The Great Silicon Valley Startup Debate
There's a lot of debate in this episode and it's all warranted and it's all around where you start your company and how much that matters.
When Automated Insights sought its Series A VC raise, we were offered a big check almost immediately, funding for years, provided we move our company out west. Robbie had a young family, I had a young family, it was pretty much off the table.
We got to our Series A, but it took much longer and was much more work than even we, conservative as we were, could have imagined. We didn't raise VC money locally, but we couldn't have gotten there without the support of the organizations and individuals around us for introductions, advice, and help with business development.
We wound up giving back to our community in different ways. Robbie turned to angel investing, and is involved with a number of local early startups. I hated writing checks, so I do this, and I did ExitEvent, and I advise and/or mentor anywhere from four to six local early startups at any given time.
A startup community is important, no doubt, but questions have to be asked and I think we ask most of them in this episode. How valuable is the local community? Does it need a physical, locational definition? What about digital communities (that's a big one for us)? What is support and what is just noise? Does everyone outside of the Valley need to be customer first?
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The Startup Show: Episode 6.3
Before I started my journey at Automated Insights, I had spent a couple years consulting. This is what entrepreneurs do when they finish one thing and haven't figured out what to do next. But I didn't just do consulting, I went all-in on a consulting startup.
I hired people, I built the portfolio up to over 20 clients, I was doing over $1 million in revenue each year. This was the first time I had built something completely based on service and completely based on revenue, and that would inform how I thought about startups from that point on.
The lesson learned was pretty simple. Get to money, and get there quick.
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Data variability, which is predicated upon the number and the depth of insights driven by changes in the data, is the key quality driver in Natural Language Generation (NLG). And to do NLG data variability right, you have to create a lot of scenarios.
NLG creators must always be asking: How vast is the universe of outcomes that the engine takes into account when creating a narrative?
In other words: How many ways can you say something?
It's not a coincidence that this is the same approach used when developing NLG's reverse twin, Natural Language Processing (NLP).
Words from Data meets Data from Words
People get touchy when you confuse NLG and NLP, especially those people who do either for a living (which is not a lot of people, but they still get touchy). The truth is that there is a lot of commonality between NLG and NLP. The core concept is the same: Understand the input and translate to the output.
While NLP takes in words and translates those words to data, NLG takes in data and translates that data to words. But creating words isn't the hard part of NLG. In fact, we've reached the point where machines can create complex sentences without too much trouble. In its simplest form, creating words from data is a binary proposition:
read the rest at: https://automatedinsights.com/blog/good-vs-bad-automated-content-its-in-the-context-layer
Some reasons are obvious, some less so
There are some obvious reasons why I wanted to get Tatiana Birgisson, founder of Mati Energy, and Jake Stauch, founder of Neuro Plus, on The Startup Show. And also some not-so-obvious reasons.
Tatiana is one of the most impressive people I've met over the last five years. And it's conscious decision I just made to not call her the most impressive woman or the most impressive young entrepreneur I've met over the last five years.
When I first met Tatiana, she was dragging kegs of Mati Energy to startups all over the American Tobacco campus. She was perfecting the formula, brewing the beverage, packaging, marketing, selling, and delivering. Mostly by herself.
Forward a year or so later when she was the keynote at Triangle Startup Weekend. I brought my twin daughters, around 10 years old at the time, to hear Tatiana speak and take in all the startup. Tatiana made an instant impression on both of them, more so than my own startup championing around the house.
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Building The Startup Show
I'm so freaking lucky.
I realize how cool it is that I'm in a position where I can be so open about my side project(s) at any given time. I like to think I've earned that over a 20-year career of proving I can handle, and actually benefit from, doing two things at once.
In this episode of The Startup Show, Jon, Andy and I got into the really deep topic of side projects. I'm a big believer in the necessity of side projects, something between a hobby and a job, to fuel what it is your trying to do with your life. And if your "day job" is the right job, i.e. it's the roadmap to do what you want to do with your life, a second thing can't be anything but helpful to that first thing.
