As a writer, sometimes I just write to put my feelings into words, this one of those times.
I try to inspire people with my writing. I enjoy writing about my personal experiences and failures so that others can learn from them. Receiving inspiration from others is what helps keep me going as an entrepreneur & writer. One person I can always count on for inspiration is my father Sal.
Recent events have made me realized that I honestly haven't been appreciative enough for everything he's done for me. Honestly I probably haven't been the best son I could be but I want to change that.
When we we’re children, our parents are usually are number one heroes. Sometimes growing up fogs up our perception of who heroes really are. We idolize people that we want to be like and take the mountains our parents moved to make us happy for granted.
I was my mother’s and father’s first born. I am the oldest of three children. As a child, we grew up on not the best side of town. My father wasn’t formally college educated but he was then and still is the smartest man I know.
My father taught himself how to work on computers when I was a young child. I remember watching him constantly read War and Peace length Microsoft Certification Textbooks for hours on end. I didn’t understand and appreciate why he spent 8 hour stretches in his room reading those books all night after work but I definitely do appreciate why he did it now. He was able to change his career as well where we lived.
My dad distilled the entrepreneurial spirit I have today by the time I was in elementary school. He used to always tell me I can do whatever he want. It seemed a little silly back then but he used to have my stand in front of the mirror and tell myself I can accomplish anything I put my mind too or something along those lines.
Because of this, by the time I was 12 I made up my mind I wanted to become a millionaire. He did such a good job at this I began believing it. Actually, I never stopped believing it. However I now know it’s not about the money but more importantly what value I create for others through my entrepreneurial endeavors.
When I became a teenager I started feeling this strange guilt and entitlement for having a father who loved me and did everything for me. My father lost his father at a very young age, well before he became a teenager. My dad had to learn how to be a man on his own, he became a very damn good one at that. It was this in combination with knowing quite a few people that grew up without dad that made me feel some sort of guilt for having a father.
Being young, immature and having had a chip on my shoulder, I resented the fact that having a loving dad made my life easier than anybody else's. Truth be told, it did make my life much easier. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I had without my dad.
Even though my father didn't go to a university, he’d always stress to me the importance of going to college. As a teenager I always thought college was a pipe dream. I didn’t know anybody personally who graduated from college. I eventually became the first in my family to graduate college, my younger brother Justin followed suit and my baby brother Vincent is up next.
I remember in high-school my dad would pressure me to choose engineering as my major for college. However I found math and science extremely boring and to be completely honest, I was going through a phase where I didn’t want to end up like my father. I think most teenagers experience this in some sort of shape or manner. I didn’t want to grow up to be a “nerd”.
When I attended the junior college COS, I choose business as my major as a way to rebel against my dad and his nerdy ways. To me business was the opposite of engineering. It’s funny things eventually became full circle and I am now a tech startup CEO and my dad is the biggest fan of the technologies we build at Benchmark Intelligence.
Eventually graduating from COS and attending Fresno State changed my life. It was the first time I was around a large group of like minded people my age chasing their dreams.
I choose entrepreneurship as my business concentration while at Fresno State. This was largely influenced by my dad. By this time he knew I’d be be a pretty bad engineer and he was very passionate about entrepreneurship himself. My dad who is employed at the moment, was entrepreneur back then in his own right. He ran a small IT consulting company and dabbled into real estate.
By my senior year, when I started my first company Soshowise, my dad was a principal in the company. He was my biggest supporter back then and about 5 years and 4 ventures later, he’s still my biggest supporter.
This past year has been the best year of my life and my dad has been there for my biggest moments. In May my dad flew to Boulder, CO, pretended to be an accredited investor and snuck into my Boomtown Demo Day presentation. Less than 5 months later he flew to Cincinnati to see my Brandery Demo Day Presentation. Luckily that time he didn’t have to sneak in. My dad flew across the country to watch me talk for 5 minutes twice. Those were the two best days of my life and I’m forever thankful he was present.
When it comes to business, my dad is one my best sounding boards. Benchmark went through some hard times this summer and I was faced with an equally difficult decision, my dad had my back the whole time. He may not always have the relevant experience to help me but he understands how I think and feel better than anybody else.
My dad is always checking in on how business is going and keeping me accountable. He doesn’t sugar coat things and pushes me to be a better entrepreneur. Funny thing is he ask for updates on our metrics more than our advisers or investors do. He’s the hardest critic I know but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For me the idea of fathership is a scary proposition. Being 26 years old, it’s completely reasonable that I will become a father in the next 5 years. I think about this from time to time. I’d like to believe I’d be a great father but I have doubts like anybody else. However I know I will probably do fine because I have the best teacher ever. My dad is the best dad anyone can ask for and the reason I am the man I am today.
