Mark Cuban’s Advice To Entrepreneurs – Risk, Energy, and Funding

According to online dictionaries, an entrepreneur is “a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money” or “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.”

Well, I get a check for both of those. My past venture into the fashion industry was fraught with risk and cost me plenty. Now, I have little to show for it, save for a closet full of the most amazing handbags EVER CREATED.

I’m normally a risk-averse person, but somehow, when I’m on a quest to find the formula for success in some endeavor, I throw tons at it – money, energy, time – hoping to find the magical components. The problem is, when you invest in something you really don’t understand, you come up empty more often than not. Knowledge is power, sometimes more so than money, and that’s what struck me with this video from Mark Cuban.

The big takeaways?

Seeking funding for a new business venture is failure. It’s an admission that you can’t hack it on your own, can’t find success with the resources you already have, and need to sell-out in order to plunge forth. The question is, how successful will you really be when you are on the hook for millions of dollars to others who believed enough in your idea that you probably could have rocketed on your own first, albeit a little slower??

I never thought of it that way…

My latest venture is challenging, to say the least. And while I’ve researched the concept itself, I’ve thought many times about how I’ll pitch the idea to investors, how I can get into an accelerator, how I can get the attention of venture capitalists…all so I can command funding and leverage expertise from those who have already found success.

But after watching this video, I realize my mindset needs some fine-tuning. Funding is not necessarily the answer. Preparation is the missing element in my formula. It’s where I fell short with my first business. Not taking enough time to learn about the industry before jumping in, spreading myself and my resources too thin to be even slightly effective, not doing enough research in the form of focus groups prior to designing my products. It was a totally ad hoc, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, throw-lots-of-crap-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks process, with no tried-and-tested repeatable elements. I had no blueprint, no measurable metrics, and no plans for future execution. So, what did I do? Hired a new, more expensive PR firm (which did squat, btw), designed even more products without customer input, spent more money than I could afford…only to land flat on my face with no answers and lots of anguish.

I never acquired the knowledge, though I did amass mountains (now they’re more like hills) of debt as a result. I could have mitigated the risk with a deep understanding of the business landscape, including potential pitfalls and competition elements. But not me! I’m an instant gratification whore, way too impulsive and impatient to waste time on LEARNING, of all things.

To my own peril. I’ve raised many a glass to that toast, regrettably…

So, Mark. Thanks for the advice. Knowledge is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. The more ammo you have, the more prepared you are for battle. And yes, it IS a battle. But winnable if your head is in the right place.

Character Interview – Best Friends, Business Partners & Cyber Lords

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Character Interview: Chris Camden and James Callahan, Best Friends, Business Partners and Cyber Lords

I recently caught up with Chris Camden and James Callahan, co-founders of LazerShark, the hottest gaming website in cyberspace. Their pictures have been plastered across the covers of every industry periodical in the country as two of the thirty biggest names in technology under thirty… and it doesn’t hurt that their smiles can melt the panties off any woman in their line of sight. I don’t know any female in her right mind that wouldn’t want to be sandwiched between these heartthrobs. But I digress…

Okay, back to business. I’m focused now.

Me: Guys, thanks so much for taking the time out of your crazy schedules to chat with me. Our readers are extremely anxious to find out more about the dream team that just scored one of the largest buyouts in Silicon Valley history. How does it feel?

James: Incredible, so rewarding. We’ve been working toward this goal for the past three years with the help and guidance of a great team of investors. But we still have a long way to go, and a lot more work to do.

Chris: Yeah, it feels great, kind of like driving my brand-new Bentley. <snickers> Seriously, though, this was a real partnership effort. You can only achieve this kind of success when you set common goals and work together to achieve them. Jay is the geek in this relationship and I’m the salesman. It’s a great mix of skills.

James: That’s right. We work our strengths to the fullest and compensate where each of us may be lacking.

Chris: Dude, speak for yourself. I’m not lacking in any area.

James: My bad. You’re the most modest, humble person I know.

Me: Inquiring minds want to know… now that you’ve taken over as the virtual gaming lords of the universe, what’s next on your agenda?

James: We’re starting a new project. It’s kind of early to discuss details but it’s going to be a winner.

Chris: Think revolution… light sabers, battletoads… and minions.

James: Dude, you’re giving everything away. You’re about as subtle as a hand grenade.

