Archive for May, 2012


Posted: May 27, 2012 by Chuck Matthews in Leadership, People, Startup

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. ~Joseph Campbell

Officially proclaimed in 1868, Memorial Day was first observed when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It is a day of remembrance, but also one of hope. I can still hear the voice of my grandfather, a World War I veteran, reciting the words of “We Shall Keep Faith” by Moira Michael on Decoration Day, as it was originally known:

We cherish too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies…

So too, our thoughts turn to the men and women in uniform who return home and begin life anew; continuing their education, raising families, some entering the workforce, others opting to follow the entrepreneurial path and start new ventures. In fact, it is estimated that in the U.S., there are between 3 and 4 million veteran-owned businesses. Globally recognized giants, FedEx and Nike, were founded by veterans Fred Smith (Marines) and Phil Knight (Army), respectively. Locally, entrepreneurs such as Richard Farmer, Dick Hannan, Charles Stix, and Jeff Lay have all earned our respect in uniform and as entrepreneurs. What lessons can we learn from these military veteran entrepreneurs or “vetrepreneurs”?

The value of military training…

One of my favorite definitions of success is getting knocked down nine times and getting up ten. If there is one lesson to take away, it is the resilience of military veterans. Without question, the drive, determination, and dedication needed to start a new venture is often formed in the basics of military training. Richard “Dick” Farmer often credits his military service in the U.S. Marines as formative in his later entrepreneurial pursuits turning his family industrial rag cleaning business from a negative net worth into the nation’s leading provider of corporate uniforms and more. Today, Cintas is a multi-billion dollar Fortune 500 company.

In Hannan’s Way – An Unlikely Trek Through Life by Greg Hoard, you will learn the always timely lesson that the customer is king, but the equally important lesson he also shares with Dick Farmer of taking care of your employees. Hannan’s Way is the compelling story of Cincinnati entrepreneur Richard D. Hannan, founder of Mercury Instruments in 1964, a venture that would become a leader in the natural gas measurement industry. This past May 14th, Hannan was awarded the “Lifetime Achievement Award in Entrepreneurship” from the University of Cincinnati. He joined the U.S. Marines during the Korean War where he quickly moved from Private to Captain in Marine Air Intelligence. He would go on to earn degrees from Tufts University and Wharton Graduate School, along with business certificates from Harvard and Stanford. At 82 years young, he is still a gifted speaker in my classes, sharing his lessons learned.

The other octogenarian Marine/Entrepreneur, whose life’s lessons I have come to know and greatly value is Charles Stix. He is the owner of Stixco, a manufacturer’s representative of shoe stock and items in the garment industry, which he founded after a 30 year career at U.S. Shoe. This past May 14th, the University of Cincinnati alum class of ’49, received the Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence. But after Walnut Hills High School and before UC and his successful entrepreneurial career, in July of 1943, he entered the U.S. Marine Corps, serving his country in the South Pacific and occupation of Japan during World War II. Much later, Mr. Stix, together with his friend Lincoln Pavey, fellow WWII vet and UC Alum and others, would be instrumental in the building of a Veteran’s Memorial in Indian Hill at the corner of Shawnee Run and Drake Roads. Veteran’s never stop giving.

Never say never…

Consider the inspirational story of Jeff Lay, Cincinnati native, TOPGUN fighter pilot, cancer survivor, entrepreneur. At the height of his military career, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Lay was diagnosed with an advanced form of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and told he would never fly again. That is something probably best not said to a TOPGUN fighter pilot with over 50 combat missions and 400 carrier landings. Clearly not one to give up, he chose to undergo an experimental form of chemotherapy, beat the cancer, and Lt. Col. Jeffery Lay returned to the cockpit fittingly on Veteran’s Day 1998. Retiring from active military duty in 2006, he would go on to become a successful businessman and entrepreneur. In my Entrepreneurship class, he shared the tried and true military lesson of plan, brief, execute, and debrief, among others. It was definitely a lesson learned. Never underestimate the will of a future entrepreneur. In fact, his new book written with New York Times bestselling author Patrick Robinson, Topgun on Wall Street, needs to be on your Summer reading list.

Thank you…

This Memorial Day, take time to remember the heroes who have given their lives in service to our country. Thank a veteran who served with these brave men and women and reflect on the lessons they give us in life and business. Till next time, all the best for continued entrepreneurial success!

You can find more on our web site at

Thanks to Mark Zuckerburg, it is not necessary to define a social network. Whether through the movie, the recent IPO filing news or the many different businesses (such as LinkedIn) developed around the concept, nearly everyone understands the potential value of a social network. While the concept is understood, the process by which players are attracted to, retained within, and connected to other parts of the social network are less clear. Yet, these processes of attracting, retaining and connecting are critical if the entrepreneurial network of Greater Cincinnati is to realize its full potential.

