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Building an Online Private Community – 10 Lessons Learned During The First 6 months

Six months ago I launched what is now called Founders Grid – A private member community for like minded entrepreneurs who want more freedom, greater privacy and better opportunities to put their skills and money to good use.

As with every new business, Founders Grid has had it’s fair amount of teething problems, challenges and has gone through a few different “phrases” in it’s short 6 month history.

This post will try to outline the lessons I have learned, and hopefully a few nuggets of helpful information for those who considering building their own online private community.

Background Story

In 2011 I wrote a blog post covering the process of incorporating a offshore company in Hong Kong. Since publishing, I receive multiple emails per week asking for advice on setting up companies offshore.

From the emails it was clear the “offshore company” industry is very fragmented – those who contacted me clearly wanted advice from someone who had been on the ground and had incorporated an offshore company themselves vs. advice from offshore service providers who who have a financial incentive.

While I try to help as many people as I can, I can’t give detailed answers to everyone, hence the idea of creating what was then called the Hong Kong Company Hub – a private community members could use to discuss incorporating in Hong Kong. Discussions included what service providers we’re trust worthy, what accountants were reliable and so on.

After a month or two I quickly realised The Hong Kong Company Hub had more potential than I first realised, especially if I broadened the focus. The choices that made sense to me at the time included broadening the community to cover a bigger geographical region (i.e Asia) or focus on covering other offshore jurisdictions.

Unfortunately I made the mistake of choosing the region specific direction and went onto change the branding to the Asia Business Hub. The plan was to build a community for business founders in Asia. The main problem here was that there wasn’t really a problem to solve and I did not have enough experience with the subject.

Hiring process

The Interview

How did you find your team?

Mostly used HiringThing. That certainly helped us. Some of them, I got by posting our job online and going through résumés just like a lot of companies do. Then a couple of them, I’d worked with in the past or were referred to by colleagues.

I read that your team works remotely, so I just wanted to ask about that. How do you guys even work with that?

That’s a good question. From the beginning, we decided we wanted to make something where we could work virtually. That’s been really great for the team and has really worked really well for us. Three times a week, we have video conferences, and we all meet together using GoToMeeting. That helps us stay on the same page. We also use something called Campfire, which is an online chat tool by 37signals. Everyone, when they’re working, logs into Campfire and we chat about what’s going on throughout the day. We’re in constant contact. Even though we’re all in different places, we manage to stay in sync as if we were in the same office.

World’s biggest chip equipment manufacturer names Gary Dickerson as CEO

Applied Materials, the world’s largest maker of chip manufacturing equipment, has named Gary Dickerson as president and chief executive of the company. He replaces Mike Splinter, who will remain on the board and retain the title of executive chairman.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Applied makes the multi-million-dollar equipment that is used to manufacture semiconductor chips in multi-billion-dollar factories. So the job of leading Applied Materials is a critical one for the future of Moore’s Law, the foundation of modern electronics. (Gordon Moore, chairman emeritus of Intel, predicted in 1965 that the number of transistors on a chip will double every couple of years). Moore’s Law has held up for decades and Applied’s advances are one reason that it has.

The appointment is effective on Sept. 1. Dickerson was previously president of Applied Materials, while Splinter served as CEO since 2003.

“As president, Gary has proved to be an outstanding leader and partner, focusing Applied on new strategies for profitable growth through our unmatched strength in precision materials engineering,” said Splinter, who is 62, in a statement. “I welcome him to the Board and have every confidence that his vision and personal drive will translate into remarkable success in leading Applied Materials as our next CEO.”

Dickerson, 56, has worked for many years in the chip equipment industry. He served as CEO of Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates for seven years until Applied bought it in 2011. He also spent 18 years at KLA-Tencor, another equipment maker.

“Today, Applied Materials enjoys a stronger foundation than ever before on which to build momentum for growth,” said Dickerson in a statement. “We have better and broader technology, very deep talent, and the passion to drive the materials innovation that will provide the device performance and yield solutions our customers need to advance and win. Our opportunities have never been greater, and I am grateful to Mike and the board for the privilege to lead Applied into a new era of growth and success.”

Splinter has worked in chips for 40 years. This fall, he will receive the Semiconductor Industry Association’s 2013 Robert N. Noyce award for his outstanding achievements in the business.

Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield’s new Slack signed up 8,000 companies in 24 hours

VANCOUVER — Not every tech founder can follow up a massive success with another massive success. But a couple years after a failed gaming endeavor, Glitch, it looks like Flickr cofounder Stewart Butterfield may have another big winner on his hands.

At least, if the early returns are any indication.

“We did the launch announcement yesterday morning,” Butterfield told me today at Grow Conference in Vancouver today. “And so far, it’s been 24 hours … 8,000 companies have signed up.”

