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Are Your Employees Building a Cathedral or Breaking Rocks?

Do your employees feel like they are building a cathedral or do they feel like they are breaking rocks? Are you able to attract the top talent to come work for you and your company? One of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs face is hiring the best and brightest. When all you have is fledgling startup, your office is inside your garage or at a local coffee shop, that is going to feel pretty sketchy to potential new hires. If you’re just graduating and you have the option of working for a company like Google who apparently is offering newly graduated computer science majors $90k – $105k (NYTimes article) why would the person ever consider working for your startup? Granted it’s going to be very difficult to compete against that kind of salary there are people out there that look at working for companies like Google just like it’s working in a salt mine. Work there and you’ll be doing time — 80 hours a week, sleep on the office floor, never see your family or have a social life.

The reason I’m writing this post is because I had lunch with Paul Anderson, Founder of ProLango Consulting who provides career transition, outplacement support, and puts on the ProLango Career Mixer where 400+ people attend every month.  Paul asked asked me the following question “How do I sell the idea of getting people to work for thinkspace”. I don’t think I gave him a great answer, but, after thinking about it further here’s my top five things:

Culture

It is paramount to have an incredible company culture. This can be a massive differentiator between you and your competition. If your employees love coming to work that’s going to show through to your customers. I can guarantee you that your customers will be able to feel the culture immediately when they walk through the door. Whether you are a person that buys into company culture or not, your company’s culture is going to happen either by design or default. Chances are if it just happens by default it’s not going to be great. I’d rather be one that designs it. This is an area that I have been feeling stronger and stronger about over the last few years and hopefully for my team I’m becoming a better person to work for too. As a team we’ve gone so far as design our core values together and make sure that people know what they are. We’re getting to the point where employees and even customers need to align with our core values. If they don’t align, then they need to be working with someone else. Here’s a link to John DeHart’s “6 Tips on How to Design Core Values“.

BHAG

You must have a BHAG, a Big Hair Audacious Goal. In my MIT Entrepreneurial Masters program we’ve focused a lot on this. [pullquote]Your BHAG is clear and compelling and serves as a unifying focal point of effort, often creating immense team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal … A BHAG should not be a sure bet … but the organization must believe ‘we can do it anyway.’ – Jim Collins[/pullquote] The phrase “big hairy audacious goal” was first proposed by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 book Built to Last. Your BHAG needs to be big, a 10+ year goal that can pull you into the future. Let’s face it, if you’re not going somewhere its going to be really hard to get people to want to join you in your quest. Without a BHAG, you’ll end up with people that are there for extrinsic reasons like they need to pay rent, eat food.  The best is to get people for intrinsic reasons so there will be a commitment and they will stay with you for a long time.

The next three items come straight from Daniel Pink’s book “Drive“. I had the opportunity to meet Daniel Pink in Seattle a few years ago and what he shared definitely had a strong impact on how I want to work with my employees. After learning more about what thinkspace is, Daniel said to me “It’s more than simply real estate, interesting!”

Autonomy

Fostering innovation and creativity is key for me. Allowing people to be self directed allows them to feel like they are in control of what they are doing. I want my employees to make smart decisions and take their ideas and be able to implement them. I provide them with the outcome and let them figure out how to get there. If someone needs to be told exactly the path to take to complete something then likely the are not a good candidate to work for me.

Mastery

Mastery is the urge to get better at stuff. One of our core values is “Appetite for learning”. You want to have fun, to learn something and get really good at it. You have to be someone that wants to learn and get better at something. If a person is looking to work in place where its fine to just do what something the same way because that’s the way it’s always been done, then they will immediately feel that this is not the kind of place that they should work. Accepting the status quo sucks. Getting better and better at something is much more interesting.

Purpose

Is your company looking to be the leader in your industry or you just doing what everyone else is doing? Are you looking to be the best in the universe? Are you just about making a profit or is there something bigger than just making a buck? I have to be honest and say that I’m in business to make money. The reason why I want my business to make money is so that we can create more jobs, so my employees can be well taken care of which allows them to take good care of their families. However, at the same time, I don’t want to create a product or provide a service that is exactly the same as what is already out there. There is a bigger purpose in what we’re doing and creating.

