Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Startup Lessons from Ordinary day Situations

This is a post written by Sean Percival an entrepreneur from Los Angeles. I totally loved the way he derived startup lessons from what  a majority of people in India live through everyday.

What is more interesting is that the traffic in Uganda, Kampala is equally bad, the roads are pretty much the same – well, apart from the painted work trucks. Go on take a read – and DON’T leave with no lesson learned!

 

[dropcap style=”1″ size=”3″]I[/dropcap] recently returned from a trip to India as part of Geeks on a Plane, an event put on by 500 Startups. Should you have a chance to join one of these trips, I highly recommend it. If you need a new perspective or want to expand your business internationally, this is definitely the way to do so. You’ll gain invaluable insights and connections—and, oh, you might even have some fun along the way.

Our trip was pretty packed, meeting with local startups, entrepreneurs, and investors. So we didn’t venture too far from the cities and major hubs. In other words, I didn’t do much of the touristy/inspirational stuff. However, in India, inspiration can often be found right in front of you. In my case, I found some right along the many packed streets as we made our way through the dense traffic each day. These jammed streets reminded me a great deal of the journey we take with startups. Here’s why:

Driving without Lanes

Most of the roads in India don’t really have lanes. Where one lane ends and another begins is, well, up for interpretation. Drivers are forced instead to flow around each other haphazardly resulting in a strange but beautiful ballet of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and yes cows.

Startup Lesson Learned: Make your own lane or when needed push your way into someone else’s. Don’t wait for infrastructure to catch up when you need to reach a new destination.

No Time to TXT

Drivers on busy Indian streets never text while driving. To do so would not only be dangerous, it could also prove deadly. Traffic is so heavy and unpredictable that you absolutely must give the road your full and undivided attention. This is essentially the complete opposite experience one has while driving in Los Angeles, where many drivers continue to send text messages from behind the wheel despite it being illegal. As such, I found India’s lack of drivers’ texting simply glorious.

Startup Lesson Learned: Don’t get distracted. Keep your eyes on where you’re headed, and save the distractions for later. Your TXT message can wait. You’re not missing anything important on Twitter/Facebook. Just remain focused on where you’re going and what you’re building.

When in Doubt, Honk

Every major street in India is flooded with the cacophony of car horns. It’s both intoxicating and overwhelming. If you’ve been to Manhattan, you’ve experienced something similar, but it’s far more intense in India. A cab driver in Mumbai joked with me that his horn provided “lane control” as he honked three times and smiled. Drivers are so tightly packed (literally inches apart) into the streets, the horn essentially signals, “Hey, I’m right here! Don’t hit me!”

Startup Lesson Learned: Make some fucking noise as you move around. And sometimes your team members could probably use a little honk so they know you’re there.

Painted Work Trucks

I couldn’t help but notice most of the work trucks of India were elaborately painted, and some were even adorned with flowers. I’m talking about the trucks that haul cargo, move livestock, and pick up trash. These tasks aren’t the most glamorous, but the trucks were painted as if they were competing in a beauty pageant. As it turns out, these are well-loved trucks because they typically provide the means for the family’s entire livelihood. Their appearance is a matter of pride and deep appreciation for the vehicle.

Startup Lesson Learned: Take some pride in your vehicle, office, desk, startup, appearance and your own livelihood. Even if your startup is not terribly sexy, make it great and something others admire, even if that admiration is coming from their rearview mirror.

Just Believe You Won’t Crash

Through all the twists and turns and while surviving the overflowing intersections and intense traffic, I didn’t witness one single accident. That was the most remarkable thing about the busy streets of India. There are thousands of drivers packed into tight spaces, inches apart, and yet fender benders seem uncommon. The streets, as imperfect as they were, gave no driver a reason to think he or she might crash. Drivers had an unbreakable sense of confidence they would make it through any tight situation.

Startup Lesson Learned: Sometimes you just have to believe you’re going to make it—that your crazy ideas and maneuvers might just actually get you there. Simply believe you’ll escape unscathed, and you might do exactly that.

