Category: Focus

“Technology must be like oxygen: ubiquitous, necessary and invisible.” – Chris Lehmann

It’s official.  I have more social technology than I can effectively use.  So now I have to have technology to manage the technology and I have to schedule time to manage the technology that manages the technology…

There is always a point where the technology begins to manage us and you have to question if it’s actually providing a return on your investment of time and energy (and dollars!)

It all comes back to understanding your customer or your audience or your tribe.  Then choose the technology that best delivers your value to them.

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“Economic Development is like hearding cats but some of the felines are our own creation” – Phillip Singerman

Economic Development is a bit of a stretch for entrepreneurs except that there are a lot of programs in the community that offer support for fledgling startups.  These folks get funding from grants and sponsors and the way they track progress is through measuring things like jobs created, revenue generated, investments awarded, etc.

In that world, there are a lot of stakeholders each after the same results and often in competition for resources.  In other words, COMPETITION!

The point for the entrepreneur is this:  being part of a community requires relationships of all sorts.  Many of these relationships will pull you along in directions that suit their incentives.  Here’s a good example: in order to win the cash prize for the pitch competition, you have to attend the 13 week accelerator program.  There’s nothing wrong at all with this model until you get to the point where you are going around trying to win competitions.

When the time come to go raise your funding, focus on that rather than the noise that goes on around you.

Phillip Singerman spoke at the SSTI Annual Conference in 2013


BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Do one thing well” – Chinese Proverb

“We have a platform technology” was the way the entrepreneur described her company idea.  Investors love to hear that your idea could benefit more than one market but it comes with a curse.  It tends to make the entrepreneur opportunistic.  Opportunism is the enemy of focus.

If, during your customer discovery process, you come across a new market that is very attractive, you might choose to pivot.  But understand this; a pivot is a move in a different direction which means you stop going down the path you did before.

You will spend 60 – 100% of the time and effort to develop your market and business model as you did developing the product itself.  As a startup, it’s really hard to do more than one.

Pivot means CHANGE DIRECTION, not stay the course plus add one.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Caroson

“All of the best things I did at Apple came from (a) not having money, and (b) not having done it before, ever.” – Steve Wozniak

Doing something that’s never been done provides the creativity.  Not having enough money provides motivation and simplicity.

Together you get innovation.

Sometimes it’s the boundaries that spark the imagination but they also eliminate noise.  If you can’t move right or left, the only way is forward.  Another way of saying it is, the things you can’t change may point the way to the things you can.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“Urgency rarely leads to trust” – Seth Godin

It seems like entrepreneurship is sometimes like moving from one crisis to another.  Either you’re running out of money or the big deal with the key customer is falling through or perhaps the product still has to many bugs to ship.  And there’s always another week to put off starting the SBIR grant, until there’s not.

Urgency leads to desperation which is rarely attractive.  If people sense you are desperate, it’s a sign your company will not be around much longer, which only aggravates the situation.

There’s this list of things you should “always” be doing:

  • Selling – sell something as soon as possible.
  • Raising capital – don’t until you run out of money to start raising the next round.  Investors take their sweet time
  • Customer discovery – Talk to new customers every week
  • Innovation – “ideate” every day

There’s no easy answer.  There are great tools and concepts that help manage time.  Two I like are Jim Collins’ “Stop Doing List” and Steven Covey’s “First Things First” and of course the old fashioned To-Do list.  Learn to recognize the things that are urgent but not important.

There is also your team.  A great leader picks great teammates and delegates important tasks.  It allows the opportunity to focus.

The chaos never goes away though.  It is the nature of startups.  So there’s one skill you’ll have to master and be comfortable with:

Fake it till you make it!!!


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“We’re gonna fix it till it works!” – Connie

The conversation took place at an entrepreneurial symposium at a national lab.  A researcher named Connie was talking about her research in the context of starting a company.  Her excitement was contagious as she was applying what she had learned about customer needs to the development of the technology she hoped to be the basis of a future startup.  She said, that the prototype didn’t perform the way she wanted it yet but said “We’re gonna fix it till it works!”

Her determination was inspiring.  She had made the transition from proving what is possible to delivering a solution to a problem.  She’s an entrepreneur.

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson


“When you make a business, you get to make a little universe where you control all the laws.” – Derek Sivers

Starting a company is a magical time.  It’s a time when all the potential and possibility are in front of you and the vision of making change and meaning are the strongest.

It’s also a time when you control pretty much all that can be controlled.  You get to test your hypotheses and make your pivots without worrying about the approval of investors and board members.  The only thing that matters is finding out what your customers are willing to pay for solving their problems.

Enjoy this time but use it very wisely.  Having control is not about appeasing the ego.  It’s about getting to your core value proposition as quickly and cheaply as possible.  There’s a time for involving partners, key employees, investors, boards of directors and the rank and file.  You will spend more and more of your time managing communication between all these groups.  Make sure by then you are on the right track.

Read “Anything You Want” by Derek Sivers

Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“If you have more than three priorities, you have no priorities.” – Maggie Fox

I find that thing I am most likely to get done in any given day is the thing that is on my mind when I first wake up and think, “What have I got to get done today?”  That thing may or may not be the right thing but this is for sure: I can’t focus on more than two or three important tasks in any given time.  Everything else becomes noise.

When the entrepreneurs I work with become overwhelmed, it’s usually because there is the sinking feeling they can’t do it all.

NEWSFLASH:  You can’t!!!!!!

First start, and keep, a “STOP doing” list.  Not everything you do is as important is you might think.

Then delegate.  You are not the only person in the world that can do everything.  If it’s repetitive, hire someone or outsource it.

The E-Myth reminded us to stop working “IN” the business so we can work “ON” the business.


Blogging Gazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson