Junto: Learning & Entrepreneurship

Sunday, December 04, 2005

New Blog address

Thanks to Trent Miskin, our amazing CTO, I now have my own blog page...so from now on, you'll have to go to www.brockblake.com for future blog posts.

Thanks for your readership!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Why do you do what you do?

One of the questions that has been on my mind as of late is: why do I do what I do? Let me explain.

Have you ever thought about why you work for the company that you work for? Why are you in the career that you are in? Is it your dream job, or are you just doing it to pay the bills?

As I've discussed pros and cons of certain positions with other entrepreneurs, I have noticed that we are all in our careers for different reasons. Some may love what they are doing, others may dread waking up in the morning because they have to go to work. Some may see the opportunity as a means to make money, while others see it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

I honestly love being an entrepreneur. To me, the excitement of creating something of value (and enjoying the learning experience and new relationships along the way) is the reason that I wake up in the morning. Already, we have created job opportunities for 7 people (and hiring 2 more soon).

So while some entrepreneurs are only in it to make their millions, I am not one of them. Don't get me wrong -- I will not turn down a large exit if that happens, but such an exit will just be an added bonus -- I love what I do!

Speedpitching Results

A few readers have asked me how the speedpitching luncheon turned out, so here is the update: it was a terrific success! We had about 35 angel investors in the room to hear 10 very qualified entrepreneurs. The greatest part of it all is that we believe that 3-4 of the entrepreneurs will get funded as a result of the luncheon.

In addition, we were featured on the news, radio, and in 2 of the state's top newspaper publications. Here are the links:
  1. KSL News & Radio
  2. Deseret News
  3. Salt Lake Tribune
We are excited to take the idea into other geographical locations. If you are interested in planning an envent in your area, let me know.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Results-Based Leadership

I have recently started reading the book Results-Based Leadership by Dave Ulrich, Jack Zenger, and Norm Smallwood. Thus far, I've really enjoyed the book.

The main point is that the measure of an effective leader can be found in this simple equation: Effective leadership = attributes x results. I agree.

Many leaders are so focused on results that they forget about taking care of the key stakeholders (customers, employees, organization, and investors). Relationships become unimportant and the achieved success will only be temporary. On the other hand, if you focus too much on attributes and relationships, your company will not produce the results necessary to be long-lasting.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Curse is Back

Last night, I had another run in with "the curse"...I woke up at 3:30 am and couldn't get back to sleep until 5 am. (It couldn't have come at a more inconvenient time; I have been sleep-deprived all week from a nagging cold and a newborn baby!) However, I am always grateful for the enlightenment that comes to me in the middle of the night -- they always seem to be my best ideas. Luckily, I had my Blackberry next to my bed so that I could write my ideas down.

Last night, I had a great idea on how to track the contacts that are happening on our site. Before now, we've had a pretty good idea of which entrepreneurs were contacted through FundingUniverse.com, however, in the future we will know for certain.

Tracking is a very important part of the success of any internet company. Track page views, unique visitors, new subscriptions, success stories, etc. The most successful companies know what key metrics to track -- I think that is why Omniture's web-analytics software has been so successful.

MWCN Top Utah 100

Yesterday, I attended the Mountain West Capital Network luncheon at the Grand America. They announced the Top 100 Utah companies based upon revenue and growth. It was exciting to see that the LoveSac Corporation led the group as the #1 company in Utah.

Shawn Nelson, their founder and CEO, is one of our Junto mentors (he also won Richard Branson's Rebel Billionaire competition last year). Shawn is a terrific example of a passionate businessman. It is apparent that he loves what he does and much of their success is a result of that passion.

One of the main reasons that I chose to join FundingUniverse.com is because I am passionate about helping entrepreneurs get the funding that they need. While I know that we aren't going to help everyone that posts a business plan on our site, if we are contributing to the success of a few, it will be worth it.

Anyway...Congrats Shawn!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

What's most important to your customers?

Here is an email that I sent to my team:

I was reading the official "Google" blog and I found some interesting comments that I believe are applicable to what we are doing:

"We had a lot of ideas, but first we spent a lot of time talking to all kinds of people about their email. They let us watch over their shoulders and helped us really understand how they use email and what they need from it. We didn't want to simply bolt new features onto old interfaces. We needed to rethink email, but at the same time we needed to respect that email already had over 30 years of history, thousands of existing programs, and nearly a billion users. So we started by learning which features were most important, and which problems were most aggravating. We also realized that solving everyone's problems was too big of a challenge for the first release. It would be better to build a product that a lot of people love, than one that everyone tolerates, and so that was our goal." http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2005/10/guess-what-just-turned-34.html

Per our discussion on Friday on how to help more entrepreneurs get funded...I think that we need to find out which features are most important and which problems are most aggravating to investors. How can we assist them in being more active? I love our ideas about training the entrepreneurs through the point system and highlighting more the entrepreneur and not the business plan (the reason that I like them so much is because they are aligned with the research in the book Angel Investing). As we help our investors get to know our entrepreneurs, I think magical things will happen.

