Category Archives: new companies

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

MILLENNIALS ARE BECOMING OBSOLETE—ALREADY!

by Tom McBride

The first time I heard the word “obsolete” was when I overheard my father talking to a stranger on a bus. They were speaking about a new expressway that the city had built, and the stranger said, “That thing was obsolete before they ever opened it.”social media MS OFFICE

I was impressed. I went home and looked up the word. And in time I realized the stranger was right. The builders of the new road had put in four lanes but should have put in six. Soon enough, traffic was snarled, and eventually cars started avoiding the route altogether. Then the side streets became overcrowded with autos. The whole thing was a mess.

“Obsolete” was a terrible word. It still is. If something or someone is obsolete, then he, she, or it no longer works. He, she, or it languishes in irrelevance. And then he, she, or it comes to be avoided altogether. Everyone would rather take the side streets. Obsolete things are just in the way. They are like old professors on college campuses. The young sneak behind buildings in order to avoid them.

Today’s Millennials are not obsolete—yet. Born between 1980 and 2000 they came to this planet during a fairly prosperous time, so they represent a population glut. There are already more Millennials alive than Baby Boomers, who constituted the mother of all population explosions.

percent of workforce MS OFFICE

Corporations are working overtime to figure out how to market to this bunch of fickle young consumers, who have an embarrassment of choices. Human resources directors are wondering how to motivate them in the workplace. They are praised for wanting a more healthy balance between work and life (some of them think overtime is evil), and they are feared, almost, for being digital natives. Unlike the rest of us, they grew up high-tech, so what do they know about cyberspace that we don’t?

phones and tablets MS OFFICE

Others can’t stand them—why won’t they look us in the eye at Starbuck’s instead of staring at their phones all the time? And a few of us older people see them as symbols of a world we don’t want to have much to do with. The whole idea of “looking something up on your phone” (which has more data than your local public library) seems repugnant somehow.

infographic MS OFFICE

But there’s one thing these non-obsolete Millennials can’t avoid: In time, they will become obsolete, like the city expressway of my childhood. They will seem irrelevant. They will be in the way. Young people will hide from them. The new generation will have to work around them.

The question, though, is how can Millennials tell when they’re becoming outmoded?

startup venture MS Office

Like, invest in my startup, huh?

The answer is simple. It’s when they start beginning sentences with “These kids nowadays…” I’ve heard early rumblings of this sentence, as when an older Millennial said of younger Millennials, “These people just take wireless computing for granted.” He was too young to say “these kids,” but give him another ten years.

loft MS Office

The truth is that older Millennials are already far enough along to have teen-aged children. A Millennial born in 1980 is now thirty-six and may well have a fourteen-year-old around. In just ten years that will be true for Millennials born in 1990. They will enter that most dreaded source of becoming old-fashioned and resented: parenthood. And then you will hear such sentences as these:

“You kids have it so lucky. We actually had to flip switches to get lights on in a room—none of this decadent voice-activation stuff.”

“You’re lucky, you kids: When I was your age we couldn’t get our genes edited at birth to make us better-looking.”

robot MS Office“When I was your age, we didn’t have to pay extra to get an actual human being to teach us calculus—unless you kids can learn on a machine, you’re going to bankrupt me.”

“Yes, that’s right, kids. Only when a political party isn’t in power does it object to big government deficits. That’s the way it’s always been. Don’t think that you kids can change it!”

“You kids just trust technology too much. I don’t want to have a robot remove my appendix even if it is cheaper.”

Do you hear the notes of weary impatience in these sentences? Do you detect the tone of resentment in the voice of older people when they encounter the youth and idealism of their kids? Do you sense the envy of the young? Do you pick up on the fatigue of bearing parental burdens?

time magazine MS OFFICE

Yet every one of these sentences will be spoken by…a Millennial. They will be speaking to their offspring, which will be called something like Generation Alpha.

And what about the rest of us—old Boomers and Gen X types? Most of us will be even better than obsolete. We’ll be dead.

But don’t you feel better knowing that these young whippersnappers today will also go the way of all flesh? That’ll be true even if, as predicted, people will be immortal by having their brains downloaded into a computer.

