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    Entries in entrepreneur (4)


    You're Doing It Wrong - Of Those Damned Long Entrepreneurial Odds


    If you read my stuff regularly (aka as often as I post) and/or follow my other social feeds, you might get the impression I'm all "rah-rah," all the time. I'm not going to lie, that's calculated. Not so much that I feel positive messages are always the best way forward, but more so because that's the mindset I strive for. Anyone can sell sunshine, but if you believe it, you might as well write it that way. So there you go.

     Anyone can sell sunshine, but if you believe it, you might as well write it that way.

    To the contrary, this post is why my team and I shouldn't win, why we won't become something, why we dream only pipery, why everyone loves to hate...and why they feel righteous in doing so. I'm doing it wrong. This is as much a pep talk to any audience as is it to myself, while indulging the critics, so bear with me.

    Here's a list of reasons why we won't succeed: 

  • Non-technical?   Check.
  • Loads of School Debt?  Check.
  • Mortgage?   Check.
  • Kids?   Check.
  • Rural?   Check.
  • Noob Entrepreneur?  Check.
  • I tumble these bullets in various permutations around in my head constantly. None of the combinations amount to any more than your likely reaction to the above - "Totally screwed, bro," followed closely by, "...but good for you for trying."

    The fun part about any of this analysis is the challenge of converting each one of those liabilities to assets. Let's examine.

    I'll be the first to admit that being a "non-technical" founder is a will my other two non-technicals. Shakespeare put our situation aptly when he said:

    How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
    Your looped and windowed raggedness, defend you
    From seasons such as these?

    In this case, the "seasons" as I see them, are our rapidly approaching future scenarios without a relevant tech "house" to speak of. The non-technical bit is an easy fix...if you have the right mix. While my partners and I may not have the programming chops to pass 21st century muster just yet, believe me, that day is coming. I've told others that time is my only currency anymore. This has never been truer for me or my co-founders. Do I really think that all the founders will gain some significant proficiency in hard coding? No. Do I think we should all strive for that? Yes - if only to facilitate better design conversations and make better hires down the road. If this ignorance is in any way an asset at this point, then I would tell you that the beauty is in not knowing what isn't possible. (But that still feels like a cop out. Learn to code).

    Would I recommend that any ambitious soul seek to make his or her dent in the universe before they accrue mounds of relatively useless school debt and a mortgage? Of course.

    As far as the debt situation goes, I can't really creatively deal with the intractable nature of it at this point. This is, and always will be a severe liablilty to any would-be entrepreneur. Would I recommend that any ambitious soul seek to make his or her dent in the universe before they accrue mounds of relatively useless school debt and a mortgage? Of course. Anyone who says otherwise is an idiot. But, I would heartily encourage any in my situation to still consider the entrepreneurial path - it is the only way forward. And to those without the hinderance of any money owed, consider how profoundly any and all extra responsibilities will factor into your life before you embark, to give yourself the best shot at success before jumping in.

    Kids are awesome. At the risk of sounding cliche, my life took a dramatic turn for the best with the birth of our first child. I know myself and my goals infinitely better now, than I ever would have without my children. Not to say they are a necessity, but do not doubt they are generally transformative.

    Rural America is becoming less so. I don't mean that people are flocking to settle in smaller communities like mine (though I think that's coming), but I do mean that geography has never mattered less to the world of business...and the "hicks" are catching on. Having your cake and eating it too no longer seems like such an outsized request. Certainly there are more restraints on capital investment and talent for startups in a place like Montana, but that is only a temporary situation if our various economic development groups can help it. A number of successful natives (adopted and othewise) from other areas of the country have a vested interest in seeing Montana succeed in the new business sandbox of the 21st century. Quality of life begets quality of talent.

     You will and should live or die by the fires of your market.

    And so we come to the green beginner piece of this critique. Everyone has to start somewhere, right? A thousand more placations where that came from still manage to engender exactly 0% goodwill in the business market. And why should they? You will and should live or die by the fires of your market. You and your team will be salted just the same as any who have tread this path before you, and you will learn from it. And you will benefit from it. And this is pretty much the only way to truly experience the world in my opinion. Sure, nothing beats experience, but I think this goes beyond that. I think that nothing beats the soulful passionate chase through a no-holds-barred gauntlet of real world pwnage that rightfully awaits those who undertake it. It's sort of like those old commercials for the Marines (no offense intended in the analogy, just illustrating a point). If you think you've got what it takes, then go for it. Why the hell would you let anyone pretend that inexperience is a valid excuse for not trying? 

