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Monthly Archives: July 2013

do I really need to do a business plan?

I’m often asked: do I really need to do a business plan? In short: yes, you really do. Here are a few reasons why:

 

1. Business Viability

 

Having a great idea for a business is one thing, but actually understanding what it takes to make a success of it is another altogether. Say you’ve invented a witchamajig – you can get it made for £1 and sell it for £5, that’s great! But if you want to make a decent amount of money out of it; you’ll have to make and sell your witchamajigs at scale. This means you’ll need to pay for storage, transportation, an office and staff. Your customers are unlikely to come running towards you bearing wedges of cash, so you’ll need to find them by spending money on marketing and advertising. To grow, you’ll need to sell your products to other retailers or distributors, who will expect to buy at wholesale.

 

When a business grows, its cost base rises. It’s really important to think about this in advance; putting it all down on paper can really help you to understand if the business is actually viable at scale. It can also help you to plan for any nasty surprises further down the line.

11 Perfect Entrepreneurial Vacation Spots

Describe your idea of the perfect entrepreneurial vacation.

The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

1. Surfing in the Middle of Nowhere

Part of being an entrepreneur is exploring new industires or shaking up current ones. I like to take a trip to a off the beaten getaway where I can surf or just relax where there aren’t that many tourists and there is an opportunity for me to focus, meditate and enjoy the simple life. This type of vacation gets me to recharge my batteries and look at my life and business in a different way.
– Derek CapoNext Step China

2. Gathering With Geniuses

Being an entrepreneur is about the love for learning and the love for sharing. My dream vacation is spending a few nights in a new city drinking and partying with a bunch of geniuses. Business talk is allowed, but far from serious. South by Southwest Music and Media Conference is a perfect example, and Geeks on a Plane is a dream vacation.
– Brian CurlissDeckPresenter

3. Touring Artisan Lands

In fashion, everyone talks about using artisans from South Asia in their lines, but young designers have no way of accessing those artisans. I would love to be able to go to villages in the North-West Frontier Province or to the Rajasthan desert to develop personal relationships that can lead to a wider, more fair distribution of these dying professions.
– Benish ShahVicaire NY

4. Engaging With New Communities

Vacations are not merely about relaxing. They’re about exploration, engaging with new communities and cultures and challenging and inspiring yourself. My perfect vacation would be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, soaking in the beauty of the continent and its people and touring local entrepreneurial ecosystems. I’d also like to go to AfrikaBurn or Burning Man and participate in the giving economy.
– Christopher PruijsenStartupBus Africa

5. Traveling Without Interruptions

I’d love to vacation with the smartphone turned off and a qualified individual left in charge at the business. I would take no business phone calls — just a few quick and simple check-ins. I’d spend time at a favorite destination with enough money saved on airfare, food and lodging so that the vacation can be enjoyable and interesting each and every day.
– Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

6. Finding Inspiration While Relaxing

I go on what I call innovation vacations. The purpose is to pull myself out of the day-to-day routine and think big. I pick a place of relaxation, unplug and get inspired by a wide range of books. I then plan, think and write.
– Brent BeshoreAdventur.es

7. Golfing With My Inspirations

Golf is a distant memory at best, but my entrepreneurial dream vacation would be hitting a post-Master’s round with Pete Carroll, Jim Collins and Warren Buffett. Nothing beats passion chatter with your biggest inspirations on a beautiful green.
– Matt EhrlichmanPorch

8. Pushing Your Limits

Some of my favorite vacations are on dirt bike trails at campgrounds. It’s not always relaxing and fun, but it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something big after coming back from a tough trail ride. Going on a vacation that pushes your limits and lets you accomplish something outside of business is a great ego boost.
– Jennifer DonoghOvaleye, LLC

9. Making Time for Luxury Activities

The key to a great vacation is doing luxurious activities — things that make you happy but you don’t create time for weekly. I enjoy staying in shape and sleeping, and both suffer during the work week! I also love my job and my team. The vacation part is about not opening a laptop and not creating new work, but I always want to be responsive to help my teammates and our partners.
– Aaron SchwartzModify Watches

10. Reading and Enjoying the Quiet

I always feel like I don’t have enough time to read all the books and other materials that are recommended to me as an entrepreneur. I’d love the opportunity to go away for a while and just consume some of those important ideas without an obligation to try to squeeze the effort in between my work.
– Thursday BramHyper Modern Consulting

11. Keeping in Touch No Matter Where

I always have my phone, iPad and computer with me, so I never really take a vacation from work. Why? Because I love what I do, get bored easily and always feel that I must reply to someone within 48 hours (otherwise, it’s rude).
– Trace CohenLaunch.it

About the Author: theYEC

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

Is Crowfunding Right For Your Business?