That’s many more companies than Butterfield expected — so much so that he joked that the wait list to get into the limited preview release would take approximately four years.

“That’s way more than we can handle,” he said. “Technologically, no problem, we can handle it.” But onboarding each company is a process, as expected.

Slack is an internal communications tool for distributed teams — a Yammer, in a sense. The goal is to bring all your company’s communication together in one place, from e-mail, instant messaging, text messages, Yammer-like tools, corporate intranets, wikis, and more. And after seeing it, it’s just possible that Slack could massively reduce our crippling dependence on email.

The tool isn’t just a connector, communicator, and file-transfer utility. It also connects with external services such as DropBox, Twitter, Zendesk, Crashlytics, HelpScout, and Heroku and integrates their announcements, alerts, bug tracking, and data into the communications stream when and where appropriate. In addition, with distributed search built right into Slack as a core part of the product, full-text search for any documents uploaded to the system — and for any Google Documents shared on Slack — it’s a single place to manage just about everything.

Organizations that have been trying Slack in its private beta-test period have dramatically reduced their dependence on e-mail, Butterfield told me.

But he’s not letting 8,000 potential customers on the Slack waiting list get him too excited. Butterfield is realistic about the challenges of enterprise software adoption.

“We have a real challenge getting organizations to switch, because if it’s consumer software, it’s just one person who need to put it on your phone, and you use it,” he told me. “But when you have to convince 17 people at once, or 35 people, 58 people, and some people come to office pissed off about something that happened … and then their boss comes in and tells them they need to use the new notifications system, sometimes they say, ‘Fuck you!’”

At minimum, however, it’s a good start.

VentureBeat is creating an index of the most exciting cloud-based services for developers. Take a look at our initial suggestions and complete the survey to help us build a definitive index. We’ll publish the official index later this month, and for those who fill out surveys, we’ll send you an expanded report free of charge.

4 Charitable Entrepreneurs to Emulate

Business sometimes gets a bad rap for being cutthroat and selfish. However, entrepreneurs are some of the most influential leaders in our towns and communities—big and small. They have the potential to affect the people around them for good, and many do just that.

Whether you are just starting out in your business journey, or are already well established, we can all benefit from the positive example of those who have gone before. Here are just four examples of charitable entrepreneurs from whom we can learn.

Image Credit: www.dailyfinance.com

Image Credit: www.dailyfinance.com

1. Warren Buffet

As one of the richest men in the world, it is not surprising that I chose Warren Buffet as an example of philanthropy—he certainly has the means to make great contributions. However, unlike many of his wealthy counterparts, Mr. Buffet has taken a singular perspective on his personal wealth.

He believes that with his money comes a responsibility to society, commenting at various times about the failings of the market system (that has so handsomely rewarded him), and his disdain for inherited wealth and family dynasties. He has committed to donating the majority of his wealth to charity upon his death, leaving, as he put it in an interview on Charlie Rose, “just enough so that they [his children] feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they would feel like doing nothing.”

Congruent with his philanthropic ideals, Mr. Buffet is well known for his large contributions to charities. Perhaps most notable is his $31 billion donation to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a global charity dedicated to reducing poverty and expanding educational opportunities. As the man behind the largest charitable donation in history, Mr. Buffet certainly gives us all something to strive for.

Though we can’t all give away fortunes of that magnitude, I think we can learn from Mr. Buffet’s dedication to the cause of charity and seek to apply a similar perspective when it comes to our own money and success—however large or small they may be.

Rick+Schaden+USA+Pro+Cycling+Challenge+Announces+0oNRTGu0PMgl

2. Rick Schaden

Another notable philanthropist is Richard E. Schaden. Chairman of Consumer Capital Partners, an investment firm, and founder of numerous popular restaurants like Smashburger and Tom’s Urban 24, Rick Schaden is both a recognized entrepreneur and active philanthropist.

His efforts have been heavily focused on improving his own community of Denver, Colorado, where he and his wife, Cheryl, founded America’s Road Home in 2008. The foundation, which is affiliated with Urban Peak and Nexus C.A.R.E.S., works to raise awareness of family homelessness in Denver and the U.S.

In 2009, Mr. Schaden further demonstrated his commitment to ending homelessness when he donated $1.5 million to Mercy Housing Colorado for the construction of a 66-unit housing complex for previously homeless families.

In addition to his work to alleviate homelessness in Denver—where approximately 11,000 people are without homes—Richard Schaden also co-founded the Schaden Family Fund to sponsor local charities in Denver.

