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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider

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    Joanne Wilson is an angel investor, and her investment thesis is simple — she invests in people and real businesses, not ideas.

    Within that, though, there's a wide range of possibilities. She addressed those in a recent interview with finance career site, OneWire for its video series Open Door.

    As for the people part of her investing, Wilson, —who has invested in or advised 35 startups including Catchafire, Dailyworth, and Gotham Gym — tends to gravitate toward female entrepreneurs. 

    "I think women in particular build businesses that fulfill voids in their lives," she told OneWire CEO Skiddy von Stade. "And I also think women are more team oriented than men, and they are also more realistic in regards to what their business can do, sometimes to the point that they don't see how big they can be. Whereas men... have a very sort of bravado look at their businesses."

    This has been a hot topic on Wall Street lately. On the top, two powerful women —JP Morgan's Blythe Masters and Brevan Howard's Geraldine Sundstrom — could leave the Street in the coming weeks. 

    And in Wall Street's startup world (that is, after all, what a lot of new hedge funds are), hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson wrote a great piece for Dealbook parsing together why there aren't more female hedge fund managers in finance. 

    He posed the question to a woman working as a hedge fund analyst, and she was kind enough to allow him to share her thoughts. She gave him a wide range of reasons, from the fact that women were disproportionately laid off during the crisis, to the fact that female analysts aren't paid enough early in their careers to put down the $1 to $2 million of their own cash backers like BlackRock want to see before they shell out.

    Sounds like Wall Street needs more Joanne Wilson's, really.

    Watch the full interview here:

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    mg siegler and megan quinnIn honor of Valentine's Day, we compiled a list of powerful tech couples.

    Here's who's winning in both love and business.

    DogVacay, a network of local dog-sitters, was founded by Aaron Hirschhorn and wife Karin Nissim Hirschhorn.

    A few years ago, Aaron Hirschhorn and his wife Karine went to visit their family on the east coast. They left their two dogs, Rocky and Rambo, in a kennel. It cost them $1,400 — more than their trip — and Rocky hid under Hirschhorn's desk for the next two days.

    The pair started brainstorming better solutions and then spent 2011 turning their home into a dog-sitting hotspot. Over the course of the year, they took in 100 dogs when friends went out of town.

    The result was DogVacay, a network of local dog sitters, which has raised $22 million from investors such as First Round Capital, Benchmark, and Andreessen Horowitz.

    Dave and Brit Morin each have startups that have raised boatloads of money

    Dave and Brit Morin are married, and each is working on a startup.

    Dave is running Path, a mobile social network. Brit left Google to start her own company, Brit+Co, which launched in November 2011. It's a design and cooking site full of inspirational how-to posts. This past year it raised $6 million. CEO Jason Goldberg married AppNexus' Christian Schoenherr

    It wasn't an easy year for Fab CEO Jason Goldberg, but at least the newlywed had his husband by his side.

    Jason Goldberg married Christian Schoenherr in August 2012. Schoenherr is an implementation consultant for AppNexus. He was formerly an account manager in New York for T-Systems North America.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    When Kristoph Matthews was growing up, he lived in a number of crowded cities including Tokyo and Bangkok. His family moved 22 times across four continents and packing was always a pain.

    So it isn't surprising that Matthews now runs a startup that helps people organize their lives and their tiny apartments, Boxbee.

    Boxbee is a storage logistics startup that has raised $1.5 million from a number of angel investors. One of its investors, Jason Calacanis, thinks it will one day be a multibillion-dollar company like Uber, another logistics company. Matthews is the sole founder of Boxbee and this is his first venture-backed startup.

    The company launched in 2012 while Matthews was still working in the semiconductor industry. He tested the concept with a minimum viable product, posting flyers and Google ads about his service. When orders came in, he'd rent a van and drop off cardboard boxes, charging $12 a pop. Eventually Matthews joined an incubator, AngelPad, and incorporated Boxbee.

    boxbeeHere's how Boxbee works:

    • Select how many empty boxes you need on the website. Each box costs $7.50 per month to store.
    • Tell Boxbee what day and time you'd like the empty boxes delivered to your home.
    • Select a day and time for Boxbee to pick up your full boxes. Take photos of your belongings so you can tag boxes and remember which stuff was placed where.
    • Boxbee's truck pulls up, packs up your stuff, and hauls it off to a secure warehouse where thousands of other Boxbee boxes are stored. 
    • Tell Boxbee when you want your things returned. Boxbee can get your boxes back to you within a few hours.

    Boxbee does a number of things to run its business securely and efficiently. First, its boxes are the same size so they can be stacked in neat rows without wasting warehouse space. Eventually, Boxbee will let people store odd-shaped items too but for now its boxes are all 24x12.


    Boxbee is also a vertically integrated business. Since it controls everything from orders to pick-ups to storage space, it's able to get belongings to and fro quickly. Boxbee also knows when items need to be returned and stacks boxes accordingly. That way no needed item is ever out of reach. 

    "Nothing we do is by chance," says Matthews, who notes that the company uses triple redundancy to correctly label and place every item. "We lose sleep over keeping track of every single box," he says.

    Safety is also a primary concern for Boxbee customers, who are trusting the startup with objects that are often sentimental. Matthews says his company takes extra precautions to make sure nothing is lost or destroyed. For example, every box is elevated in case of a flood. Matthews also says he pays more for recently-renovated storage spaces to reduce potential damages, such as water leaks.

    boxbee Kristoph Matthews founder While Matthews wouldn't say how many customers he has, he says 4,000 different types of items have been stored by Boxbee. Boxbee has also cleaned out its box supplier — which brands every yellow box with its logo — multiple times in the past few months. Customers range from lawyers storing important documents to people who want their ex's things out of their homes quickly. Boxbee's first customer was a man who rented his home on Airbnb and wanted to safely stow away expensive, personal items.

    Boxbee ships its crates anywhere in the world, but it only picks up belongings in New York and San Francisco where it has officially launched. While a number of clones have followed in its wake, Matthews says those startups aren't his competition. Instead, he's up against attics and basement storage units.

    Ultimately, Matthews says his goal isn't to build a storage company. It's to make urban living more convenient. "We remind ourselves every day internally that Boxbee is not in the business of storage," Matthews says. "We're in the business of making urban living and commerce more efficient, convenient and accessible. Whatever form our products and services need to take to fulfill that, we'll do it."

