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9 Ways I Benefit from Watching Shark Tank

20 Feb

HuluPlusOpenSharkTank

With the return of Shark Tank this week I decided to write up all the ways I benefit from the show.

If you aren’t familiar with the show, I highly recommend you check it out.  Basically business owners come into the “Shark Tank” and pitch their business to investors (The Sharks) who are all very successful in business and in investing.  You usually see about 5-6 different businesses and some side profiles on previous presenters and what has happened since they presented on Shark Tank.

1.  Time with the wife

My wife and I often have healthy debates based on the products and pitches.  It is fun to see how each other analyze and evaluate the presentations (you definitely learn a lot about your SO).  The businesses that present are mostly consumer facing, so that makes it very easy for us to engage without any research or needing to be subject matter experts.  My wife’s world is very different than mine as a nurse and the primary caregiver of our children, so Shark Tank provides a great medium for us to connect and for her to see aspects of my world as an entrepreneur and investor.

2.  Evaluating the pitches

Hearing and critiquing pitches is such a good way to exercise your entrepreneurial muscles from both sides of the table.  When you cringe at something or think, “why don’t they know their numbers??!?!” it just makes you better at evaluating and preparing your own pitches.  A good pitch applies to so many areas of life and business when you are doing any kind of selling.  You have tell a good story, be prepared, and know your subject matter.

Throughout each presentation I’m always asking myself questions like:

Would I be interested in investing?

Would I have pitched that differently?

Could they have done something different for a different outcome?

At what key indicators did the light bulb go off for the Sharks that they were interested?

 There are many ways to break it down that are all very beneficial.

3.  Deep waters of valuation

Every business coming into the Shark Tank has to have a valuation of their business in the form of:  1.  Amount of money they are looking for and   2.  Percentage of their business that it represents.

Valuation is a tricky thing but it is very telling.  I think it’s something you develop over time by seeing lots of businesses, products, and their respective models and markets.  How a personal values themselves and their business is such a great indicator of their maturity as an entrepreneur.

The head in the clouds massive valuation without proving much of anything person, shows a lot of blind spots.  It shows they don’t see themselves and their business as the world sees them and they are going to be up against some harsh realities.

Undervaluing can also have some strategic implications from the presenter themselves (the guys/girls in the chairs aren’t necessarily the only sharks in the room!)  helping the business position themselves to get multiple sharks invested or drive the price up.  Beware though, it can backfire when the Sharks get a sniff that the business is being to slick for their own good.  Definitely fun to watch.

4.  Feeding the Sharks

When it comes down to a business the Sharks are interested in, it starts to get fun!  Watching the body language, the order of offers, the teaming up of Sharks, the banter between the business owner and the Sharks, how a business owner holds up with a fury of questions and pressure…  It’s all so authentic, dynamic and really fun to watch.

5.  Inspirational

The show inspires people to dream.  The success stories are great for the entrepreneurial spirit.  How many people has this show inspired into going into business for themselves and following a dream? The show doesn’t give a particular blue print to how this success can be achieved,  but they show you many different roads and that it can be done by anyone.

6.  Failure and Reinforcement Business Basics

On the flip side, the show does a good job of showcasing the realities of what it takes to succeed in the tank.    If someone pays attention they should take away some valuable lessons.   (I love to come up with new business ideas, and it’s so easy to get carried away with your own idea.  For me it’s a perpetual reinforcement of business basics)  Like:

  • Know how you are going to acquire customers (which relates to user acquisition costs)
  • Know the size of your market (how big can this be?)
  • Know your competition (who else wants some of the same pie) and why you are different
  • Tell a good story
  • Always know your numbers

By watching the show you are learning these lessons by repetition as they are reinforced practically every episode.  An aspiring entrepreneur can they can save themselves a lot of time and money before they even start.

7.  Thinking and learning outside your market 

The variety of types of businesses is great.  As a software developer, I am surrounded by mobile apps, cloud, software as a service, enterprise licensing…  On the show you really get to see business models of a food truck business or a child clothing line.  I rarely think of distribution, manufacturing, logistics and purchase orders but it’s a great mental exercise.  Who knows when it will come in handy?