Crowdfunding has taken the startup world by storm and has given business owners another choice at raising capital for their cash stricken business. Most start-ups are suitable for websites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo but some should be cautious! Outside investment can be hard and challenging but having an unsuccessful Crowdfund campaign could not only waste time and money, but also kill your drive. Ask yourself the questions below and find out whether your startup is ready to launch a Crowdfunding campaign to help reach your funding goal.

Is your concept innovative and exciting?

Crowdfunding is all about the journey for the backer!  They watch you build your project every step of the way and each backer is willing to wait months to receive the finished reward.   If they have seen your idea done before, that excitement for them is reduced significantly.  Your goal is to educate them on your new concept and give them a reason to fund YOU.  Only then, will they take a chance with you on this new and exciting idea.  Adding features people have not seen and including extra benefits will dramatically help your campaign.

Are your rewards tangible?

People love stuff they can touch, receive, and show off to others.   Your campaign is off to a good start if your idea/concept is an actual tangible product that you will eventually have to ship.  Many campaigns fail simply because people don’t want to wait 3 to 6 months to actually see the final version or watch it slowly built on the web.

Exceptions – movies/documentaries, app games, supporting a cause

What is the reason behind what you’re doing?

Backers want to support campaigns that have a real story behind them.  They want to know the “why” you are doing this and “how” you got started.  So give them what they want and make it easily understandable in your video. Let potential backers know the struggle that went along with making this dream a reality.  They want to feel like they helped you overcome the obstacle that was stopping you from bringing your product/idea to life. Also make sure to let them know “who” you are and even “where” you are located just to help people feel a real connection with you.

12 College Experiences You Need on Your Resume [Infographic]

We’re always scouring the web for new resources and tools to help your career, including this fantastic piece from Boundless, an infographic titled “12 College Experiences Your Resume Needs”…

A few notes:

1. In your Freshman year, you’ll be tempted to party, skip classes and do the very minimum you have to do to get by. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy college. You should. Like Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Be responsible.  Join a club. My recommendation? Join Enactus on campus. You’ll gain some serious “on the ground” experience, have access to an AWESOME corporate network (remember, you want to get a job when you graduate) and you get to enable human progress.

2. I say that leaders aren’t born. They’re made. It takes a lot to become a leader. Figure out what you’re passionate about, take a risk and volunteer to lead. Whether it’s part of a club, Student Government or simply leading a class project, you’ll gain some fantastic experience. It’s okay to follow as well. Leaders need followers. Which one will YOU be?

3. You can always learn something from guest speakers. Be curious. Have an open mind. Just because Joe the Garbage Man is tonight’s guest speaker doesn’t mean you won’t learn anything. I’ve met Joe before. He’s pretty awesome.

4. This is part of being a leader (see #2.) Build your leadership profile on campus. There are lots of options!

5. Intern, intern, intern. The BIG companies might not be hiring Freshmen and Sophomores, BUT local companies typically are. Use your time wisely. Learn how an company operates from the inside, what you’re good at and what you’re not so great at…it’s all part of the experience. When you’re done, the internship experience should help you make better choices when you’re ready to work full-time. You know, that way you don’t get hired and say to yourself “WHAT WAS I THINKING?”  You’ll know because as an intern, you’ve already figured out the hard part.

6. Speak only 1 language? Congratulations. So do the majority of the people on the planet. Set yourself apart and learn a new language. I’d suggest Spanish, French, German or Mandarin Chinese. PS. I’m currently learning Spanish through Rosetta Stone – it’s a lot easier than I thought it would be!

7. IT is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. Coders will rule the world. That’s what everyone is saying anyway. When you pick your major, think about the future. I love English Literature, but there’s not a whole lot you can do in the real world with that major. Think broader and look into science, technology, engineering or mathematics. In a few years, you might be glad you did!

8. Get on LinkedInNOW. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. A digital presence is becoming more and more important these days and believe it or not, employers don’t really care about your Facebook profile, MySpace (yes – it’s back) or Twitter profile. LinkedIn is different. Every Fortune 500 CEO is on LinkedIn. This is NOT something you want to wait to do until you have that first job. Be proactive. Start your LinkedIn profile today. Add in your leadership and work experience as you gain it. Connect with classmates, coworkers, mentors and those in and outside of your industry of preference.