    Any good entrepreneur knows when to cut the bullshit. Consider this missive one of those moments, and consider this moment one of my sign offs.

    Good luck out there.


    Esotericism vs. Innovation?

    image: Ryan Holst - flickr 

    I was part of a discussion of innovation strategies recently.  Aside from the usual buzz worthy placations that sound totally reasonable and make managers everywhere nod their heads in self-congratulatory approval, the conversation touched on a number of very interesting areas that get at the heart of true innovation.  Among those many exchanges that would be fun to dissect here, one of them was just screaming for further examination.

     ...having to be “broadly applicable” and “not so esoteric.”

    I’d like to focus on the point when the discussion turned to describing the general purpose of research and development initiatives (R&D).  In answer to a question I had, a certain care was taken to describe R&D as having to be “broadly applicable” and “not so esoteric.”  This interested me specifically because of the different viewpoints one could take on the comment itself.  To set the stage, those who know me and follow some of my material know that I believe we are living through a very significant period in human history.  My view on this follows the logic presented in many others’ offerings on the topic from the online archives of Fast Company and TED to luminaries in the design community (like Ian Mirlin at Zero Gravity Thinking) to the other far flung corners of the blogosphere (shout out to my new friend, Chris Jones at The Cambrian Cloud).  Actually you could spend days combing through the excellent literature on the subject via the internet, newsletters, and books. (I know because I have). So, needless to say, there is a growing legion of believers in the extremely transitory nature of our time in history.  This means that those who thrive off change will succeed, and those who don’t, simply won’t.  This is applicable from individuals all the way up to global corporations. 

    Just for fun, I thought I would look up the formal definition of the word “esoteric.”

    Here is what I found:


    adj \ˌe-sə-ˈter-ik, -ˈte-rik\

    Definition of ESOTERIC

    1. a : designed for or understood by the specially initiated alone <a body of esoteric legal doctrine — B. N. Cardozo> b : requiring or exhibiting knowledge that is restricted to a small group <esoteric terminology>; broadly : difficult to understand <esoteric subjects>
    2. a : limited to a small circle <engaging in esoteric pursuits> b : private, confidential <an esoteric purpose>
    3. of special, rare, or unusual interest <esoteric building materials>

    In my view, the majority of that definition could easily apply to the current paradigm (or paradigm shift).  Not because what we’re talking about is some sort of secret knowledge or something beyond the comprehension of mere mortals, but because it defines the common starting point for all efforts at innovation.  Therefore, I believe it should be imperative to not only refrain from describing the esotericism of R&D efforts as a fallibility, but readily engage in activities that might well be considered such.  These are precisely the areas that will produce the “next big thing.”  Certainly, combining existing widespread technologies and processes is innovative and can deliver something similar, but increasingly that lofty goal will require a long, esoteric reach to keep up with the curve. 

    True innovation is esoteric by nature.

    Entrepreneurs and organizations must be prepared to bet big and educate themselves at the frontier of all things in the knowledge economy.  I don’t mean bet big in the sense of money spent, I mean bet big in terms of your boundary of possibilities.  Entertain those thoughts that might, at first blush, seem too esoteric to waste your time with.  True innovation is esoteric by nature.  The time we are living in is serving as something of a great equalizer when it comes to this.  The sheer number of people who finally have access to transformative knowledge, when leveraged with the rapid onset of new technologies, will bring about equally rapid and amazing changes.  This extreme unpredictability will require those who would like to participate to become fringe learners; to live the esoteric life as they seek to make their dent in the universe.

    So live change, love change, and keep up. Don’t be a pioneer on paper, be a fringe learner.  If it’s uncomfortable and a little intimidating and people are calling it “too esoteric”…that’s a sign you’re on the right track. 

    The world is poised to reward that kind of initiative like never before in history.




    I found them. (MTIE Day 2012 - Rant)

    I did it. I found them.

