a fit.
Caitlin McCabe, Real Bullets Branding

 

Tracy Foster9. Concentrate on Your Cover Letter

Make sure you have a strong cover letter. Resumes are great, but a strong cover letter does so much more to communicate who you are, what your level of interest is in the startup and why you’d be a great fit for the team. Be sure to have someone you trust proofread for you.
Tracy Foster, ONA

 

Maren Hogan10. Get Social

Startups are all over social; it’s one of their biggest marketing tools. Follow and connect with them on every social platform they have. This gets your name, face and personality in front of them before you apply.
Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media

 

 

Santiago Halty11. Embrace Diversification

In a startup, you do not have the luxury of specializing in one specific task. For example, if you are doing sales you may end up doing sales, marketing, outreach and social media. Embrace this diversification as it provides a wealth of opportunities for experience that would not be possible in a well-established company.
Santiago Halty, Senda Athletics

 

Erica Bell12. Follow Your Passion

Working for a startup takes a tremendous amount of drive and endurance — you’ll need passion to survive! Working alongside a team of people dedicated to a shared passion is extremely rewarding, so do your research and apply for jobs at companies that really excite you. Excitement is crucial to your success!
Erica Bell, Hukkster

13. Give First

Oisin HanrahanYou may not find their job postings listed on the typical career sites, so you’ll need to get creative and contribute to the community first. Do your research. Discover the startups that interest you and what you can do to help them.
Oisin Hanrahan, Handybook

 

 

Kim Kaupe14. Be Prepared to be Thrifty

One piece of advice I would give to college grads is be ready to take a pay cut compared to your friends headed off into the corporate grind. Startups are usually tight on cash and offer other incentives like flexible hours, profit-sharing, or remote working abilities. Be ready to get thrifty during your first year out of college. You can still “live the dream,” just on a startup budget!
Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

 

doreen-bloch15. Pretend You’re the CEO

Startups are often lean on people, funds and resources, so if you’re working for a startup, chances are you’ll wear many hats. In order for the startup to thrive, everyone needs to be dedicated. If you’re as strong an advocate for the company as the CEO is, if you’re selling as hard as the CEO and if you know the business just as well as the CEO, you’ll see a reward when the startup takes off.
Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

 

Gerard Murphy16. Live at Home

I understand you don’t want to move into your parents’ basement, but having a free or low cost place to rest, a home-cooked meal and the support of family can be a godsend. Working at a startup is wonderful, but the salaries will be less than your friends will make. You won’t be able to afford to work at a startup if you also live in an expensive apartment. Save the money, live with mom.
Gerard Murphy, Mosaic Storage Systems, Inc.

The Top Qualities to Look for in Your Very First Hire

Your company is up and running – or at least crawling – and now you get to hire your first employee. You’ve probably worked with a lot of people, maybe you’ve even hired a few, but this is a whole new ball game. This person is patient zero of your startup. You need to make sure you get it right! So what should your startup look for in a great hire?

What is the no. 1 quality I should look for in my very first hire and why?

Kelly Azevedo1. Amazing Communication Skills

No matter your industry or the position for your very first hire, you absolutely need someone who can communicate well. When instructions are unclear or incomplete, you’ll want an employee who asks for clarification. If there’s an error or you haven’t accounted for something in the business, you need a team member who speaks up with confidence. And if this hire is customer facing in any way, respectful communication is critical.

– Kelly AzevedoShe’s Got Systems

Phil Chen

2. Work Ethic
Your first hire sets the tone for future hires, so it’s important to find someone with a great work ethic. Having such a quality ensures you can depend on this person and he or she will not need constant encouragement to complete tasks and duties. Small organizations don’t allow to much time for continual guidance, so having an employee who works hard and pushes through is key.

– Phil ChenSystems Watch

Oisin Hanrahan

3. Smarts (That Exceed Your Own)

We have the motto at Handybook: “Recruit smarter than you.”  We believe in hiring the best and the brightest and we admit what we don’t know all. That’s crucial for both the first hire and every hire after that.

Oisin HanrahanHandybook

Mike McGee

4. A Growth Mindset

The No. 1 quality I look for when hiring is someone with a growth mindset. A person with a growth mindset understands that learning never stops. They can always get better at their craft and improve in other areas. A person with a fixed mindset believes that they’ve learned everything they need to and is not open to change. This can not only hamper the quality of their work, but can cause team dynamic issues in the long term.

– Mike McGeeThe Starter League

5. Coachable Foresight

Joshua Lee
The No. 1 quality I look for is ‘coachable foresight,’ whether I’m hiring an employee or contractor. I want them to be able to see where they’re going. I will share with them where the company’s going. Then, if they have foresight, they’ll see in their mind’s eye how they fit in. They’ll have an idea what steps they need to take and be coachable enough to achieve the outcome they want.

