Archive for the Entrepreneurship Category
Lance Kalish and Ido Leffler of Yes To Carrots
Intro by Tim
How do you build a multi-million dollar global business?
Well, you might start by visiting Israel and negotiating the rights to an unknown brand (Yes To Carrots)…found in 16 stores. Then, you might use cold calling artistry and Jedi mind tricks to get carried by Walgreen’s in its 7,000+ stores. Next, you might get your product into 25,000+ stories internationally and smile when you see Rosario Dawson using your goods publicly. Now, as the happy ending (of sorts), every 6 seconds in the US, someone buys a Yes To product!
But that’s leaving out the details, isn’t it? I hate business articles and books that do that.
I’ve known Ido Leffler, Yes To’s co-founder, for ages. I met him at a Summit Series event in Miami. His trademark hug was the first thing that caught my attention: inexplicably slow-motion and super gentle, as if he were cradling a baby panda. Of course, there’s his subtle Australian accent and persuasive (and deliberately less subtle) Israeli chutzpah. Who the hell was this guy? I’ve come to love him, but perhaps more important to you, I’ve come to love his methods. He deconstructs problems like Sherlock Holmes with a twist of Richard Branson… Read More
The dream is simple: get your product in the hands of celebrities or “influencers,” and they create a ripple effect that skyrockets you to fame and fortune.
What if Kim Kardashian tweets about you?
What if Hugh Jackman wears your custom shirts on the red carpet?
What if a top blogger includes you in a top-10 list?
What if you got a mention on The Office or another primetime show?
Sadly, sampling to “stars” seldom works out.
People who move the needle get a TON of stuff sent to them. The pic below is just part of my mail, and I’m not even a real celeb! Blurb and blog promotion requests received in one day, with the exception of one book:
So…how do YOU break through the noise?
This guest post will teach you. It’s written by Marc Ecko, founder of Marc Ecko Enterprises, a global fashion and lifestyle company. I wanted Marc to write this post because — in my opinion — he’s an expert at selling yourself without selling out. As CNBC put it, “Marc is living proof that you can be a marketing and business whiz and still be a true artist.”
Once a graffiti artist with no connections, Marc left the safety net of pharmacy school to start his own clothing company. Using hustle and creativity, he turned a $5,000 bag of cash into a global corporation worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
He created a lot of this success by repeatedly getting his products to impossible-to-reach icons (e.g. Spike Lee, Chuck D) and planning elaborate PR stunts (e.g. Air Force One graffiti hoax; buying Barry Bonds’ homerun record baseball and letting online votes determine its fate).
This post will explain his 10 rules — the do’s and don’ts — of his unique “swag bomb” approach to getting influencer attention. I agree with all of them.
Enjoy, replicate, and prosper… Read More
Most deals get done in informal settings. Now, I’m inviting you to join me. (Photo: Russell Yip)
Please note that my syndicate investing in Shyp has now closed. You can still back me on AngelList to gain priority access to future deals. More updates will be posted here later in the round.
On September 23, 2013 (that’s today), the world of startup financing changes forever. It’s a truly historic moment.
Previously, I couldn’t publicly share deals with you. Now, thanks to an unprecedented legal change, I can offer a portion of my start-up investments to any of you who qualify as “accredited investors.”
- Previously, you had to be part of a small club to see such deals. Not any more.
- Previously, you might even need to be in Silicon Valley, drinking wine and having coffees around the clock, to see good deals before they filled up. No longer.
Starting today, I’ll share some of my favorite deals with you, beginning with a start-up called Shyp.
Notable companies I’ve advised include Uber (pre-Series-A), Evernote, Automattic (WordPress.com), Shopify, and TaskRabbit, among others. Early investments include Twitter, Facebook, Reputation.com, etc.
In this case, I used a “Spearhead Capital” blog post to my ~1.4M monthly blog readers to find promising startups. Nearly 400 companies applied, many of which are producing millions in revenue. Out of all of them, and with the help of Naval Ravikant (CEO/co-founder of AngelList) to interview finalists, I chose Shyp.
