Archive for 'Startups'
Why a (gray) guy like me is in a (co-working) place like this
As you can tell by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin, I’m not a San Francisco twenty-something. My goatee is gray. Yet I share my workplace with people my daughter’s age. I may actually be the oldest living occupant here.
So what’s a guy like me doing in a place like this?
The place is Citizen Space, a San Francisco co-working location and one of the first of some more than 3,000 similar shared office operations that have sprouted up around the world just since 2005. And for sure, I’m part of a rapidly expanding cohort — by 2013, there were more than 160,000 space sharers like me — up from zero just 9 years ago.
What’s behind the growth? Coworking is a cost-effective alternative, for sure. But consider three other more inconspicuous, but inexorable, trends.
- Burgeoning number of independent workers. The number of consultants, contractors, and so-called “solopreneurs” will have soared 50 percent from 2011 by the time they reach an estimated 24 million in 2018, according to an annual workforce report by MBO Partners.
- Rise of micro-enterprise. We’re more productive because we’re so much more connected and technologically enabled. Duh. But not so duh is this: The average size of a small business is shrinking from about 7.6 employees in 1991 to about 4.7 in 2011, or so says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. You don’t have to be a MBA to see why co-working makes so much sense to startups and other micro-enterprises like my own MediaArchitechs.
- Emergence of the ‘sharing economy.’ After this last great recession, we’re all being forced to do more with less. And a number of new, disruptive ventures have arisen out of finding ways to match demand with hyper-economical or underutilized supply — witness Airbnb, Lyft, Uber, TaskRabbit, ODesk, and, yes, coworking spaces, too. My company has sprouted out the same landscape. Only instead of vacation housing, rides, or personal, contract services, or shared office space, we’re building targeted exchanges for expert advice. The first of these: Our CloudBase3.com, a contextually relevant, magnet media property devoted to helping the nation’s 28M SMBs connect with the 1 million consultants, independent IT service providers, and tech contractors who can provide one-to-one advice for buying services in the $174B cloud-computing market. (Did I just give an elevator pitch?)
But that doesn’t explain why I’m such an unlikely member. Which brings me to the real reason. It’s this: “If you really want to enjoy life,” my favorite novelist Mark Helprin wrote, “you must work quietly and humbly to realize your delusions of grandeur.”
I might share space now, but once I didn’t. I held lofty titles at big companies that bestowed me with my own comfy digs on the upper floors of soaring corporate office towers. It all changed when I did something extraordinarily bold — or certifiably stupid. I started my own company – and at a time when many of my peers are starting to smell the roses of retirement.
So now I spend my days sans the Aeron chair, the ergonomically correct desk, and the door to my own domain. But here’s the thing: I’m fine without these appurtenances, because I’m finding something better in their place — networking with a raft of new contacts far beyond the insular world I occupied at companies such as Yahoo and CNET. And while your expertise and character are keys to success, don’t downplay another key factor, kids — your ability to build relationships.
So now I’m hanging with people like Citizen Space owner Toby Morning, a fellow entrepreneur who has his fingers in as many businesses, I swear, as Warren Buffet. Or take Manish Panjiar, who’s building a disruptive new telemarketing platform. Or how about Sebastian Zontek. He’s an entrepreneur from Poland who’s building a predictive advertising platform. In his case, I’m connecting him, because I spent more years in the media business than I want you to know.
What’s a guy like me is doing in like this? Here’s what: He’s turning away from the cosseted corporate confines that once possessed him and turning to a place where he consorts with others as young at heart, as full ambition, and teeming with hope as he is.
(Patrick Houston the Founder and CEO of MediaArchitechs, a San Francisco Bay Area startup devoted to unleashing the power of free enterprise by making one-to-one advice affordable and accessible to the smallest enterprises in every corner of the world.)
Canvs, the nonprofit co-working space in downtown Orlando, will open next month, co-founder Philip Holt said in an interview with Orlando Business Journal . Holt, also the CEO of Orlando-based analytics company Splyt, said the co-working space inside of the Church Street Exchange building will open Aug. 11.
SURREY — In a time where full pension, salaried nine-to-five jobs are a rarity, more and more people are turning to self-employment for their income.
The problem is, when you work from home, there are a plethora of distractions pulling you away from your work — like screaming children and unwashed laundry — and leasing a commercial office space can be pricey.
