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If you could work from anywhere, where would you go?

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If you could work from anywhere, where would you go?

Stay at home? Go outside? Coworking? Work and travel? Coffee shop or restaurant? The library? 

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Whether you decide to stay at home in your pjs or get outside for a meeting, it can definitely be nice to get out of the office to get some work done. Last week, Peter and I spent the afternoon at 5 Stones Coffee Co and got more done on our project in three hours than we did the entire week before! It can be really hard to focus with the many interruptions that happen throughout the day: phone calls, emails, kids and other things that just come up. Sometimes, all it takes is a new location and a fresh perspective to crush your goal!

Kate_mythinkspaceAs a team, we’ve been taking a few hours each week to work from somewhere new and see how it affects our productivity and happiness at work. Follow us on instagram for more great photos @thinkspace.seattle and share your own! #mythinkspace

IMG_1335I know, I sure am! With this 88 degree weather, it is impossible for me to stay inside so I am extra thankful that I got to spend yesterday afternoon out at the park. You may be wondering, “how do you get work done in the park?” Luckily, I had plenty of work that could be done offline, but I was also able to set up my phone as a hotspot and be totally connected to email and my colleagues. Different jobs, will of course, have different limitations but try going somewhere new. I think the results will surprise you.  Now, we want to know where you get your best work done;

where is your “think space”?

Personally, I love traveling, so any time I get the opportunity to work on the go, I take it! Check out #mythinkspace favorite from last year here and share your own!

Xx Allie

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thinkspace Offers First Coworking Helipad Service Between Seattle and Redmond

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thinkspace Redmond Rooftop Helipad

We are excited to announce that we have a helipad at both of our Seattle and Redmond coworking locations! We recognize that commuting between Seattle and Redmond has been a challenge ever since the toll was put in place between Seattle and the Eastside. Depending on the time of day it can take an hour or more commuting on the 520 Bridge. With this new service, the approximate 15 mile commute can be reduced to approximately eight minutes. We wanted to be able to provide our thinkspace members with a service that allows entrepreneurs to focus on growing their startups instead of spending time stuck in traffic as they go from investor meetings with Madrona Venture Group, Voyager Capital, or Maveron.

After nearly seven and half years of running thinkspace, I have been asking entrepreneurs what is the most challenging thing about running a startup? The answer that I typically get is 1) funding and finding access to capital. 2) is hiring talent and finding a cofounder. We feel that with this service, startup founders will be able to invite VC’s to meetings and possible candidates that are looking to leave their jobs at Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft to join their startups. Attracting talent to join a startup is an incredible challenge. With a service like this, startups can now compete with the big tech companies in the Seattle area.

With recent announcements of Uber partnering with Blade to be able to helicopter rides to Coachella, we have been actively working on our own partnerships to extend the service to the Seattle area. We estimate that the service will cost approximately $62.50 one way or $125 round trip. Similar to how a vanpool works, discounts will be available for groups of four people. As Benjamin Franklin would say, “time is money”, this service definitely puts a premium on time. Please contact us if you’re interested in find out more about how to book this service.

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Startups: Stop Comparing Your “Behind the Scenes” to Someone Else’s “Highlight Reel”

liz-pearce-geekwire-startup-day-2016For the last five months I have been struggling with my own insecurity and asking other entrepreneurs if they ever get caught up with comparing their company with their competition. Then, last Friday, I attended Geekwire Startup Day and heard Liz Pearce, CEO of Liquid Planner, talk about FOMO (the fear of missing out). “Comparison is the root of all unhappiness,” she said. “Instead, look at your business, your market, what a successful outcome looks like for your business and your investors”. While I feel like I’m alone, it turns out I’m not alone by having these kinds of thoughts.