Eventually, even the computer will become…obsolete! Ha!

Cell Phone Girl MS Office

Tom McBride is co-author of The Mindset Lists of American History

and The Mindset List of the Obscure,

and the author The Great American Lay: An All Too Brief History of Sex.

He lives in southern Wisconsin.

Graphics from MS Office.

This article appeared in News From Heartland

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CHICAGO TECH’S NEXT CHAPTER

At Tempus, Ocient and Catalytic, Chicago’s most prominent entrepreneurs are moving on to their next big thing.

by Jim Dallky

Chicago tech is growing up.

One sign of a maturing tech ecosystem is the success of a city’s serial entrepreneurs, and recently we’ve seen some of Chicago’s most high profile founders and technologists move on to their next companies, and tackle big industries like the Internet of Things, cancer research, and artificial intelligence.

Uptake - ChicagoInno

Look no further than Groupon founders Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky. Keywell brought Uptake1 out of stealth in 2015, and the fastgrowing IoT startup has already raised $45 million at a $1.1 billion valuation. Lefkofsky left his CEO role at Groupon last November and, as we first reported in July2, has since been working on Tempus3, a healthtech startup that’s “building the infrastructure to modernize cancer treatment.”

 

Ocient - homepage

Also in July, Cleversafe founder Chris Gladwin, who sold his data storage company to IBM in 2015 for $1.3 billion, unveiled4 his next startup Ocient5. Gladwin has yet to make Ocient’s product plans public, but the software company expects to “ultimately hire hundreds of local employees.”

 

pushbot - website

Sean Chou, the former CTO and employee No. 2 at Fieldglass—which sold to SAP for more than $1 billion—recently, launched Catalytic6, a startup building chatbots for businesses. The company’s platform, Pushbot, helps enterprises “build, run, and improve your processes.”

 

bright - website

You can also look at Jeff Judge, the founder of Signal (acquired by BrightTag in 2014) who’s now building business metrics platform, Bright.7

Kickstarter cofounder Charles Adler is giving entrepreneurs, creatives and makers a better place to work with the Center for Lost Arts8; Motorola veterans are spinning out to create new hardware startups like John Renaldi’s “invisible wearable” company Jio9; along with many, many other founders who are on to their next project and have committed to building in Chicago.

“Certainly, as a community, I think we are maturing,” said Illinois Technology Association CEO Fred Hoch. “It’s being driven a lot by those serial entrepreneurs that are coming back and doing their next thing.”

Hoch described how the city experienced an “excitement period” 3-4 years ago where a lot of startup activity was taking place but, “a lot of bullshit was being developed…things that don’t have a long-term revenue stream.” Chicago’s strength as a tech city is in B2B, Hoch said, and Chicago tech has started to get back who it is as a community. “What’s happened over the last 18 months is that we’ve come back to realize who we are,” he said. “[Entrepreneurs] are not thinking about dog-walking apps. They’re thinking about big things that affect businesses nationally and globally.”

1871 CEO Howard Tullman added that Chicago also has a handful of who he calls “benchers,” successful entrepreneurs who are taking some time off but will likely “be back in the action in a reasonably short time.” This list includes Fieldglass founder Jai Shekhawat, AKTA founder John Roa, and Roger Liew, the former CTO of Orbitz. Tullman also said that 1871 isn’t just full of first-time founders. There are dozens of serial entrepreneurs working out of the Chicago tech hub.

“People don’t understand that the 1871 members aren’t remotely all first timers,” Tullman said. “We have several dozen serial entrepreneurs working here and building their next businesses who are smart enough to avoid making sizeable infrastructure and other capital commitments until they determine whether the dogs will be eating their new dog food…we are definitely seeing a wave of more seasoned, more talented and more aggressive serial entrepreneurs—all working in Chicagoand, largely using their own resources to start the next group of great tech businesses right here.”

Of course, as Chicago’s tech community matures, it doesn’t come without growing pains. Some of the city’s most prominent startups have gone through layoffs in recent months, with Avant firing 60 employees and Raise trimming 15% by cutting 45 people. And the city is still well behind other markets like New York and Boston when it comes to total venture funding.

tempus - website

Tempus

 

But Chicago is proving to be a city where entrepreneurs are willing to double down after successful exits, and that’s good news for the future of Chicago tech.