Anyway...thanks for all you do. If we keep it up, we will be an overnight success in a few years!

Friday, October 21, 2005

FundingUtah.com in Connect Magazine

FundingUtah.com was the cover article of the September issue of Connect Magazine. I think that they did a wonderful job...if you are interested, here is the link to the article.

Speed pitching idea...

In an effort to help entrepreneurs connect with angel investors, we have brainstormed the idea to do a FundingUtah.com speedpitching event. If any of you have seen the movie Hitch, you will remember the speed dating scene. This event will very similar only we will be selling our businesses, not a date!

Ten entrepreneurs will give five-minute pitches to several groups of 3-5 accredited angel investors rotating in a fast-paced, musical chairs style. After the end of the event, entrepreneurs will be available for question and answer sessions on an individual basis.

I am anxious to see the results of the event... we have already recieved quite a few registrants. If you have any other innovative ideas to help entrepreneurs connect with angel investors, let me know.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Exciting week! (and the result of THE CURSE)

Last week was one of the best weeks of my entire life. First things first: my beautiful baby boy Jackson was born on Tuesday October 11. What an amazing experience! Both mom and baby are doing great. Having a baby definitely puts your life into perspective of to what is most important.

In a previous blog ("The Curse"), I spoke about waking up in the middle of the night with new ideas and excitement for a business opportunity. Since then, many people have asked me what the opportunity was. Well, here it is:

I finalized an agreement to join the FundingUniverse.com team. FundingUniverse.com is a matching service for angel investors and entrepreneurs. The company already has some traction and trajectory and I look forward to contributing to its success.

There you have it...my new baby boy and my dream job...all in one week!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Value of Partnerships

Over the past few months, I have really learned a lot about the value of partnerships. While having capable and competent partners is very important, that is not the kind of partnership that I am referring to... I am referring to strategic partnerships.

As a start-up company, there are many tasks that require your attention; developing the product, marketing the product, keeping your clients happy, etc. Instead of staying up late worrying about how to stay afloat, you may want to consider partnering with another company to extend your reach and accomplish more.

At FundingUniverse, most of our projects include a partnerships with other companies. Not only will the partnerships add credibility to what we are doing, it will save us time and money by not re-inventing the wheel.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Early-stage Funding

While reading the book Angel Investing, I have come across some very interesting stats about getting funded by Angel Investors. After interviewing hundreds of angel investors, the top 2 criteria by which most angels invest are:

  1. Enthusiasm of Entrepreneur
  2. Trustworthiness of Entrepreneur
In addition, Alan Hall has shared with me that Grow Utah Ventures also looks at the entrepreneur/management team as their number one consideration.

To me, this is valuable information for entrepreneurs. While the business plan is important, do what you can to prepare yourself to be a successful entrepreneur. Take advantages of opportunities to learn from others. Get out and network...start making a name for yourself. Ante yourself to get involved with a similar company. Good luck!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Growth or Cash?

Over the past week, one of the questions that I have been pondering is: is it better to spend the money on additional personnel or keep the cash?

In business, it is well-known that cash is king; however, in order to be successful, you obviously need to take a leap of faith sometime. The conclusion that I have come to (and I'm not saying that it's the right one) is that controlled growth is probably the best bet.

In the beginning, you probably don't need a full management team to prove the concept/idea -- that can be done by yourself or with a small team. Once the concept is proven, recruitting additional personnel/management to grow from a seed stage to a start-up stage would be appropriate. The hypothesis that I am making is that if you prove the concept and show that with your team there is growth potential, I believe that cash (either from sales, internal or external financing) will follow.

If any of you been in this same situation and can offer advice, I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

What's the Point?

Since I have started my blog, many people of asked me why. What's the point? They present valid questions and so I will do my best to explain the benefits that I see from blogging.

First of all, I have found that writing down my learning experiences has been very valuable to my personal progression. I love to learn. As an entrepreneur, most of each of my day is spent learning. I learn from books, articles, partners, professionals, and other blogs. When I take the time to review the lessons learned and articulate them well enough to write them down, it forces me to concentrate on one topic and at least try to say something that will be intelligible and meaningful to others.