Stop Comparing Your “Behind the Scenes” to Someone Else’s Highlight Reel

exhausted-man-300x200Everyday, the media writes up story after story about entrepreneurs who are being touted as the World’s Best Boss, Fastest Growing Company, CEO of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, the next startup unicorn, etc. Then there’s social media and Facebook which just pounds us with all the curated and carefully constructed posts of everyone’s perfect life. Our media keeps portraying all of this as success. The true reality is everyone has rough patches. You only hear about it when you’re having one of those bottom 5% types of conversations with true friends, where you are completely vulnerable, and aren’t being judged.

Run Your Own Race

I remember a few years ago I was telling a friend and business coach that there are a lot of sacrifices or things that I’m willing to delay or postpone but the one thing that I will not is being present as my young children grow up. I didn’t grow up that way. I love my parents and I recognize that they made sacrifices so that my brother, sister, and I would have a better opportunities for a better life. I’m thankful for that. Yet I also know that I don’t want my children to have the dad that didn’t show up for their music concert, soccer match, or school play. Because this is my immovable rock, doesn’t mean I’m not trying my hardest to grow and scale my company. This doesn’t mean I’m just creating a life style company either. It means that I have to figure out ways to get things done without compromising what’s most important to me.

Make the Competition Irrelevant

While going through the Entrepreneurial Masters Program at MIT, I recall reading this quote from the Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim: “…focus on making the competition irrelevant by creating a leap in value for buyers and your company”. I need to get back to using all my energy to create an incredible product and let others worry about the competition. The best thing to do is create goals based on outcomes you want to achieve and not based on what your competition is doing. When you are clear about what your own definition of success is, you can’t be beaten.

I would love it if you could share other things that you’ve done to help you steer away from comparing your company to the competition.

 

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Every Question to Ask Before You Roll Out an Unlimited Vacation Policy

I’ve been thinking about implementing this policy for three months. I’ve interviewed dozens of CEO’s who have implemented an Unlimited Vacation Policy to discuss how different companies handle different situations. Next week at the Beyond the Beer Pong and Foosball Tables event, I’ll be discussing the process that I went through to  come up with answers to every Unlimited Vacation Policy question that we could think of. Register for this event at Westland Distillery on October 28!

Why Implement an Unlimited Vacation Policy?

My company is not a tech startup, but because we support hundreds of startups and are entrenched in the startup ecosystem, I gravitate towards and embrace the workplace culture that is on the bleeding edge. I also want to attract employees who thrive in the startup ecosystem and feel like this is one of those things that separate the best from the rest. I also feel that PTO is punitive and traditional vacation and sick leave is even worse. Having an Unlimited Vacation Policy shows your employees that you trust them and allows employees to recharge when they need to. This leaves employees feeling empowered, respected and motivated.

Build With the Long View in Mind

I’m also a firm believer of building the company with the long view in mind. There are no shortcuts when you’re building something that is sustainable. Life is full of changes at each stage of life. When you’re single, there are things that you just want to be able to do and there are fewer commitments holding you back. Once you have children, the world completely becomes different. Suddenly your time off is spent at your kid’s Halloween party, attending parent teacher conferences, staying home with them when they’re sick, or figuring out how to handle summer vacation when they are bouncing back and forth between summer camps. That leaves a person with essentially no time off for actually recovering from working hard and crushing their goals. There are also unforeseen issues that come up in life, ones that no one ever plans for, and I want employees to feel supported in those situations and throughout the various stages of life.

Questions and Roll Play

Here is a list of questions that I came up with. As a team, we spent a few hours (spread out over a week) to discuss and role play the questions.

