Archive for November, 2014

What Makes a Great VC

Posted: November 29, 2014 by Micah Baldwin in Culture, Ecosystem, Money, Startup

Micah BaldwinEvery year as the Newly Minted VCs begin to settle in and blog/tweet, there is a bevy of posts about how venture capital as it stands today is broken, and they, with their new insights and operational histories are going to fix it.

Of course, most of them become what they rail against over the course of the next few years.

As I have started to think more and more about jumping the fence full force into the investing side of the entrepreneurial equation I keep asking myself two questions:

What makes up the perfect VC, and can I be that.

For many, it seems that for founder/CEOs the answer has been distilled into three key components:

  1. Keep money in the bank.
  2. Recruit amazing talent.
  3. Articulate the vision.


Redefining Competition in the Era of Innovation

Posted: November 23, 2014 by Bob Gilbreath in Innovation, Marketing, Startup

bob-gilbreath-ahaThis week we discovered that a competitor in our market was buying our company’s trademark with Google keywords and making an untrue claim against our product. It created a burst of shock and anger in our offices and led to some back-and-forth drama. But after handling the situation and stepping back, we realized that this was a futile effort that completely back-fired on the other company. In this new economy, the nature of competition is being redefined—and entrepreneurs must reset their views.

Clients, partners, investors and job prospects frequently ask for a list of our competitors. It is a natural way to try to size up a company, and in business we are naturally competitive. I started my career in large companies where we constantly fought for share of the same pie. I will never forget my first job in banking, when my competitor stole my largest client with a free lunch and lower interest rate. On the Tide brand at Procter & Gamble, we obsessed over every basis point of share shift.

But competition is vastly different when you are working in new and innovative markets. Instead of fighting over the same territory, innovation allows you to discover and settle completely open spaces.


The Case for a Strong Board

Posted: November 9, 2014 by Bill Cunningham in People, Planning
Clay Mathile, Founder of IAMS

Clay Mathile, Founder of IAMS

If you’re willing to work and subject yourself to the scrutiny of other’s [creating a board] is the best investment you’ll ever make in your life.”

     — Clay Mathile, Aileron’s founder and former chairman of Iams Corporation.

Entrepreneurs carry a reputation of being self-made, uber-confident and highly capable business people. It takes guts, chutzpah and moxie to create something out of nothing – especially when others can’t see around the corners that you can. As a deep subject matter expert in your field, you are the reigning monarch leading your team into battle with great products, great vision and great expectations.

bill-cunninghamYet, great entrepreneurs build a network of support to fill in the gaps – you just can’t be great at everything. When you run into challenges that need some brain power to solve – who are you going to call? Maybe Ghostbusters can help, but more than likely you should rely on the wisdom of a well-formed and functioning board of directors or board of advisors.
So if you have never created, recruited or managed a board – how do you get started? Aileron offers several courses in board creation and management including sessions for board members to learn how to become most effective. Assuming you can’t fit that into your schedule, you should be begin by putting together a list of attributes of ideal board members. Diversity on a board is great – familiarity on a board is not so great. You want to have different perspectives from industry and functional areas to add value to your interactions. Talent that represents finance, marketing, sales, your specific vertical, organizational (people) expertise can be extremely helpful. Recruiting your accountant, attorney and your Uncle Joe may not give you the answers you need to tough questions.


Fear Instant Gratification

Posted: November 2, 2014 by Tom Heuer in Culture, Leadership, People, Startup

Tom Heuer, Miami University Center for EntrepreneurshipAll businesses and their leaders experience fears.  The fears could range from products being disrupted to the defection of top talent to the loss of important customers.  Fears are also real and ever present in start-ups today.  Will we be able to attract the talent to launch the business?  Will funding be available to launch the business?  Have we really identified our primary customer?    These fears are real and are generally self-inflicted because we lose patience and seek instant gratification.  Business success – whether in start-ups, small businesses or large corporations – requires patience and the shunning of instant gratification.  But, the race to achieve short-term results is a magnet for instant gratification thinking.  It is simply says “let’s take the easy route versus expending extra effort to become great.”

I have lackadaisical students every semester believing that the business world is just waiting to draft them in the first round. It is hard to dissuade them even with intensive coaching. There will be NO instant gratification during the recruiting process. Start-ups rush to launch their business even though they have not fully identified their primary customer or differentiated their product.  Companies recruit external talent into key roles without fully understanding whether the candidate’s personal values fit the organization’s culture.  Instant gratification treats these recruits like mercenaries – make things happen now.  Senior management places pressure on the sales force to close deals prematurely so the quarterly numbers look inflated.  This action mitigates the short-term problem but creates credibility issues going forward between senior management, the sales team and the customer.  Instant gratification’s major purpose is to minimize potential.