International Speaker and Inventor of the Marshmallow Challenge to Deliver Keynote at TechEDge2012

Chandler, AZ— Keynote speaker Tom Wujec will explain how companies can Foster Innovation in Turbulent Times at the TechEDge2012 Conference 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7 at the Chandler City Council Chambers, 88 E. Chicago St.

Tom Wujec speaks internationally on innovation: why it matters, why it is a vital engine of economic growth (especially today), and how to foster it. Wujec works with Fortune 100 companies to create innovation practices at all stages, from strategic planning to design and implementation. As a Fellow at Autodesk—the Oscar-winning industry leader in 3D computer animation technology, and one of the world’s largest software companies—Wujec has worked with a diverse range of clients, from the largest automotive and consumer product manufacturers to the visual effects and gaming companies establishing billion dollar industries.

Wujec is known for developing the Marshmallow Challenge design experiment that reveals surprising lessons about teamwork, collaboration, and project management. The challenge sounds simple enough: teams try to build the tallest freestanding structure they can out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string and a marshmallow. What makes it difficult, though, is the need for teams to organize, prototype and finally build the structure in the short time frame. See Wujec’s TED Talk and information about the Marshmallow Challenge at

TechEDge2012 is designed to equip technology entrepreneurs and emerging growth companies with the practical tools and innovative resources they need to succeed. It will feature real life stories from business owners, partnered with practical tips from experts on topics including: Incubator Advantages, How to Win SBIR Awards & Commercialization through Strategic Partnerships, Crowdfunding and the JOBS Act, IP/Patents, a Resource Pitch and Interactive Lightening Round.

TechEDge2012 is supported by Title Sponsor, Fennemore Craig, Arizona SBDC Network, and ASU. It is hosted by the City of Chandler’s Innovations Incubator in partnership with the Arizona Business Incubation Association (AZBIA).

Cost for the full-day event is $50, with fees waived for students and incubator clients. For detailed information and to register visit

Sanjay Dhole Superstar

The attached picture is from the Association of Small Business Development Centers Annual Meeting held recently in New Orleans, Louisiana. Sanjay, Technology Programs Coordinator from Maricopa Community College SBDC was honored as the Arizona State Star at the event, held amoung nearly 1,200 peers from accross the United States. Sanjay was also a presenter at the conference, sharing his expertise in working with technology businesses and tools to help these businesses succeed.

Congratulations, Sanjay!

A Guide to What Entrepreneurs Can Patent

Got a great idea for a business? Wondering if you can patent it before someone else comes up with something similar?

Technically, you can’t patent an idea for a business – for example, if you have a unique idea for an online store or a new chain of themed restaurants. However, you may be able to protect and patent a method of doing business – if it meets very specific criteria and requirements.

Here’s what you need to know about what patent protection can do for your business, and about other intellectual property issues that should also come into play.

What You Can Patent

There are three types of patents you can apply for based on the nature of your invention: utility patents, design patents, or plant (of the green variety) patents.

If you have a business idea that is somewhat abstract, then you may be eligible to apply for a utility patent. A utility patent may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful:

Article of manufacture
Composition of matter
Any new and useful improvement of these.
That’s a pretty broad bucket of innovation. But the U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is also very specific about the requirements for these patents. Your idea or invention must be:

Non-obvious – meaning anyone else with the same skills in this area could not have come up with the same idea
Clearly explained and documented so that someone equally skilled could make and use the invention
The Patenting Process

If you are confident your idea falls within the definitions and requirements above, check out the next steps, which will include checking for previously filed patents, and are described here by the USPTO. If you’re not clear whether your idea falls within these boundaries, read USPTO’s “How do I Know whether my Invention is Patentable?”.

Either way, it’s worth taking time to consult with a patent lawyer. If you choose to proceed, be prepared. This can take time and using the services of a patent attorney to help you meet the precise documentation and filing requirements is going to cost you. If you are seeking outside investment and have established that your business idea or invention is patentable, it may be worth rolling the cost of getting legal help into your business plan and seeing if your investors will cover the costs.