  • How do you ensure that people don’t take too much time off?
  • How do you ensure that people don’t take too little time off?
  • How do you ensure that people do not become resentful of others who take too much time off?
  • What do you do if your incentives don’t support your goals?
  • How do you ensure that people do not feel guilty about taking time off?
  • What’s a healthy amount of time off to take per year?
  • How much lead time do you have to give in order for vacation to be approved?
  • Should unlimited vacation be tracked?
  • Most unlimited vacation plans have some sort of manager approval step. What systems are in place to ensure there is an equal approval process for each manager to ensure that there is not inequality among teams?
  • If sales people reach their goals they can take off as much time as they like. What about for jobs that are more operationally focused?
  • If you need an extra day to recover from your vacation buffer that it. Nothing sucks more than people that call in sick because they are wiped out, hung over or didn’t rest enough when they took their vacation. Be back in the office when you say you’re going to.
  • Is it okay to just call in sick when you just don’t feel like working?
  • If it just happens to be a sunny day, should you just call in and say, “I’m not coming in”?
  • What if an employee needs to take time off because of something related to FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act)? How does that work with a unlimited vacation policy?
  • How does maternity or paternity leave work with an unlimited vacation policy?
  • Can you take time off if you’re behind on your projects or they are not complete?
  • Do employees feel like they are working all the time even when they are on vacation?
  • Is there a cap on the number of weeks a person can take off at one time? Two weeks? What if someone has something that they would like to take off which is longer?
  • How do you treat existing accrued leave while transition from PTO to unlimited vacation? Payout at termination?
  • How do you ensure that you have a vacation schedule that is fair to all and effective for the business?
  • How can you have an unlimited vacation policy for hourly employees?
  • How do managers arrange with their teams to take time off?
  • The hiring process needs to weed out people that don’t align with our core values and how we operate with a unlimited vacation policy.
  • Is the client or customer suffering?
  • What if I want to take time off but my manager doesn’t approve?

Unstructured or Guidelines?

At the end of our discussion, it was clear that expectations are set and guidelines are in place. This helps people understand what is considered to be acceptable, aligns with our core values, and allows employees to show they really care about their coworkers and the company.

What other questions would you ask if you were implementing an unlimited vacation policy?

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Seattle Startup Week Schedule

[sched sidebar=”yes” url=”http://seattlestartupweek2015.sched.org/”]Seattle Startup Week Schedule[/sched]

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Sites for Free Stock Photos That Are Perfect For Start-ups

As the Marketing Manager of a start-up for start-ups I need a lot of stock photos for our website, social channels and print collateral. I have a set budget for marketing and I don’t want to waste it on getting cheesy stock photos. I think that aligns pretty well with the challenges start-ups face when it comes to stock photos so I’ve compiled a useful list of the best places to find stock photos for start-ups. I even sorted them in a handy way. You’re welcome.

The requirements:

  1. They have to be free because ain’t nobody got money for that.
  2. They can’t just have a bunch of white guys shaking hands because the world doesn’t actually look like that and no one wants to see another one of those bad stock photos.
  3. It has to be really really really re-hee-eealy easy to figure out if you are going to get a strongly worded letter about using it.

person-woman-apple-hotel-largeI Need Something Specific

Pexels

This is my personal favorite, being mostly in tech this site has a huge selection of pictures of phones, laptops and tablets to use.

StockSnap.io

The search on stock snap is great. The tags are easy to use to find high quality royalty free stock photos.

Pic Jumbo

There is a ton of variety on Pic Jumbo. You’ll find a few borderline cheesy stock images but for every one of those you can find 10 really great ones.

 

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Scratching a Niche

These guys do one thing and do it well. Working in a niche? Scratch with one if these sites.

Foodie Feed

Warning! Do not browse before lunch. This site is full of appetizing food photos fit for any food based start-up.

New Old Stock

Looking for a great vintage photo? Browse the archive of vintage public domain imagery at New Old Stock.

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Send Me Inspiration

Even the best marketers run out of ideas from time to time. Sometimes you need to find something specific and sometimes you need something to spark a little inspiration. Get these stock photos right to your inbox to get your creative juices flowin.

Unsplash

Receive 10 high quality artistic stock photos everyday from Unsplash right to your inbox.

Snapwire Snaps

7 hand-picked snaps every 7 days that are completely free to use.