    Here's a video further explaining how Boxbee works:

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    girl morning coffee waking up

    Smush down the grinds in your french press – or hit the blue button on your Keurig.

    Then kick back on the couch with your iPad and enjoy these five blog posts and two videos while you slurp some joe.

    I did! (hence the exclamation point)

    The blog posts:

    OK, here are the videos.

    The first, which I spotted on Paul Graham's Twitter feed, is about a 70-year-old body builder. I sent it to my dad.

    The second, which I spotted on Fred Wilson's blog, is from a talk VC Chris Dixon gave about how the best startup ideas are good ideas that look like bad ones.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Creativity draw whiteboard

    Any economist will tell you that the creative sector is a leading component of worldwide economic growth, employment and trade. Over the last decade, there has been a significant shift from individuals choosing to work in traditional vocations such as health care to investing in the creative sector.

    Operating a business where your intellectual capital is your golden ticket requires a calculated approach that differs from the stock standard business model. Here are five steps to establish a creative business from scratch:


    A pitfall of the boom in the creative sector is that thousands of designers/writers/directors are entering the workplace at the same time you are. There is a solid chance that your skill will be instantly diluted once you join the industry. Graphic designers, for example, are a dime a dozen, and if you do your research you'll see that becoming an interactive media designer — someone who can do graphics in addition to sound, animation and digital effects, is a more valuable skill set.

    Seek out professionals in your industry and note what they are doing, how they're doing it and most importantly, what you can offer that is different. What does this industry need right now? What is unique about my approach that's seldom done? These are good starting points.


    Now that you've put your original spin on a creative role, it's time to set up your brand. Branding is a group of ideas and approaches behind your work that must be cemented tangibly through a website and social media presence. Setting up a website can be incredibly cheap, and the beauty of this industry is that you can barter your services in exchange for others, like trading an article for a personalized logo.

    Once you've got a card, logo, business email — ideally one that matches your website — and of course, a web page, start building your social media channels. Begin with LinkedIn and enter as much information as possible. Choose one other platform (I suggest Twitter, as it takes the longest to build up) and enter your information and start adding color.


    By color, I mean content. You'd never invite friends over for dinner only to present them with an empty table. Why would you encourage someone to explore your brand when you've got no work to show them? Social media participants are fickle; if a person is directed to a 'Website Under Construction,' chances are they won't head back a second time.

    In a saturated market, nothing will legitimize your business better than your actual work. Make sure you've got a few posts under your belt. I personally had 100 published articles before I felt comfortable promoting my website. Digging into your archives and revamping old work is also a simple way to produce content on your website without having to begin new projects. This third step is probably the most important and time consuming.


    You've defined your brand and hopefully snuck in a lucrative loophole in your chosen industry. Now is the time to plan. Start by writing down a list of desirable companies, agencies and clients you'd like to work with that are in line with your offering. As a writer I keep a list of publications and editors I'll target who are likely to respond to my style.

    Then map out the dollars and cents; dictate how much you need to earn in your first three months to keep afloat, and how many hours you'll have to put into your business to make this happen. It's a good idea to plan for a creative slump by having an alternate and consistent stream of income or investing in a savings "nest egg."


    Start within your own personal connections on Facebook and your email contacts to find like-minded creatives who may be able to assist you or be interested in your business. A simple announcement via a status update and email directing your friends and acquaintances to your new business will lay the foundations of your following.

    Going over the industry contacts you've discovered in your observation phase, start to reach out to professionals who are at a similar stage to you in their career. These newbies are more likely to respond to your emails, and if you extend an olive branch there's a chance you could share information.

    When you've achieved a decent-sized social media presence supported by a solid website, target the industry heavyweights, but only if you are absolutely confident that you've got something substantial to bring to the table.

    SEE ALSO: The 4 Things No One Tells You About Entrepreneurship

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    talking conversation conference meeting interview

    It's a standard question in almost every job interview, and one that most people have a hard time answering truthfully: "What's your greatest weakness?"

    Despite being straightforward, it's a tricky question to answer. On the one hand, you don't want to appear cocky by pretending you have no weaknesses (because of course the interviewer knows you do).

    On the other hand, you don't want to give the recruiter any reason not to hire you. (If your tendency to screw up Excel models isn't apparent on your resume, you certainly don't want to bring it up now.)

    Most of us settle for a somewhat rosy-colored version of the truth that makes our shortcomings look like strengths. For example, you say you're a perfectionist who works too hard, or that your procrastinator tendencies have taught you how to work well under pressure.

    But according to David Reese, VP of Human Resources at Medallia, who wrote on the topic for Harvard Business Review, this is exactly the wrong way to respond. 

    "Responses like these tell me little about how a candidate faces challenges and immediately implies a lack of sincerity," he writes. "It doesn’t demonstrate to me how they think — beyond their ability to creatively avoid being honest or self-critical."

    Instead, show them that you're self-aware and willing to identify what's not working. Employers, especially startups, value having a diversity of opinions on their team. Innovation doesn't come from a roomful of people blindly agreeing with whatever the boss says. It comes from individuals giving honest and constructive feedback, even when that means pointing out the flaws in a popular idea.

    When you're asked about your greatest weakness, be honest about what you need to work on. Better yet, describe how you've already begun to address the issue. That takes maturity and shows employers that you're willing to tell the truth even when it's difficult.

    Read Reese's full post here. 

    SEE ALSO: Here's What An Interviewer Really Means When They Ask 'What Is Your Greatest Weakness?'

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    You hear it all the time. You'll be out with a friend and the conversation turns to topic of some billionaire and technology company founder who struck it insanely rich building a product that's changed the world.

    Mark Zuckerberg. Bill Gates. Larry Page. Kevin Systrom. 

    And someone will say, "I want to build a company like that. All I need is a really good idea."

    But that's not exactly right.

    Not according to several prominent venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.

    Their view is that actually, you need an idea that sounds really bad. Awful.

    The trick is: it's not actually so bad. It's brilliant. It's just that most people can't see. Most everyone, that is, except you.

    This is Chris Dixon. He's a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm that invests in startups. Dixon also sold a company to eBay for $80 million a few years ago.