Other Ways of Protecting Your Business Idea

Even if your idea isn’t patentable, there are still important assets of your business you can protect. For example, web content can be copyrighted. You can also trademark, and should do so if you want to claim and protect your product or business name. Here’s a quick overview of these two forms of protection and how to register for them:

Copyright – If your business involves creating original written works, music, or videos, these can be covered by copyright laws. Copyright can be claimed through the U.S. Copyright Office for a small fee. Note that copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. While you can express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, copyright will not protect the idea itself.

Trademark – A trademark is different from a patent because it only protects words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services. Trademarks, unlike patents, can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in commerce. Trademark infringement can carry a high cost for your business. Before you pick a name, use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s trademark search tool to see if a similar name, or variations of it, is trademarked. If your chosen name is unclaimed you can then register for the trademark online (for a fee).

Gateway CEI Incubator Planning 500 New Jobs for Region

Officials with a new business incubator at GateWay Community College in central Phoenix say they hope to add nearly 500 jobs to the area within the next few years.

To accomplish that goal, they know they must carefully select businesses and startups with potential to grow and excel.

The Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation has 35 spaces available, but only two businesses have completed the center’s rigorous application process. The facility, which cost about $6 million to build, seeks to house and develop early-stage companies focused on biotechnology, clean technology, renewable energy, technology and software, and professional services.

“We provide a phenomenal amount of entrepreneurship service,” Executive Director Jeff Saville said. “All entrepreneurs see something shiny, and they will chase that for a while, but it’s our job to make sure they are staying focused.”

Phoenix has in interest in the development. The city contributed about $800,000 to the project — using 2006 voter-approved bond money — and it also helped leverage a $2 million grant from the Economic Development Administration, according to John Chan, Phoenix’s community and economic development director.

Chan said the city has targeted bio-life sciences and “young emerging enterprises” as industry sectors to focus on: “These sectors attract high-quality jobs and have high-growth potential.”

The Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation staff and mentors work closely with each of the budding businesses, both residential and affiliate. So far, only Voltmarc Technology Inc., a circuit tracing and monitoring research and development company, and Arbsource, a biotechnology company, have successfully signed on. An advisory board must approve all participating companies. Saville said they have about six more companies in the “pre-incubation queue.”

“I take pride in CEI being an incubator that advertises a high degree of selectivity,” Arbsource founder and CEO Mark Sholin said. “Resident companies have to have not only an excellent business model but also a strong network and sufficient financial traction to be able to support habitation at CEI.”

Arbsource, which deals with waste-water treatment in the food and beverage industry, was founded in August of last year. The company took up residence in the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation in July, after leaving SkySong, the Arizona State University Scottsdale Innovation Center.Sholin decided the company had enough money to branch out and find a larger space with new networking opportunities.

“We went in with an open mind and had high expectations,” he said of the GateWay project. “CEI has the perfect mix of office space, lab facilities, mentoring, and business-development resources to complement what we have built so far with Arbsource.”

Along with its 35 spaces, the center offers the resources of 85 mentors whose clients, both residential and affiliate, can utilize, according to marketing assistant Monique Jones.

“We lean heavily on our mentors to really help us manage the clients and help the clients,” Saville said. Mentors dish advice and provide support in areas such as human resources, accounting, public relations, social media and day-to-day activities.

The center also provides furnished offices, eight equipped wet labs, shared conference rooms and break room, and equipment needed for day-to-day office activities.

Although companies lease the space on a year-to-year basis, the incubation program takes from two to five years.

Despite Arbsource leaving SkySong for the Phoenix-based project, Saville said the center collaborates with all incubators in the area. He called the relationship between the incubators a “neat ecosystem.”

The National Business Incubation Association estimates there are 7,000 business incubators in the world, and typically 87 percent of companies that graduate from such programs stay in business three years later.

“What we want to get out of this is opportunity to get in front of investors and to grow the business so that we can create jobs here in Arizona,” said Mark Mahoney,Voltmarc Technologies Inc. founder and inventor. “This is a huge asset to our business, it really is.”

Saville said the center pursues companies that have a business plan that can produce jobs, and helps foster companies that are not yet ready to join the program. Saville’s goal is to add 500 jobs to the Phoenix community in three to five years, but he has 10 years to accomplish that goal.

