• The Hub For Revolutionizing The Way Startups Work

  • The Shift: The Entrepreneurs and Companies Bringing Africa Online

    A story about blossoming technologies and entrepreneurial communities in Africa. The gist: there is a large movement to bring Africa online which will empower entrepreneurs and a new wave of innovation.

    You can find the video here: http://youtu.be/4DGF72Erhfs

  • Startup Boards Book Review on Your Story

    Your Story, a site built for entrepreneurs in India, published a review of Startup Boards: Getting the Most of Your Board of Directors. The review is quick to point out that this book is a critical read for entrepreneurs that are about to take on institutional funding and need to understand investor dynamics.

    The post also contains a chart that summarizes the high level themes of the book.

    Read the full review here.

  • Startup Boards Review – Christoph Trappe

    The Authentic Storytelling Project recently posted a review of Startup Boards.

    Christoph Trappe, the reviewer, notes its easy to comprehend writing style and the book’s necessity for entrepreneurs  wondering about the value of starting a board as well as those who already have a board.

    Read the full review here.

  • Seth Levine on the Boulder Thesis

    In early February, Seth Levine, Managing Director at Foundry Group, talked through the Boulder Thesis with a group in Minneapolis. The segment includes an interview with CEO Clay Collins and his perspective on startup communities.

    Find a write-up and some video on the event here: http://tech.mn/news/2014/02/09/video-seth-levine-on-startup-communities/

  • Revolution

  • Communities

  • Life

  • Boards

  • Metrics

  • Startup Hub

Startups Think Outside the Silicon Valley Box – Marketplace Tech

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Today on Marketplace Tech, another blooming startup community was given a great write up. The article, Startups Think Outside the Silicon Valley Box, walks through some reasons how and why Salt Lake City, Utah is a fast up-and-comer in the startup scene. It might be because of the engineering research coming out of the University of Utah. It might be because of the low cost of living (making wages that startups can afford to  pay top talent). It might be because of the foundation of a strong work ethic and perseverance due to the Mormon faith. Either way, entrepreneurs are choosing to build companies in Salt Lake City and venture capital is flowing in.

Read or listen to the full piece here at Marketplace Tech.

A Book in 5 Minutes – Startup Boards Book Review

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A great summary and review of Startup Books is currently up on Tech Cocktail: A Book in 5 Minutes: “Startup Boards” by Brad Feld and Mahendra Ramsinghani.

Get the overview of the book from Tech Cocktail then get the full read here: http://startuprev.com/boardbook

#startupboards Tweet Chat with Brad Feld, Mahendra Ramsinghani, and Mark Rogers

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Check your Twitter feeds on 1/7 at 1:00pm MT for a Tweet Chat between Brad Feld, Mahendra Ramsinghani, and Mark Rogers.

This online event is hosted by Board Prospects.

If you are on a board, or if you are in the process of starting a board, this is a great opportunity to ask the authors of Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors questions. To do so, tweet the question with #startupboards included in the message.

Reid Hoffman, founder / executive chairman of LinkedIn and partner at Greylock has started blogging. Well – he’s started writing long form essays on a blog that my understanding is will come out about once a month. The first post is If, Why, and How Founders Should Hire a “Professional” CEO. It is outstanding and I expect [...]

Startup Boards by Brad Feld and Mahendra Ramsinghani – Book Review

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This is a guest post by Tim Huntley, EIR at The Startup Factory and the former CEO of Ganymede Software.

Startup Boards Startup Boards by Brad Feld and Mahendra Ramsinghani   Book ReviewLast month, I received an advance copy of Brad Feld and Mahendra Ramsinghani’s book, Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors.  The tl;dr review is:  If you are an early stage entrepreneur, Startup Boards takes the mystery out of how and why you should build a world class board of directors.   The advice in the book is practical and actionable and is based on Brad’s and Mahendra’s experience on dozens, if not hundreds, of boards.

As I have gotten more active in mentoring and investing, I have been surprised by how few entrepreneurs appreciate the value of an outside board of directors.  When my friends and I left IBM in 1995 to start Ganymede Software, we actively recruited several successful entrepreneurs to join our board.  We recognized that we had led a sheltered life inside of IBM, and we wanted help.  But even though I appreciated our board, I had zero clue of how to run an effective board meeting.  This book would have been invaluable and would have saved me several years of having to figure it out on my own.

The single biggest lesson I had to learn, one that is mentioned multiple times in this book, is to have a consistent board package and to send it out several days ahead of the meeting.  By doing this, we were able to move from 80% of the discussion being in the rear view mirror and shift it to 80% strategy and things I needed help with.

Another lesson from the book, and one I am not sure I understood well as a CEO, is that the job of the board is to aid and assist the CEO.  I tended to think of the board as a decision making group, but in reality there were very few items around strategy that required a formal vote.  Rather, what I needed to do was to take their advice as input and test against all of the other data points I was gathering.

In addition to the logical progression of information in the book, it is rich in anecdotes from folks like Fred Wilson, Scott Weiss, Reid Hoffman, Matt Blumberg, Steve Blank, and others.

Please, if you are an early stage entrepreneur, add this book to your reading list, and reference it as you transition through the different phases of your startup.  It will be money well spent.

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Tim is the former CEO of Ganymede Software, a venture-backed start-up he co-founded in 1995 with three friends from IBM.  After growing to 100 people and $13 million in revenue, Ganymede was acquired by Mission Critical/NetIQ in early 2000.  Tim is currently an Entrepreneur in Residence at The Startup Factory in Durham, North Carolina, and a board member of the Track and Field Athletes Association.

Startup Communities – Lessons Learned

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This is a guest post by Jeff Keen, the CEO of Accelerate Okanagan. The post originally appeared on Accelerate Okanagan’s website.

sup 300x57 Startup Communities   Lessons Learned

I just returned from the Startup Phenomenon conference in Boulder where I had the opportunity to reconnect with some old friends and meet some new amazing people from around the globe.

We talked about everything startup community from culture, entrepreneurs, events, finance, corporations, and governments to networking models and measuring success.  Brad Feld and Jim Collins provided some incredible insight on how to take our startup communities from “Good to Great”.  The conversation was inspirational and ended far too soon.  I would like to keep the conversation going through this blog and encourage you to chime in with your thoughts, learnings & suggestions from your startup community.

To kick off the conversation, let’s start with a review of Brad Feld’s four pillars for building a successful startup community and how our own experiences relate to these concepts.

The first of Feld’s four pillars is that for a startup community to be sustainable over time it must led by entrepreneurs.  Many other organizations can play key roles in the startup community but they cannot be the leaders.

The challenge for many startup communities at the early stage of development is identifying and engaging with successful entrepreneurs.  This was the case for our community.  Here are a few lessons we learned along the way that can help engage entrepreneurs in your community:

  1. Hold events and activities that are appealing to entrepreneurs.  Events should be fun, casual and provide an environment for entrepreneurs to connect with community members without having to worry about being constantly pitched or inundated with requests for their time.  I would suggest that morning coffee meetups are a great way to begin the engagement process with entrepreneurs in your community.  One event that has proven to be very successful in our community is Startup Drinks, a monthly event that is hosted at various tech companies around town that regularly attract a full house of attendees representing a great cross-section of community members .  The venue is free, beer is donated by a local micro brewery and the networking is off the charts!
  2. Be consistent and patient.  If possible, community events should happen at the same time on the same day of the week, and preferably at the same location.  When entrepreneurs become comfortable attending community events and activities, they will attend on a more regular basis and invite the friends to join them – familiarity breeds comfort and this will eventually lead to more engagement.  One event that follows this pattern in our community is “Entrepreneurs Unplugged” which happens on the first Monday of every month at the Streaming Cafe at 6pm.  Entrepreneurs Unplugged provides a venue for local entrepreneurs to talk about their journey, share their successes and failures and inspire the next generation of creative, innovative, entrepreneurial thought leaders in our community.
  3. Identify and engage “rock star” entrepreneurs.  These are people who are recognized in the community for having significant success as an entrepreneur.   Our startup community gained significant momentum when the three most successful technology entrepreneurs became more outwardly facing and accessible in the community.  Although active behind the scenes for several years, this heightened level of engagement added a new level of credibility and “cool factor” to community events and activities.  These three leaders are now hosting coffee meetups, community building activities and are deeply involved in supporting social entrepreneurship and social enterprise initiatives.
  4. Identify and support volunteer, community driven organizations with a shared vision of supporting startups and entrepreneurship.  As a partially government funded organization our first foray into delivering community events and activities were done behind the Accelerate Okanagan brand.  What we found over time is that it was much more effective to identify likeminded community organizations and support their event and activity efforts.  We did this by providing venues, speakers, registration services and refreshments but took a back seat and remained behind the scenes.  Also, it should not have been a surprise to find out that entrepreneurs were active in many of these grassroots community organizations.
fedl collins Startup Communities   Lessons Learned

Brad Feld and Jim Collins

In his book “Startup Communties” Feld talks about the difference between leaders (entrepreneurs) and feeders (everyone else) including government, academia, service providers, venture capital, mentors etc. and that feeders play a key role but cannot be leaders.  One very interesting anecdote raised at the  conference, and supported by Feld,  was that individuals from feeder organizations can take on a leadership role in the community if they act as individuals and not representatives of the feeder organizations.  The key is they must share the “give before you get” philosophy.   I would support this notion and state that our community is very fortunate to have several individuals from feeder organizations who willingly volunteer their time and expertise to support entrepreneurs and are regular participants in startup community events and activities.

I would also recommend not underestimating the power of the grass roots volunteer organizations in your community and the leadership role they can play in fostering a vibrant startup ecosystem.  We are extremely fortunate to have organizations in our community like OKDG (Okanagan Developer Group), DO (Digital Okanagan) and OYP (Okanagan Young Professionals) that are behind several startup community events and activities like Startup Weekend, Okanagan Startup Week, TEDx Kelowna, Startup Drinks and several weekly meetups.  Amazing volunteers delivering incredible events!

I would love to hear from you and learn more about how you are engaging with leaders in your community and some of the lessons you have learned along the way.

Let’s keep the conversation going!

Jeff Keen, CEO Accelerate Okanagan.

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Jeff has 25 years of experience in the technology industry, having held executive level management and leadership roles in technology organizations in both the public and private sector. Prior to joining Accelerate Okanagan, Jeff’s roles included technology entrepreneur, founder, and executive in both early-stage and high-growth technology companies. Jeff is an Honors graduate from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) and is currently leading the amazing team at Accelerate Okanagan (www.accelerateokanagan.com).


Building a Lacrosse Community

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This is guest post by JP O’Brien, Managing Director at Integrated People Solutions, a Mentor at Techstars, and, of course, a lacrosse coach.

BVL Girls 300x225 Building a Lacrosse Community

About 5 years ago, I was recruited to join the Boulder Valley Lacrosse board, probably because I grew up playing lacrosse at a high level, was coaching my son’s team, and knew a couple of the board members. When I joined, it felt a little like a secret society – I don’t think anyone knew that a board even existed. When

I was elected to run the organization as president, we all agreed to make swift changes to open up the communication, create transparency, and build a customer-centric culture.  We’re not close to perfect, but we are on the right path.

Over a coffee, a friend and I were discussing the Boulder Thesis and the subtleties of the concept of a long-term view perspective.  I was looking for a way to articulate the importance of looking out and thinking about how to build communities for 10 or 20 years down the road. Each year, the parents and coaches of a lacrosse team get so focused on the current season, game, or practice

right in front of them, we as a group forget to look up and make sure we are headed in the right direction for our 20-year vision.  These are the key components of the Boulder Thesis and how I see them applied to the Boulder Valley Lacrosse organization.

Startup communities put great importance on this concept of the long-term viewpoint – check. But who are the entrepreneurial leaders in our lacrosse community?  The thought came to me this summer when meeting with Andrew Davies, our Executive Director.  We were planning for our fall season and he lamented that finding good coaches was still our biggest challenge. That our growth as a community, the sustainability, will be based on our ability to continue to attract great coaches every year.  I went back to the Boulder Thesis and realized that instead of trying to create, or worse control, the development of coaches every year, perhaps the coaches are the entrepreneurial leaders of the lacrosse community.

Leaders – But does that make sense? Can a coach really have a long-term view and lead, or will it always just be about their team, son, or daughter? If you use me as an example, I started as a ‘dad-coach’, but now help lead our community of over 1200 families.  I play men’s lacrosse with Boulder guys, I coach 11 year-old boys, and my daughter plays with a team of 12 and 13 year old girls.  I have become a leader in this Boulder Lacrosse Community, in part because I am a super-user and participant in the community.

