Teaching Startup: One Bad Early Hire Can Kill a Startup

It Comes Down to Managing Expectations and Staying Agile

6.19.17


I kicked off a program at Teaching Startup called the Summer of Startup. Every day in June and July, Teaching Startup is posting new educational and motivational content to make entrepreneurs better entrepreneurs.

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.

Happens.

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


Teaching Startup: The Summer of Startup 2017

Kicking Off Our Summer Startup Project to Help You Kick Off Yours

6.5.17


Every summer I write a piece encouraging anyone and everyone to get started on a summer startup project.

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


Teaching Startup: The Poker Episode

THE SHOW - Episode 4.3

5.22.17





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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Teaching Startup: All Startups Are Scams

THE SHOW - Episode 4.2

5.15.17





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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Teaching Startup: When Do You Call Yourself An Entrepreneur

THE SHOW - Episode 4.1

5.8.17






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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Here's Everything You Should Know About Startup

The Book That Wasn't Meant To Be a Book

4.19.17


I know what you're thinking. It's kind of an ego trip to put a title on a book like Everything You Should Know About Startup. In my defense, it's not what I meant to do when I set out on this project.

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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Automating Digital Video

We're On The Cusp of a Video Data Revolution, and We Need to Tell Those Data Stories

4.13.17


"It is estimated that media companies and user-generated content creates over 2 billion digital images and over 1 billion hours of video watch time every day." -- Justin Pang, head of publishing partnerships at Google.

I don't have to tell you that a digital video revolution is underway. That you know. But what I do want to get across in this article is that we're quickly approaching a critical point at which the explosion of unstructured data generated by digital video content will make it next to impossible to understand, utilize, or even recall most of the information contained in all of that video.

Automation can fix that.

Natural Language Generation (NLG) should be telling the stories behind all that video using all that unstructured data. This is the message I'm bringing to NABShow, the annual gathering of the National Association of Broadcasters, when I speak there on April 23rd. If you're in broadcasting and working with digital video, I want to talk to you. Get in touch.

I've been automating content for seven years, from the very inception of our company, Automated Insights, and have produced billions of unique and insightful human-sounding narratives from raw data for companies like the Associated Press and Yahoo. All along, I've been fighting a battle for acceptance of automated content in the universe of traditional journalism.

Last week, the Associated Press published a report that neatly summarized that battle and declared it all but over. Augmented journalism, the term they use for the integration of human and machine in the creation of news stories, is not meant to take journalism jobs away from humans, it said. Augmented journalism should be standing side-by-side with traditional journalism to incorporate the data science required in contemporary journalism while complementing the investigative process and conclusive reasoning inherent in the job of the journalist.

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Chasing Money, Trading On Your Name

Episode 3.4 of THE SHOW, the Last One With Thad Lewis

4.10.17






So this is the last episode with NFL Quarterback, entrepreneur, and all-around great dude Thad Lewis. We find a comfort level and a common theme here, and get into a great discussion about funding and sales.

Colgan does this exercise in which he pretends to be Thad and dreams up his cold email marketing campaign. There's a lot there for any entrepreneur to take away. The initial marketing boost, or lack thereof, is something that kills companies quickly, and Colgan is brilliant at it.

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Athletes and Entrepreneurs, Confidence is Everything

Episode 3.3 of THE SHOW with Thad Lewis

4.3.17






The Teaching Startup crew definitely got rolling with this episode and it produced some of our most entertaining and interesting content. Discussing confidence and strategy, we get into the similarities between high-level athlete performance and high-level founder performance. The common theme is confidence.

You can have all the talent in the world and still fail. Every athlete knows this. What you put around you is important, but feeling like you can win, against all odds, that's critical. There will be times in startup when you're tested, when you have to survive, and being able to make the right decisions is rooted in your strength of character.

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10 Minutes on NPR to Understand Automated News

The Future of Journalism

3.30.17


So I gave a radio interview to NPR last week on the future of news and automated journalism. Like most good NPR radio, the host turned our casual conversation into an audio story, and when this happens to your own words, it's like 100x more cool.

Listen to it here or scroll down to listen to it on KSFR's site.



Dylan Syverson at KSFR happened to read an interview I gave for MediaShift while I was out at SXSW. We exchanged a few brief emails, and I discovered he's a guitar guy and a poker guy, so right away we had something in common. The actual interview conversation started with that -- guitar stuff and hold 'em stuff -- and then we naturally pivoted into automated news.

What he turned that conversation into was a concise 10-minutes encapsulating everything I want journalists, broadcasters, and all other media people to know about automated content and Natural Language Generation.

