Category Archives: Current in Entrepreneurship

The New Electricity

The Game-Changing Technology Every Company Needs to Prepare for Now  It’s 1890. You own a small insurance company that sells accident protection and marine policies. Your business is growing quickly but faces one key challenge: There’s no electric light. Your productivity rises and sets with the sun. (Gas lamps are available, but they’re dangerous, messy, and not that bright.)

Then you get word of a new set of interlocking technologies that promises to transform daily life. It all begins with Thomas Edison’s light bulb and the electric current that turns it on, courtesy of a power utility’s centrally located generator in New York City. Electricity quickly changes everything. You can work longer hours and process more policies, which allows you to hire more people.

Electricity also flows into factories, soon powering machinery along vast assembly lines and allowing for the mass production of cars (which opens up a whole new insurance market for you). It changes things at home, too: Electricity empowers women, who, before long, come to rely on electric clothes washers and coffee percolators. In time, electricity will underpin countless once-unthinkable inventions: radio, refrigeration, television, computers.

It’s 2017. You own a small insurance company, your business is growing quickly, and you have a chance to take advantage of the biggest transformative technology since electricity: artificial intelligence.

You’ve experienced narrow forms of A.I.: anti-lock braking systems, email spam filters, weather apps. All only hint at the coming new age of human-­machine interaction, in which A.I. will perform any intellectual task just as a human would.

Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, and Baidu are all building the foundations of A.I., but hundreds of startups are focused on ancillary tools (just as, 125 years ago, many companies made wooden poles, copper wire, and lamp fixtures). Nvidia is building computer chips that allow machines to react to their surroundings in real time. Fanuc is working on an unsupervised learning system, so A.I.-powered robots can learn skills on their own. Tesla is developing A.I. infrastructure for autonomous vehicles, which includes new kinds of maps and decision-making software. And Clarifai is building software that will automatically tag, organize, and search content.

If you’re an insurer today, you’ll need to plan for self-driving cars that don’t get into accidents. And you’ll need to create policies for companies that want protection against algorithms that run amok. Like electricity, A.I. will usher in huge changes for every single industry. Over the next two decades, you’ll encounter key bosses who aren’t human.
And changing industries will require new skills:

Smart farming

A.I. will enable the production of significantly more food in much smaller spaces. Collaborative robots will decide what to plant, harvest the fruits and vegetables,
and then transport them to autonomous vehicles that will drive the produce to factories for processing. We’ll need fewer field laborers–but more horticulturists and managers who are cross-trained in computer science.

Medical robotics

The medical center of the future will be remote. There–assisted by A.I., nanobots, and health data–doctors who know robotics will monitor and treat us before we get really sick, and with far fewer in-person office visits.

Human-machine resources

Businesses will eventually outsource key decisions and organizational management to algorithms. Many humans will find themselves managed by machines for performance assessments, raises, and conflict resolution. To oversee it, we’ll need companies–and people–that understand data, A.I., and traditional human resources.

Someday, you’ll look back and realize that A.I. is our generation’s electricity. And that you were there, at the start, witnessing A.I.’s illumination of the future of your business and our world. (more…)

Best Entrepreneurship Advice You’ll Hear Today

This short interview with Tesla CEO Elon Musk is packed with valuable lessons.

Elon Musk has emerged as one of the world’s most popular entrepreneurs. As the guiding force behind Tesla, SpaceX, and OpenAI (among a host of other companies), he’s confronting some of the world’s biggest challenges head-on.

I recently stumbled across this interview with Musk, and his advice resonated with me. His lessons are aimed at entrepreneurs, but the final point can be applied by anyone.

Here are the highlights:

1. Get ready for a whole lot of hurt.

“Starting a business is not for everyone,” begins Musk. “Starting a business, I’d say, number one is have a high pain threshold.”

Musk goes on to share one of his favorite sayings, which he learned from a friend:

“Starting a company is like eating glass and staring into the abyss.”

“That’s generally what happens,” explains Musk. “Because, when you first start a company, there’s lots of optimism. And things are great. Happiness at first is high. And then you encounter all sorts of issues–and happiness will steadily decline. Then, you’ll go through a whole world of hurt. And, eventually, if you succeed–and in most cases you will notsucceed … And Tesla almost didn’t succeed. It came very close to failure. If you succeed, then after a long time, you will finally get back to happiness.”

This is so true. When I started working for myself several years ago, I wasn’t prepared for the amount of pain I’d have to endure. And I’ve failed more often than I’ve succeeded.