The diversity of experience among the sharks is awesome.  So many points of view, styles of investing, go to market strategies…   Hearing about what is “hard” in certain industries helps you understand different strategies for different markets.  How often can you hear candid advice from people that have done it before in a particular type of business?

8.  Remember to be human

All of the sharks do so much to continue to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit.  They are extremely respectful of the time and commitment people take on to work on their businesses (regardless if they are working smart) because they know how hard it is.  However they will tell the presenter when they are doing something they don’t agree with or is just plain stupid, but never in a manner to crush or destroy the individual (aside from the Kevin “You are dead to me”, which is a little different)

Even if they don’t see the vision of the entrepreneur, they give good advice and wish them the best of luck and future success.  It is a great way to show how supportive the entrepreneurial community can be.

9.  Just plain entertaining

There are so many dynamics to the show that make it good.  I’ve touched on many of them across both of these articles.  Overall the Sharks really make it sing and the producers do a good job at vetting the presenters.

Enjoy watching!  I’m counting down the rest of my week waiting for the new episodes!

Lessons: Just because you can build it. Doesn’t mean you should

5 Feb

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I’ve probably been burned by this at least 1/2 a dozen times.  There are friends of mine who I know have/are doing the exact same thing (you know who you are).  Here are the steps of a start-up in the mind of a technical entrepreneur:

  1. Come up with a fantastic start-up idea
  2. Look for a domain name (maybe buy it?)
  3. Tell a couple of trusted friends about it and why it’s going to rock
  4. Start building

There are many other steps past #4 but so many of my start-up ideas die within these steps.  (sidenote: The ones that die after #2 are entertaining because I have the domains to prove the existed and took up brain cycles at extended period of time. )

#4 is where it goes wrong.  It’s so tempting to just start coding.  Even if it is just a demo, proof of concept, just to tinker with an API or something.  Just stop.  Just stop wasting your time.

Sure I’ve read about customer development and lean start-ups but my idea is different, right?  Or I can do that after the demo is done, the customers can look at that…. then you just keep making updates and tweeks and before you know it… you’ve wasted way too much time on it.  

My new belief is to not “build/code” anything until I have a pilot customer.  I can do mock-ups, I can do wire frames, I can do workflows, but I should not code anything.  Say it with me now “I shall not code anything until I have a pilot customer”.  Without a customer you have no guidance of where this thing is really going.  You are just wasting your time on assumptions.  Time is a commodity, if I’m going to be serious at getting a hit one of these start-up ideas.  I have to fail fast.  I can fail a lot faster if I don’t start building until I really need to.

 This may seem obvious to other entrepreneurs but having the chops to build things, is also a sickness of temptation to just build things.   

Idea: Perfect Reader Application/Service

8 Jan

flipboardThis thought has been in my head for awhile, but it took my friend Jay’s rant to get all the thoughts on paper (so to speak)

Yea, I love consuming from my iPad but it’s messy. I read in GReader and star stuff to read. Then I read stared stuff in Flipboard, but if I want to bookmark it in Delicious I have to “Open in Safari” and use the bookmarklet. Or I can “Read Later” to add it to iOS’ reading list, if it’s a link on the page I’m reading. But if it’s something from the page you’re reading (and you’re viewing it in Flipboard but not in the Flipboard web browser) then you can hit “Save for Reading” and it saves to Pocket, where I can tag directly to Delicious (but not modify tags for existing links).

Messy messy messy..

My current process: I use GReader (where I star things) and Flipboard on my Galaxy II… Sometimes tweet directly from them too but I lack a consistent “Read Later” aside from the star… And don’t bookmark enough but would like to.  It’s a mess.

I would like one fluid app for it all.  Initial Browse, Read Now, Read Later, Share, Read again / Find again /Search… On any/multiple devices.  I’d pay for a service that does all this.