Do your employees feel like they are building a cathedral or do they feel like they are breaking rocks? Please share some ideas that you’ve implemented as this is challenge all entrepreneurs, small companies or people building teams go through.

Finish Something!

Get to the Finish Line! I would love to be someone who always sees things through to their end (albeit sometimes bitter end). But, I’d be lying if I said that I completed every single task that I started. It seems that a lot of people in our fast-paced, overly-committed culture are in this same boat; And, I’d bet that part of our cumulative stress comes from the growing list of things we’ve left undone. William James said it best, “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.”

This blog post isn’t to increase our search engine results and it isn’t so that I can show off my obviously exceptional skills as a masterful writer (ha!). This post is just a friendly reminder to slow down, take a breath, and set your mind to finish something!

Whether you have a project that you can finish today or you need to work to finish launching that new business; creating small steps to finish that task will be your key to success. Crossing these items off of a ‘to-do’ list can be most gratifying and can give you a feeling of accomplishment. Your task for this week? Finish something. Take on that project that’s been nagging at you and give it 110%. Afterall, isn’t it better to do one thing right than start 10 new projects and leave each of them half-done?

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Working from Home? Coworking Could Be Your New Best Friend

Here at thinkspace, we are thrilled to offer coworking as an office space solution for our members. Just in case you haven’t heard of coworking before- it is a space designed for individual workers who are looking for a space and a community to work alongside (for more info check out the coworking wiki). Our coworking space is well equipped with desks, chairs, crazy fast internet speeds (we just upgraded to 100 mbps- woo hoo!), plenty of natural sunlight, a TV, conference room space, and all of the coffee and tea you need to stay awake! The only thing our space is missing is more people- and that’s where you come in.

You may have read about our new coworking space in one of my previous blog posts, Options to Avoid the 520 Tolls. As I mentioned before, coworking is an amazing solution for someone who lives on the Eastside and is looking to avoid his or her dreadful 520 commute. Whether it currently takes you forever to drive across the bridge, or it will begin to cost you $3.50 each way- it’s no fun. It’s time to get creative, and try some new options. In fact, King County Metro has listed thinkspace coworking as a commuter solution for avoiding the 520 tolls on their website.

However, for those of you who have the privilege (or curse) of working from home, coworking could be your new best friend.

Speaking from a little bit of experience, during my last quarter in college I completed an internship for an organization where I managed their social media efforts. Initially, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work from home- on my schedule, in my room, and in my pajamas. However, I quickly discovered that it wasn’t as easy to get the ball rolling when you have a million distractions and all of the flexibility in the world. In addition, I disliked having the option to separate my “work” from “home” life. Also, I missed having the support of physical coworkers to run my ideas and thoughts by.

Working from home might might look a little different for you. Perhaps you love having the flexibility of a home office, the ability to spend more time with your children, and access to your kitchen pantry full of food. Or on the other hand, you could be working way longer hours than necessary due to the home office distractions that hinder your productivity. I could be wrong here, but I’m just giving it my best guess.

This leads me to my point (sorry, I tend to ramble). Coworking can be a great solution for many people. However, I truly believe that it can increase productivity for the people who dread waking up and walking to their home office, kitchen table, or simply pulling their laptop off the bedroom floor. With coworking, you can come to your desk, put in the hours, mingle with your fellow coworkers, and “clock out” for the day. Having a community of like-minded business professionals, entrepreneurs, and techies will eliminate the loneliness and isolation of a home office. In terms of working from home to save overhead, coworking won’t break your bank either.

We offer a variety of memberships that range from 3 to 15 days per month. We also offer a full-time coworking membership, which will provide you with a designated desk, 24/7 building access, and a business address. All of our pricing and options are listed on our coworking page.

Take a moment to meet Lou Holsten, who is one of our full-time coworkers. Lou is a website designer and developer who use to work from home, and he now holds down the fort in our space. Lou has designed some phenomenal websites for his clients. So if you’re interested take a moment to look at Lou’s newly launched website, acute square.

Interested in giving coworking a shot? Well you’re in luck- We are excited to offer three free days of coworking to any person who mentions this blog post. Come check us out, and try on coworking for a day.  Also, I would love to hear about your experience and opinions on working from home.

 

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Inflection Points in a Startup to Small Company

What makes a startup grow? What allows a startup go from pre-revenue, break-even, cash flow positive to hitting $1M in revenue? I had a conversation with Rebecca Lovell, Executive Director at NWEN (Northwest Entrepreneur Network) and we briefly discussed how startups hit an “inflection point” and since that conversation its been in my head all day. An inflection point (according to Wikipedia), is a point on a curve at which the curvature changes sign. The curve changes from being concave upwards (positive curvature) to concave downwards (negative curvature), or vice versa.

Inflection Points

In my MIT Entrepreneurial Masters Program, I recall Patrick Thean presenting to my class about how companies move through very predictable stages (inflection points) as they climb from $1M in revenue to $10M. He also stated that there are roughly 28 million firms in the US, of which only 4 percent get above $1M in revenue. Of those firms, only about 1 out of 10, or 0.4 percent of all companies, ever make it to $10 million in revenue and only 17,000 companies surpass $50 million. Patrick says that the barriers to growth are tied to:

  1. Leadership: Being able predict outcomes, hiring the right people and into the right seats and the wrong people off the bus (Jim Collins – Good to Great).
  2. Systems, Process, and Structure.
  3. Market Dynamics.

Leadership

I have to say that thinkspace has and is going through these inflection points. My leadership skills certainly have been tested and I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes. Predicting outcomes has certainly been a focus for me over the last nine months. The thing that keeps resonating in my mind is that if you want to have a great year, you have to have a great quarter. In order to have a great quarter you have to have 13 great weeks. My team has been working hard over the last two quarters to hit our goals and I have to say that we certainly would not be where we are today or have tasted success without first having these goals in place. The other barrier that I have experienced growth is in hiring the right people. Being able to hire the right people, get them in the right seats, or set people’s future free is one of the most difficult and challenging aspects of a startup. Being able to attract talent to a fledgling startup can be quite a challenge.

Hiring the Best

When Rebecca Lovell and I were talking about this, she recognizes that hiring the best people and retaining them means you have to be able to provide a person a great working environment because they are going to be working in that space for a lot of hours each day. During the NWEN Scrappy Startup Breakfast, one of the speakers on the panel talked about housing his employees in really poor space, where the walls might even be falling a part. I have to totally disagree with this approach. While I’m 100% scrappy, I do not believe that having a crappy work place is going attract the best talent. Having a work place that inspires, has energy, is where I believe that people want to work. I’ve had a number of conversations with startups inside thinkspace and they all believe that in order for them to attract the top talent out of world class tech companies in the region, they do need to have a space that has a great feel to it. They also want to build their business in a place where they look forward to coming to. A place that isn’t old, dirty, smelly, and dirt cheap. The vibe and culture that my team and I have been creating for thinkspace permeates throughout and that’s a feeling that a startup is either going to resonate with or not. A startup hits an inflection point when they recognize that in order to build a great company culture they can’t do it isolated while inside their garage or at a coffee shop. They recognize that the culture they want for their employees needs to be special. They recognize that the culture they want to convey to their customers is professional and doesn’t smell like French roast.

Other Inflection Points

  1. Getting your first paying customer.
  2. Being able to have a phone conversation with your best customer without a baby crying in the background.
  3. Having enough cash flow to start paying yourself.
  4. Hiring your first employee.
  5. Coming close to not being able to make payroll.
  6. Hiring people that are not directly generating revenue but are there to just manage other people.
  7. The people that helped get you to where you are are not the people to take you to the next level.
  8. Being able to take a vacation and not have your business collapse.
  9. When your recurring revenue equals your monthly fixed expenses.
  10. When you realize that the biggest bottleneck is you.

