Let’s talk about mentors, and advisors and what the connection is between the two. We do a lot of mentoring, to individuals and to companies in our portfolio. We also sit on several boards of advisors, each of us individually and together as Outlines Venture Group.
Remember Dear Abby? Ann Landers? Advising is an old art, probably back to ancient Greek oracles or the like. People want and need advice, and ask for it. In start ups it seems to be especially welcome if it’s free. More about that later.
Intentional Inclusion: Take the 1-Seat Challenge
Conference, event, incubator, and accelerator speakers provide their services largely for free. The idea is that the speaker gets ‘public exposure’ in exchange for donating their prep time, effort, travel expenses, and expertise at the event.
Meanwhile, major industrial and tech companies are still lacking women of any background and men of any background other than Caucasian in the C-suites. The numbers are not improving. The senior level leaders of these companies, organizations, and government departments continue to hide behind the trite complaint that “the Pipeline doesn’t provide us with ‘ready to work’ team members to hire and promote. We are as diverse as we can be under the circumstances.”
Talk is cheap.
It’s time to do something. So, in 2017, we are challenging every speaker, mentor, advisor, event organizer, company and organization leader, and department head to do something about the dearth of gender and diversity in society and business in the U.S. today. I am asking everyone to set aside One Seat at the Table. Read more in Gillian's blog post http://outlinesventure.com/blog/default/intentional-inclusion-take-the-1-seat-challenge/
We interviewed Portland investor and TiE Global member Nitin Ray recently and he‘s ‘Bullish on inclusion’ in his own words. Well, everywhere I look now I see folks talking about inclusion, from big firms like Deloittte to venture firms like Kapor Capital to start ups like Asana.
Nitin Rai told us our country is becoming a ‘United Colors of Benetton’ Nation, and I’ve got to say I’m a believer. So let’s break it down. There’s a growing trend among savvy companies from ‘diversity’ toward ‘inclusion’. Here’s why: ‘Diversity’ focuses on differences, while ‘inclusion’ asks ‘how do we bring different people together? ‘Diversity’ had become code talk for hiring underrepresented minorities and women – certainly worthy goals.
Let’s talk about raising a seed round. Might as well jump into the new year with how to get your startup funded. Elizabeth Yin of 500 Startups did just that in a really clear primer on three seed funding vehicles -- equity, convertible notes and convertible securities -- three ways that entrepreneurs raise seed rounds.
In her January 4 blog post, Yin goes into the basic mechanics of how investors can seed your company. Of the three ways, she says, traditional equity is most widely used, while newer convertible notes gained popularity since 2000, and, and the newest on offer, convertible securities, a hybrid developed and used by 500 Startups and Y Combinator for about a year now. Y Combinator has a very developed and detailed program called ‘SAFE’ which means ‘simple agreement for future equity’ -- pretty much what a convertible security is.
Entrepreneur and investor Nitin Rai is on a bold mission to change the balance of women and minorities in business for better, and he backs his intentions with solid investments. Inclusion, he says, includes everybody. Diversity frequently describes women and minorities, while inclusion welcomes, as well, veterans, rural communities, and anyone or any group underrepresented, underserved or marginalized by changing economies.
He is bullish on an inclusive future, pointing to demographic trends in the country. We are growing more multicolored, “a United Colors of Bennetton”, he says. “Teenagers today have a very different view of the world, even from millennials. Inclusion and diversity are a part of their lives, especially in cities. They not only expect this to happen, they want it to happen. We must be conscious of this upcoming generation.”
It’s that time of year when founders think about how to reward our teams with some kind of seasonal gift and recognition. You know – the Season of Giving. Recognize a year of hard work on the part of your team. Acknowledgement and gratitude should be a daily activity for everyone, from CEOs to new team members. But at this time of year particularly, we need to focus on gratitude for others. Focusing on how to rewards others – especially those who have worked so hard to make our dream company come true this past year, is a critical task for December.
Hmm . . . Parties. Bonuses. Gift cards… the imagination reels… but wait! What if your startup is lean, as in “we have NO CASH?!” Of course you need to be creative. Let’s break it down to get some answers for startup founders.
Yeah, we all groan about writing them, and put doing so off as long as possible. What’s worse, how many business plans wind up in a file drawer, or in the cloud, never to be read again? So, I just have to ask “What is your business plan for?”
It appears there is no slow down in this activity for Q4, if events are any indication. We just spent a day with investors from China at Seattle Biz TechSummit, and two major investor summits are took place in Europe: The NOAH conference in London and Web Summit in Lisbon. While it’s questionable whether a start-up will actually get funded at these, they are nevertheless excellent opportunities to make contact with potential investors. We certainly saw a lot of that at The Chinese Investor event.
We’re concerned about how many times startups actually qualify their potential investors so they don’t waste precious time and effort going after those who will never funds them … i.e. barking up the wrong tree?
t’s November! What do start ups absolutely need to be doing this penultimate month of 2016?
Focus on the team, your employees.