I am by no means an amazing person. I am a normal person who came from humble beginnings who’s on the path to do amazing things. This was a path my father put me on and every lesson and value he’s taught has pushed me further along this path.
If I end up growing up to be half the man my father is, I’d be more than happy. My father is and always will be my hero.
I love you dad.
I wrote this article originally for AskMen. Check out the original link here.
A couple of months after I turned 25, I had a slight quarter-life crisis.
25 is a funny age. Optimistically, if I am to live to be 100 years old, I have already lived one quarter of my life. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a sobering realization. One that has really allowed me to see what I want out of life and pushed me to reflect on my journey so far.
Life sure is interesting. For a 25-year-old, I’ve had more than my fair share of successes and failures. I have definitely come a long way over the last couple of years. By no means have I “made it” yet, but I sure have learned a lot of lessons. Lessons that taught me how to become a better entrepreneur and a better person in general.
Although I’ve learned hundreds and possibly thousands of lessons over the last quarter century, I've narrowed it down to the 25 most important ones here:
1) Be Happy
I went through the majority of my early twenties feeling unhappy because I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be in life. I thought I needed certain things to be happy. I eventually learned that we are the catalyst of our own happiness and it’s much easier to be happier than bitter.
2) Follow Your Passion
If you want to be successful at what you do, you must be passionate about it. I tried to do many things that I wasn’t passionate about and failed miserably. When you’re working on something you’re truly passionate about, you’re not working — you’re doing what you love.
3) Protect Your Dreams
Your dreams are some of your greatest possessions. They’re yours and only yours. Don’t let anyone tell you your dream isn’t possible. People who are too scared to chase their own dreams will try to crush yours. Dream big because life is too short to be mediocre. Protect your dreams and continue to fight for them until they come into fruition.
4) You Can’t Please Everyone
When I came to the realization that it’s impossible to please everyone, my life became much easier. I was taught in business school that if you aim for every target, you’ll probably miss them all. Don’t worry about the people you can’t make happy, just focus on the important people in your life that you can.
5) Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset
Out of all the assets that I possess, my health is by far the most valuable. I am reminded of this every time I, or anyone close to me, gets seriously sick or injured. You can have all the riches in the world, but if you’re not healthy enough to enjoy them, they are useless.
6) Be Physically Fit
Socrates said “No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable”. Being physically fit and lifting weights has taught me a lot about persistence, chasing goals and mental strength.
7) Spend Time On Your Appearance
Contrary to what you've been taught, most people do judge books by their covers. You might as well have an attractive cover that people will want to read. Whether it was business or dating, I learned that the better I dressed and groomed myself, the more people respected me. Dress sharp, groom well and stand out.
8) Don’t Take Anything For Granted
I have taken many things for granted in my life, including relationships, friendships, and opportunities. When you take things for granted, they will eventually disappear from your life. When you have a good thing going in your life, appreciate it, hold it close and never take it for granted.
9) Confidence Is Everything
Confidence is the key to becoming successful at pretty much anything in life. People admire and trust confident people due to the fact that confidence is the main indicator of competence. I noticed that when I began really believing in myself and my abilities, others began believing in me as well.
10) Don’t Be A Jerk Or A Nice Guy
Be a gentleman instead because nobody likes jerks and nice guys finish last. When I was younger, I was too nice of a guy and was known to be a pushover. As I got older, I became a jerk to overcompensate. I eventually found a good medium: Be a good person but don’t take shit from anyone.
11) Fail Fast, Fail Often
For any successes that I’ve obtained over my 25 years, there have been exponentially more failures. Failures are lessons of future successes. Many people will never try something because they fear failure. You should embrace failure, as it means that you at least had the balls to try. If you really want something, you have to be willing to fail to get it.
12) Travel Often
One of my biggest regrets from college was that I never studied abroad. I firmly believe in the quote “Traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer." I don’t travel nearly as much as I’d like to, but every time I do, I make memories that I won’t soon forget and learn something about the place I visit, as well as about myself.
13) Take Risks
The biggest risk you can ever take is not taking any risk. Take risks while you’re young because as you get older and obtain more responsibilities, taking risks will become more, well, risky. When all is said and done, you will always regret the things that you didn't do, not the things you did.
14) Entrepreneurship Is Not A Job
Entrepreneurship is not a job or a profession, it’s a calling. I originally chose entrepreneurship as a major in college because I thought it sounded cool. Starting my first business was anything but cool; It was the most difficult and fulfilling thing I ever did in my life. Don’t think of entrepreneurship as a job, think of it as a lifestyle.
15) Networking Is Ridiculously Important
There really is some truth to the saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know”. I’ve gotten countless leads, job offers, and introductions thanks to people in my network. You never know: A connection you make today may lead to an opportunity tomorrow. Get on LinkedIn, attend mixers and make friends in high places.
16) Learn Sales
Sales is one of the most valuable skills you can learn, regardless what business you’re in. If you want to get ahead in life, you have to sell yourself and your skills every day. Even before I got into entrepreneurship and sales, I learned that I had to sell my vision to get people to believe in me.
17) The World Doesn’t Owe You Anything
I quickly learned that the world didn’t owe me shit and I would need to grind for everything I wanted in life. I know too many people my age who feel they are entitled to certain things. Entitlement is the opposite of hard work and while hard work is difficult, it’s necessary for success.
18) Date Often
Dating often is the easiest way to find exactly what you’re looking for in a significant other. The more you date, the higher your standards become. I date quite often. Even if nothing materializes from a date, I am at least able to enjoy conversing over dinner or some other activity with a pretty girl.
19) Don’t Waste Your Time
Time is a non-renewable resource. Once it’s gone, it’s really all gone. Don’t waste your time on people or things that have a negative impact on your life. I learned to filter out people who didn’t deserve to be there and not waste my time on anything that wasn't going to help me succeed in life.
20) Your Friends And Family Are Everything
When everything else fails, your family will have your back. And if you have amazing friends, like I do, you consider them family as well. I have some of the most badass parents, brothers, and friends a guy could ask for. Cherish your family because even if you lose everything else, you still have them.
21) Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Life begins at the end your comfort zone. Growing up, I disliked speaking in front of groups. When I decided that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I realized I would need to become great at presenting and pitching. I forced myself to get out of my comfort zone and practiced like there was no tomorrow. Do something today that scares the shit out of you.
22) Patience Is A Virtue
When I first started my company, I was in college and I had no patience whatsoever. This caused me to make some bad decisions for the company. I eventually learned that anything worthwhile takes time to build. Be patient, don’t fall off the path, and never lose faith in yourself.
23) Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish
Steve Jobs taught our world many lessons, but one of my favorites was to “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”. To me, this means being hungry enough to never settle or stop pushing yourself and being foolish enough to try to do the things that people say cannot be done. Any time I get complacent with my life, I remind myself to stay hungry and stay foolish.
24) There Is No Benchmark For Happiness
You can’t use other people’s happiness as a benchmark for your own, as there will always be people with more than you and there will always be people with less than you. There is no special income number or success level that guarantees happiness. You need to discover what truly makes you happy and not stop until you find it.
25) Life Goes On
I have had failed start-ups and relationships that I thought were going to be “the one”. Even though, at the time, it felt like my dreams were crushed, I eventually learned that there will always be other opportunities. Failure is a part of life and no matter what happens to you, if you’re still breathing, life goes on.
Closing down a startup is a lot like going through a breakup. There are a lot of emotions involved and afterthoughts of how things could have been handled differently. Both startups and relationships are things that you put a lot of time and emotion into hoping they become the one.
Sometimes it only takes one startup or relationship to get things right. We’ve all heard the success stories of young entrepreneurs who start startups in college, the startups take off and then they become ridiculously successful. We also have the friends who end up marrying their high school sweetheart. For the rest of us our first startup or relationship is a very memorable learning experience.
I have been involved in a number of startups but the one that started it all was Soshowise. Soshowise was a expert video marketplace where you could purchase a face-to-face video chats with experts in a variety of fields. We actually stopped working on Soshowise over a year ago but we barely got around to signing the documents to dissolve the corporation today. It wasn’t a heartbreaking experience signing the papers as it was really a year in the making, but it was definitely an emotional experience nonetheless.
I started Soshowise during my senior year at Fresno State back in 2011. I was a an entrepreneurship major at the Lyles Center and our senior project was to start and launch a business. At the beginning of my senior year I had no clue which industry I wanted to enter, let alone what business concept I wanted to use.
I decided I wanted to to start a tech startup for my senior project after watching the film “The Social Network”. I loved the fact that you could build a scalable product that people use from the comfort of your laptop. The only problem was that I didn’t have a tech background and didn’t know how to write code, but I did understand how to articulate the value of a product to consumers and investors. Luckily, my father introduced me to a developer named Greg. After some meetings Greg became a co-founder and most importantly a great friend. My father joined as well as he had a background in IT. Boom! We had a team.