– Joshua LeeStandOut Authority

Kim Kaupe
6. Humility

Your first hire should be humble and willing to learn along side of you. At a startup where dynamics and work is changing day to day, it is important to have someone who is humble enough to say, “I don’t know the answer but I will spend the next two hours figuring it out.” Having a know-it-all or someone who is bullheaded will cause your growing company to miss out on opportunities to engage in faster, stronger and bigger developments.

– Kim KaupeZinePak

Kevin Xu7. Consistency

One of the most important characteristics for me is consistency. It is important to evaluate a person’s working ethic based on how much he respects and is serious about a job opportunity. Choosing between ability and faith, I will first look into faith and how you can retain the person by giving him faith in you.

– Kevin XuMebo international

john rampton8. A Complementary Skill Set

hire someone just like you because you get along perfectly. Hire someone who is different than you. If you’re an introvert, you will need an extrovert. If you’re a marketing guy, hire a programmer. Hire someone with different skills.

– John RamptonAdogy

Manpreet Singh9. Complete the Puzzle

First, picture the qualities most important to  your business. Then, look for each of those qualities in yourself. If you’re being honest, you won’t find all of them. The missing ones are the qualities you should look for in your first hire. In fact, that same principle can be applied to every other hire after that. The hiring process is like completing the puzzle you envision. Fill openings with what’s missing.

– Manpreet SinghSeva Call

Phil Dumontet

10. Hunger

People can learn your business, but a genuine drive to achieve great things comes from within.

– Phil DumontetDASHED

 

Jeff Mcgregor
11. Experience

My co-founder and I burned a lot of valuable time trying to learn the ropes on our own. Once we started hiring more experienced talent, we realized that we were spending less time shooting in the dark, and more time building a stronger healthier business. If there’s one thing that allows me to sleep better at night, it’s knowing I’ve hired the right people to run their respective divisions within the company.

– Jeff McGregorDash

Andrew Thomas12. Passion

For your first hire, consider hiring someone who has similar levels of passion. This is not just limited to the product or industry. This person should share your same passion for working hard, creating something amazing and delivering the very best experience or benefits to customers. They should share a passion for the process, not just the destination.

– Andrew ThomasSkyBell Technologies, Inc.

David Ehrenberg13. Sales Skills

Look for a rainmaker who can sell your company’s vision when you’re looking to build traction and start generating users. Technical skills will always be available, but sales and relationship-building skills are much tougher to find.

– David EhrenbergEarly Growth Financial Services

Andrew Schrage14. Flexibility

Things often change at a moment’s notice in today’s business world. Plus, the very first hire will probably be asked to complete many different responsibilities and tasks, some of which they might not possess much knowledge about. In order to be productive, workers must be able to adapt to change rapidly and think quickly on their feet.

– Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

15 Books That Will Change the Way You Run Your Business

It’s the most common question many successful entrepreneurs receive… What are you reading?  15 entrepreneurs across the nation share the books that changed their businesses forever.

What’s one book every entrepreneur should pick up today? What was your big takeaway from it?

Brittany Hodak1. “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande

In this fascinating book, Atul Gawande talks about how a few simple, well-made checklists can reduce the complexity of tasks. Checklists help automate processes and are a simple, inexpensive failsafe against stupid or “careless” mistakes. My big takeaway was that by creating checklists for tasks that are often replicated, you free up time and mental energy for more complex and challenging tasks.
Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

 

Rob Fulton2. “The Einstein Factor” by Win Wenger

Everyone should read The Einstein Factor by Win Wenger. It’s packed full of ways to become more creative at solving problems, which has helped me miss many land mines in business. The big take away: You’re able to solve your toughest problems if you’re not focusing on the problem, but focusing on creative ways of coming up with better questions to ask that make the problem irrelevant.
Rob Fulton, Matikis

 

Patrick Conley3. “No B.S. Direct Marketing” by Dan Kennedy

Dan is like the godfather of direct marketing. The strategy laid out in his No B.S. Direct Marketing book will help any entrepreneur develop a game plan to generate repeatable and reliable sales through advertising the smart way. Ads are a quick way to blow through a lot of cash, but if you follow Dan’s advice you will quickly learn how to see a positive ROI on your marketing efforts.
Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

 

Doug Bend4. “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

The best way to develop strong business relationships is proactively think of ways to help others. Instead of asking for this or that, try asking how you can help them. You’ll be amazed by how much you help yourself by constantly thinking of ways to help others.
Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

 

Darrah Brustein5. “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber

This was one of the first business” books I read many years ago and it’s always stuck with me. It’s so sensible yet so meaningful. Unless your business can continue to function as well without you there, you’ve only created a job for yourself and the company cannot live on. Strive to make yourself replaceable in the company.
Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