Chris: Oh come on, those hints were brilliant! You’ve got to give the people a little taste, Jay. Don’t be so neurotic.

James: Have we gotten to the question about how I’ve been able to avoid strangling my business partner yet?

Me: <laughs out loud> You guys are too adorable… er, um, I mean, entertaining. And you’ve also been best friends since kindergarten. How do you manage the friendship versus the business partnership?

James: It actually works well for us. We’re pretty much no holds barred. If there’s an issue, we put it out there and talk it out.

Chris: You can’t take things personally. We made a deal when we first started on this path that we’d always separate our work lives from our personal lives.

James: Yeah, I remember that deal. It was nice in theory. Too bad you couldn’t keep your—

Chris: Whoa! I’m talking about us here. Don’t go off-track.

Me: No, please go off-track…this sounds juicy.

James: Let’s just say my business partner made a pretty large error in judgment that could have cost us our future.

Chris: You’re being really dramatic, Jay. It’s all good. LazerShark was never at risk.

James: Your life sure was. Talk about wanting to strangle someone…

Me: How would you each describe one another?

James: Chris is the most loyal guy I know. He’d do anything for the people he cares about… I mean anything. I’ve never met another person so willing to put his own comfort and happiness aside for others.

Chris: I’d go to war for you, man.

James: I know you would. And I love you for it. <playfully punches Chris in the shoulder> He’s also impulsive, outspoken, cocky and can charm the skirt off any girl he meets… admittedly, a pretty impressive skill.

Chris: Aw, I’m blushing. Thanks for stroking my ego.

James: As if you needed it…

Chris: It’s only one of the things that can never be stroked too often…

Me: <fanning myself> Ahem, so Chris, any thoughts on James?

Chris: Smart. Sexy as hell. Socially inept but we’re working on that.

James: I like to think I’m making progress.

Chris: Always striving to improve. Kudos, man.

Me: Ever had your sights set on the same girl?

James: No, I prefer girls that can use more than one-syllable words in conversation. Actually, let me rephrase… I prefer girls that can actually engage in conversation. <snickers>

Chris: <rolls eyes> What can I say, Jay? Sometimes it’s better to have actions drown out the words. Talking’s overrated.

Me: Okay, so speaking of the ladies… here’s the question all the fangirls have been aching to ask two of the most eligible bachelors in the Bay area… what are your relationship statuses?

James: Um yeah, not so eligible anymore.

Chris: Reformed.

James: More like whipped.

Chris: Really? You sure you’re pointing that finger in the right direction? The first gift you ever gave Jess was the family jewels. And it’s been downhill from there. Yes Jess, anything you want Jess, sure I’ll bend over now Jess. <smirks>

James: I’ve always been a fan of monogamy, unlike this guy. His motto has always been ‘the more, the merrier’ at any one time.

Chris: Life is like tearing through a bag of Lays…can never eat just one.

James: A point you’ve proven again and again and again.

Me: But rumor has it you’re off the market…scooped up by none other than your former investment manager, Mia Bradshaw. So monogamy…?

Chris: It’s a new look for me. I’m digging it.

James: So is your fiancé.

Me: She’s a lucky lady. That news is going to be very disappointing to all your fangirls. Okay, last question. Silk or satin?

James: Either.

Chris: Neither. <smirks>

***

So You Wanna Be A Blogger?

Blogging is a great way to connect with a target audience on a somewhat personal level on one condition… you actually BLOG. It sounds great in theory – start a blog, write about a cool topic, get a bunch of readers to follow you, and BOOM! All of a sudden you’ve graduated to Perez Hilton status, with 14,500,000 estimated monthly users. Who wouldn’t want THAT????

But you need compelling content that people crave. It doesn’t happen overnight and it definitely won’t happen unless you do a few key things right up front.

Your first step is to figure out your topic and blog name. It can be your name or something that is related to the type of content you want to write about. When I created my blog, I knew I wanted to write about innovation, entrepreneurship and startups. So I agonized for DAYS and finally came up with The Idea Mama. It’s catchy, right??? =)

Once you have a name, you’re ready to roll! So here it is… my top 10 list for starting a new blog! These steps come way before your fingers hover over the keyboard, itching to type that first entry. There’s a lot of prep that goes into the setup. Don’t rush the process. Take your time, think long and hard about your goals with the blog. These tips will help you get started.

Group of BLOG related 3D words. Part of a series.