As the center grows, Saville said the GateWay Community College campus, near 40th and Washington streets, and surrounding area will become a hub for entrepreneurial activity.

The center had a small-scale opening in October and began accepting applications in March. Jones said they will host a grand opening in the spring, following the completion of the remaining construction in December.

“I’m just amazed at the opportunities out here,” Saville said. “I’m meeting some of the best startup companies I’ve seen in a long time.”

Read more:

Congratulations to Sanjay Dhole, Maricopa and Now Arizona State Star!

Sanjay Dhole is Technology Coordinator for the Maricopa SBDC in Phoenix, and recently awarded the Star Peformer Award by the Arizona SBDC Network in July in Prescott, Arizona. He will go on to the National level in September, and the Association of Small Business Development Centers will recognize him as an outstanding SBDC employee at its 32nd Annual Conference, Tuesday, September 11, 2012 in New Orleans. ASBDC State Stars are SBDC employees exhibiting exemplary performance, significant contribution to their state or regional SBDC program, and shows a strong commitment to small business. Congratulations to all of this year’s State Stars!

For the Facebook posting from ASBDC go to the following link…

Arizona Entrepreneurial Efforts Showing Results!

Arizona entrepreneurs are creating more jobs, making more money and are expressing more optimism about the future of the economy than counterparts in other markets, according to the Global Entrepreneur Indicator.
The GEI, an annual survey from the Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit Entrepreneurs’ Organization, surveyed entrepreneurs around the world to measure their success and their predictions for the future.
Arizona entrepreneurs rated highly, surpassing their counterparts from across the globe.
In the past six months, 62 percent of Arizona entrepreneurs added full-time employees compared to the global average of 59 percent, according to the survey.
During that same time frame, 71 percent of local entrepreneurs reported an uptick in revenue. The global average was 68 percent.
Revenue wasn’t the only increase, either, with 60 percent of Arizona entrepreneurs reporting an increase in their businesses’ net profit, whereas only 16 percent reported a decrease over the past six months.
While there are conflicting indicators and data about whether or not the economy is on the mend, 41 percent of Arizona entrepreneurs are optimistic the U.S. economic environment will improve in the coming months.
Though fewer than half are optimistic about the economy’s future, 85 percent of local entrepreneurs said they would start a new business in the current economic climate, according to the EO survey.
The numbers back up the notion that Arizona is a great place to start and do business, said Jason Rush, chairman of Entrepreneurs’ Organization Arizona.
“There is a good environment for entrepreneurial companies in Arizona,” he said.
Rush said that many of the members of EO Arizona are not cutting back, but instead are expanding and hiring.
David Anderson, chair of the communications committee with EO Arizona, said the survey results indicate what everyone has been saying: small businesses are going to drive the economic recovery.
“It’s stronger in Arizona (because) this is a very predominant small to mid-size business market,” Anderson said. “What the EO survey represents is the economy is growing across all sectors.”
Because of Arizona’s dearth of larger companies, entrepreneurs are key to Arizona’s economy, said Max Hansen, CEO and co-founder of, a recruiting company which has experienced exponential growth in the past year.
“Since we don’t have many Fortune 500 businesses headquartered in Phoenix, I think the community has kind of thrived in small businesses, which in turn has started to develop new businesses and entrepreneurs,” Hansen said.
Hansen cited the burgeoning incubator scene in the Valley as one of the reasons why entrepreneurs fare so well in Arizona.
“Arizona is just an excellent place to start and launch a business,” Hansen said.
Rush said because Arizona’s population skews younger, it is natural there would be more entrepreneurial ventures and businesses in the state.
“It creates more opportunities for them to do new and different things,” he said.
Arizona offers access to the West Coast, has an attractive cost of labor, diversity of labor and some legislative actions that make Arizona attractive as a market, Anderson said.
Rush admits even with the strong numbers from this survey and stories from EO members, everything is not rosy economically in the state.
“I think things are starting to come back in different segments,” he said. “Is it perfect? No. Is there full access to capital that’s probably really needed? No. But it’s better than it was a couple years ago.”

Seedspot Incubator Chosen for Startup USA Arizona site

Startup America Partnership will launch an Arizona chapter this fall, bringing to the state more resources and relationships to keep Arizona’s talented entrepreneurs at home to create local jobs.

