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How to Start Your Own Business While on the Job

Becoming an intrapreneur isn’t something people typically fall into. If you want it to happen, you’re going to have to get out there and make it happen. And to do that, you’ll need a plan.

Item number one on your list is to master your job. This is actually a two-parter. First, become an expert in your current role. Second, you’ll need to hit certain milestones if you want to pull this off. The first one is being at your job long enough for you to learn your role and feel that you could teach everything you do to another person. You need to prove your worth and demonstrate that you can handle the responsibilities you were hired to do. You’ll also want to build in enough time on the job to make your boss look like a rock star and gain his trust before you venture outside your role. Otherwise, you’re going to have a really tough time getting him to buy into and support your ideas (and to support you in your desire to expand your role in the company). In my experience, it usually takes six months to get to this point. Of course, if you can do it in less time, great! But don’t rush things. It’s better to take a little more time than to try to make a move when you’re really not ready.

Throughout this process — and throughout your entire career — it’s important to think in terms of how you can best leverage your strengths and weaknesses to help your company succeed. What are some things your company does really well? What does it do less well? What should it be doing to improve? How can your strengths and intrapreneurship goals get your company where it needs to go? With that in the back of your mind, you’ll be better able to articulate to your manager how your intrapreneurial idea will benefit the company.

You’ll also need to be able to clearly define your objectives and metrics.

In other words, what does success look like and how can you measure it? Be absolutely sure that your project aligns with the corporation’s mission and values.

If you want your company to support your idea, you’ll need heavy hitters behind you. Start with your manager. Sit down with them and talk about the potential opportunity you see. They’ve worked at the company longer than you have and they know the path to making a project successful, including how to assemble a team and how to get decision makers to buy in. Have a presentation that describes the opportunity, how it benefits your company, and what resources you’ll need to execute (people, materials, funding). Once your manager is solidly backing you, ask for their help in lining up a senior executive or major decision-maker inside your company to put his or her name on the project. That will help you get the resources you’ll need to give you the greatest chance of succeeding.

Remember, this is your project, and you want to be the center of attention, right? But don’t try to do everything — you’re going to need help. In addition, trying to do it all makes you seem either like you can’t get others to work with you, you can’t delegate, or you’re trying to hog all the glory. Instead, surround yourself with people who have skills you don’t but who can make your idea even better. Look for people who are passionate about the idea you want to develop. Some will come from inside your organization, but others may come from outside.

Optimism and self-confidence are great qualities for intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs alike. But they can easily turn into naïveté if you don’t have a backup plan. Having a great idea, a great team, strong backing, and deep resources significantly increase your chances of success. But even with all that, sometimes things don’t work out the way you’d hoped. Life can be awfully unpredictable, and it doesn’t pay to be overconfident. There are too many factors beyond your control, such as your company’s health, management changes, and corporate mergers. So you’ll want to have a backup plan — at the very least so you can salvage the work you’ve done and have something to show for it. Not having a contingency plan is just plain foolish (and it’ll be interpreted by people you’re trying to turn into allies as amateurish and immature).

You also want to have a contingency plan because intrapreneurship, just like entrepreneurship (and everything else in life, for that matter) is risky. You could get laid off tomorrow. You could get hit by a bus on the way into the office. Likewise, there’s no guarantee of success in business — most ideas fail.

Taking risks is what builds successful careers. Those who don’t, get stuck (in fact, I’d argue that not taking risks at work will be more harmful to your career than failure, because your company needs new ideas in order to grow. So if you’re holding back on proposing a new internal business opportunity, don’t. And keep in mind that you could benefit even if your project doesn’t get funded.

Two final things and then we’ll move on. First: As you go through the process, check in with your team to learn what’s working and what isn’t, what you’d need to do to improve. How could you prevent mistakes in the future and repeat your success? Intrapreneurship is all about experimenting/testing ideas, measuring the results, and improving on them. It can sometimes take a few tries to figure out whether or not something is right for your company. Finally, as soon as your project is up and running, start thinking about your next one and what kinds of people, backing, and resources you’ll need to build it out.