  1. Buy the domain. You can’t have a website without a domain name. It’s your home address… on the web. Go to http://www.godaddy.com and find out if it’s available. If it is, GRAB IT! If you want to test the waters, buy it for one year instead of three.
  2. Select a blogging platform. I use WordPress and I like it. I’m not wild about TypePad. I’ve used that in the past and found it to be extremely frustrating. One of my other sites, Author Navigation, was built with Weebly. They have a free trial available. Weekly is very intuitive. You can drag and drop components onto your page according to the theme you select. Easy to use and very reasonably priced.
  3. Get a logo for your website. Fiverr is THE place to go for a cost-effective graphic. It’s one of my favorite places on the web. It’s a community of freelancers who offer gigs for graphic design, online marketing, advertising, music and audio, writing and translation – all starting at $5. You can always beef up your gig for an additional amount but let me tell you, I’ve gotten kick ass results with only $5. Go. NOW! If you need a recommendation, I’ve got a guy… =)
  4. Create a Twitter handle…I have a couple… @kristen_luciani, @theideamama. Use your new blog name and if it isn’t available, come up with some variation. Then, HAPPY TWEETING! You’ll share your own content, as well as content you come across on the web and with your fellow tweeps. We’ll get to that in the next tip…
  5. Create a CrowdFire account. This will help you find the right target audience to follow on Twitter. It helps to grow your following, which you NEED to grow. You’ll also be able to find INFLUENCERS using this tool. Influencers are people who are subject matter experts in your topic and have a large following, which represents a large opportunity for consumption of quality content. Establish relationships with a few key influencers. Retweet and comment on their content and hopefully, they will eventually return the favor.
  6. Create a Facebook page for your blog and start to get likes. Make sure you post to it several times daily. You can post images, links to articles or anything else that is relevant to your blog. The purpose is to engage with your fan base and sharing compelling content is the best way to engage. Videos are cool too. People really appreciate the personal interaction, so get out of your comfort zone.
  7. Set up an Instagram account. You can post images or 15 second-long videos. AND you can link your Instagram account to Facebook and Twitter, so any of your images will post to all three locations.
  8. Establish a Hootsuite account. This is a tool that allows you to consolidate all your social networks and post to all at once. TIME SAVER!!!!!!
  9. Register an account on Quora. This is a great way to get exposure to a new audience. Establish yourself as a subject mater expert on your topic by answering questions in that category. It really helps get your voice heard and people will start to become familiar with the value you bring to the table. AND, you can always use those questions/responses as blog posts!
  10. Subscribe to a photo site. I belong to Dollar Photo Club. It has great images and is extremely cost-effective. $99 per year entitled you to 99 images. Each additional one will cost only $1. There are plenty of other sites, but this is my preference. You can’t post random Google images on your blog, even if you credit the website. If you get caught, you’ll get a nasty letter warning  you to take the image down or else legal action will be taken and you’ll most likely be threatened with a fine.

There are also a ton of informative books on blogging. Here are a few of my faves:

Feel free to browse other titles…just be careful that the book wasn’t published too long ago otherwise the industry will have changed too much for the information to be really relevant. Sometimes, though, you can find diamonds in the rough.

Okay, I’ve gotten you started. Next steps?

WRITE, then SHARE!!!!

Social Media Ideas Designer Desk Architectural Tools Office Concept

Social Media Ideas Designer Desk Architectural Tools Office Concept

Can You Be Disruptive Enough To Win $50K??

TechCrunch Disrupt 2015 is upon us. It’s time to take the party to NYC, for the bargain price of $2,995. General admission gets you access to ALL – rub elbows with up and coming entrepreneurs, hear from industry superstars, check out all the cutting edge technology…maybe party is an understatement. =)

Courtesy of TechCrunch

Courtesy of TechCrunch

You may recognize the event name from the HBO show Silicon Valley. Season 2 premiered on Sunday night and although I had high hopes of being able to stay up until 10, it wasn’t happening. So Hubby and I watched last night and it was awesome. Long time coming, definitely didn’t disappoint.

Anyway, I digress.