Shyp is the fastest and easiest way to ship packages. More on that shortly.
Investing alongside me–and potentially you–in this round are:
- David Marcus (President of PayPal)
- Brian McClendon (Founder of Google Earth)
- Daymond John (Founder of FUBU, Shark on ABC’s “Shark Tank”)
- Joshua Schachter (Founder of Delicious, Tasty Labs)
- Aaron Batalion (Co-founder of LivingSocial)
- Homebrew (Hunter Walk and Satya Patel)
- Naval Ravikant (CEO/co-founder of AngelList)
- Scott Belsky (Founder and CEO of Behance)
- Sherpa Ventures (Scott Stanford & Shervin Pishevar)
- Antonio J. Gracias (Board Member at Tesla and SolarCity)
- XG Ventures (Andrea Zurek and Pietro Dova)
- Osama Bedier (Former head of Google Wallet)
So, how can you join us?
Before I tell you, remember:
- Startups are speculative, and this is gambling. You shouldn’t invest anything you’re not comfortable kissing goodbye. Treat it as casino money.
- If you are going to invest in startups despite this high risk, plan on building a portfolio of dozens, very slowly and carefully. This should be just one of many. Read more on approach here.
The Short Version
If you’d like to invest in Shyp, simply click here. A description of the company is in “The Longer Version” below.
You’ll need to set up an AngelList profile (free), and the minimum investment is $2,500. We’re only able to accept $250,000 from everyone.
For more on the team and concept of Shyp, click here.
If you miss this one, not to worry–you can automatically join my deals in the future, which puts you first in line next time.
Can’t invest right now? No worries. If relevant, I’d love for your to consider any of the below actions. Shyp and I would really appreciate it!
- Apply to be a Shyp Hero (Heroes are Shyp’s drivers). Click here.
- Apply for a job on Shyp’s core team. Click here.
- Interview the co-founders of Shyp: Kevin, Josh, and Jack. They’re clever gents. Just email: founders at shyp dot com.
- Tell Shyp which city you live in so they can launch there before others!
The Longer Version
I’m putting my name and network behind Shyp and personally investing $25,000. I’ll also be providing oversight and advising the company on product/conversion optimization, national launch strategy, etc.
I’m using a new AngelList feature called “Syndicates” to share my $250,000 allocation of Shyp.
Unlike venture capitalists (VCs), I am charging zero management fees. If you don’t win, I don’t make a dime. If you invest alongside me, the only expense is a 20% “carry” (roughly 20% of the profits) if there’s a good outcome.
DESCRIPTION OF SHYP
Shyp is the fastest and easiest way to ship packages.
Through the Shyp iPhone app, you take a photo of what you want to send, specifying destination and pick-up time. You’re done.
A “Shyp Hero” (driver) arrives at your home or office at the specified time, takes your unpackaged item away to be packaged, then sends it on its way via the optimal carrier (i.e., Fedex, UPS, etc.). Shyp automatically optimizes for speed and cost, and Shyp charges no more than Post Office prices, plus a $5 pickup fee for sending solo items. If you send more than one item, the company waives the $5 pickup fee.
More on how this works below the video.
I have confidence in the team, and here’s why I love the model:
- Recurring revenue. It has a frequent use case, just like Uber and Evernote (again, both of which I’ve advised). Millions of people can use Shyp on a weekly or daily basis.
- It’s simple and solves a real problem. Do you enjoy going to the post office or UPS store? Scheduling pickups that require you to be available for 3-6 hours? Of course not. Shyp makes fixing all that as easy as snapping a picture. And they package everything for you. No more wasted afternoons.
- It has unusually high margins. Shyp matches USPS retail prices, but by taking a volume discount from carriers and utilizing regional couriers (that end-users cannot), Shyp can maintain high profit margins. Using OnTrac, as one example, is 75% cheaper than USPS.
- It’s tackling the “first mile” problem, not the “last mile” problem. Lots of companies are focused on same-day delivery from retailers to consumers: the last mile. It’s a crowded battlefield of a market. But what about the burden of packaging up shipments from homes and offices? This “first mile” problem is enormous, and the market is neglected. Shyp aims to own it.
