corporate-to-startupTwice in my career I have left corporate jobs for startups. The first time I left was because I wanted to be in an innovative work environment where we would be inventing and creating technology that never existed. I tasted what it was like to work in a fast moving amazing technology company. I felt alive and the energy from my team was amazing. Before joining the startup here are the questions I asked myself:

Questions I Asked:

  • How much money was being raised through venture capital?
  • What was the burn rate?
  • How much equity would I be getting? How many total shares were there?
  • Do I believe in the CEO’s vision for where the company is going?

In hindsight where these good questions?

  • We raised $21M.
  • We burned through that money in less than 12 months. You’d think $21M would last a long time. It doesn’t when you’re hiring like crazy. I was one of the first few hires and we ended up hiring 90 people at our peak. Hiring and growing can mask how a company is really doing. From the outside it looks like you’re successful. The burn rate was out of control.
  • I got a ton of stock options. Worthless if the company doesn’t survive. The initial job offer had two options A) Higher pay, lower stock options. B) Lower pay, high stock options. I counter offered and asked for option C) Higher pay, higher stock options. If you think you’re worth it, ask for it.
  • I met and believed in the founder and CEO, I drank the Kool-Aid. I was in the inner circle.

Today I would ask a different set of questions:

  • Would I personally invest in this startup?

Joining a startup is akin to investing in a startup. You’re about to put a ton of your time into building up this startup. You’re investing more than what an investor is putting in. This question leads to more questions such as market potential, addressable market size, competitive landscape, founders’ backgrounds, customer validation, etc. If I wasn’t ready to invest money into the startup, I would’t want to go work there.

  • What are the credentials of the founding team?

If I don’t believe in the people that started the company, there’s no way I would go work for them. This is actually more important to me than what the startup actually does. Startup will shift direction and for lack of a better word, pivot. There are people that I would work for where I don’t care what the idea is, I would just join them because I believe in them.

  • What are the core values of the company? Do my core values align with those of the founders?

This question is more important to me than ever. If we don’t align here there’s no way I could go work for that startup. Startup pressure is so intense and when the founders are facing the darkest moment only their core values will stand the test. Who are they when they hit the wall. Is that something you want to be associated with. Is that something that you will be proud of their decision making. If not, don’t even bother working for them.

  • What kind of work culture do I want to work in?

You will be spending most of your day with the people in this startup. What’s the culture like? I want to enjoy working with the people I’m around all day long and the work environment. I personally want to work with people that have a goal crushing attitude, love to serve their coworkers and customers, and are always learning. We all have a choice in what type of work culture we want to be in.

  • Will this be a demanding, learning environment?

If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. I want to work really hard, that the only thing I know how to do. I also know that I have a ton more to learn. If I’m not in an environment where I’m always learning, I don’t want to be there.

What are some questions that you would ask?

If you’re looking to make the jump from corporate to startup and have questions like these, you should attend our event “Emerge from Corporate to Startup” on August 14, 2014 at 6pm.



6:00 – 6:30pm – Networking (Meet some startups who are hiring!) / Pizza and Drinks
6:30 – 7:10pm – Session 1: Emerging as a startup founder or co-founder / QA
7:15 – 8:00pm – Session 2: Emerging as an early stage startup employee / QA

Brad Carpenter  @bradcarpenter

Brad worked for Microsoft for over 20 years — he was a GM worked on Surface v 1.0 as well as managed the Keyboard Mouse Device Division. Brad has also been involved with multiple startups as CEO. He is also an angel investor and part of the Seattle Angel Conference board.

Don Gerould @dgerould

Don’s corporate life was spent at Citysearch and as a Senior Manager with Sales Operations at Amazon. Don’s last company was the Surf City Marathon. Don started his current company Cogent Equity more than 12 years ago and provides services including exit strategy planning and capital fundraising.

Sandeep Phadke @viaairlift

Sandeep was responsible for the Kindle rending engine at Amazon. Sandeep also worked for many years at Microsoft. Sandeep quit working for big corporate companies for life changing personal reasons. He is on his first pivot and now joining forces with another Seattle startup!


