Online Courses Entrepreneurs Will LOVE

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I have always been a big fan of online courses (anytime there is a way to learn new skills, it’s great).  Websites like Coursera, Udemy, Codeacademy, etc. are great for learning some new skills or adding to skills you already have.  Online courses are great for anyone, but I decided to single out entrepreneurs in this post due to the large selection of entrepreneurial courses available.  Below is a list of some courses (via Coursera) entrepreneurs should seriously take a look at:

Entrepreneurship Specialization (University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business)

  • A specialization on Coursera is a group of courses, rather than just one course. The entrepreneurship specialization covers topic such as Developing the Opportunity, Launching Your Start-Up, Growth Strategies, Financing and Probability, and a Capstone Project. Definitely a GREAT option for people looking to learn more about the entrepreneurial process.

How to Finance and Grow Your Startup – Without VC (University of London & London Business School)

  • I believe that every entrepreneur would be interested in learning more about this topic. Growing your startup without venture capital (also known as “boot-strapping”) is crucial for entrepreneurs because it allows them to keep more of their company and ultimately increases the chances of a higher valuation if all goes well.

Successful Negotiation:  Essential Strategies and Skills (University of Michigan)

  • Negotiation is crucial whether you are an entrepreneur or a consumer buying a car. This is yet another essential course that will help you develop an essential entrepreneurial and life skill.

How to Start Your Own Business Specialization (Michigan State University)

  • The setup of this specialization is slightly similar to the specialization offered by Wharton. In this specialization, students will learn about topics like:  Developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset, The Search for Great Ideas, Planning, Structure, Strategy, and a Capstone Project that deals with Action.  If I had to choose between this specialization and the Entrepreneurship Specialization offered by Wharton, I would definitely choose the Wharton one, but this is also a viable option.

Entrepreneurship:  Launching an Innovative Business Specialization (University of Maryland)

  • This is a very in-depth specialization, however there are not too many courses within it. The specialization starts off with covering The First Step in Entrepreneurship and continues on with discussing Idea to Marketplace and Startup Funding for Entrepreneurs.  Lastly, there is an entrepreneurship capstone.  Check this specialization out today!

The above courses and specializations do not have to be take in any particular order.  However, please be aware that many of these courses do have specific dates in which they run.  Start going on Coursera, Udemy, Codeacademy, etc. today and start developing key skills to become an excellent entrepreneur.

 

 

 

Creativity and Follow-Through

Introduction

Ever wonder how you can become more creative?  Ever had an idea? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then it is possible for you to expand upon your creativity.  One of the perhaps most obvious ways to become more creative and come up with more ideas is through writing down ALL of your ideas.  Many of you might be saying to yourself, “Not all ideas I come up with are good though, do I still write them down?”  The answer is YES!  Writing down ideas helps you continuously come up with new ideas.  Some of those ideas might be duds, but the more you right them down, the chances increase of you jotting down a great idea someday (like most things it’s a numbers game).

Keep A Journal

About a year or two ago, I began writing down ALL of my ideas that I had every day.  Some days I would write down about 4 or 5 ideas and other days I might have written down no ideas.  The number of ideas that I would come up with in a given day certainly fluctuated (which is okay).  I keep all of my ideas in a journal and if for some reason I did not have the journal, I would jot down the idea on a scrap piece of paper, put it in my pocket and transfer the idea into the journal at a later time.  This is very important!  Use a journal or a notebook to keep all of your ideas in.  It is important to at least do this to record your “initial” ideas.  If for some reason you want to utilize your computer to start going into “in-depth” detail on your idea, then feel free to use whatever you would like at that point (Ex. computer, tablet, etc.).  The more that you write down your ideas on paper, the more that you will start to see how you will often begin thinking “outside-the-box.”  I really surprised myself with how many ideas I was coming up with when I continuously began writing them down.

Keeping With It

Like most things, it is important to note that you should “keep with it.”  Do not slack and not write down any ideas for days at a time (unless truly no ideas come to mind).  There was a time when I slacked writing down ideas for a few days and then a few days became a week or two.  At that point, you can almost feel yourself not being as creative as often as you probably would have been if you stuck with writing down your ideas.  Repetition is key!  If you want to have a nice free throw shot in basketball, what do you do?  You stand in front of a hoop and take shot after shot (repetition) until the shot is as close to perfection as possible (because nothing is truly perfect).  Once I began writing down ALL of my ideas again, I noticed my creativity began to rise once again (not sure if this is a proven scientific fact, but I believe so much that writing down ideas DOES increase creativity and idea volume).

Follow-Through

Once again, another basketball analogy; if you want to ensure the basket will go in the hoop how can you increase the probability that it will go in?  One of the acceptable answers is “you follow-through.”  Do not just write down all of your ideas and just leave them sitting in your notebook.  Be sure to take a look at these ideas (the duds and the intriguing ones) and sift through them a few times per week, month or year.  Place a star next to the ones that seem like they could become something.  If placing a star next to the good ideas is of no interest to you, then highlight them (do whatever you want to distinguish those ideas as the best ideas in your journal).  After you sift through many ideas, take a look at the good ideas and sift through them again at some point.  Pick 3-5 of the best ideas and start heavily looking into them.  If they resemble an idea that is already out there, then market research will probably be one of the next steps.  However, if after researching an idea it seems like your idea is very unique, it is probably time to start doing some validation (follow the lean startup method).

Conclusion

Ideas are great.  I personally believe that we need more ideas in the world.  If Steve Jobs, Elon Musk or Bill Gates did not come up with brilliant ideas and follow-through with them, where would the world be today?  I do not even want to think about that answer.  Start writing down your ideas today and increase your creativity and volume of ideas.