The new chapter, to be called Startup Arizona, will look to accelerate the growth and recognize the talents of local startups with a series of local events, resources and peer mentoring programs at the business, college and high school levels.

Startup America Partnership is a national movement that seeks to connect the country’s startups with resources and expertise they need to grow.

“We’ve had our eye on Arizona for quite some time,” said Startup America Partnership CEO and co-founder of, Scott Case. “There has been a lot of activity coming out of this region and we’ve been waiting for the right team to come in and really put fire behind the Startup America mission and join the now 27 startup regions across the country.”

Startup Arizona will provide a variety of support services to support any stage of a new business. The region intends to focus on socially conscious ventures that create positive impact in the world and counsel established business on how they can be more socially conscious.

“We also have a strong desire to energize local high schools with entrepreneurial mentoring programs in an effort to spark creativity at an early age,” said Brandon Clarke, who helped bring Startup America Partnership to Arizona.

Local incubator Seed Spot will serve as the anchor for the Startup Arizona chapter.

“Seed Spot is proud to serve as the anchor for the Startup Arizona movement and help build an ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs that are focused on more than sheer profit,” said Courtney Klein Johnson, co-founder of Seed Spot.

Startup Arizona’s official launch will coincide with the launch of Seed Spot this fall at a special event held at the incubator’s new headquarters at the corner of 24th and Washington streets in Phoenix. The event is scheduled for Oct. 4. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Startup America CEO Scott Case are expected to attend.

Startup America Partnership launched on the steps of the White House in 2011. Its mission is to provide startups access to the corporations, investors, and services they need to grow. It brings together startups and local champions from around the country focused on creating successful networks for young high-growth companies to thrive. AOL co-founder Steve Case (no relation to Scott Case) chairs the Partnership and the Kaufman and Case foundations are its founding partners

Arizona Small Business Incubators Taking Hold

The Small Business Development Center works with many start up businesses. Recently we have seen an emergence of small business incubators across the Arizona. Here is a quick and easy guide to the incubator available to help your business grow.
Things you can find at an incubator:
1.) Shared work space
2.) Structure: every incubator has different structure around expectations around participation and cost
3.) Resources. regular classes and mentors
4.) Areas of Focus: incubators often have different areas of focus like technology, online start up, social services

Arizona incubators
The Phoenix area and Arizona overall have seen an increase in the number of incubators being established to help entrepreneurs. Those sites include city-funded and privately owned groups. Here is a look at some of them.

The Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology:Located in Flagstaff, NACET aims to become that region’s hub for tech companies to get information and secure mentors.

Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation: Brand new, just launched by Gateway Community College in Phoenix, CEI operates a Business Engagement Program, which includes mentoring and other business services. They are Bio friendly, and have wet lab space along with childcare, offices and shared facilities.

Gangplank: With locations in Chandler, Avondale and Tucson, Gangplank is a private accelerator designed around promoting online startups.

ASU SkySong: The Scottsdale joint project of Arizona State University and the Plaza Cos. is aimed at giving a home to startups, particularly those spun out through ASU, as well as promoting foreign companies testing the Arizona market.

Arizona Center for Innovation: Located in Tucson, the center is part of the University of Arizona’s effort to foster more entrepreneurial companies in Southern Arizona.

AZ TechCelerator: The business incubator started by the city of Surprise is aimed at technology businesses across a spectrum of industries.

Innovations: The city of Chandler’s effort to target high-tech businesses has seen success with companies such as Serious Integrated and Cummings Engineering.

Seed Spot: This Phoenix-based incubator will start its first class this fall. It is focused on social for-profit businesses.

The SBDC has relationships with many Arizona incubators and provides resources and training to many of them. If you have questions on if your business is a fit for a incubator schedule a one on one meeting with an SBDC counselor.

This list was created by the Phoenix Business Journal.

Five great lessons from the creator of

We acquired the domain name a few years back. We briefly tried a Q&A site for entrepreneurs and startups, but that didn’t work out. Then last year we decided to launch as a daily deal site for webpreneurs. After one year we had to pull the plug.

