Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Call Me, Splat

My friend Tom Schryver, Cornell's Entrepreneur In Residence, sent me this picture from an entrepreneurial student team's presentation:

You had me at Connections with Mentors

I'm flattered, but I'm really not that hard to reach. I try to make myself accessible to aspiring entrepreneurs because I benefited so much early my career from experienced entrepreneurs who were willing to share their story over a cup of coffee. I try to do the same now - both ways. I work to share with entrepreneurs who seek my advice, but I also still seek to tap the experience of those who I aspire to learn from. It's a nice form of paying it forward that our fraternity of entrepreneurs understand and love to do.

So Splat, call me. Or email. Or Twitter, Facebook, snail-mail, ...whatever works.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Weaver Wind Energy

A few years ago I introduced Art Weaver to Alex Hagen. Art is a brilliant scientist and inventor who has some amazing ideas on how to revolutionize the way we harness the power of the wind to create electricity. He needed an entrepreneurially minded business person to help him make that vision a reality, and Alex is just that guy. The result is Weaver Wind Energy. Check out this awesome video profiling the company:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Coffee Connector Retired

At the first Mezmeriz office, we had a nice coffee maker. It was the center of our caffeinated motivation. Coffee became a facilitator of entrepreneurial conversations.

The one on the left is for you

Over a cup of ground Gimme! beans, we'd share tales of challenges and obstacles with starting our companies. Sometimes it'd be about a proposal that hit a brick wall. Sometimes it'd be about a pitch the rocked. Regardless of the what, it was good to know that we had allies and commiserators.

Mezmeriz has now moved on to a modern workplace. We have a high-tech lab. We have professional offices. We have a conference room where you can write big ideas directly on the wall. We have people saying "this place is cool. I want to work here". We evan have a coffee maker that can not only make drip, but cappuccino!

Alas, we don't have the community coffee maker any more. While we'll miss the collegiate atmosphere of our launching labs, we are also ready for the next level. As coffee becomes cappuccino when it grows up, so do we.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pop Right In

Recently I was invited to speak to an informal group of active and aspiring entrepreneurs at Cornell's latest startup workspace, the PopShop. The PopShop is an informal workspace located just off campus that is designed to foster the creative process of business formation. Bright colors, inspirational messages, whiteboards-as-tables, fast internet, and an always-open mentality all come together to create a unique and fun experience.

Pop Up

On this particular day, I was asked to talk about how entrepreneurs perceive risk differently then other people. It was less lecture, and more discussion. We flipped up one of the whiteboard/tables, and different people were drawing pictures and diagrams to help define and refine the concept. It was a fun mini-example of how an interactive discussion leads to a better outcome - and it's how they get things done there.

There is no requirement to be affiliated with Cornell, so if you're in Ithaca and you have a creative idea for a new business and want to connect with some other like-minded individuals, then pop right in to the PopShop at 206B Dryden Road. They're always open!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Entrepreneurs & Endurance Sports

I've noticed a move from adrenaline sports to endurance sports for entrepreneurs. We are viewed as thrill seekers, so most would not be surprised by seeing us kayak off waterfalls, but you might be surprised to see us grinding out miles on the road, treadmill, or spin bike to compete in triathlons and marathons.

Run. Go. Run.

There's a certain amount of pragmatism to things. First, we can have our phones/headphones on the whole time via our smartphones. Therefore, we never miss a phone call, and can monitor emails.

Secondly, we are a competitive yet supportive community - much like the endurance sports community. In endurance sports, it's all about personal bests. The same is true in the entrepreneurial community. We want to see you working to be your best. In most instances, it's not a zero-sum game, and even more rare is the entrepreneur vs. entrepreneur matchup. We see a lot more David v. Goliath.

As such, we all support and encourage each other to be better, faster, and stronger every day. In business and in sport.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A better college bulletin board is no monkey business

Ithaca College students Armando and Fargo have recently launched their website Right now they are testing the waters to work out the details of how the site will work in Ithaca at Ithaca College and Cornell, but their goal is to expand nationally.

A shot of Chill
In their own words:

Our mission with is to stimulate campus connectivity and become the primary tool for exchanging information among college students. Chillmonkey enables students to view organizational information, on-campus and local events, as well as facilitate a student driven marketplace with all content specifically personalized to the user. We plan to revolutionize the traditional, many times cluttered, college bulletin boards by aggregating all information and resources students need into one single location to enhance their college experience. Our service will be a great way to save money for students, colleges, and promote local businesses around colleges and universities.

If you have a college email address from Ithaca College or Cornell, you should sign up today. If not, stay tuned!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Wright Fitness & Cycling

Last Fall my friend April Wright decided the time was right to fulfill her dream of having her own personal training gym. April is a popular Ithaca, New York based personal trainer and indoor cycling instructor. She reached out to her friends and the entrepreneurial business community for support, and the result was that six weeks later, she hosted the grand opening of Wright Fitness & Cycling!

Wright on!

Here's a portion of the list that she knocked out to go from concept to grand opening in just six weeks:
  • Find retail space
  • Negotiate lease
  • Spec out gym equipment
  • Negotiate equipment price
  • Incorporate
  • Open bank account
  • Design logo
  • Build 5 year budget
  • Find lenders
  • Negotiate terms of loan
  • Securing funding
  • Design retail space
  • Oversee build-out
  • Assist with labor for build-out
  • Get URL and build initial website
  • Build Wright Cycling and Fitness Facebook page
  • Install stereo system
  • Install gym equipment
  • Buy and install furniture
  • Create class and training schedules
  • Notify all customers and friends of new business
  • Throw grand opening party!
I should also mention that she did all of this while still teaching cycling classes, working with clients, and juggling the needs of 3 kids with her husband. An impressive feat in such a short amount of time, and a testament to what can be done with the right mindset and support.

Congratulations April!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Efficiency of the Trade Show

This month I attended my tenth Consumer Electronics Show in a row. This trade show is a massive catch-all for thousands of technology products, with thousands of companies setting up booths and over 150,000 attendees. Mezmeriz had a small booth in an area dedicated to small technology companies.

The show was a good one for us. We made a lot of good new contacts, reconnected with some folks we've known for years, and got a little press exposure in Entrepreneur Magazine and Raleigh's News and Observer.

Trade shows are an efficient way of making a lot of contacts in a short amount of time, and especially important for startups: without spending a lot of money on travel. Many people are surprised that tradeshows can cost thousands of dollars to present at, and some even cost $1,000+ just to attend, but from an efficiency and overall cost standpoint, they're worth it.

I regularly advise aspiring entrepreneurs to find the trade show for their target market. There is a trade show for EVERYTHING. Really. I've been to some bizarre ones, big ones, tiny ones, and have traded stories about wacky things seen at trade shows, but they all exist because of the efficiency of having so many of your customers, potential customers, potential investors, competitors, industry analysts, and the press all in one place at one time.