IdeaBox 2015, Ohio State’s Entrepreneurship Fair

The first step before beginning any new venture is to receive feedback. The stone cold truth, what you need to hear from the people you need to hear it from. Hearing the opinions of your peers: good, bad, and indifferent is an essential mechanism in determining if your idea is worth pursuing. Instead of our twice yearly IdeaPitch competition, the BBC decided to focus on knocking IdeaBox out of the park this Spring. Think of IdeaBox as a science fair for startup ideas, a place where like-minded individuals gather to talk business, life, and enjoy themselves. On April 2nd, 2015 in the Ohio Union the BBC hosted its largest IdeaBox contest to date. With more than 25 entries and over $1,000 in prizes at stake, this was no ordinary science fair.

 

We were blown away as an organization with the quality and effort put into the business concepts. Almost all entrants had some sort of minimum viable product already built, some had patents, and others were already selling product. Many of the ideas and concepts that were presented have not been discussed at BBC meetings or related events, this was not only encouraging but refreshing. Approximately 75 people attended this year’s event, making for a lively evening of all things entrepreneurship.

 

All attendees to this year’s IdeaBox event had the option to become “investors” in the competitor’s ideas for their chance at a share of the prizes. We believe that this added a unique element to the event, audience participation. We hope if you were able to attend that you enjoyed this quirky twist.

 

This year’s event would not have been possible without the generous contributions from our many sponsors. First off, thank you NCT Ventures for being the event’s official sponsor. NCT, a local venture capital firm, is helping to make Columbus the start-up hub of the Midwest. Also a huge thank you goes out to Columbus State Community College’s Small Business Development Center, FlashNotes, Metcalf & Associates, Start-Up Weekend Columbus and Fundable. Giving away prizes would not have been possible without these companies and their leaders.

 

We would also like to thank our judges for taking time out of their Wednesday evenings to be with us. Calvin Cooper of NCT Ventures, Rich Langdale of NCT Ventures, Ariana Ulloa-Olavariettta of Columbus State, Michael Bowers of Columbus State, Dan Rockwell of Big Kitty Labs, David Sherry of Death to Stock Photography, and Damon Caiozza of Fundable were all generous enough to take on the intimidating task of judging this event. Again, IdeaBox would not have been possible without them.

 

The Business Builders Club would like to extend our congratulations to the 3 grand prize winners of $500, $250, and $100 respectively. In 1st place, Titan Mixer Bottle, an innovative solution to all of the common problems that protein shaker bottle users have. In 2nd place came Tokeables, a festival accessories company. And in 3rd place we had SolveIt, a crazy cool app that can decode your hand writing of math problems and solve those subsequent problems for you. Thank you to all who competed, it takes a lot of guts to get in front of people and talk about something you are passionate about, especially when you have to do it almost 100 separate times.

 

IdeaBox this year was a huge success and something that the BBC sees growing in the future. Thank you to all who supported this event and made the effort of attending. Personally, as event organizer, I had a blast being able to meet judges, participants, and attendees alike. IdeaBox was nothing but a fulfilling experience. We look forward to seeing you all next year! #BBCMafia

 

Lessons of a Startup Tale with Danielle Walton

This week we had a splendid time hearing from Danielle Walton, founder of BringShare and Adept Marketing. Her experience is extensive, 3 years as a consultant at Deloitte, 2 years as Marketing Project Manager at Lifestyle Communities, and over 8 years in startups, one bootstrapped, and one with venture capital, she learned a lesson from every obstacle and mistake along the way. Here are some of the learnings she had to share:

• If you want to be successful you have to be willing to work harder than everyone else

• You can’t let things get you down, learn how you can get better from each mistake, be optimistic

• Balance vision and reality, there is a point where you can take positivity too far

• Don’t underestimate the value of experience

• Get a job,work for a startup, don’t experience the pain of failure and mistake first-hand, learn through someone else’s pain

• Don’t feel like you have to rush it, the dumbest thing we’ve ever done is quit our job to startup the company with no money

We are very grateful to have Danielle, such a well seasoned marketing mind and entrepreneur, come share her insights with us.