    Dixon's theory is that best startups are good ideas that look like bad ideas.


    You might think good ideas that look like good ideas are a better bet. You're wrong. Big companies are already working on those, and they have a lot more money and workers. For example: A smartphones with a better battery is a great idea that looks like one, and Apple and Samsung are on it.


    Entrepreneurs and startup investors are in the business of left-overs, says Dixon. They have to pursue the good ideas that, for some reason, others won't.


    Dixon says one classic example is Google. When Google was created, big companies like Yahoo thought of Web search was a loss-leader. They thought of it as a service that annoyingly sent users away from their site.


    A more recent example is Airbnb. It's turned out to be a good idea, but it looked like a bad idea because everyone thought of couch-surfing as a weird thing hipsters did.


    Dixon said he's noticed three characteristics of good ideas that look like bad ideas.


    One is that powerful people will dismiss good ideas that look bad as "toys." 


    For example, telegraph company Western Union could have purchased telephone technology, but it decided not to because it thought phones weren't as good for business as telegraphs. DixonYC12

    Another reason people will dismiss a good startup idea as a bad one is that the startup provides a single service that is ordinarily provided as part of a suit of services by an existing, large company.


    For example, The New York Times probably thought it was a bad idea to *just* bring their classifieds listings online, and not all their content. But Craigslist provides *just* that service, and it's proven to be a very good idea.


    Sometimes, says Dixon, good ideas look like bad ideas because only hobbyists are working on them — not big companies with big R&D divisions. That's how Apple started — with the Homebrew PC club.


    Good ideas will also look like bad ideas because they go against social norms.


    For example, it used to be that when you uploaded a photo to a photo-sharing site, the default was for that photo to be viewable online only to you. The default on Flickr was public, and it got huge. Likewise, people were alarmed by the Facebook News Feed, which they viewed as a stalking tool.


    To wrap it up, Dixon said the best way to come up with a good idea that looks like a bad one is NOT to follow industry trends and read reports. That's all built on consensus. It's better to come up with ideas by encountering problems and opportunities through direct experience. 


    Join the conversation about this story »

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    bank of america tower, ows, occupy wall street, bank protest, oct 2011, bi, dng

    There's a theory among startup investors that one good way for an entrepreneur to come up with an idea for a startup is to look at all the services big, successful, older companies provide and then build a company around doing just one of them.

    In a talk given at Y Combinator's startup school, Andreessen Horowitz partner Chris Dixon called this "un-bundling." He talked about how the big newspapers of the 1990s provided three services. They created content. The published classified ads. And they curated content (through page layout, etc). 

    Now there are several big companies doing just those those services. The Huffington Post creates news content. Craigslist publishes classified ads. Twitter curates news.

    What Dixon calls "unbundling," the partners at another big venture capital firm, Spark Capital, call "disaggregation."

    One of Spark's former analysts, David Haber, made this cool chart showing how all the various services of Craigslist are now being done by individual startups.

    Check it out:

    Disaggregation of Craigslist

    So which big companies are getting disaggregated next?

    Lots of startups think the answer is the Apple iOS ecosystem. For a few years there, you probably got all your digital music and movies from iTunes. Now you probably listen to Spotify and watch Netflix. And instead of storing photos on your iPhone, maybe you keep them on Dropbox.

    Alexander Pease, an analyst at Union Square Ventures, has another cool idea: Banks.

    He points to startups like Dwolla, which helps merchants accept payments and avoid credit card fees. There's also Wonga, which provide payday loans and Primarq which does home equity loans.

    Over on Pease's blog, he's made a chart, modeled after the Craiglist one above. Click on it for a larger image.

    disaggregation of a bank

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    It's officially Social Media Week in New York, and there are lots of informative panels and networking events to attend.

    But on Monday, social media insights firm Mashwork got things started on a lighter note with a beer pong tournament held at WeWork Labs. 

    Past years' participants have included professionals in PR, marketing, and advertising, as well as the founders, CTOs, and engineers from a wide range of tech companies. 

    Uber, Venmo, HowAboutWe, and Twitter were among the companies sending teams to this year's tournament. 

    It looked like a lot of fun.mashwork bp tournament

    mashwork bp tournament

    All of the booze and games were for a good cause. Mashwork asked a $20 donation from each of the 16 teams entered in the bracket, and those who participated in free play were asked to donate $3. In the past, the money has gone to Hurricane Sandy relief and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    This year, it's going to charity:water. Venmo made a separate donation of $500 to the cause in the name of the winner. 

    The team from Founder Shield, a company that provides insurance for startups, was victorious this time around. Twitter came in second, losing in a very heated final match.  

    The two final teams put the competition aside to pose for this photo with the bracket and the organizers from Mashwork.bp tournament bracket

    Participants took to Twitter to document the night, like the social media professionals they are. 


    And again the next day to complain about their hangovers. 


    SEE ALSO: Look Inside Box, The Hot Storage Startup Set To IPO This Year [Photos]

    DON'T FORGET: Follow Business Insider On Instagram

    Join the conversation about this story »

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  • 02/19/14--17:06: Four Ways To Be A Frugal CEO
  • startup

    Running a tight ship can pay off in unforeseen ways -- creativity and innovation mounts within an organization when resources are limited, and research suggests that companies with frugal CEOs are less prone to accounting errors and fraud.

    As someone who came from humble beginnings, I learned the value of money before I reached my teen years -- I spent a good part of my childhood recycling classmates’ cans after school. More than 20 years later, as the CEO of a growing startup that has raised millions from investors, I’m still in many ways that frugal kid who would never spend more than is absolutely necessary. I evaluate every company purchase decision as if the funds were coming directly from my bank account.

    It’s this mindset that has helped grow Retention Science into the lean and thriving company it is today, and I like to believe it’s earned me an extra helping of respect from my investors and employees.

    Related: 9 Reasons Why Most Startups Fail

    There’s nothing wrong with indulging on occasion, if it’s well deserved, but for the most part, when it comes to choosing between amenity and necessity, entrepreneurs running a company should stick with the latter.