This post is my personal reflection on what went wrong. The paint is still fresh, and I’m still a bit sore with the pain of failure on my shoulders… but it’s not the first one in my entrepreneurial life. I am moving beyond it and focusing on what I’m really passionate about.

Genius former chess champion Garry Kasparov said something to the effect of, “I have always learned something from the games I lose that helps me become victorious in the next game.” I am trying to adopt that attitude by offering this reflection upon what went wrong with in the hopes that it will help other entrepreneurs.

Lesson 1. Do your thing

Money follows passion, not the other way around. It’s almost impossible to have a great vision for something you if you don’t have the passion for it. But as Sam Walton put it simply, “Capital isn’t scarce; vision is.”

Do your thing, and don’t let other people (or things) distract you from your own path. It’s very hard to do when you read over and over again that Groupon is kicking ass, or how Instagram was an overnight success (which was hardly “overnight” when you scratch the surface of the people involved).

Temptation is everywhere, but you know what? I came to realize that temptations are only tempting when you’re not doing your own thing. If it’s truly YOUR thing and something you’re passionate about, hardly anything can get you more excited than what you’re already doing.

Clearly selling isn’t our thing, publishing is. Publishing attractive and inspiring content to help webpreneurs become more successful. We thought we could also help webpreneurs with deals. Wrong call. Publishing is one thing, and selling is something very different. It involves customer service 24×7, lead generation, funnels, merchants, refunds, and a huge list of etceteras.

Follow your passion, do your own thing, and don’t let distractions and what may seem like bigger opportunities distract you from YOUR thing. If you get distracted, it means you haven’t found your thing just yet… but that’s okay. Just keep looking.

My key takeaway from this is: Don’t chase the new flavor of the month, because it’ll surely become “yesterday’s online fad” as Seth Godin discussed in his awesome post about, “How To Make Money Online.”

Takeaway #1: Just do your own thing, keep your head down, and hussle.

Lesson 2. There are no shortcuts

From afar, your neighbor’s greener pasture looks very nice (and much greener!) That happens here on The Next Web as well, when we read about the latest startup to getting funding, or the biggest acquisition this week.

You are not your neighbor. Be yourself, and stick to it no matter how long it takes you. You wanna be doing all of the latest, greatest things, because from afar, nothing looks complicated. But again, execution is what counts, and that’s what makes the difference at the end of the day.

At we decided to take a little shortcut and we bought a script for a daily deal site. We wanted to move fast and cut corners everywhere we could. In retrospect, it doesn’t seem to have been the right decision. It took us five months to get where we wanted to be.

One day it struck me: if we had built it from scratch, we’d have done it in 3 months, and it would have been our own fine and dandy, shiny product. Instead we ended up creating Frankenstein. No one had ownership of the beast, and it never worked as well as we had wanted.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re all for open source stuff like WordPress, MySQL, and PHP. I’m not talking about reinventing the wheel here…

I love the story of a butterfly. A good-hearted man saw a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon, and he very gently took scissors and cut open the cocoon, “so the butterfly could get out easier.” Well, it ends up that although he had the best of intentions, a butterfly actually NEEDS to struggle to break its cocoon so it can develop the strength to fly.

Think about the struggles you’re going through with your own startup. Don’t always take the easy path, because you too are developing your skills to become wildly successful. Think of the biggest companies around: Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook… do they look like a result of a shortcut to you? No. Not by a long shot.

Takeaway #2: The road to success is long, no matter what they say. If you can’t stand it, just think of the alternative: Get a “regular” job, and the road to success will become… infinite.

Lesson 3. Do one thing

Marketplaces are very tough, and daily deal sites are even tougher. The jury is still out about the daily deal sites: are they just a fad, or are they here to stay for the long run like webmail, apps, etc?

Seen from afar, the daily deal opportunity seems pretty easy, but it really isn’t.

In any marketplace, you have to build two sides of the equation at the same time: buyers and sellers. Without the sellers, buyers who come to the site leave right away because they find nothing to buy. Without the buyers, the very early sellers don’t get their merchandise sold, so the ball stops right there: they don’t promote it to their friends, and they never comes back to offer another product.

Marketplaces normally take a long time until they hit the mainstream, like Etsy did a while back.