Over the last week I've realized a couple things. I've never been more convinced that Teaching Startup and The Startup Show can and will work and do big things, but I'm also more and more aware of how much I need to narrow my focus.
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It's not as crazy as it sounds
The latest episode of The Startup Show is the first in which we take an actual member question from our Talk board (in the member area of the Teaching Startup website, join now and use it please).
Dawn was let go from her job due to cutbacks. This is a great excuse for her to start her own company, which she has always dreamed of doing. One small problem, she doesn't have a single idea for a product, service, or anything else to sell.
This is actually not a problem. She served us up a great, universal entrepreneur's dillema.
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Because we need to move the conversation forward too
In Episode 5.2 of The Startup Show, we talk about sexual harassment in startup culture.
The recent incident at 500 Startups isn't the first time sexual harassment has made an appearance in startup culture. Far from it, just look at all the recent issues at Uber as a starting point. Nor do we think that this is something that will magically go away anytime soon.
It sucks, and we just feel like startup culture should, and more importantly COULD, be better than corporate culture in this regard. And we think the responsibility for that falls heavily on dudes like us.
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I spent the summer thinking about how to make Teaching Startup better
I don't want The Startup Show or Teaching Startup itself to be a local thing. I've been pretty adamant about that ever since ExitEvent, my last startup, couldn't get out of the local scene and expand nationally. But I also believe there are concepts we talk about on a local level that can inform at a national level.
What works for Raleigh and Durham can work for Des Moines, Mobile, Syracuse, even Austin.
In this first-ever "local" episode of the now rebranded The Startup Show, Jon Colgan, Andy Roth and I (no Chop this week), talk about everything from beer to religion to creative writing to west coast money and how they can influence and impact local economies, and how entrepreneurs can and should be at the heart of this.
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How to make the human touch more human using natural language generation
They'll point to fees as the culprit. In other words, the robo-advisor is far less expensive, charging less than 1% of the value of one's portfolio, as opposed to the traditional 1% to 3% charged by most professional financial managers.
They'll also jump on the shift in user experience expectations from boomers to millennials. Younger people tend to do everything digitally and quickly, with as little personal contact as necessary. That's how they shop, get themselves from place to place, order food, find lodging, and so on. On-demand, push-button, machine-recommended-options are just the way the kids do things these days.
As a counter-argument, the professional managers offer a more -- pun intended -- human touch. Their experience, their ability to research, and the option to call or email or visit the local branch are all selling points.
What the professional financial managers tend to miss is that the human touch, so often lauded as their unique differentiator, isn't as human as it used to be. If professional managers want to reach and accommodate this new investor class, they need to be able to scale the human touch.
read the rest at: https://automatedinsights.com/blog/nlg-the-secret-weapon-in-the-war-between-financial-managers-and-robo-advisors
It Comes Down to Managing Expectations and Staying Agile
Two years ago, an entrepreneur came to me with a dilemma. She had been approached by another entrepreneur who was being forced to wind down his own fledgling startup as his funding dried up. He was a one-person shop, he had made a decent run of it, but time was up.
Now he wanted to go to work for her.
I walked her through the dilemma. The guy had great tech and had been able to do a lot in a short amount of time with limited funds and resources. His was a tragic and all-too-common story. He raised a small seed round, crushed his milestones, a lot of investors were saying "maybe," and he just ran out of runway.
So I asked her: Where's the dilemma? He didn't want a lot of money or equity. He wasn't looking for a specific role, but he came with ideas. He had connections, experience, and he filled a gap in a place she wasn't super strong. He came with zero baggage. He wasn't a jerk, no blemishes on his personal record.
She then explained, in a long, roundabout way, that he didn't fit the plan.
read the rest at: http://teachingstartup.com/one-bad-early-hire-can-kill-a-startup.asp
Kicking Off Our Summer Startup Project to Help You Kick Off Yours
For the last several years, I've been writing about the Summer of Startup. The idea developed around finding an entrepreneurial summer activity for my pre-teen kids, but it has since evolved into a theme for everyone I talk to.