2014-2015 Leadership Applications

Deadline: Sunday, April 5th at Midnight

It’s that time again! The Business Builders Club will be transitioning leadership very soon and we encourage you to apply to join the team. Here is a rundown of the positions we think are suitable:

  • President: You ensure that everyone has the right tools to get the job done. The captain of the ship.
  • Vice President: You help create the vision for the future and are chief get-things-done’er.
  • VP of Marketing: You make the world know what the BBC is!
  • VP of Communications: You write about the BBC and share it with our community.
  • VP of Company Relations: You are the point of contact for companies in the community to reach the BBC.
  • VP of Events: You make sure the BBC does what it can do best; run awesome events!
  • VP of Membership: You are in charge of selling membership and are the number one promoter for the BBC.
  • VP of Operations: You make sure the details are not forgotten.
  • VP of Finance: You make sure we don’t run out of money.
  • VP of Technology: You are the techy guru for the club.
  • VP of Design: You make sure that we look pretty.
  • VP of Alumni Relations: You make sure that our older, graduated friends stay in love with BBC.

To apply, simply download this form and return it (typed) to bbc.osu@gmail.com along with a copy of your resume. Leadership Application_2015

Deadline: Sunday, April 5th at Midnight – but we appreciate timeliness

An Oath to Startups

In case you missed it, we had Mark Stansbury of Stansbury Law give us an hour of his very valuable time to answer all our legal questions about startups. Some of the key takeaways were:

• Have the important talks/arguments with co-founders sooner rather than later
• So no one walks away with a chunk of the company in the first few months, the industry standard is becoming 6 years for equity vested which means equity is released to owners over time
• The biggest mistake startups made is not getting professional advice early on, in particular, legalzoom is good for basic agreements but can lead to problems down the line
• If you don’t have a lot of money, do accounting and legal on your own, even if you are audited you’ll probably be okay because the IRS knows you don’t have a lot of money
• The biggest trouble companies get into is not paying withholding tax, always pay any sales or withholding tax, even if lights go out and business goes down, if you don’t pay that the IRS will come after you and won’t settle
• Make sure you’re not signing bad terms when you take capital, be wary of money from the government, there are often strings attached that are not conducive to business
• RocketLawyer is a good resource for cheap legal help, competitor of Legal Zoom
• Brad Feld is a good resource, follow his blog

We are tremendously grateful for Mark’s time taking the stand and all his great advice! If you would like to contact him, he can be reached at mark@stansburylegal.com. He has offered to give a free hour of basic advice to help move you in the right direction if you need it!

Validating Your Startup Idea

Having an idea for a startup can be really exciting, and sometimes you want to dive right into producing your product and launching your company.  But before you do that, you have to make sure your idea is actually a good one, by validating the idea, or making sure people will actually want your product before producing it.  This way, you can make the decision to launch your startup knowing people will want what you’re making.

It’s easy to assume that people will want your product before you make it.  For instance, at Pufferfish Software we were sure people would want an app that helped their children learn to identify the fifty states of the USA.  We went right ahead in producing it, confident that we could just put it up on the app store and sell to our existing user base of parents and to parents on the iPad app store.  Much to our dismay, we received no sales on an app that cost, if I recall correctly, $800 to make – because foolishly, we didn’t make sure people wanted it before we made it.

Unfortunately, having a few friends say “yeah that’s cool I’d buy that” doesn’t really count as validation.  Think about it – there’s lots of stuff you say you’d buy, especially after an afternoon wasted shopping online.  But you don’t actually go buy any of those things.  The only thing that really counts as validation is a commitment to purchase.

A commitment to purchase comes in two forms – providing contact information for a future purchase, or pledging money for the purchase in the form of a pre-sale.  Since you’re not even sure you want to go ahead with your startup idea yet, you can collect the contact information of people who want to buy your product.  This is easy, free, and only requires a couple steps.

1.  Set Up a Website.

Making a simple website has become amazingly easy in the past couple of years.  Anyone can hop online, and get started for free.  For this, you want to make a website using LaunchRock.    LaunchRock is a service designed exactly for what you’re trying to do, which is build an early customer base to prove your idea is something people want.  They’re free, so if you never get that traction it didn’t cost you a thing.

