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Opinion Editorials

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

Facebook fights falsehoods (it’s a false flag)

(EDITORIAL) Facebook has chosen Reuters to monitor its site for false information, but what can one company really do, and why would Facebook only pick one?

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Reuters checks facebook

So Facebook has finally taken a step to making sure fake news doesn’t get spread on it’s platform. Like many a decision from them though, they haven’t been thorough with their venture.

I am a scientifically driven person, I want facts, figures, and evidence to determine what is reality. Technology is a double edged sword in this arena; sure having a camera on every device any person can hold makes it easy to film events, but deepfakes have made even video more questionable.

Many social media platforms have tried to ban deepfakes but others have actually encouraged it. “I’ll believe it when I see it” was the rally cry for the skeptical, but now it doesn’t mean anything. Altering video in realistic ways has destroyed the credibility of the medium, we have to question even what we see with our eyes.

The expansion of the internet has created a tighter communication net for all of humanity to share, but when specific groups want to sway everyone else there isn’t a lot stopping them if they shout louder than the rest.

With the use of bots, and knowing the specifics of a group you want to sway, it’s easy to spread a lie as truth. Considering how much information is known about almost any user on any social media platform, it’s easy to pick targets that don’t question what they see online.

Facebook has been the worst offender in knowing consumer data and what they do with that data. Even if you never post anything political, they know what your affiliation is. If you want to delete that information, it’s hidden in advertising customization.

Part of me is thrilled that Facebook has decided to try and stand against this spread of misinformation, but how they pursued this goal is anything but complete and foolproof.

Reuters is the news organization that Facebook has chosen to fact check the massive amount of posts, photos, and videos that show up on their platform everyday. It makes sense to grab a news organization to verify facts compared to “alternative facts”.

A big problem I have with this is that Reuters is a company, companies exist to make money. Lies sell better than truths. Ask 2007 banks how well lies sell, ask Enron how that business plan worked out, ask the actors from Game of Thrones about that last season.

Since Reuters is a company, some other bigger company could come along, buy them, and change everything, or put in people who let things slide. Even Captain America recognizes this process. “It’s run by people with agendas, and agendas change.” This could either begin pushing falsehoods into Facebook, or destroy Reuters credibility, and bite Facebook in the ass.

If some large group wants to spread misinformation, but can’t do it themselves, why wouldn’t they go after the number one place that people share information?

I really question if Reuters can handle the amount of information flowing through Facebook, remember almost a 3rd of the whole world uses Facebook. 2.45 Billion people will be checked by 25,800 employees at Reuters? I can appreciate their effort, but they will fail.

Why did Facebook only tag one company to handle this monumental task? If you know that many people are using your platform, and such a limited number of people work for the company you tasked with guarding the users, why wouldn’t you tag a dozen companies to tackle that nigh insurmountable number of users?

I think it’s because Facebook just needs that first headline “Facebook fights falsehoods”. That one line gets spread around but the rest of the story is ignored, or not thought about at all. If there is anything Facebook has learned about the spread of fake information on their platform, it’s how to spread it better.

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Opinion Editorials

Will shopping for that luxury item actually lower your quality of life?

(EDITORIAL) Want to buy yourself a pick-me-up? Have you thought of all the ramifications of that purchase? Try to avoid splurging on it.

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In an era of “treat-yo-self,” the urge to splurge is real. It doesn’t help that shopping – or what ends up being closer to impulse shopping – provides us with a hit of dopamine and a fleeting sense of control. Whether your life feels like it’s going downhill or you’ve just had a bad day, buying something you want (or think you want) can seem like an easy fix.

Unfortunately, it might not be so great when it comes to long-term happiness.

As you might have already guessed, purchasing new goods doesn’t fall in line with the minimalism trend that’s been sweeping the globe. Being saddled with a bunch of stuff you don’t need (and don’t even like!) is sure to make your mood dip, especially if the clutter makes it harder to concentrate. Plus, if you’ve got a real spending problem, the ache in your wallet is sure to manifest.

If that seems depressing, I’ve got even more bad news. Researchers at Harvard and Boston College have found yet another way spending can make us more unhappy in the long run: imposter syndrome. It’s that feeling you get when it seems like you’re not as good as your peers and they just haven’t caught on yet. This insecurity often arises in competitive careers, academics and, apparently, shopping.

Now, there’s one big caveat to this idea that purchasing goods will make you feel inferior: it really only applies to luxury goods. I’m talking about things like a Louis Vuitton purse, a top of the line Mercedes Benz, a cast iron skillet from Williams Sonoma (or is that one just me?). The point is, the study found that about 67% of people – regardless of their income – believed their purchase was inauthentic to their “true self.”

And this imposter syndrome even existed when the luxury items were bought on sale.

Does this mean you should avoid making a nice purchase you’ve been saving up for? Not necessarily. One researcher at Cambridge found that people were more likely to report happiness for purchases that fit their personalities. Basically, a die-hard golfer is going to enjoy a new club more than someone who bought the same golf club to try to keep up with their co-workers.

Moral of the story: maybe don’t impulse buy a fancy new Apple watch. Waiting to see if it’s something you really want can save your budget…and your overall happiness.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer got you down? Does it make your job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment without budget worries.

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better equipment, better work

Aside from bringing the boss coffee and donuts for a month before asking, what is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes. In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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