Summer is just a different time. When you're in school, it's a huge downshift, of course. But even when you've moved on into the working world, everything still slows down from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Vacations are taken across your organization, kids have to be entertained and accounted for, and life just generally eases up a bit.
It's downtime, regardless of who you are or what you do.
Take advantage of it.
I'll tell you how in a second.
For us here at Teaching Startup, the Summer of Startup is going to be about turning this nice little niche we've carved out into a real, live thing. I've got four objectives:
1. Opening up the beta to those entrepreneurs who have been on the waiting list seemingly forever, which will conclude with opening up the beta to the public.
2. Building a more robust and useful website experience, making membership mean something more than access to all of the content.
3. Holding off on new episodes of The Show while we tighten up the definition of it, the chemistry, and the production.
4. Spreading the word of the mission to people who can help turn this into a business, including creating a deck for partners and investors.
read the rest at: http://teachingstartup.com/the-summer-of-startup-2017.asp
THE SHOW - Episode 4.3
In startup, everyone talks about failure and a lot of folks even encourage it -- Fail fast and fail often, they say. There's nothing wrong with this mantra, on its face, but it's rare that someone will actually walk you through what failure looks like and how to prepare for it. In startup, failure isn't the loss of your startup, failure is a long parade of pain.
In corporate life, failure is the loss of your job, maybe the loss of your house, your car, your family, everything you've worked so hard for. A lot of folks avoid startup because it seems like the risk is much higher to wind up in that aforementioned nightmare situation. But contrary to conventional wisdom, entrepreneurs don't love risk, they love to stare down risk, tolerate it, and mitigate it. If they're good, they eliminate it.
That got us talking about poker.
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THE SHOW - Episode 4.2
There's a fine line between being a dreamer and being an entrepreneur. Don't get me wrong, I mean this in the best light possible. Without dreams, without suspension of disbelief, without the ignorance of what can't be done, the entrepreneur is no different than the cubicle drone. One thing separates the entrepreneur from the dreamer: Execution.
There's also a fine line between being an entrepreneur and being a scam artist. Let's face it, if you're doing startup right, you're doing something no one has ever done before with no proof it will work, much less succeed. And you're trying to sell that vaporware, that dream, those magic beans, to customers or investors or both.
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THE SHOW - Episode 4.1
Why do people hesitate calling themselves entrepreneurs? I meet entrepreneurs from all over the country -- these are smart, ambitious, even successful people who having trouble getting the term entrepreneur to roll off the tongue. And more often than not, it's because they feel like they don't know enough about startup to label themselves as an entrepreneur. This is ludicrous. And it makes me furious.
But I can understand the awkwardness of it. It's not like being a doctor or a lawyer -- there's no credentialed association to back up the fact that you studied and worked hard to become what you are. There's also a bit of sketchiness to it, those multi-level marketing and huckster salesmen who go with entrepreneur because it gives them a showy legitimacy.
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The Book That Wasn't Meant To Be a Book
But for the record, I wish I had read this book 20 years ago.
In the spring of 2015, Automated Insights, the startup I helped build from the ground up when it was just me and the founder developing our first Natural Language Generation platform and a bunch of young coders standing up the infrastructure, was acquired, quite by surprise, by a private equity firm. It was one of the highest-dollar exits in the Triangle startup center in years.
Just 15 months prior to that acquisition, ExitEvent, a news source and network/database of startups across the Southeast and beyond, was acquired by Capitol Broadcasting for 20x what I put into it.
My phone, email, Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook blew up. A lot of questions about taking startup to exit, a lot of the same questions about taking startup to exit. After more coffee, lunch, and beer than one human should have over the span of two months, I got an idea.
See, the Ai/ExitEvent twin exits weren't an overnight thing. They were actually my 9th and 10th startups. Most of those turned profitable and exited nicely, a couple of them blew up in my face or languished into stagnation. But over the course of 20 years and 10 startups, I've built up enough stories and scenarios to be able to talk about startup without having to resort to bullshit startup talk.
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