Feeders – Next, we need to make sure we have all of the service providers. There are training organizations, most very good, that offer lacrosse training, camps, and club teams (Denver Elite and 3d Lacrosse are the two largest). We have local retail stores (Breakaway Sports and Player’s Bench). We have colleges (CU and DU) and high schools (Fairview, Boulder, Dawson). We engage with each of these organizations and need them to be key participants (service providers) to our community.

Inclusive – We have always had a pretty inclusive policy, but we need to be more public about it and market the opportunities of how to get involved. And with our new Boulder Thesis concept, we can communicate better to new feeders as to how to become the fabric of the community, and not try to be the sole leader.

Engage the Community – Engagement is an area we need to continue to work on.  A few weeks ago, I held a coaches meeting with about 30 of our top local coaches and shared with them the concept and philosophy behind the Boulder Thesis. I asked them to be a part of this new concept and lead the community.  One of the coaches I had not yet met, spoke up to elaborate on the concept. It happened to be Jim Booth (COO of Orbotix), someone that understands the Boulder Thesis well from the traditional concept. Jim and I later had lunch and debated the motivation of a coach – will there be enough intrinsic motivation to invest in the long term community, if it is not specifically associated with a career?

This story has just begun. There are more debates to be had and more ideas to test.  In the meantime, we are recruiting more coaches to be leaders and build the 20-year vision for Boulder Valley Lacrosse.  If you live near Boulder, call me about getting involved or if you have additional ideas!

JP OBrien Bio 2 Building a Lacrosse Community

JP O’Brien is the managing director at Integrated People Solutions, a retained executive search and strategic talent revolution company. JP is known for his business and strategy acumen and his keen ability to build meaningful and influential relationships with some of the industry’s most sought after executives. JP is also a mentor at Techstars Boulder, leads the Boulder Valley Lacrosse Association, and teaches entrepreneurship at the Colorado School of Mines.

JP has held a mixture of CEO, CIO, and CTO roles, building strong teams and executing in rapidly growing and ever-changing markets.  JP’s prior roles include: Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of SageFire, Inc., a leading provider of cloud-based, enterprise management software for multi-unit businesses including eBay, H&R Block, and Home Depot; Founding Member and acting CIO of Headwaters MB, a middle-market private equity and M&A investment banking firm; and Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Learning Productions, LLC, an education outsourcing and technologies business that was acquired by SkillSoft. JP began he career at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) where he was the lead architect on global, multi-million dollar system implementations including Sprint, JP Morgan and GE Capital.

JP can be reached at jp@ipeoplesolutions.com.

 Building a Lacrosse Community

Yesterday, Kauffman Foundation released a study that provided empirical support for the Boulder Thesis that I came up with in my book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City. The study is excellent if you are interested in this topic and can be read at ad “Think Locally, Act Locally: Building a Robust Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.” …

Absorbing Startup Life as you make life’s journey

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Guest Post By Eric KleinLemnos Labs - (Partner)

Eric Klein 300x290 Absorbing Startup Life as you make lifes journeyI recently finished Startup Life and want to thank Brad and Amy for writing such a bold and emotional book. I’ve been married for roughly twenty years and was separated for close to a year as my wife and I difficultly learned many of the lessons in this book. If I could go back in time and hand this book to my younger self, it might have saved us much angst. I really appreciated the openness of all the contributors and will be recommending it within the Lemnos Labs founder community.

What struck me about the book was that its lessons might not be absorb-able in one phase of your life. If I went back in time and handed this book to my younger self, would I have been able to hear all the knowledge and lessons it prescribes? I’m pretty sure my friends and psychiatrist told me how to be a better partner while pursuing my dreams of entrepreneurship, I just wasn’t completely ready then to absorb those ideas when I was in my twenties.

It feels like there are three life phases you read this book in; each phase bringing more understanding of the book’s lessons:

Phase 1 – The young entrepreneur
Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly mentioned the “10,000 hour rule” in Outliers, rightfully highlighting the time it takes to master something new. Young entrepreneurs, and we’ve all been there, are simultaneously trying to master building businesses and relationships. It’s incredibly hard to do one, let alone both, but I think it is even harder to accept guidance and wisdom on these topics at the beginning of the learning curve. Looking back, I can see myself denying so many basic problems at the intersection of my business life and my relationship with my wife, unable to see what is now obvious in terms of balance and commitment. I just wasn’t ready to see solutions to problems I barely understood.