How to Get In First
Would you like first access to my future deals, right alongside my close friends?
To see things before I post them on the blog, you can automatically back me on AngelList, as Naval (CEO of AngelList) and others are doing. Click here for more details. This will ensure you don’t miss anything.
DISCLAIMERS — DON’T SKIP:
Startups make big plans a lot, and most don’t follow them. Shyp might run out of money; customers might not like using a third party to ship things; UPS, Fedex, or some upstart could start competing; or the team could simply fall apart tomorrow. Any statements about their future plans, margins, etc., are pure speculation on my part. That’s why startup investing is very risky, so again: don’t invest anything you aren’t prepared to write off 100%. Last but not least, I’m not necessarily planning on sending frequent updates or notices of Shyp’s change in plans (if any), as startups change on a weekly or daily basis.
Preface from Tim
This is the second post by Alexis Ohanian for Entrepreneurship Week on this blog. Here is the first post, which covers his founding of reddit, which he later sold for millions of dollars.
This post covers a critical topic: how to get massive attention for your company from national media. How do you pitch press? Develop relationships with influential journalists? The real answers might surprise you.
Most books and articles on this subject are pure BS. Speaking as someone who’s been on magazine covers (Outside, Inc. Magazine) and section covers (NYT Style Section, Travel Section), I can tell you: there is a science to this.
Alexis is a master. Enjoy.
Tim very kindly invited me back to give you another excerpt from my book that draws from all my experience over six years as a Y Combinator advisor and startup investor (70+ companies).
I want to help you do what Steve and I did (not in costume) to grow reddit into the top-50 website it is today… with a total advertising budget of a few hundred dollars. I spent that all on stickers… Read More
“Yes, I’d like to upgrade my dad’s season tickets. Oh, front row, fifty-yard line, please–the best you have.”
—Alexis Ohanian, approximately three minutes after he sold reddit
Preface by Tim
I first met Alexis Ohanian through education non-profit Donorschoose.org, as we both sit on their advisory board.
Years later, he still impresses the hell out of me.
Alexis is the sharp and affable co-founder of Reddit (stylized as “reddit”, which is how it’ll appear in this post henceforth). He has made millions of dollars, fought Washington and won, created the largest Secret Santa program in the world (92 countries, almost 20,000 participants), and been on The Colbert Report for massive fundraising through reddit.
He’s kicked a lot of ass.
That said, few people know the backstory. His journey has involved failure, pain, self-doubt, and much more. In other words, he battles the same challenges that you do. He has learned to be an entrepreneur, just as you can.
The following guest post from Alexis is an exclusive peek behind the curtain. His new book, Without Their Permission, inspired me to ask him to spill the beans. He generously obliged.
ALSO: From 9am-1pm PST (12pm-4pm EST) today, Tues., Alexis will answer any questions you pose in the comments! Just wait for things to start and ask away.
Enjoy the lessons, and gird your loins (and emotions) for the ride. Business and life are full-contact sports… Read More
This week will be Entrepreneurship Week on this blog.
To start us off, this post is a benevolent kick in the ass. I’ll preface the kick with something I wrote in The 4-Hour Workweek:
For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.
But talk is cheap, isn’t it? That’s the whole point, so let’s get to the action.
In 2009, Tobias Lutke, CEO of Shopify, and I developed the Build-A-Business Competition to transform would-be entrepreneurs into real entrepreneurs. Now in its 4th year, the competition has created more than 15,000 businesses that have sold more than $60 million in product (!).
Several readers of this blog — first-time business owners — have ended up generating millions of dollars each… some as side gigs to their full-time jobs! A few examples generated $250,000+ per month.
You don’t need need experience, and you don’t need a bunch of money. You just need to take the leap: join the competition, decide on your product category, listen to advice from mentors and fellow competitors, and sell the hell out of your product. That’s it.
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
- Johan Wolfgang von Goethe
Intangible products can also be sold in the competition, including digital downloads, services, and subscriptions. Make sure you check out the Shopify App Store (apps.shopify.com) for tons of great plugins.
