Never say no to an offer you have not heard.

What if that job you proactively turned down was actually going to pay really well, or be an offer for a position above what was listed?  If you say no before you get any offer, you could be shooting yourself in the foot.

This is for startups too.  Why say no to an investor you haven’t heard back from? Why say no to an idea you haven’t heard yet?

All too often, I am in meetings where the leader of the meeting is in a rush, or can’t possibly imagine that someone else’s idea could be better in any way… so they don’t bother to ask or listen to other opinions.  This is the path to failure: of our team, of your company, heck, you may just be alienating yourself right out of any friends you think you had.

Stop. Listen. Be OPEN to new ideas.  It’s the least we can do for each other as humans.

10 Good Startup Ideas for 2017/2018

It’s that time of year again. Time to start a new company! No, not me, not yet… I’m still working on http://freebeer.ai, which by the way just made some real money last week (our first time asking for money generated about a 2% conversion rate).

Nevertheless, here are 10 Good Startup Ideas for 2017/2018… according to, well, me.
Why are they good, you might ask?
“Why are they good Dr. Beverly?”
Well…
I have no idea if they are actually good (e.g. will generate sales), which is how I usually determine goodness… but…
These ideas seem: a.) to solve a real problem. b.) to be easily testable c.) to be scaleable and d.) be able to have something that is protect-able.

Here they are, steal them please!

1.) Solar Computers
2.) AI for exercise/fitness (maybe even a martial arts bent to it)… the AI personal trainer.
3.) Solar Bike
4.) AI for price-matching
5.) Solar Gameboy
6.) AI for research (market research, topic research, searches, etc.).
SENSING A THEME OR 2 HERE?
Okay, here is a few more…
7.) VR Cafe / Gym
8.) Smarter Microwaves
9.) VR College
10.) Smarter Dishwasher

More themes? Well, yes. 2017/2018:
AI is exploding
Solar is burgeoning
VR is popping
and Smart is here to stay.

Get crakin’
Oh, and please buy my new book… Lean Startings – a novel about the life of a Lean Startup

Austin Ride-sharing is a micro-monopoly

Regulation in Austin, TX is preventing a free market to exist for ride-sharing. The best companies (Uber and Lyft) cannot compete here because of an onerous regulation put over the town like a dark cloud. Dark indeed, for it creates a micro-monopoly for Fasten and RideAustin, who by their strangeness (and willingness to operate more like a cab company), are allowed in Austin.

I was recently quoted on NPR radio on this topic, and I argue that this micro-monopoly is the only reason they can compete in Austin right now. This monopoly does not exist outside of Austin (except a few other weird cities). As a result, for Fasten or RideAustin to work beyond Austin, they would have to compete in the “REAL” market against Uber and Lyft.

A monopoly gets established whenever there is regulation, unique capability, or brute force creating a disturbance in the natural order of modern economic forces: e.g capitalism. In fact, monopolies are the opposite of capitalism which emphasizes the concept of creative destruction to encourage entrepreneurs and what today we call “startups” and we once called “business” to flourish and compete against each other.

The loser in this war is the consumer, and always is. We are forced with sub-par ride-sharing experiences and higher prices. That’s what happens in a monopoly.

So… catch a ride; kill monopoly! Compete without a monopoly and you will find there are bigger markets than just Austin, waiting for you to come help.

Rural Ride-sharing anyone?

The amazingly good feeling of shipping.

Do you like to check boxes?  I sure do. Recently, I started using trello to organize and run scrum/agile at the Texas Venture Labs.  We all love scrum and I can tell you why: it feels good to ‘move a ticket to done’, e.g. to check the box.  Done.  Shipped.  Over.  Fini.

What else is done? My book, Lean Startings, is done!  I shipped it yesterday 3/16/2017.  To Amazon.  It’s available now for Kindle ($9.99) or Paperback ($24.99) on Amazon.  It feels oh so good.  Ahhhhh, shipping!

So, how did I do it?   How did I write a book while raising a family, working full-time, and working on my own startup?  The same way that I got my PhD while working 2 full-time jobs and raising a family: persistence and daily progress.  In fact, I broke the book down into 36 chapters, and wrote a chapter a day, skipping weekends.  I finished the book in about 3 months (a few days I was traveling and couldn’t write).  Yep, in one summer, I created something, something that could help people succeed in startups better than ever.  Along the way I got to check 36 boxes (each chapter), and just now, the final checkbox (shipped!).  Shipped is the best one to check by the way, and I’m only sad I didn’t check it sooner!

So, what are you sitting on that you could ship?  Don’t wait for perfection, ship it now.  You can always revise it later.

Cheers!

(My reward yesterday for shipping was: gaming, beer AND bourbon)

p.s. Got feedback on my book? I welcome it here or directly to me by email.

Finding Product Market Fit

The idea of product market fit is actually pretty obvious.  What it means is that your product (or service) fits a need in the market (or target market), and you found it because you are getting traction (or sales).