I think younger entrepreneurs with less relationship experience reading this book will absorb some of the material, but have fewer reference points to relate to the lessons contained in the book. Hopefully what they have received is a pointer, so to speak, to a great reference on entrepreneurship and relationships that they can return to on a regular basis.

Phase 2 – The entrepreneur in crisis
Sooner or later every relationship enters more troubled waters. The stresses of entrepreneurship only exacerbate the natural tensions of a relationship. So many of the things that were pointed out in Startup Life seem obvious now, but in the apex of my marital challenges, this book would have been a godsend. Or a smack in the head! It is so hard to find consul and wisdom when you reach this point. It’s a difficult topic to discuss with anyone, let alone finding a fellow entrepreneur with great relationship skills who wants to talk with you about these personal, sensitive topics. I think Startup Life has maximum value for an entrepreneur in this phase of their lives, because the lessons it contains finally become timely, relevant, and critical.

Phase 3 – The maturing entrepreneur
While entrepreneurs often think of time as their greatest enemy, in terms of experience, it is our friend. As we mature, we finally start to start to notice the warning signs of issues in our businesses and our relationships, why they are happening, and have proven techniques to address our issues. Experience makes us more comfortable and capable in our relationships. I’m finally at the point where I sorta understand what to do to be a good partner! In this phase Startup Life provides great relationships tips and reminders that help you stay on course and reminders of potential problem spots. I’m working hard, as an example, to embrace shorter Qx vacations for my wife and I. In my limited experience with Qx breaks, they really spur creativity and force me to check in with the real world instead of the ten million little issues with my company that I tend to become fixated on over time.

I think this is also the phase where you recommend Startup Life to every entrepreneur you know that is in Phase 1 and 2 in the hopes they avoid your mistakes icon wink Absorbing Startup Life as you make lifes journey
Startup Life is a book you put on the shelf and re-read semi-regularly as you make life’s journey. It can’t be absorbed in one session and its lessons ripen as time goes by. An entrepreneur learns that you have good days and bad days both in business and in your relationship. Pull this book from the shelf for wisdom as you navigate those highs and lows.

 Absorbing Startup Life as you make lifes journey

Q: When building a financial projection model for a pitch to VC’s, should you include future rounds of funding in the model or simply show what measurable goal you are trying to achieve with the current round you are seeking? A (Brad): It depends on the stage of the company. But first, it’s important to understand [...]

Breaking Away

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Guest Post By Tony Conrad True Ventures (Partner) - about.me (Founder/CEO)

There are lots of people (brilliant, high-achieving, incredibly successful people) who regularly turn off their phones, close their iPads and let their minds recover from the effects of an ever-increasing tendency to always be plugged in, tuned in and turned on. Call it meditation or simply being in the moment, the time these people take to disconnect from technology is rumored to lead to longer, healthier, happier and more productive lives, as well as increasing familial bonds and personal satisfaction.

Unfortunately, I’m not that guy. Most of the founders/entrepreneurs I know are not that person.

As a founder/entrepreneur, you live a life where you are always “on.” Even before our age of connectivity, the original American founders—people like Rowland Macy, Henry Ford—succeeded in large part because they made their companies their entire lives to put things in motion, envisioning at their company’s inception a way of life that doesn’t exist yet. That’s what you have to give to it. You have to make tons of sacrifices. Sometimes that includes your family. Sometime yourself.

It’s not all bad. There’s a lot of flexibility that happens as a result of being constantly plugged in. It’s what enables me to slip out in the middle of the day and go to a parent-teacher conference. It’s why I can wake up in the morning and work out before I go into the office. But at the end of the day—if I’m being honest—being turned on and tuned in all day long has at times reduced my capacity for real connection. It’s easy to turn my phone off for 30 minutes to sit down and have dinner, but while I’m physically separated from my device, I’m not turned off. Often, to be honest, I’m sitting at dinner with my family and I’m thinking about what emails I have to reply to when we’re done. And, to be clear, I’m very much in love with my family.

So many of us go through the motions, but we’re not connecting in a meaningful way. And frankly, that has characterized a lot of my interactions with people over the past 20 years. More often than not, I’m not really able to be totally in the moment. As much as I want to believe I am, I’m not. I think it’s true for a lot of founders/entrepreneurs, especially those who are trying to turn their idea into a habit.

