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Leaving presentations to chance is like embarking on a trip without a map (hat tip to Amanda Schnieders for the metaphor). If you don't know where you're headed and how you'll get there, you may not reach your destination.
During my years at the Kauffman Foundation I have seen firsthand the effect that education can have on the development of entrepreneurs and their companies. The entrepreneurs with whom I have worked have taken the lessons they have learned and applied them to great effect in their endeavors as founders. These entrepreneurs benefited from opportunities to learn critical skills, and from gaining an understanding of crucial decisions or junctures that often can derail entrepreneurial businesses.
Some of the very first decisions founders must make early on in their ventures are crucially important to the future of the business. Many of these decisions concern the ubiquitous "people problems" that challenge even experienced entrepreneurs. When should I found? Should I co-found with someone? With whom? How should we split the equity? Bad or ill-informed choices at critical junctures could have significant consequences for startups. In fact, research has suggested that 65 percent of new firm failures were related to problems within the management team.
Once you've heard the insight--that startups are different from big companies--it seems so obvious. Yet too often entrepreneurs, and those that teach them, approach the building of new companies with the same goals, staff structures and assumptions that motivate the management of large companies. Startup founders build teams to focus on engineering, and on the process of creating a product and bringing it to market.
When I read Meg Hirshberg's book "For Better or for Work: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and Their Families" I knew instantly that I wanted Meg to join our slate of Founders School experts. The goal of Founders School is to provide entrepreneurs with crucial skills and knowledge, and to do so with an eye to topics that are important but rarely discussed in typical entrepreneurship education programs. The subject of Meg's book is just such a topic. We all know that entrepreneurs have to juggle a variety of considerations when founding a company: team building, assessment of product/market fit, intellectual property, and how to get that first important customer. What many entrepreneurs and, more importantly, their families, know is that there's a juggle on the family side of the equation as well, but it's one that many entrepreneurs may be reluctant to talk about.
"No business plan survives first contact with customers," Steve Blank says. What? Isn't the point of planning that you maximize the likelihood of success in the marketplace? Well yes, but perhaps not the kind of planning you might be thinking about. A business plan conceived on paper, powered by a great idea or invention, enhanced by research on the size of the market and a customer profile, has great potential. But it also has a crucial flaw.
In today's e-marketplace, allocating a larger portion of the budget to online marketing pays off for Petals, a silk floral company. The author writes about his company's commitment to using the Internet to positively impact sales.
Accenture's Liz Tinkham interviews salesforce.com's Polly Sumner about entrepreneurship that occurs in both large and small companies. They both agree that innovation and risk-taking occur in any-sized company where the culture emphasizes "no idea is a dumb idea." Sumner advises young entrepreneurs to not fear risk: every failure teaches you a valuable lesson, and once learned, success is that much sweeter.
Stephanie Tilenius is vice president and general manager for merchant services at PayPal, an eBay company. PayPal enables any individual or business with an email address to securely, easily and quickly send and receive
payments online. An eBay employee since early 2001, she is responsible for the strategy, growth, and financial performance of PayPal's merchant services group, the business unit providing payment solutions to small and large e-commerce
merchants. Before eBay, Tilenius was senior vice president of sales and marketing for PlanetRx.com, a company she co-founded and took public on the NASDAQ in 1999. Previously, she was vice president of business and product development for
Firefly, a software start-up that was sold to Microsoft Corp. in 1997. Early in her career, Tilenius spent several years as an investment banker at Deutche Bank Alex Brown, primarily focusing on software and telecom. In this capacity, she
worked on the Initial Public Offering for America Online in 1992, and she subsequently decided to join its corporate development group where she managed mergers, venture investments and strategic partnerships. Tilenius graduated with high
honors from Brandeis University where she earned both her bachelor's degree in economics and her master's degree in international finance. She also received her master's in business administration from Harvard Business School. Tilenius
also spent time as a presidential management intern through a two-year fellowship with the U.S. government where she worked for Treasury Secretary Brady and Carla Hills on Japan-U.S. trade negotiations.
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