Blog

How to Pick the Best Mentors & Advisors

Posted by: Anne Kennedy on Wednesday, April 5, 2017

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

Posted by: Gillian Muessig on Wednesday, February 8, 2017
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 ...

Inclusion is Good Business

Posted by: Anne Kennedy & Gillian Muessig on Thursday, February 2, 2017
inclusion, diversity

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. 

Raising Your Seed Round with Convertibles

Posted by: Gillian Muessig & Anne Kennedy on Wednesday, January 11, 2017
raising seed capital takes planning

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.

Bullish on Inclusion – Talking With Investor Nitin Rai

Posted by: Anne Kennedy & Gillian Muessig on Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Nitin Rai entrepreneur investor

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.”

Lean Holiday Giving for Startups

Posted by: Gillian Muessig & Anne Kennedy on Wednesday, December 21, 2016
what holiday gifts fit an early stage startup?

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.

6 Ways to Tune Up Your Business Plan

Posted by: Anne Kennedy & Gillian Muessig on Wednesday, December 7, 2016
business plan core elements

Business plans.

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?”

Avoid Barking up the Wrong Tree.

Posted by: Anne Kennedy & Gillian Muessig on Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Finding investors.

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?

What you Must Do in November: Evaluate your Team

Posted by: Anne Kennedy & Gillian Muessig on Wednesday, November 23, 2016

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.

Build a Perfect Founder

Posted by: Anne Kennedy & Gillian Muessig on Thursday, August 4, 2016
Think like \'Build-a-Bear\' to build a perfect founder

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.

When The Big Company Comes a Knockin’

Posted by: Anne Kennedy & Gillian Muessig on Thursday, July 28, 2016
What to do when a big company wants to invest in your startup

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?

6 New Rules for Survival in a Startup

Posted by: Anne Kennedy on Thursday, July 7, 2016
6 New Rules for Survival

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.

Avoid the Chasm of Micromanaging Your Startup

Posted by: Gillian Muessig & Anne Kennedy on Thursday, June 30, 2016

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.

Sound familiar?

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.

 

From Strategy to Execution: A primer on Getting Your Ducks in a Row

Posted by: Gillian Muessig on Thursday, June 23, 2016
Ducks in a row

“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.

Your Communications

Posted by: Gillian Muessig & Anne Kennedy on Thursday, May 5, 2016
Liveplan mentoring team
Let's talk about your company's communication. Think of communication as a strategic project. The sooner you get started in your company, the better your communication processes will be. And the better your communication processes, the more ...