    Here are some of the ways I apply frugality in my business that might also work for you:

    Office setup on a shoestring. I was determined to furnish our entire office for less than $1,000. Instead of buying brand new leather chairs, I turned to Craigslist and found a company in the process of shutting down and selling slightly used leather chairs for $25 a piece (compared to more than $130 at retail). We purchased a dozen and scored over a thousand dollars in savings. White boards can be pricy as well, so when we learned that $10 shower boards sold at Lowes can double as whiteboards, we opted for those instead.

    Find ways to build an office that’s simple but functional. If you can find reasonable furniture on sale or at IKEA, then do it. Better yet, incentivize your interns or employees to find certain bargain pieces for you, because odds are they have some good connections.   

    Control legal fees. Legal fees are a huge chunk of change for any business, especially startups. Experts tell you to estimate $500 an hour for legal services. A good way to control your costs is to set very clear expectations with your lawyer when allocating their time. Also think about how you want to be billed. There may be instances when it makes sense to be charged hourly, but others where you’re better off paying on a per-project basis. Some lawyers may even allow a company to defer payments until it is funded. It never hurts to ask.  

    Related: 5 Online Marketing Strategies for a Tight Budget

    DIY marketing and PR. Don’t hire a public relations firm just yet. I held off on hiring a PR firm and instead did all the media outreach and pitching legwork myself. It took a lot of effort -- and some might argue it wasn’t the best use of my time -- but I took care to build trust and rapport with reporters and my strategy eventually paid off. They appreciated having direct access to a candid CEO, and we were able to get press coverage early on without spending a dime. Implement DIY marketing -- social media, blogging and media outreach -- while you can, and only hire a PR firm when you’re big enough to do so. You’ll save thousands of dollars in retainer fees.

    Travel thriftily. Hotel costs while traveling can quickly add up, and can often be avoided. See if you know anyone in your destination and ask if you can stay a night at their place. There’s typically an extra bed or pull-out couch somewhere, if you're willing to ask, and you can repay the favor down the road. I’ve made countless trips to San Francisco in the last two years, and to date, I’ve managed to spend nothing on lodging.

    Another cost-cutting option is to use a service like Airbnb, Hotel Tonight or Hotwire that tend be much more affordable than going directly through a hotel. Staying outside of a city -- especially if there is a conference taking place -- can also save you on lodging.

    There is no shame in being a frugal CEO. When you’re running a startup under the watchful eyes of investors and with competitors hot on your tail, being scrappy isn’t just recommended, it’s imperative.

    Related: 7 Frugal Startup Tips from Millionaire Entrepreneurs

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    stack exchange chefs

    We've heard a lot about the crazy perks tech startups offer their employees. 

    But at Stack Exchange, a Financial District-based startup that hosts a network of question-and-answer sites, chefs Phil Sireci and Shanna Sobel serve up some amazing meals that top them all. 

    From company favorite "breakfast for lunch" to gourmet duck l'orange, Sireci and Sobel make sure that no Stacker is ever left hungry or unsatisfied. 

    "The good thing about this place is that it's not really lunch. We cook dinner that just happens to be at lunchtime," Sireci said to Business Insider. "I look at this as a special every day."

    We took a lunchtime trip to Stack Exchange to meet Sireci and Sobel. We were blown away by what they're doing in this startup's kitchen. 

    Welcome to the Stack Exchange kitchen, in New York's Financial District.

    Meet Phil Sireci and Shanna Sobel. The Stack Exchange chefs are not usually this intimidating.

    Shanna's a huge Dave Matthews Band fan, hence the fire dancer stickers. She played their music in the kitchen so much that now Phil likes them, too.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    mardi gras beads

    With New Orleans in full celebration mode for Mardi Gras, the nonstop party that started as a purging of hedonistic behavior before the Christian season of Lent, it's a good time to celebrate the small businesses that have helped the Big Easy rebound.

    The city's economy took a big hit after Hurricane Katrina devastated the cityscape in 2005, but it has since rebuilt and reinvented itself.

    Whether it's an established restaurant or a budding tech startup, here are some of New Orlean's coolest small businesses.


    Online, based in New Orleans

    What it is: A transit advertising and media company

    Why it's cool: AdverCar matches brands with regular drivers who are looking to make some extra cash. The brand pays a driver to put a decal on their car. When that person drives through different neighborhoods and regions, the brand is then broadcast to the area in a subtle yet effective way.

    It is part of New Orleans Startup Fund's portfolio.

    American Sector And National World War II Museum

    945 Magazine St.

    What it is: A 1940s themed restaurant and museum

    Why it's cool: Besides being America's first museum devoted to World War II, this venue features restaurants and bars that are all 1940s themed. Everything from the seating to the cocktails to the styles of the performers oozes 1940s glamour. There are even live musical performances by Big Band orchestras and tributes to 1940s icons like The Rat Pack.

    The restaurant, the American Sector, serves dishes that put a creative spin on traditional American food, like mini cheeseburgers with bacon-onion marmalade and Wagyu short ribs.

    Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel

    739 Canal St. at Bourbon

    What it is: A sustainable hotel

    Why it's cool: This is a luxury hotel that has a ton of green initiatives. It recycles all cardboard, paper, plastic, and aluminum products.

    About 90% of the hotel's lighting is energy efficient, and it has a grease recycling program.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    millennial cool young guy sunglasses

    Look at the headlines of big business sales, like WhatsApp’s $19 Billion sale to Facebook last week, and you know that 2014 is a time of unprecedented opportunity.

    You have access to nearly everything around the globe thanks to the beauty and speed of technology and you can learn almost anything online.

    With all this access to information, many are wondering if college is still the speedway to success. Stay in school or dropout? Some entrepreneurs are turning to the latter.

    Take for instance the most recent Forbes Billionaire List, which ranks the top 400 wealthiest people in the world. Of the 400 ranked individuals, 63 were college dropouts.

    The co-founder of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, will most likely make the 2015 list — and he too was a college dropout. Koum’s sparse and self-deprecating LinkedIn profile reveals he "did some work" for Yahoo, "barely graduated" from high school in 1995 and "dropped out" of San Jose State University.

    Why are people choosing to go the dropout path? Well, another billionaire dropout, Sean Parker may shed some light on this trend.

    “When these incredible tools of knowledge and learning are available to the whole world, formal education becomes less and less important, Parker told Forbes. "We should expect to see the emergence of a new kind of entrepreneur who has acquired most of their knowledge through self- exploration.”