This post is an excerpt adapted from the author’s book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success.

Dan Schawbel is a Gen Y career and workplace expert, the Founder of Millennial Branding and the author of the new book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press). He made the Inc. Magazine 30 Under 30 in 2010 and the Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 in 2012.

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.

Why Entrepreneurs Are Afraid of the Truth

Have you ever heard the saying, Nobody will tell you your baby is ugly?  It’s true!

When you’re a parent, you think that your baby is the cutest damned baby in the entire world – a Gerber baby at his best.  But what do other’s think?  Have you ever looked at a baby and said – wow, that baby is ugly!  It looks smushed and jaundiced – and it has a ton of hair going everywhere!  I know you’ve thought it before – but I also know that you’ve never said ANYTHING!

The same is true with entrepreneurship.  I’ve watched and seen too many entrepreneurs crash and burn because they were afraid to admit the truth – their baby was ugly.  And, just like with babies, nobody wants to tell them that their idea is terrible!

 

Why The Truth is Scary

The trouble is, the truth can be scary.  For an entrepreneur, their idea is something that they have been chasing for a long time.  Chances are, they have their heart and soul in the idea.  To hear that their idea is ugly would be crushing.  As a result, a lot of entrepreneurs put on blinders to the truth.  They could ignore facts, be ignorant to user feedback, and as a result, they fail.

In some cases, the truth is scary simply because it’s unknown.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that your idea is bad, but you could be going into an undeveloped market and you’ll need to plan accordingly.  But, if you don’t take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth, you’ll never listen to true facts.

School Is Not Necessarily Education

Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.
—Anthony J. D’Angelo, entrepreneur, education trailblazer.


When I arrived at Morehouse College, I was focused on doing well in my classes so that I could get a high-paying job as a computer programmer. After catching the entrepreneurial bug during my sophomore year, I was just trying to graduate with a decent GPA. At that point, school was a barrier, a prison preventing me from doing full-time what I loved. I vividly remember sitting in one of my core classes—religion, to be exact—and feeling trapped. That day I tuned out the professor, pulled out a piece of paper, and began working on computer algorithms. I felt that I was learning so much more pursuing my entrepreneurial endeavors. I had had enough of school. When I graduated, I was ready to sprint off campus.

It turns out that my experience is common among entrepreneurs. In his book The Millionaire Mind, Dr. Thomas J. Stanley dedicates forty-five pages to describe the school days of America’s millionaires. A great majority of them are self-made entrepreneurs. He writes, “Millionaires also report that they were not A students in college. In fact, only about three in ten reported receiving a greater percentage of As than either Bs, Cs, Ds, or Fs. About 90 percent graduated from college. Overall, their GPA was a 2.9—good but not outstanding.” Likewise, Dr. Stanley found that most millionaires did well on the SAT, but not excellent. His research confirmed that characteristics other than great school performance were more significant factors in most millionaires’ success. Some of these characteristics include being honest, disciplined, amiable, and diligent, and having great leadership skills.

Realizing that there is actually a negative correlation between the amount of schooling after college and entrepreneurial success, some wealthy individuals discourage students from pursuing school if they have entrepreneurial talents and great ideas at an early age. Most recently, Peter Thiel, the billionaire cofounder of PayPal and angel investor, started his innovative and shocking program that pays students to drop out of college. His program chose four bright college students who show amazing entrepreneurial promise and funded each of their companies with $100,000. Thiel said in an interview with ABC News, “Learning is good. Credentialing and debt is very bad. College gives people learning and also takes away future opportunities by loading the next generation down with debt.” I can relate to Thiel’s quotation. Many of my friends would love to start a business but are stuck with high student loan payments that could be used as start-up capital. I was fortunate to receive a full scholarship from NASA to attend college. Without this boon I probably would not have chosen the entrepreneurial path.