What are some of the other inflection points that you have gone through to get your startup to grow into a small company? What are your pain points and how do you get past them?

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Should I Wait For The iPhone 5?

When I was in school, I worked two jobs to pay my bills. During the day, I was a busy barista serving tasty coffee concoctions to thirsty regulars. Nights and weekends, I worked as a waitress at a local Greek restaurant that served garlic-infused Gyros to die for. During this time, a substantial portion of my income was attributed to the tips I received on a daily basis. Needless to say, I always seemed to have at least a hundred dollars cash burning a hole in my pocket. For some reason, that cash always seemed to have an odd habit of “disappearing.”

I know quite a few of my friends who’ve had the same issues. I don’t know what it is, but somebody gets even a twenty dollar bill in their hand and it’s gone faster than you can say “Bob’s Your Uncle.” The same is normally true for most with gift cards; and definitely true with myself! If I get a gift card for Christmas, you can bet that it will be spent by New Years. However, this story didn’t ring so true when I got another certain gift card.

I’ve had a $250 Apple Store gift card safely tucked in my purse for going on three months and I just can’t get myself to spend it. I’ve wanted an iPhone for years and now that my favorite carrier has finally launched the phone, I still just can’t get myself to make the purchase! The constant lure of “bigger and better” things to come has me in a seemingly endless state of shopping purgatory. I’m always waiting for Apple’s next big thing.

The iPhone 5 is rumored to have many new and exciting features, but the only thing I really care about is that they may release a white version (vain, I know)! What about the other Apple users out there? Have you already purchased the iPhone 4? Or, are you waiting for the iPhone 5? I’d love your feedback!

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March Wine Wednesday Recap

Last night we had our first Wine Wednesday event of 2011! We added Wine Wednesdays to our thinkspace event schedule back in the fall, and after a hiatus due to the holidays and 1st of the year chaos- we’re back in action!

So, what is Wine Wednesday?

  • Essentially we have created a fun networking event that’s designed to showcase a thinkspace member, as well as a local winery.

Who attends Wine Wednesday?

  • These events are open to our entire community! At Wine Wednesday you will find thinkspace members, Redmond Chamber of Commerce members, local entrepreneurs, tech geniuses, attorneys, real estate agents, people who are new to the area, you name it! This event is designed to introduce the featured businesses to the community, as well as provide a forum for networking and a reason to drink some fabulous vino!

Meet our March featured organization and winery: Help Stop NF2 and Patterson Cellars.

Harley Dufek, owner of Exclusive Home Reality and a beloved thinkspace member, started a nonprofit organization called Help Stop NF2 with his wife Rebecca Dufek in October of 2009. Rebecca was diagnosed with NF2 in 1999 after previously beating Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. NF2 stands for Neurofibromatosis Type II. NF2 is a brain tumor disorder that creates hearing and balance loss for its sufferers. Help Stop NF2 was created to raise awareness, as well as funds for NF2 research.

Rebecca is a walking inspiration for the NF2 community. In October of 2010, the organization traveled to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Help Stop NF2 created a film, which documents Rebecca and the group’s journey up the mountain. The film is titled Pole’ Pole’, which stands for “Slow” or “Slower” in Swahili, and is perfect description for the journey of climbing the mountain as well as suffering from NF2. The trailer to the documentary can be watched at this link: http://helpstopnf2.org/home-page/pole-pole-the-movie/. All of the production costs for the film have been donated 100%. Therefore, the awareness and donations created from the film will go entirely to NF2 research. If you’re interested in donating to Help Stop NF2, you can do so here.

