Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

CEOs THAT SELL

Why Startup CEOs Still Have to Make Sales Calls

by Howard Tullman

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It’s not your strength, or maybe not even what you enjoy doing. But being there to close the deal isn’t something you can simply hand off to the sales team.

At what point can a CEO turn sales over to professional salespeople?  Before that can happen, the company has to achieve two foundational milestones:

  • You need to know exactly what you’re selling—by doing it over and over again (and not as a one-off).
  • You need to know for certain that others can sell it consistently.

That only comes with the maturity of your product/service.  Until it reaches that point, stay in the field and keep selling.  Your product is still being developed on the fly and continually redesigned/reconfigured to better suit the real requirements and demands of customers.  The fact is, ultimately only you can make the critical design and development decisions and you’ll do a much better job of that if you are hearing it directly from the end users and not from a bunch of whiny salespeople.

I’m seeing more and more startup CEOs who discover way too soon that they don’t like the wear and tear, the travel, and the rejection that are all crucial parts of selling a new product or service.  So they retreat, thinking they can run their businesses while they’re sitting on their butts behind a desk back in the office. That’s not how this game works; that behavior is a formula for failure. You may not be an extrovert.  You may not even know the technology that underlies your business as well as half the other people in the company.  You are, however, the boss and today that fact alone means a lot, at least to the people who make the final purchasing decisions.

Remember—buyers are typically older than you, they grew up in strictly hierarchical systems where titles count, and they need to be made to feel important and respected if they’re gonna sign off on your deal. No offense to any of the members of your team, but customers don’t want to deal with the monkey—they need to see the organ grinder. That’s you. And they want you for all the obvious reasons:

  • People don’t really care how much you know until they know how much you care. Show up. It’s important.
  • Startup staffs are notoriously scattered and hurried—lacking focus and attention to detail. Customers want to know that you personally are connected, paying attention and directly engaged with their business, their concerns, and their problems.
  • Clients want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Not second hand. They want commitments and assurances from you. Everybody knows that the sales guys will say anything and promise them the world.  They need assurance that you will stand behind your product or service and make good on your promises. The buck always stops with you.

Product Maturity

Once your product/service reaches those critical milestones, it’s time to kick yourself upstairs and focus on other things. I encourage CEOs who find they spend too much effort selling to optimize their time.  I suggest that they find competent sales managers and others who can tee up just the right meetings for them—not opening meetings which are a dime a dozen, but closing meetings where the deals get done.

Finding sales meat-eaters to fill managerial roles isn’t easy; they are the hardest hires for any startup, but it’s absolutely critical to have them onboard if you’re going to build a viable business.

When your startup is hiring talent, you need to avoid certain categories of salespeople. For example, stay away from what I call empire builders.  There’s a whole generation or two of sales management types whose experience comes only from large organizations.  I have found fairly consistently that they are the wrongest guys possible for a startup because they grew up in a system where they measured their value and their success by the sheer number of people they managed rather than the results that those folks delivered. Nothing kills a young business faster than bloat and bureaucracy and having too many sales people sitting on their hands and not selling is the worst kind of poison. So be careful what you wish for and who you hire for this critical job.

There’s no more challenging job than being the CEO. You are responsible for the health of each part of the organization and the trajectory of the entire venture.  Stay in the sales loop until your product/service matures.  Then focus on closing deals.  Customers need you to be there—to say what you’ll do, and do what you say.

 

 Howard Tullman is the CEO of Chicago-based 1871, where 500 digital startups are building their businesses every day. He is also the general managing partner of G2T3V and Chicago High Tech Investors, both early-stage venture funds; a member of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ChicagoNEXT Innovation Council and Governor Bruce Rauner’s Innovate Illinois Advisory Council. He is an adviser to many technology businesses and an adjunct professor at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

@tullman

This article is an excerpt of one that appeared recently in Inc.

Image Credits – Getty Images, MS Office, Howard Tullman

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money..Copyright © 2018 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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JUST WRONG

Remembering the Olympics

by John Jonelis

“That’s just wrong!”  says Loop Lonagan as he grabs his remote control, skips ahead on the DVR, and a major Olympic event flashes by the screen too fast to recognize.  We immediately voice our outrage—all of us: Mark T Wayne, William Shakes, Donatas Ludditis, and me.