1.  Multidevice (Normal Browser, Android, iPad, iPhone)
2.  Easy of Subscribing of GReader
3.  Flipping and easy reading type of Flipboard
4.  Never have to go directly to a site… (more has to do with the content providers that sometimes provide snipits on their feeds)
5.  Add to a read later queue (w/ Same readability)
6.  Easy to Share (various social networks)
7.  Add to a Saved list.. That contains all the content and tags/categories with in them.. and be full text searchable. Delicious like…
8.  Also could integrate into browser bookmarks.  (chrome and other bookmark syncs)

Someone make it and take my money!

Does anyone want to add anything to the list?

Wanted! Equation on how should I value my time

28 Dec

My friend Jay and I had a brief twitter conversation about being guilty https://twitter.com/wjhuie/status/283748389278056448 of wasting time on little things.

I read this article awhile back (How should a startup founder value her time? | A Smart Bear) and have been meaning to come up with some sort of relevant equation that can apply to everyone.  Not just for “business/work” time, but also “free time”?

Prime example:  Most recently I found myself researching a SOHO NAS and becoming a victim of wasting too much time.  I was debating the small differences of model numbers, brands, processors, in the effort to find the best fit.  Of course as I read more… it just delayed my decision making by adding in more factors.  I wavered back and for starting at a price point of $300 and all the way up to $1000 trying to justify the features in my mind.  I won’t admit how much time I wasted just to end up where I started, but I’ll it was WAY TOO MUCH.

In the end, I would like to find a way to have a quick check to realize I’m wasting my time.  Here are some of the questions I would like to easily answer:

  1. When should I hire someone to do this instead?   (Maid, contractor,  consultant, personal assistant?)
  2. At what point, any time spent on this will have diminishing returns?

An easy way is trying to calculate “what is my time worth in $$?”  It’s easily quantifiable and easy to compare to the task at hand but I don’t feel like it’s always THAT easy.  Here are some other factors:

Factors:

  1. What is the total time loss/gained doing this activity? – Often there is more time vs. the activity itself.
  2. What is the opportunity cost of this activity? – What am I missing out by doing this?
  3. Are their longer term benefits that are worth more than the $$ amount or direct time spent today – Is this some sort of investment where it will take less time in the future?  Do you gain a skill or a networking contact?
  4. There is only so much space in your RAM / context to be concerned about is it worth that? – It’s not all about how much time things take, I’ve found it all takes space in your head… and you can only worry about so much at a given time.
  5. Can your time to $$ calculation work past a certain $$ or hour count? – At some point the “$$/hour” ratio of your time breaks down where you can work more hours to make up the $$.

What does everyone else to do to make these decisions quickly?  What factors have I not considered?  Does what I want exist, or is it all just part of refining the decision making process?

ioBridge Breast Milk / Freezer Monitor

11 Oct

My first ioBridge project is a freezer monitor.  It’s fairly simple but quite valuable.

Here’s the background:

My wife and I recently added our first child into the world and decided to breast feed.  With breast feeding comes pumping and storing breast milk for later use for the baby.  My wife refers to our stored milk as “liquid gold”, it’s a major time and convenience  commitment to do it properly.  As with any milk, breast milk has a short shelf life so freezing is necessary.

We also live in an area where a lot of the power that comes to our house comes in through above ground lines, so when there is inclement weather we are at risk of short to long power outages.   The freezer is inherited from my parents.  I don’t know exactly how old it is, but it’s running!  I’m sure its days are numbered.

So all of this leaves us in a constant state of worry about our freezer storing this precious commodity.   Is there power at the house?  Is our freezer dead?  IS THE MILK OK?

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The old phrase “crying over spilled milk”  has never made as much sense as it does now.

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With M2M the Exmobaby Takes Baby Monitors to a New Level

6 Oct

With M2M the Exmobaby Takes Baby Monitors to a New Level.

M2M has been used in several innovative products. In the past, M2M has used RFID tags on runners to analyze and monitor their heath. Now, M2M is being used on babies with the new Exmobaby onesies.