Patterson Cellars, which is a local winery located in Woodinville, WA attend our event last night! Patterson Cellars has two tasting rooms- one located at their winery in Woodinville, and another located in Seattle on Western Avenue right next to Pike Place Market.
Last night we were lucky enough to have Stephanie from Patterson Cellars join us for the event. Stephanie is married to John Patterson who is the winemaker. We enjoyed learning more about the different wines that Patterson Cellars has to offer. My personal favorite was their 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. If you’re in the mood for wine tasting I definitely recommend paying John and Stephanie a visit at either one of their tasting room locations!

All in all, I was thrilled with the turnout at the event, and the amazing individuals who came out to meet one another. I am planning on scheduling the next Wine Wednesday for sometime in May. If you have a winery that you recommend please send their contact info my way!

All of the upcoming thinkspace events are posted on our Facebook page, as well as our events page on our website!

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4 Ways New Attorneys Can Save Money

You wouldn’t believe how many different industries are represented at thinkspace. We have members that work in iPhone app development, social media consulting, family and professional counseling, marketing, accounting, distributing…. and, quite a few companies in legal! I thought I would share some of the tips and tricks that I have seen being used by our most-savvy attorney start-ups to help those that are also looking to start their law practice out on the right foot! When starting a solo law office, keeping overhead costs down will ensure a less stressful and more successful start for your practice!

1. Build your own website.
In the last couple of years, the option to build your own website has become even more of a possibility to those that consider themselves less than tech-savvy. Helpful website platforms have emerged that offer pre-made “skins” (personalized designed for websites, so much of the coding work has been taken out. Check out WordPress, Jumla, and Drupal for some great platforms to build your site off of. If you know that you don’t have the time to devote to building your own professional legal site, there are many website developers that offer amazing deals for new/start-up companies, starting at around $1,000. thinkspace has had the opportunity to create quite a few of our members (including attorney’s) sites as they are just starting up. We would be happy to talk to you about what you are looking for or recommend one of our trusted website partners.

2. Hire a Virtual Receptionist.
Having a live receptionist answer your phones has proven to be an exceptional choice for attorneys. thinkspace member Nathan Neiman of Neiman Law has found using an off-site receptionist service to be extremely efficient and affordable for his law firm, “thinkspace has liberated me from an enormous administrative burden. The superior staff at thinkspace exhibits the highest professionalism, especially handling incoming telephone calls from clients, client prospects, opposing counsel and most importantly from the Court. I can focus on my professional responsibility without concern thanks to the thinkspace staff.” If you are looking to pay the minimum wage for a receptionist (and good luck hiring a decent one if that is all you are willing to pay) at $8.67 an hour, you would pay $370 a week for a 40-hour work week. Add on around 8.5% that a small business employer pays in taxes, and it will end up costing you $401 a week for that 40 hours of receptionist work. That turns into about $1,604 a month, on average. And, that is minimum wage, imagine if you were to pay more! A virtual receptionist service (like the one that thinkspace provides), costs quite a bit less. There are quite a few packages, and the smallest option includes 50 receptionists minutes, and costs $139/month (you only pay for the minutes that a receptionist is actually working a call). The next package includes 100 receptionists minutes, and it costs $199/month. The final option includes 200 receptionists minutes, and costs $339/month. At these rates, your law firm will be saving anywhere from $1,265 to $1,465 per month!

3. Sign up for a Virtual Office.
Many new attorneys consider working from home because there are quite a few law firms that can’t immediately afford office space. This is totally understandable, but these firms need to make a decent effort in ensuring that their clients’ needs are always met. For example, if you are planning on working from home, be sure to secure a business address before you begin your practice (and, that doesn’t mean a post office box). Find a facility that offers virtual office space. One that has a frontdesk staff that can accept documents from your clients and greet any clients that might want to swing by without letting you know. Frontdesk staff is also vital if you need to accept items from a courier. Many virtual office spaces also offer conference rooms that you can rent by the hour for when you need to meet with your clients.