Last season, Pied Piper presented their compression algorithm at Tech Crunch Disrupt in Cali. All I remember thinking was, how flipping cool would it be to actually GO? Answer – SUPER COOL. The Hackathon, a 24-hour event for developers and designers, kicks off the festivities and guess what? It really happens just like in the show. All the companies present their creations but only one takes home the famed Disrupt Cup and $50,000 prize. Hundreds of startups will be in attendance…only one will claim the top prize and instant stardom (okay, maybe not the last part but they’ll at least they’ll be able to keep the lights on until some VC throws some more seed money at them).

It would be AWESOME to hear from people like Ben Rubin and Kayvon Beykpour, CEOs of Meerkat and Periscope respectively, Carly Fiorina, the former boss of HP, and Dennis Crowley who’ll chat about Foursquare and Swarm.

Energy, entrepreneurship and excitement will be exploding out of the Manhattan Center in a few short weeks.

How ironic that I’ll be headed to the Valley at the same time. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Innovation & The Chopped Challenge

Definitions for one thousand, Alex.

“To introduce something new, make changes in anything established.”

What is…INNOVATE!!!

If you’re a Food Network fanatic like me, you know there is one show all innovators have to appreciate, regardless of your perceived prowess in the kitchen…CHOPPED hosted by Ted Allen.

Taking a basket of sometimes intimidating, many times downright frightening (Rocky Mountain Oysters???) ingredients to combine flavors and transform them into something truly unique and other worldly? Yeah, that’s innovation to the Nth degree.

Rocky Mountain Oysters?! Courtesy of www.imgkid.com

Rocky Mountain Oysters?!
Courtesy of www.imgkid.com

And what better way to celebrate that inventiveness than with a bunch of friends, lots of wine and a little friendly competition??? And who better to host than The Idea Mama and her insanely innovative Hubby??? =)

Courtesy of www.foodnetwork.com

Courtesy of www.foodnetwork.com

I bring you…Chopped At Home. I came up a much catchier name but was asked to please refrain from referencing alcohol as there will be a lot of knife play in progress and we don’t want to merge any severed filanges with our delectable courses.

Sigh.

I guess we’ll just keep the shots limited to break times.

 

 

Why Should I Care???

Okay. If I haven’t made this point clear in the past, let me try again.

People are INUNDATED with information, 24 x 7. If yours doesn’t have the potential to minimally raise an eyebrow, KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!

I’ve experienced this firsthand in my own entrepreneurial endeavors and it never ceases to amaze me how some people just don’t care about contributing to the overload. They have something to say and darn it, it shall be said. The only problem is, oftentimes, NOBODY CARES!!!!

Courtesy of www.plrinternetmarketing.com

Courtesy of www.plrinternetmarketing.com

Business owners are focused on distributing a message but they don’t always focus on the value proposition of said message. The value prop is the internal benefit derived by the recipient of the communication.  It basically tells people why they should care about the information being presented.

  • Why do I care about your product or service?
  • How will it improve my life?
  • What makes yours better than the competition?
  • And oh, by the way, what can I get for trying it?

Yeah, if you hadn’t already guessed, freebies and discounts go a LONG way. It’s worth the investment if you can convert email subscribers to customers.

Takeaway? Make the message meaningful and impactful and give prospective customers an incentive to BUY.

I AM…The Idea Mama

You know the moment when inspiration strikes. The whole EUREKA experience…it’s incredible, isn’t it?

Courtesy of www.onelifesuccess.net

Courtesy of www.onelifesuccess.net

And do you know what’s even better? You mention the fabulous idea to an objective outsider and they’re just as charged about it as you are.  That’s the second you know…you have SOMETHING and it’s BIG!!!

#bestfeelingever (LOL!)

Anyhoo, I’m kind of there now.  Yesterday, I came up with not one but TWO ideas…one is for a new romantic suspense series which I started and LOOOOOVE and one is for a business of sorts.  More to come on the latter…still a bit too pre-beta for discussion.

Ask me if I worked on either tonight.

NOPE!

Sometimes it’s nice to have the ideas, the hope and the promise of what can materialize once the gears start cranking. It’s kind of like a honeymoon period…before you have to do the real work that makes all the fabulousness become a reality.

