Mark Cuban’s Advice To Entrepreneurs – Risk, Energy, and Funding

According to online dictionaries, an entrepreneur is “a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money” or “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.”

Well, I get a check for both of those. My past venture into the fashion industry was fraught with risk and cost me plenty. Now, I have little to show for it, save for a closet full of the most amazing handbags EVER CREATED.

I’m normally a risk-averse person, but somehow, when I’m on a quest to find the formula for success in some endeavor, I throw tons at it – money, energy, time – hoping to find the magical components. The problem is, when you invest in something you really don’t understand, you come up empty more often than not. Knowledge is power, sometimes more so than money, and that’s what struck me with this video from Mark Cuban.

The big takeaways?

Seeking funding for a new business venture is failure. It’s an admission that you can’t hack it on your own, can’t find success with the resources you already have, and need to sell-out in order to plunge forth. The question is, how successful will you really be when you are on the hook for millions of dollars to others who believed enough in your idea that you probably could have rocketed on your own first, albeit a little slower??

I never thought of it that way…

My latest venture is challenging, to say the least. And while I’ve researched the concept itself, I’ve thought many times about how I’ll pitch the idea to investors, how I can get into an accelerator, how I can get the attention of venture capitalists…all so I can command funding and leverage expertise from those who have already found success.

But after watching this video, I realize my mindset needs some fine-tuning. Funding is not necessarily the answer. Preparation is the missing element in my formula. It’s where I fell short with my first business. Not taking enough time to learn about the industry before jumping in, spreading myself and my resources too thin to be even slightly effective, not doing enough research in the form of focus groups prior to designing my products. It was a totally ad hoc, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, throw-lots-of-crap-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks process, with no tried-and-tested repeatable elements. I had no blueprint, no measurable metrics, and no plans for future execution. So, what did I do? Hired a new, more expensive PR firm (which did squat, btw), designed even more products without customer input, spent more money than I could afford…only to land flat on my face with no answers and lots of anguish.

I never acquired the knowledge, though I did amass mountains (now they’re more like hills) of debt as a result. I could have mitigated the risk with a deep understanding of the business landscape, including potential pitfalls and competition elements. But not me! I’m an instant gratification whore, way too impulsive and impatient to waste time on LEARNING, of all things.

To my own peril. I’ve raised many a glass to that toast, regrettably…

So, Mark. Thanks for the advice. Knowledge is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. The more ammo you have, the more prepared you are for battle. And yes, it IS a battle. But winnable if your head is in the right place.

So You Wanna Be A Blogger?

Blogging is a great way to connect with a target audience on a somewhat personal level on one condition… you actually BLOG. It sounds great in theory – start a blog, write about a cool topic, get a bunch of readers to follow you, and BOOM! All of a sudden you’ve graduated to Perez Hilton status, with 14,500,000 estimated monthly users. Who wouldn’t want THAT????

But you need compelling content that people crave. It doesn’t happen overnight and it definitely won’t happen unless you do a few key things right up front.

Your first step is to figure out your topic and blog name. It can be your name or something that is related to the type of content you want to write about. When I created my blog, I knew I wanted to write about innovation, entrepreneurship and startups. So I agonized for DAYS and finally came up with The Idea Mama. It’s catchy, right??? =)

Once you have a name, you’re ready to roll! So here it is… my top 10 list for starting a new blog! These steps come way before your fingers hover over the keyboard, itching to type that first entry. There’s a lot of prep that goes into the setup. Don’t rush the process. Take your time, think long and hard about your goals with the blog. These tips will help you get started.

Group of BLOG related 3D words. Part of a series.

