So you want to build your businesses? What Tribe are you leading?

The great part of our work at Conception Fund is we get to sit down and talk with small business owners about what they are building.  One of the first question we ask them is why?  The reason we ask why is to discover what is driving the business owner to put in the long hours, put up with heighten level of stress, and discover their passion.  It’s that simple question “why?”  which often leads to a longer conversation about how their business fills a community need and provides beneficial economic activity.  It’s that story which will lead their crowdfunding campaign.

This past week alone we talked to a new smoothie shop whose owner is trying make her town a little less obese one patron at a time by switching her customer from unhealthy sodas to nutritious smoothies.  Next we spoke with the owner of a new Arts venue who has seen one art venue after another start and fail in the community.  He is determined to make his have staying power by making sure it’s financially sound and in tune with the local arts community.  Lastly, we spoke with the newly minted farmer who after working for other farmers for two decades has struck out on his own.  He is excited about this upcoming growing season and discovering how much he can yield from his modest plot.  Each one of these business owners has a story.  They can articulate the “why?” which will help them discover ‘the who.”

In the words of Seth Gordin these owners should answer, “what tribe are [they] leading?”  That is to say, in order to have the impact they are looking to make on their small communities, they need to discover what it is they are trying to change about the status quo.  Answering this question will help them discover who else is thinking similar to them and lead to customer acquisition.  Seth gives a number of great examples in his TED talk.  It’s worth a listen.

For those looking to start a new businesses or rethink their approach to their existing business, Seth’s discussion gives insight how to lead and gain traction by understanding what Tribe you belong to. Keep updated on our weekly insight into crowdfunding by signing up for our email list and follow us on twitter

If You Build It [They] Will Come…[Hopefully...]

Lessons From the Lean Startup Method

Here, at Conception Fund, we have been doing a lot of talking, writing, and planning.  We are excited about being able to offer equity crowdfunding in the near future.  However, before we launch our full platform we will be conducting a number of tests, to see what works and what doesn’t.  In the startup world this method is called the “lean” method.

Unlike Kevin Costner in the movie Field of Dreams, we will not be building our baseball field in the middle of the cornfield and hoping that the White Sox team of 1919 comes and plays.  Rather we will preview our full product launch, one piece at a time.  During this process we will be listening to you and developing our platform from your feedback.

The philosophy is to: 1)Build a minimum viable product (“mvp”); 2) Deliver it to our customers; 3) And measure their reaction.   There is a lot more to this method, and anyone currently working on a startup might want to check out Lean Startup by Eric Rise.  In the coming weeks our website will transform into a platform where you, our loyal followers can see what we have been planning for months now.

We are excited to unveil our first MVP (hopefully before July) and test how it performs.  In the meantime please subscribe to our blog, like us on facebook, and follow us on twitter so we can keep you updated on our progress.

Thanks from the Conception Fund Team.

What if Steve Jobs Crowdfunded the iPhone: The Art of Telling Your Product’s Story

There was no better pitch man then Steve Jobs the former CEO of Apple. Back in 2007 he introduced the iPhone at the Macworld Conference & Expo. As one can see from the packed house the air was electric with anticipation. Skip ahead five years. The Pebble smart watch closes a $10 million kickstarter campaign with 68 thousand supporters.

Given crowdfunding’s growing popularity, many if not all product developers must be considering the implications of this strategy. However, in order to use crowfunding as a viable means of raising capital, startups and small business must be great story tellers to take full advantage of this new resource.

What if the master story teller himself had implemented crowdfunding into iPhone’s development? Sure there are a lot of IP issues to consider, but think about the hype it would have produced. Not that it was needed in Apple’s case at this particular moment in time. The company had introduced the iPod a few years prior, effectively re-routing the music industry’s distribution channel through iTunes. In 2007, people were paying attention to any and everything Steve Jobs was saying. But for the rest of us, crowdfunding is a viable means of testing the market’s reaction to our idea before fully manufacturing the product.

It’s worth taking a look at how Steve Jobs introduces this product. For those product developers considering crowdfunding as part of their product development strategy, study this video. Learn.

For the rest of us, whether we are pitching our business idea to investors, customers, or fellow founders, a lot can be learned by how Steve Jobs commands the audience’s attention and only diverts them to the screen when absoulty nesseary.

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How to Leave Your Job, Build A Business, and Still Feed the Kids

Many Americans have great ideas for new companies.  However, it’s hard to know when to stop your day job and dedicate yourself full time to your concept.  Ted Roden, Founder of Fancy Hands, talks about how and when to leave your day job and turn it into your full time occupation. He outlines some specific steps anyone thinking of starting their own company should consider and execute before taking the leap.