Death To Stock Photos

These guys are sending you packs monthly. Be sure to follow them on Instagram to watch them travel the country in search of the best stock photography.
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I’m Just Browsing

These sites let you get lost in the never ending scroll of beautiful imagery.

 

Magdeleine

These user generated photos are gorgeously curated for your viewing/using pleasure.

Refe

Get user generated photography for free from Refe.

 

Do you have a favorite free stock photo go to? Leave it in the comments, I am always on the hunt for more great places for images.

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How to Deliver a Compelling Pitch for Angel Investment

Rachel Azaroff

Rachel Azaroff of Alliance of Angels

Last night Rachel Azaroff of Alliance of Angels stopped by our Seattle space to help some of our members prepare for successful angel investing pitches. She pointed out it’s a different animal pitching to an angel investor vs. pitching to a venture capitalist, so it’s important to be prepared. Angel investors aren’t professional investors representing a fund; these are people writing checks right out of their personal bank accounts, so the format can be radically different. Here’s what you need to know.

Prepare, Prepare and Prepare Some More

It’s important to know whom you are pitching to. Research your particular angels. You need to know what stage these angels are investing at and what type of investments they make. For example, Alliance of Angels generally invests in early stage startups, and tends to invest in life sciences, consumer goods, IT and clean tech.

10 Minutes or Less, Guaranteed!

thinkspace members working in groups on their elevator pitches

thinkspace members working in groups on their elevator pitches

Angel investors tend to have ten minute or less pitch sessions, and believe me, they go by faster than you think. Alliance of Angels advises:

Be clear about your value, be compelling and back up your plan with numbers.

You want to find the sweet spot where you can thoroughly explain your idea, but without going into too much detail and running out of time to make the sale. Investors aren’t going to write you a check today, so Rachel recommends that you focus on getting their attention with the goal of scheduling a follow up meeting.

The Anatomy of a Pitch Deck 

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Problem

Always begin your pitch by describing the problem your idea solves. You want to make sure to define the problem, identify who feels the pain, and illustrate the size and severity of the pain. Rachel says:

Focus on making the pain tangible.

Once you clearly outline the pain point, deliver your value proposition. This is one of the most important slides in your deck, so it may be necessary to use multiple slides in order to fully explain the features and benefits that solve the problem.

Market Size

Ultimately, it’s important to dive into the specifics of your initial target demographic, but you also want to make sure you paint a clear picture of your potential by highlighting the total addressable market. Be realistic, but also sell it. Back up your numbers with third party facts and figures.

Customers

Explain who your customer is. If you can, be specific. For example, in a B2B scenario, you might use logos from the companies you plan to sell to. If you have any existing customers, make sure to highlight them as well. The potential pipeline is also an important part of your customer base. Display customer growth in a realistic and precise way.

Go-To Market Strategy 

This is another key part of your pitch. Angel investors want to see exactly how you plan to get users or customers, so it’s important to be clear and strategic with your go-to market plan. If you can, outline the sales cycle and key decision makers–the more specific in this area, the better.

Rachel also suggests outlining any key partnerships. This doesn’t apply to most, but if your business hinges on relationships, be sure to include them in your go to market plan. Show any traction you’ve already made.

Business Model

Startups tend to let the business model “fall out” of the company, meaning the money making part will just naturally work itself out. Remember, angel investors are writing you a check from their personal account; they want to see you are interested in not only returning, but growing their investment. Clearly state how you plan to make money.

Don’t ignore your competition. Address your competitors head-on. Leverage the competition by showing how your product will solve more problems and ultimately be profitable.

Management

You want to give the investors confidence that you and your team know what you are doing, so highlight your key players. Be sure to outline their experience and why they are in their position. If they have prior exits or startup experience, Rachel recommends including that information in your pitch.

Financials

Rachel says this is one of the harder slides, because finances can be convoluted. Stick to three main financial points: revenue and profit, annual projects and key operating drivers. When it comes to the financials slide, ask yourself this question:

 How many questions does it answer vs. how many questions does it create?