“We’ve come a long way in the last 10 years,” Hoch said. “[Entrepreneurs] are choosing to stay and be a part of this community because it’s a strong community now.”

 

About the Author

Jim Dallke is the Associate Editor of ChicagoInno of Streetwise Media, where this article previously appeared.

This article appeared in News From Heartland

 

 

Links cited:

Graphics and logos from company websites and ChicagoInno

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, Howard Tullman, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, investor, new companies, Startup, startup company, vc, Venture, venture capital

WHY MILLENNIALS KEEP DUMPING YOU

An Open Letter to Management

by Lisa Earle McLeod

Attracting and keeping top millennial talent is a burning issue for leaders. Millennials are 35% of the workforce. By 2020 they’ll be 46% of the working population.

Some of our most successful clients — organizations like G Adventures, Google, and Hootsuite — are filled with millennials who are on fire for their jobs. Yet many organizations struggle to attract, and retain, top millennial talent.

One of us, Elizabeth, wrote this letter, to share insights about what top-performing millennials want and how leaders can ignite the “energy of a thousand suns.”

~ ~ ~

An Open Letter to Management:

You hired us thinking this one might be different; this one might be in it for the long haul. We’re six months in, giving everything we have, then suddenly, we drop a bomb on you. We’re quitting.

We know the stereotypes. Millennials never settle down. We’re drowning in debt for useless degrees. We refuse to put our phone away. We are addicted to lattes even at the expense of our water bill. Our bosses are not wrong about these perceptions. But, pointing to our sometimes irresponsible spending and fear of interpersonal commitment isn’t going to solve your problem. You still need us. We’re the ones who’ve mastered social media, who have the energy of a thousand suns, and who will knock back 5-dollar macchiatos until the job is done perfectly.

I’ve worked in corporate America, administrative offices, advertising agencies, and restaurants. I’ve had bosses ranging from 24 to 64. I’ve had bosses I loved, and bosses I didn’t. I’ve seen my peers quit, and I’ve quit a few times myself. Here’s what’s really behind your millennials’ resignation letter:

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-1- You tolerate low-performance

It’s downright debilitating to a high achiever. I’m working my heart out and every time I look up Donna-Do-Nothing is contemplating how long is too long to take for lunch. I start wondering why leadership tolerates this.

Is that the standard here? No thanks.

Fact: Poor performers have a chilling effect on everyone.

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-2- ROI is not enough for me

I spent Sunday thinking about how I can make a difference to our customers. Now it’s Monday morning, what do I hear? Stock price. Billing. ROI. Suddenly, my Monday power playlist seems useless. I’m sitting in a conference room listening to you drag on about cash flow.

I was making more money bartending in college than I am at this entry-level job. You say I’ll get a raise in a year if the company hits a certain number? So what? I need something to care about today. Talk to me about how we make a difference, not your ROI report.

Fact: Organizations with a purpose bigger than money have a growth rate triple that of their competitors.

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-3- Culture is more than free Panera

Don’t confuse culture with collateral. Yes, I am a cash-strapped millennial who really appreciates free lunch. But I don’t wake up at 6AM every day to play foosball in the break room. I’m not inspired to be more innovative over a Bacon Turkey Bravo.

I need to be surrounded by people who are on fire for what we’re doing. I need a manager who is motivated to push boundaries and think differently. Working in a cool office is really awesome. So is free lunch. But a purposeful culture is more important.

Fact: A culture of purpose drives exponential sales growth

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-4- It’s ok to get personal

Treat me like a number? I’ll return the favor. This job will quickly become nothing more than my rent payment. I’ll start living for Friday and counting down the minutes until 5. After a few months of that, I’ll probably have a drunken epiphany and realize I want more out of my life than this.

Then I’ll prove your assumptions right. 8 months in, I’ll quit and leave. Or worse, I’ll quit and stay, just like Donna-Do-Nothing.

That’s not good for either of us. Here’s what you need to know:

I was raised to believe I could change the world. I’m desperate for you to show me that the work we do here matters, even just a little bit. I’ll make copies, I’ll fetch coffee, I’ll do the grunt work. But I’m not doing it to help you get a new Mercedes.