Yeah, I like the reflection period…before all the stress and anxiety kick in. But that’s all part of the process…and how the magic ultimately happens.  =)

Courtesy of www.nextbigwhat.com

Courtesy of www.nextbigwhat.com

 

How To Make A Big Splash…Relatively Speaking

Launch week was AMAZING!!!!  Okay, I’m not hitting the USA or NYT bestseller lists, but “Unlikely Venture” held onto 2 Amazon bestseller lists – to this moment!  And the rankings are awesome!  I worked really hard to make a big splash launch week and I’m very happy with the results…though I will tirelessly work towards the former. =)

Courtesy of www.rlsbb.com

Courtesy of www.rlsbb.com

As someone who’s run a small business, I know that editorial review and endorsement far outweighs any paid promotion you can do.  Unpaid, honest reviews by book bloggers are priceless.  And being lucky enough to have one of my fave authors, who also happens to be a literary rock star, mention my launch on her Facebook page? Freaking AMAZING!!!!

I’m not saying there is no value in paid promotions, especially since I invested in many, but the results confirm independent validation and acknowledgment have much more of an impact.

I also had a small team to help me raise awareness of my launch as part of a grassroots effort, since I am a debut author with a very limited budget. But

I’ve come to realize it’s not the size of the team but their dedication to the effort and their unwillingness to take no for an answer.  Hoofing it in and around Grand Central Station in New York City, making personal contact with potential readers, raising awareness and interest…all indications point to SUCCESS in the rankings.  And the ladies LOVED these guys!!!!

IMG_8318

The launch week goal was to get my name out there, to attract new readers and to get them excited for the stories I absolutely HAVE to tell, because there are many more to come.

As of press time, I’m currently sitting at #6 and #37 on two Amazon bestseller lists.

Cheers to that!

l

 

Shark Tank Needs To Invest In ‘High & Dry’

Wow. I just saw Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec invest $1.2 million for a 20% stake in a company called Red Dress Boutique. Daymond John didn’t get into it at all and clothing is his niche. Wonder why…

‘Shark Tank’ Sneak Peek: Red Dress Boutique Seeks $600,000

Hmm…just checked the website.  TEMPORARILY CLOSED FOR MAINTENANCE?! Maybe Daymond was the smart one in this scenario.

I love innovation and the concept of angel investing. The sharks have fought over some awesome inventions over the years but this one? I’m not convinced. And I love clothes.  But I don’t really see anything unique here.  In fact…I kinda see a lot of things I’d never wear in a million.  Plus, if I actually WANTED to buy, I couldn’t!

I have an idea for you guys…

It’s called….wait for it….High and Dry!

I’ve got a bunch of clothes that I can’t just toss into the dryer. Some of my jeans and shirts are tight enough without being shrunk further. So I need to air dry them.  But a lot of fabrics become crunchy and stiff.  What to do???

Well, I came up with a new invention…a mannequin that uses electricity to gently steam dry clothing items.  You dress the mannequin and can set the force of air depending on the type of fabric.  Because of the way the clothing lies on the mannequin, it eliminates the need for ironing and once dry, you just transfer the item(s) from mannequin to hangar. When you’re done, you just wheel High and Dry into a closet.

Brilliant, right?

 

Recipe For A Startup Romance

If you saw my last post “Wanna Learn How To Start A Startup?” you know that running a startup is pretty much a 24 x 7 gig, which begs the question, are there any slivers of time in a given day dedicated to dating and romance? I mean, even entrepreneurs need love, right?

Interesting and intriguing questions, considering I’m a romance author and I basically create love stories out of circumstances that wouldn’t ever materialize in reality.  I can make anything happen…to anyone…and find the perfect resolution for all to end happily.

Courtesy of Entrepreneur

Courtesy of Entrepreneur

But in the real world, things aren’t so simple. They can’t be handled with a few clicks on a keyboard and a couple of glasses of wine.

The Truth About Entrepreneurship And Dating

I read about a company called Underground Attached, a unique dating experience that brings together 40 (20 men and 20 women) prescreened, like-soul and like-minded people for an evening of play (no, get your minds out of the gutter) and hopefully, a few love connections. Put a roomful of driven, ambitious professionals together and hopefully, sparks will fly…as long as they can stay off their iPhones, Galaxies and CrackBerries long enough to exchange business cards.

39 Signs You’re Dating An Entrepreneur

Sounds good in theory.  Of course, if all else fails, they could also find solace in using my brilliant app idea to build their own virtual reality porn star and their own…well, read the post if you can’t figure it out.

Maybe entrepreneurs should look at potential mates as prospective “investors.” You want someone who will support your goals and help drive you to achieve, someone who understands what it takes to be a success and will be patient waiting for the big returns.

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