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Pat Vieljeux

Pat Vieljeux

2 months ago

In 5 minutes, you can tell if a startup will succeed.

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Kaitlin Fritz

Kaitlin Fritz

29 days ago

The Entrepreneurial Chicken and Egg

University entrepreneurship is like a Willy Wonka Factory of ideas. Classes, roommates, discussions, and the cafeteria all inspire new ideas. I've seen people establish a business without knowing its roots.

Chicken or egg? On my mind: I've asked university founders around the world whether the problem or solution came first.

The Problem

One African team I met started with the “instant noodles” problem in their academic ecosystem. Many of us have had money issues in college, which may have led to poor nutritional choices.

Many university students in a war-torn country ate quick noodles or pasta for dinner.

Noodles required heat, water, and preparation in the boarding house. Unreliable power from one hot plate per blue moon. What's healthier, easier, and tastier than sodium-filled instant pots?

BOOM. They were fixing that. East African kids need affordable, nutritious food.

This is a real difficulty the founders faced every day with hundreds of comrades.

This sparked their serendipitous entrepreneurial journey and became their business's cornerstone.

The Solution

I asked a UK team about their company idea. They said the solution fascinated them.

The crew was fiddling with social media algorithms. Why are some people more popular? They were studying platforms and social networks, which offered a way for them.

Solving a problem? Yes. Long nights of university research lead them to it. Is this like world hunger? Social media influencers confront this difficulty regularly.

It made me ponder something. Is there a correct response?

In my heart, yes, but in my head…maybe?

I believe you should lead with empathy and embrace the problem, not the solution. Big or small, businesses should solve problems. This should be your focus. This is especially true when building a social company with an audience in mind.

Philosophically, invention and innovation are occasionally accidental. Also not penalized. Think about bugs and the creation of Velcro, or the inception of Teflon. They tackle difficulties we overlook. The route to the problem may look different, but there is a path there.

There's no golden ticket to the Chicken-Egg debate, but I'll keep looking this summer.

Athirah Syamimi

Athirah Syamimi

3 days ago

Here's How I Built A Business Offering Unlimited Design Services in Just One Weekend.

Weekend project: limitless design service. It was fun to see whether I could start a business quickly.

I use no-code apps to save time and resources.

TL;DR I started a business utilizing EditorX for my website, Notion for client project management, and a few favors to finish my portfolio.

First step: research (Day 1)

I got this concept from a Kimp Instagram ad. The Minimalist Hustler Daily newsletter mentioned a similar and cheaper service (Graphically).

I Googled other unlimited design companies. Many provide different costs and services. Some supplied solely graphic design, web development, or copywriting.

Step 2: Brainstorming (Day 1)

I did something simple.

  • What benefits and services to provide

  • Price to charge

Since it's a one-person performance (for now), I'm focusing on graphic design. I can charge less.

So I don't overwhelm myself and can accommodate budget-conscious clientele.

Step 3: Construction (Day 1 & 2)

This project includes a management tool, a website, and a team procedure.

I built a project management tool and flow first. Once I had the flow and a Notion board, I tested it with design volunteers. They fake-designed while I built the website.

Tool for Project Management

I modified a Notion template. My goal is to keep clients and designers happy.

Screenshot of project management board in Notion

Team Approach

My sister, my partner, and I kept this business lean. I tweaked the Notion board to make the process smooth. By the end of Sunday, I’d say it’s perfect!

Website

I created the website after they finished the fake design demands. EditorX's drag-and-drop builder attracted me. I didn't need to learn code, and there are templates.

I used a template wireframe.

This project's hardest aspect is developing the site. It's my first time using EditorX and I'm no developer.

People answer all your inquiries in a large community forum.

As a first-time user developing a site in two days, I think I performed OK. Here's the site for feedback.

Screenshot of deuxcreators.com homepage

4th step: testing (Day 2)

Testing is frustrating because it works or doesn't. My testing day was split in two.

  • testing the workflow from payment to onboarding to the website

  • the demand being tested

It's working so far. If someone gets the trial, they can request design work.

I've gotten a couple of inquiries about demand. I’ll be working with them as a start.

Completion

Finally! I built my side project in one weekend. It's too early to tell if this is successful. I liked that I didn't squander months of resources testing out an idea.

Khoi Ho

Khoi Ho

2 days ago

After working at seven startups, here are the early-stage characteristics that contributed to profitability, unicorn status or successful acquisition.