I’ll give you everything I’ve got, but I need to know it makes a difference to something bigger than your bottom line.

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Signed,

A Millennial

~ ~ ~

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The millennials are telling us what we already know in our hearts to be true. People want to make money; they also want to make a difference. Successful leaders put purpose before profit, and they wind up with teams who drive revenue through the roof.

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This article was co-written with Elizabeth McLeod, a millennial and cum laude graduate of Boston University, and daughter of Lisa Earle McLeod.

Lisa Earle McLeod is the creator of the popular business concept Noble Purpose and author of the bestselling books, SELLING WITH NOBLE PURPOSE and LEADING WITH NOBLE PURPOSE. Lisa is a sales leadership consultant and keynote speaker who helps organizations improve competitive differentiation and emotional engagement. www.mcleodandmore.com

This article previously appeared in Forbes

Image credit: Lisa Earle McLeod

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Also by Lisa Earle McLeod:

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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THE BIG LITTLE TRAP

by Scott M. Anderson

An investor, Sally, recently heard two pitches. The first was from A-Dot-Co, which will produce polka-dot jellybeans using a new patented process. The second was from BetterBean, will produce purple jellybeans using a trade secret method which improves existing manufacturing processes.

Having spent several years owning a candy company, Sally was interested in both opportunities.

Jellybean T

Sally knows that the jellybean market is large and well established. With a few regional exceptions, she knows the annual market growth has been 3% for many years.

sales projection MS Office

Accordingly, she was a bit surprised to see strong growth projections in the presentations from both A-Dot-Co and BetterBean. More diligence would be required.

Sally asked both companies to submit detailed materials in support of the projections they presented. She was particularly focused on the factors responsible for revenue growth. Since the market is large and established, Sally knew that growth for a new entrant must come from either expansion of the overall market or from switching behavior (customers switching from established providers to new providers). She was hopeful that the detailed support material for each revenue projection, would reflect management’s understanding of these market dynamics.

 

A-Dot-Co

A-Dot-Co

Sally received the following support detail from A-Dot-Co:

A-Dot-Co Revenue

She knew from prior experience that the total candy market was very large and she was glad to see the jelly bean sub-market in excess of $2 billion. There would be plenty of upside for A-Dot-Co. She was also glad to see that in year 5, the founder did not expect to exceed 1.0% of the market. Any larger share percentage would require major resources and additional funding rounds.

However, before investing, Sally still needed more information on the detail behind the market share projections. She scheduled a follow-up call.

On the call, A-Dot-Co was very enthusiastic. It went like this:

Sally: “Thank you for your revenue detail. I have some follow up questions. How do you expect to land nearly $2 million in revenue in the first 2 years?”

Founder: “A-Dot-Co is well positioned to achieve our revenue goals. We have a seasoned team who formed many candy company startups in the past.”

Sally: “That’s great. But how do you intend to land $600K of sales in year 1?”

Founder: “My team has deep knowledge about the jelly bean market. We only need a mere 0.03% of the market to land the projected $600K! Surely there are enough polka-dot jelly bean eaters out there to achieve this projection!”

A-Dot-Co’s founder fell into The Big Little Trap.

trap MS Office

 

The Trap

The Big Little Trap occurs when a founder believes his future projections are achievable because the market is so big and the market share percentage is so little. Specifically, that the sales goal will be very easy to accomplish because the market goal is such a small percentage, such as 0.03% with A-Dot-Co. (“It’s so small that anyone can reach it…as easy as falling off a log!”) In fact, the Trap victim might further say that the percentage is so tiny, that it may take only a few customers to reach it, and “…clearly the market has more than just a few customers!”

The response to an enthusiastic Trap victim: “I’m glad you’re excited. Name the customers!”