    It’s easy to look at all those zeros and commas and think you’d like to be the next Koum or Parker.

    Before you do, you should consider some dos and don’ts of dropping out of college to do a startup.

    Do ask yourself about your motivation. So you think college is a waste of your time and money … why? What seems to be clear in the billionaire dropout success stories is that there was a burning desire and passion behind the entrepreneur’s decision. Zuckerberg was already blowing the lid off of his early Facebook idea when he dropped. Michael Dell was shipping computer kits with backorders when he left college. The desire was there to continue something that had already started and for most of these people, it started in college.

    This is not to say that’s always the case. For instance, look at Ray Kroc of McDonalds or Debbie Fields of Mrs. Fields cookies. Both had no college or formal business education but went on to form very successful companies. There’s nothing saying you can’t drop out and be successful but be willing to ask yourself the right questions first.

    Why do I want to leave? What’s my burning desire that I’m already working on? How am I already performing in my business (or education)? Past performance is a good future indicator. If you don’t have the stomach for well-timed risk, discipline to hustle, stamina to persevere and strength to innovate, you may want to consider the formalized boundaries of college to help you develop those skills before cutting your teeth on a startup as a dropout. 

    Don’t use your university resources. Let’s say you’re already attending a university and you’ve asked yourself the tough questions but have enough personal empirical data to back your position up. Remember that when you leave school, you’ll need to consider the ethics of hanging up your associations with the school’s resources too. Leaving campus means you’ll need to represent yourself honestly to the public. Don’t use your school-generated email to try to seek access to resources or people that you wouldn’t otherwise be privy to.

    For example setting up meetings with clients who share your alumni or pressing for internships when you’ve dropped out. If you are considering ditching the education route and aren’t able to join a university organized internship, try mentoring as an alternative option. Offer to apprentice or assist a mentor in exchange for his or her tutoring and help. In effect that’s the true essence of an internship anyway and you may get even more real-world experience working one-on-one with a mentor.

    Something else to avoid if you decide to dropout is using your Student ID to gain access to school property, computer labs, sporting events or other entitlements of school enrollment. If you don’t have the tools you need to succeed in your startup without utilizing school property, you will need to get creative in finding resources. Consider looking into shared workspace options which can keep the overhead of an office low, but still give you dedicated, professional space for working. Options like Sharedesk and Nextspace offer flexible office resource space for shoestring budgets.

    Do talk through your plan with your family. Discussing your dropout plans with your family is important for many reasons. It helps you formalize your plan with older, experienced people that you know and trust. They can help you see blind spots in your ideas and support you through the process. Being honest about your decision to dropout shows maturity and courage on your part, while being dishonest with your family and concealing your plans to skip college shows irresponsibility. You will also likely need your loved ones support, both emotionally and financially, at certain times during your startup experience, so having their backing is important.

    Despite the drive and undeniable genius of Bill Gates, even he needed his family’s support during tough times in the startup world after dropping out of college. The family support was one reason Gates decided to move Microsoft to Seattle, where he settled into a house close to his parents. His mom helped arrange a maid to clean for him and his father helped guide Microsoft as a startup with his own experience as a lawyer guiding small companies.

    Don’t commit fraud with your student loans. One of the biggest challenges startups face is money. It’s challenging to get investment capital, particularly so if you’re unproven and now, a college dropout. It’s tempting to take your student loan deposit for the semester and then stop going to class to use that cash for startup capital. However, according to the Federal Student Aid handbook, “You may use the money you receive only to pay for education expenses at the school that awarded you your loan. Education expenses include such school charges as tuition, room and board, fees, books, supplies, equipment, dependent child care expenses, transportation, and rental or purchase of a personal computer.”

    While you may be able to “get away” with using your student loan money for a semester or two after dropping out for your own living expenses and needs, this is not an ethical or intended purpose for the money. Your loans won’t be renewed and will likely go into repayment — meaning loan payments will be added to your monthly business and living expenses.

    Borrowing money from your student loan to fund your life or business as a startup is not an intelligent business decision. Far better to start your business on the side, while still attending school or to leave school and get your funding through an angel investor or kickstarter campaign. In fact, a crowdfunding campaign for your product idea might be a great way to test the water before you leave (or decide to skip) college.

    There are plenty of reasons to argue the need for education or the benefits of dropping out to pursue your entrepreneurial path. Whichever route you decide, the most important decision is to commit to yourself with an honest assessment of your skills, aptitude and drive. Both roads will have their rewards and challenges, but it’s up to you to make the decision that best fits your ability to succeed.

    SEE ALSO: 3 Simple Ways To Become A Great Negotiator

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    david byttow secret

    David Byttow hasn't been sleeping well. He works until 4 a.m. most days, and he booked a 48-hour trip across the country just to get some rest. Currently, he's hibernating in a New York City hotel. In a few days he'll fly back to San Francisco only to turn around and fly to Texas for a tech conference, South by Southwest.

    Byttow, 32, recently launched Secret with former co-worker and Googler Chrys Bader. Their team of three has been working tirelessly on the app, which lets people post text messages to both strangers and friends anonymously.

    We met Byttow for breakfast in New York City, and asked him about Secret's founding, what it's like to be a mega-hyped startup, and what will be left of Secret once all the buzz dies down.

    Byttow's career began 13 years ago when he was 19. The Chicago native attended Purdue, then dropped out of college to join a gaming company.

    "They asked how much I wanted to be paid to develop games and I said, '$40,000!'" Byttow recalls.

    He packed all his belongings in his car and drove to California.

    Byttow later joined Google and spent five years working on hyped — but ultimately flawed — products: Google Wave and Google+.  There, he hired Bader as a product manager. Byttow left for a short, one-month stint at Evan Williams' blogging site Medium. He felt Square was a better fit, and left for a management role that reported directly to Square's founder, Jack Dorsey.

    secret app

    After a few years at Square, Byttow decided he wanted to travel. He quit and visited places like Paris, Tokyo and Bora Bora. Then he got a call from Bader that ended his world tour. Bader wanted to start a text messaging company, and he wanted Byttow to be his co-founder. Byttow returned to California and the pair got to work.