Considering the frustrating experience of my college days, the compelling data from The Millionaire Mind, and the popularity of Peter Thiel’s college dropout program, you may believe that I support young entrepreneurs dropping out of college or forgetting college altogether. I do not. College is an important experience for entrepreneurs. People often point out that Mark Zuckerberg and other successful entrepreneurs dropped out of college, but their examples did at some point attend college. As in Zuckerberg’s case, there were huge benefits from attending college. We can all agree that Facebook wouldn’t be what it is without Zuckerberg’s Harvard experience. David Kilpatrick in his book The Facebook Effect says, “Facebook’s ultimate success owes a lot to the fact that it began at college. That’s where people’s social networks are densest.” I couldn’t agree more, given that I started my first profitable business for college students in college.

The passionate debate persists about whether college and advanced degrees are worth it for entrepreneurs. However, everyone can agree that although you may not be in school, your education should never stop. Entrepreneurs who excel educate themselves constantly about new technology, business strategies, and so on, and you don’t necessarily have to be in school to do that.

 

 

Close Facebook & Get Back to Work: 4 Tips To Increase Productivity

Life gets busy. Really busy. For the past 3 months I have graduated from College, worked as a Marketing Intern at PepsiCo, and grown as co- founder of a social-networking startup called Hinow, with already a 1st place in a startup contest. Oh, and I got engaged (yes, she is the most beautiful woman in the world). For 3 months, I have been busy for 14 hours a day, 6 days a week. Enough of “me, myself and I” and let’s read how you can improve your productivity and conquer the world. Reading this article will not make you better. Putting it into action everyday, will.

1. Organize your calendar

It all starts with knowing where you are, scheduling your agenda and always structuring time allocation. Your personal and professional commitments, deadlines, projects, follow- ups and everything else should be well registered. Also take in consideration the tasks that arise, either small or big, and keep track of them. My main example on this subject is my father: ask him what he did in the first weekend of March 1985. He will go straight into the garage, pick up the 1985 notebook and describe what happened that day. Amazing.

Tips:
– tech-savy crowd: set up a Google or iCloud calendar across your smartphone and laptop and always rely on your agenda and reminders apps
– paper-savy crowd: buy a good notebook with weekly calendar and reminder section
– update and refresh your calendar constantly so to release your mind to what matters
– do not over-organize with multiple apps or too many records to keep, as that will be counterproductive. It is the so-called false-productivity trap. Keep it simple

2. Work is work, cognac is cognac

(Portuguese expression that settles the difference between work and fun. Really good to impress white-collar circles)

Every single person has its own work flow and balance between working hours and break- taking. I have recently watched the film “The Internship” and it proved my point. Even in a workspace like Google, where free-time, having fun, creating relationships and napping are encouraged, people work really hard. Take my advice and clearly separate work from everything else. When working be working. Dedicate your whole self to it and do not let social networking, NBA free agency nor fashion blogs interrupt you. This way, you will be more productive when you are on the clock and relax more on spare times.

Tips:
– focus on what you are doing
– close those non-related tabs, don’t let your mind travel – reward yourself with pleasant free time
– install Pocket and save interesting articles for later

3. Post-it it

Take good note of the I-will-not-forget-this-so-no-need-to-write-down variety. Remember that epic scene from “Bruce Almighty” where he handled worldwide prayers with post-its? Copy that. Life is made of details, small pieces of information that make a huge difference. Don’t assume you can remember everything you hear – you can’t. Small tips from your boss, tasks from colleagues, sudden thoughts and messages may be really useful, and the way you handle them will affect your productivity. Deeply.

Tips:
– tech-savy crowd: Reminders App, Evernote, Wunderlist, Notability… – paper-savy friends: p-o-s-t-i-t!
– write the present to future memory
– pay attention to details

4. Do not procrastinate. Never. Ever. Ever. Ever.

Answer to emails. Handle tough clients. Right away. Don’t let problems and tasks pile up. Be ready to do things you don’t like first and then enjoy doing the ones you love. Start tasks earlier, create a habit of finishing projects sooner, invest quality time in projects, allow your full potential to be unleashed. Take advantage of working hours to be really productive. Learn to say ‘yes’ when your mind says ‘no’.