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Learn or Hire - Episode 3.2 of THE SHOW with Thad Lewis

Just Because You Have Resources Doesn't Mean Startup Is Easy

3.28.17






In this 2nd episode of THE SHOW with 49ers QB Thad Lewis, we talk about learn vs. hire. In other words, you can't do all of startup by yourself, and you shouldn't -- so when does it make sense to learn the skills you don't have, like coding, as opposed to hiring in those skills.

Thanks to a lifetime of hard work and some good fortune, Thad Lewis has the means and the connections to start whatever business he wants and get it off the ground in a way that most people can't. But that in no way guarantees his success, and he knows this.

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48 Hours at SXSW

I Went To 1 Session and 1 Party, and It Was Awesome

3.23.17


Last week, I spoke on The Future of Automated Journalism at SXSW, on a panel that included folks from the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Norwegian News Agency NTB. The panel was amazing, and I'll be following up from the inbound avalanche for at least another week.

I've been to SXSW several times. In fact, just last year I spoke there about the future of sports. I was there for four days, I went to a ton of sessions. I went to bunch of parties, I even went to a handful of VIP events. It was fun, but it was kind of empty.

So this year I approached SXSW a little differently, because this year, I'm on a mission. Actually it's several missions, but it all rolls up into one greater mission: Democratize the way we communicate to an audience.

The mission started with a number of meetings I had set up around the panel before I had even left for Austin. My flight arrived an hour and a half late, so I was already a half-hour late for my first meeting. But that person was forgiving and that meeting and the rest of the meetings were excellent.

I'm no longer talking about how automated content isn't a threat to news, I'm talking about how automated content can expand, fortify, and even save news. Newsrooms and journalists and broadcast media outlets are finally coming to an understanding about automated content. They're no longer seeing it as a threat, but as a tool. Now, they just want to get started, even if they're not 100% sure how.

That's where I come in.

And then there was the panel.

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NFL QB Thad Lewis Joins Teaching Startup

Four Episodes on the Link Between Sports and Startup

3.21.17






We were actually going to stop having guests on the show.

The episodes with Justin Miller had gone really well, but I came away from them thinking we could make The Show even better if we spent some time refining it. No guests for a while, get into a rhythm and tune our chemistry.

Because Andy was in California last month at 500 Startups and because we all have, you know, day jobs, I was meeting with each of the guys individually and laying out my no-guest plan. Andy agreed immediately and offered to start playing host, which he does here. He's great at it. Colgan was also down, as he and I are starting to find our own chemistry, and you can see that starting to develop.

Chop agreed too, thought it was a great idea, but also wondered out loud if we'd like to have Thad Lewis do a guest stint.

I remember Thad Lewis from his time at Duke. He's that good. And when Chop told me what he was doing as an entrepreneur with his TL9 label, it was just way too good to pass up.

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Teaching Startup: The Show - Episode 2.4

How To Build Relationships With Investors

3.12.17






The final episode with WedPics cofounder Justin Miller. We squeezed a lot of relevant information out of these four episodes, covering everything from the brand of the entrepreneur to selling product to raising money to what to do when it all goes sideways.

For a first attempt with a guest, it went pretty well.

As liked and respected as Justin is, and that comes out in this episode, he's had his doubters. I was there at the beginning, when the take on him was for his looks. I was there when he raised his first round, when the take was his company was all customer acquisition and not revenue (something else he discusses in this episode).

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South By Southwest: Talking About The Future of Media and Journalism

If You're In Journalism Or Broadcast Media, Let's Chat

3.7.17


On Tuesday, March 14th, one week from the date of I'm posting this, I'll be speaking at South by Southwest, where I'll join folks from the Washington Post, the New York Times, and a European News Agency called NTB, to discuss The Automated Future of Journalism.

If you're in media, specifically news, television, and/or radio. I want to talk to you about two things:

1. The future of the newsroom and how automated content will change and improve it.

2. The impact of a growing boom in startup on the future of traditional broadcast media.

Hit me up here if you're in Austin and available on March 14th. My schedule is super-tight and filling up quickly, so I'll need to be selective. If we can't talk in Austin, we can make plans to hop on the phone afterwards.

I think about the future a lot.

With robots.

It's my job.

I mean, I think about the daily life future things, too. Are my financial plans on the right track? Are the Yankees going to compete this season? Do I have clean pants to wear to work tomorrow?

But I also get paid to figure out how we're going to communicate with one another five-to-ten years down the road. And I don't mean emojis and six-second videos and disappearing selfies. I'm trying to figure out how you're going to get the information you need to answer your daily life future questions -- everything from the news you care about to the sports you follow to the financial info you can take action on.

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