4. Use free marketing opportunities.

Social media is a great marketing tool for companies of all sizes. However, it is particularly helpful marketing for companies that are just starting up because of the zero cost price tag associated with it. There are a lot of things that you can do right with social media, but there are also a lot of things that you can do wrong. Being able to make the distinction between an interesting tweet and one that is only pushing your product is vital to your social media success. In all aspects of social media, your “friends” or “followers” are not necessarily interested in only information about your particular law firm, they are interested in useful information that applies to their life. (Maybe send out daily tips on what to look for in an attorney, the best practices to follow when listening to legal advice, etc.) Once they see you as a credible source, you may end up with them as a client.

Implementing these tips could help save you tens of thousands of dollars a year. I would love to hear feedback on what other law firms are doing to keep their overhead low. If you have any feedback, feel free to ping me at alyssa (at) thinkspace (dot) com or leave a comment below.

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Options to Avoid the 520 Tolls

I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely dreading the SR 520 bridge toll. The peak hour rate is set at $3.50 each way. As a Seattle resident who works on the Eastside, I can think of a million things I would rather spend my $140/month on other than toll fees. What’s your plan? Will you continue to drive to and from work? For those of you who live and work on the Eastside- will you travel to Seattle as often?

If you’re trying to avoid the bridge toll, here are my suggestions:

1. Take the bus

There are several bus lines that run between Seattle and the Eastside via SR 520. Sound Transit express routes 540, 542, 545, 555, 556 will get you across the bridge. Head to Sound Transit’s website for time schedules. King County Metro has several routes that will take you across the bridge too. Take a look at King County Metro’s page which lists all of the routes servicing the SR 520 bridge, as well as some additional commuter resources that you might find useful. Each way is $2.50, which is only $1 less than the scheduled tolls. However, if you purchase an ORCA card, you can ride the bus for $90/month.

I have been practicing my bus riding skills by taking the 542 to work here at thinkspace. We are fortunate enough to have the Redmond Transit Center only 200 feet away from our building!

2. Work on the Eastside in Redmond with a thinkspace coworking membership

Do you live on the Eastside but work in Seattle? Talk to your boss about working at our office here in Redmond. Save time and money by eliminating your commute. We officially opened our new Redmond coworking space in February. What exactly is coworking? Picture a desk, chair, lightning fast Internet, a LEED certified work environment, and a room filled with like-minded entrepreneurs, business professionals, and tech startups. Sure, you can work at home with all of those distractions. Or, you can head to your local coffee shop and have Internet issues. Why not give coworking a try? Come check us out, your first day of coworking is on us!

If you are interested in learning more about coworking and locating other coworking spaces check out the Seattle Coworking Wiki.

3. Help us build a stronger network of entrepreneurs and events on the Eastside

Why do all of the fun networking and education events always happen in Seattle? With the upcoming SR 520 tolls, my goal is to create a stronger event presence here on the Eastside. Redmond, WA is filled with brilliant individuals and inspiring entrepreneurs. Therefore, we should be channeling this energy right where it belongs, at home here in Redmond! At thinkspace, we are fortunate enough to have the space to host events. So, next time you’re thinking of hosting an event, feel free to drop me a line- Kristin [at] thinkspace [dot] com.

As thinkspace’s Community Marketing Manager, I am always looking to meet interesting individuals, engaging groups of people, and fun events to bring to our community. Although I hate the idea of paying $3.50 to cross the bridge to work everyday, I am inspired by the opportunity of what can be created here in Redmond. I am asking for your support, passion, feedback, and ideas.

UPDATE: We’re now featured on King County Metro’s SR-520 Travel Options page for our coworking space- take a moment to check it out.

iPad2 Smart Cover does not work with Original iPad

I was thinking about whether or not to upgrade and get the iPad2 when it comes out on Friday, March 11 because the iPad Smart Cover looks like a pretty slick cover.  Then it got me thinking that perhaps I could just get the cover and use it on my Original iPad… kind of like how I got a Taylormade TP headcover for my driver even because it has a cool magnetic closure on it.  I did a little research and found this article that says: “Unfortunately, the answer is no. The Smart Cover functions as it does because of the aforementioned magnets embedded in the iPad 2. The iPad 1 lacks these magnets, and as such, won’t allow the Smart Cover to do its thing”.  That said, looks like it’s not work the trouble to just go buy the cover.  I’m still on the fence on whether to upgrade… are you going to upgrade yours?