  1. Buy the domain. You can’t have a website without a domain name. It’s your home address… on the web. Go to http://www.godaddy.com and find out if it’s available. If it is, GRAB IT! If you want to test the waters, buy it for one year instead of three.
  2. Select a blogging platform. I use WordPress and I like it. I’m not wild about TypePad. I’ve used that in the past and found it to be extremely frustrating. One of my other sites, Author Navigation, was built with Weebly. They have a free trial available. Weekly is very intuitive. You can drag and drop components onto your page according to the theme you select. Easy to use and very reasonably priced.
  3. Get a logo for your website. Fiverr is THE place to go for a cost-effective graphic. It’s one of my favorite places on the web. It’s a community of freelancers who offer gigs for graphic design, online marketing, advertising, music and audio, writing and translation – all starting at $5. You can always beef up your gig for an additional amount but let me tell you, I’ve gotten kick ass results with only $5. Go. NOW! If you need a recommendation, I’ve got a guy… =)
  4. Create a Twitter handle…I have a couple… @kristen_luciani, @theideamama. Use your new blog name and if it isn’t available, come up with some variation. Then, HAPPY TWEETING! You’ll share your own content, as well as content you come across on the web and with your fellow tweeps. We’ll get to that in the next tip…
  5. Create a CrowdFire account. This will help you find the right target audience to follow on Twitter. It helps to grow your following, which you NEED to grow. You’ll also be able to find INFLUENCERS using this tool. Influencers are people who are subject matter experts in your topic and have a large following, which represents a large opportunity for consumption of quality content. Establish relationships with a few key influencers. Retweet and comment on their content and hopefully, they will eventually return the favor.
  6. Create a Facebook page for your blog and start to get likes. Make sure you post to it several times daily. You can post images, links to articles or anything else that is relevant to your blog. The purpose is to engage with your fan base and sharing compelling content is the best way to engage. Videos are cool too. People really appreciate the personal interaction, so get out of your comfort zone.
  7. Set up an Instagram account. You can post images or 15 second-long videos. AND you can link your Instagram account to Facebook and Twitter, so any of your images will post to all three locations.
  8. Establish a Hootsuite account. This is a tool that allows you to consolidate all your social networks and post to all at once. TIME SAVER!!!!!!
  9. Register an account on Quora. This is a great way to get exposure to a new audience. Establish yourself as a subject mater expert on your topic by answering questions in that category. It really helps get your voice heard and people will start to become familiar with the value you bring to the table. AND, you can always use those questions/responses as blog posts!
  10. Subscribe to a photo site. I belong to Dollar Photo Club. It has great images and is extremely cost-effective. $99 per year entitled you to 99 images. Each additional one will cost only $1. There are plenty of other sites, but this is my preference. You can’t post random Google images on your blog, even if you credit the website. If you get caught, you’ll get a nasty letter warning  you to take the image down or else legal action will be taken and you’ll most likely be threatened with a fine.

There are also a ton of informative books on blogging. Here are a few of my faves:

Feel free to browse other titles…just be careful that the book wasn’t published too long ago otherwise the industry will have changed too much for the information to be really relevant. Sometimes, though, you can find diamonds in the rough.

Okay, I’ve gotten you started. Next steps?

WRITE, then SHARE!!!!

Social Media Ideas Designer Desk Architectural Tools Office Concept

Social Media Ideas Designer Desk Architectural Tools Office Concept

Can You Be Disruptive Enough To Win $50K??

TechCrunch Disrupt 2015 is upon us. It’s time to take the party to NYC, for the bargain price of $2,995. General admission gets you access to ALL – rub elbows with up and coming entrepreneurs, hear from industry superstars, check out all the cutting edge technology…maybe party is an understatement. =)

Courtesy of TechCrunch

Courtesy of TechCrunch

You may recognize the event name from the HBO show Silicon Valley. Season 2 premiered on Sunday night and although I had high hopes of being able to stay up until 10, it wasn’t happening. So Hubby and I watched last night and it was awesome. Long time coming, definitely didn’t disappoint.

Anyway, I digress.

Last season, Pied Piper presented their compression algorithm at Tech Crunch Disrupt in Cali. All I remember thinking was, how flipping cool would it be to actually GO? Answer – SUPER COOL. The Hackathon, a 24-hour event for developers and designers, kicks off the festivities and guess what? It really happens just like in the show. All the companies present their creations but only one takes home the famed Disrupt Cup and $50,000 prize. Hundreds of startups will be in attendance…only one will claim the top prize and instant stardom (okay, maybe not the last part but they’ll at least they’ll be able to keep the lights on until some VC throws some more seed money at them).

It would be AWESOME to hear from people like Ben Rubin and Kayvon Beykpour, CEOs of Meerkat and Periscope respectively, Carly Fiorina, the former boss of HP, and Dennis Crowley who’ll chat about Foursquare and Swarm.

Energy, entrepreneurship and excitement will be exploding out of the Manhattan Center in a few short weeks.

How ironic that I’ll be headed to the Valley at the same time. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Why Should I Care???

Okay. If I haven’t made this point clear in the past, let me try again.

People are INUNDATED with information, 24 x 7. If yours doesn’t have the potential to minimally raise an eyebrow, KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!

I’ve experienced this firsthand in my own entrepreneurial endeavors and it never ceases to amaze me how some people just don’t care about contributing to the overload. They have something to say and darn it, it shall be said. The only problem is, oftentimes, NOBODY CARES!!!!