9. In the global economy, it’s important to learn about different cultures. The best way to experience them is through travel. If you have the chance to study abroad, even better.  Remember, that major of International Business doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to work overseas.

You Don’t Need Money to Make Money

Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will.
—Nelson Mandela, former president, South Africa

 

Nothing is more irritating than hearing one of the many generalizations that permeate the business world and corrupt the minds of new entrepreneurs. You’ve heard them. You may even deal in   these false aphorisms: “Follow your passion.” “Fake it ’til you make it.” “Entrepreneurs are born, not made.” However, perhaps the most damaging to new entrepreneurs is the following: “It takes money to make money.” No statement is more wrong or misleading.

I vividly remember when, where, and from whom I first heard this phrase. I was barely in my twenties and in downtown Atlanta, meeting with an accomplished entrepreneur who owned her own graphic design studio. I don’t remember the context of our conversation, but when she said those six words I was perplexed. I was more impressed with the phrasing itself than its validity. At that point, I had started my first three companies with hardly any money at all. What she said just didn’t make sense and certainly wasn’t applicable to me.

My first company, a website for college students, didn’t require much money at all. If anything, it demanded only my time and computer programming skills. During the first few years of the business, I only spent money on web hosting and a domain name, although it certainly wasn’t necessary. Those costs were about $30 monthly. My second company, which produced a web-based content management system, had similar, nominal costs. Finally, my third company, a magazine, didn’t require money at all. I simply came up with the idea and went out to sell it before it existed. For each business, I assumed that raising money was not even an option, and I am glad that I did. Had I heard that awful phrase, I may have delayed or killed my ventures, thinking that I had to raise money. Instead, I figured it out and, most importantly, attacked my goal with the resources I had.

VC Funding of U.S. Companies Falls to Lowest Level in 3 Years

Venture-capital funding for U.S. companies fell sharply year-over-year in the second quarter, marking the lowest level of venture investment in three years.

In the second quarter, 801 U.S.-based companies raised $7.22 billion from VC firms, according to Dow Jones VentureSource, a research unit of News Corp. A year ago, 959 companies raised $8.91 billion. The level of VC investment last quarter marked the lowest level since the second quarter of 2010.

 

The number of Series A, or first-round, deals also fell, to 255 from 339 at the same time last year, according to VentureSource.

And, to round out the bad news, the median pre-money valuation for companies also fell sharply to $10 million from $14 million.

Dow Jones VentureSource cited a range of factors for the decline, including more caution for seed-stage companies, a sluggish fundraising environment for venture capitalists and less demand for consumer-focused Internet companies.

Information technology companies received the most funding in the second quarter, taking in $2.1 billion, or 29 percent of the total. Financial services and health care each took in 18 percent, according to VentureSource.

New York-based Internet retailer Fab took in the highest amount in a single funding round, getting $150 million in June to put the company’s overall valuation at more than $1 billion. That deal was led by Chinese Internet company Tencent Holdings.

The second-largest funding was to ecommerce company Acumen Brands, of Fayetteville, Ark. It raised $83 million in a deal led by General Atlantic Partners.

There is a bright spot, though, amid the bad news on funding: Exits of existing deals through initial public offerings rose. Eighteen venture-backed companies held IPOs in the second quarter, according to VentureSource. That is double the number from the first quarter.

However, merger-and-acquisition activity among venture-backed companies fell slightly. There were 84 such deals in the second quarter, compared with 87 in the first quarter. The largest acquisition in the second quarter was Google’s purchase of Waze for $1.3 billion.

Read more: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/227484#ixzz2ZrduNTNa

Canada is pushing an interesting and innovative Start-up visa. Start a company, get residency

Start-up visa

Get your business idea funded and immigrate to Canada permanently. Canada’s new Start-Up Visa Program is the first of its kind in the world, linking immigrant entrepreneurs with experienced private sector organizations that have expertise in working with start-ups.

There are many reasons why Canada is the best place to build your business. Canada’s advantages include:

  • Strong economic growth
  • Low taxes and low business costs
  • Excellence in research and innovation
  • Top quality of life

Note: The Province of Quebec establishes its own immigration requirements. If you plan on living in Quebec, you must first apply to the Ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communities (MICC) for a Certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ).

Determine your eligibility

Find out if you are eligible to get a start-up visa and immigrate permanently to Canada.

Apply

Follow the steps to apply for a start-up visa.

Check processing times

Find out how long it will take CIC to process your application.

After you apply: get next steps

Learn what you should do after you apply to come to Canada as an immigrant entrepreneur.

Prepare for arrival

Be prepared and know what to expect when you arrive in Canada.

Need Help?

We may have the perfect answer for you

Startup Britain

pitchup with johnlewis header

We’re delighted to be teaming up with John Lewis to offer unique access to their key buyers every six months.

The pilot project in October 2012 and second round in April 2013 uncovered a wealth of UK-based talent, and now John Lewis is looking for more great new British products. In 2014, John Lewis celebrates its 150th anniversary – could your design feature in the retailer’s anniversary product ranges and beyond?

Applications for the next round are now open, please apply here if you would like the chance to pitch to John Lewis buyers on the 27th of October 2013.

NB: Applications will close at midnight on the 18th of August.

You can read about how our last PitchUps went on our blog and take a look at a few photos on our Facebook page.

 

 

pitchup with sainsburys header

StartUp Britain teamed up with leading British supermarket Sainsbury’s to offer British food start-ups a tasty opportunity to pitch their products to top food buyers.

The event follows on from the campaign’s successful PitchUp with high street retailer John Lewis, which has seen over 400 start-ups compete for 12 places. Those chosen benefit from mentoring and practical guidance to develop in key areas including production, pricing and packaging.

The most promising ideas will be invited to pitch their products in August to representatives from StartUp Britain and Sainsbury’s, at Sainsbury’s food centre in Central London.

NB: The application stage is now closed and finalists will be notified shortly.

Better Know a Young Millionaire – Neil Patel from Quicksprout

In this week’s installment of Better Know a Young Millionaire, I have the pleasure of chatting with Neil Patel from Quicksprout. If you’ve been in the online marketing space over the last few years, you’ve no doubt heard about Neil. He started a web company called Crazy Egg, where you can see heat maps of where people click on your website. Not satisfied, he went on to start KISSmetrics, which has become one of the leading online analytics platforms on the Internet.
I’d known about Neil for a long time, and read his blog over at Quicksprout on occasion, but it wasn’t until I was listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast that I learned something amazing about Neil – he’s only 28 years old. That knocked my socks off, and I quickly reached out to Neil to see if he’d be willing to sit down and answer some questions for my series. Being the awesome guy he is, he quickly agreed!
So, without further ado, let’s learn more about Neil’s story and success:

Getting Started
A lot of people think of you as an SEO guy, but you didn’t really start there…you were more like the high school hustler. Can you tell us about your path to where you are now?
Neil: I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. However, it was probably for the wrong reasons when I got started. You see, I was just looking to make money when I started, instead of helping people solve their problems or create something that I love. I just started looking for ways to make money, but I didn’t really know how to do it because I was so young when I started.
The first things that I really did as an “entrepreneur” were selling car parts and DVDs to other kids at my high school. Eventually, I realized that this was pretty small potatoes, and I needed to create a real business that provided real value if I wanted to create something big. This is what led me to the Internet space, where I created a few websites.
Most of these websites failed, but one of them started getting really popular from a rankings perspective (but pretty terrible from a revenue perspective). This website was essentially a copy of Monster.com.
Even though it didn’t make any money, I did learn that I was really good at driving traffic, which led me to consulting and helping others learn how to drive traffic. The trouble with this business was that it wasn’t scalable.
With all these lessons learned, I started getting into the software world, which is what I’m basically doing today.
So, even though you had this entrepreneurship spirit in you, you still went out and got a job while trying to hustle. Can you tell us about your first job?

You Should Remove All Ads From Your Site

Several weeks ago, we wrote about the problem with AdSense. Then, we looked at the possibility of alternative ad platforms. Today, Megan Dougherty of Firepole Marketing shares a controversial opinion: you should do away with advertising on your website altogether. 

Getting a website is easy.

Really easy.

So easy that anyone can do it.

Maybe you build it yourself on a platform like WordPress or Joomla, or maybe you buy one ready made from a service like Flippa.

Easy!

You know what isn’t easy?

Making money from a website.

Not only is it not easy – but there’s a ton of options, and for every option oodles of competing advice on how best to do it.

Most of it sucks.

It sucks in a staggering variety of ways – sometimes the advice is old, sometimes it’s ineffective, sometimes it’s unethical – really, the ways in which advice about monetization can suck never ceases to amaze me.

(Don’t get me wrong! There’s plenty of GOOD advice out there too! Like here, and here, and here, just for starters!)

My least favourite piece of advice is to dump a bunch of ads on your site and watch the money roll in from advertising fees.

That’s just stupid.

Let me tell you why.

But first…