T.WAYNE“Go back—go back you idiot!”

ME“What’d we just miss?”

T.WAYNE “The entire race—that’s what we missed!  Execrable!”

Things are usually more congenial.  We like watching the Olympics at Lonagan’s penthouse condo.  And we like the 20 ft. OLED Jumbotron, the glass-wall view of the lake, the Swedish waitresses plying us with drinks and food as we wallow in reclining chairs.  Who wouldn’t?  Every two years we do it—our own private marathon!  AND WE WATCH IT ALL.  Skipping events is not taken lightly.

Loop records every event on every station and presents it all to us in the most excellent way.  He’s a master of the remote!  His skill and judgement add immeasurably to our enjoyment!  We race past the talking heads.  Don’t even stop to hear athlete interviews.  Who has time or patience for such drivel?  There’s always another sport to watch and no shortage at all!  And every one of them is performed with such extraordinary skill!  I absolutely love watching the Olympics this way.

Take figure skating for instance.  Before Loop created our marathon, I’d watch the event live and quickly overflow with indignation at unfair judging. I’d get rowdy, vocal, and loud—probably turn purple—and spoil my appreciation of the skill displayed on ice.  I hate to imagine my effect on other poor souls cursed by close proximity to my fury.  Loop eliminates all that.  Turns out, I find the sport a whole lot more enjoyable if we just watch the excellent skating and wait till the end to see the lineup of winners.

But this time, he’s taken it upon himself to skip an entire event without so much as asking for a vote.

T.WAYNE  – “May I point out, Mr. Lonagan, that your action is entirely outside the realm of polite behavior and unbecoming a host.  We agreed to vote.  Because of that rule, I sat through a flighty ice dancing competition night after night—certainly not an event worthy of Olympic glory like biathlon or hockey—and I held my tongue  (if not my liquor) and filed no complaint!  But this—this is inexcusable!”

LUDDITIS“I agree with Mr. Wayne.  Is not right what you do.  You must go back.”

Albert Einstein

LONAGAN – “Wadda you say, Will?”

SHAKES “Methinks tis sport to race.  To aver smacks pie on thy face.”

With the revolt heated and noisy, Loop’s dog Clamps wakes up and quick as a short track skater, snaps food off plates precariously perched on large bellies.  I hold my shrimp cocktail high over my head, hoping he doesn’t attack.  An 85 lb. Bull Terrier is capable of snapping a 2×4 with his jaws.

LONAGAN“Clamps!  Down!  Okay you guys—if that’s what you’se all want.  I’m windin’ it back.  But yer all gonna be sorry. Just sayin’.”

LUDDITIS“Is better you do right thing.”

T.WAYNE“Here, here!”

Lonagan cues up the recording and the first competitors in doubles luge begin their run.

LUDDITIS – (wiping his glasses)  “Something not right. I see two stiff bodies—piled like corpses.”

SHAKES“Tis a foul sled that slides no good.” 

ME“What’s the purpose of the second guy, anyway?  Looks to me like the one on the bottom gets his stuffings squeezed out. Kinda awkward.”

T.WAYNE“Patently vulgar and preposterous!  Ought not to be allowed!” 

SHAKES“When we are born we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools”

LONAGAN “I tried t’ spare you guys all that pain. There’s hardly room fer ONE guy on dem little lude sleds.  And think about it—they practice like that fer four whole years.  Kinda stretches da ‘magination, don’t it? ‘Course, it might be good if just one of ‘em went down holdin’ a greased pig.  Er maybe a keg and see who can empty it the fastest.”

LUDDITIS – “I wonder if parents are proud.”

T.WAYNE“Those men should be taken out and shot!”

LONAGAN“Okay dat’s unanimous. Let’s see what we got next.”

And while we watch the next sport, I attempt to drive the foul image out of my memory.

 

With thanks for inspiration from Jeremie Freund.

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money..Copyright © 2018 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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A STOLEN STORY

by John Jonelis

“Tell me a story, Uncle John!”

“A story eh?” My pal Loop Lonagan got in big trouble telling stories to Jim Kren’s little girl. “Y’know, Princess, in this case, maybe discretion’s the better part of valor.”