    They’ve been here all along and, come to find out,...we have a reputation. They’re just like you and me. Not any superhuman specialties to speak of except, of course, a legendary Montana work ethic. When I say legendary, I’m really not exaggerating. There was 110% agreeance among the panel elites that Montana holds a special significance for many in their network. Be it a dinner party or board room, the word on the street is that we are sought after…and that should make you feel good. It’s the embodiment of all those feelings that you always thought, but never voiced. It’s the reason that you and your friends find excitement and common cause across disciplines that others might deem unrelated. It’s the knowing that you, coming from whatever background, in one of the (perceived) least consequential states in the union, are going to change the game. 

    You shake things up, you don’t take “no”, you politely proceed to prove all your doubters wrong.  It’s the way you’ve always been and always will be.

    And you know the great part? There is an extremely willing network of people ready to help you make your mark. They have connections to Silicon Valley, Alley, Slopes, and Hills. They are NYC, SF, CHI, Boston, Austin, Bombay, Tokyo, London, Shanghai, Paris, and on across the map.  By their own admission, they aren’t special.  If you walked past them on the street, they don’t emit some sort of glow. They aren’t flashy, they aren’t selfish, and they let their actions and works speak for themselves. They are incredibly understated and generous. They wield a wealth of knowledge and use it to call their own shots, punch their own tickets, and drop it on those who would have it.

    In other words, they’re just like you and me.  We collaborate. We share the love…and the pain. We know the difference between lip service and real commitment.  We sacrifice and study and strive.  We don’t take “no,” we don’t know “can’t,” we take the help when it’s offered, and we all understand that you only get one ride. So you might as well make it count.

    They are us.

    We are they.

    Montanans united. (More than you know).




    Let's party.

    I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to how I might best kick off this site lately.  No longer content with consuming the brilliant spectrum of content available out there, I’ve decided to join the party late – or more accurately, your party.  Better late than never though, right?  The good part is that an amazingly large and generous community around the world has written countless articles, books, blogs, commentary and wikis on exactly how to do just that.  Coupled with a certain carefree drive required of anyone willing to broadcast themselves to the world, I’ve decided to leap.  Just mix a little SEO with a little social media - add in your target audience, your tribe, your followers, your fans, your potential, just a dash of resilience and a healthy dose of patience, and voilà! Nothing to it, right?  Not quite.

    This whole process has already produced a decent amount of lessons learned. (And this is just the first post)!  I’ve been told to have at least 10 blog posts drafted and ready to launch with a good contest/giveaway/etc.  Excellent suggestions to be sure, but unfortunately, I have neither the time nor focus between family and day jobs to come up with something especially catchy for all of my potential fans or keyword searches. This is compounded by my default kung fu “action” setting which, aside from allowing me to kill with one blow, tends to override complex, coordinated planning operations. (Seriously, there’s a switch on my back that hasn’t moved since my parents bought me and turned me from demo mode). So, I've just decided to go.

    I bet you're wondering why I’m at your party.

    (clears throat)(ahem)<proper british accent>… "In a perfect universe, is a fount of entrepreneurial knowledge delivered in an easily accessible format that allows my visitors to inform and challenge their notions of what it is to take the helm of fate and plot a course for success."  But we know that the universe isn’t perfect, is it? Rather, it is only as perfect as our pursuit of perfection in it, so here’s the non-flowery version: is a place for people with a driving curiosity, creativity, and sense of humor to dig in, connect, and share the best ways to change the world, with a focus on their little corner of it.

    As of now, this is a one-man show. But I should warn you, I have a growing army (network) of fantastic people (FFF’s*) with whom I have crossed paths who can’t wait to get their hands dirty in providing you the best in real-world case studies and startup knowledge to be found.  As I’m sure you’re aware, there are many great resources out there doing the same thing (I will get to my favorites in time), so my plan is to augment what they provide in as enjoyable a way possible. We’re all on the same team here.  If you ever disagree with me or would like to elaborate on any topics covered here, please do so early and often.  I want to use this platform to hopefully learn as much or more than I ever have the privilege to provide.  Please join me on this journey.

    Welcome to my world, and thanks for inviting me to your party.


     *Family, Friends and Fools – high five if you got that right away.