Image by Tim Mossholder

I've worked in a People role at seven early-stage firms for over 15 years (I enjoy chasing a dream!). Few of the seven achieved profitability, including unicorn status or acquisition.

Did early-stage startups share anything? Was there a difference between winners and losers? YES.

I support founders and entrepreneurs building financially sustainable enterprises with a compelling cause. This isn't something everyone would do. A company's success demands more than guts. Founders drive startup success.

Six Qualities of Successful Startups

Successful startup founders either innately grasped the correlation between strong team engagement and a well-executed business model, or they knew how to ask and listen to others (executive coaches, other company leaders, the team itself) to learn about it.

Successful startups:

1. Co-founders agreed and got along personally.

Multi-founder startups are common. When co-founders agree on strategic decisions and are buddies, there's less friction and politics at work.

As a co-founder, ask your team if you're aligned. They'll explain.

I've seen C-level leaders harbor personal resentments over disagreements. A co-departure founder's caused volatile leadership and work disruptions that the team struggled to manage during and after.

2. Team stayed.

Successful startups have low turnover. Nobody is leaving. There may be a termination for performance, but other team members will have observed the issues and agreed with the decision.

You don't want organizational turnover of 30%+, with leaders citing performance issues but the team not believing them. This breeds suspicion.

Something is wrong if many employees leave voluntarily or involuntarily. You may hear about lack of empowerment, support, or toxic leadership in exit interviews and from the existing team. Intellectual capital loss and resource instability harm success.

3. Team momentum.

A successful startup's team is excited about its progress. Consistently achieving goals and having trackable performance metrics. Some describe this period of productivity as magical, with great talents joining the team and the right people in the right places. Increasing momentum.

I've also seen short-sighted decisions where only some departments, like sales and engineering, had goals. Lack of a unified goals system created silos and miscommunication. Some employees felt apathetic because they didn't know how they contributed to team goals.

4. Employees advanced in their careers.

Even if you haven't created career pathing or professional development programs, early-stage employees will grow and move into next-level roles. If you hire more experienced talent and leaders, expect them to mentor existing team members. Growing companies need good performers.

New talent shouldn't replace and discard existing talent. This creates animosity and makes existing employees feel unappreciated for their early contributions to the company.

5. The company lived its values.

Culture and identity are built on lived values. A company's values affect hiring, performance management, rewards, and other processes. Identify, practice, and believe in company values. Starting with team values instead of management or consultants helps achieve this. When a company's words and actions match, it builds trust.

When company values are beautifully displayed on a wall but few employees understand them, the opposite is true. If an employee can't name the company values, they're useless.

6. Communication was clear.

When necessary information is shared with the team, they feel included, trusted, and like owners. Transparency means employees have the needed information to do their jobs. Disclosure builds trust. The founders answer employees' questions honestly.

Information accessibility decreases office politics. Without transparency, even basic information is guarded and many decisions are made in secret. I've seen founders who don't share financial, board meeting, or compensation and equity information. The founders' lack of trust in the team wasn't surprising, so it was reciprocated.

The Choices

Finally. All six of the above traits (leadership alignment, minimal turnover, momentum, professional advancement, values, and transparency) were high in the profitable startups I've worked at, including unicorn status or acquisition.

I've seen these as the most common and constant signals of startup success or failure.

These characteristics are the product of founders' choices. These decisions lead to increased team engagement and business execution.

Here's something to consider for startup employees and want-to-bes. 90% of startups fail, despite the allure of building something new and gaining ownership. With the emotional and time investment in startup formation, look for startups with these traits to reduce your risk.

Both you and the startup will thrive in these workplaces.

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Nate Kostar

3 months ago

# DeaMau5’s PIXELYNX and Beatport Launch Festival NFTs

Pixelynx, a music metaverse gaming platform, has teamed up with Beatport, an online music retailer focusing in electronic music, to establish a Synth Heads non-fungible token (NFT) Collection.

Richie Hawtin, aka Deadmau5, and Joel Zimmerman, nicknamed Pixelynx, have invented a new music metaverse game platform called Pixelynx. In January 2022, they released their first Beatport NFT drop, which saw 3,030 generative NFTs sell out in seconds.

The limited edition Synth Heads NFTs will be released in collaboration with Junction 2, the largest UK techno festival, and having one will grant fans special access tickets and experiences at the London-based festival.