Shauna Causey @shaunacausey

Shauna started her career in Marketing and PR working for the Seattle Mariners, Q13, Comcast, Nordstrom and has worked at a handful of startups like Ants Eye View (acquired by Price Water Coopers), (acquired by Ebay), and UP Global (aka Startup Weekend). Mentor and advisor for startups.

Planning a project? Developing a new program? Starting a business?

It’s easy to get caught up and overwhelmed by all the little moving parts in a launch.  Your website, the product, membership area, sales process, buttons, emails, graphics, getting the word out…it’s not surprising how many people DON’T launch.

There’s a lot that can go wrong.

Instead of pretending you’ll be able to handle all the curve balls that will be thrown at you during a launch or heck when running your business, having some guidelines to follow will go far in keeping your launch train moving forward.

Today – I’m sharing my personal launch rules–they have served me well planning projects in many different industries like film, video game development, pilates studio development and now as I grow my online business.

Don’t be surprised if some of them seem super obvious – and they are!

  1. Be clear what you are offering and be able to say it out loud to real people in your real life. If you can’t – then keep trying…

  2. Know who your audience is. There’s no real trick to this and you don’t have to do the work yourself.  My first time launching helped me clarify who would actually buy from me.  Moral of that story is put yourself in front of as many different audiences as you can – and your audience will find you!

  3. Get help – managing your project, doing the work, spreading the word… get help in every area, aspect and phase of your launch – so you don’t have to keep it all in your own head! Support is that key ingredient that really does matter more than you know!

  4. Stick to a schedule and be realistic when setting your schedule.  If you’ve only got a few people to “help” out…give yourself longer.  Be honest, realistic, and don’t

  5. Deliver what you promised and when you promise.  Don’t say you’re going to do a video series and then crap out after the 2nd one.  Don’t say your program will be delivered upon purchase if it opens in 2 weeks.  Just be clear what you’re offering and when and if it changes, make sure people know about it in ADVANCE.

  6. Don’t switch software or any systems mid-launch. ‘NUFF SAID.

  7. Make sure your team is going to see through the launch. This goes along with getting help. Make sure your help gives you a commitment to helping you through the entire life of the launch.

  8. Have back up plans. Think of things that could break down, go wrong, or not work well, and be ready to change direction at a moment’s notice.  Be okay with putting plan b in motion if needed.

  9. Be ready to (and OK with) CHANGE anything that’s not working for ANY reason.

  10. Do it often and don’t be afraid to LAUNCH WITHOUT SELLING A THING. Launching isn’t just about making moola. It’s a process you should learn early so that you can pull off your bigger ticket launches in the future.  So – launch often and launch free things too!

If you want to know more about planning a launch so that you have time to pull all those launch pieces together without totally exhausting yourself…you’ve got 2 options today:

Option 1

I’ll be teaching a live 1-hour workshop at thinkspace to show you how to do this on April 24th:

Launch Exhaustion: How to schedule a year of launches without exhausting yourself, your audience, or your team.

Click here for more information and to attend

Option 2

Fearless Launching is now enrolling for it’s 3rd round!

Check out this completely digital online training program now to learn how to launch, get support, and understand why launching before you’re ready is so important!


A guest-post from Anne Samoilov

Today’s post comes to Thinkspace courtesy of Anne Samoilov and is republished by permission.  Anne has been helping solopreneurs become more productive, create and launch their life’s work. She teaches about topics including online launching, product launch, small business growth, productivity, self-management, motivation, business planning + goal setting. Anne’s background also includes 10 years experience as producer for animation, visual effects, and game development. We’re excited to have Anne here on the Thinkspace blog – as well as a featured speaker in a series of brown bag workshops.


Is it possible something you said 4, 5, or 6 months ago affected your recent launch sales?

Does it really matter what you say to people about your launch? Will it make the difference between sales and dead air?

Is there a known, working method of reaching out, touching, connecting, getting to know your customers before you open the doors, starting conversations that actually lead to sales?

And don’t you want the RIGHT people to take your offer?

There’s nothing worse than making an offer and getting the wrong audience on board… though it does tell you something about what you’re offering… but I digress.