The first prototype built during my senior was rough but it was enough to show proof of concept. In parallel of greg working on the prototype, I wrote our business plan. It was my first business plan and it was 25+ pages long. The prototype in addition to the business plan was enough for me to graduate the program/college.
I put my startup on the back burner for a few months after graduation when I accepted a position at a company. It wasn’t until a couple months after starting my job that I found the drive and experience to turn my class-project into a real business.
We built our second prototype during the HapiHack Hackathon (SF) back in Summer 2011. Soshowise won the award for the best integration of the PayPal API along with some startup cash from PayPal themselves. Winning this large event validated our concept and gave us some notoriety in the tech community.
We then decided raising some money would be the next logical step. We added a strong advisory board with individuals who had worked at PayPal, eBay, Google, Auqeo (VC firm), Intuit and some very other large technology giants. We also brought on a CFO, Todd, who was a local successful entrepreneur and friend of the family. These additions to our team made our company attractive to investors. We eventually went ahead and raised a seed round of funding from local angel investors. We also participated in the Central Valley Venture Forum and some other large pitching contest.
Using the funds we raised, we worked with a large development firm to create our version one. We actually wasted tens of thousands of dollars building a version one that didn’t fit our vision. This frustration caused us to go back to the drawing board and really drill down on what we wanted for our most viable product (MVP). Once we finished our MVP, we launched the web-app and began on boarding users. We started recruiting local experts we knew along with some well-known YouTube experts. The site did gain some traction but the traction eventually diminished as the user interface of the app was just too rough and not intuitive enough for experts and users to use. In a short time we lost about all our traction.
By this time our team was working on Soshowise for almost 2 years, we spent all the money we raised, we did our best to market the product we had only to see it fail due to the UI and we felt we exhausted all our options. We needed to make the app more intuitive, we just no longer had the time or manpower to make it work. We were considering giving up and calling it quits but we decided to throw one last hail mary and bring on another co-founder/developer to finish building the app to our vision.
We looked for about a month or two on AngelList and the Drupal job boards. We got a lot of interested candidates but very few with the experience we were looking for and the ones who had the experience weren’t willing to work for strictly equity and no salary. We eventually found this sharp guy named Ryan out of LA who was interested in joining. He was a fucking rockstar. He sold his first company at 19 and previously worked at Myspace and other large tech companies. We thought it was too be good to be true and it eventually turned out to be so.
Ryan joined Soshowise in May 2013 for a considerable share of the company and ended up resigning in August that same year. The vesting schedule we set up was extremely lenient. I have no hard feelings, he was really good guy and he was presented with a better opportunity at the time. This was the last nail in the coffin. We had some talks over the next few months about giving it another try but nothing materialized. We finally signed the papers today and everything is finalized.
About 8 months ago Google launched Helpouts, a product based around our same exact concept. Even the explainer video they created was very similar to ours. This was a very bittersweet for us. It was obviously a bitter moment due to the fact that they built the product that we had worked so hard on over the last two years. It was a sweet moment because this occurred after we already threw in the towel. The fact that Google saw the potential in the same exact concept we came up with was very validating. It gave me some sort of closure.
Starting my first company was a hell of experience and I will never forget it. I learned a ridiculous amount of lessons and I plan on writing a follow-up blog covering exactly what I learned. I met so many smart amazing people and I started building my reputation as an entrepreneur. When I was 21 years old I thought Soshowise was going to be the one and if I didn’t make it with Soshowise, I would never make it as an entrepreneur. I am now a little bit older, quite a bit wiser and much more realistic with my expectations. I understand entrepreneurship is a journey and each failure is a learning lesson. Each venture I have worked on after Soshowise has helped me reach closer to my goal of becoming a successful entrepreneur and I attribute this to the experiences I obtained while working on Soshowise. Now it’s time for me to kiss these 1.2 million worthless shares goodbye, put my sunglasses on and look forward to the future. I promise you this, the future will be bright.
How time flies! 5 years ago, in my first entrepreneurship class in college, our first assignment was to write our future self a letter about our aspirations for the future. 5 years later, and 3 years after graduating college, this letter was sent to my parents’ house.
I’m glad to see I have the same values and aspirations 5 years later, even though my writing has gotten considerably better. I didn’t quite understand the value of this assignment at the time, but I clearly see it now. Entrepreneurship is a long journey with many distractions along the way, every once in a while you need to stop and reflect and remember why you started in the first place. I still got a ways to go with this entrepreneurship thing, but I’m definitely on the right track.