“But I always get a bedtime story. I can’t sleep without a bedtime story. Please, Uncle John! Pleeeeeeeeeze!”

How can a guy turn this kid down? “Okay Princess, just lay back and pretend you’re sleepy.”

“Make it a Christmas story!”

“Hmmm.” After a moment, one occurs to me—one I can steal. “Okay Princess, here goes. There’s this bright guy I know. Immigrant entrepreneur. I mean, Princess, he comes to this country and founds a startup company.”

“I know what it means.”

“It’s high tech. Agricultural analytics. Starts it during the dot-com crash around the turn of the century. Despite the lousy economy, it takes off big-time, goes public and makes me and the other investors real happy.

“His two sons work for him to build up the business. They’re his key employees and make fair salaries. The company adds a mobile app, enhanced AI, and thrives right through the 2008 recession. Years later, it’s still strong. Stock keeps going up-and-up.”

“That’s not a Christmas story, Uncle John! That’s business stuff. You sound just like my daddy.”

“Hold onto your red fur hat—I’m just getting warmed up. Papa loves those boys more than anything—wants them to run the company when he retires. Lost his wife years ago and these two are all he cares about.

“Now let’s look at the younger son. He knows he’s gonna inherit a lot of stock some day and can’t want to get his hands on it. He feels trapped and longs to run his own life while he’s still young. So on Christmas in 2006, he announces he wants his inheritance—right now. Like most kids that age, he’s full of himself—not seeing things from his fathers point of view, maybe not considering all the ramifications of what he says. But it’s kinda like telling the old man, ‘I wish you were already dead so I had your money.’”

“That’s not nice.”

“No it’s not and it gets worse. The young buck’s not interested in the company at all. Not planning to stick around. Just wants to cash out and enjoy life.”

“This is a bad boy, Uncle John.”

“Ah Princess, don’t be so hasty to judge. You don’t know what’s really in his heart. Now the company’s listed on Nasdaq, and Papa still owns 40% of the shares. He says to himself in his broken English, ‘That what they want? Okay!  Is Christmas!’ There’s a family trust set up, so he simply transfers his stock—all of it to the two boys.

“Right away, the young colt sells his stock on the open market. With all that loose cash, he feels rich. So he moves to Vegas. Lives the wild life. Gambling all night. Show girls. Maserati. Yacht. Private jet. Hangs around with movie stars. And lots of foolish investments that don’t pay off. He never calls or writes home. Doesn’t visit the next Christmas.

“Now the older brother is still working at the company. But as you might have guessed by now, the old man is really the brains of the outfit. The shareholders—especially that big VC firm that owns a lot of stock with a seat on the board—they all want to keep Papa running the company. The board of directors votes to keeps him on as CEO, with a fat salary—bigger than he ever paid himself.

“Now I want you to notice something: That move wrankles the older brother. He secretly wants to run the show, but there’s nothing he can do about it. So he hoards his shares and bides his time. He stays at his job, working harder and harder, trying to prove himself. Doesn’t like it that his father’s salary is coming out of his share of the company. Can’t wait for the old geezer to croak so he can slide into that big desk.”

“Ugh! How horrible! This brother is worse than the other one!”

“Right Princess. Pappy doesn’t have a clue what’s cranking through this guy’s mind. The kid works hard. He’s dependable. Therefore, he must be a fine boy, right? But he’s so secretive—so sour—never smiles—and for some reason that Pops doesn’t understand, the other one still holds a soft spot in his aging heart.

Back to the younger buck: By the second year, this kid’s portfolio takes a dive, and at the same time, he’s going through money like water. Kid starts looking for work. After all, he was a big executive at a successful company. Impressive LinkedIn resume and all. But now it’s the great recession of 2008 and all he can get are temporary consulting jobs. He forms a startup company, crunching numbers for big investment houses and actually raises some capital. But not enough. Goes belly up within the year. Figures he’s a failure and he’s ashamed to let his father know how bad things are turning out for him. So he doesn’t visit the family that Christmas either.

“By the third year, he’s broke, can’t pay the rent, and gets evicted from his hotel suite. Most of that year, he’s living in his car and scrounging food, feeling mighty low.