Business owners are focused on distributing a message but they don’t always focus on the value proposition of said message. The value prop is the internal benefit derived by the recipient of the communication.  It basically tells people why they should care about the information being presented.

  • Why do I care about your product or service?
  • How will it improve my life?
  • What makes yours better than the competition?
  • And oh, by the way, what can I get for trying it?

Yeah, if you hadn’t already guessed, freebies and discounts go a LONG way. It’s worth the investment if you can convert email subscribers to customers.

Takeaway? Make the message meaningful and impactful and give prospective customers an incentive to BUY.

I AM…The Idea Mama

You know the moment when inspiration strikes. The whole EUREKA experience…it’s incredible, isn’t it?

And do you know what’s even better? You mention the fabulous idea to an objective outsider and they’re just as charged about it as you are.  That’s the second you know…you have SOMETHING and it’s BIG!!!

#bestfeelingever (LOL!)

Anyhoo, I’m kind of there now.  Yesterday, I came up with not one but TWO ideas…one is for a new romantic suspense series which I started and LOOOOOVE and one is for a business of sorts.  More to come on the latter…still a bit too pre-beta for discussion.

Ask me if I worked on either tonight.

NOPE!

Sometimes it’s nice to have the ideas, the hope and the promise of what can materialize once the gears start cranking. It’s kind of like a honeymoon period…before you have to do the real work that makes all the fabulousness become a reality.

Yeah, I like the reflection period…before all the stress and anxiety kick in. But that’s all part of the process…and how the magic ultimately happens.  =)

Shark Tank Needs To Invest In ‘High & Dry’

Wow. I just saw Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec invest $1.2 million for a 20% stake in a company called Red Dress Boutique. Daymond John didn’t get into it at all and clothing is his niche. Wonder why…

‘Shark Tank’ Sneak Peek: Red Dress Boutique Seeks $600,000

Hmm…just checked the website.  TEMPORARILY CLOSED FOR MAINTENANCE?! Maybe Daymond was the smart one in this scenario.

I love innovation and the concept of angel investing. The sharks have fought over some awesome inventions over the years but this one? I’m not convinced. And I love clothes.  But I don’t really see anything unique here.  In fact…I kinda see a lot of things I’d never wear in a million.  Plus, if I actually WANTED to buy, I couldn’t!

I have an idea for you guys…

It’s called….wait for it….High and Dry!

I’ve got a bunch of clothes that I can’t just toss into the dryer. Some of my jeans and shirts are tight enough without being shrunk further. So I need to air dry them.  But a lot of fabrics become crunchy and stiff.  What to do???

Well, I came up with a new invention…a mannequin-type form that uses electricity to gently steam dry clothing items.  You dress the mannequin and can set the force of air depending on the type of fabric.  Because of the way the clothing lies on the mannequin, it eliminates the need for ironing and once dry, you just transfer the item(s) from mannequin to hangar. When you’re done, you just wheel High and Dry into a closet.

Brilliant, right?

Recipe For A Startup Romance

If you saw my last post “Wanna Learn How To Start A Startup?” you know that running a startup is pretty much a 24 x 7 gig, which begs the question, are there any slivers of time in a given day dedicated to dating and romance? I mean, even entrepreneurs need love, right?

Interesting and intriguing questions, considering I’m a romance author and I basically create love stories out of circumstances that wouldn’t ever materialize in reality.  I can make anything happen…to anyone…and find the perfect resolution for all to end happily.

Courtesy of Entrepreneur

Courtesy of Entrepreneur

But in the real world, things aren’t so simple. They can’t be handled with a few clicks on a keyboard and a couple of glasses of wine.

The Truth About Entrepreneurship And Dating

I read about a company called Underground Attached, a unique dating experience that brings together 40 (20 men and 20 women) prescreened, like-soul and like-minded people for an evening of play (no, get your minds out of the gutter) and hopefully, a few love connections. Put a roomful of driven, ambitious professionals together and hopefully, sparks will fly…as long as they can stay off their iPhonesGalaxies and CrackBerries long enough to exchange business cards.

39 Signs You’re Dating An Entrepreneur

Sounds good in theory.  Of course, if all else fails, they could also find solace in using my brilliant app idea to build their own virtual reality porn star and their own…well, read the post if you can’t figure it out.

Maybe entrepreneurs should look at potential mates as prospective “investors.” You want someone who will support your goals and help drive you to achieve, someone who understands what it takes to be a success and will be patient waiting for the big returns.