Membership in the Synth Head community, day passes to the Junction 2 Festival 2022, Junction 2 and Beatport apparel, special vinyl releases, and continued access to future ticket drops are just a few of the experiences available.

Five lucky NFT holders will also receive a Golden Ticket, which includes access to a backstage artist bar and tickets to Junction 2's next large-scale London event this summer, in addition to full festival entrance for both days.

The Junction 2 festival will take place at Trent Park in London on June 18th and 19th, and will feature performances from Four Tet, Dixon, Amelie Lens, Robert Hood, and a slew of other artists. Holders of the original Synth Head NFT will be granted admission to the festival's guestlist as well as line-jumping privileges.

The new Synth Heads NFTs collection  contain 300 NFTs.

NFTs that provide IRL utility are in high demand.

The benefits of NFT drops related to In Real Life (IRL) utility aren't limited to Beatport and Pixelynx.

Coachella, a well-known music event, recently partnered with cryptocurrency exchange FTX to offer free NFTs to 2022 pass holders. Access to a dedicated entry lane, a meal and beverage pass, and limited-edition merchandise were all included with the NFTs.

Coachella also has its own NFT store on the Solana blockchain, where fans can buy Coachella NFTs and digital treasures that unlock exclusive on-site experiences, physical objects, lifetime festival passes, and "future adventures."

Individual artists and performers have begun taking advantage of NFT technology outside of large music festivals like Coachella.

DJ Tisto has revealed that he would release a VIP NFT for his upcoming "Eagle" collection during the EDC festival in Las Vegas in 2022. This NFT, dubbed "All Access Eagle," gives collectors the best chance to get NFTs from his first drop, as well as unique access to the music "Repeat It."

NFTs are one-of-a-kind digital assets that can be verified, purchased, sold, and traded on blockchains, opening up new possibilities for artists and businesses alike. Time will tell whether Beatport and Pixelynx's Synth Head NFT collection will be successful, but if it's anything like the first release, it's a safe bet.

Katherine Kornei

Katherine Kornei

4 months ago

The InSight lander from NASA has recorded the greatest tremor ever felt on Mars.

The magnitude 5 earthquake was responsible for the discharge of energy that was 10 times greater than the previous record holder.

Any Martians who happen to be reading this should quickly learn how to duck and cover.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, reported that on May 4, the planet Mars was shaken by an earthquake of around magnitude 5, making it the greatest Marsquake ever detected to this point. The shaking persisted for more than six hours and unleashed more than ten times as much energy as the earthquake that had previously held the record for strongest.

The event was captured on record by the InSight lander, which is operated by the United States Space Agency and has been researching the innards of Mars ever since it touched down on the planet in 2018 (SN: 11/26/18). The epicenter of the earthquake was probably located in the vicinity of Cerberus Fossae, which is located more than 1,000 kilometers away from the lander.

The surface of Cerberus Fossae is notorious for being broken up and experiencing periodic rockfalls. According to geophysicist Philippe Lognonné, who is the lead investigator of the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, the seismometer that is onboard the InSight lander, it is reasonable to assume that the ground is moving in that area. "This is an old crater from a volcanic eruption."

Marsquakes, which are similar to earthquakes in that they give information about the interior structure of our planet, can be utilized to investigate what lies beneath the surface of Mars (SN: 7/22/21). And according to Lognonné, who works at the Institut de Physique du Globe in Paris, there is a great deal that can be gleaned from analyzing this massive earthquake. Because the quality of the signal is so high, we will be able to focus on the specifics.

Max Chafkin

Max Chafkin

5 months ago

Elon Musk Bets $44 Billion on Free Speech's Future

Musk’s purchase of Twitter has sealed his bond with the American right—whether the platform’s left-leaning employees and users like it or not.

Elon Musk's pursuit of Twitter Inc. began earlier this month as a joke. It started slowly, then spiraled out of control, culminating on April 25 with the world's richest man agreeing to spend $44 billion on one of the most politically significant technology companies ever. There have been bigger financial acquisitions, but Twitter's significance has always outpaced its balance sheet. This is a unique Silicon Valley deal.

To recap: Musk announced in early April that he had bought a stake in Twitter, citing the company's alleged suppression of free speech. His complaints were vague, relying heavily on the dog whistles of the ultra-right. A week later, he announced he'd buy the company for $54.20 per share, four days after initially pledging to join Twitter's board. Twitter's directors noticed the 420 reference as well, and responded with a “shareholder rights” plan (i.e., a poison pill) that included a 420 joke.