“Don’t cry, Princess.”

She sniffs. “This is a terrible Christmas story.”

“Wait and see. Finally, the kid hits rock bottom and comes to his senses. I mean—hey—he’s starving to death. He decides to go home. Even newbies at his dad’s company make a decent living. He’ll confess everything to his father—his failure, his waste—he’ll apologize and beg for a part-time job. Nothing special—maybe an internship or some low-level gig on probation—something like that. He knows it’s more than he deserves.

“Out of the blue, Papa sends him an invite to Christmas dinner and a plane ticket that year, so he texts that he’ll come. Spends the whole flight practicing his confession.

“On Christmas Eve, the old man gets restless; hires a limo and goes out to make a few preparations. Phones his secretary with special instructions. Stops at Mens Wearhouse and lotsa other places. Gets to O’Hare and hangs around for hours. I mean, this guy hasn’t even heard from his boy in three years! When the kid finally walks out the concourse, Papa runs to him, throws his arms around him, hugs him tenderly, tells him he’s glad he’s home. The kid hasn’t changed clothes in a year. Stinks to make your eyes sting. No luggage. Papa leads his son to the limo, arm over his shoulders, and tells his boy he loves him.

“In the back of the limo, the boy stammers out his practiced confession, tears streaming down his face, but his father will have none of it. ‘Stop—no more!’ he shouts. If there’s anything this kid ever learned, it’s to obey his father’s commands. Papa breaks out two tumblers and a bottle of Drambuie and leads the conversation into fond recollections and good times. Does most of the talking and the kid can’t help but laugh at some of the memories.

“Limo stops at the Union League Club and they take in a steam and swim and shower. The kid opens his locker to find a new shirt, jeans, sport jacket, shoes—the works. He can hardly believe it and again stammers out his confession.

Enough already! I not hear it!’ says his father, and the old man’s word is always final.

“When they get home, the place is full of Papa’s close friends and dear customers—maybe 300 people. A twelve foot tree sparkles with a million lights.  A live band pumps out Christmas music.  The aroma of good food fills the house. A caterer lays out an amazing number of enormous turkeys with stuffing and potatoes with gravy, and cranberry sauce, wine and all the trimmings. All that food takes up the big table in Papa’s baronial dining room and they set up a buffet line. People enjoy their meal milling around, indulging in lively conversation. When everybody eats their fill, out comes the pumpkin and mincemeat pies, ice cream, coffee, and brandy. The band leads the crowd singing carols. Take it from me: this is a great party! I for one, enjoyed every minute of it.

“Now the older brother works late at the office that night, as usual. One of the guests notices him out front, pacing in the snow. Papa runs out to him—doesn’t even stop to put on his coat. Begs the boy to come in and join the party. But the kid spits out words in anger: ‘I work for you day and night! I never refuse to do anything you say! Do you ever throw a party for me? But when this worthless bum—this son of yours—shows up, after squandering your money on women and gambling—you celebrate like some kind of idiot, disgracing us in front of all our friends and customers!’

“Papa hugs him and speaks softly to him in his native dialect. ‘On you I depend always. You are good boy. You own all my company stock. But your brother is home! After three years he come home! We must celebrate! Is like he come back from dead!’

“But the older brother won’t be consoled. He curses and shouts, ‘He should be dead,’ and gets in his car and drives off.”

I smile at Princess. She doesn’t look sleepy at all.

“What happens then?” she says.

I sigh. “The old man—Uncle Ludditis, in case you hadn’t guessed already—he eventually retires and opens that bar he always dreamed about.  Rents me the back room for my magazine.  The older brother takes over as CEO and forces the younger one out.

“Uncle John!  That can’t be the way it turns out!  It’s not fair!”

“Why not?  Those are the consequences of their decisions.  The older one holds onto his 20% share of the company so he finally runs that show, a rich miser living alone.  The younger one learns from his mistakes, finds employment elsewhere, marries a good woman, raises two wonderful children.

“And Princess, their father loves them both deeply, no matter what.  His love is all he has left to give and he’s not stingy with it.  Close your eyes now.  Merry Christmas.”

Story credit: Jesus Christ, The Parable of the Prodigal Son –Luke 15:11-32

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More Christmas Stories:

BEST GIFT

A LOOP LONAGAN CHRISTMAS

THE BUM IN ME

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, App, Big Corporations, big money, Conflict, Donatas Ludditis, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Culture, investor, Jim Kren, loop lonagan, Mobile App, Relationships, Startup, startup company, vc, venture capital

GET YOUR OWN ‘BOTS

OR RISK BEING PUT OUT OF BUSINESS BY THEM

by Howard Tullman

Don’t fear the bots. They’ll free your company from unprofitable and tedious work. Yes, some jobs are going to be displaced. But the ones that are left and the new ones the bots will create will be more productive and way more interesting.

I realize that it’s a little frightening for many of us when we hear some of the intimidating statistics about headcount reductions in more and more industries that are being driven by the growing deployment of what we’re generically calling “bots.” But I don’t think bots are so bad for business. I realize that, while the major shifts are just beginning, we’re already talking about the displacement of thousands of analysts and adjusters in the insurance and finance industries as well as hundreds of highly-paid attorneys in sectors of the banking business. The sooner you figure out how to incorporate and deploy these little time- and money-savers, the better off you and your business will be. And that goes for businesses of all sizes.

Excepting some of the folks who will be replaced by these efficient and energetic little wonders, it will be a break for the better. Honest. No one in their right mind will miss any of the boring, repetitive and utterly useless tasks that are a painful part of too many of our jobs. If your tasks can be reduced to a set of instructions and rules that need to be repeatedly and flawlessly executed, we’ll soon enough find a program or a machine to do that work better, quicker and more accurately than you– and to do it 24/7 as well. No one argues with that part of the equation. We’d all love to be freed up from our chores and be doing exciting, creative and constructive work.

The rub comes in the rest of the story – the ratio and the scale of the jobs being eliminated as compared with the new jobs available to replace them. To quote Bruce Springsteen, in My Hometown, “Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back.” Take a look at the hospitality business as a simple example. Airbnb is closing in on Marriott’s $42.7 billion market cap (it’s already worth about $10 billion more than Hilton), but the employee headcounts of these companies are in different universes. Marriott employs more than 225,000 people, Airbnb about 3,500– yes 3,500 employees. And I’m not just picking on Marriott. Hilton has about 170,000 team members. You can argue that some of those people are doing different and allegedly irreplaceable functions. But in the end, the real question is whether the customer/guest’s needs are being more than met. None of Marriott’s guests really cares about whatever it is that fills the day for those extra 400,000 workers. I’m not even sure that most of their managers know what makes up their day.

When you couple the substantial reductions in the workforce with the readily-demonstrated and clearly impressive gains in productivity and lower operating costs that we’re also seeing, it’s clear that there are major bumps in the road ahead and significant disruptions in the ways business has traditionally been done. This is especially true because the vast majority of these changes are neither complicated in regard to the technologies nor costly in terms of the required capital. Low-hanging fruit abounds. JP Morgan Chase reports eliminating more than 350,000 hours of legal document review time per year by employing bots and smart contracts.

When I use the term “bots,” I’m not talking about anything as challenging as truly intelligent agents or even anything autonomous. I’m talking about simple lines of code– and not that many– that can successfully execute instructions and directives or commands that are well-established and documented by humans. I hate to call any of this stuff artificial intelligence. At best it’s augmented and extended intelligence. The intelligence being extended is ours; the folks being augmented are us. We’re talking about systems and tools that will help us perform routine tasks with minimal supervision or ongoing direction, and essentially automatically, upon request. Every business still has some of these pockets of obvious inefficiency and it’s mainly ignorance of better options and inertia that keeps them from realizing immediate improvements and significant cost savings. Your business does too, and the sooner you do your own audit and analysis, the better off and more competitive you’ll be. (See Use a Mirror to Mind Your Own Business First)

There are opportunities everywhere, but the sweetest spots for almost any business seem to fall into four recurring buckets. Forget about chatbots and retweeters. Focus internally first where you can get the biggest bang for your buck and where you can ride on existing rails. The people providing support and resources in this emerging space are few and far between right now, but they tend to target these critical areas: HR, Finance, Operations and Sales. I know, you’re already saying, “well duh, that’s just about the whole business”, so trim it down to HR and Finance and start there. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.