But every failure was a lesson learned–and the successes wouldn’t have been possible without them.

2. Don’t waste time on minor improvements.

If you’re building a product or offering a service, says Musk, it can’t be just a little better than the competition–it has to be great.

“If you’re entering anything where there’s an existing marketplace, against large, entrenched competitors, then your product or service needs to be much better than theirs,” he says. “It can’t be a little bit better, because then you put yourself in the shoes of the consumer … you’re always going to buy the trusted brand unless there’s a big difference.”

This reminds me of the vital lesson Guy Kawasaki learned from Steve Jobs many years ago.

“You have to jump curves, not [create] better sameness,” Kawasaki said in a keynote. “You don’t do things 10 percent better; you do things 10 times better.” Think of how the iPod replaced the Walkman. Or how the iPhone replaced Blackberry. Or how the iPad replaced … the Palm Pilot?

As Musk says: “It can’t just be slightly better. It’s got to be a lot better.”

3. Constantly seek criticism.

This is my favorite lesson from this interview, because it’s a vital reminder for everyone.

“A well-thought-out critique of whatever you’re doing is as valuable as gold,” says Musk. The famous founder then encourages listeners to seek criticism from everyone, but “particularly your friends.”

“Usually your friends know what’s wrong,” explains Musk. “But they don’t want to tell you because they don’t want to hurt you. It doesn’t mean your friends are right. But very often, they are right.”

This is so true. When it comes to your ideas, those who are closest to you typically want to encourage. The last thing they want is to bring you down.

But these people are also a valuable resource: They can tell you, in-depth, where your weaknesses are and what you need to improve.

Of course, it hurts to hear that you’re wrong. That something about you or what you created isn’t perfect. But with a little emotional intelligence, you can see that feedback for what it is–an opportunity to get better.

As Musk brilliantly sums it up:

“You should take the approach that you’re wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong.”

Proactively Increase Your Productivity

 

One minute you’re reviewing last month’s sales and strategizing about the future of your business. The next you’re uploading blog posts and sharing a photo of your work on Instagram. On the weekend you’re balancing time with your kids and your overflowing email inbox.

How can you stop the crazy? Before you start thinking about hiring a little help – like a VA, project manager, or support person – take a look at your systems. There is a lot you can do to increase your productivity without expanding your team. Plus, there’s a hidden bonus here. The work you do to automate now will actually make it easier for you to delegate later.

Now, I know the things I’m about to recommend actually aren’t super sexy and exciting. But, trust me… taking these steps now will pay off for you immediately and in the future.

Action step: Select and implement a project management tool

It is time to face reality. The sticky note system you use to manage your task list is not as effective as you might like to believe. The mish-mash of information scribbled in your planner could be more efficient too. And, that habit you have of remembering everything without writing it down? Well…. That’s a disaster in the making.

You’ll be amazed at how efficient you become when you start using a project management tool like Asana, Trello, or Evernote to help you run your business. Sure, it takes a little time to find a tool that suits you…and a little more time to transfer your sticky notes and scribbles to the system… but the investment is well worth the effort. You’ll quickly become more organized and you’ll have the information you need about each project within easy reach.

In addition, a project management tool will allow you to start documenting the normal way you do things. These “systems” are the the foundation you’ll need to delegate once you add someone to your team.

A good project management tool will also help you track progress on projects and check in with your team easily. You won’t have to micromanage (something we all struggle with at first) because you’ll be able to quickly evaluate your team member’s results.

Action step: Automate the key processes in your business

When you are the only one performing key tasks in your business, you become the bottleneck. Every task requires your time and attention, and all the knowledge required to get things done lives inside your head (or on your sticky notes). Adding a project management tool begins to solve this problem, but it is just a first step.

To truly become more efficient, you need to automate wherever you can. Here’s where I recommend you start:

  • Automate payment processing. You need to get paid, but you don’t need to generate each transaction directly. Use e-commerce options, “buy now” buttons, and automated recurring payments to replace the need to generate invoices for every sale.
  • Automate scheduling. Time is important for both you and your customer. Eliminate the useless back and forth email routine and give your customers an automatic scheduling option. Tools like Acuity, Calendly, and many others merge with your electronic calendar, allow you to make rules about availability, and allow customers to book themselves. Some of them even connect to a tool like PayPal so you can take payments when the appointment is booked for double the efficiency!
  • Automate customer support. People ask the same questions over and over, right? You can eliminate a ton of needless email just by creating an FAQ page for your website and finding a creative way to present how you prefer to work. Then – using a few standard email templates – you can respond to questions with a quick email and a link.

