Startups Benefit Equally from Mentoring and Money

mentor

 

The technology sector has been a focus of venture capitalist investing since the first Model T drove off of the assembly line. As startup launches continue to grow, entrepreneurs and investors recognize the value of mentorship. It’s almost on par with capital.

If your startup has managed to win the support of a venture capitalist, the next step must be to secure mentorship from someone like Gary Reiner, Chief Information Officer and operating partner at the global investment firm General Atlantic.

Trained in economics and equipped with an MBA from Harvard Business School, Reiner’s understanding of technology is in-depth and passionate. He is on the boards of Appirio, Box, CitiusTech, and SnapAv. In a recent interview he described his role as a mentor:

It can be in different ways—to help the management strategize; to find new markets; to help with our expertise in sales and marketing; to help with access to regions that smaller companies won’t easily have, since GA is very global and has offices in practically all high-growth regions like South Asia and China; to help with intellectual property (IP)-related issues and global regulations; and also to merge with another company, if that’s what the firm wants to do.

Thoughtful entrepreneurs recognize their position on the path all new businesses travel. They know that they will need guidance along the way from others who have successfully gone before them. At this point in a startup’s development, mentorship is a valuable asset.

The entrepreneur’s passion isn’t enough to get them through some of the obstacles they’re going to face. They need someone with a set of business skills that will help them to turn their startup into an organization that can regularly return a profit and achieve a sustainable rate of growth.

Startups need to keep their eye on critical business issues and use their mentors’ abilities to their best advantage. Preparing a careful analysis of the startup’s obstacles and areas of expertise will provide the basis for a productive discussion with a mentor.

The most talented mentors are often busy and have tight schedules. When asking for advice, an entrepreneur must be ready to present an accurate outline of their company’s problem areas. At the same time, a mentor must take the time to get to know the startup. That’s how to build business relationships that prosper and benefit both the investors and the entrepreneurs.

Namibian Visa Requirements Hurting Business There

Namibia

 

International travel can be difficult, requiring lots of extra effort to obtain passports, visas, and the like. This is especially frustrating when that travel is business related and, unlike a vacation, might have to happen on the spur of the moment or even culminate in a board meeting that lasts only a few hours.

For residents of South Africa doing business in neighboring Namibia, this is a recent cause for some concern. The two nations have close economic ties, with South African companies having a large stake in Namibia, and contributing a lot to the latter country’s economy. A lot of those companies have subsidiaries there, or close connections with Namibian companies.

All of this means people have to cross the border for meetings and the like pretty often, and going to South Africa is easy, as travellers can get a business visa when they arrive so they can get on with their jobs. But going the other way is a lot harder, as currently, Namibia is requiring South Africans to get business visas from the Namibian High Commission in Pretoria (the capital of South Africa), before they cross the border. That may not sound like that big of a deal, but it requires an extra trip, more planning, and makes spur of the moment deals or meetings much harder to coordinate.

According to Tarah Shaanika, CEO of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, this ruling has already started to negatively affect Namibia’s economy. He says it’s bad for fostering regional economic integration, something that his home country has been pushing for lately. Presumably, the decision had some sort of internal logic, and the Namibian government is most likely convinced that the visa requirements are somehow useful, but Shaanika and others are convinced they aren’t. They’re petitioning the government to find another way to handle business visas, preferably along the lines of the South African model.

Stanford’s Business School Reinvents the Health Care Industry

stanford business school

 

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business has a dynamic course of study for health care executives seeking to innovate their industry. A partnership between Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) and the School of Medicine (SOM) combines faculty and resources from both institutions into a groundbreaking one-week program for executives. It offers executive education in a variety of areas, including innovation, marketing, negotiation, strategy, and technology.

Stanford Graduate School of Business has an ongoing tradition of providing innovate business education and graduating students who make a difference by working on issues that have a wide impact. Leaders like Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, marketing leader Seth Godin, and General Atlantic’s Vice President Brandon Kerns got their start at Stanford.