Attracting Players to the Entrepreneurial Network
Many different organizations in the entrepreneurial network of Greater Cincinnati contribute to bringing new entrepreneurial individuals and organizations to the area. For example, funders and accelerators often require start-ups to re-relocate to Cincinnati. Both the Brandery and CincyTech act as magnets that attract excellent ideas and people to the region. Venture for America, thanks to the work of Eric Avner of US Bank / Haile Foundation, will bring talented college graduates from around the country to connect them to the entrepreneurial scene in Cincinnati. And universities – including three in the area ranked in the top 25 undergraduate entrepreneurship programs in the country – attract younger entrepreneurial talent from across the state and the country. One important question is whether the area is attracting and / or training the necessary technical skills. As longer term solutions emerge, shorter term solutions may include the growth of programs such as Code Academy. (more…)

The Power of No

Posted: May 13, 2012 by Micah Baldwin in Leadership, People

In startupland, which is full of Hackers and Hustlers, the Hacker spends their effort on excluding potential issues, features, product paths, partners, technologies, etc., while the Hustler focuses on including, well, everyone.

It is in the DNA of the Hustler to work towards getting a ‘yes.’ It’s what drives them. Getting users, investors, partners and the like to say yes to their vision and passion is the penultimate effort for a Hustler. For most, it creates the appearance of a lack of focus (for some) and a complete lack of focus (for others).

This is the primary rub between Hackers and Hustlers and the #1 reason that founders divorce. Hackers demand focus. Hustlers demand ‘yeses,’ which, by definition, require a high level of flexibility that leads to a lack of focus.

I am a Hustler. Yes, a Hustler with a capital H. And because of that, my #1 fault is my apparent inability to realize when I am being unfocused.

I love the word yes. Who doesn’t?


Yes means work. Yes means shifting priorities. Yes means roadmap adjustments. Yes means late nights and frustration. Yes means a loss of faith.

I hate the word no. Passionately hate it. It doesn’t compute. How can we become a better company because people are saying no. When I raised my Series A, 37 potential investors said no. That’s more than enough no to last me a lifetime.


About eight months ago, I realized this very dynamic. To help a Hacker be successful, they need the space to focus on problems and solutions, and to do that, everything that is not core to that mission has to be thrown away.

The Hustler has to learn to say no, and by doing that gives the Hacker the ability to build awesome things, because they aren’t spending time in meetings or thinking about how to “just make it work,” or make “that deal that is going to make the company” work. They are just building.

Eight months ago, I started to force myself to say No multiple times per day. I started with my dogs. And, yes, those punks didn’t listen, but at least I learned I could say the word and not feel bad. Then I took our product roadmap, and every time an idea or potential deal was brought to the table, I weighed it against that roadmap, and as a default, I said No.

No. Not right now. And the quality of our product and the speed at which it was developed – and more importantly, the ease at which it is selling – has accelerated.

The power of no.

Saying no for the Hustler is a learned skill. It seems like a simple thing, but it’s really the antithesis of a Hustler’s core value.

Does that mean a Hacker should learn to say yes?


Micah is CEO and Chief Community Caretaker of in Denver, Colorado, is a mentor at TechStars Boulder and is the Skypenote speaker at the UpTech Accelerator session in Northern Kentucky on June 4.


Presenting to Win

Posted: May 6, 2012 by Bill Cunningham in Marketing, People, Startup

“Up sluggard and waste not life, in the grave will be sleeping enough.”

— Benjamin Franklin

 Doug Hall of Eureka! Ranch fame often quotes one of our country’s earliest sages who regularly spoke in sound bites. Easily remembered, yet containing a powerful idea, every entrepreneur must master the skill of concise and clear communications.


Whether you are pitching to raise money, recruit volunteers or sell products and services, you must know who will be clapping for you. You wouldn’t read your Ph.D. thesis on Waardenburg Syndrome to a third grade class. You could explain the concept to a third grade class by using language familiar to their age group and environment. In fact, if you can’t explain your complex idea (product, service or strategy) using simple terms, then you really don’t understand it very well yourself.


While minimum viable products have become the rage in software development, minimum viable presentations can generate excellent results for entrepreneurs. In any public speaking event such as a Venture Association meeting, potential investor presentation or selling to a group, you have a limited amount of time to create a vision in your listener’s mind that is memorable and repeatable. The goal of your message is to get them to say “I just heard Todd speak about turning companies whose only customer was the NASA Space Shuttle program into commercialized businesses” to their colleagues, friends and investors.