I want to thank the staff at the Lyles Center at Fresno State for following through and sending this letter to me. I had no clue the journey I was about to embark on when I took that first entrepreneurial class.
One of these nights this week, I plan to write my 30 year-old self a letter about my plans and aspirations for the next 5 years. I will have my dad lock it up and give it to my 5 years from now. I hope I am able to look back and be proud of how far I came.
P.S – It’s only appropriate since I ended my last letter with a Kanye West line, I end my next one with an iteration of his. “Five years later I am still the same kid from Fresno, still dreaming out loud, still banging on the door.”
It’s a couple of hours before my birthday and I’m already getting a head start drinking. I am not drinking at a bar or a club, I’m drinking with a few beers with my business partner Ken doing what we both love, creating kickass products (www.usebenchmark.com). I’m having trouble concentrating because I just realized that I am going through a quarter life crisis.
Birthdays are always a time of reflection for me. I think about how far I came in the last year and how much I would like to accomplish in the next year. I’ve never exactly have been happy with my progress but I always recognized the fact that I was in a lot better of position than the year before. Each year I made some sort of progress towards my end goal and never had a year that felt like a step backwards.
Tonight I am doing even more reflection as it’s my 25th birthday. This means if I optimistically live to 100 years old, I have already lived a quarter of my life. This isn’t bad thing, it’s just a sobering realization. It’s a good vantage point to stop and recognize where I’m at in life.
When I was in college I set a goal to become a millionaire by the age of 25. Lets just say I missed that goal by a longshot. Now that I am 25, my goal is to make some impact on the world by the age of 30. If I somehow become a millionaire in the process, that wouldn’t be so bad either.
Life is interesting. I learned a lot of lessons over the last 25 years that made me a better entrepreneur and a better person in general. I am not where I want to be but I know I am going in the right direction. I graduated college, started a business, failed at a business, made friends, lost friends, broke hearts, recently fell in love with an amazing girl, worked my ass off and discovered who I am. Who I am is an entrepreneur by nature but even more importantly I am just a man who’s passionate about the things he loves. I also learned about life is all about being happy, everything else is just bull-shit. It doesn’t matter.
Even though I’ve had a great 25 year run soo far, happiness has been very elusive the last couple of years. This isn’t because the last years have been full of turmoil, heck the last couple of years have been the best of my life. I just wasn’t happy because I wasn’t where I wanted to be in life. Where some people may already think I’ve had some success, I think I haven’t even started. Becoming an entrepreneur became the catalyst of me never really being happy, but this wasn’t a bad thing.
Being an entrepreneur is a funny thing because there is a really no end goal. Whether your company makes a dollar or a million dollars, you are still motivated the same to grow. Nothing is good enough. Entrepreneurs are hungry by nature. We are some of the most hyper-competitive and hate-losing people in the world. Honestly, I eat, sleep and breathe this shit. Not being happy drove me everyday to create a better life for myself and do something legendary in the process. I haven’t got the legendary part yet but I will one day.
Luckily, recently I learned a lot about happiness. I learned that I didn’t have to not be happy to stay motivated. I learned that I didn’t have to keep a chip on my shoulder to stay competitive. You see my problem was that I was always so focus on my future I never enjoyed the present. Now I learned how to enjoy the present but always keep my eyes looking forward. My work ethic is still disgusting and I will always continue to chase my goals, I just won’t get disappointed every time I don’t see immediate results.
I recently read a very insightful article which nurses reveal the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed. You can find them below.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I was intrigued how the list was inherently obvious but yet so powerful. They all hit home in some shape or form but number 2 really did. It was ironic timing that I read this article almost about the same time I had my revelation regarding happiness and working too hard. I made it my goal to reflect on this list every once in a while and make sure that I won’t be making the same regrets.
There are probably a bunch of lessons I learned that’d I love to tell myself 5 years ago, but when I really think about it, I wouldn’t. Those are lessons I had to learn for myself because they helped shaped me into the man I am today. I am thankful for everything I have in life but I’m excited for everything I will obtain in the future. I will continue to give everything my all and take the road less traveled. I know it’s inevitable that I will fall off the path from time time but I know my heart will keep me traveling in the right direction. I am 25 years old, I’m cocky, arrogant at times, a little narcissistic but I’m still growing and learning how to be a good person. I am still dreaming out loud, still banging on the door.
As a wise man named Mike Posner once said:
“At this time next year I’ma have enough to buy the whole damn thing. Yeah, I’m doing pretty good right now but I swear just wait”.
I recently became a contributor to Elite Daily. This was my fist contribution. To view the original post you can check it out here.