    The first product they launched wasn't an app that needed to be downloaded. Instead, it was a one-to-one text messaging tool that let users send anonymous secrets to each other. The text messages disappeared after they were read, like Snapchat or another anonymous app, Confide.

    Byttow says the disappearing text message idea was rejected by investors. He also wasn't crazy about the product he and Bader had built. He felt a one-to-one anonymous message service would do more harm than good and that users would abuse each other with it. 

    Secret was their next idea, but the pair struggled to find the right name for their startup. Byttow and Bader thought about calling the mobile app "Glimmer" or "Blink." They also toyed with the idea of calling it "Whispr" or "Whisperly," which is nearly identical to Secret's closest competitor, Sequoia Capital-backed "Whisper." 

    Byttow felt strongly that the app should be called Secret, but Bader took some persuading. Byttow incorporated the name for $75 in Delaware, bid on and bought the domain name for $3,500, then presented the materials to Bader. Bader had no choice but to agree.

    Last month, Secret did its first press push. Byttow said he never expected Secret's launch to receive so much hype. Secret was first written about on tech site Re/code. From there, major news outlets like NPR and Daily Mail picked it up. Secret became Silicon Valley's latest craze overnight. One investor, Y Combinator's Sam Altman, likened the anonymous app to the high school burn book in the movie "Mean Girls."

    When a startup receives a lot of press, it sees a sharp spike in downloads and usage. When the press goes away, the company's inflated growth metrics do, too. Although Secret has received fewer mentions in recent weeks, Byttow says the app is still opened about seven times per day.

    Another thing that will help Secret's growth continue: Byttow has finally mastered Apple's App Store. For the first few weeks, Secret wasn't showing up in mobile search results. It fell behind its competitor Whisper and even irrelevant apps like Uber when people typed in the word "Secret."

    secret app annieApple's faulty search feature drove Byttow mad; he says he would check his app's rank every Thursday morning and chuck his phone in fury when it didn't show up. "[Chucking my phone] got expensive," he jokes.

    Right now, Secret is trying to turn its buzz into a long-lasting product. The biggest challenge Secret faces is to avoid meeting the same fate as anonymous services that have come before it.

    When users are allowed to be anonymous, their posts often become nasty. Byttow's team recently met with Juicy Campus founder Matt Ivester who coached them on ways to avoid his pitfalls. JuicyCampus was an anonymous social network for college students that received a number of lawsuits for libel. PostSecret, another anonymous network, was shut down for similar reasons.

    Byttow insists most of Secret's current posts are productive. He says he's surprised how quickly his team found product-market fit. And although it's likened to a gossip rag, Byttow doesn't believe his app is a place for sharing deep, dark thoughts without repercussions.

    Instead, it's a place for sharing information strategically among friends, without the shackles of being completely identified. 

    "Secret isn't for sharing secrets," Byttow says. "It's for sharing secretly."

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    Detroit skyline buildings

    As Detroit leaders work to pay back the city's estimated $18 billion in debt, one entrepreneur is building a rich startup culture that he hopes could revive the Motor City.

    Venture for America founder Andrew Yang plans to bring back an entrepreneurial spirit to lower-cost cities by placing top graduates from the country's elite universities into startups in Detroit, Las Vegas, and New Orleans.

    After gaining a comfortable amount of wealth from selling a test prep company to Kaplan, Yang gathered a team and set about creating the Venture for America nonprofit. It launched in 2012, with help from investors like Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert, the founder of Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures.

    Yang saw the abundance of vacant, cheap property in Detroit through optimistic eyes. Rather than leaving the once-great city to rot, smart and talented people could re-invent it from the ground up.

    In his new book, "Smart People Should Build Things," Yang includes testimonials from VFA's first round of fellows. Meet three fellows who took a risk and headed to Detroit in the fall of 2012 for a two-year program:

    Max Nussenbaum

    Max Nussenbaum VFA largeNussenbaum is a Wesleyan grad from Newton, Mass. whose friends all questioned his move to Detroit (even one who was about to volunteer in a Nigerian slum). His heart wasn't exactly set on the city, but he wanted to avoid the well-tread paths to cities likes New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. Nussenbaum was sure he had made the right choice as soon as he got to Detroit and started working with tech startup Are You a Human. He writes:

    When you get to Detroit, the city screams at you to do something. It doesn't matter what — just do something ...

    The point is that it's easier to get your ideas off the ground here than it is in a lot of other places, that the city's rebirth is just a bunch of people's crazy ideas somehow becoming reality. Detroiters are building their city together, from the new transplants lured like I was to the former suburbanites returning from their exile to those who've been here all along, refusing to give in to the weight of the outside world's preconceptions.

    He's still doing work for Are You a Human, as well as helping restore a house in Detroit for VFA fellows through the nonprofit's program Rebirth Realty. You can get an idea of his goofy sense of humor on his personal site, where he also highlights his "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?"audition tape music video that got him onto the show in 2009.

    Kathy Cheng

    Kathy ChengEast Brunswick, N.J. native Cheng was ready to graduate MIT when she realized that a job in finance could bring her money, but didn't align with her creativity. After seeing one of Yang's presentations, she decided his program could be the place to find meaning in her work. She joined VFA and got paired with Doodle Home, a virtual studio for interior designers. She writes:

    When I look around Detroit, what drives me is not the need to create technology but the need to activate the many spaces here that are longing for a renewed purpose.

    And what I've come to appreciate most is that when I have lofty ideas like these, I am no longer afraid to pursue them.

    Cheng is a business analyst at Doodle Home and has fallen in love with the city. In a blog post from July, she writes, "The shock is not only in how much I have adopted this city as my home, but also in how much distance I have put to between my life now and my life as I saw it as a senior at MIT." 

    Tim Dingman

    Tim Dingman Venture For AmericaDingman was an electrical engineer at Brown University from Sudbury, Mass. who wanted to apply his talents beyond the lab. Venture for America paired him with Accio Energy, which is developing a new kind of wind power generator. He writes:

    The city of Detroit has been a lesson in itself, showing me what a city with nothing to lose can achieve if enough determined citizens put their minds and bodies to work. Organizations like Detroit SOUP, D:hive, and Opportunity Detroit are bringing people and ideas into Detroit at a breakneck pace. Downtown shows new signs of life every time I look out my window.