Books Every Entrepreneur Needs To Read (this list is very venture capital heavy)

If it has not become 100% clear to everyone; I am obsessed with startups.  I like learning about ideas and how they turned into companies or products.  It always interested me what each person’s path was when creating their company.  That is part of reason why I created this blog, to share my obsession with the world and write articles about entrepreneurship and early-stage startup companies before they become well-known.  Below are a few of the books that I highly recommend entrepreneurs and people studying entrepreneurship should read (all of these books can be found on Amazon).

The Lean Startup – Eric Ries

I am in the process of reading this book now and let me just say, it is hard to put it down.  Without even being halfway through the book, I can already say that this is one of my favorite books ever!  Every entrepreneur should become well-versed with what is described as “lean thinking.”  Lean thinking or manufacturing was what really allowed Toyota to take off many years ago.  In this book, Eric Ries describes his own startup experiences and how (and why) lean thinking needs to be used.  Memorize this phrase – “Build-Measure-Learn.”  This phrase is one of the things that Eric Ries heavily discussing throughout the book (thus far at least).  I cannot wait to finish reading this book so that I can continue to learn a lot more about lean thinking.  Since I have just started the book, I can’t elaborate too much on its content (also I do not want to give anything away) – so go to Amazon and start reading this book today!

Venture Capital For Dummies – Nicole Gravagna & Peter K. Adams

I know what you are probably thinking…the name makes you not want to read this book.  However, the only thing dumb about this book is that you may have not read it yet.  Although this book is more of a reference than an interesting read, I still highly recommend it.  It gives a good, basic understanding of venture capital and can be very useful before reading more complex books that discuss venture capital and the process of raising money in general.

Mastering The VC Game – Jeffrey Bussang

Another great book for entrepreneurs to read is Jeffrey Bussang’s book, Mastering the VC Game.  Jeffrey Bussang has been on both sides of the field.  Early on in his career he was a successful entrepreneur and now he is a successful venture capitalist.  In the book, Jeffrey discusses his own entrepreneurial experiences and also uses conversations with successful startup founders and management to explain how they succeeded.  Some of the founders and mangers he speaks about in the book consist of Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Christopher Westphal – Co-founder of Sirtris, as well as Gail Goodman – Former CEO of Constant Contact.  To learn more about this book, get it and start reading!

Term Sheets & Valuations – Alex Wilmerding

A lot of you are probably saying “Wow, this list includes a lot of venture capital books and not many about entrepreneurship.”  If you are thinking this, then you are probably correct.  The reason I place so much emphasis on venture capital-related books is because I feel that it is one of the most confusing parts of the whole entrepreneur process.  This book is a pretty dry read, but one that is so important.  It discusses the whole process of term sheets and valuations, thus allowing entrepreneurs to feel more confident when they are discussing them with venture capitalists.  Definitely read this book when you have a chance.

Honorable Mentions (books I haven’t read yet – but will read soon!)

The $100 Startup – Chris Guillebeau

Zero to One – Peter Thiel

Innovation and Entrepreneurship – Peter F. Drucker

The Startup Playbook – David Kidder

…and many more!

 

I suggest that you use Goodreads to organize what books you want to read – it links with Amazon and makes it easy to purchase books when the time comes.  Get out there and start reading more about entrepreneurship!

4 Productivity Tools You Should Be Using

There is nothing like a short and simple article to start off a Wednesday morning.  The following tools are perfect for entrepreneurs looking to become more productive, thus giving you more time to do the more important things that need to be completed.

Calendly

Calendly is a great tool to help manage your calendar.  I use Calendly to show people when I am free during the week.  It allows users to send out a link to people, which will show them your availability.  The platform can have different event settings based on your preferences. I personally use 3 event settings: 15 minute, 30 minute, and 60 minute meetings.  Perhaps the best part about the platform is how easy it is to setup.  It only took me a few minutes to have my calendar settings setup properly.  Now when I am setting up a meeting with someone, I just send them the link to my Calendly page and have them pick a time when I am free.  I love how simple and convenient it is!

Trello

Trello is considered a project management tool, but it can be used for many things.  I use Trello to list things that I need to do during the day, week or month.  It allows you to create cards and place them into different folders.  The way that I setup my Trello consisted of having 3 categories: To Do’s, In Progress, and Completed To Do’s.  Once I start a task, I drag the card into the In Progress section.  It is so simple to use and really helps me prioritize what needs to be done.  Trello allows you to add due dates, add attachments, checklists, labels, etc.  Once again, users will love this because of how quick and easy it is to setup the way that you want.

Streak

Streak is more of a sales tool, but I personally use it just to stay prioritized.  The tool meshes with Gmail and allows me to snooze emails (have them pop up at a later time), send delayed emails (with ease), track emails, etc.  Streak is clean and easy for anyone to use.

UberConference

I recently started using this platform and I am sure glad that I did.  This allows me to send links to people, in which I will have a conference call with.  It gives users 2 options: Users can call in using a number that is provided or they can join the call from a computer using the link provided. The platform records the call and lets the listener know that the call is being recorded.  After the call is complete, it sends you an email of how long each person on the call spoke for and it also sends you a copy of the audio.  UberConference is great when I am in the car and can’t take notes, but still want to be on the call and have it recorded so I can go over it at a later time.

There is a pattern with all of these tools.  The tools above all have very in-depth free plans for users that are on a budget.  If a user is looking for a reasonable paid plan with tons of features, then these tools are great for them as well.

 

Enjoy and don’t forget to follow @StartupConvos

 

Have a great day!