And then an extraordinary thing happened to me. In August, I took my family to Ladakh, India. And, for the first time in my life, I was forced into the moment. And it was amazing.

Ladakh (located between Kashmir and Tibet) is one of the most sparsely populated regions in India, renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture and sometimes called “Little Tibet,” as it has been strongly influenced by Tibetan culture. Ladakh also has a very spotty network, limited cell coverage and no Internet in the mountains. The most “technology” I saw in Ladakh was a few hours of electricity each afternoon that allowed me to recharge my phone so I could take photos. That was it.

 Breaking Away

My first day off the grid was liberating, but I was still dialed in. I was still thinking about what was going on at work, and even non-core stuff like which photos I wanted to share on Twitter and Instagram. But by day three or four, I just stopped thinking about all that stuff. And once I realized that I wasn’t thinking about all that stuff, I was incredibly surprised. It might have been the altitude of Ladakh (12,500 – 21,000 feet), which requires you to move slowly, but I felt like everything slowed down to a pace at which I could really experience it. I enjoyed my family at a depth I haven’t felt in a long time. I was present with them. I have never felt more in the moment.

 Breaking Away

It got me thinking that I hadn’t probably been truly present like that since I was around 10 years old. Like a lot of founders/entrepreneurs, my entire life has been spent pushing forward, and I’ve leveraged stress and motivation and goals and achievements (that virtuous cycle) in a way I’m really proud of. But it comes at a cost.

The power of experiencing a few days of living completely present, completely disconnected from technology, was that I returned from Ladakh exceedingly energized and focused.

From a work perspective, it created the space in my mind to enable me to see the forest instead of the trees. On the flight back, it became crystal clear to me what I felt needed to be done for about.me’s next product evolution: it had to be the feed in our new web dashboard and mobile app. As a team, while we were working on these projects, we were also working on a lot of other stuff that seemed important, but in reality, didn’t have the same ability to impact our trajectory. By taking a step back, and in this case, a step outside, the day-to-day grind, I walked back in the office from my vacation and was empowered to have a conversation with our team about stopping everything and focusing 100% of our energy on the feed in our web dashboard and mobile app. In my opinion, disconnecting is what enabled that clarity to focus on areas that will impact our trajectory in a meaningful way.

And it has. Since we launched our new dashboard and app earlier this month, our engagement and retention has grown to record numbers. The number of users logging in and interacting with other users is at an all-time high. Traffic, time on site, page views and visits are up. Daily active and monthly active users are at an all-time high and growing. Early mobile data is super promising, we’re averaging 20+ profile views/sessions and people are coming back to the app at 3x the rate of our previous app. And the qualitative inputs are super encouraging and flattering.

Yes, I came back to work full-speed ahead, but my time spent unplugged allowed me to come back and have a clear conscience for the first time in a long time. Before this trip, I would never be the guy to say “you need to disconnect; go off the grid,” because until now, I considered it a bit selfish and unproductive. And while it is something you do for yourself, it’s such a gift to everyone and everything you come in contact with and it resets you in a way that enables clarity around what really needs done. That’s the power of it. That’s why it matters. It’s an incredibly powerful experience and a habit I think we can integrate into our lives as founders and entrepreneurs.

Tony Conrad Breaking Away

Founder about.me & Sphere. Partner True Ventures(WordPress, MakerBot, Blue Bottle Coffee).
Animal Whisperer, Triathlete, holder of Serious Parking Karma & Pour-Over Drip Coffee Skills. I’m an unfortunate Cubs fan, lover of Languages, Art, Architecture and a T40 National Co-Chair of Technology for Obama. I grew up in a small Indiana farming community. Since, l’ve lived in San Francisco, New Delhi, Jakarta, Chicago, New York and Paris.

 Breaking Away

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Teaching Entrepreneurship To Undergrads

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Guest Post By David WilliamsExplorateur Ventures, Ltd – (CEO)

Explorateur Ventures1 Teaching Entrepreneurship To Undergrads


We are a few weeks away from the autumn 2013 semester at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Lee Business School , which will mark my fifth year of part-time/adjunct teaching Entrepreneurship to undergraduates. In autumn 2012 I also co-taught an Entrepreneurship-related course at the Boyd School of Law  with local attorney Josh Westerman. This year Boyd is re-calibrating its curriculum to include more business/entrepreneurship course offerings. While our course is not offered this academic year, we look forward to further course offerings at Boyd, which could include a prerequisite to our course.

