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How young entrepreneurs can pave the road for future investment

(Business Finance) Young and new entrepreneurs can do quite a bit to prepare for a potential investment, and we’re not talking about preparing a pitch.

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“How did you get them to invest?”

Last week I was back in my hometown of Medford, OR. It’s one of the best kept secrets anywhere. After catching up with a friend, he asked, “How did you find your investors, and how did you get them to invest?” It’s a question that I get a lot.

Here’s my answer: be someone worth knowing. I don’t know all the secrets to this, but I can share a few things that I’ve done to make myself someone that other people want to know.

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Do amazing things

If you want to be someone worth knowing, you have to do things above and beyond. I stay in touch with some people because we’re friends and I’m interested in their lives. I keep in touch with other people because they’re going places and I want to make sure we’re friends when they get there. If you’re doing Netflix marathons and partying it up regularly, it will be difficult to be someone worth knowing. Use your younger years to work your tail off.

No matter your job, be the best

My first job during college was as a quality assurance intern. I knew that I wanted to get into tech and this seemed to be my only option at the time. Most interns at this company were watching YouTube videos and Facebook while our boss wasn’t looking (which was most of the time).

At one point, the company was close to running out of money. Our company fired almost everyone in the quality assurance department because we had to downsize. At the last hour, the company received more funding, but they decided to keep only one person from the quality assurance department. I was fortunate to be that person.

As a freshman college student they made me the manager and asked me if I could handle it with my school schedule. I told them I could.

If you don’t know how to do something, do it. In today’s world, I believe you can learn just about anything if you work hard enough. The resources are everywhere. When asked if I could swing managing with school, I had no clue what to do, but I said I could and I worked like a crazy man during work and outside of work to get it done. Failure just wasn’t an option.

Ask for more

While working full time and going to school full time, I made it clear to my boss that I knew my future wasn’t in quality assurance. I needed to start developing other skill sets for my future career.

He agreed and put me on track to get into product management with the understanding that I’d initially have to do that work in addition to my role managing our quality assurance department. I jumped all over the opportunity and went into product management full-time within a few months.

Doing these things will help you be someone worth knowing. Successful people like knowing successful people.

When you approach investors, and your previous boss at a phenomenal tech company wants to invest in your company then you’ve done something right. It’s going to be difficult to have a serious conversation with a 50 year old investor when you, as a 25 year old just out of college, are talking about how you’ve got this great idea and are currently a barista at Starbucks with no track record of significant successes – Starbucks baristas, please prove me wrong!

Network, network, network

Once you are someone worth knowing, your network will pay off big time. Case and point: Last October, I was connected with an investor. We had a 30 minute conversation about my company.

He then said, “Jordan, to be honest, I was going to invest unless you turned out to be a complete idiot. Mike and I have made a lot of money together. If he sends me a deal and speaks highly of the entrepreneur, I do it.”

That same investor brought in another investor that put in money without me ever having to speak with him. That’s the power of great investors and a great network.

Great networks start with little ones

When I first moved to Austin in January of this year, I literally knew three people here, two were family and one was a friend from high school. Before I left Utah, I asked around in my network for connections in Austin. Only one had any connections. That person sent eight intro emails.

From those eight emails I met with over 25 people and secured funding from two of the best firms in Austin. You grow a network like you grow a business, one day at a time, but it has to be a priority.

An archaic but useful move

My last point on networking: Consider a handwritten note. This may sound archaic, but when it comes to these rich people that have everything, you’ll find that you have little to offer that they don’t already have. A handwritten note shows class. A handwritten thank you note expresses gratitude that a text message just can’t convey.

Put in the effort first

From what I’ve seen, investors want to see entrepreneurs that have already put a ton of effort into their business before approaching them for money – no, 20 hours on a slide presentation doesn’t count.

Investors will ask you hard questions. It’s okay to say “You know what, I’ve never considered that before. I’ll research it and get back to you.” Of course, you can’t say that to every question they ask.

You need to know your industry, competitors, revenue models, businesses that have failed in this space, differentiation, market size, marketing channels, sales channels, and more.

You better have your MVP

In addition, for most tech companies, you need to have at least a MVP (minimum viable product) with some traction when approaching investors. Investors today want to see traction. To be honest, if you can’t hack together a product that you claim to be passionate about, then I don’t think you should be starting a business, and I think you’ll struggle to raise the capital you’re looking for.

The takeaway

That’s my advice to young entrepreneurs on what you can start doing now that will win you the investment when the time is right. If you get started with these principles early, I believe you will find the fundraising process to be much easier.