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Dealing with Angel Investors

“I want to invest in your company.” These are words that almost any start-up owner would love to hear. However, asking someone to hand over their hard-earned cash to you and your company is like asking them to take a major leap of faith – actually, more like an Olympic-level , chasm-crossing, mega-jump. Last week, MIT Enterprise Forum held an event that was geared towards those looking for some cash support for their businesses. “Meet the Angels” was held as an opportunity for CEO’s and small business leaders to bring all their burning questions to some of the top Angel organizations in the Seattle area. Representatives from Alliance of Angels, Keiretsu Forum, NW Energy Angels, Puget Sound Venture Club, Seraph Capital Forum and Zino Society were there and ready for battle.

Angel organizations and Venture firms are a common topic among the entrepreneurs at thinkspace, so I thought that I would brush up on what our local Angels are looking for – and I definitely got an earful! Representatives from each of the organizations presented a little bit of background information on their organization and the services they provide. This was interesting enough, but it really got good once they allowed entrepreneurs in the room to start asking their questions.

The answered we received from the panel were definitely interesting and though all of them seemed to have a bit (if you were there, you probably think that “bit” is a poor choice of word) different opinions, there were most certainly a few themes that seemed to stand out as being agreed upon by (almost) all. These general rules could probably be applied to Venture funding as well (but, I won’t be an expert until I attend an event about it – wink, wink).

1. Keep Up Communication with Interested Investors:

Just like potential leads for business, relationships with potential investors need to be nurtured. Even if they’ve only showed a slight awareness in the company, don’t lose hope. Create a “go-to list” of folks that showed some level of interest and do not forget to send updates at least once a month. This way, when they are serious about becoming a lead investor, they are already warm.

2. Create Real Business Results:

Measure, Record, Rinse and Repeat. Keeping track of your data (especially the stuff that makes you look good) is extremely important. Even if you are only a small company, spend the time recording your website traffic, leads and revenue, or you will certainly regret it. If you claim that you “feel” your company has made progress in the past year, no one will believe you unless you have the hard numbers to prove it. The progress that you make before your funded could be the catalyst for an investor.

3. Remove the Investment Risk:

There are three main risks that are involved with a startup investment: financing risk (will the company make enough money to avoid bankruptcy?), model risk (does the business model show enough profit?), and execution risk (can the current team pull it off?). Do everything you can to remove as much of this risk as possible.

4. Raising Money Can Be Ridiculously Hard:

Rebecca Lovell (Executive Director of NWEN) stated that only 5% of all U.S. companies receive funding from Angels and only .1% from VC’s. So, set your expectations accordingly and don’t necessarily expect to skate through the fundraising process without a hitch. Most companies have to get through hundreds of “No’s” before they get even one “Yes.”

Also, be Aware. After attending this informative event, I started to ask around to some of our thinkspace members and hear what they had to say about Angels. Many of them made it sound like looking for an Angel could be a great option, but there are things that you should be wary of if you are looking to take that route. Always keep in mind that you do stand a chance of accidentally presenting the “secret sauce” of your business to a direct competitor. Angel groups typically do not do the research to find out whether someone that’s listening to the presentation might be directly involved in a similar industry. Also, always be aware that when you apply to these networks, most of the time, docs that you submit to the angel networks or upload to AngelSoft can be viewed by hundreds of people that you can’t screen.

Long story short, MIT’s “Meet the Angels” event was a great way to hit a couple of points home; nothing necessarily earth-shattering, but some good information none-the-less that some of our start-ups might like to review. It also raised some great things to be aware of as a start-up looking for investors. Any comments on what you’ve seen work in your experiences or what hasn’t, I would greatly appreciate.