In addition to automating systems like these, think about ways you can systematize key tasks using tool such as checklists and tip sheets. These resources are super helpful because they allow you to quickly move through repetitive tasks. Once you’re ready to expand your team, these resources become the systems you’ll need to delegate. (more…)

Amazon New City Might Be Atlanta.

The horse race to be the city of Amazon’s second headquarters.

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.  There’s something mesmerizing about watching horses race each other, all over the country, on vast screens as one sits in semi-darkness.This may be why I’m fascinated by the 200-horse race to be the city of Amazon’s second headquarters.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the betting being conducted on the site of Irish bookie Paddy Power.  At the time, there were two cities that seemed to be vying for the Amazon HQ2 title: Austin and Atlanta.

Each was priced at 2-1. This means the so-called smart money couldn’t decide how smart it really was. But it was sure it was smart. Today, I returned to the Paddy Power site, wondering if anything had changed. It has, and how. There’s now a clear favorite. Oddly, despite Bezos being a Texan at heart, it isn’t Austin.

It’s Atlanta.The home of Hawks and blown Super Bowls is now the 3-1 favorite.  All you ancillary entrepreneurs out there look East and the Capitol of the Southeast which is already the fintech city of the U. S.  Has the world’s busiest airport, a mild climate, and transportation everywhere (The MARTA rail system was built by those who finished BART in San Francisco).  Labor is less expensive than other regions, and Atlanta complements a Northwest primary headquarters.  Hot’lanta is where it is happening with 19 streets named Peachtree.

(more…)

Elon Musk on the Power of Thinking for Yourself

First principles thinking, which is sometimes called reasoning from first principles, is one of the most effective strategies you can employ for breaking down complicated problems and generating original solutions. It also might be the single best approach to learn how to think for yourself.

The first principles approach has been used by many great thinkers including inventor Johannes Gutenberg, military strategist John Boyd, and the ancient philosopher Aristotle, but no one embodies the philosophy of first principles thinking more effectively than entrepreneur Elon Musk.

In 2002, Musk began his quest to send the first rocket to Mars—an idea that would eventually become the aerospace company SpaceX.

He ran into a major challenge right off the bat. After visiting a number of aerospace manufacturers around the world, Musk discovered the cost of purchasing a rocket was astronomical—up to $65 million. Given the high price, he began to rethink the problem. [1]

“I tend to approach things from a physics framework,” Musk said in an interview. “Physics teaches you to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. So I said, okay, let’s look at the first principles. What is a rocket made of? Aerospace-grade aluminum alloys, plus some titanium, copper, and carbon fiber. Then I asked, what is the value of those materials on the commodity market? It turned out that the materials cost of a rocket was around two percent of the typical price.” [2]

Instead of buying a finished rocket for tens of millions, Musk decided to create his own company, purchase the raw materials for cheap, and build the rockets himself. SpaceX was born.

Within a few years, SpaceX had cut the price of launching a rocket by nearly 10x while still making a profit. Musk used first principles thinking to break the situation down to the fundamentals, bypass the high prices of the aerospace industry, and create a more effective solution. [3]

First principles thinking is the act of boiling a process down to the fundamental parts that you know are true and building up from there. Let’s discuss how you can utilize first principles thinking in your life and work.

Defining First Principles Thinking

A first principle is a basic assumption that cannot be deduced any further. Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle defined a first principle as “the first basis from which a thing is known.” [4]

First principles thinking is a fancy way of saying “think like a scientist.” Scientists don’t assume anything. They start with questions like, What are we absolutely sure is true? What has been proven?

In theory, first principles thinking requires you to dig deeper and deeper until you are left with only the foundational truths of a situation. Rene Descartes, the French philosopher and scientist, embraced this approach with a method now called Cartesian Doubt in which he would “systematically doubt everything he could possibly doubt until he was left with what he saw as purely indubitable truths.” [5]

In practice, you don’t have to simplify every problem down to the atomic level to get the benefits of first principles thinking. John Boyd, the famous fighter pilot and military strategist, created the following thought experiment which showcases how to use first principles thinking in a practical way.

Imagine you have three things:

  • A motorboat with a skier behind it
  • A military tank
  • A bicycle

Now, let’s break these items down into their constituent parts:

  • Motorboat: motor, the hull of a boat, and a pair of skis.
  • Tank: metal treads, steel armor plates, and a gun.
  • Bicycle: handlebars, wheels, gears, and a seat.