Talking about your upcoming launch, sharing the behind the scenes, taking people along for the ride – it’s crucial to your launch bottom line – but the process is riddled with mistakes people make when they’re first starting.

It’s not as simple as posting 5 times a day on social media (and hoping for the best). If you track your tweets – you know most people don’t click on those posts.

You can’t just run an ad on Facebook – and again, think that everyone will be magically drawn to it.

And – you can’t hope those guest posts – ok that ONE guest post you did – a year ago, will help you grow your audience.

Unless, you understand what it takes to get the right people’s attention NOW.

I learned that to get the conversation started meant focusing on (BRACE YOURSELF THIS MIGHT SOUND SELFISH) the what I wanted back.

Yes – the exchange of ideas – opinions – feelings – experiences… that’s what I wanted.

Once I determined what I wanted back – I changed my approach to communicating forever.

And I’m going to share the secret with you in a very special,  in-person workshop on March 20th here at thinkspace.

Conversations That Sell: How to tell the world about your launch + reach more of the right people.

  1. The easy launch conversation starter that equaled sales within 24 hours – most people don’t realize that this simple strategy is so powerful – and it even surprised me.
  2. My top 3 “no brainer” methods to prepare your audience for a launch.
  3. The one no cost “everyday” business tool that saved me hours in time and money.
  4. How my “Launch Leak Strategy” allows you to “tease” your launch and create excitement before you even launch!

And then – I’m going to share my proven “before, during and after” launch communication plan that will take all the guess work out for you!

Anne will be presenting at an upcoming thinkspace event – March 20th, Fearless Launching: Conversations That Sell, Workshop #2.  For more information and to register for this event, click here.  If you aren’t able to physically be present for this event, view the webinar by subscribing here.

A guest-post from Anne Samoilov

Today’s post comes to Thinkspace courtesy of Anne Samoilov and is republished by permission.  Anne has been helping solopreneurs become more productive, create and launch their life’s work. She teaches about topics including online launching, product launch, small business growth, productivity, self-management, motivation, business planning + goal setting. Anne’s background also includes 10 years experience as producer for animation, visual effects, and game development. We’re excited to have Anne here on the Thinkspace blog – kicking off a series of brown bag workshops.


So – last week I started this unofficial launch smackdown series by talking about some of the mistakes to lead to launch failure or failure to launch! If you haven’t read that post – go there now!

Today I’m answering the key question I get from people who don’t believe they are “ready” to launch.

What are the benefits to launching before you are ready, established or a guru/leader in your industry? (Don’t get me started on that word Guru…) Basically – should I wait if I don’t have x (subscribers, traffic, etc)?

Before I dive in – let’s first talk about who you are and give you a little perspective on why knowing these benefits are so important to understand.

People who ask me questions about being ready to launch usually fit into one of three categories – it’s useful to figure out roughly your category for one good reason — you’ll realize you aren’t the only one in your category! No one wants to feel like the odd person out – embrace your category or mix of categories, but don’t let it hold you back.

1. Surveyer:

You’re curious to know how you can possibly launch this thing you’ve created – You’re just not sure how to start, but you’re resourceful and ready to figure it out. You might not have a ton of experience in your topic, but you sit on the sidelines, watch others launching, and know there’s something there …you just need a little “more” proof before doing anything.

Main defining characteristic: Always asking questions, getting feedback, difficulty settling on a direction without outside help.

2. Creator:

You’ve been creating a ton of content and people like it. You don’t need convincing that you need to launch – you need proof that it can work even if you are just starting out. Plus – you want a full proof plan to take your ideas to market. Making the leap from all free all the time to paid offerings is a big jump for you.

Main defining characteristic: Creator with a conscious…you know it’s not getting you anywhere.

3. Jaded Tester:

You’ve been through a launch before – and you need major convincing to do it again. You set goals, are convinced you did everything right, but nothing worked at all like you thought it would.

You have tons of resistance to launching because you didn’t get the results you wanted when you did it the first time.

But – you are smart–can figure almost everything out. That’s why this hurts even more – this is the one thing you haven’t deciphered yet.

You want to find the lessons, but you’re a little miffed from the last time you stuck your neck out to the world.

Main defining characteristic: Lost confidence, stubborn, and you need to renew your belief that you CAN launch successfully.

No matter where you are within these categories…you can launch. You should launch. And here’s why.

Here are the 10 benefits to launching a new product, program or service before you say you’re ready:

1. You grow your list.

Whether you plan to do a video series, blog posts, interviews, guest posts, maybe a free webinar, all of it will be focused on one thing – getting more eyes on you and your business. A lovely “side effect” and your primary focus for that first launch should be building your list.

Don’t believe it?

Catherine Just grew her list to the first 1,000 with her first launch. She’s done a few other launches since then too!
Alicia Cowan also grew her list from several hundred to well over 1000 during her first launch and continues to build her audience with free webinars, workshops and relaunching her initial program.
LKR grows it’s list by several thousand every single time a new free webinar or launch is announced.

If your list isn’t growing during a launch – then you aren’t doing enough to reach other people’s audiences – which is one of the mistakes I mentioned in the last post!

2. Launches help build and rebuild confidence

Committing to a project from beginning to end, seeing it through, doing all you can – knowing that you learned, built your list, made some sales – this does a lot to instill confidence in yourself and your business. Even when things don’t go as screamingly well as you’d like them to, once you understand the process of launching, you feel more confident to do it again.

If you aren’t feeling so confident after a launch – you aren’t alone. It’s easy to set lofty launch wishes and then be completely shattered when they don’t come true.

There are so many elements of a launch that play into you achieving or not achieving those goals, so instead of feeling bad or wallowing.

Be proactive. Look back over the “mistakes” you made, record what you learned, and use it as an opportunity to plan for the next time out.

3. Your business will come into extreme focus + clarity.

Time and time again I’ve watch entrepreneurs work to launch a product, program or new service only to emerge on the other side with:

-> a slightly shifted business model
-> a new target market
-> a deeper understanding of what they want their business to be

Keep your eyes open for clues to seeing your business in a new, objective light.

Clues come in lots of different forms:

  • – a different kind of person than you expected enrolling in your program
  • – having the exact person you wanted in the program asking you for something “else”
  • – a sinking feeling that you don’t want to do 1-off coaching
  • – an immediate idea of what to launch next

Pay attention.

4. You get to test your product out before a massive audience buys it.

So you only have a small group of people going through your program.

Guess what? This is your chance to see what works and what doesn’t work in your program.

Treat those people like gold – because they’re the first, their feedback is gold!

Here are a few things I did during the first round of Fearless Launching:

  • – Gave 1-on-1 support calls throughout the program
  • – Asked for feedback along the way
  • – Took the feedback and improved the program

Sometimes it’s the simple extra bits that you can give that will make the life of your product, program or service that much better.

Don’t be afraid to shower your first round with extra special loving.

5. Launches help you build and strengthen relationships with your readers, prospects and customers.

I’m very close with the members of Fearless Launching – but I don’t just make room for customers. I make it my mission to connect on a personal level with everyone who reaches out to me, joins my mailing list, or leaves a comment.

I know it seems obvious, but caring and listening is all people want sometimes. So – open your ears and let people know you’re there. I actually feel the relationships strengthening over time with each and every one of you. I even feel a little protective too!

Encourage your readers to leave a comment – to email you. Then – respond. Sometimes it takes a little longer, but taking the extra time to respond makes a huge difference in those relationships. Someone might not be a customer today, but tomorrow things can change.

6. You suddenly understand and can easily identify your ideal customer.

One of the toughest parts of starting an online or offline business is understanding your ideal customer.

Before Fearless Launching – I had a vague idea of who I was serving. After two rounds of the program – I now completely understand who this program serves best and who will get the best results.

Honestly though, I sometimes feel like I got lucky and the exact right people enrolled.

How do you really get lucky like I did? Make sure your content is focused, in YOUR voice, and aims to provide a clear outcome. That’s all I did – and it attracted the exact right people.

In my case, I wanted to make sure that people who didn’t think they were ready to launch were prepared, understood the process, got support along the way, and launched.

Most people either achieve this or get very close. And the ones who don’t get close – they do get there eventually.