One of the best providers is an 1871 alumni organization called Catalytic/www.catalytic.com/> whose tagline says it all: “Do more of what you love, and less of what you don’t.” They are smart enough to understand that they are in a “rinse and repeat” business so that each time they build a new process bot they create the ability to provide a version of that same solution to thousands of other businesses more efficiently, more rapidly, and less expensively. They talk about concrete client results delivered in days, not months or years.

And, to be successful, you need a plan that’s ongoing and iterative and that’s always targeting and attacking the dumbest things you are doing. In many cases, it’s an approach that follows the same basic steps: digitize and dump the paper; speed up the flow and the inter- and intra-departmental handoffs; automate as many steps in the process as possible; measure the results; and do it again. It needs to become a habit and a mantra of your business—always moving to raise the bottom and improve the average.

It’s interesting to watch the adoption cycle as well. It’s both competitive and contagious. The more you do; the more your people will want to do and, interestingly enough, you’ll have them bringing suggestions and ideas to you for next steps–forward integrations into other programs like Word and Excel, for example—instead of sitting on their hands and bitching about the bots.

The dashboards and the flow charts that you now have access to provide levels of actionable information and data that were never available before. Frankly, these are the exact tools that you need to move your business forward. Managing by exception rather than brute force is the only way to spread your scarce and costly resources around.

 

 

Howard Tullman is the father of Chicago’s 1871 incubator.

Read his bio on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_A._Tullman

Check out his websites at http://tullman.com/  and http://tullman.blogspot.com/

Or just type his name into your favorite search engine.

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This article previously appeared in Inc.

Image Credits – Getty Images, MS Office

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under 1871, angel, angel capital, angel investor, Big Corporations, big money, chicago, Chicago Startup, Chicago Ventures, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Howard Tullman, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, startup company, vc, Venture, venture capital

HOW HYPERLOCAL ECONOMIES EVOLVE

By: William Arrington

The original intent for this follow up to Hyperlocal Social Economies (HSEs) was to focus on how businesses can participate in these targeted consumption markets. I think this is an appropriate time to discuss how HSEs may evolve. Before diving in let’s quickly recap what comprises an HSE market:

  • A group of consumers with similar lifestyle and consumption patterns (i.e. friends)
  • Common set of goods/services consumed by the group
  • Competitive market for said goods and services
  • Goods and services are geographically unbound

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Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, big money, Economics, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Financial Markets, Free Trade, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Internet Marketing, Marketing, Relationships, Startup, startup company, vc, Venture, venture capital

WILDERNESS

by John Jonelis

.In Chicago, we enjoy something few high-tech centers can boast—easy access to a primal wilderness—a vast paradise, ancient and unspoiled—unique in the world and very special.

Whenever I’m in this place, I love the world just as I find it.

A short commuter flight from O’Hare Field whisks me to Winnipeg International Airport. Then a short local flight delivers me to an isolated airstrip carved out of an untouched forest—hundreds of miles from roads and crowds. And I experience absolutely no jet lag. My destination is located within my own time zone! This amazing opportunity is accessible due to technology, and I intend to enjoy it as often as I can!

Canadian Shield shown in red

My favorite location is Manitoba at the 55th parallel—as far north as Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and the Bering Sea—as far north as Omsk. North of that grow stunted trees in permafrost, but here tall Pine and Aspen surround the lakes. Uncounted and untouched waters flow through this region—a massive system of rivers and lakes, draining into Hudson Bay. Here it is not uncommon for the ice to measure four feet thick as late as May. I come in June.

Boreal Forest—the crown of the Northern Hemisphere

Mark T Wayne kindly explained to me the geology of this place that I love so intensely. This is the unique and magnificent intersection of the Canadian Shield, and the Boreal Forest. The Shield is a vast area, surrounding Hudson Bay, where, during the last ice age, severe glaciation removed everything down to bedrock. The Boreal (also known as the Snow Forest) is a predominantly conifer range that rings the northern hemisphere like a crown. (In Russia, it runs through Siberia.) Canada’s intersection of Boreal and Shield makes up the largest unspoiled wild area in the world.