What can you create from these individual parts? One option is to make a snowmobile by combining the handlebars and seat from the bike, the metal treads from the tank, and the motor and skis from the boat.

This is the process of first principles thinking in a nutshell. It is a cycle of breaking a situation down into the core pieces and then putting them all back together in a more effective way. Deconstruct then reconstruct.

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Putting Entrepreneurship on the Curriculum

It is time to shake up education systems around the world and put social entrepreneurship on the curriculum, concludes new thought-provoking report.

The United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly recognises ‘education’ as a human right. Few would argue against this notion, however fierce debates have emerged regarding the higher purpose of education.

Education is considered one of the fundamental pillars of a healthy society, but how do we measure the success of an educational system? Is it based on:

  • attainment;
  • employability;
  • citizenship;
  • self-determination; or,
  • human advancement?

At this year’s UKFIET conference on Learning and Teaching for Sustainable Development at Oxford, the British Council launched a thought provoking opinion piece – titled ‘Social entrepreneurship in education’ – to discuss these questions. The report, which was also showcased at SOCAP in California this month, concludes that the introduction of social entrepreneurship into educational systems could be a necessary radical reform that will better prepare children to meet the pressing social and environmental challenges that face high and low and middle-income countries alike.

Lindsay Hall is the CEO of Real Ideas Organisation (RIO), which is an early adopter of the concept of embedding social entrepreneurship education into curriculums. She reflects on the education system in England, where RIO is based: “There’s a definite move away from coursework, from any of the more practical stuff.”

RIO has worked with over 350 schools, including Victoria Park Primary Academy in the West Midlands, to embed the principles of social enterprise into the curriculum. For example, Victoria Park Primary has a social enterprise lead, who is responsible for driving social enterprise activity throughout the whole school and leading the school’s own social enterprise.

Called Ballot Street Spice, this social enterprise was launched in 2014 and sells unique spice blends. Students, parents, the school’s staff and members of the community are all involved in the business – making decisions and marketing it to the wider community.

Hall believes that operating social enterprises within schools “is a very practical way for parents and lots of community members to get involved” in young people’s educational experience. There is increasingly “recognition from schools that if you’re going to have successful outcomes in children and young people, it is the whole community that creates that.”

(more…)

Successful People Start Before They Feel Ready.

In 1966, a dyslexic sixteen-year-old boy dropped out of school. With the help of a friend, he started a magazine for students and made money by selling advertisements to local businesses. With only a little bit of money to get started, he ran the operation out of the crypt inside a local church.

Four years later, he was looking for ways to grow his small magazine and started selling mail order records to the students who bought the magazine. The records sold well enough that he built his first record store the next year. After two years of selling records, he decided to open his own record label and recording studio.

He rented the recording studio out to local artists, including one named Mike Oldfield. In that small recording studio, Oldfield created his hit song, Tubular Bells, which became the record label’s first release. The song went on to sell over 5 million copies.

Over the next decade, the young boy grew his record label by adding bands like the Sex Pistols, Culture Club, and the Rolling Stones. Along the way, he continued starting companies: an airline business, then trains, then mobile phones, and on and on. Almost 50 years later, there were over 400 companies under his direction.

Today, that young boy who dropped out of school and kept starting things despite his inexperience and lack of knowledge is a billionaire. His name is Sir Richard Branson.  Two weeks ago, I walked into a conference room in Moscow, Russia and sat down ten feet from Branson. There were 100 other people around us, but it felt like we were having a conversation in my living room. He was smiling and laughing. His answers seemed unrehearsed and genuine.

At one point, he told the story of how he started Virgin Airlines, a tale that seems to capture his entire approach to business and life. Here’s the version he told us, as best I can remember it:

“I was in my late twenties, so I had a business, but nobody knew who I was at the time. I was headed to the Virgin Islands and I had a very pretty girl waiting for me, so I was, umm, determined to get there on time.

At the airport, my final flight to the Virgin Islands was cancelled because of maintenance or something. It was the last flight out that night. I thought this was ridiculous, so I went and chartered a private airplane to take me to the Virgin Islands, which I did not have the money to do.

Then, I picked up a small blackboard, wrote “Virgin Airlines. $29.” on it, and went over to the group of people who had been on the flight that was cancelled. I sold tickets for the rest of the seats on the plane, used their money to pay for the chartered plane, and we all went to the Virgin Islands that night.”Richard Branson

Thanks to JamesClear.com for this article.

Billion Dollar Founders Attended These Universities.