 

BetterBean

BetterBean

BetterBean submitted the following detail to Sally:

BetterBean Revenue

 

As before, Sally was glad to see confirmation of the jelly bean market. (They must have used the same market study). But she was even happier to see customer detail behind the revenue projection.

target market MS Office

The detail reveals several important items:

  1. BetterBean knows his target customers and may already have relationships established with them.
  2. Knowing BetterBean’s target customers should lead to a more efficient operation by helping the company prioritize the company’s limited time with its important customers over less strategic prospects.
  3. BetterBean has applied the 80/20 rule—at least 80% of the revenue is derived from specific, identified customers. The remaining revenue will come from other customers, currently unknown. Forecasting is an inexact science and to communicate over-precision in the detail implies the founder may be taking his projections too seriously. BetterBean has not been overly precise.
  4. When—not if—BetterBean misses its projections, the detail will provide insight as to why the projections were missed. The “why” is more important for fixing future revenue projections.
  5. BetterBean is more transparent than A-Dot-Co. Specifically, BetterBean’s founder has shared his target customer list, perhaps with the hope that Sally may have contacts to be leveraged at those customer accounts. Conversely, A-Dot-Co has shared no customer detail, suggesting that its founder may not know who his customers will be. This is concerning if true.

 

Decision Time

Sally rejected the opportunity with A-Dot-Co. It fell into The Big Little Trap—and didn’t even realize it. The lack of transparency did not generate confidence in the company’s management team.

Sally proceeded with further diligence on BetterBean.

The Big Little Trap grabs victims all the time. Like Sally, an investor should consider the market size, but only in the context of the startup’s upside potential. As she observed, there’s, “…plenty of upside for A-Dot-Co.” However, market share is not the justification of year-to-year or month-to-month revenue goals. Market share is best seen as a byproduct of sales efforts.

The jellybean example is fictitious, but the Trap is very real. Watch for The Big Little Trap at your next pitch session. See if the founder falls into it!

 

About the Author

Scott M. Anderson is a principal at Anderson Financial Services, LLC and has been performing cash projections for decades as an investment banker, a workout specialist, and recently, as an advisor to investors and startups. He can be reached at scott@andersonfsllc.com

Graphics from MS Office

 

This article appeared in NEWS FROM HEARTLAND

NEWS FROM HEARTLAND – The Journal of the Heartland Angels is published tri-annually for its members. We encourage reproduction and quotation of articles, if done with with attribution. Copyright © 2017 Heartland Angels. John Jonelis, Editor – John@HeartlandAngels.com

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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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THE SUM OF ALL PARTS

Optimizing Human Behavior with a STEM Model

by Moises Goldman PhD

 

The Human Conundrum

For the last 15 years I have given numerous seminars aimed at optimizing executive and managerial performance in technology driven firms. The goal is to optimize departmental performance resulting in the larger optimization of an entire firm. As the theory goes: If the whole is the sum of the parts, and each part is optimized, then the whole is optimized.

These experiences have challenged my ability to communicate with people involved in STEM fields. This group represents a highly gifted segment of the population, and they tend to be very results driven. How does one reason, interpret, and convince scientists to modify their own behavior?

At first, I struggled with the appropriate lingo. I pondered how to describe my ideas using managerial jargon. I realized that I needed another language—a language that both empirical and intuitive thinkers will readily grasp and put to good use.

Then my eureka moment came to me. STEM initiatives are defined by basic human bevavior and not the other way around.

To some, this may seem counterintuitive, so let me elaborate. If we first accept and understand any given issue at hand through basic human reasoning, we can then interpret it in a STEM format. Once we do that, we can use the tools of science to bring about an optimized outcome. Let me add some clarity with the following example:

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Kalman Filtering

My Ph.D. is in Inertial Navigation and my Masters in Control Systems. I spent many years as an executive in the aerospace industry and came to be expert in Kalman Filtering, a complex mathematical algorithm used in the guidance and navigation of aerospace vehicles. It occurred to me to apply this knowledge to the human equation.

Kalman Filtering is also known as Linear Quadratic Estimation (LQE), but it’s not necessary to go into the math here. I will attempt to make this example clear and concise. All we need is a simple diagram. I’ll describe it in layman’s terms and then apply it to the human condition.

The diagram below describes the guidance control of a space vehicle. The vehicle is at position “time-zero” or T(0). We want to get to position T(1,000,000). We calculate the location of our target relative to our present location. We recognize that any internal disturbance, such as bad sensors, electronics, and perhaps bad computations must be eliminated. (We get rid of them.)