For you tech minded folks (like me), here is a formula for you:

fit = traction(product)

So, what is traction then?  The easiest way to measure traction is by sales.  If you can get sales, you have traction.  How much?  It depends on the amount of effort and cost associated with getting the sale.  The easier the sale (and happier the customer) the more traction you have.  Sales is not the only way to measure traction.  You could measure it by ‘free trial subscribers’, by ‘letters of intent’, or even by ‘customer surveys’.  However, sales with positive customer feedback is the highest level of traction.

So, go out and get some.  Traction that is.

And this book is a great place to learn how to do that:

http://tractionbook.com/ 

 

Harlan’s New Blog!

Hello and welcome to my new blog!  I will be importing most of my old blog articles into this new blog site, but the original blog is also still alive at http://tytusblog.blogspot.com.

Why did I create this, well three reasons actually.

1.) I am experimenting with multisite wordpress for my classroom purposes.  I needed a site that could be used with all the real wordpress features for my students.  So I created this wordpress multisite account.

2.) I am looking to expand my consulting practice, so I’m setting up new pages here to describe the various consulting that I do.

3.) I wanted more control over my own blog too.  Blogger had become too restrictive of late, so here is this new platform: wish me luck!

Thanks for stopping by,

Sincerely,

Harlan T. Beverly

New Year’s 2017: Startup Resolution Revolution

This is an opus, a plea, a dream. This is 2017.
Let us agree to put an end, to the old startup trend.
Old startup was weak, it had a faint reek.
It smelled of false hopes, of untested dreams.

In 2017, we dream big still, but without the frill.
We dream and we test, and leave out the rest.
We give all we have to Lean, Lean Startup I mean.
No false hopes, just tested and true.  Lean Startup starts with you.

It’s a revolution, not just a resolution.
It’s a way of life, not just a passing trife.
Your way is simple, if you choose to accept it.
Just test your idea, before you reject it.

Get started today, if you want to, you may.
Don’t fear the failure spider, to fail is more righter.
It’s right to fail small, so try it all.
Lean Startup is trying, with the minimum of lying.

If your a funder, I plead. Demand more than greed.
Demand proof of their traction, before you do the deed.
Make sure they are tested, and validated and nested.
Make sure their growth, value, and problem, are all three fully vested.

So, this opus to you, this silly sentence so true?
It’s about you and your startup, and starting up too.
Get started with Lean, buy my book to help the team.
Make progress without funding, and deliver the dream!

Harlan T. Beverly, PhD
The University of Texas at Austin

The 3 Things Great Managers AND Employees Do ~ Consistently

When it all comes down to it, great managers get results.  How do you get results?  It’s not planning, it’s not charisma, it’s not even passion.  All of those things are great but useless without these 3 things.

If you are not doing these 3 things, and doing them well, you are probably going nowhere fast.  That’s a strong statement, let’s see if you disagree… comments welcome!

1. Prioritize

If you just do whatever you think of, you are going to get behind.  You MUST prioritize those things you KNOW will get results above those things you THINK will get results.  And even those things you just think will get results, prioritize those too, to the ones you think will be most likely to get the results.

PRO TIP – Every morning, get on an exercise bike and open http://toodledo.com or http://trello.com  (2 good online tools). Prioritize tasks to ones you think are most important to get results.

2. Draft Quickly

 If you aren’t getting things done quickly, you’ll never even get through all the important things, let alone to those things you think will get results.  The best managers and employees create drafts of stuff (whatever it is) very quickly.  Then, they refine the draft later up until the point where the quality meets expectations, then stop.  They don’t over-engineer, over-design, or over-think their work: it’s done it’s done.  Ship it.  This is a key to shipping, get to a draft and see if it’s good enough.  Ship when it is.

PRO TIP – Writer’s block?  Just write it in super simple plain English.  That usually reads better anyways.  Remember, emails should be 2 or 3 sentences MAX!  I like to send emails of 4 or 5 WORDS when I can.

3. Delegate / Get Help Fast

Overloaded managers need to learn this trick: find someone you trust and ask them to “own” part of your project.   This is not asking for group-work, this is asking them to “own it” and get it done.  I’ve blogged a lot about ownership, and for good reason… it’s been a key to my personal success for years.  Not having it, but giving it out!

Not a manager?  This applies to you too.  Delegate ownership of your work if you are overloaded.  Even better, ASK FOR HELP FAST!  If you are blocked, even 1% blocked, asking for help to get unblocked will keep you moving, make your boss happy, and more importantly, teach you something that will probably prevent you from getting blocked again in the future.

PRO TIP – Develop skills that help you get unblocked.  For example, learn how to Draft Quickly!  Also, learn how to “make a simple website“.

Harlan T. Beverly, PhD on a Business Trip to Mexico

5 Ways to Empower Employees

What is empowerment?  To empower is to give power to someone else, hence taking it away from yourself or someone else, and giving it to them.  In the context of a job, it usually means giving ‘ownership’ of a task or project to someone and then stepping back.  You will still have to do work, but you will only do work that the empowered one asks of you.  There  is plenty of research that shows the benefits to Morale, Productivity, and Results by empowering employees.  In fact, I’ve written about this before in my green & clean post, but this article will give you 5 methods to empower employees, that maybe you never thought of before.