A Unicorn is a private company value at more than 1 billion USD. Becoming a founder of a unicorn company is a dream that many entrepreneurs hope to achieve.

To be considered a unicorn, the private business must reach a valuation of at least one billion dollars, and that’s no small feat.

People often attempt to break down what it takes to become a unicorn founder. While hard work and dedication are usually assumed requirements, along with a stellar concept, everyone knows that it takes more than that to reach the stars.

A recent chart was released that hoped to shed some light on the question, showing which universities can claim the most unicorn company founders as alumni. Here’s what it had to say.

Unicorn Universities

Statista used data from Sage to create an infographic showing which schools come out on top in regards to molding unicorn founders. The included educational institutions hail from all around the world including, but not limited to, the US, India, England, Israel, and Canada.

The top school on the list, Stanford University, claims 51 unicorn founders as alumni while runner-up Harvard University has 37. Rounding out the top three is the University of California with 18 (Go Bears!). (more…)

What All Successful Millennial Entrepreneurs Have in Common

 

With movies, such as Jobs and The Social Network presenting millennial entrepreneurs as brilliant and youthful gladiators, it is important to stay focused on the underlying trends with successful young entrepreneurs. After inspecting the current landscape, there are a number of traits, besides sheer genius or age, that are accurate predictors of success.

Despite having a less typical entrepreneurship story, David Kurzmann, the co-founder and CEO of Women’s Best, has built a brand reach of 150 million people and 8-figures in annual revenue. His business helps women lead healthy and positive lifestyles. As a non-traditional entrepreneur, his work and personality is the perfect counterpoint of Silicon Valley to sum up successful millennials.

1. Risk aversion

While entrepreneurs love to claim that they are fearless, taking unnecessary risks is foolish. Risk is not a good thing. While it may be enticing to wager everything you have on your startup’s vision, the odds say you will lose everything. This means the most successful entrepreneurs look for opportunities where the odds are skewed in their favor and where, no matter what the worst-case scenario is, they will still be able to rebound.

Everyone unconsciously underestimates disasters with low odds of happening. Furthermore, it can be easy to allow tunnel vision to block out awareness of risk probability. Overall, if you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to work on ensuring you are aware of all of your risks and avoid them where you can.

2. Passion

Entrepreneurship requires both extreme commitment and skill, which means passion is usually a requirement for success. If you are not in love with what you are doing, it will be hard to push yourself through long hours or dark times.  Even more so though, entrepreneurs need to be able to look at the world with a unique perspective and that uniqueness mostly frequently comes from passion.

Kurzmann has always had a passion for fitness and helping people. Each day, he is able to make a tremendous impact in millions of women’s health. Without his background in fitness, supplements, and health lifestyles, he would have never been able to develop his product line or consumer following.

3. Results-oriented

At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is the money. Most organizations say they are results-oriented, but most organizations are also not results-oriented. Truly being results-oriented requires that you have consequences for negative performance. While you are running a startup, you are not able to afford losses on campaigns. As such, you need to make a positive ROI your first priority at all times.

Even more so, as you decide what products to sell and what content to produce, running tests over Instagram can be an incredible way of conducting market research. Kurzmann has an extensive testing process across all of his content platforms that allows him to always make decisions based on data and evaluate the decisions on a results basis.

4. Time management

It is not new knowledge that successful people need to balance their time and work on time management skills. But with the influx of digital media and technical solutions, time management has never looked so different. First off, simply using social media, watching Netflix, and consuming other digital stimulation makes it harder for you to focus. As such, time management also necessitates eliminating different modern activities that make it hard to focus.  Reducing usage of social media, Netflix, and screens as a whole will help make you more efficient.

Furthermore, different solutions such as Google Calendars, AI assistants, virtual assistants, and SAAS platforms allow tech savvy millennials to streamline most of their work and never let anything slip through the cracks. Staying on top of your game will further allow you to focus, since you will no longer need to worry about reacting to what is next.

5. Creative problem solving

Every great startup revolves around a unique solution to a serious problem. Entrepreneurs are inherently creative problem solvers. But the biggest requisite is that the solution matches consumer needs. Without consumer centricity, startup ideas are merely theories with minimal chance of success.

If a product or service does not meet every consumer requirement, then it simply will never sell. The best millennial entrepreneurs are able to bring their fresh perspectives to the table, but still utilize a level of business maturity to evaluate market positioning and value creation. Kurzmann praised Elon Musk for his ability to think outside-the-box while creating value for society.

By George Beall on TNW, The Next Web, https://thenextweb.com/x/