Most recently Jordan was the Co-founder and CEO at Unbill - a FinTech startup that was acquired by Q2ebanking (QTWO) in January of 2017. Before that, Jordan was an early employee and product manager at NextPage which sold to Proofpoint (PFPT) in December of 2011. Jordan is happily married and has 3 children.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. chrisshouse

    October 31, 2014 at 10:22 am

    It is wonderful to see the excitement and passion and some very good advice from the younger generation.

  2. Jordan Wright

    October 31, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Thanks chrisshouse. Appreciate your comment and compliment!

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Opinion Editorials

If you’re not constantly hustling, are you even living?

(EDITORIAL) If you aren’t hustling on the side, at night, while you eat, and in your sleep, are you really even a person in 2018?

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Back in the day, the idea of “hustling” was something of a negative concept (think Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy). Now, if you’re not constantly hustling, and living that hustle life are you even living? If you don’t Rise and Grind, are you even a real person?

In this fast-paced, “I want it now” society, the assumption is that because we have 24 hours in a day, we must use every second of that time on one side hustle or another to make a few extra bucks, otherwise we’re not being productive. As Guru JP explains below, “being busy means you’re being productive. You do your best work when you’re always working. More quantity equals better quality.”

This has become one of the beliefs of entrepreneurialism: if you’re not working on your startup while Uber-ing at night and walking dogs via Wag on your lunchbreak, you’re not hustling and you’ll never be successful.

One important key of the hustle is to document how busy you are on social media, or else it’s not actually happening. Sharing a daily “rise and grind” pic on Instagram is the only way to appropriately start a manic day of hustle.

Despite what research would say, face-to-face communication is ineffective and computer mediated communication, or communication through text with no context or nonverbal cues, is the best way to relay messages. Also, if you’re hustling 24/7, there’s no way you have time for an in-person meeting when you’re on a FaceTime meeting while hosting a G-Chat team meeting simultaneously. I mean, come on.

The way that you know this is legit is that the hustle is referred to as a “game” which is how you should always describe your career path. Pople like volunteers in impoverished countries, single parents working ONLY two jobs, and people who built a business from the ground up and decided to only stay with that business, have no idea what hustling truly is (especially since none of it was documented on Snapchat).

And, the benefits of constant hustling are immense! You have unlimited time off and can take an unpaid vacation to anywhere in the world – just as long as there’s WiFi.

With hustling, you have so many options on how to make some extra scratch and start six different podcasts that all have a listener of one. Why wouldn’t you want to join this amazing idealism of entrepreneurship? Also, if you’re still reading, you’ve lost the game. Shouldn’t you be on to something else by now?!

Author’s note: In case you couldn’t tell, this entire article is incredibly facetious. Our COO wrote a popular editorial, rejecting the idea of hustling, and I completely agree with her on that. Constantly working to the point of exhaustion is, well, inefficient. Work on one thing, succeed, and then go from there. Ugh.

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Opinion Editorials

The strong case for Texas being technology’s next frontier

(EDITORIAL) Everyone loves Tacos and tech in Austin, but Texas has far more to offer – here’s how the various cities will create the next mecca for the tech world.

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Despite what the movies have told you, Texas is not the place you think it is. Sure, we’ve got cowboys, brisket, and a lot of BBQ, but the Lone Star State is much, much more than clichés. Over the last few decades, Texas has been gaining steam as one of the premier places to live in the country.

While yes, people love a good chicken fried steak or are always looking for an excuse to sneak over to their favorite grocery store, HEB, Texans aren’t sitting idly by when it comes to tech – they’re grabbing the industry by the horns.

Thanks to the state’s business-friendly tax breaks, a year-round predominantly warm weather climate, and a strong state culture, the popularity of Texas makes a lot of sense: Houston, which was once considered a third tier city is about to overthrow Chicago as the third largest in the nation, while also being lauded as our most diverse city.

Let’s repeat it, for all the people in the back: Houston, Texas is more diverse than Los Angeles, or New York.

Affordable neighborhoods are popping up across Houston, which are attracting immigrants from every culture looking for their slice of the American Dream. Houston is seeing explosive growth and a cultural shift away from being a town built on strictly fossil fuels, but now, startups, tech, and umbrella industries are finding their niche in the state’s biggest urban area. Only New York is home to more public companies.

Houston’s medical sector ranks with some of the top care in the world. And with those elite doctors, come the innovative pharmaceutical and medical companies, and the tech that supports them.

When you look at the top twenty metro areas to live right now in the country, four of those cities are in Texas. While some of those reasons are affordability and the signature Texas heat, the state is seeing new residents thanks also to a healthy job market. Since 2010, Texas has added 12.6% more residents, double lapping California’s growth of 6.1%.

Texas’ workforce is bigger than 46 states in the union total population and has doubled in job growth, productivity, and new deals are being struck daily. Texas’ impact on the tech sector is indisputable: Texas has exported more technology than California, again.