    When Dingman was at Brown, he created the student-run Organizing a Better World by Design sustainable design conference, which is held annually at Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design.

    VFA's Future Plans

    Andrew Yang recognizes Detroit still has a long list of infrastructural hurdles, but he's hopeful the network of entrepreneurs he has established in the city will grow organically over time, creating a culture of innovation.

    He hopes to have Venture for America create 100,000 new U.S. jobs by 2025.

    For more on his plan, and to hear from fellows who have worked in New Orleans and Las Vegas, check out his book "Smart People Should Build Things" and VFA's website.

    SEE ALSO: The War For Talent: How America's Brightest Students Are Recruited Into Finance And Consulting

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    Paul McReynolds

    LinkedIn is a great way to show yourself off to prospective employers and stay in touch with people you know. But it's not great for meeting people outside your network.

    If you want to meet someone you don't know via LinkedIn, you can spam them with a connection request (a violation of LinkedIn's rules) or find someone who knows someone who knows the person, and ask to be introduced.

    That's not exactly how the social norm is supposed to work, as in: "Pardon me. You don't know me. And I don't know her. Can you introduce us?"

    Enter the Boulder, Colo.-based startup Conspire, founded by two data scientists who met at Stanford, Alex Devkar and Paul McReynolds.

    Conspire uses your own email account as the basis for a game of Six Degrees of Separation. Sign up, and it analyzes your email. Then enter the name of the person you want to search and it finds someone in your contact list to introduce you, examining that person's social media connections. It may even find multiple people to help introduce you. Then it will recommend the best choice.

    Conspire is in a limited beta right now with about 1,200 users. The address books from those users gave it a network of 5.1 million people. Conspire's co-founder Devkar estimates that when 25,000 users join, they will produce a network of 100 million people.

    "LinkedIn had 90 million users at its IPO," Devkar points out, speaking at the Venture Capital in the Rockies Conference in Vail.

    Conspire uses a smart computer algorithm to figure things out like the multiple email addresses of the same person. The founders says it operates at 95% accuracy.

    We have to warn that when we played with it with a very limited address book, it wasn't terribly accurate. It often showed outdated information, like old work titles and former employers. But the company and its tech are very young, founded in 2012 as part of TechStars.

    If the accuracy can be fine-tuned Conspire could become one of the most useful email add-on products ever, as good or better than inbox email analyzers Xobni, (bought by Yahoo in 2013 and closed down) or Rapportive. And it could be a great alternative to LinkedIn for introductions.

    The company recently relocated from San Francisco to Boulder and here's a fun fact about co-founder Paul McReynolds, from his LinkedIn profile: He's a Hollywood consultant who coached actor Jesse Eisenberg on coding and tech terms when Eisenberg starred as Mark Zuckerberg in the film, "The Social Network." McReynolds even played a part in the movie: he was Eisenberg's hand-double during certain typing scenes.

    Below is a screen grab showing what Conspire looks like. When we searched for an introduction to Devkar, it suggested the best way to contact him was to email him directly.

    But it also came up with several options in our email network to get an introduction.


    Conspire email app

    Correction: This story originally said the two co-founders met at MIT. We apologize for the error.

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    san francisco painted lady houses

    Lots of San Francisco residents are starting to revolt against the technology industry's invasion of the city.

    Maybe the tech industry should start looking elsewhere for its own good.

    The place is just so expensive.

    Yesterday, we told you the story of how Julia Hartz, the co-founder of a startup called Eventbrite, wanted to "throw up" when she signed her company's lease in San Francisco. 

    She told us that commercial rents in San Francisco have tripled over the past two years.

    She estimates that staying in San Francisco will cost Eventbrite an extra "tens of millions of dollars."

    "It’s very hard to stay in San Francisco as a growing tech company," she says.

    Data from subscription-only tech news site The Information shows just how hard.

    Citing research from Ijad Madisch, founder of ResearchGate, they say "prime commercial real estate" costs SF-based startups, on average, $102,000 per year.

    That's a huge amount — far more, in fact than the cost of real estate in New York. In New York,  the average annual real estate cost for a startup is closer to $86,000.

    Among the 11 most expensive cities for co-founders to launch startups, only two demand higher real estate prices than San Francisco: Beijing ($190,000/year) and London ($140,000/year).

    San Francisco also has high talent costs.

    The Information estimates two software engineers will cost an SF-based startup $217,000 per year. In New York that number is only $170,000. Only Palo Alto, Calif., is more expensive, at $242,000. In London, the cost is $123,000.

    Add it all up and The Information ranks San Francisco as the most expensive city for founders. Average costs there are $388,513 versus $379,121 in Palo Alto, $317,022 in New York, and $304,462 in Seattle.

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    SearchquantChris Zaharias is a 22-year veteran of startups. He's worked at Netscape, Efficient Frontier, Omniture, Yahoo, and Triggit. Now he's the CEO of his own company, SearchQuant.

     Zaharias says that if you're a startup employee, you're probably getting screwed.

    "95%+ of non-founding employees don't know s---- about equity," Zaharias says. 

    "Investors, founders and the law firms they work with systematically & ruthlessly exploit startup equity information asymmetry to their gain and employees' pain."

    In an email to Business Insider, he lists the three most common ways startups screw over their employees:

    • "One way startup employees get screwed is when the nature of Preferred shareholders' (i.e. founders & VCs) preference multiple is withheld from them. Because they are not told (during the hiring/negotiation process) of the Preference structure (Standard vs Participating) nor do they typically know to ask, it's only after years of work and post-acquisition that they find out they made, say, 40% less per Common share than they thought they would. This has happened to at least 20 people I know, and is one of the systematic ways non-founding startup employees get screwed by founders & VCs. Put simply, 95%+ startup employees naturally & naively assume Common & Preferred shareholders get paid the same amount, but that's only true in ~10-20% of startup exits."
    • Another example is that of prospective startup hires not being told the number of shares outstanding when they get their offer letter. As my survey proved, this is the case with most startup employees, and it happens because a) founders & VCs knowingly keep this information to themselves as much as possible so they can make employees think 10,000 shares, for example, is big number; and b) non-founding startup employees know so little that they succumb to the feeling that they'll be seen as pushy if they push too hard to get info on # of shares outstanding; I have seen this happen hundreds of times, and twice in the past 2-3 weeks with Sr Dir & VP-level people.
    • Last, because two thirds of employees know squat about acquisition-based vesting acceleration triggers, they often sign offer letters that give them no protection against being demoted or fired before or after (but in connection with) an acquisition. The result? Situations like Skype where the PE firm acquirer conspires with Andreessen & Horowitz to fire employees ahead of and after the acquisition to free up more shares/$$ for them.

