“A performance is a conversation between you and an audience.” – Livingston Taylor

Pitching your company is a performance.  Singing a song in front of an audience is a performance.  The experience is completely different but the mechanics are exactly the same.  You are sharing a story with a group of people you hope will respond in your favor.

Make it personal and conversational.  Engage them where they want to be.  Make it important to them.

Read “Stage Performance” by Livingston Taylor

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Anything could happen. For instance, a fez.” – Dr. Who

Customer Discovery can lead you to some unexpected destinations.  One of the companies we work with started life as a really high tech device to monitor radiation in research environments.  While they were trying to figure out how to build the device at scale, they determined there was not a good way to document technical specifications in a way that was easy to update.  So they created their own solution and found out the market need for their creation was huge compared to researchers monitoring radiation.  So they had a big pivot and became a software company.

When you focus on solving customer problems, anything could happen.

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” – Walter Lippmann

Hang around people who will disagree with you.

They will challenge you to think differently.  People know what they believe but how many actually know why?

Until someone challenges you on your ideas, you haven’t gone through the process of understanding why and you may have blinded yourself to alternative, and better, possibilities.

This is important when you are talking to your customers.  You have your idea that you believe in and you want to know what they think.  We are happy to hear form those who agree with us but the idea gets better when it’s challenged.

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“The last time I signed something without looking it over, I ended up in the Army.” – Unknown

There is the famous scene in “The Social Network” where Eduardo Sevarin meets with the company attorney to sign some documents.  They were just “standard stuff”.  Little did he know he was giving up the farm.

Attorneys can get expensive but they are worth it in the long run.  Legal documents are complicated by design.  You need someone who speaks the language.

Blogginggazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Seems like voter apathy has been around awhile.  In Tennessee, they only expect about 1/3 of registered voters will participate in this year’s election.

Steve Case was on Charlie Rose last night to provide a very interesting update on entrepreneurship in America.  His current job is Chairman of the Startup America Partnership, appointed the the President of the United States.  Central to that discussion was the government’s role in helping startups and entrepreneurs be successful.  This includes federal and state initiatives.  A big one is the recent passage of the 2012 Jobs Act which has made equity based crowd funding possible.  Now if the SEC can get through the sausage making of creating the rules, maybe it will happen soon.  Since 2009 Tennessee has enjoyed a state sponsored  program called TNInvestco which made $200 million in insurance tax credits available to create 10 seed stage venture capital funds.  The National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy have deployed technology commercialization programs specifically aimed at getting technology out of the research lab through startups.

Here’s the thing – a lot of entrepreneurs we work with are by nature, skeptical of government but our federal, state and local governments have supported entrepreneurship like never before.  Entrepreneurs have a big time stake in our government’s role in entrepreneurial support.

So should you get involved?

Please vote today!

“The further you are from the action, the more you need policies to control people you don’t know and outcomes you can’t see.” – Dan Rockwell

The heady startup days are a time when all hands are on deck and titles aren;t as important as getting things done.  If you survive to make it to the growth stage, you will have to hire more people who do things you will not be aware of or even understand.  You simply cannot keep a tight reign on everything.  You will also find you spend ever more time being the boss rather than being the entrepreneur, the innovator, the inventor.

This is a necessary transition in companies that grow.  Not all entrepreneurs make the change which is why the founder of a successful startup may not be the CEO at the growth stage.  The thing to keep in mind is this – The day will come when you can’t make all the decisions.  The choices are these:

  • Make the transition
  • Continue as Chief Development Officer and let someone else take on being “the boss”
  • Exit
  • Do nothing, stay a lifestyle business

The avoidance of company rules, bureaucracy and policies may be one of the reasons you chose to do a startup in the first place.  But be aware that your ability to grow is dependent on making the transition from closely managed to process management.

“Trust me, no one will ever complain if you delete a few PowerPoint slides from your presentation and tell a story instead.” – Annette Simmons

Somewhere along the way, PowerPoint got declared the standard in business communication.  It a powerful tool but it is still a pretty small box.  PowerPoint dictates how you tell your story if you let it.  Boring templates with bulleted text in one or two columns and colorful bar charts.  Then, to snazzy it up, you can add noises and swoops and checkerboard fade ins.

Somewhere, your listener indicates they are no longer listening.

But if there is a compelling story, one that they will personally relate to; one they have not heard before, one you are passionate in the sharing… that is memorable.  If nothing else, they will remember you.

Put your pitch together without slides.  Then decide if a handful of slides would help the message.

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Norman Lear, who is 92 years old, was on the Tavis Smiley Show last night.  Mr. Lear said he couldn’t remember from whom he heard the quote but a quick Google search identified Mr. von Goethe as the source.  Mr. Lear shared a moment of decision when the studio threatened to fire him.  He checked with his attorney to see if they could take his wife and kids.  Then he said, “back up the truck.”

The point is to take action on your dreams.  Until you decide to commit to something, nothing is sure.  This includes people out there who want to help you.  Once you make a move, someone you know will come along and say, “you need to talk to this person.”  Opportunities will cross your path that seem random but they are not.

We spend too much time on all the risks that keep us from moving forward.  The world needs great ideas and great leaders.  We are waiting to follow someone.  Get on with it!

BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Is a business plan always necessary? Actually, it may be detrimental, especially at the beginning of company creation.” – Tjan, Harrington, Hsieh

In their fine book, Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck, these three collaborators open up the discussion by saying that entrepreneurs too often overthink their business at the beginning.  True to B-School form, they create a detailed business plan that is “precisely incorrect.”

There is a time at the beginning when you have to see if your wonderful idea for changing the world has legs.  That is, does anyone else want their world changed?  Spending too much time in analysis before you actually try your idea out with customers can not only waste time, but lead you down the wrong path.

Put your concept for a product or service down in tangible form and share it.  Get feedback.  A business plan can’t do that for you.

Read “Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck” by Tjan, Harrington and Hsieh


BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson

“Giving people what they want isn’t always what they want.” – Seth Godin

I want the “Save” button to work in my version of MS Word for Mac.  It’s irritating.  But getting the fix won’t change my opinion of the product one way or the other.  It just eliminates an aggravation.  What I really want is a new word processor experience but I don’t know what that is.  So I am left with comparing what I think I want to my existing experience with features and functions familiar to me.  I have limited my thinking to making the status quo incrementally better.

Napster changed the way people listen to music.  They were truly disruptive.  For good or bad things changed forever.  Yesterday, I asked a group of college students “who pays for music?”  One hand raised.  People want free music but do they really want the kind of music you can get for free?  We will find out soon enough.

Alex Osterwalder has a new book out called, “Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want “.  In it, he talks about observing how your customers interact with your product, not just giving it to them and taking credit for a new customer.  A product that gets put on the shelf is one nobody tells their friends about.

Free songs that sound like every other song and get listened to once on a streaming service will very likely not be what we call music in the future.  Is that what we want?  Really?


BloggingGazelle is published daily by Shawn Carson