7. You make some cash.

I’m all for making money when you launch. All that blood, sweat and tears – all the time that you focus on this one project. You deserve some moola, right?

Revenue is only 1 of my goals during a launch. I want to see growth in revenue, list, traffic, but also in my delivery of value.

How do you deal if you don’t make money on your online launch? It all comes down to traffic, eyes, and if your offer was right for that traffic.

If the offer didn’t match the eyes, you probably didn’t make any money. That doesn’t mean your offer sucked, it just means you need to reach some new eyes or that you have to adjust your offer for the people who did show up!

8. Making mistakes in front of fewer people is a lot less painful than a large crowd.

The main benefit of launching before you are ready is that your audience is smaller. Would you rather fall in front of a stadium of people or a televised event or at a wedding where you know most of the people.

Sure all scenarios kind of suck, but the point is – make the mistakes while you’re surrounded by a smaller group of people.

Use your first launch to practice of the process of launching.

9. You find out who supports you + who might not be so dependable.

Start now and you’ll see right away who’s going to support you and who’s NOT going to support you.

People are fickle. They talk a big talk – and will tell you, “Oh yeah what you’re doing is amazing”, but then don’t stand up and help you during a launch or even click on a tweetable.

Don’t hold it against them. People who say one thing might be genuinely wanting you to succeed, but then when the time comes to support, they just miss it completely or realize they have other obligations. We all have priorities in life and you need to respect that.

In fact, I know when it comes down to it – I support who I support too!

It feels personal when someone doesn’t tweet or share for you or leave a comment, but it’s not. Remember that.

Next time – you’ll know who WILL tweet/share/spread the word for you – and who might not!

10. When you demonstrate your knowledge, you turn lurkers into prospects!

Launching means you demonstrating your expertise with people.

Even if they aren’t convinced to buy – you have shown them you mean business, you are knowledgeable, and if they liked what you taught them – they will be back.

Often – someone can follow you quietly for years and then suddenly buy something or decide they want “in” on what you’re doing.

There are people who’ve been with me since I was writing about fitness, pilates and productivity… imagine how nervous I was to reveal that I wanted to stop all that and teach launching??

I was shocked when the hands raised one by one by one… and that audience I was so afraid of sharing my expertise with…they wanted it all along!

4 Reasons To Love Launching

Now – beyond benefits – the 4 words that express why I love launching, love watching people launch, and love getting people excited about their own launches:

Clarity + Growth + Money + Process

So – If you think you’re not ready for launching… consider being ready for a little or a lot of all of these words to describe what’s happening in your business?

What you can do right now

#1 – If you haven’t read the 9 launch mistakes post – go now, read it and post your homework in the comments.

#2 – Which “mistake” have you made that you can learn from, turn it around, reframe it and use it as a starting point to planning your next launch? It’s all about the rebound – share the lesson and what will shift next time out for you.

Talk to you in the comments below!


Anne will be presenting at an upcoming thinkspace event: February 14, Fearless Launching: The Beginner Launch, Workshop #1.  For more information and to register for this event, click here.

Quite a few start ups begin as bootstrapped companies, using their own out-of-pocket funds and being extremely frugal in their first years of business. Eventually most of these businesses find themselves in a spot where, in order to grow, they need outside funding. Many turn to family and friends for financial support. This can be a great way to help your friends turn a profit and a way for them to show you their support. However, borrowing money from friends and family can become quite a sticky situation.

If you are looking to go down this path, make sure you are prepared for he worst – before it happens. One of the best ways to safeguard a relationship from the possibility of your company’s unrealized financial goals is to tie financing to equity instead of a loan. It can be extremely difficult to dilute your ownership in your company in order to get the capital you need, but can ultimately protect your relationships with those close to you.

I’d love to hear from people who have borrowed from friends and family or are thinking about it and precautions that you took to make sure everything worked out. So, let me know. Have you had any experiences related to this topic?