I am an entrepreneur and I also hold a full-time job. No, my full-time job isn’t at a company I cofounded, but one that I am an employee at. I am an account manager for a market research services company as well as the cofounder and Business Guy at WishBooklet, a gift crowdfunding website that makes raising money for the gifts you really want easy. I like to say I’m an employee by day, CEO by night and an entrepreneur 24/7.
All my life I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur. Growing up, all my heroes were entrepreneurs, my dad was an entrepreneur for a couple of years and I even studied entrepreneurship in college. So what’s the first thing I did when I graduated from college? I got a job. Getting a job after college wasn’t part of my initial plans but it was a decision I made after trying my hand at entrepreneurship for a couple of months.
I started my first company during my senior year in college. Well, at the time it wasn’t as much of a company as it was a class project. Part of the entrepreneurship program’s curriculum at CSUF was to launch a business during the last semester of your senior year. Along with two other partners, we created a prototype for our online expert video marketplace startup. The marketplace generated a little bit of revenue and I was able to pass the class and graduate from college.
I put my startup on the back burner for a while when I accepted a position at the current company I am employed by. It wasn’t until a couple months after starting my job that I found the motivation and experience to turn my class-project into a real business.
While CEO of this startup, I was able to raise a seed round of funding, appoint a board, sign-up celebrity coaches and launch a public beta all while holding a full-time position. This start-up eventually lost traction but I gained a ton of confidence and knowledge that I applied to my job and future business opportunities.
While under employment, I have held 3 positions and ran 3 companies. The second company I started was a social media manager that had mild success and the third and current startup I run is WishBooklet, which has been generating revenue since the first month. Starting these companies while holding a full-time position was no easy task, but sometimes being an entrepreneur while having a job is the way to go. Here are some lessons that I have learned from my journey so far.
1. Never work on your business while at work
Being an entrepreneur while having a job feels like having two full-time jobs because it’s pretty much exactly that. On average, I work about 45-50 hours a week at my job and 25-30 hours a week on my business. I learned very quickly that you need spend your time wisely and effectively. Never work on your business while at your job and try not to work on job-related matters while working on your business.
Try to keep the two entities separate and make sure you are 100 percent focused on whatever you are working on at the moment. This is very important because it doesn’t only force you to do your best on whatever you’re working on but it also saves you time. If you are 100 percent focused while at work it allows you to excel and to get all your work done on time, eliminating overtime that could cut into your business hours.
Overtime is the enemy to an entrepreneur. When working on your business, put on headphones, ignore work email and get stuff done. You will be surprised at how much time you can save when you cut out distractions.
2. Work out/Find a Hobby
Being an entrepreneur while having a job takes up a lot of time. More than likely you are working an 8-5 and then working on your business during the evening or early hours of the morning. The last thing you want to do is get overloaded and discouraged. You should do your best to avoid going straight from work to working on your business.
Every day after I get off work at about 5 pm or 6 pm, I go to Crossfit for an hour, eat dinner and then spend about 3-4 hours working on my business. I like taking this break because it helps me unwind, eliminate stress and gives me some free time to get my creative juices flowing. I would suggest you find something you enjoy doing other than working and spend about an hour doing it every day.
3. Provide visibility to your management
Sometimes things can get cloudy between you and your management when you have a company you run on the side, especially when you’re in a management position yourself. This isn’t something I experienced myself but something I’ve had close entrepreneur friends experience. I haven’t had any issues with my management regarding my side businesses and I attribute this to me providing them visibility on the existence of my company.
You don’t have to let them know everything, just that you run a company after hours and that it won’t affect the work at your job. It’s best your management hears this from you rather than from some article about your company. If you’re growing your business correctly, it won’t be a secret for long. Providing visibility also has its perks, I was able to get a promotion that was partially based off the experience I obtained while working on my business.
4. Learn how to budget
It’s no secret that it costs money to make money. Launching a business requires you to do a bunch of things that require money. One of the benefits of having a job while starting a company is that you can pay for these things. You will learn in the beginning stages of growing your business that a good deal of your work paycheck will go towards your business.
Make a budget and do your best to keep the cost low. Make sure you’re only paying the things you absolutely need and avoid things you can do on your own or that can wait for a later time. Try not to pay for marketing or PR in the early stages. There are plenty of free ways to market your product and get your name out there. You can start worrying about paying for larger items once your business has started generating revenue or you’ve receive funding. Do your best to bootstrap and stay lean.