This year’s competition is in partnership with Huffington Post, so there will be even more PR and exposure. Past participants have been featured in everything from Fast Company to The New York Times.
Who are your mentors? These killers, thrillers, and 100-dollar billers:
** Arianna Huffington (The Huffington Post)
** Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks, Shark Tank)
** Daymond John (FUBU, Shark Tank)
** Chase Jarvis (Photographer, Director)
** Tina Eisenberg (Swissmiss, CreativeMornings)
** Gary Vaynerchuk (Wine Library, Vaynermedia)
** Selita Ebanks (Victoria’s Secret Angel, Cause Marketer)
** Lil’ Jon (DJ & Producer)
** Amber Mac (TV Host, Author)
** Tim Ferriss (Angel Investor, Bearclaw Eater, Author: The 4-Hour Workweek)
The Build-A-Business competition runs from October 1, 2013 to May 31, 2014, with each of the mentors providing exclusive advice and guidance along the way. In addition to $50,000 cash prizes, the nine competition winners will receive an expenses-paid VIP trip for two to New York City to meet their mentors. It’s one hell of a party. The competition is open to people in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
Click here for full details.
Time to explore entrepreneurship, don’t you think? If not now, when? What’s stopping you? Let us know in the comments, and maybe we (including other readers) can help.
Odds and Ends Elsewhere:
4-Hour Chef for Whaaaa?!?:
$35 retail for less than $15? Yes, my friends. New coupon–get an additional $5 off the full-color hardcover of The 4-Hour Chef. Here it is.
Entrepreneurs are risk-takers… or so the story goes.
In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. Over the last 13 years in Silicon Valley, I’ve found that the homerun hitters are precisely the opposite: risk-averse. They mitigate downside whenever possible with low-cost and short-term testing. They’re often extremely ambitious and aggressive (e.g. Travis Kalanick of Uber or Elon Musk), but they aren’t remotely haphazard.
They’re methodical, and this is a learned trait.
The above video is a conversation between me, several first-time entrepreneurs, and Noah Kagan, CEO of AppSumo.com. In this video, Noah — who was an early employee at Facebook and Mint.com — covers his risk-minimizing methodologies:
In the first 20 minutes:
- His career path, including failures.
- How he has used low-cost testing in his own ventures.
- Why focusing on the small things (even trivial things) is a big thing.
- Common mistakes and coping mechanisms of first-time founders (e.g. seeking multiple co-founders).
In the second 40 minutes:
- Live critiques (in some cases, constructive tear-downs) of real companies and entrepreneurs.
- How entrepreneurs can make the jump from theory to revenue… in real-time.
- How you can immediately stop “playing business” without customer contact.
If you’re going to skip any part, skip the first 20 minutes. Though I enjoyed every minute, the last 40 minutes are especially must-see.
For more from Noah, be sure to check out his previous how-to posts on this blog, as well as his free upcoming course (9/26/13) on creativeLIVE: How to Overcome Fear and Get What You Want.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: What tools or services have you found most valuable for low-cost business validation? Any other tricks?
(Photo: Andrew Atkinson)
### PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS DEADLINE HAS PASSED. THANKS! ###
I am looking for one great company to put my name, brand, and entire network behind.
Usually, I do this through advising, and my start-ups include Uber, Evernote, Automattic (WordPress.com), and Shopify, among others. I’ve been with some of them from pre-seed money to $1-billion+ valuations.
Here’s my full bio and credentials, and below is a testimonial from one of my start-ups:
“Tim has played a huge part in putting Shopify on the map. He has been an advisor to Shopify since 2009, and he’s been invaluable in the growth of our business.
Back when no one knew about us, we were brainstorming with him. He challenged us to prove that building an online business was in fact as easy as we claimed. In order to accomplish that, and under Tim’s guidance and leadership, we created the Shopify Build-a-Business competition. Now, it’s one of the most important things that we do.
In the most recent Build-a-Business contest alone, more than 12,000 brand-new shops sold more than $55 million in products. It’s become the most popular ‘online retail’ competition in the world.