Practice Makes a Perfect Pitch

As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect. That holds true for an angel investing pitch. Rachel says one of the biggest issues angel investors see in pitching is the presenter not being confident with the presentation. She recommends presenting your pitch to various crowd sizes and in many different spaces. The more variables you are prepared for, the better your pitch will be.

 Want to learn more?

Be sure to catch our next event on startup funding at Lunch & Learn: Techstars. You have two opportunities to attend: Friday, April 10th at thinkspace Seattle and Tuesday, April 14th at thinkspace Redmond. Find more information and register for these events at thinkspace connected.

Techstars is the gold standard for startup accelerators. At the core is our massive interconnected network of over 3,000 successful entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and corporate partners helping the most promising startups do more faster. With 13 programs worldwide, the mentorship-driven accelerator program funds the best companies in the most entrepreneurial communities. Since 2006, over 70% of the 500 companies from almost 40 Techstars programs have prospered, representing approximately $2 billion in market capitalization. Techstars is currently accepting applications for their program in Seattle until April 30th and this is your opportunity to meet with Jaren Schwartz, Program Manager for Techstars and learn more about how Techstars can help provide funding for your startup.

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My Mental Time Travel Trip Landed Me in Austin

As an entrepreneur it’s important to be forward thinking. One of my main goals was to do mental time travel for the future of thinkspace. That’s hard to do when you’re constantly working inside the business, knee deep in day-to-day activities, and can’t see the forest for the trees.

Get out and travel

Nothing opens up your eyes like travel. Going to a new city, meeting new people, experiencing a different environment, food, music, allows you to see things from a different perspective. You start to see new opportunities that you never knew existed. SXSW is the ultimate cross section between tech, music, and entertainment. There are so many things to taste, touch, feel and ultimately learn.

Mind map your company

thinkspace-mindmapWhile down at SXSW we created a mind map of the company. In the mind map were all the pieces of what the business looks like today. It was great to have a visual representation of the company so when attending one of the thousand different sessions you’re able to take and apply new ideas to specific areas of the company. It’s also a good way to visualize where you are going.

Don’t keep doing the same things over and over

Repeat Last Years HarvestOne of my favorite slides came from a presentation by Jeremy Gutsche on Trends for 2015 and a proven path to unstoppable ideas. The slide read, “We repeat whatever led to last year’s harvest.” A lot of times it’s easy to get caught up on doing the same things over and over. We try to create a formula–I personally don’t think that’s the way to get extraordinary results. It seems a bit counterintuitive, but if you want to increase your success you have to double your failure rate. Jeremy also spoke about “3 Traps of a Farmer”: 1) Complacent. 2) Repetitive. 3) Protective. Where as the “3 Hunter Instincts” are: 1) Insatiable. 2) Curious. 3) Willing to Destroy. After thinking about it for a while, there were a couple things that we do in the business today that I was “willing to destroy” and stop doing, despite the fact that one of them will impact future revenue.

Convergence and Divergence

One thing that I really started to see from the SXSW trip was that there are patterns of opportunity right in front of us. Convergence is one thing that I was seeing throughout the entire trip. There’s opportunity for combining two areas that you normally would not see together. That alone is innovation and your competition probably is completely unaware of it. Another area is divergence, where it would be counter culture to do something that your competition would definitely not do. These two things can be major areas of differentiation.

For me, the SXSW trip was invaluable to gain a different perspective. For every leader and visionary, I’ll leave you with this last quote:

I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been. – Wayne Gretzky

I would love to hear from others who have found insight by attending SXSW, or just traveled to gain a different perspective.

 

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Seattle Startup Week | Angel investor Andy Liu illustrates the importance of building rhythms

andy-presentingBy 1:00 pm on October 23, the day of his Seattle Startup Week presentation, Andy Liu, local dream investor and CEO of BuddyTV, had already been in contact with four prospective customers. According to Andy, his number one job is to sell.

