Monthly Archives: July 2013

Don’t ignore the elephant in the room

elephantintheroom-ckI’ve had the opportunity to speak hundreds of times to large and small audiences all over the world and I assumed I had seen everything – that was until today. When I arrived at the Samsung Mobile App Academy I learned that the event organizer had Photoshopped my slides to remove images of the Apple devices in favor of Samsung devices (the sponsor of the event). IMHO, not cool. It was so surreal I didn’t really know what to say. In one slide I showed a graphic of ShopSavvy on iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7 – the point of the slide was to demonstrate to the audience how different platforms require different UI/UX. They made each of the phones Samsung devices – seriously confusing the point I was trying to make. The representatives were VERY concerned that we not show non-Samsung devices to the students since Samsung was the sponsor of the Academy. They also asked me to minimize any mention of the iPhone.

photoI considered not going on, but at the end of the day I was already there and the only ones who I’d really punish would be the kids. Here is the back story: Several months ago I was approached to be a guest speaker at the 2013 Samsung Mobile App Academy. They wanted me to prepare a 30-45 minute presentation detailing our experiences building ShopSavvy that would be appropriate for high school students. Normally I would have turned down this sort of speaking engagement because it was going to require that I build a presentation and essentially give up one or two days of my time, but since it was for high school students I decided to go ahead and help out. The program provides high school students an opportunity to work with industry leaders in the mobile application space and the opportunity to win various scholarships. Students interested in the program had to prepare app concepts and based on those submissions the best were invited to attend the Academy.

At the end of the day everyone at the event was very nice and apologetic, but I can’t help but think that this isn’t the way to protect your brand. Apple is ALWAYS the elephant in the room if you are talking about mobile applications – Samsung ignoring them seems disingenuous at best. On one hand Samsung’s participation makes this event possible – and it is a great way to inspire kids to build applications. On the other hand hiding the fact that iOS exists is downright silly. It’s like having a conversation about racism in America without being able to mention African Americans – it’s not intellectually honest. Samsung owns the event, but if you invite unpaid volunteers (i.e. people like me) to come talk about their experience building mobile apps you shouldn’t be surprised they are going to talk about Apple AND Android. Samsung is the big winner here, why sully the victory by creating a story like this? Samsung is now the largest smartphone maker on the planet – they should be comfortable with their leadership position. Oh please don’t Photoshop my slides moments before my presentation.

Are Accelerators Derailing Entrepreneurs?

Generic 1960s pic of a father and son scene.What if the advice entrepreneurs are getting from mentors/investors who participate in accelerators is wrong? How is an entrepreneur to know which advice to follow and which advice to ignore?

Fred Wilson is talking about mentor/investor whiplash in context to accelerator programs in his latest blog post. In it he answers the age old question of how much an entrepreneur “react to the feedback they are getting advising them to do things differently, pivot, change the product, change the strategy, etc.”

For the last few years I’ve been on the ‘mentor’ side of the equation and I’m always concerned that the startups I advise will actually take my advice. Whenever I warn entrepreneurs that I don’t really know what I am talking about they can’t help but chuckle, but the sad fact is that I’ve spent almost NO time actually working on or in their business.

My advice when it comes to advice? Listen to it. Absorb it. Evaluate it. Then either incorporate it or reject it. Whatever you do, don’t do anything immediately. Reflect on advice and consider the source. Fred’s advice is likely better than mine so take a minute and go read his post.

Mark Cuban’s Sharktank Deals

mark_cuban_sharktankIn 2001 a television program called the Tiger of Money aired on Japanese television that featured entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas to a panel of investors. The format, called SharkTank in the US, has become wildly popular around the world. While I have seen the show a few times my son watches it religiously stoking his interest in entrepreneurial ventures. When Mark Cuban joined Sharktank in season two the rest of my family became avid viewers of the show. I’ve been doing a little research into the companies that Mark has invested in from the show and you might be surprised by some of the numbers*:

  • Number of Investments: 35
  • Total Invested Capital: $7.7M
  • Average Invested Capital Per Deal: $219K
  • Average Equity Stake Per Deal: 34.8%

Here is a breakdown of the deals:

*note – in some cases Mark co-invests with another shark and in some cases the deal might have fallen through prior to close.

HAUL Update & Help Wanted

Haul-New-LogoIt has been a big week here at HAUL. We are firmly ensconced in the now open DEC (Dallas Entrepreneur Center) and have a team of five (along with a gaggle of contractors). We received noticed that we were accepted into an early stage startup accelerator (they have yet to announce so I won’t steal their thunder). Finally, we were selected to represent the Dallas startup scene at the Grow Conference being help in Vancouver next month to compete in their startup pitch competition.

We are now beginning work on our MVP – a marketplace for haulers and we need to start beefing up the team. For now we are working with third-party contractors, but we would love to bring design and development in house. If you are looking to join a fast growing startup lead by experienced entrepreneurs (Robert Bennett, Molly Cain and me) let me know and we’ll see if there is a place for you on the team. At HAUL you’ll get to work with hundreds of really talented video content creators and celebrities – think Hollywood meets the Valley meets QVC – and it all will be happening right here in Dallas.

Open positions include:

  • CTO (strong experience with agile development & building teams)
  • Developers (PHP, iOS, Java, Git, agile) (4)
  • YouTube Experts (SEO, API, OAuth) (1)
  • Designers (UX, UI, Dribble) (2)
  • Project Managers (scrum, agile) (1)
  • QA Analyst (1)

If you would like apply please send me your LinkedIn profile (required), your Github account for developers and your Dribble account for designers. Email to amuse@startupmuse.com. Thanks!