Tips:
– answer to emails, do small tasks as soon as they arrive as long as they are useful or mandatory
– start from the tasks you dislike
– invest quality time in projects
– get used to finish before the deadline
– build a culture of excellence, where you expect more from you than anyone else

May you follow the small tips and the mindset-changing advices above-mentioned. Be bold, work hard, invest and dedicate time to projects and tasks that matter and are relevant. Don’t waste work time over-organizing, surfing the web nor performing useless tasks.

I’m cheering for you. If you need any further tip or best practice, do not hesitate on contacting me through twitter or comment below. Feedback on the article would be much appreciated.

Francisco Cabral is a co-founder of the Lisbon-native location-based social network startup hinow, Marketing Trainee at PepsicCo and student of Management at NOVA School of Business & Economics. You can follow him on twitter @francicocabral

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.

What Every Company Website Should Include

For the people…

1. Choose website name

The first step is one of the most difficult. The internet is saturated with “already-in-use” names, and it can take hours to find a domain that fits your business that isn’t taken. Popular domain search websites include GoDaddyNameNameCheapHover and Gandi. Start brainstorming a list of website names you find acceptable, and then search them in one of these domain sites. To generate an original business name, tryPanabee. Try avoid using hyphens or weird acronyms that new website guests won’t understand. Expect to pay $5 – $15 per year (more than that is pretty damn expensive).

2. Choose the .com, .org or .ie?

Everybody wants ‘.com’, as it is what people assume your website will have. Getting a ‘.com’ is the most challenging, with high competition for normal-sounding domains (but not a problem if you are going for “wheretofindlotsofgreatbathroomaccessories.com” – but please don’t make it so long). Essentially, if you SEO your website to the max then using ‘.biz’ shouldn’t be a problem. But, psychology is important to bear in mind here. As creatures of habit, a person may assume that “blah.de” caters specifically to Germany. If you are providing a localized service in Germany, this is the best way to go. A ‘.com’ for a local delivery company may put some people off. Equally, if you have an international scope, choosing ‘.es’ may cause people to think you only serve Spain.

How do you connect startups with brands?

This sponsored post is produced by Mark Evans, a cofounder of BrandGarage, a new platform for connecting brands with startups. He is also Managing Director of Converge Labs, which puts on industry thought leadership events Mobile-Loco and Social-Loco.

When I kicked off my conference business to bring thought leaders together onto one stage to discuss the convergence of social, location, and mobile, I knew we were just scratching the surface. Through Social-Loco and Mobile-Loco I have watched startups and big companies take the stage and make their predictions about where the market would go. Over the years, I saw more brands, agencies, and retailers attend the events and engage with startups. It was frustrating to watch people from different industries trying to communicate — it was as if they were speaking two different languages. Brands needed scalable technology solutions that could deliver the holy grail of 1:1 consumer engagement. Startups needed to monetize with brand dollars but only had a few million users (at best). Brands ultimately went back to Google and Facebook as they realized startups didn’t have the ability to deliver solutions that could scale or provide the perfect market fit.

Seed Stage Valuation Guide

I find it strange that with all the VC and Angel blogs out there, nobody seems to explicitly talk about the single most interesting term in startup financing: Valuation.  Look no further than Chris Dixon’s blog for elucidation on such nuanced terms as founder vesting, convertible notes with caps, etc…but where do you go to find out how much you should expect to give up at various stages in your company’s development.  In the past week alone, I’ve regrettably passed on more than one deal because the valuation the founder was seeking was an order of magnitude off from what was appropriate, and frankly I am pissed.  I am pissed that the earliest “committers” to these rounds aren’t advising founders that they are pricing their rounds incorrectly.  Notice I am not saying I am pissed that the early committers aren’t doing a better job of negotiating.  It’s not about negotiation, it’s about pricing a round in a way that does not lead to adverse selection when a founder goes out to fill the rest of their round.