In March we said the most important thing that must be done was to take a look at your team and ask the following questions:
Is everyone on the right seat on the bus? How did they perform in 2015? How much did their functions move your start up forward? Are their functions and responsibilities aligned with your 2016 goals?
Now as we approach the end of 2016, it’s time to review your employees’ performances. Again.
Ever hear of ‘Build A Bear’… that site where you can put together your perfect Teddy Bear?
Well, we got to thinking about what it would take to build a perfect founder. Seriously. Let’s talk about how to build the perfect founder and how to get/identify/be one. We culled a few from some of our favorite go-to sources: First Round Review, Fast Company and Techstars.
Let’s talk about strategic partnerships – how to protect yourself and still close the deal when a really big company takes an interest in your startup. What do you do when a Really Big Company wants to invest in your start up? Sounds perfect, right? But scary. How do you protect your interest?
Life in a startup is scary and exhilarating. Adrenaline-pumping. And frustrating. You know those moments of frustration . . . we all have them. A few months ago, in just such one of those moments, I came up with new rules for survival. I badly needed to draw a circle around myself to protect my sanity. You know . . . set boundaries.
Hint: These work well in life, too.
Is this you? A Founder takes charge, charges in and says, “I’ll take this from here,” and “I’ll edit that before you post,” and “I’ve got the voice of this company,” and “I know how to get that invoice paid, I’ll do it,” and so on. And becomes overwhelmed, overstressed and discouraged, while the team becomes dysfunctional.
In truth, in the earliest stages of company development, the Founder does do everything. The Founder is never sure someone else is going to do the job as well as he is doing it, and is not sure he can trust someone else to do things ‘right.’ And for good reason! There has not been anyone else. The Founder had to do it all.
“Good companies don’t die for lack of being good companies,” my friend Anne Kennedy said, “They die because they lack a distribution channel.”
A thunderclap of insight should have gone off in your head just now. If you’re starting a company with Wizards at the helm, you have all the great ideas and technical expertise any company could wish for. Your board is groaning under the weight of the brilliance of your team. But, you’re going to need an Executor or two to complete the job of building a company around your brilliant ideas. Building a profitable, sustainable, and scalable distribution channel requires a volume of knowledge, experience, skills, and tasks that rivals the technical skills and wizardry or your Wizard/idea team.
Anne and Gillian bring exactly the right strengths to the work they do with clients. Our company was struggling to get to the next level. Outlines Venture Group honed in by asking the right questions --questions that would seem obvious to anyone except those inside a two-decade old company. It is especially important to us that they understand how to pass the baton to the next generation, while also speaking to issues surrounding being a women in tech. We never even considered employing any other coaches, knowing the impeccable reputation of Anne and Gillian. The investment has paid for itself over and over. I highly recommend Outlines Venture Group.
Holly Nelson, CEO
I just want to thank you for the most amazing presentation at SMX Sydney during the last afternoon of the Elite session. The presentation which most impacted me up until that point was the Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech.
Your presentation far exceeded that for me. I've never experienced such a raw, straight to the point, "punch to the face" presentation.
It literally left me speechless and was without a doubt something I will never forget. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be present in the room.
Jeremy Cabral, Cofounder, finder.com.au
SMX Sydney AU 2012
Honestly, I have been doing internet marketing not a long time (internet marketer and analyst www.comfy.ua), since the beginning of this year, but during this short period I have plunged so deeply into the world of digital, which at today's seminar, I discovered for myself a few new pieces, but you know that the most valuable thing I got? - Inspiration. Inspired by you. It was nice to hear from you so candid story about the foundation, you have once again proved to me that nothing is impossible in this life there is no real success in this life can only be achieved the strongest labor. You are well done and I am sure you will realize what you have in mind.
Once again, thank you very much for your time, it's an honor to hear and see you live. Sorry for my English, to the SW. Vladyslav Misiyuk beginning of this year, but during this short period I have plunged so deeply into the world of digital, which at today's seminar, I discovered for myself a few new pieces, but you know that the most valuable thing I got? - Inspiration. Inspired by you. It was nice to hear from you so candid story about the foundation, you have once again proved to me that nothing is impossible in this life there is no real success in this life can only be achieved the strongest labor. You are well done and I am sure you will realize what you have in mind.
Once again, thank you very much for your time, it's an honor to hear and see you live. Sorry for my English, to the SW.
Kiev May 19, 2012
I wanted to thank you for your incisive wisdom. Last year, I listened to your speech about understanding whether you want to build a scalable or a lifestyle company and it changed my life. I discussed it with my wife/business partner and we made some major changes.
We followed your advice to get our priorities in order, listed what we wanted, what didn't work for us, and finally understood how to optimize the value of the company to work for us instead for working the company.
We let all our employees go and now run the company with just the two of us. We have seen a significant increase in sales because we focused on efficiency, not adding and managing employees. Our gross and net income are up, our stress is way down, and we have the flexibility to live a lifelong dream - to be expats in Madrid. We're going to move in a few months; we're not sure for how long. But we're very excited and we owe it all to you. Thanks!
Oliver + S | Sewing Patterns for Kids and the Whole Family