Health care providers, insurance companies, and patients must find a way to work together to rescue our beleaguered health care system. The Innovate Health Care Leader: From Design Thinking to Personal Leadership will provide executives with new skills that will help then to navigate a health care industry that changes as an alarming pace.

Students will learn how to use design thinking to innovate their products, services, and organizational processes. Design thinking is a human-centered and prototype-driven process. During the sessions students will be exposed to the core components of design thinking. They will work with a partner and use exercises to learn how the design process is used to improve health care delivery.

A review of current trends in technology and its applications in a health care context is always part of this exciting program. Students will learn how to use technology to improve patient care and customer service. They will learn to develop strategies that will help them to create systems that dissolve barriers between stakeholders while improving services and the well being of patients and care providers.

Disney to Cease Self-Publishing Video Games

video games

 

Walt Disney is getting out of the video game industry. At least, they will no longer be self-publishing titles, although they’re going to continue licensing their properties to other developers. The announcement, which came on April 10th, came as a surprise to a lot of people, especially after they were talking about how strong that unit of the company was only four months ago. When you consider that Disney Infinity had quickly risen to the top spot in the “toys-to-life” model of video games. That model involves selling players a game, and then small figures that, when connected through a peripheral, allow them to use the characters represented in the game itself. Activision started the ball rolling with Skylanders back in 2011, and LEGO recently joined in with LEGO Dimensions.

But that business model is slowing down, and it has a lot of cost wrapped up in it. It seems like Disney is backing out just as the format is losing its steam, out of a fear that the initial hurdles will end up being too much after all. It’s certainly the safer path than waiting for the title to start failing and losing money.

It’s not the first time Disney has proclaimed their strength and then backed out of self-publishing video games. In 2011 they stopped making console games to focus on mobile games, despite their very successful release of Epic Mickey. But console gaming is a tough business, and big publishers like Activision or Electronic Arts have been at this for years, figuring out how to do things in many cases over multiple generations of consoles. It’s probably a safer bet for Disney to just let other publishers handle their properties while they focus on continuing to develop (or purchase) desirable properties in the first place.

New Captain America Movie Has Strong International Opening

Thee latest Marvel Comics movie, Captain America: Civil War, had an international opening weekend of $200.4 million, in 37 countries. That opening comes before the domestic opening, which is increasingly the case for big budget pictures like this. International distribution and ticket sales are more important now than they ever have been, especially as films cost more and more.

Releasing films internationally before they are released domestically hasn’t become standard practice just yet, and it varies from one movie to the next. In this case, Civil War opened internationally to take advantage of the May Day holiday weekend observed through Europe and other parts of the world. The movie opens in the United States, Canada, China, India, and elsewhere on May 6th, and is expected to have a pretty big opening weekend.

Does any of this make a difference to the actual success of the film? That’s hard to tell. International box office sales are hugely important and can generate millions of dollars in addition to domestic sales, and actually releasing the film can get ahead of piracy and ensure a higher gross. Augie De Blieck Jr, who writes for the website Comic Book Resources, doesn’t think it makes much of a difference where a movie opens fist. He points out that most American movie goers don’t generally know, and likely don’t care, that a movie opened elsewhere first. With the exception of learning about spoilers or actually being able to pirate the film, it doesn’t have any practical effect on the average audience member.

It likely doesn’t cost any more or less to hold the international debut before the domestic, so the most likely reason this happens is because of internal issues, like funding additional marketing for after a film debuts in the States. It’s frankly kind of a mystery, but it seems to be working out for Hollywood so far.

Must-Reads for Beginning Entrepreneurs

books

In every life, some books must fall. If you’re a new entrepreneur—or even a seasoned one looking to add to your own edification—there are plenty of books on every subject related to sales, business, and making something of yourself. From finance to start-ups, here are a few noteworthy titles to get you started on your business journey.