At the company, besides running we were running and a bunch of other initiatives that I’m too embarrassed to share with you here. What can you expect from that? Multiple successes? Hardly. We all face limited resources, budget, people, and energy… We have to admit it, and do just one thing. And excel at it. The world is uber-competitive now, if you’re not amongst the best at what you do, most probably you’re not gonna get anywhere.

Every time an entrepreneur reaches out to me for advice, I tell them the story of when I was a little, 8-year-old boy. At school they taught us how to light a piece of paper on fire with a magnifying glass. You let the sun shine through the glass, and voila! Fire. But in reality, it’s not that easy, because the critical factor is that you stick with it long enough that the little piece of paper lights on fire.

Well, what did that 8-year-old me try to do? Burn 4 different little pieces of papers at the same time. A little bit of magnifying glass time to each of them. What did I get? Nothing. Later in life I realized that if I want to burn 4 different pieces of paper, I need to stick with the first one long enough until it’s on fire. Then I can use that piece to light the next 3 pieces on fire. Simple, but it’s not always easy to stick with that very first piece long enough.

Takeaway #3: Do one thing, no matter how small. When you have it burning, you can make it bigger, better, faster and stronger… later.

Lesson 4. Know when to fold up your tent and go home

It’s very hard, and there’s no winning recipe for it, unfortunately. And you’ll never know for sure if you did the right thing, or if you screwed it up big time by throwing in the towel. I wish there was an easy way to know for certain if quitting is the best option. Actually, maybe there is… If you’re quitting a project to focus your time, energy and limited resources into something you really believe in, then you’re on the right track.

It’s even harder when you read the Steve Jobs’s quote, “The problem with the Internet startup craze isn’t that too many people are starting companies; it’s that too many people aren’t sticking with it.”

Argh! Painful. Keeps you awake at night and makes you think harder and harder, not to mention adding even more stress to your decision process. But still, you need to move forward, and if you feel you’re going nowhere, maybe shutting down is the best thing to do. Or pivot the same project.

But sometimes you need to kill the old to give room for the new to be born. Sometimes the right solution is pivoting, like what Odeo did when they refocused on Twitter. Or what Catherina Fake did with Flickr.

At we were 6 months down the road and we realized it wasn’t working. We couldn’t make it work. Our passion wasn’t in selling, but in publishing. Felix Dennis, founder of Maxim magazine, found that out as well when Maxim tried to approach the catalog business. It wasn’t working for them either. They brought in a consultant who told them point blank, “You’re not creating a sales catalog, you’re just doing a magazine.” And then it hit them: their publishing experience was playing a bad trick on them.

We’re no quitters, so after 6 months we decided to give it our all and 6 months later look at where we were at. Seeing it in retrospect now, it was 6 months too long. Wasted resources, wasted time. The writing was on the wall. But we decided to persevere, on the wrong path, so we lost more money, resources, and lost opportunities doing something else. We should have folded 6 months ago rather than keep going and going for an extra 6 months… in the wrong direction. Lesson learned, but a very personal call. Pretty hard to pass those learnings along, you’ll have to make your own calls.

Life goes on to live another day. And another project comes up to fire up your belly and you go full force into it. That’s what we entrepreneurs do.

Takeaway #4: It’s very hard to time the end of a project… when that one isn’t working. How would you know if a project is working? Easy: you’ll be happy (yes, despite the never-ending challenges). As simple as that.

Lesson 5. Focus, execution and details

Boring? You bet. But these 3, by far, are the ones I find the hardest things for us entrepreneurs to do. Really. We’re full of ideas, we want to change the world every minute. Wherever we look, we see opportunities. Tons of them. And most of the time, they’re better looking, larger, more interesting, appealing and exciting than the one we’re busy dealing with.

At the ‘idea stage,’ everything seems possible, so unlimited thinking is great. That’s romance, without the hassle of actually doing it. But when rubber meets the road, that’s when things get tough, and romance goes to the toilet. An angry customer on the phone; your site is suddenly painfully slow; you get flagged on PayPal for transactions. A critical employee called in sick. Tons of unanswered emails. Disappointing sales that day. The email server is having issues and you can’t deliver the emails to your subscribers. That gets to your co-founder’s head and instead of a dialog to work things through, you start fighting.