Business PrioritiesSo many entrepreneurs have it together. They own successful businesses but still spend time doing the things that they love; spending time with their family, working on their hobbies, or playing their favorite sport. Every once in a while I meet business owners whose families have fallen apart, they work really long hours and generally just forget about their priorities. While this can work for a certain time period, it’s really not something that any business owner should keep up. Eventually, whether its 6 months or two years, they will get burnt out.When you are thinking about starting your own business, begin thinking right away about your schedule and what you will be spending time on. If you started your business before you were sure of your priorities, it doesn’t mean that you can’t start now. Take some time to consider what’s really important to you and make a numbered list with your most important priority at the top. Then, take a look at your calendar and plan out chunks of time during the week where you can spend time working on your priorities.

Mapping out your activities is the best way to ensure that you won’t burn out too quickly. Also, the people in your life will be happy to see what you are still planning on spending time with them. More than likely, they will be even bigger supporters of your business knowing that you have a plan in place to keep your priorities where they should be.

StartupMany people that dream of eventually owning their own business consider getting a job with a startup business. Working for a start up can offer “pre-entrepreneurs” a lot of value. Employees of startups are able to see just how hard it is to run your own business on the day-to-day. At a start up, employees are normally a lot closer to all of the action and important decision making as the team is typically much smaller than those of a corporate office. I’ve had a few people ask me about how to get a job with a start up. This question is particularly popular among those that lack advanced technical skills.

1.     Get to know the industry. Spend some time every day researching what is going on in your desired industry. Pay special attention to news that may relate to the start up that you are looking at. If you don’t have a particular start up in mind yet, begin by researching the tech industry. Many startups are right on the edge and trying new concepts and new things. Knowing as much as you can about the current tech market can only help you in the hunt for the perfect t start up job.

2.     Form a voice and start a blog. Find a topic that interests you that you think you could produce a lot of content about and begin writing a blog. If you are doing #1, this step should be fairly easy. Write about your opinions on some of the top articles and controversies going on in the tech or startup world. The sooner you begin a project like this, the better. Working at a startup requires a startup attitude; a drive to get things done, to get things done cheaply and to have that self motivation. If you stick to writing on your blog at least a couple of times a week, it could boast well for you in an interview.

3.     Be familiar with the startup culture. If you know which company you want to be a part of, then begin researching their company and reading up on the culture that they are trying to create. Many startups take their culture very seriously as this is one of the unique things that they can offer that many larger businesses cant. If you aren’t sure which company you are looking at, just begin researching the cultures of startups around the world and figure out which kind of culture you want to be a part of. This will give you some great information about yourself and what kind of business you might fit best in.

4.     Try for an internship. If you currently lack experience in the startup world then getting an internship might be the best thing for you and your resume. Internships offer invaluable insight into the world of a startup. You will learn how teams work together, what it might be like to work for a startup and the culture of that particular company. The experience will help you tremendously not to mention you may end up getting a paid gig once your internship is complete.

5.     Be a networking guru. You’ve probably heard it said before that it’s not what you know, but who you know. While there are definitely skills that you will have to bring to the table to become a part of a startup, meeting the right people can help get you in the door. Start going to local networking events and begin introducing yourself to entrepreneurs. If you don’t live near a major city that holds events such as these, begin attending webinars and live-streamings online. Not only will you learn from these events, you will be exposed to possibly hundreds of business owners.

For those of you out there who already have or do work for a startup, is there anything I left out?

Starting a BusinessEntrepreneurs are passionate about their startups. Many are so eager to get started with their newest, greatest business idea that they rush out to get their licensing from their city and state, then sprint to press the “Go Button.” In reality, it really shouldn’t take too long to get your business up and running but there is a little more to it than just obtaining your licensing. Here are three things to do that will make your start up look legitimate right off the bat.