Though Mr. Schaden is certainly not alone in the world of rich philanthropists, his focus on helping his hometown of Denver is laudable. Too often, it seems, big money is thrown at big charities. While these donations are much appreciated and serve to do much good in our world, Schaden’s commitment to his own community is worthy of emulation. Whether you have a lot or a little to give, the greatest strides in overcoming social ills often come through local efforts.

Image Credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

Image Credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

3. Tony Hawk

When one hears the name, Tony Hawk, one’s first thought probably goes to skateboarding. And let’s face it: the man is a legend in his field. However, in addition to his prolific skateboarding career and entrepreneurial endeavors (like his popular video game series), Tony Hawk is also an active philanthropist.

In 2002, Hawk launched the Tony Hawk Foundation. Recognizing the need for more skate parks in the United States (where over 7 million people identify as skaters but only 3,500 parks are available for them to ride), Hawk created the organization in order to help communities develop local skate parks.

The foundation focuses on helping disadvantaged areas and fostering lasting improvements in society, preferring to work at grassroots levels with local communities to bring about change. Today, the organization has helped fund over 500 skate parks and awarded $4 million in grants.

What is remarkable about Mr. Hawk’s charity is how he connected his professional career with his philanthropic work. As a pro skater, Tony Hawk already had notable clout as an expert in the skating field. It was thus a natural progression to create a charity that supported this sport in positive ways. By doing so, Hawk is able to more effectively promote community improvement through the outlet he knows best.

When you focus on giving in areas that you are already invested in, the gap between entrepreneur and philanthropist is narrowed.

Image Credit: ideamensch.com

Image Credit: ideamensch.com

4. Craig Newmark

Finally, Craig Newmark, the founder of the popular website, Craigslist, seeks to use his influence on the internet to promote charitable collaboration. His organization, Craigconnects, is an online forum that allows other people and organizations to connect and learn from one another in order to bring about positive change in their communities and the world.

As the mission statement says on the homepage, Craigconnects is about “using technology to give the voiceless a real voice and the powerless real power.” The website serves many causes, including journalism, public diplomacy, open government, and voting resources.

Newmark’s charitable efforts are a good example of using one’s resources and expertise to promote causes. Moreover, we can learn from his innovation and creativity in modifying the original idea of Craigslist to create a forum strictly to bring together local do-gooders. Similar to Tony Hawk, Newmark takes advantage of his original platform and professional field to promote causes close to his heart.

Though you may not be a millionaire, your influence as an entrepreneur is felt through the communities that you serve and the people that you interact with. In our efforts to promote charity, goodwill, and positive change in our communities, we would do well to learn from these and other philanthropic businessmen who understand the importance of giving back, particularly when they have so much to give.

Jake Magleby has written extensively about effective marketing, sales, and financing strategies to help small business owners succeed in the fast-paced and ever-changing business world. He currently runs his own business blog, Franchise a Business, and takes inspiration from successful entrepreneurs like Richard E. Schaden.

 

Self-Storage Turned Sexy: Interview with Sparefoot’s CEO Chuck Gordon

“Self-storage is very sexy contrary to popular belief,” said Chuck Gordon in response to the idea that self-storage isn’t the most appealing industry for a young entrepreneur to pursue.  Chuck Gordon is co-founder and CEO of Sparefoot, the world’s largest online marketplace for self-storage.  Gordon described Sparefoot as the ‘Hotels.com for storage’.

Chuck Gordon is from Washington, D.C., and attended UCLA.  When he decided to study abroad in Singapore during his junior year, he needed a place to store his belongings.  As one can imagine, Los Angeles isn’t the best place to find affordable storage.  Instead of spending $1,000 on a storage space, Chuck put half of his stuff in his co-founder Mario’s attic in Bakersfield and the other half at his girlfriend’s place in San Diego.  We all know the light bulb moment comes next; ‘there had to be a better way.’

22 Things That Steve Jobs Told Me

Steve Jobs.

That son-of-a-bitch.

I just finished his biography. Why didn’t I do that a year ago when I started it? Anyway, it rocked. This is news, right?

For a while after he died everybody wrote stories about him. I read as many words in those stories as were in the entire biography (I should have just finished the biography!). They were all trying to sell me on, “Hey, you’re a little like him, too. Maybe you’ll make the next Apple.” And so we all bought the magazines and said, “YES! Tell me how much like Steve Jobs I can be and why I will make the next Apple!

They forgot something, though.

The next Steve Jobs isn’t going to act like Steve Jobs. He/she is going to be completely unpredictable. (Also, the next Mark Zuckerberg will probably not wear a hoodie everywhere.)