There will be three courses in LBS this autumn:

  • FIN345, Managing New Venture Funding – a finance course which takes a holistic view of finance within a venture, throughout its life cycle; in its fifth year
  • BGES430, International Entrepreneurship – a management course which is part of the Global Entrepreneurship Experience Program; in its third year
  • FIN480, Entrepreneurial Finance – a re-launched finance elective course which will principally focus on valuation and negotiation; first year after a three-year hiatus

While all three present a different perspective on entrepreneurship, they present real-world material integral to entrepreneurship education.

As standard procedure we do not use textbook(s) in these courses (caveat – BGES430 does use a supplemental text written by Professor Robert Hisrich at Thunderbird’s MBA Program). Instead the curricula are curated largely from case studies from top global MBA programs, such as Harvard, Stanford, Kellogg, Darden, Ivey, IMD and others. Ergo, although these courses are indeed undergraduate, they have a “MBA lite” bent and students are pushed to operate at a quasi-graduate level. In addition to these case studies, we have been grateful for a wide variety of guest speakers who have participated in our courses, from the local, national and international business community, from countries as far away as Finland, Japan and China. Their contributions add rich content and bolster the real-world emphasis to which we adhere.

While textbooks per se are avoided, we have used from time to time supplemental readings and books, such as Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness. This semester, we are pleased to include in all three courses Brad Feld’s Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City text, which allows us to continue to stress in the respective last class sessions the importance of building, collaborating and leading the evolution of our startup ecosystem. What good are basic tools taught in the courses if there is no community to support the execution and usage of these tools?

The inclusion of Brad’s book this autumn arrives at an interesting time for us. For the past five years, we have ended the courses with a case study on Austin, Texas and how they methodically created from the 1980s their ecosystem environment to what it is today.

Ironically, I am myself a University of Texas McCombs MBA graduate, and a significant amount of that Harvard Business School case research takes place during my time there in the mid- to late-1990s. A personal interest/experience in the content as well as an important pedagogical message. Comparing Austin with Las Vegas has been fairly intuitive for me; both cities and states had to emerge from dire economic straits, with Texas’ emphasis in oil and gas and real estate, while Las Vegas and Nevada heavily concentrated in gaming and real estate. Due to technological advancements over the past thirty-plus years, I would anticipate that Las Vegas’ ecosystem will evolve at a more accelerated pace than the time it took Austin to develop its unique startup culture.

Coincidentally, this next week will mark the first-ever South by Southwest event outside of Austin, with the SxSW V2V conference held in Las Vegas at the Cosmopolitan Hotel , as well as related events at community venues such as Startup Weekend at the Switch InNEVation Center, an event at the renovated Gold Spike downtown hosted by Tech Cocktail, and other activities. It is therefore timely for us to move from a single data-point ecosystem reference to what things can be done generally, to more focus on sustained growth of our community. We look forward to leveraging lessons learned and suggestions made from Brad and the Boulder, Colorado community in course group projects.

Attached below are the attendant syllabi for each of the above-mentioned courses; please refer to those for specific course details and curricula.

BGES430 Syllabus 13 1.0

FIN345 autumn 13 syllabus 1.0

FIN480 autumn 13 syllabus 1.0

You may also want to follow our Twitter feed (@socraticstartup) to follow course content and guest-speaker participation as we move through the semester, and a Facebook page of the same name. The FB page is only open to current/former students and guest speakers for course/curriculum reasons; however those interested in our activities certainly may follow our posts and information on that open page.


David C Williams is Adjunct Faculty member at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where he teaches Entrepreneurship courses focused on finance, management and law. He is also CEO of Explorateur Ventures, Ltd, an international consultancy that advises startups and growth companies. In addition to being an active member in the #vegastech community in Las Vegas, he has lived, worked and travelled abroad in South America, Europe and Africa. He can be reached via dcw@explorateurventures.com or on Twitter @explorateurven.

 Teaching Entrepreneurship To Undergrads

Startup Communities - Chapter 3