Capital Instincts: Life as an Entrepreneur, Financier, and Athlete, Richard L. Brandt and Thomas Weisel

If you would like to hear from someone who has truly done it all, Thomas Weisel is your guy. Largely responsible for the formation and duration of Silicon Valley as a tech hub, Weisel’s determined personality has carried him through several high-profile companies and endeavors. His investment firm, Thomas Weisel Partners, was worth half a billion dollars in revenues two years after it was founded. He is also a leader in national cycling and skiing. His insights are powerful, plenty, and worth listening to.

Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill

One of the most-beloved business books of the last century, the wisdom in Hill’s Think and Grow Rich is timeless. Originally published in 1937, Hill interviewed over 500 affluent men and women about their money-making philosophies. What he discovered were a handful of universal tenets that he explains in the book. An updated version includes modern-day tips and tricks from Arthur R. Pell, Ph.D., a nationally-recognized author and lecturer in human resources management.

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

This book takes a look at the culture we live in and the ways in which it’s governed, hindered, and improved by the presence of modern-day technology. The book also examines the individual entrepreneur’s place in that world and the challenges facing them, as well as the new opportunities that weren’t previously available. Zero to One is a great place to start if you’re curious about how you and your ideas fit into this technological world.

Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader, Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli

Becoming Steve Jobs examines not only the Apple founder himself, but also the circumstances that led to his success and the thick cloud of myth and mystery that surrounded him. This book shines a light on how Jobs, reckless and arrogant as a young man, became the most well-recognized business leader ever. Schlender’s and Tetzeli’s account of Jobs’ life is rich and contributes much to what we understand about him.

Amazon Listing Some Items for Prime Members Only

If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve also purchased something from Amazon. They’re pretty much the biggest retailer in the world at this point (at least online) and they got that way by selling basically everything under the sun. There’s a smaller chance that you’re a member of Amazon Prime, the companies $99 a year incentive program that nets members free two-day shipping and access to their streaming video service, among other things.

But apparently they’re trying out a new program wherein certain movies and video games are only available from Amazon if you have a Prime membership. So, for example, if you wanted to buy Birdman on Blu-Ray, or you wanted to buy Grand Theft Auto V or Far Cry Primal, you either had to have a Prime account, or buy it somewhere else. True, you could still buy it on Amazon from another seller, but that kind of defeats the point doesn’t it? And those sellers often don’t qualify for free shipping, or ship as quickly, or have Amazon customer service.

So what are they thinking? Prime Membership is supposed to get you access to bonuses or to things that are only available from Amazon (like their streaming shows), not prevent you from buying something that you can buy somewhere else. It doesn’t make a lot of business sense. And the company’s official comment smacks of automated response, maintaining that customers can sign up for a free Prime trial or buy stuff on the marketplace. That’s not a response, that’s them holding their ground while they determine if the benefits of this program outweigh the bad press they’ll be getting.

If Amazon wants to move to a membership system, like Sam’s Club, where you have to have Prime to buy stuff, that’s their prerogative, but that seems like a great way to tank their entire business. There doesn’t seem to be many other justifications for this experiment than testing those specific waters though.

How Much Will Reusable Rockets Save SpaceX?

SpaceX recently landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship, allowing them to reuse that stage of the rocket. Hypothetically, being able to reuse the first stage of a rocket in this way would be a huge cost saving measure, at least that has been the company’s goal in developing a reusable first stage.

The Falcon 9 marks the first reusable space vehicle since the orbiter which was part of NASA’s space shuttle program. But according to a former NASA administrator, Dan Dumbacher, the space shuttle program never really saved that much money. Sure it reduced cost a bit and reused materials, but the cost savings were not overwhelming. He warns that SpaceX isn’t likely to see the kinds of savings they expect.

There are a lot of cost saving ideas that already went into the Falcon 9, like using the same engines throughout the vehicle. Customers, like Luxembourg’s SES, are interested in the idea of reusable rockets saving them money, but it’s not clear yet how much SpaceX might save, or how much off that will be passed on to their customers. SES has agreed to be the first customer of the reusable system, but they’d like to see the price drop, for the first flight at least, by nearly 50%.