Musk - Patrick Pleul/Getty Images

No one knew if the bid was genuine. Musk's Twitter plans seemed implausible or insincere. In a tweet, he referred to automated accounts that use his name to promote cryptocurrency. He enraged his prospective employees by suggesting that Twitter's San Francisco headquarters be turned into a homeless shelter, renaming the company Titter, and expressing solidarity with his growing conservative fan base. “The woke mind virus is making Netflix unwatchable,” he tweeted on April 19.

But Musk got funding, and after a frantic weekend of negotiations, Twitter said yes. Unlike most buyouts, Musk will personally fund the deal, putting up up to $21 billion in cash and borrowing another $12.5 billion against his Tesla stock.

Free Speech and Partisanship

Percentage of respondents who agree with the following

The deal is expected to replatform accounts that were banned by Twitter for harassing others, spreading misinformation, or inciting violence, such as former President Donald Trump's account. As a result, Musk is at odds with his own left-leaning employees, users, and advertisers, who would prefer more content moderation rather than less.


Dorsey - Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Previously, the company's leadership had similar issues. Founder Jack Dorsey stepped down last year amid concerns about slowing growth and product development, as well as his dual role as CEO of payments processor Block Inc. Compared to Musk, a father of seven who already runs four companies (besides Tesla and SpaceX), Dorsey is laser-focused.

Musk's motivation to buy Twitter may be political. Affirming the American far right with $44 billion spent on “free speech” Right-wing activists have promoted a series of competing upstart Twitter competitors—Parler, Gettr, and Trump's own effort, Truth Social—since Trump was banned from major social media platforms for encouraging rioters at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. But Musk can give them a social network with lax content moderation and a real user base. Trump said he wouldn't return to Twitter after the deal was announced, but he wouldn't be the first to do so.


Trump - Eli Hiller/Bloomberg

Conservative activists and lawmakers are already ecstatic. “A great day for free speech in America,” said Missouri Republican Josh Hawley. The day the deal was announced, Tucker Carlson opened his nightly Fox show with a 10-minute laudatory monologue. “The single biggest political development since Donald Trump's election in 2016,” he gushed over Musk.

But Musk's supporters and detractors misunderstand how much his business interests influence his political ideology. He marketed Tesla's cars as carbon-saving machines that were faster and cooler than gas-powered luxury cars during George W. Bush's presidency. Musk gained a huge following among wealthy environmentalists who reserved hundreds of thousands of Tesla sedans years before they were made during Barack Obama's presidency. Musk in the Trump era advocated for a carbon tax, but he also fought local officials (and his own workers) over Covid rules that slowed the reopening of his Bay Area factory.


Teslas at the Las Vegas Convention Center Loop Central Station in April 2021. The Las Vegas Convention Center Loop was Musk's first commercial project. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Musk's rightward shift matched the rise of the nationalist-populist right and the desire to serve a growing EV market. In 2019, he unveiled the Cybertruck, a Tesla pickup, and in 2018, he announced plans to manufacture it at a new plant outside Austin. In 2021, he decided to move Tesla's headquarters there, citing California's "land of over-regulation." After Ford and General Motors beat him to the electric truck market, Musk reframed Tesla as a company for pickup-driving dudes.

Similarly, his purchase of Twitter will be entwined with his other business interests. Tesla has a factory in China and is friendly with Beijing. This could be seen as a conflict of interest when Musk's Twitter decides how to treat Chinese-backed disinformation, as Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos noted.

Musk has focused on Twitter's product and social impact, but the company's biggest challenges are financial: Either increase cash flow or cut costs to comfortably service his new debt. Even if Musk can't do that, he can still benefit from the deal. He has recently used the increased attention to promote other business interests: Boring has hyperloops and Neuralink brain implants on the way, Musk tweeted. Remember Tesla's long-promised robotaxis!

Musk may be comfortable saying he has no expectation of profit because it benefits his other businesses. At the TED conference on April 14, Musk insisted that his interest in Twitter was solely charitable. “I don't care about money.”

The rockets and weed jokes make it easy to see Musk as unique—and his crazy buyout will undoubtedly add to that narrative. However, he is a megabillionaire who is risking a small amount of money (approximately 13% of his net worth) to gain potentially enormous influence. Musk makes everything seem new, but this is a rehash of an old media story.