Overstressed Chicago entrepreneurs need a place to burn off the tension of a high-risk high-reward lifestyle. Some find solace at the golf course. Others in spectator sports, television, or booze. I prefer the stunning spectacle of God’s creation in the raw. And I bring my fishing rod!

The great Northern Pike reigns in these waters and grows to enormous proportions! Nobody stocks these lakes, but the waters teem with these ferocious predators. Conditions are just as they’ve been for thousands and thousands of years, and unlike other regions of the globe, Manitoba means to keep it that way. No live bait. Barbless hooks. All fish returned to the water unharmed. That transforms an idle pursuit into a challenging alternate activity for budding business tycoons.

Vladimir Up Yours Putin finds time to enjoy the Boreal in his native Russia—that is, when he’s not busy overrunning free countries or thumbing his nose at our great nation. If he can get away for such activities, I think Chicago entrepreneurs can do the same.

I’ve experienced many good fishing lakes in Canada’s provinces. This is my favorite. Knee Lake is a 50-mile-long body of icy water punctuated by rocky reefs and 150 islands. Only one small lodge operates here. They call it North Star Outpost and to me, it’s as close to heaven-on-earth as you can get.

Loop Lonagan, Mark T Wayne, and Donatis Ludditis from my magazine surprised me with tickets for this excursion. And I am immensely grateful.

Here, a man indulges in the elemental fight against nature and—for a precious time— entirely escapes the Chicago rat race!

Here, a man lives off the fat of the land, and—in a delightful exception to the catch-and-release rules—harvests fat walleye for that exquisite tradition known as Shore Lunch.

Nothing tastes better than fresh walleye cooked over pine logs. This is beer batter—my favorite.

In this ecosystem, nothing goes to waste. After that wonderful meal, I’m back hunting big pike.

Without warning, a strong strike sends a shiver up my elbow and shoulder. I feel vital life at the end of my line. The weight of it leaves no doubt that this is a trophy fish. Then a sharp pull almost yanks the rod and reel from my hands and the water boils!

I catch my breath and strain against the fish. This monster goes through all the escape behaviors learned over a life of perhaps 50 years. It jumps clear of the water. It runs deep. It rolls in my line. It thrashes, tugs, and splashes the surface of the water. Every time I catch sight of this fish, it strikes me with awe. This one is strong and thick. As they say up here, it has shoulders!

It charges the boat and I reel fast to keep my line taught. A moment of slack and the prize will be gone. It swims underneath me and I plunge my rod deep into the icy water and then work it around the bow. When I finally bring this fish to the side of the boat, it turns away and peels line off my big round reel at will.

This battle repeats three times. A fish this big does not succumb easily and expends all its energy before surrender to the net.

Quickly, I lift him into the boat. The barbless hook falls from its mouth. A hurried measurement—46 inches! One snap of the shutter and my prize is back in the water.

A fish this size is delicate and often will not survive the fight without help. Holding it by the tail, I move its body back and forth, flowing water through the gills. A minute or two, and the great northern pike strokes its tail free of my hand and swims away with power. I hope to catch that one again next year.

But for now, I must catch my own breath. This primal battle in God’s wilderness leaves me stunned and in awe and immensely satisfied.

Read – BEST GIFT

 

This is North Star Executive Outpost on Knee Lake, Manitoba, a protected pike sanctuary.

Website – northstarresort.ca

Phone – Talk to Hope Levenhagen at 800-563-7151

Email – hopelevenhagen@northhavenresort.ca

 

Charts and Maps—Wikipedia.

Photography—John Jonelis.

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under angel investor, Canada, Chicago Startup, Chicago Ventures, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, fly fishing, Startup, startup company, vc, Venture, venture capital

STARTUP OF THE YEAR

by John Jonelis

Here’s a Chicago Area startup that brings pleasure, relaxation, and satisfaction to tired business people, gets them out in the open air, away from the pressures of the big city, and teaches them to smile again. Does that sound like a worthy goal?

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I think so.

Now imagine you’re in waters bounded by trees of all kinds—not a house or building in site! No water skiers. No high-powered outboard motors. Not a boat of any kind!