5. Be Patient
Very few businesses are overnight successes. This holds to be even truer when you’re starting a business while holding a job. You have to remain patient and understand that it will take longer to get your business off the ground while having a job. Spend your time wisely, go after small wins in the beginning and do your best not to get discouraged. When I first took my job after having started my first business, I felt I let my education and instructors down by becoming an employee.
I later realized I was utilizing my entrepreneurial mindset every day at my startup and the organization I worked for. Your business becomes a marathon while working, find a good productive pace and keep it. Be patient and never lose faith in your company’s vision, and most importantly never lose faith in yourself.
Here is a guest post I did for the very popular YFS Magazine. To view the original post you can check it out here.
The holiday season is the best time of the year for many us, myself included. It’s also the busiest for many of us who own or operate a business, specifically consumer facing products. This was my first holiday season as the co-founder and business guy at WishBooklet, a universal wishlist and gift crowdfunding platform all in one. We started WishBooklet to provide an easy way to share the gifts you want with your friends and family and get them to pitch in to get them for you. Think of it as a Kickstarter for gifts.
As you may guess the holiday season is by far our busiest time of the year. Even though you can crowdfund gifts on WishBooklet for any occasion, the concept of crowdfunding gifts is in high demand during the Christmas season. So, this Christmas we helped hundreds of people get exactly what they wanted. As a founder, this is truly a great feeling.
Launching Products During the Holiday SeasonI get a great sense of enjoyment knowing people used our product to take some stress out of the holiday season. However, getting hundreds of people to use our platform during the holiday season was no easy task.
We launched our public beta of WishBooklet back in August, just a couple of months before the holiday season. The two months leading up to Christmas I hustled and worked hard on marketing and acquiring users. During this time I got WishBooklet air-time on television, a feature onMashable, wrote dozens of holiday related guest blog posts, and received media coverage in various web and print publications. Even though I am pleased with the outcome, looking back I realized there were a few things I could have gone about differently. Here are five lessons I learned about hustling and marketing a product during the holiday season.
Here is a guest post I did for serial entrepreneur and my good friend Jeet Banerjee’s Blog. To view the original post on his blog you can check it out here.
You can say I have a little experience about pitching investors, as I raised a seed round of funding for my first start-up right out of college. I have pitched to a number of different types of investors and groups ranging from local small time angel investors all the way to successful venture capital investors.
I learned many lessons along the way, including things I did right when raising funding successfully from Angel Investors, and things I did wrong when failing to raise money from Venture Capital Investors. Regardless of the type of investors you are pitching too, or whether you are asking for a hundred dollars or a million dollars, there are some fundamental lessons of pitching that are pretty much universal for any scenario.
I would like to share with 5 tips for pitching to investors.
Paint a picture
The best way to start a pitch is to begin with the problem your product solves. If done correctly, this is a great way to get the investors interested even before you start speaking about your product, especially if they can relate to the problem.
When speaking about the problem, it’s best to give a real world example or scenario that the investors can relate too. Paint a picture and tell a story about how a customer is experiencing a certain pain, and then go on to illustrate how your product alleviates this pain. You will have on average about 10 minutes to keep your investor’s attention during your presentation, so it’s very important that you start with a very compelling customer pain that captures their attention.
Within the first 30 seconds of your pitch most investors can get a good read of how confident you are in your pitch, your company, and yourself. Investors like investing into confident people.
Confidence is usually a good indicator of competency and investors want to know the company they are about to invest their money in is ran by competent people. Displaying your confidence during your pitch also shows you have a great understanding of your business and market.
This lets the investor know not only is your concept great, but that you are the right person to execute it successfully. One of the easiest ways to develop this confidence while presenting is to learn your business inside and out, not necessarily just your presentation.
Brag when necessary
No one likes a bragger, but when you are the CEO of your company, sometimes a little bragging can become necessary. What I mean by bragging is, if you and your team do something exceptionally well, highlight this and bring it to the attention of your investors.
If you got a team full of bad asses that have 10 years of related experience, brag about it. If some of your users say that your app is the most used app in their phone, brag about it. It’s always better to say too many good things you’re doing than not enough. I learned this lesson first hand from talking to an investor who was judging a startup pitch competition I partook in (I didn’t win).
We talked casually after the competition and I told telling him about how strong our advisory board was and other things which I failed to mention in my presentation. He let me know I should have bragged about those things during my presentation as it could have strengthened my chances to win.
Know your technology
This tip is more applicable to the non-technical co-founders our there since it’s usually our jobs to deliver these types of presentations. You may not need to know how to write code, but you should definitely learn your product’s stack and technical aspects.