“You know what? As CEO, sales is actually my number one job. Sales to customers, sales to employees, sales to investors…Sales to everybody else that may eventually come into contact with the company…I need to constantly be doing that.”

Getting in front of the customer is one of the best ways to learn about a business.

Andy also explained that businesses are built on rhythms. Therefore, it’s crucial that a company reevaluate the rhythms that are in place to be more effective on a day-to-day basis. To do this, Andy has implemented a number of rhythm-boosting practices. For example, every Monday morning he sends out an email to the entire team with BuddyTV’s latest happenings, team recognition, and any other relevant information for the upcoming week. Another tool he uses is a refined system of key performance indicators.

“It’s not 30 numbers that you need to track, it’s one or two.”

Andy wrapped up by highlighting the importance of celebrating.

“Even in the darkest days, there’s always something to celebrate…There’s always some reason to ring the bell.”

Andy follows his own advice quite literally. In BuddyTV’s office, one of the developers has a cash register linked up his computer speakers. Each time a sale comes in, the cash register dings.

What does your startup do to celebrate?

You can hear more about Andy’s rythmatic practices here:

Check out Andy’s SlideShare deck from his Seattle Startup Week presentation:

Or see the entirety of Andy’s talk here:

Check out our recaps of our other Startup Week events:

Kicking off with Aviel Ginzburg of Simply Measured
Matt Heinz explains why you have to fail in order to succeed
Russell Benaroya talks night runs and how to ease the loneliness of entrepreneurship

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Seattle Startup Week | Russell Benaroya talks night runs and how to ease the loneliness of entrepreneurship

russell-presentingLast week, thinkspace and Seattle Startup Week, with help from Russell Benaroya (co-founder and CEO of EveryMove) and Andy Liu (angel investor and CEO of BuddyTV), took over the incredible space that Graham & Dunn occupies on the Seattle downtown waterfront. For twenty three minutes, we had the opportunity to bounce around inside Russell’s mind.

Russell opened his presentation with a wonderfully vivid and intensely personal description of the 75 mile journey that he took on the Pacific Crest Trail, from Steven’s Pass to Snoqualmie Pass, called Section J. According to the Washington Trails Association, Section J “is not for the beginning backpacker. There is considerable elevation gain and loss—about 16,000 feet! Some places are impassable until well into August when the snow melts out.”

Russell did it in 24 hours. Yes, 75 miles of rough terrain in just 24 hours. Bearing in mind that this was a Herculean task, it was not surprising, then, when Russell said:

“We ran through the night, entirely self supported, and when I finished that run, I was…Broken.”

This story of course came full circle when Russell explained how this run, this fantastic personal accomplishment, translated into so many areas of his life, specifically entrepreneurship:

“This is the road of entrepreneurship, right? This very lonely road, in many ways, where we are.. Where it’s broken on so many levels, and it’s so painful, and it’s so emotional, but at the same time, we’re so alive, right? We’re stretching ourselves to do more than we thought possible and it’s emotional. And this rollercoaster of emotion is something that we can’t do alone.”

There’s a reason why shared offices and coworking spaces and organizations like the Entrepreneurs’ Organization exist—and not just exist, but thrive. Sure, you can start a business out of your basement, or your spare bedroom, or Starbucks. But the benefit of surrounding yourself with a support system, with like-minded people? Invaluable. Entrepreneurship may be a lonely road, but that doesn’t mean we actually have to walk it alone.

Like Russell said, “We’re all in this together.”

For those who were unable to attend the event, watch the full video here:

Check out our recaps of our other Startup Week events:

Kicking off with Aviel Ginzburg of Simply Measured
Matt Heinz explains why you have to fail in order to succeed
Angel investor Andy Liu illustrates the importance of building rhythms

 

jamie

types-of-seattle-startup-founders

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