Well, can you imagine that?

Ah!

You see the flight of the blue heron, the bald eagle, ducks and geese. A couple of otters. Nobody in your boat sets eyes on another human being all day long! Sound good so far?

Ah!

This is nature in the raw. You’re drifting a wild river—in strong current—strewn with huge boulders. As you make your way downstream, you shoot several rugged rapids. But due to the skill of your guide and his specialized boat, the ice in your martini glass is never disturbed. You feel at ease the entire day.

Ah!

You bring along a hat, polarized sun glasses, a rain jacket, but no fishing gear. Your guide hands you an expensive Orvis 8-weight fly rod. It feels surprisingly natural and light in your hand.

Maybe you never cast a fly rod before, but your guide gives you a few pointers and moves the boat a little closer to the target—just to make it simpler for you. Now you’re casting hand-made six-inch streamers at the banks with ease. Soon you find out why the fly rod is favored on the river. It’s the most efficient tool for the job.

And fly-casting is therapeutic and highly relaxing.

Ah!

Soon you thrill to strikes from trophy smallmouth bass that fight like a tigers. The fish here grow fat as footballs. Landing one in the heavy current on a fly rod takes all your skill and strength. I can think of nothing else that gives this kind of peace and satisfaction.

Ah!

Ah!

Wahoo!

Hooray!

Yes, we all dream of exotic trips to faraway places. But this one requires no passport. No airplane tickets. All this is happening on the Wisconsin River—a three-hour car ride from Chicago!

Wanna go?

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Hoo-boy!

You gain entry to this paradise in an unusual little boat—a specially designed dory—incredibly maneuverable—easily able to withstand these rocky rapids.

Motorized aluminum rowboats and jon boats risk ripping open their bottoms and ruining their props and lower units on submerged rocks. Electric trolling motors are useless. These rapids swamp canoes and challenge kayaks. A $75,000 bass boat wouldn’t last an hour.

But the diminutive dory makes for safe passage and provides a comfortable and stable platform for you to cast your line with accuracy. It makes the raging water seem calm.

Ah!

Your guide controls the boat with incredible precision using oars.

Yes—oars!

The specialized equipment and the guide’s skill allow you to gain entry to this paradise. Almost nobody else can get in here. That makes for very little fishing pressure. That means abundant game, eager to attack your offering. And the bass here are much larger than those found on famous rivers out east.

Now, THIS is what I’m talkin’ about!

Abe Downs—a chemist by profession—runs Great Northern Fly Fishing out of Stevens Point Wisconsin—just three hours north of Chicago. He’s an Orvis-certified guide and brings his scientific training and businesslike professionalism to bear alongside his extensive fishing knowledge. He’ll even get you a discount at a local restaurant.

Abe switches to musky with the fly rod in the Spring and Fall and scores a good percentage of the time. I love fishing musky but they’re called “The Fish of a Thousand Casts” with good reason. In contrast, these huge smalleys seem always voracious for a meal—even after a cold front! They fight harder than pike. And they bite in the summertime!

Okay, I hear the objections. This ain’t no startup because—because what? Because Abe doesn’t plan to grow like Uber?

Bosh! This little company may not present an investment opportunity for your venture capital fund, but it’s a startup all the same—and quite a successful one. He’s booked most every day of the season. Like a tech startup, he makes use of specialized technology and proprietary knowledge to operate the business. Few can compete in his niche.

And he brings pleasure, relaxation, and satisfaction to himself and his clients. Does that sound like a worthy goal?

I think so.

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On one trip this summer, my fishing partner was my son. On another, it was my friend, Rod Erickson. Neither fished with fly rod and streamer ever before. Both learned quickly and—truth be told—out-fished me. I think Abe is a good teacher.

Photography by John Jonelis, Robert Jonelis, and Rod Erickson

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Great Northern Fly Fishing

Abe@GreatNorthernFlyFishing.com

715-572-3225

1020 Tree Lane, Plover, WI 54467

 

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
.
.

Leave a comment

Filed under chicago, Chicago Startup, Chicago Ventures, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Fishing, fly fishing, Innovation, new companies, pike fishing, smallmouth bass, Startup, startup company