[note color=”#f1e8b1″]You can check out and follow Sean Percival from his personal blog for more interesting, startup related posts and more here[/note]

List of 15 venture capital firms

Guest article by Mike Lebus, co-founder of Angel Investment Network. Part of The NextWomen Africa Theme.

Here is a list of 15 venture capital firms (some home-grown and some foreign) looking to take advantage of the opportunities Africa has to offer.

1. Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm EchoVC (http://www.echovc.com/), which has invested in companies such as LinkedIn, Betaworks, Facebook, Pandora and Bit.ly, has apparently committed around US$30 million to tech start-ups in Sub-Saharan Africa with a focus on Consumer Internet & Services, Mobile, Digital Media, Content & Advertising, Software, Services & Infrastructure.

2, San Francisco-based I/O Ventures(http://www.ventures.io/) has launched a US$10 million fund in Africa.  The Savannah Fund is a seed capital fund specializing in US$25,000 – US$500,000 investments in early stage high growth technology (web and mobile) startups in sub-Saharan Africa. Initially focused on East Africa, the fund aims to bridge the early stage/angel and venture capital investment gap that currently exists in Africa.

3. Invenfin (http://www.invenfin.co.za/) is a South African seed and early stage venture capital fund. They are interested in all types of innovation in all sectors, so their funding requirements are flexible, but all investments must have unique intellectual property.

4. Sawari Ventures (http://www.sawariventures.com/) is a global venture capital firm focused on the Middle East & North Africa region. It is focused on early and growth-stage investing within tech media, telecoms, eCommerce and financial services.

5. Fanisi Venture Capital Fund (http://www.fanisi.com/) is a venture capital fund established in Luxembourg to work with competitive and sustainable businesses across East Africa. Fanisi makes equity investments in high growth businesses across diverse industry sectors, focusing principally on companies with an established record but also reaching out to start ups and early stage companies. Fanisi has a preference for investing in agribusiness, ICT, retail, financial services, education,  and health.

6. Adlevo Capital (http://www.adlevocapital.com/) is a Mauritius-based private equity fund established to capitalize on the growing demand for infrastructure and services in sub-Saharan Africa.  They target investments into technology-enabled infrastructure and services companies in sub-Saharan Africa, with an emphasis on the Nigerian and South African markets.

7. 88pmh (http://www.88mph.ac/) makes investments in early stage mobile-web companies targeting the African market; focusing purely on ideas with potential to scale across Africa.  They invest up to US$100k per startup and make investments simultaneously in 10-12 startups.

8. East Africa Capital Partners(http://www.eacp.co.ke) is a technology, media and telecommunications sector-focused Venture Capital Fund Manager, investing in the greater Eastern Africa region. It specializes in carefully selected investments in technology, media & telecoms growth equities. EACP is currently actively investing funds from the $100m ATMT Fund 1, in the East African region.

9. eVentures Africa Fund (http://www.eva-fund.com/) is the first venture capital firm investing in African SME’s active in digital media. Their focus is on internet and/or mobile applications, platforms, e-commerce and solution-providers.

10. Intel Capital (http://www.intelcapital.com/) has also entered the sub-Saharan Africa market. Marcin Hejka, managing director, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa for Intel Capital explained “Intel Capital is investing in the broad spectrum of technology opportunities including content, software and applications, consumer internet, e-commerce, data center and services; we are able to invest in technology companies at all stages of development, though majority of our investments happens at expansion stage”.

11. Africa Media Venture Fund (http://www.amvf.nl/) mobilizes capital and experience in the Netherlands to invest in entrepreneurs in the media sector and small and medium sized African media companies.

12. KnifeCap (formerly PoweredbyVC) (http://www.knifecap.com/) is a Southern African growth equity fund manager focusing on technology-enabled ventures  It investment focus is on high growth, high impact technology-enabled businesses from South Africa and other frontier economies across Sub-Saharan Africa.

13. Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa (http://www.hp-ventures.co.za/) is an investment company based in South Africa. They invest in innovative technology companies with a proven track record of growth and a business model that is substantiated by the generation of historical revenue.

14. 4Di Capital (http://www.4dicapital.com/) is an independent early-stage technology venture capital firm based in South Africa’s “Silicon Cape”. They target startup investment opportunities with high growth potential at the seed- and early-stages in the mobile, enterprise software and web sectors.

15. Jacana Partners (http://www.jacanapartners.com/) is a pan-African private equity company that invests in entrepreneurs, builds successful small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and delivers sustainable financial and social returns. Their investment teams currently cover three countries in East Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) and three countries in West Africa (Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone). They invest in many different sectors but are particularly interested in markets like financial services, property, healthcare, technology, business services, insurance, education, manufacturing and agro-processing.

This is only a snapshot of some of the venture funds focusing on Africa.  Which other VC’s do you know that are offering funding to African companies?

This guest article was written by Mike Lebus, co-founder of Angel Investment Network, which has a network in South Africa (http://www.investmentnetwork.co.za/).

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Selection of Best Social Media Marketing Resources

Originally posted on DreamGrows

Content Creation and Blogging

These posts give you ideas how to create better content and distribute your message.

  1. 22 Blogging Tips That Will Get You More Visitors
  2. 20 Steps to Write a Blog Post
  3. How to Develop New Content for Your Blog in 9 Simple Steps
  4. 9 Simple Formulas to Create Killer Headlines
  5. 5 Essential Social Media Writing Guides You Must Apply
  6. How to Write Long-Lasting Blog Posts
  7. How to Get Your Blog to 30,000+ Visits per Month
  8. Why Businesses Need to Blog?
  9. How to Build a Social Media Bomb
  10. The Content Grid: Content Marketing in a Blink [Infographic]
  11. Getting Real About Your Social Media Marketing Plan – Content First!

Social Media Examples

What other have done that you can learn from. Facebook welcome pages and campaigns, Google+ pages and YouTube channels.

  1. 22 Inspiring Examples of Facebook Page Designs
  2. 26 Great Facebook Landing Page Examples
  3. 13 Cool Examples of Google+ Brand Pages
  4. 11 Awesome & Inspiring Facebook Campaigns
  5. 15 Must See Interactive Youtube Ads

Social Media Monitoring and Analyzing Tools

There are a lot of tools available for monitoring social media and anlyzing results. Start with the free tools and see if something is missing, then you can decide what paid options would you need.

  1. 54 Free Social Media Monitoring Tools
  2. Facebook Cheat Sheet: Sizes and Dimensions
  3. Free Facebook Landing Page Creation Tools
  4. Measuring Your Social Media Success with Google Analytics
  5. HOW-TO: Tag Social Media Links for Google Analytics
  6. How to Add Facebook Insights for Your Website
  7. 10 Free Social Media Tools For Everyone To Use Daily

Social Media Research, Trends and Statistics

Where is social media marketing going? What should be measured? What works? Here are some post that give you ideas.

  1. Top 10 Social Networking Sites by Market Share of Visits
  2. 48 Social Media KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
  3. 15 Must-Know Facts on How People View Websites

Other Social Media Resources

Everything from Facebook advertising to planning your social media resources. Take a look at these posts and fine tune your activities.

  1. Facebook Advertising Basics
  2. How to Run Effective LinkedIn Ads Campaign
  3. 15 Tips for Creating a Kick-Ass Social Media Campaign
  4. How to Create Your Social Media Strategy?
  5. Planning Social Media Resources
  6. Social Media ROI Backwards (for B2B)
  7. How To Measure Social Media ROI
  8. Best Selling Social Media Marketing Books 2011
  9. Social Media Manager Responsibilities
  10. Social Media Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
  11. 20 Tips to Grow Your Mailing List

We don’t pay you to work here

I found this post interesting, did not want to take chance of posting a link and tomorrow I find the link dead!