Become your product’s product manager. The more sophisticated the investor, the most sophisticated their questions. So although they may ask you a business question such as your cost per acquisition, they also make ask what modules you are using and why you choose those specific ones.
This is also applicable if you are giving a demo of your product during your presentation. Your product may still be rough and in its early stages, but if you know everything about your product, you should be able to know how to deliver a demo that highlights your product’s strengths and smooth out its rough areas.
The most important advice I can give is that numbers talk, and if you’re lucky enough to be generating revenue, money talks. Investors love metrics. When I am talking about metrics, I am talking about email signups, visitors, active users, growth rates, customers, revenue, numbers of followers on twitter, etc.
The more metrics you can provide the better. Even if you only have 100 users but the majority of them use your app every day, this metric shows that people find real value in your application. Regardless if you’re product isn’t developed and you have no users, you should already began marketing your product and have an email list of individuals who will sign up once you launch.
It’s not uncommon for startups to get a couple of hundred to a thousand email signups even before their prototype is finished. When you have metrics and growth rates to reference, it’s much easier creating accurate growth and financial projections for your presentation.
When you’re a growing start-up with a very small to non-existent marketing budget, you learn very quickly that content is king. In this case, I am talking specifically to blogging. If you are an entrepreneur and you’re not blogging, I advise you to crawl out from under whatever rock you’ve been hiding under and start blogging. If not for your business specifically, at least do it to help establish your web presence (something all entrepreneurs should focus on). Blogging is a ridiculously good way to drive traffic to any site and more importantly get customers.
There are two main types of blogging that are really effective at driving traffic, and those are company blogging and guest blogging. A company blog is your company’s own personal blog that you share content on in hopes of creating a readership. Guest blogging is when you publish your own guest blog post on other blogs in hopes of exposing your company to new readers. Both of these forms of blogging are great for driving traffic. You don’t have to be an SEO expert or Growth Hacker to use blogging to your advantage. You just have to be willing to put in the time and create some kick-ass content. Here are some of the differences between company blogging and guest blogging.
The main reason behind creating a company blog is so that your company can have its own medium to share content on and obtain a following. You usually want to link your blog directly to your company’s site, for an example of this you can check out my company Dwibbles’ blog. The great thing about creating a following on your company blog as opposed to guest blogging, is the fact that the following you acquire is all yours. What I mean by this is that all the readers of your blog have been directly exposed to your company’s site. Usually the way it works is that the more users you get, consequently the more readers you get for your blog. If you create a really great blog that drives traffic, the more readers you get, consequently the more users you get. You want to strive for the second scenario I listed and understand the difference between the two. If all your blog readers were users on your site first, that means your blog isn’t doing much but providing content for people who were already using your site. If your blog readers are exposed to your blog first and then convert to users, well then, your blog is working effectively.
Setting up a company blog is usually pretty easy and most of the time free. You don’t get much cheaper than free. You can always set up a free blog for your company using WordPress, Blogger, or one of the many other free CMS out there. I prefer WordPress myself, and that’s what Hustle & Code along with all of my companies’ blogs are built on. Here are some pros and cons of using company blogging as the main point of your blogging focus.
The purpose of guest blogging is the ability to share content and back-links on different blogs and expose your company to new readerships. When you write a guest post for a blog, the idea is to write creative content that is not directly related to your company, but mentions it in a subtle way. For an example, reference this guest blog post I wrote called 4 apps that make social media manageable. In this guest blog post I talked about how managing all your social media accounts can be an exhausting task and then I proceeded to list 4 apps that make social media manageable, with one of them being my company Dwibbles. I gave each app a fair and unbiased review. The point of the blog post wasn’t to bad mouth our competitors and make Dwibbles sound good, the purpose was to merely give Dwibbles exposure. If you read the guest blog post, would you have guessed it was a in-direct form of advertisement written by one of the companies’ founders? Probably not, and that’s the purpose. Guest blogging is a great way to expose your product to consumers with out having to stuff your message down their throats. In all honesty, I prefer guest blogging over company blogging as I had more success doing it. The thing I love about guest blogging is the ability to reach out to new potential customers with every blog post you publish. Use the following other blogs have created to your advantage.
Guest blogging is free, and in some cases you will actually be able to get paid/share advertisement revenue with the blogs. Just a word to the wise, if a blog is trying to charge you to publish your guest post on their site, you should probably avoid them. Blogs like that will post any type of content as long as the author pays. I would advise starting with the smaller blogs first to help get your name out there and get some writing credibility. Once you do that, nailing a guest blog post on a larger blog will be much easier. Here are some pros and cons of using guest blogging as the main point of your blogging focus.