Exmovere created the Exmobaby pajama with bio-sensor fabric. It contains a small receiver equipped with a Zigbee tranceiver to give parents updates about their infant via cell phone or computer. Using these innovative onesies, parents are now able to monitor their infant’s health, emotional state, behavior, and heart rate. The Exmobaby is extremely useful for parents who are worried about their baby being at risk for sleep apnea or sudden infant death syndrome.

This new technology will also be convenient when either parent is out of the house. In addition, if the infant is with a babysitter, parents can still monitor what is going on with their baby. With M2M technology, Exmovere has made regular baby monitors seem like a thing of the past.

I’m a new parent with an infant and I find this very interesting.  I’m probably not the target market, but for the casual parent I think this is a little overkill.  I’m also not sure of the cost of one of those super monitoring onesies.  If you have a dozen of them with all the hardware in them, do you have to sync up which one is on?  What about washing them?  I think the products like the baby sensor mats they have today are over the top.  We have a basic wireless sound monitor, that does just fine.

After talking to my wife who is a NICU nurse, she thought it was a great idea… If it works.  She said today, babies with issues often go home with sensor leads on them.  These are not the most ideal as they can easily fall off and are subject to frequent false positive alarms.  I’m sure that market is decently sized on it’s own and could have a real application, I just don’t see it making  “regular baby monitors seem like a thing of the past” as they said.

Are businesses really in the business of creating jobs?

1 Oct

I’ve been reading a lot about job creation lately and came across the following article:   Small Business: A Misunderstood Beast – Yahoo! Finance.

This article really brought to light something I haven’t thought about:  Are businesses really in the business of job creation?

In my experience running a small consulting business and a small brick and mortar business.  My answer is NO.

In my eyes creating jobs is a secondary benefit.  (Some may not even see it as a benefit at all, as I’m sure some could do without dealing and managing people.  But that’s a different conversation for a different day.)   I’m not discounting the fact that creating jobs is a good thing.  It is a good feeling to help out another and have them help out the business along the way.  I think hiring is mostly seen a filling a need and demand where there is work to be done in a business.   The primary objective of most businesses is the bottom line.  If it’s not making money it’s not as important.

When you are creating technology and innovation you are often targeting how to do more with less.  How can I replace a manual process (where some people have jobs) and automate it through technology?  My ideal company of my own creation would be to invent some huge value add technology apply it to an existing market, charge money and it requires ZERO support and maintenance.  Then I could rake in large amounts of money and hire a minimum amount of people, thus increasing my profits and not deal with managing anyone.

Ask any brick and mortar company:  If the business could make the same amount of money and not have employees, would they do it?  My guess would be yes.

Do you think businesses are in the business of creating jobs?

Productivity Tipping Point (recycle)

4 Sep

Note:  This is a recycled post from my old blog.  I’m grabbing a few ones I actually liked and reposting them here since the old blog is now dead.

There are times I am extremely productive and other times I am just scatterbrained and all over the place (can be good too, but not when you mean to be productive). I believe there is a productivity tipping point; a point where you can bump yourself into an exceptional level of focus to get things done. Often times, I want to get into that point, but don’t “feel” like it. Here I’ve listed hacks I use on myself to start the ball rolling. Continue reading

Good funding stories vs evil funding stories

14 Apr

I just finished reading http://blog.uservoice.com/entries/how-we-almost-didnt-raise-800k-in-the-worst-investment-market-in-years and can’t help but feel inspired. If you have the time and are interested in funding, it is a great read.

When I hear funding stories they are in one of two categories.

1) Everything is awesome! Everyone wants to give me money! This is so easy! I kick ass!

2) Ups and downs. Failures. Rejection. Thinking of giving up. Pivots. Small success. Medium success. Reality.

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Taking the Slow Leap

1 Apr

I was ready to combine my attraction to running my own business with my expertise and skill set.  I was sure pretty confident that was a formula for success, but this epiphany didn’t come overnight.  It was a slow process over the course of about three months.

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