  • We predict the trajectory of the vehicle over a short increment of time.
  • We measure the actual flight path against our target and factor in real environmental conditions (noise), such as wind speed, meteorites, etc.
  • We correct our trajectory.

The vehicle is now at T(1)—a very small part of the entire trip. T(1) is the next starting position. The algorithm repeats, bringing the vehicle to the next position T(2), then T(3), and so on. We iterate—continue to perform the same steps—predict, measure, correct—to optimize the overall trajectory to the target—T(1,000,000).

Perhaps you recognize this as a description of the way a child learns to walk. It’s commonly called a feedback loop. It governs behavior in many human pursuits. It’s the way our central nervous system directs us to negotiate a curve while driving down the road. It’s the way a baseball player catches a ball and executes a play. It’s how a circus performer walks a tightrope. It’s the way we all learn optimum behaviors.

Our minds perform this function intuitively through ordinary mental concentration, focus, or attentiveness. Concentration is an iterative process and the higher the number of iterations, the higher the degree of accuracy.

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Optimizing Human Behavior

If we can model our human behavior and reasoning in STEM format then we are able to optimize it. As an example, let’s choose a simple human behavior and describe it using Kalman Filtering:

Behavior—Tomorrow I’m taking a final exam; I need to arrive at 8 am—the target.

Method—My class always meets at that time, so I already know approximately when to wake up. Since there cannot be any internal disturbances, I eat a good dinner, plan my breakfast and what to wear to school. I give myself time to study and get to bed early. I set my alarm for 7 am. I’m at position T(0) on the diagram.

  • Prediction—I estimate the time it takes to get ready and walk to the exam. (About the same as a normal day.)
  • Measurement—I reach the door and glance at my watch. It’s raining and I’m running late.
  • Correction—I grab an umbrella while at the same time speeding up my pace.

I get to the exam location on time, and the algorithm repeats itself for the next activity (assuming my intention is to optimize the next behavior).

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A Simple Model for STEM Communication

It’s amazing how simply human behavior can be optimized using a STEM model—whatever the circumstances may be.

We know our current state. [We are on a diet, T(0).]

  • We predict the meal that we are going to eat. [A nice juicy zero carb steak.]
  • We eliminate any internal errors [If we’re cooking it, we make sure all the ingredients are there; check the labels for carbohydrate count; grill in working order; plates and glasses, etc.]
  • We set out to eat, then get a call that we’re needed immediately somewhere else. We make a correction. [Either we eat extremely fast or put the meal away for later, at T(1).]

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Optimizing Complex Behavior

Now let’s apply this same optimization process to a non-linear human behavior—investing in the stock market. We have some money to invest, T(0), in a given company stock. We eliminate all the internal disturbances by doing our homework. We read quarterly statements, look at the fundamentals, research the competition, analyze price and volume activity on a stock chart, and interpret technical indicators such as MACD and Slow Stochastics.

  • We predict our next move—[buy the stock]—T(0).
  • As we are getting ready to buy the stock we hear news of the latest unemployment report and we realize it will have a direct effect on the stock we are buying. We must correct. [We buy more, less, a different stock, or sit tight. Which correction we use will have a direct effect on the optimization.]
  • We decide to buy more of the stock. Now we are at T(1), and must predict T(2)—[sell, hold, or add to position].

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Achieving Greater Accuracy

The more we are able to reduce the size of T (time), the more we increase the Kalman iterations, and the better the optimization. In human terms, optimization is inversely proportional to the size of T, and directly proportional to Intelligence. Please note that human thinking is continuous in time, so the smaller our intervals, the closer we approximate a continuum.

As you see, I found my language for communicating optimization of human activity in any given organization. It is an amazingly powerful tool.

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MORE FROM MOISES COMING SOON

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Moises Goldman at IMSA

About the Author

Dr. Moises Goldman is uniquely involved with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). He is a member of several advisory boards at MIT and is a founding member of the TALENT program at IMSA.

 

Kalman Diagram—Moises Goldman

Portrait of Moises & Chicago Globe—John Jonelis

Other graphics—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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