 

 

Mark Krassner5. “When I Stop Talking You’ll Know I’m Dead” by Jerry Weintraub

So many of us focus on books that teach us how to do something. I’m all for that, but sometimes it’s better to supplement that reading with solid life experience from someone that’s done it before. When I Stop Talking You’ll Know I’m Dead is a biography written by Jerry Weintraub, one of hollywood’s most successful agents and producers. It reminded me of the importance of relationships.
Mark Krassner, Knee Walker Central

 

Mark Cenicola7. “The Halo Effect” by Phil Rosenzweig

Many entrepreneurs think that by studying other successful companies or following a particular set of rules, they can achieve success. In The Halo Effect, Phil Rosenzweig unmasks the delusions that are commonly found in business so you can avoid emulating a particular strategy that worked for one company, but may have no relevance to the success of your own company.
Mark Cenicola, BannerView.com

 

Jason Grill8. “Prescription for Success” by Anne Morgan

This book focuses on the life and values of Ewing Marion Kauffman, one of the most genuine and most successful entrepreneurs in the history of the United States. My big takeaway was Mr. K’s philosophies. 1. Treat others as you want to be treated. 2. Share life’s rewards with those who make them possible. 3. Give back to society. It’s the right way to act, but also the smartest way to be successful.
Jason Grill, JGrill Media | Sock 101

Aaron Schwartz9. “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield

Patrick Vlaskovitz recommended The War of Art  by Steven Pressfield. It’s amazing — a must read for anyone who is creating anything (a startup, a play, etc.). Pressfield writes about “resistance,” the thing that makes it tough to even work sometimes. My big takeaway, frankly, was that I’m not alone in my struggles. I can’t be A+ all of the time, and that’s okay.
Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

 

Fabian Kaempfer10. “A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin

Whether you’re into fantasy fiction or not, this is a great book that will give your mind a break from thinking about business while providing you with one essential takeaway that you can apply to your startup: strategy. The story of Game of Thrones is like ten games of chess happening on the same board. Learn to see the big picture while understanding the role every action plays in that outcome.
Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

 

Chris Kane11. “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

You wont be able to put this book down or stop talking about it once you start reading it! This is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s a story about talking risks and following one’s “personal legend.” The major theme in the book is that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself, and when you listen to your heart and follow your dreams things will work out.
Chris Kane, Bounceboards LLC

 

Joseph P. DeWoody12. “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

I first read this book during my MBA studies, and there are many lessons readers can take away from it. It is a valuable book that teaches readers how to make decisions to succeed in management and business. The book’s main focus, the Theory of Constraints, has impacted my business and me the most, though.
Joseph P. DeWoody, Clear Fork Royalty

 

Windsor Hanger13. “Predictable Revenue” by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler

Another entrepreneur recently recommended I read Predictable Revenue and I am so glad that I took his advice! The book is one of the most helpful I have ever read. If your business involves sales (and honestly, what business doesn’t), you should get the person in charge of building your sales team to read this book.
Windsor Hanger, Her Campus Media

 

Alexander Mendeluk14. “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill

The distance between where we stand now and achieving whatever we desire is only as great as we perceive it to be. While this might be understood on a cognitive level, believing it on a visceral level is life work. Being able to visualize what you want, believing that you can get it and following a plan in order to do so is the formula for success in any great life endeavor.
Alexander Mendeluk, SpiritHoods

 

 

Matthew Moisan15. “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino

I would suggest, The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino. In the book he says, “I will live this day as if it is my last…I will waste not a moment mourning yesterday’s misfortunes, yesterday’s defeats, yesterday’s aches of the heart, for why should I throw good after bad?”
Matthew Moisan, Moisan Legal P.C.

15 Books That Will Change the Way You Run Your Business

It’s the most common question many successful entrepreneurs receive… What are you reading?  15 entrepreneurs across the nation share the books that changed their businesses forever.

What’s one book every entrepreneur should pick up today? What was your big takeaway from it?