That might be extreme, as analysis of SpaceX’s plan seems to make a 40% savings about the best they can do for their customers, maybe even themselves. The problem with that analysis is that SpaceX doesn’t release their financial information, so it’s based on some estimates of cost and savings that haven’t been proven.

SpaceX has come a long way in a short time though, and they obviously employ some very smart people. They might just know something we don’t, and will be able to not only reduce cost but pass the saving son to their customers in a way that will make the ne rocket system well worth it.

New Battery is Cheaper, More Powerful

battery

Rechargeable batteries play an important role in supporting the existing power grids of much of the United States, and they have numerous other roles as well, from powering iPhones to cars. Normally, they come in two forms: lithium-ion batteries like you find in smart phones, and lead-acid batteries in cars.

Pretty much since the development of lithium-ion batteries, scientists have been looking for ways to make them cheaper, and they’ve been trying to make zinc-manganese batteries but keep finding that those batteries lose their potency after only a few cycles of use. According to new research by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) though, there’s a way around that.

PNNL researchers figured out why zinc-manganese batteries lose their potency, and then figured out how to stop that. The result is a powerful battery that is as cheap to produce as a lead-acid car battery, but far more powerful. Why is this a big deal?

We use lead-acid batteries because they’re cheaper to produce than lithium-ion batteries, but not quite as potent. That’s why these batteries have to be so much larger than the one in your laptop. The expense of lithium-ion batteries is part of why devices like iPhones are so expensive (but only part).

Successfully putting zinc-manganese batteries to use could be huge. The materials used are really common, which cuts costs right there, but they’re also more efficient than lead-acid batteries, which means longer lasting car batteries and power grid backups.

The team is still working on their new batteries, but they’re pretty excited and very confident about the usability of this new technology. These batteries should have a broad appeal, to companies looking to save money on production, to consumers looking to get more power for their money, and to municipalities looking to upgrade their power systems.

Leveraging Your Skills and Connections to Find Work

networking

You don’t need to be told that getting a job can be difficult in this day and age. Even if you can afford to get a college degree, you’ll face a lot of competition from other professionals when you get out there and actually start looking for work. If you want to become successful, learning how to leverage your skills and learning how to effectively network will come in handy.

Take law student Anya Freeman as an example. During law school, she used to look at her fellow classmates and wish that she had the same networking opportunities they did to market her Russian-speaking skills. After graduating and finding work at Florida law office Coffey Burlington, she was guided by Kendall Coffey and encouraged to found the Russian American Bar Association of South Florida. Now that’s the way to use your skills and connections for good use!

Maybe you don’t speak Russian, but you definitely have your own skills that you can leverage during your job search. Here are a few suggestions on how to do just that.

What are your skills?

What kinds of skills do you have, and where will they take you? The types of skills you possess will determine what kind of network you’re trying to cultivate, the types of jobs you’ll apply for, and the image you’ll aim to create for yourself as a professional.

Note that this is not the same as choosing a career path (i.e., do I want to be a doctor or a lawyer?). Many people have varied interests and therefore a complex, nuanced set of skills with connections to match. It’s all about creating options for yourself!

Participate in your alumni association

Most large schools have alumni networks, where past graduates of that institution can help younger graduates find employment, network with others in relevant industries, and more.

Being involved in your school’s alumni association will create a lot of networking opportunities that will be easy to take advantage of. The advantage, when compared to regular networking, is that you start the conversation with a lot in common already—being from the same school, having a similar background, likely having similar goals, and so on.

Maintain a solid online presence

In this modern age of technology, it is commonly expected that professionals will have their own online portfolios, where their past work and skills can be showcased for potential employers to see. Regardless of the field you wish to enter, obtaining your own website should absolutely be on your list of things to do!

Do a bit of research on other people in your industry (or the industry you’d like to be in) to get a good idea what type of website you should create.

What’s more, maintaining a solid online presence (especially on social media websites like LinkedIn) can naturally create new networking opportunities for you.

What are your tips for using your skills and networking connections to find work? Let us know in the comments section below!

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