I Want a Divorce (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Someone in my network in Chicago was contemplating starting a business and wasn’t sure how to structure his arrangement with his partners/collaborators…and protect themselves in the event things didn’t work out. This sparked a rich online discussion which became the catalyst for this month’s post on Tech Cocktail.
In Prenups for Startups: How to Structure Founding Teams I share my experience and provide guidance based on many things I’ve seen work…and not work.
I welcome your comments as everyone’s personal experiences may be vastly different.
Photo credit: Wikipedia
My post this month on Tech Cocktail is about the frustrations that we all feel, especially entrepreneurs, when things don’t go our way and we want to lash out in frustration. This hit home for me this week with the announcement of the verdict in the George Zimmerman (Trayvon Martin) trial where it seemed that everyone, no matter their point of view, was angry at the outcome.
In today’s guest post on Tech Cocktail I talk about my observation that many startups are spending too much time on business plan competitions and not enough time on building their business. Just last night I spoke to one company that has crushed it in the business plan competition world, having won hundreds of thousands of dollars of prize money. While that clearly gave them a huge lift, they admitted that the discipline of winning the competitions was very different than building their business.
In today’s guest post on Tech Cocktail I talk about being accountable.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Photo from US govt. Congressional bio website. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In today’s guest post on Tech Cocktail I talk about the importance of taking advantage of unexpected situations and opportunities when they arise…usually without warning or a chance to be prepared. My story is about the time I met Senator Paul Simon in a coat check line…
In today’s guest post on Tech Cocktail I talk about how to manage your time and maintain high levels of productivity. It’s a time-tested technique that is independent of technology.
Today I had a guest post on Tech Cocktail about managing your mental game. See: http://tech.co/100-of-the-time-its-90-mental-2013-01
Much of the work that I have done involves transferring technologies out of academia or federal laboratories. The framework for academic spinoffs is that typically there are technical co-founder(s) who are the subject matter experts in the technology. But investors have declared the days of “professors as CEOs” to be over. So often there is a business person who is also at the table at the founding of the company to handle the business matters and to provide a steady hand as the company takes off. I’ve been that business person at least six times. Through those experiences I’ve come to learn that the way career scientists think are very different from the way entrepreneurs think even when they share the objective of wanting their startup to succeed. Call these differences in perspective, or cultural issues, if you will, between the motivations of academics and entrepreneurs.
Academics make their reputations based on what they know. They don’t “profit” from this knowledge until they publish it and can explain to others how to reproduce their work. Only then is their professional reputation enhanced and their research validated. Publication success is often a key factor in deciding whether an academic wins research grants or is offered tenure. For many academics, the recognition they gain by advancing knowledge in their field is sufficient motivation. But they will not see a meaningful financial reward for their work unless it is commercialized, usually by founding a successful business.
Business people and entrepreneurs have very different incentives and perspectives than academics (see Table 1). They don’t profit from their work until they create something that has commercial value, which often comes from exploiting privileged information. The best entrepreneurs I know are not concerned about getting credit for their ideas; the financial payoff is reward enough. The typical behavior of an academic — “Let’s publish!” — is the exact opposite of what one would want if the same technology were developed inside a company.
Table 1: Scientists and Entrepreneurs have different motivations, incentives and expectations. Copyright 2011 Illinois Partners Executive Services, LLC.
The pursuit of money by business people if often repugnant to dyed-in-the-wool academics, Continue reading
You know Chutes and Ladders–the board game (Snakes and Ladders to those of you from the British Commonwealth). It’s popular among the younger set since the game is simple and requires no skill. In fact luck is a major component of success with the game. The goal is to be the first to move through the 100 spaces of the board. If you land on a ladder, you get to go up the ladder and advance a number of spaces equal to the length of the ladder. If you land on a chute, you slide down a number of spaces. Careful observers will note that landing on a ladder and advancing is the result of performing some virtuous task like baking cookies. And going backward down a chute is the punishment for a vice like breaking a window.
It seems to me that the parable of this game is a metaphor for what it’s like creating a startup. And in particular the “two steps forward, one step backward” sensation is very much like raising venture capital. Continue reading