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Why are we building Conception Fund? To Disrupt how 85 million Americans invest their collective $30 trillion

Americans have $30 trillion collectively invested in long term equity.  We are the largest collection of individual investors in the world.  85 million individuals and 52.7 million households own equity in our major stock exchanges.

Most of our capital is invested in large publicly traded companies that do little to improve our main streets and commercial centers.  If 1% of that capital were reallocated into America’s 27 million small businesses and startups, $300 billion would be injected into our main streets and commercial centers.

Amy Cortese, author of Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing discuses how communities are presently reinvesting their capital to improve their commercial centers.  Check out her blog for more of her insight on this topic.

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Bootstrapped to Seven Figures

It’s every entrepreneur’s dream to ride the wave from idea to a highly profitable business.  That’s why they take the risk that they do.  But the vast majority of startups don’t make it.  In  Noah Kagan’s experience, founder of AppSumo and formerly of Facebook and Mint, 86% of the ideas he tries fail.  That said, he loves trying new things and can’t see himself working for someone else.  This is the life he chose, he fails more than 50% of the time, but when he is right, he runs with it.

Noah joined a number of accomplished entrepreneurs for the 2012 Ramen Camp held at the Microsoft Nerd Center in Cambridge Massachusetts.  The objective for these aces of entrepreneurship was to share some of their tips and trick on how they “bootstrapped” or self funded their way to success.  For this week’s blog post, we figured it would be a good idea to share some of the information.

  1. Hiten Shah (@hnshah) Co-Founder of @KISSmetrics. Previously started @crazyegg and@acs.

Hiten started Crazyegg back in 2006.  It was a simple idea that was highly scalable.  Create an easy to use web analytic tool that allows users to turn web traffic into conversions thereby increasing sales.  Crazyegg creates a heatmap of the webpage to help companies understand where users click and why they do.

Easy to understand, correct?  Well, Hiten ran with it and six years later he has grown this idea into seven figures in annual revenue with four people running the entire operation.   How? Among other points, he kept his idea simple.  Easy to use.   Got the word out by actively blogging and engaging potential users where they converse.   Tested it among his users early, and last but not least, kept his operation lean.  There are four founders to Crazzyegg who split the seven figure annual sales revenue.  As Hiten likes to brag, “Per employee, Crazyegg is more profitable than Apple.”

My paraphrasing of his presentation does him no justice.  Check out his blog for more insight.  He is a funny guy.

  1. Noah Kagan (@noahkagan) Chief “Sumo” at AppSumo, which I guess makes him the CEO.

App Sumo helps professionals discover amazing products and education. It’s #1 e-commerce site for businesses.  Noah said a lot of things during his talk.  For every serious insight, he had 2-3 funny jokes to make, which was refreshing because as he reminded the audience, 86% of what he tries as an entrepreneur, fails.  It’s good to see a guy put his failure into its proper perspective and learn from it.

Noah Started his career at Intel , then Facebook, Mint, Gambit, and now App Sumo.  He is a serial entrepreneur.  Here are a few of the tips he shared.

  1. From idea to operation: be up in running in 30 days.  Try something.
  2. Check out the advice and insight on a blog called 4 Entrepreneurs.
  3. Marketing: Identify your audience, figure out where they are.
  4. Check out these sites to discover where your audience converses:
    1.  Big Boards Daily updated list of the largest message boards and forums on the web, along with interviews of these forums administrators.
    2. Technorati Real-time search for user-generated media (including weblogs) by tag or keyword. Also provides popularity indexes.
  5. Run contest to engage your audience.
  6. Set objectives: use metrics to measure success.
  7. A/B Test are great, only use them if you have more than 10,000 unique visitors a day.

I guess the biggest take away from Noah’s presentation is engage your audience as a means of growing your businesses.

  1. Nicolas Warren (@NicolasWarren) founder of www.perfectfuelchocolate.com

I sat down and had lunch with Nicolas.  The premise of his lunch discussion was how to be 10 people at once.  The most valuable commodities entrepreneurs have are their time and money.  Nicolas takes both restraints very seriously.  In order to maximize both, Nicolas suggested outsourcing some task that can be better done by others.  Some of that outsourcing may occur within the United States (front-end design), while other tasks can be done cheaper and faster offshore (back-end design).  Here are Nicolas’ top three outsourcing websites.

  1. Elance
  2. Odesk
  3. 99Designs

As a general rule, Nicolas employs two contractors to do the same job and picks the best work of the two.  In his experience, the key to a positive outsourcing experience requires 1) Setting clear expectations 2) A clear visual scope of work, and 3) Pay a fair wage.  He suggested going to the State Department’s website to research what a fair wage is in the country your contractor is located.

Ramen Camp 2012.  There is a ton more I could write about, but I am out of time.  It was great meeting the many entrepreneurs and hearing their great ideas.   My hat is off to the team at Greenhorn Connect who organized the event.  Great Job!

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