Deep in the heart

Startup culture is alive and well in Austin, but while some of our startups are finally beginning to draw VC attention away from Silicon Valley, we know how to slug it out in the land of the bootstrapped beginnings. If your company can thrive in Austin, with so many talented people, and a lot of great ideas, you can make it anywhere (sorry New York, for stealing your platitude).

Austin is still a developing story. As enterprises are opening offices in the capital city, this is helping VCs along the coasts see Austin’s potential as a hub of ideas. The city is still behind the bay area for risk-taking ventures, but given the current climate of investors, there’s a sea change happening.

Giants like Apple, Atlassian, Oracle, Dell, Amazon, Samsung, Facebook, and Google are all occupying space in buildings across the Austin skyline. Enterprise companies are investing heavily into the Austin market, and there are zero signs of a slow down. If you need further proof, just look at the traffic on any of the city’s major highways during rush hour.

Dallas is making a hard play at attracting the top-tiered companies as well. When Amazon head honcho Jeff Bezos announced put out a call for bids for Amazon’s HQ2, many cities made a play for the site, but now that the final cities have been chosen, both Austin and Dallas both stand to score the shopping monolith.

Oculus, TopGolf, and startups like Veryable, Dead Soxy, and Artist Uprising are attracting some of the brightest minds to the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area.

South Texas joins the party

San Antonio is quietly building a case for a burgeoning tech scene, too. It’s not quite there yet on the enterprise or startup level, but the city is widely known for one thing – cybersecurity. Outside of Washington D.C., San Antonio is known as “Cyber Security City USA” to folks in the black hat scene.

San Antonio logged the most substantial growth of all of the Texas cities, adding over 250,000 new residents in 2017 alone. Thanks to a robust military presence, San Antonio is quietly attracting more and more security-minded firms, a feat that’s unique in comparison to what the rest of the state is offering. Military-friendly banking institution USAA is headquartered in San Antonio, as is grocery chain HEB, and Whataburger, with all three companies investing heavily into user experience and mobile applications (aka technology).

If Amazon decides on HQ2 in either Dallas or Austin, that will signal a 200,000+ person addition to the state’s population and economy. That’s a lifetime investment into either city, wherever Bezos, and his board chooses. Coupling that possibility with the already strong presence of Southwest Airlines, Texas Instruments, and just about every major gas corporation, it’s easy to see why these moves are a huge deal. For the latter, it’s also important to note that every sector is bolstering their websites, their social media footprint, everything that can be done on a laptop is happening – one new job at a time.

As the tech scene develops and changes from a strong west coast-driven model, Texas is benefiting from the change. Many Californians are moving to Texas, which is an article to itself, but one thing remains: the Texas economy has never been stronger, and it’s only improving. The story of tech in Texas is a continual work in progress.

We’re not going to overtake California next year, but we’re making a stand, and people are noticing. If the current economic growth is an indicator, the famous Dairy Queen saying is potent with it’s accuracy: “That’s What I Like About Texas.”

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Opinion Editorials

How one podcast is giving a voice to veterans everywhere

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Veteran and former Paralympic skier begins volunteer podcast as a way to give voice to fellow veterans.

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“Tough times don’t last, tough people do,” is the mantra that Joel Hunt lives his life by. As an Army veteran, who was injured during his third deployment, Hunt has seen his fair share of tough times.

After suffering a traumatic brain injury and partial paralyzation in his left leg, Hunt left the army and was in the care of his parents. They encouraged him to try Paralympic skiing as part of his rehabilitation.

While he was initially against the idea, he eventually warmed to it and wound up skiing in the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. This accomplishment helped lead him to the path he’s on now, which is dedicated to helping fellow veterans.

Hunt is now the host of The H-Train Show, a podcast he produces in his Denver, Colorado home. His work on the podcast is done strictly through volunteering, and is dedicated to giving veterans a place to communicate.

“It’s something that helps keep me busy and makes me feel good,” says Hunt. “[It helps] to erase the past.” The podcast airs on Military Brotherhood Radio and has had a variety of guests – all dedicated to the significance of veterans.

In addition to the podcast, Hunt also assists veterans through organizations such as Project Sanctuary.

Hunt recently co-hosted an event with former Denver Broncos wide receiver, Brandon Stokley, that brought ten injured veterans to the Broncos training camp for a meet and greet. Accompanying Hunt at this event was his service dog, Barrett, who Hunt has taught to fold and do laundry.

Hunt explains that all of his efforts are dedicated to helping fellow veterans recover from the tragedies of war. While he says that, due to his brain injury, he does not recall deployment, he still carries the tragedies of losing fellow Army members.

Now, being retired both from combat and skiing, Hunt states, “My heart is to help other veterans avoid the fights for life I did. Not everyone can enjoy all the success I achieved, but at least I can help make the journey less of a struggle.”

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