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Adam Berk had a vision of creating an online library where neighbors could borrow tools and electronics from one another. Why buy a fancy camera you only needed to use once for a big trip? Why invest the money in physical tools for a home remodeling project if you are never going to need them again? Adam and his best friend Dave spent 5 years creating this utopian community, neighborrow, powered by a new form of currency. Their business model was to eventually white label the product and sell it to large apartment buildings and others who wanted to facilitate a borrowing community. But they never achieved their vision.
Entrepreneurship is flourishing on campuses around the country. In classrooms and through co-curricular programs and competitions, students on diverse campuses, at universities large and small, representing disciplines across the spectrum, have the opportunity to understand the role of entrepreneurship in the economy, explore innovation, test their own ideas, and learn what they need to know to be entrepreneurs.
When considering the optimal number of founders for any new entrepreneurial adventure, the calculus extends well beyond simple formulas seemingly supported by observations of startup cohorts within specific industries. Famous technology twosomes that come to mind include David Packard and William Hewlett of Hewlett-Packard, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple, Paul Allen and Bill Gates of Microsoft, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google. In these examples, it is widely observed that these buddy teams complemented each other well in the early formative years of their companies.
At age 25, Laura Sanko was a founding member of a startup that raised $3.5 Million from some world-famous investors and the Founder’s Fund. The business model was simple: a website that rented high-end jewelry for special occasions for a fraction of the retail value of each piece. Three years later, the investment money was all gone and while the site continued to operate, it had failed to meet the investors’ expectations. I sat down with Laura to figure out what went wrong.
When we think about the startup life we're often occupied with visions of long days and late nights in the office and the all consuming passion that overtakes a life as someone takes a vision and turns it into reality. An entrepreneur certainly has many things that can easily engulf his or her life as they balance product creation, customer development, hiring, sales and financing, to name but a few. But what about the other side of the life equation? Entrepreneurs have families, friends, spouses, and partners who play an important role.
"If you truly believe in the potential of your company to change the world for the better, there’s no excuse for settling for an acquisition."
I was reading through this month's Inc. magazine earlier when this quote caught my eye. My first thought was to challenge the notion. There are specific occasions when an acquisition is exactly what a company needs to move forward or to move on. This is just how things work, but the bold words sparked my interest enough to turn the page. I flipped to Issie Lapowsky’s feature with Vimeo founder Jake Lodwick. Lodwick was fired a year and a half after selling Connected Ventures, the parent company of Vimeo and College Humor, to InterActive Corp, an Internet company that owns the likes of match.com, Urbanspoon, and dictionary.com. After the acquisition, he felt stripped of his creativity. Where innovation once dwelled, process was introduced. Lodwick was fired a week and a half before he planned to quit. This experience backs his words of advice to entrepreneurs who think an acquisition means nothing will change within the mission of an organization. Lodwick bitterly states that "in fact the mission was lost, and everything will change."
Yesterday, entrepreneurship was given a spotlight panel at the United Nations General Assembly. This was a great sign of the growing belief that entrepreneurship provides a path to economic growth and a decrease in poverty levels around the world. Our VP of Entrepreneurship, Thom Ruhe, was asked to speak on a panel to discuss entrepreneurship education - an exciting opportunity for the Foundation to continue our mission of advancing entrepreneurship on a global scale.
The room was busy, but certainly not crowded. There were enough gaps in between the groups of people that I knew if I stood there in the doorway much longer, people would surely realize I had no one to talk to, that I didn’t know anyone. That fear set in. The paralyzing gut-clench signifying I was in the self-conscious beginnings of an embarrassing moment.
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