Enter Beta Collective, Surrey’s very first co-working space. Jason Wong, with business partners Elvin Cheung and Michael Cheng of online enterprise Witty Cookie, have launched a unique shared office facility in Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard, a cutting-edge business hub set to forge new ground in the areas of health care and technology.
locally connected, globally embedded. That’s what Hawaii’s first co-working space hopes to achieve. It’s called Impact Hub and it’s made up of a community of people, organizations, and businesses. Impact Hubs collaborate with the regional arts scene and also serve as a gallery where local art will be displayed and sold.
It will open in Our Kaka’ako in September and will connect the local enterprising community to a global network of more than 50 Impact Hubs on six continents through HUBNet, an online idea-sharing platform.
Don’t waste your money doing an MBA.
Get an internship instead.
Wanna be an entrepreneur? It takes more than just passion and desire. You need real skills to succeed, but where do you get them? A surprising number of people think that they should do an MBA. I don’t blame them. After all, universities invest a significant amount of effort convincing potential students that getting an MBA is a good idea. The cruel reality, though, is that MBA programs tend to be terrible at teaching entrepreneurship and, in particular, tech entrepreneurship. They are slow, expensive, include too much theory and not enough practice, and, more importantly, they are taught by people that have not been entrepreneurs themselves. Fortunately, there is a better alternative: Internships at tech startups. Here is why:
MBAs are about enterprise-level management while internships can be about entrepreneurship. The skills required to manage and be part of a 5,000 person company are different than the skills required to start and grow a company. In fact, enterprise-level management techniques may negatively affect the chances of success of your future startups. For example, using balance scorecards and KPIs may be great for companies in advanced stages of growth, but they are an overkill for startups at the MVP stage.
Internships provide more hands-on knowledge than MBAs. While an MBA program will teach you a lot of theory, an internship will allow you to learn [a fraction of] that theory put to practice, plus many more techniques that are not taught in MBAs.
Internships are faster than MBAs. An MBA program lasts between one and two years. In contrast, you can do two or four internships in just one year. Don’t have a year? No problem. If you’re a fast learner, interning for six months may be enough.
Internships are less expensive than MBAs. Top MBA programs cost more than $100,000, not including living expenses. Internships cost 0. In fact, if you’re lucky, you may get a paid internship. This means that instead of you paying to learn, you’ll get paid to learn!
Assuming you want to do an internship already, these are some factors to keep in mind:
Intern at a startup with a team of less than 50 people. In a team of less than 50 you’re likely to interact with the founders and managers making important decisions. You’ll learn a lot from them. Also, you’re likely to get exposure to many different areas of the business. In larger teams, you are likely to interact with low-level managers that joined the company later in the game and are not likely to be too entrepreneurial. Also, you may have to focus in just one area of the business, missing out on the big picture.
Intern at a startup that is making money and growing. When revenue and growth are achieved, you have a company with a real business model. You want to learn how they got there. Don’t join a startup without a business model, a startup that is not making money, or a startup that is not growing, even if they have raised capital. Such companies may only teach you how to raise capital to subsidize the operation of a company, which is not sustainable. In fact, I recommend giving higher priority to bootstrapped companies.
Intern at a startup that is located in a tech innovation hub. You’ll be able to attend plenty of networking events and meetups. The people you’ll meet may change your life. I’ve met most of my co-founders at networking events. If in the US, I suggest startups in the Bay Area, New York City, and Boston. After all, it’s not only what you know, but who you know.
Visas are not necessarily an issue. Depending on your nationality and the country of the startup, it may be technically illegal for you to work there. Fortunately, some startups won’t care. Give the company the option to get paid in your country of origin as if you were an overseas contractor.
If possible, join a startup founded by a serial entrepreneur. Serial entrepreneurs, specially successful ones, have “been there and done that” several times. They are the equivalent of teachers with PhDs. These companies are more likely to follow successful, structured techniques that you will find useful in your future endeavors.
Target startups that don’t offer internships. Although some startups proactively look for interns, some don’t have the time do so. Find startups that you like and cold-email their founders. Messages like “Hey Joe. I’m willing to work for you for free just to learn from your wisdom” are very likely to grab the attention of the recipient. Even if only 10% of them reply, that’s still a good conversion rate!
A final word: Getting an MBA is a good way of telling others that you like to follow the crowd.
Tech entrepreneurship is about innovation. Innovation means disruption. Innovation is doing things that others don’t dare to do.
Founder and CEO of Bunny Inc. (VoiceBunny, Voice123, BunnyCast) and Torrenegra Labs. Techie, activist, investor, offroader.