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Announcing Pillars.io, an exclusive community for technology managers June 26, 2015

Posted by Brian Link in startups.
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If you are a manager of any kind in the software and technology world,Pillars.io please take a look at this new startup, Pillars.io. They’re building something that will have a huge impact on how technology managers go about finding their next job, even if you’re not actively looking today. Pillars knows how to accurately describe the important and subtle differencs to the breadth and depth of your skills and experience and will help you define exactly what kind of technology manager you are so you can stop getting spammed with inappropriate job inquiries and set yourself up to land the perfect job. Here’s a quick blurb from their site. Please read the full text at Pillars and complete the survey to help them as they build out this product! Thank you!

Pillars of a Great Technology Manager

We believe all manager roles in technology are amazingly complex and to be truly great, a technology manager needs to be extremely well-rounded and an expert in many things. We call these things the Pillars of a Great Technology Manager. So whether you are a first time tech lead, an experienced software development manager or any kind of technology manager in the field of software, IT, mobile and the Internet, you need to have incredible breadth and depth to your skills and experience across these pillars:

  • PEOPLE: the ability to manage a team, hire, fire, mentor and coach; be a career guide and the culture advocate;
  • PROCESS: the owner of all processes, the agile change agent or scrum master, obstacle remover and facilitator;
  • TECHNOLOGY: the master of many hands-on skills, tech strategy, scalable architectures and solver of the team’s toughest problems;
  • PRODUCT: the lean thinker, visionary and roadmap planner, subject matter expert and end-user advocate;
  • EXECUTION: the owner of budget, risks and on-time delivery; the coordinator, expectation setter and controller of operations and logistics.

Read more about Pillars

And don’t forget to give ’em your email address if you’re interested in learning more later when they launch

Early Stage Startup Advice and Raising a Seed Round with Crowdfunding June 20, 2012

Posted by Brian Link in entrepreneurialism, startups.
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Many of the entrepreneurs I meet ask about how to get funded. It’s the inevitable first hurdle every entrepreneur must cross. And it’s often the first place they fail and return to their cubicle jobs… for good Imagereason, it’s pretty hard. Here’s a few basics I assume everyone knows already:

  • Build a compelling product with a compelling business model. (Know your market, build the MVP first, price it appropriately or use an appropriate business model. Revenue beats users, IMO. But read this too.)
  • Show some kind of traction. Attract a team. Win your first paying customers. Get enough users or downloads of your app. Whatever is relevant. (And more is required typically the higher amount of money you’re trying to raise)
  • Build your own relationships with investors. Find all your local people. Get on AngelList and follow investors. Research investors that are in your space. Follow them on Twitter. Read everything you can. Leverage LinkedIn to build connections. Meet them and ask for advice first, not money. Get introductions through strong connections. Investors invest in friends and friends of friends first (they’re human too).
  • Build a killer pitch deck. What problem do you solve? What’s the solution? Make sure it’s a pain killer not a vitamin. Keep it simple. If it can’t be said in a sentence or two, your pitch is too complicated. Tell everyone about your pitch. Take advice from your wife, Mom, advisors, and guy at the bar until it’s perfectly clear and says something compelling. Consider putting a professional 2 minute video on your site.
  • Seek out advice proactively. Have coffee multiple times a week with helpful people. Make new connections. Be just as giving in helping others. Engage in local meetup groups. Startup weekend. Conferences and events. But don’t overwhelm yourself networking, it should be a constant but limited amount of your time.
  • Share your idea. When talking to advisors, peers, investors, friends, etc. please don’t hesitate to discuss your idea. Too many entrepreneurs fail because they don’t get critical feedback early enough. If you’re asking people to sign NDAs, you’re doing it wrong. Consider patents if you need to.
  • Have an expert. No matter what industry you’re in or how much you think you know, it’s always better to have someone on your team who has specific, credible experience in your space. If it’s not a core team member, they should at least be a dedicated advisor or board member.
  • Give away your equity. At very early stages where you’re most likely to fail, it’s important to build the right team. If you don’t have a technical co-founder with skin in the game, you will fail. If equity will entice someone to work on your project as hard as you are, for heaven sake, give it away. If you haven’t landed your first seed round of funding and you’re afraid to give away 1% or even 10% for some critical resource/advisor/service provider/technology partner, you’re doing it wrong. Be smart, and seek advice of those who have done this before, but definitely don’t be stingy. 100% of nothing is still nothing.

Bootstrapping is best possible solution, if you can afford to fund your own startup. Plenty of great success stories start here, but it’s a lot slower and harder to build a startup while working a full-time job. Friends and family is where most entrepreneurs go next. And if you run a Lean Startup as you should, raising $100K or less can go a very long way to getting a new startup off the ground.

You likely don’t have a dozen rich friends you can borrow 10 to 20 grand from each, and will therefore be looking for funding. You can try to find those angels: in your backyard, in a local ACA group, or on angel.co. Or you can even try to find Venture Capital. But unless you’re a rock star, are looking to raise an A/B/C round or have a personal relationship, that’s extremely unlikely.

What’s left is crowd funding. There are many new crowd funding options emerging for entrepreneurs, especially as the JOBS Act becomes a reality. I’m not sure how well each of these will work today, but I suspect going forward they become one of the more popular options for early stage startups looking to raise initial rounds of cash. You might first look at the National Crowdfunding Association to learn some basics: http://nlcfa.org/crowdfund-101.html

Startup Fundraising Options in America

  • 40billion.com – Raise money. Build dreams. Since 2008, early crowd funding platform.
  • CrowdTilt.com – Group funding, designed to raise funds for a group of people to do stuff together.
  • EarlyShares.com – Equity based crowd funding platform.
  • EquityNet.com – Business plan software and Angel Network.
  • Fundable.com – Designed for startups. Built by people I know in Columbus, Ohio.
  • FundaGeek.com – Crowdfunding for technical innovation
  • Fundrazr.com – Reach more people, raise more money.
  • GoFundMe.com – General fundraising platform for individuals.
  • GrowVC.com – Global startup fundraising plus nurturing ecosystem, raising up to $1M
  • Indiegogo.com – Fundraising for more than just films.
  • Invested.in – Helps anyone raise money for anything
  • Kickstarter.com – Perhaps not originally intended to fund startups, but has been used as such.
  • MicroVentures.com – Connecting Angel investors and startups.
  • OnSetStart.com – They have a free crowd funding bible available too if you help promote it
  • PeerBackers.com – Funding entrepreneurs to raise funding from peers
  • RocketHub.com – Launch, Fund and Fly!
  • SoMoLend.com – Lend. Borrow. Grow. People investing in people.
  • Start.ac – Crowdfunding platform with mentors. US based.
  • TechMoola.com – Project fundraising in the technology space

Nonprofit and Charitable Fundraising Options

International Fundraising Options

There’s plenty of resources out there. A few worth reading on the topic:

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/68751915@N05/