This helped Shopify ‘cross the chasm’ in terms of pushing Shopify’s brand to a mainstream audience.
It was risky, but Tim knew it would succeed – it was entirely consistent with his track record for PR and Marketing. Simply put, Tim is our secret weapon!”
- Harley Finkelstein, CPO
Shopify – The world’s most popular ecommerce platform for small businesses, currently powering more than 60,000 online stores that sell more than $1B in products annually. Shopify also powers stores for brands like Gatorade, Forbes, Budweiser, The Chive, and more.
Back to Spearhead Capital…
This time, I’m doing things differently: I’m raising an entire round of financing for one company… with unusual perks. I’ve been planning this for a long time, and it’s only possible now.
Here’s what it looks like…
You should want (or be willing) to raise $500,000-$1,000,000, and here are the benefits of doing it with me:
- I won’t take a board seat, so you retain all control.
- Massive national PR/exposure. This is going to get a LOT of attention, and I’m famous for maximizing impact (e.g. Forbes’ “The Tim Ferriss Effect” and AdAge awards for product launches).
- VCs usually want a minimum of 20% ownership. You can sell as little (or much) % as you want here.
- Once VCs see you succeed, you are in a massive position of strength and will probably receive unsolicited term sheets. This flips the tables. If you want optimal leverage for a larger round (say $5-10M total), raising a small amount with me makes sense.
- Minimal disclosure. You don’t have to pitch to investors and potential competitors.
What I’m looking for:
- Consumer-facing product/service (e.g. Evernote, StumbleUpon, Uber, etc.), or small-business focused product/service (e.g. Shopify), not enterprise software.
- 100K+ active users OR serial founder(s) with past exits OR 10K+ paying customers.
- 10%+ month-on-month activity growth.
- Clean cap table, minimal previous financing (or none), no bridge rounds.
- If you’re in “stealth” mode, you’d have to come out of stealth when I start fundraising, which would only last a few weeks.
- US-based companies, or companies willing to create US-based investable entities (which is easy). Shopify started in Canada, for instance.
### PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS DEADLINE HAS PASSED, AND THE FORM HAS BEEN TAKEN DOWN. THANKS! ###
Interested? I’m psyched. Please fill out this form. Deadline is July 25, 2013 at 5pm EST, and I’ll be in touch!
VERY big things ahead.
Please note: I’m only recruiting the start-up at this point in time. I’m not talking publicly about the mechanisms or process, so thanks for understanding if I can’t answer many questions in the comments.
(Photo credit: Shewatchedthesky)
This is short post on content creation and monetization.
Below is an e-mail I received from a friend of a friend. My answers to him are inline after “TIM”, and I’ve elaborated on a few.
The e-mail itself is also a great example of a thoughtful approach to a busy person (me). I bolded one key phrase.
For those who want to explore further, here are two related posts:
How to Build a High-Traffic Blog Without Killing Yourself
Tim Ferriss Scam! Practical Tactics for Dealing with Haters
Now, let’s read that e-mail… Read More
Debbie Sterling’s GoldieBlox is now grossing $300,000+ per month.
My specialty is modeling success. I analyze what works and ask: what recipe can I find that others can use?
In this post, we’ll look at five successful online businesses. Some of them (e.g. GoldieBlox) are now grossing $300,000+ per month…and it’s the founder’s first company! One (Fresh-Tops) has gone from 1 to 20 employees in six months. Some of the other stats are even more impressive.
Out of more than 10,000 contestants in the 2012 Shopify Build-a-Business Competition, these are the five businesses that sold the most in completely different categories:
Design, Art and Home
Gadgets and Electronics
Fashion and Apparel
Canadian [Because Shopify is based in Canada. Go Canucks!]
What do they have in common? And what can you replicate on your own?
For both questions, the answer is: more than you think.
The highest monthly sales by a contestant in the FIRST two months of starting, excluding any pre-existing businesses, was $196,811. How would that change your life?
Without further ado, let’s analyze these five rock stars, looking at what they did right and, just as important, what they did wrong… Read More