  1. Get a website. Just in case you didn’t know, phone books have been replaced with this thing called the internet. People now use the internet to get information. Without a website, how do you expect your clients to find you? Websites are a great way to introduce potential clients, investors and partners to your business style, concepts and information. If you are not skilled in the ways of website development, there are plenty of great people out there who can do it for you for a relatively low cost (and, if you don’t know of any, I can give you some amazing referrals).
  2. Get a professional email address and separate phone number. I know that the account is what you’ve always used. But, this really isn’t appropriate for business. Even if your email address is reasonable, you really should be using your business domain to host your email. This is another thing that those savvy website designers can set up for you. As far as a professional phone line goes, you really want to have your calls separated from each other. Local and toll free numbers go for extremely cheap these days and you can even forward the line to your cell. Then it will be separated for when you finally decide that you can get your own business phone. (If you don’t know where to get a cheap business phone number, you can talk to me about that too!)
  3. Get a business address. The internet is a great resource for information but the amount of information that can be attained by strangers is also a bit scary. Many new business owners set up their company with their home address. This is a bad idea. It is very easy for to find the registered address for any given business. Online maps have made it all too easy for people to look up addresses, find out right where that address is and even view the area via satellite street views. Not sure if you feel comfortable with this, but most of the time this is clearly not a good idea. We, at thinkspace, actually offer a Redmond business address for just $59 per month (and includes much more than the address) and should be providing other locations very soon.

There are quite a few things you should do to ensure you get your start up off on the right foot, but these seem to be the most vital (and not always all that obvious). Anything you think I missed?

The Founder InstituteLast week, I had the pleasure of meeting with Dave Parker, founder of and mentor at The Founder Institute. After showing Dave around the thinkspace digs, we sat down to chat a bit. I had never heard of the Founder Institute before, but getting to hear about it straight from one of their mentors was great and brought to light a couple of great points to consider.
1.     They aren’t soft. Founder’s Institute isn’t full of a bunch of people who are going to tell you that your business idea rocks. They are tough, they are direct and they aren’t going to cut you any slack. Less than 50% of the would-be entrepreneurs who start the program finish it. But don’t look at this as a bad thing. Look at this as being a perfect opportunity to test your business idea against some of the greatest business minds in the area. Just think, if you can make it through this, there is a good chance your business will make it too!
2.     They aren’t cheap. Submitting an application costs $50 up front. Founders who actually make it to the program pay $900 for the 16 week course (this covers all course costs and 14 plus meals). The founders who graduate are asked to contribute warrants for 3.5% of their company priced at fair market value into the shared equity Bonus Pool that is split between the other Graduates, the Mentors, and the Institute. And, finally, if the company is successful and raises any significant amount of outside funding, the Institute asks for an additional $4,500 to help the Founder Institue grow.
3.     They might be worth it. Going through the program at the Founder Institute is tough stuff. It’s not easy and it’ll be a pretty penny if you actually make it, but it just might be worth it. Take a second to consider what you get out of this course: the four month program has weekly company-building assignments guided by a network of over 500 Mentors that are business founders themselves. The topics of the weekly lectures range from Startup Legal to Fundraising. I think Dave said it best, “You will have to do this stuff to start up your own business eventually, The Founder Institute gives you the push to do it faster and better than you would have on your own.” Not to mention, if you are a graduate, you get 1% of the Bonus Pool of your graduating peers – not too shabby!
If you are struggling with writing a business plan or executive summary, you are not alone. Writing a business plan is supposed to be hard. But, don’t give up! There are critical reasons why you would want to write a business plan and I’m going to share just three of those critical reasons with you. A complete business plan can be a great tool to help you gain the necessary funding for your idea, complete the actions needed to start your business, and then keep your focus once everything is up and running.

A Sales Tool: You may need to gain outside financing to start your business. If you do, then a business plan is a great tool to help you convince investors to hop on board. A well- written business plan can also serve to sell even friends and family members on your idea and it’s chance for success. It might also serve to help you convince yourself to get going. Creating a business plan requires you to engage in a rigorous process that will help you ensure that your business will be a viable venture.

A Call to Action: A business plan can help propel you to take action, to engage, to participate. Many people think about starting their own business for years but shy away from the idea because the process seems too large or complicated. A business plan helps you break up the large task of starting a business into smaller, more manageable tasks. By solving this sequence of smaller problems, you will eventually solve the big one.

A Compass: Once you have started your business, your business plan can be an invaluable tool to keep you on track. It can be all too easy to get distracted by the  day to day tasks of running your own business. There will always be many matters that need your attention making it very easy to lose sight of your main objections. Your business plan can help keep you focused and remind you as to what your priorities should be.