It is fun. There are so many unique people out there that are blogging about their experiences. What are they learning? What challenges are they going through? What is happening in the industry? How can I apply this to what I am working on?

It provides opportunities to meet new people. While it hasn't happened to me (yet), blogging opens up doors to meet other like-minded individuals. When you enjoy, agree or disagree with a post, leave a comment and explain why...it provides interesting opportunities to think outside the box and get to know others.

What are other benefits of blogging? Do you have a favorite blog or your own blog? If you do, leave a link so that I can check it out.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The "Curse"

I woke up in the middle of the night last night with what I call the "curse" (you know, when you can't sleep because your mind has just been bombarded with new thoughts and ideas?). While it may be hazardous to my health (because of lack of sleep), I actually enjoy the "curse" because it is a result of something I'm excited about.

After a few months of researching various business plans and ideas, I think that I have finally found something that: 1) is a great opportunity that I am passionate about, 2) has very high potential (in terms of business success), and 3) will add positive value to all of the stakeholders (customers, employees, shareholders).

Anyway, a business associate once said, "If you have the curse, there is no use in fighting it. Get up, write your ideas down, and hope that those ideas will result in more peaceful sleep in the future!"

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Love is the Killer App

I just recently read the book entitled Love is the Killer App by Tim Sanders. This book came highly recommended and I can see why. The principles taught are very refreshing as they discuss the importance of 1) increasing your knowledge, 2) increasing your network and 3) using compassion in the business world.

Increasing Knowledge
The author explains the importance of using books to increase your knowledge. While magazines, websites, and newspapers are good sources to keep you up to date, books represent months or even years of well-thought ideas. Dedicating quality time to reading books and other reliable sources will pay dividends many times over.

Increasing Your Network
This topic is a personal favorite of mine. I love meeting new people. It is exhilirating to meet a new person and establish a long-lasting relationship. One of the reasons that I have enjoyed the Junto program is because of the doors that it has opened to meet many fascinating people.

Using Compassion
At first, I didn't quite understand what Tim Sanders meant by the phrase "using compassion in business"; however, it has become clear to me that he is suggesting that we strive to make the business world more personable. With less and less face-to-face communication (as a result of the advances in technology), it is important that we do all we can to make the most out of our business relationships.

If you haven't had a chance to read Love is the Killer App, I highly recommend it!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Junto, Learning, & Entrepreneurship

Junto has changed my view towards life. For those of you who don't know what Junto is, I will briefly explain.

Greg Warnock, Venture Partner at vSpring Capital, has joined Alan Hall, CEO of MarketStar and Partner in Grow Utah Ventures, to help fund young entrepreneurs. In the beginning, 80-100 applicants from across the state submit their resumes to Greg. From there, he narrows the number to 20 and invites them to participate in an 8-week "journey." This journey consists of the following: attending a 4-hour class once/week (taught by Greg), organizing a service project, raising $5k, putting on a networking activity, and participating in a selling competition. In the end, the top 5 participants are selected and given some seed capital to embark on any business idea that they chose.

While the funding is definitely helpful, it's the instant network that is most valuable. My partners (Ryan Coombs, Justin Bergener, Chad Blodgett, and Joe Grover) are amazingly talented -- I learn from their strengths each and every day. In addition, Greg has rallied together 30+ of the most successful businessmen/women to be "Junto Mentors"; and they are committed to helping us succeed.

Since the day I was selected as a Junto Partner, I have had the time of my life! While it is not easy to be an entrepreneur, I have enjoyed the learning experience that it has provided. Everyday there are new challenges to undertake. Everyday, I have learned a valuable lesson that will help me in the future.

So there you have it....Junto, Learning, & Entrepreneurship!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

In the beginning.....

I love blogs! There is something very fascinating about peeking into the minds of others and learning from their experiences. I especially love Paul Allen's blog. I have been a faithful reader for the past 6 months and it has provided amazing insight to learning and entrepreneurship.

While I have been thinking about posting my own blog for quite some time, I am just now getting the guts to do it. Please understand that in creating this blog, I do not claim to be wise or experienced-- on the contrary! Because I am young and inexperienced, this blog will provide an opportunity to share my learning experiences (and mistakes) with others.

Benjamin Franklin has been quoted to say, "If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worthy reading, or do things worth the writing." That will be my goal. I will strive to thoughtfully articulate my posts so that they are interesting for you to read; and in the process, I hope that we will learn together.