By definition, the investors with the best deal flow will have a higher bar on what they do and do not invest in, and will be less likely to pay 2x the appropriate valuation for a deal when there are 3 others they are looking at concurrently that are better bets from a risk reward standpoint.  Conversely, the “me too”, “here today, gone tomorrow” early stage investor who is clamoring to get into a deal with the big name angel who committed early and independent of valuation will gladly pay up to play, but is that really the best move for a founder?  Probably not.  The reason that I’m not willing to overpay for an inflated seed round has nothing to do with returns for our fund.  It’s not a math problem I’m trying to solve where I say at $3M premoney we’re going to make a lot of money, and at $5M premoney we’re not.  Rather, I view a founder’s attempt at closing on their first round of financing at an out of whack valuation as a warning sign of a more fundamentally dangerous datapoint: bad judgment.  Whether I bet at $3 or $5 doesn’t matter all that much, but whether I am betting on CEOs with good judgment vs bad is an extremely good predictor of our fund’s overall success.  If you are raising your first round of capital, you should be pricing your round at the valuation where the absolute best investors in the market will all be excited and willing to participate, not at the maximum price where you can find some investors to participate.  If you’re not sure what these numbers are, I thought I’d explicitly articulate some signposts.  This is by no means absolute, and the market changes month to month, but here’s how I’d be thinking about it by stage of development and setup:

Lingua.ly Transforms The Web Into A Language-Learning Opportunity

Lingua.ly Transforms The Web Into A Language-Learning Opportunity

Learning a language with the help of texts that were specifically written for learners is one thing, but over time, that tends to get boring and once you venture out to read “real” texts, you quickly realize how artificial the texts for learners are. With Lingua.ly, a smart language-learning startup out of Israel that is officially launching today, the entire web becomes a platform for language learning.

Thanks to a patent-pending natural language processing technique, Lingua.ly indexes texts on the web in Spanish, English, French, Hebrew and Arabic. After you’ve taken a few vocabulary quizzes and used the service for a little while, Lingua.ly will be able to recommend real texts for you based on the vocabulary you already know and the difficulty of the text.

Lingua.ly is a Chrome plug-in, so it’ll automatically prompt you to take new quizzes, personalized for you, as you browse the web. You can also use the plug-in to get recommendations for texts that are appropriate for your reading levels and mark up texts or browse Lingua.ly’s dictionary as you visit any site on the web.

Lingua.ly will remember the words you looked up and will start including those in your quizzes and base its reading recommendations on your knowledge. That’s definitely the strength of the service: it integrates with your daily web browsing habits and lets you learn new words as you go along.

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The company’s founders Orly Fuhrman, a Stanford Ph.D. and Jan Ihmels, a Weizmann Institute of Science Ph.D., told me last week that they realized that the web presents a new opportunity for language learning that most language-learning startups have ignored so far. If everything on the web is personalized, Fuhrman said, why is most language-learning software still based on pre-written lessons? Language learning with artificial texts, she argued, will allow you to get the basics down, but it also makes language learning boring.

Lingua.ly, then, finds the online content that’s right for your learning needs and even takes your personal interest into account (say you want to read about sports, business, travel, politics or celebrity gossip). With this service, even your Facebook feed could become a language-learning opportunity.

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The focus here is squarely on vocabulary, but as the founders told me, as you read new texts, you will automatically pick up some grammar, as well. It’s worth noting, though, that Lingua.ly is probably best used as a complement to existing language learning programs, and maybe even a traditional classroom setting.

The founders say they may expand to more languages, grammar and launch some paid features, as well. For now, Lingua.ly is already well worth a try if you are learning a new language.

Teams, This Baltimore Startup Has The Answer To Sharing Passwords

When you’re collaborating remotely or even if you’re working in the same office, sometimes it’s necessary for teams to share passwords. Here at Nibletz our core team needs to share site passwords, social passwords, analytics passwords, and more.

There isn’t really an easy way to share passwords amongst your team.  If you’re a team with employees rather than just co-founders, there may be a risk in sharing a spreadsheet filled with all of your important passwords. If there is a great element of trust on your team it can just be cumbersome and inconvenient.

Well a Baltimore startup called, TeamPassword (see how easy that is to remember) has come up with a way to share passwords across your teammates and keep them safe and secure.

We got a chance to talk with Alex Zaremba about TeamPassword. Check out our interview below.