    In an effort to end employee ignorance, Zaharias is putting on an event in downtown Palo Alto next Friday. The topic: "Startup Employee Equity Bill of Rights." It's free. If you don't live anywhere near Silicon Valley, check out his blog.

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    Silicon Valley 100

    After months of research, debate, and more research, Business Insider is proud to present our annual Silicon Valley 100, the authoritative ranking of the people who matter most in Silicon Valley. The list covers people who backed promising companies and saw big exits; were star executives; created new, interesting things; changed entire industries; and made industry-defining acquisitions or took their companies public.

    In sum, these people aren't riding on old reputations. All of them did something of note since our last installment in February 2013, and they won big. And if you feel that we missed someone, tell us — we're not all-knowing, and we love telling stories about amazing people.

    In A-Z Order »

    The Complete List 1-100 »


    Thanks to our many readers who took the time to send us nominations. The Silicon Valley 100 was assembled by Megan Rose Dickey, Jillian D'Onfro, Alyson ShontellJim Edwards, and Steve Kovach. Copy editing by Elizabeth Wilke and Jill Klausen.

    100. Mike Judge, Alec Berg

    Executive Producers, HBO's "Silicon Valley"

    We got word earlier this year that producers Mike Judge and Alec Berg will be launching an Entourage-esque comedy show called "Silicon Valley" on HBO that will poke fun at SV and help pop its arrogance bubble.

    The show follows a group of close-knit friends working at a company trying to develop a new search algorithm, and will include cameos from real-life Silicon Valley figures. It airs April 6 on HBO.

    99. Aarthi Ramamurthy

    Founder, Lumoid

    Aarthi Ramamurthy is one of the most notable female entrepreneurs out there today. She spent six years at Microsoft working on its popular Visual Studio software development tool and on Xbox Live. 

    Before founding Y Combinator-backed Lumoid, a startup for letting people test-drive electronics before buying them, she co-founded a bra-fitting company called True&Co.

    98. Naveen Jain, Dr. Reid Rubsamen

    Co-founders, Immunity Project 

    A team of scientists and entrepreneurs are trying to cure HIV/AIDS. Immunity Project, which is in the current Y Combinator class, has already developed a prototype and completed preliminary lab testing. 

    The Immunity Project is currently trying to raise $482,000 to fund its final experiment before beginning its Phase I clinical study. So far, more than 1,000 people have pledged over $200,000 to the project.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    startup fisheye

    Put a few entrepreneurs in a room and you'll find the topic of conversation will inevitably gravitate toward startup faux pas. I've been in that room enough times to know that after a while it's the same record all over again. I share with you below the 10 most frequent, which also reflect my own experience:

    Hiring too quickly

    As an entrepreneur, you are naturally eager to move fast and build a big business. Not only that but you are by nature impatient, no matter how fast you're moving. That's partly what makes you who you are; and why you don't fit into the normal routine of a corporate job.

    Inevitably you make the mistake of hiring someone too quickly. Just don't do it. Listen to your hunch. Take your time on hiring — it's the single most important investment you make. Do it carefully.

    Giving too much equity too quickly

    Every entrepreneur has been there: you need cash imminently and door after door gets shut in your face. Then someone comes along who is listening, but is a vulture. You're so starved that the vulture looks like an angel (hence, angel investor). Believe me, they can sense your starvation and they will use it to get as much equity as they can.

    Ignoring a hunch

    I hate regret. I don't normally regret things, but I do regret the times I didn't listen to my intuition. Whenever I didn't listen I have always, always regretted it. The founder's hunch is one of the most important assets of any startup or business. Use it, and be confident enough to stick by it.

    Only relying on your intuition

    You need to complement a hunch with proper management discipline: looking at numbers, KPIs, and formulating strategies and plans. Doing so goes against many entrepreneurs' nature, but it's important and will become easier with practice.

    Listening to outsiders too much

    Having outsiders around you, especially smart ones, is great. It gives you fresh perspective. It helps you take a step back and see things in a new light. But it can also lead you down the route of destruction if you're not careful. Nobody knows the business better than you do; you built it. So it's all too easy for an investor or successful entrepreneur to blind you with their money or success. Make sure you take everything with a grain of salt.

    Taking things for granted

    Especially when it comes to investment, take nothing for granted. Investors have amnesia, and their money will often come before their promises. So make sure you have a contingency plan.

    Underestimating competitors

    The best entrepreneurs are fiercely competitive and paranoid. They watch competitors with very little pride and a lot of determination. The losers are the ones who gloat about their own achievements.

    Not letting go

    Most entrepreneurs struggle at some point or another with letting go. They are used to doing everything themselves. They can be perfectionists and obsessively detailed, or focused on the bigger picture.

    Amazing thing can happen when you let go and hire people to work on your business. You will have time to think, play around, find things you would otherwise miss, bond with your team, check out the competition and meet people.

    Working too hard

    I work all the time. Even when I'm not working, I'm thinking about the business. Yet, I've come to appreciate the importance of getting out and doing things that get my mind off of my work. That's when most of my best ideas come to me.

    Forgetting to enjoy the process

    Last but not least: having fun is key, especially if you are a founder. People in your team will look at you and mirror you; some will emulate you. So if you're miserable, your whole company becomes miserable. If you're upbeat, they will follow.

    Xenios Thrasyvoulou is a passionate PPHer, avid blogger, lover of art, design, and all things quirky and minimal but words in particular; he's also a fan of the uncommon and unconventional and a vintage fanatic who specialises in poking the fire and stirring things up, suffers from an overly curious mind. Xenios is the accidental founder of, and now fully and truly wed to, PeoplePerHour.

    The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

    Read more posts on Young Entrepreneur Council »

    SEE ALSO: 17 Traits That Distinguish The Best Startup CEOs

    Join the conversation about this story »

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