It was Originally posted on  Venture Hacks – A very awesome site with stuff for Startups

“A raise is only a raise for thirty days; after that, it’s just your salary.”

– David Russo, VP of Human Resources at SAS Institute

This is one of my favorite quotes from the book Hidden Value. It explains why money by itself doesn’t motivate high performance. Money by itself can only motivate the quest for more money. A raise is only a raise for thirty days; after that, it’s just your salary.

We are motivated to perform when our work expresses who we are, when the business’ goals are intrinsically meaningful to us, and we feel that we are valued as people, not simply as economic agents.

But, even in startups, financial incentives and HR practices often treat us like economic agents:

“Consider the implicit values conveyed in the modern management practices adopted by many companies. Most firms today emphasize, among other things, the employee’s responsibility for being career resilient, employment at will and no-fault dismissal, pay for performance, downsizing to cut costs, and maximizing shareholder value above all else. What is the message any sentient employee takes from these practices? Pursue what is best for you, not the firm or the customer, adopt a free-agent mentality, and do not invest any more in the firm than it is willing to invest in you. The underlying values are crystal clear, even if they are never expressed in a formal way. In this sense, arguments by managers that value statements are irrelevant or inappropriate miss the point: All organizations have values; the only question is how explicit they are about them.

“And what happens when employees behave in accordance with these values? First, a rational employee is not likely to exert much effort in activities beyond what he or she is explicitly rewarded for. A ‘show me the money’ mood prevails. Second, a smart employee will be constantly alert for new and better job opportunities in other organizations—loyalty is for fools. Third, unless cooperation is explicitly monitored and rewarded, teamwork is viewed as optional… To resolve some of these problems, management’s job is to design ever more sophisticated control and incentive systems to ensure that the necessary teamwork occurs and that the loss of intellectual capital is minimized.”

The problem isn’t that money is a weak motivator. The problem is that money is a terribly strong motivator. By itself, money motivates the wrong people to do the wrong things in the quest for more money.

This is why Zappos pays employees to leave. This is why Tandem Computersdidn’t tell employees their salaries until after they started working. In other words: we don’t pay you to work here—we pay you so you can work here.

Organizing around values, not value

The authors, Charles A. O’Reilly III and Jeffrey Pfeffer, both from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, studied how eight companies, from Men’s Wearhouse to Cisco, ignore the pernicious assumption that compensation should be the foundation for management systems:

“First, each of these companies has a clear, well-articulated set of values that are widely shared and act as the foundation for the management practices that… provide a basis for the company’s competitive success. [e.g. Southwest’s “Work should be fun… it can be play… enjoy it.”]

“Second, each of these organizations has a remarkable degree of alignment and consistency in the people-centered practices that express its core values. [e.g. Southwest: “We hire happy people.”]

“Finally, the senior managers in these firms, not just the founders or the CEO, are leaders whose primary role is to ensure that the values are maintained and constantly made real to all of the people who work in the organization… The senior managers in each of these companies see their roles not as managing the day-to-day business or even as making decisions about grand strategy but as setting and reinforcing the vision, values, and culture of the organization. Dennis Bakke at AES [a $2B company] claims that he made only two decisions in 1998, one of which was not to write a book on the company.”

Extraordinary results with ordinary people

The book’s subtitle is “How great companies achieve extraordinary results with ordinary people.”

Every rational company in the world is trying to hire the best people in the world. And all but one of them will fail at this task. There can only be one company with the best people. Hiring the best is a failing strategy.

Organizations must be designed to thrive with ordinary people. If businesses can thrive with the capabilities of ordinary people, they can also thrive with extraordinary people. Practices like Extreme Programming, that were designed for programmers with ordinary skills, work even better with extraordinary programmers.

Read Hidden Value for specific recruiting, training, information-sharing, and rewards practices that aim to exploit the capabilities of ordinary and extraordinary people alike.

“If people come for money, they will leave for money.”

– James Treybig, CEO of Tandem Computers