2. Set up a Twitter.

This is so you can make it easy for people to share your product or idea online.  Make sure to hook this up to your LaunchRock website so people can easily share.  Twitter isn’t meant for broadcasting promotion about your product, but for having conversations with your followers.  It’s called social media, because it’s meant for socially engaging.  But whatever you do, don’t buy Twitter followers.

3. Promote!

Tell your friends about your website, first of all.  Post on your personal accounts saying you’re investigating this idea.  Secondly, get on Reddit, find the subreddits were your potential customers are, and let them know what you’re making.  If it’s tech-y, post on HackerNews.  If it’s crafty, post on Pinterest.

Wherever you post, don’t come off as a broadcaster.  Remember to be a person; ask for feedback on your idea, ask people what they want out of such a product.  This isn’t about you and your awesome company, this is about making a product for your customers that your customers want.  It’s about your customers.

If you want to get more engagement with your product, give them a little taste for free.  Take up to 10 hours producing some content for your customer base, be it writing or a free tool or a free chart or a small game or whatever you can think of, and then give it away in exchange for an email address.  This is a great way to get people on board with your product idea, because they will already know you are going to deliver on what you promise.

4. Assess

After you’ve done this for a month, assess the traction you have.  People might be interested and love your idea, or they might hate it.  They might think it has potential, but would rather you make something different.  Make sure to assess all of the interaction you got, and decide on the course of action best for you and your customers.  Because it doesn’t matter how many customers you have if you’re not making something they want.

Our Very Own TEDx Original with Ida Abdalkhani

In February, the largest ever TEDx conference at Ohio State University assembled in the Mershon Auditorium to listen to a collection of distinguished speakers share their experience and stories in hopes of inspiring other change-makers in our community. We were fortunate to listen to a Business Builders Club alumni, Ida Abdalkhani, give the crowd a lesson in laughter yoga. As she says, laughter yoga is forcing oneself to laugh, and the silly, forced laughter becomes real laughter that gets blood flowing and endorphins released into the body. In addition to instructing the laughter yoga session, Ida shared the benefits of laughter yoga.

A huge thank you to Ida for venturing back to Columbus to bring laughter to the entire audience. Check out her talk here and #ShareTheLaughter

Of course, this couldn’t have happened without the amazing team behind TEDxOSU! Round of applause.

The Fear of Idea Theft

Often, new entrepreneurs are afraid of sharing their new company idea because they’re afraid someone will steal their idea.  This is their first, great inspiration, and don’t want to risk it being stolen and copied by someone else.  This is a belief which is counterproductive and sometimes dangerous to the health of a new venture, for a couple of reasons.

1.  You have to tell people about your idea to get feedback.  Feedback is critical to the success of a startup, and if you don’t get feedback and development advice from your customers, industry professionals, and trusted advisors, your startup will surely tank.  You don’t know everything you need to know on your own to make your startup succeed.

Furthermore, you need feedback to validate your startup idea.  If you don’t get this feedback and directional advice, you might launch into a new startup that just isn’t solid enough, and then lose large amounts of money because you aren’t able to get customers.  Get feedback from potential customers early on, so you know your startup idea will succeed.

2. This attitude is not respected.  Because experienced entrepreneurs know how critical it is that you get feedback and support for your startup idea to succeed, they will internally greet new entrepreneurs afraid of idea theft with exasperation or frustration.  Far from being intrigued by your “secret startup idea,” they will just lose interest and move on to something else – not so great for your startup.

3.  You have to make your idea public in order to execute on it.  You’ll have to make a website for your product, you’ll have to share your idea to get into startup accelerators, you’ll have to share your idea to apply for or compete for funds, so on and so forth… the launching of a startup involves actually sharing your startup idea.  If you don’t tell people about your idea, they can’t tell other people about your idea, who can’t tell other people about your idea, and soon you’re missing out on hundreds of people exposed to your new startup.

4. Ideas are worthless.  Startups are all about the execution, not the magic in an idea.  The idea for Facebook, one of the unicorn companies of our time, is no more magical than any other social media website idea.  Had you or I had the idea for Facebook, chances are it wouldn’t have grown into an especially significant social media website, just one among many of the time.  What made Facebook so amazing was the perfect execution of the website, the way Zuckerberg was perfectly positioned for its success.