Brittany Hodak1. “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande

In this fascinating book, Atul Gawande talks about how a few simple, well-made checklists can reduce the complexity of tasks. Checklists help automate processes and are a simple, inexpensive failsafe against stupid or “careless” mistakes. My big takeaway was that by creating checklists for tasks that are often replicated, you free up time and mental energy for more complex and challenging tasks.
Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

 

Rob Fulton2. “The Einstein Factor” by Win Wenger

Everyone should read The Einstein Factor by Win Wenger. It’s packed full of ways to become more creative at solving problems, which has helped me miss many land mines in business. The big take away: You’re able to solve your toughest problems if you’re not focusing on the problem, but focusing on creative ways of coming up with better questions to ask that make the problem irrelevant.
Rob Fulton, Matikis

 

Patrick Conley3. “No B.S. Direct Marketing” by Dan Kennedy

Dan is like the godfather of direct marketing. The strategy laid out in his No B.S. Direct Marketing book will help any entrepreneur develop a game plan to generate repeatable and reliable sales through advertising the smart way. Ads are a quick way to blow through a lot of cash, but if you follow Dan’s advice you will quickly learn how to see a positive ROI on your marketing efforts.
Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

 

Doug Bend4. “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

The best way to develop strong business relationships is proactively think of ways to help others. Instead of asking for this or that, try asking how you can help them. You’ll be amazed by how much you help yourself by constantly thinking of ways to help others.
Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

 

Darrah Brustein5. “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber

This was one of the first business” books I read many years ago and it’s always stuck with me. It’s so sensible yet so meaningful. Unless your business can continue to function as well without you there, you’ve only created a job for yourself and the company cannot live on. Strive to make yourself replaceable in the company.
Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

 

 

Mark Krassner5. “When I Stop Talking You’ll Know I’m Dead” by Jerry Weintraub

So many of us focus on books that teach us how to do something. I’m all for that, but sometimes it’s better to supplement that reading with solid life experience from someone that’s done it before. When I Stop Talking You’ll Know I’m Dead is a biography written by Jerry Weintraub, one of hollywood’s most successful agents and producers. It reminded me of the importance of relationships.
Mark Krassner, Knee Walker Central

 

Mark Cenicola7. “The Halo Effect” by Phil Rosenzweig

Many entrepreneurs think that by studying other successful companies or following a particular set of rules, they can achieve success. In The Halo Effect, Phil Rosenzweig unmasks the delusions that are commonly found in business so you can avoid emulating a particular strategy that worked for one company, but may have no relevance to the success of your own company.
Mark Cenicola, BannerView.com

 

Jason Grill8. “Prescription for Success” by Anne Morgan

This book focuses on the life and values of Ewing Marion Kauffman, one of the most genuine and most successful entrepreneurs in the history of the United States. My big takeaway was Mr. K’s philosophies. 1. Treat others as you want to be treated. 2. Share life’s rewards with those who make them possible. 3. Give back to society. It’s the right way to act, but also the smartest way to be successful.
Jason Grill, JGrill Media | Sock 101

Aaron Schwartz9. “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield

Patrick Vlaskovitz recommended The War of Art  by Steven Pressfield. It’s amazing — a must read for anyone who is creating anything (a startup, a play, etc.). Pressfield writes about “resistance,” the thing that makes it tough to even work sometimes. My big takeaway, frankly, was that I’m not alone in my struggles. I can’t be A+ all of the time, and that’s okay.
Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

 

Fabian Kaempfer10. “A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin

Whether you’re into fantasy fiction or not, this is a great book that will give your mind a break from thinking about business while providing you with one essential takeaway that you can apply to your startup: strategy. The story of Game of Thrones is like ten games of chess happening on the same board. Learn to see the big picture while understanding the role every action plays in that outcome.
Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

 

Chris Kane11. “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

You wont be able to put this book down or stop talking about it once you start reading it! This is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s a story about talking risks and following one’s “personal legend.” The major theme in the book is that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself, and when you listen to your heart and follow your dreams things will work out.
Chris Kane, Bounceboards LLC

 

Joseph P. DeWoody12. “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

I first read this book during my MBA studies, and there are many lessons readers can take away from it. It is a valuable book that teaches readers how to make decisions to succeed in management and business. The book’s main focus, the Theory of Constraints, has impacted my business and me the most, though.
Joseph P. DeWoody, Clear Fork Royalty

 

Windsor Hanger13. “Predictable Revenue” by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler

Another entrepreneur recently recommended I read Predictable Revenue and I am so glad that I took his advice! The book is one of the most helpful I have ever read. If your business involves sales (and honestly, what business doesn’t), you should get the person in charge of building your sales team to read this book.
Windsor Hanger, Her Campus Media

 

Alexander Mendeluk14. “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill

The distance between where we stand now and achieving whatever we desire is only as great as we perceive it to be. While this might be understood on a cognitive level, believing it on a visceral level is life work. Being able to visualize what you want, believing that you can get it and following a plan in order to do so is the formula for success in any great life endeavor.
Alexander Mendeluk, SpiritHoods

 

 

Matthew Moisan15. “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino

I would suggest, The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino. In the book he says, “I will live this day as if it is my last…I will waste not a moment mourning yesterday’s misfortunes, yesterday’s defeats, yesterday’s aches of the heart, for why should I throw good after bad?”
Matthew Moisan, Moisan Legal P.C.