1. Be Explicit
You can’t empower someone without both letting that person know, they are in charge, and really also the entire organization.   Here’s a great way to do it by email:  “Hello everyone, just want everyone to know that I’m stepping away from Project X and putting XXX in charge.  She/He’s empowered to take all actions necessary to get the job done within the approved budget.”

2. Set Boundaries
Empowerment can be daunting, especially when it’s used infrequently, for the first time, or with new employees.  In these cases, it’s best to set boundaries!  Set a budget, explain the goals very clearly, explain what all the resources available are, and be sure to include yourself in those available resources.

3. Help Prioritize
In any organization, there is usually a lot going on, so much so that many employees feel overwhelmed and not sure what to work on in any given moment.  You can help by being clear with each individual what their priorities should be.   If you have projects that just need “a little attention each day” set a specific amount of time you think would be appropriate.  In general, set a clear priority to all work/tasks and try not to change it.  Remember, something you are empowered to do, will naturally be a higher priority.

4. Be Supportive
Supporting means touching base and reminding the person who is empowered of their resources (including you).  The more junior the empowered person, the more you should touch base.

5. Don’t Take it Back!
Yes, you should be measuring and tracking results, but when things aren’t going how you think they should, RESIST the temptation to jump in and take over.  If you do, you’ve destroyed empowerment, and it’s hard to get it back.  They’ll always know that you could jump in at any time, and start to expect it if they fail.  You have to let them fail, if its going to fail.  This is the hardest, why?  Because you know you can do it, and probably better… but YOU MUST RESIST!  Just offer support, help prioritize, and get out of the way.  Long term, if there is a performance issue, you can address it later, for now, don’t break the empowerment you gave, or it will kill your credibility.

Getting a Job in a Startup

Recently, I have noticed a few misconceptions and confusions about getting a job at a startup.

Dollhouse

A startup is not like a dollhouse!  It is not simply a smaller version of a house (e.g. like a dollhouse).  A startup is not a small version of a company.  There are usually no departments (it’s almost always 1 person per role).  There is no such thing as “that’s not my job”, everyone does whatever is needed at a startup, and that can change week-by-week.   So, stop thinking you can apply to be the “strategic financial analyst” for a startup.  That job doesn’t exist, be the CFO or Direct of Marketing instead… since those titles mean “you do everything”.

That said, there are two phases where you can join a startup, the founding phase, and the funded phase.

Founding Phase 

In this phase, you are too early to get paid.  You won’t.  There is no money.
However, you will be able to call yourself a “cofounder”, and you will (or should) get stock.  A “founders share” which is somewhere between 10-20% or so.

The key here is believing and showing that for now, you can you do the whole thing!  What thing?
One of four roles:

  1. Technical – you can build the prototype (yourself, no help)
  2. Sales – closing deals, has a network in the industry and can get the sale. (especially important in B2B companies)
  3. Marketing – All aspects of marketing, including “making the website look pretty” along with: target customer, research, brand, design, lead generation (especially in B2B), content, business cards, etc.  Also, Sales, in the case of B2C (because sales and marketing are basically the same thing in B2C direct startups)
  4. Finance/Ops (rare) – this is not often needed, but sometimes a founder needs help with finance/ops.  You’ll have to do it all: accounting, finance, planning, manufacturing, legal, etc. (FYI: the original idea person is the founder, the others are cofounders)

By the way, yes, you can work a side-job during this phase, but usually at least 1 of you needs to be “full-time” on it. (or you won’t get hungry enough to make it actually launch)

Funded Phase 

During this phase, you get “hired”, and have to “interview”.  You have to”apply” to a job opening.  Good news is, you will get paid (usually less than market rates).  Bad news is, you will not get “much” stock (just a few stock options, like less than 1/4percent, maybe more if you are an executive).

How do you get a job in the funded phase?

  1. Know your role: in this phase, it’s still about what you can do for the company… it has to fit into a box of either: sales, marketing, tech, or ops.  And you have to be willing (and eager) to do anything “legal” to help the company succeed, including get coffee/etc.
  2. Find the job: by networking for sure, but even more so, just by looking on LinkedIn or even craigslist.  Find the open position somehow!  Then apply to it.  By resume, usually, and even better by referral (hence the networking).  Make sure the referral has your resume too though, even startups use those.
  3. Interview: yep. You’ll have to do that.  We’re looking for passion, excitement, and SHOW US how you “have done this job before”.  That is critical.  Don’t apply for a job at a startup that you’ve never done… we don’t (usually) have time to train you.

Transitioning from Founding to Funded Phase

Not all the cofounders join the company in a “paid role” once you get funded.  Usually just 1 or 2 do, then more as the company grows.  Some cofounders never get a paying job out of it… and that’s normal.  (hey you get to keep your stock though, at least whatever % you have vested).

Why Startup vs. Enterprise/Big Company

Simply because it is more fun.  Why?  Because you get to do more things!  Everyone is passionate. And most importantly, what you do matters (to the big picture of the company)!

So, get out there, apply already, and have fun doing it!