In fact, your idea is so meaningless that having it doesn’t mean anything at all.  Some people worry their idea will be stolen – well, people will have the same idea, whether or not they’ve heard of yours.  Since there are so many people, with so many ideas, someone is going to have the same one as you.  What makes your startup better than theirs is your execution on the very same idea.

A Quick Note About Idea Theft

Idea Theft is something a lot of people assume is a crime, but isn’t actually a crime in and of itself.  The act of adopting someone else’s idea to be your own is not of consequence in either civil or criminal courts, and you can’t sue over it.  Things commonly treated as ‘idea theft’ crimes, like the theft of Zuckerberg from the Winklevoss twins, rested on the fact that Zuckerberg signed a contract with the Winklevosses for production of ConnectU.  What was illegal was Zuckerberg breaching the contract, not his execution of the same idea.  This means that had they offered him the job and he declined, then went on to make Facebook, the Winklevi would have won much less in their settlement.

Another common example of Idea Theft is Snapchat’s ‘Fourth Founder.’  While Brown did come up with the name and part of the idea for Snapchat, his settlement rested on the fact that he did work for the Snapchat project (creating the logo, graphics, and contributing to construction).  Again, had his suit rested entirely on the idea, his case would have been dismissed for lack of ground.

5. People don’t want to take on obligations.  If you refuse to share your idea except in confidence, with a non-disclosure agreement or some other promise binding them to not share your idea, you’re creating a one-sided obligation where they’re never allowed to tell anyone, for the rest of their days.  Even if this is just an agreement based in honor and not in law, it’s still creating an obligation that the listener has to you.

 

Going from Idea to Reality with Steve Sauer

We were fortunate to have Steve Sauer as our guest speaker last night. Steve is an Ohio State alumni and Co-Founder of a design firm dubbed Bigger Tuna. He spent the evening sharing a myriad of incredible inventions and the story behind each one. Some lessons Steve learned along the way are:

• If you’re ever in a position of owning intellectual property at a company, make sure you maintain your sliver on your way out
• Think about the easiest ways to solve a problem, you don’t have to get complex, if you can solve a problem with a simple solution, do it
• 9/10 times we abandon something is because it is going to cost too much to be a viable product
• Once you get an idea into the physical world you can show someone and really get people interested
• The biggest thing to ask a patent attorney is, how are you going to return the results to me? You want it to be categorized and ranked so you don’t have to read 20 patents. You should expect to pay around $400

We thank Steve for giving an engaging talk and passing down all his invaluable insights.

Business Builders Club Fall Alumni Tailgate 2014

On November 1st, the Business Builders Club hosted an Alumni Network tailgate for its members, alumni, and families before the beatdown of Illinois in the Horseshoe. Over 50 people attended in what was one of the largest non-meeting events of the semester! We ate hot dogs, hamburgers, veggie burgers and veggies and chips and drank some of the BBC’s Fall 2014 Brew. Plenty of fun and food was had by all in what was a great kickoff for our newly created Alumni Network! The Inaugural Alumni Network Newsletter was also released and can be found here. We’re excited to see the growth of our Alumni Network and the great things it brings to the Business Builders Club!

Special thanks to Jason Almedia, Sam Hubert, Sarah Lyons, and Sydney Sundell for their work as the Alumni Relations committee this semester.

For more information or to give feedback about the Business Builders Club Alumni Network, please contact David Straka at alumni@businessbuildersclub.org.

 

5 Characteristics That Make A Great Entrepreneur

This week our speaker was Greg Ruf, the father of a BBC leader, who has launched and financed seven separate entrepreneurial ventures, six of which have been financially successful. As of late, he is an advisor and investor in Acceptd and EduSourced and shared some solid advice for young entrepreneurs.

5 things that separate an entrepreneur from an idea maker:

1) Unceasingly hardworking
2) Tenacious – persistent and doesn’t back down
3) Optimistic because there will be hardship you need to get past
4) Excellent execution, which means being prompt to return calls, being on time, and adhering to a schedule
5) Run. Make progress everyday and move, move, move

We give a big thanks to Greg for sharing his experience with us!