Well, you get the picture… I wasn’t talking about your company, I was sharing and venting some of the things that I’ve experienced..

Our own personality is sometimes our worst enemy. We need to constantly keep fighting that, every single day.

At we got enamored with the idea of Daily Deals, but not passionate about the execution and the details of the entire beast. Others did much better than we did, obviously they had the expertise, vision, passion and willingness to make it work, and dive into the details. We didn’t. And it showed, big time.

Takeaway #5: Keep working at your only thing, until you find love in the details. As they say, the devil is in the details (and so is success).

Closing thought: I took something I read from Internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis when I emailed Noah Kagan at AppSumo to say: “You win. We lost. Next.” The day you stop thinking, “there’s still something I could do,” you might just be dead. And dead we’re not. Let’s go full speed ahead, and make it possible.

Why working philanthropy into your startup is valuable

There are ways for a startup with limited resources to get involved in charitable activities without continually asking employees for donations. It’s a topic I’m passionate about, as I believe doing good helps the community as well as feeds a positive corporate culture. It also helps establish trust and a solid reputation for your company that ultimately impacts how you do business and support customers. Ultimately, goodwill to the community contributes to the success of your company.

Focus your philanthropy

When determining how to integrate social responsibility into your company, it is important to map out a program to support this activity in the long term. One of the best ways I’ve found to build in philanthropic work is to focus on one or two beneficiaries for the company as a whole. Often, startups can barely afford support staff let alone have a whole barrel of money to donate. By limiting the focus, you can have a greater impact. At the same time, you can keep the company-sponsored charitable activity lighter so that your employees do not feel overwhelmed with the number of events to participate in. In our early years, we’ve typically tried to have one or two events per quarter.

In addition to the sweat equity your team can provide an organization, there are also programs in existence, like the Entrepreneur Foundation, that enable startups to allocate private equity to a donor-advised fund. Such programs can be interesting options for companies that don’t have extra money to donate. And, as entrepreneurs, we hope our donated stock, once we have a liquidity event, will have significantly more value to that organization in the long run than we initially thought.

Philanthropy contributes to culture

Beyond the rewards to your community, philanthropic activity can significantly benefit your corporate culture when used properly. It allows for opportunities to build relationships both within your company and across your industry.

Building a company culture is all about building relationships and respect, and charitable activity is great for team building. For example, whether you host an internal fundraiser or gather a group to clean up a community park, the activity requires individuals to interact across departments. Especially when the project is focused more on a group activity, it encourages employees to get to know each other on a different level — and with colleagues they may not interact with day-to-day.

Beyond your own company, community events can also provide opportunities for your employees to interact with their peers in the Austin area; the tech industry has the Austin Cup and the Entrepreneur’s Foundation Service Day, for example. Having a network within the community helps your employees feel they are part of the larger Austin community and can establish linkages to like-minded companies and people.

At the same time that we foster our corporate philanthropy, SailPoint Technologies    Inc. also makes a point to encourage and allow our people to take time off for their personal charitable projects. This creates a balance for employees to remain dedicated to their own personal causes while feeling good about contributing to the company’s efforts.

Social responsibility attracts, retains talent

Providing opportunities for community involvement can also help you attract and retain talent. I have found this to be especially true for the under-30 crowd, which is a very socially aware age group. Companies like TOMS have reminded people of the importance of doing good for others while building a company. While we don’t all have a business model like TOMS, the younger generation expects their employers to give back in other ways. My experience has also taught me that when you bring people onto your team who care about the community, they are more likely to get passionate about the work you are doing and the team you’ve built. A dedication to helping a community thrive translates to a dedication to seeing our company grow and thrive and to making our community a better place.

As entrepreneurs, we all strive to creatively solve problems, build great companies and, most importantly, work with talented, committed and humble people. Philanthropic work is one of the components to help you do just that.

But remember that regardless of how you translate being socially aware for your company, you need to be authentic in your actions. Outsiders and your employees will see through any lip service you give to charity work. Get out there and plant a tree, serve a meal or paint something, and spend time with your team outside the office. You might be surprised what you learn and how it will impact you and your business in the long run.


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