Anyway. Here are some of my favorite bits from the bio:

[All quotes are Steve.]

steve jobs young apple

1. Respect your experience.

Startup to $850,000 in 1 Year: Interview with Crisp Video Group’s Michael Mogill

A year and a day before I spoke with Michael Mogill, Crisp Video Group was born.  Only 366 days later, the company has grown to 8 employees and is projected to earn $850,000 in revenue for the year of 2013. Having success as an entrepreneur is nothing out of the ordinary for Mogill, who at the age of 12 launched a web design company out of his parents’ home.  “I’d have web design clients come to my house and my mom would let them in the front door.”

Now 27, the Atlanta based entrepreneur and Crisp Video Group have landed clients including Audi, Red Bull, and Verizon, while simultaneously building a niche in the dental and medical industry.  The company specializes in promotional videos less than 5 minutes long, often called sizzle or highlight reels.  After seeing an opportunity in the dental industry, Crisp Dental was launched and focused on filling marketing voids.

Q: How have you been able to grow Crisp (to this level) in one year?

A: “It’s really just company culture and work ethic.  From the very beginning I’ve been committed to doing this the right way.”

In addition to being the sole owner of Crisp, Michael is the founder and owner of ATL Nightlife and Reboot Music, both of which are based out of Atlanta.  Michael admits that balancing time between his endeavors is still a work in progress, but surrounding himself with a great team and putting systems and structures into place help with time management and balancing his businesses.  Mogill realizes the sacrifices that need to be made as an entrepreneur.  “If you want to get invested in entrepreneurship, you have to put the time in.”

Hear the full audio interview with Michael Mogill below.

Interview Highlights

– Most important factors when using video marketing: Have a goal behind a video. “Never put together a video just to have one.” The quality of the video reflects the quality of the brand.

– Best experience as a young entrepreneur: Being able to help clients solve a problem and creating something from nothing.

– Advice for young entrepreneurs: Cut the people who aren’t getting you where you need to get to, those who are bringing in negativity or not hitting deadlines.  Don’t spend time hoping people will change.

Michael Mogill’s keys for young entrepreneurs

– Set standards for what you will and won’t accept.

– Surround yourself with ‘A’ players.  People who do what they say they’ll do.  Also, put people where they will succeed.

– Have 1 person that you can count on and rely on so that you don’t have to do it alone.  Have somebody there who understands and can support you along the way.

Quick Fire Questions

One industry you wouldn’t want to do a promotional video for? I wouldn’t want to do a video for a client who doesn’t believe in their own product or service.

Coolest brand or project that you have done a video for? Easy, Red Bull Freestyle, a National DJ Competition.

What is the one company that you would do anything to work with that you haven’t had the opportunity to work with yet? I’m a diehard hockey fan, so I would have to say the NHL.

Favorite alcoholic drink? Patron and pineapple.

Favorite musician? Based off of the best concert I’ve ever been to, U2.

Favorite celebrity that you’ve met in person? Comedian Aziz Ansari.  Everything he says is funny.  He was a friendly and genuine guy.

Listen to the full interview here:

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

About the Author: Michael Luchies Michael Luchies

Michael Luchies is an entrepreneur and passionate supporter of everything entrepreneurship. Michael is Co-Founder of PitchJam and is National Growth and Programs Manager for the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO). He has been covering entrepreneurship over the past 5 years and has been published on Under30CEO, Yahoo!, Yahoo! News, ThinkEntrepreneurship, PitchingGreatness, and other websites and publications. On Twitter @MichaelLuchies.

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?

Employers Guide: Getting the Maximum from Your Millennials

Whether you call them Generation Y, Millenials, the 9/11 Generation, or the Facebook Generation, they are different.  Perhaps better, perhaps worse than the cohort of young people that preceded them, they are distinctive in behavior and attitudes.  Entrepreneurs these days often find themselves dealing with this group of talented folks, as indeed all employers will.  They have been written about, and, thanks to blogging, they have written themselves in volumes.  They are stereotyped as having the attention span of a particularly scatterbrained flea, being permanently attached to some sort of device, and needing constant affirmation, just to mention a random few characterizations.  How accurate are these notions?  Are there some characteristics that might indeed apply to many of these young adults?  How can a savvy boss exploit their strengths and work around the rest?

So…

The habit of starting every explanation or presentation with “so” is highly associated with the young, and perhaps most especially, the highly educated ones.  Who appropriated this discourse marker as the verbal equivalent of clearing one’s throat before a lengthy explanation?  We may never know for sure, but the wise employer will try to ignore the irritation of this verbal tick.  However, try to encourage young people to avoid it in presentations to older adults – it will not impress them.

What watch?

Time-keeping is now the task of the cell phone or other hand-held device.  How to deal with this?  Be conscious of it, and don’t be surprised or annoyed when your young colleagues, contractors, or freelancers reach for their phones to synchronize their times.  Consider using one of the several apps (including the free Google calendar) that allows shared scheduling.