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!

Meta Search – Startup Profile

IntroductionMeta Search logo

Meta Search is “Google for your files.”  It allows users to search their desktop, Google Drive, Dropbox, Gmail, Evernote, and everything else the way that they would search the Internet.  The company was founded by Jason Briggs in 2014 and is located in Boston, MA.

The Product

Meta Search screenshot

Our Conversation

Jason and I recently had a conversation about his company, Meta Search.  It was great to be able to learn more about Jason’s company and the problem that it addresses.  How many of you have used several platforms to save work at some point during college or work?  If your hand is not up, then you really need to start using more forms of technology to your advantage.  Drives like Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and your desktop are great for saving documents, but what happens when you have so many files and you forget where a certain document is?  Nothing really comes to mind at first, but Meta Search is here to save the day!  Meta Search will allow you to search for documents amongst all the platforms that you use to save things (This will come in handy!).  In this conversation Jason discusses his company and how it came about.

High-Level Description

Meta Search is the Google Search Engine for your files.  It allows you to search for a file in a few seconds.  One of the benefits of Meta Search is that it allows users to find a file on numerous drives.  Let’s say you don’t remember the exact name of the file you are looking for (don’t worry it’s okay); Meta Search allows you to search by whatever you remember about that file (who you shared it with, etc.).

Idea Generation

Two or three summers ago, Jason was talking with his mother.  Jason’s mother was discussing how she was thinking about going back to school (she’s a teacher). She began thinking about all of the files she currently had on her desktop (over 350+ files).  It was frustrating because she could not find what she wanted.  It was at this point Jason decided to build a simple way of finding files by preview, favorite folders, etc.  It would help users have a better way of organizing their files.  Jason ended up taking the idea to a business plan competition.  The way of organizing files that Jason had built was great, but his mother could still not find things.  Jason decided to build an excellent file search, which would improve the way people search for files.

Competition

Before speaking with Jason, I was unaware of any competitors in this space (besides your basic desktop search).  Jason said that there are companies that do parts of what they do, but there doesn’t seem to be a one-stop shop at this time that does it all like Meta Search.  Some competitors you have probably heard of consist of your basic desktop search.  According to Jason, Windows currently has a poor quality search and Mac is getting better, but both only allow for local file searches.  If all of a user’s files were in one drive, the user would have less of a problem, but the search quality would still be poor.

Entrepreneurial Influence

Jason always considered himself to have an “out of the box mind set.”  He was the type of person that didn’t conform to any set of standards and always enjoyed making decisions.  After speaking with Jason and learning more about him, it is clear that he has always had that “entrepreneurial mindset.”

Name Generation

The name for the first program he created was called Tidy.  It was meant to mean “clean your desktop up.”  He kept thinking every night what he should name this platform.  He eventually landed on Meta, because he believes his search platform is much better than the other search and cloud search options. The funny thing about Meta, according to Jason, was that people either loved this name or hated it.  Personally, I like the name. I think it is short, sweet, and simple which are all things that often help when building a brand.

Entrepreneurial Challenges

Jason expressed that he faced three main challenges when starting Meta Search.  The 3 challenges consisted of:

  • Building a great team – Jason explained that “finding talented technical team members, is surprisingly difficult.” However, the issue of finding talented technical team members got a little easier, as a result of Meta Search dealing with interesting technical problems.  Since the technical problems that Meta Search is solving are interesting, Jason said the company has been able to attract some great engineers!
  • Raising an angel round – This was a difficult issue since it took longer than Jason expected. Meta Search was eventually successful, due to the fact that the problem they were trying to solve, resonated well with everyone on a personal level, including investors.
  • Opinions – Jason discussed that “everyone has a different opinion on where we (Meta Search) should be headed and one of the challenges is incorporating the best feedback, but also staying true to our vision.”

Conclusion

I believe that many people out there will really enjoy Meta Search.  Forget spending countless hours searching for documents on your computer and drives individually and instead use Meta Search to find what you are searching for!  Please be sure to check out Meta Search’s site at www.meta.sc and follow them on Twitter @metasearch

*StartupConvos has no investment in this company

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!

Metabrew – Startup Profile

Metabrew_Logo-01

Introduction

Metabrew is “is a ready-made, delicious, coffee-based drink that combines caffeine with healthy oils and superfoods to give you a steady stream of energy throughout the day, without the jitters or the crash of coffee or canned energy drinks. Instead, it will leave you feeling clear-minded and focused, happier and healthier. Its creamy nutty flavor, with hints of coffee and cacao, is exclusively made out of the best organic ingredients. It is naturally sugar-, and dairy-free, Paleo, Bulletproof and Vegan friendly.” The company was founded by Romy Raad and Natalie Neumann (or as their website refers to them – Rad and Neu).  Metabrew is based in New York.  The two began working on Metabrew while attending graduate school; beginning with research on how food can help someone perform their best and that in turn resulted in leveraging different ingredients to create this unique beverage.  After extensive testing and experimenting, Rad and Neu decided to develop Metabrew as a startup – following their graduation in May 2015.  To learn more about Rad and Neu, please visit their personal site: http://www.radandneu.com/

The Product

metabrew product

Our Conversation

Recently, I spoke with Natalie Neumann, Co-founder of Metabrew.  We discussed several topics that related to her background and company.  The topics we discussed consisted of: High-level Description of Metabrew, Idea Generation, Competition, Entrepreneurial Influence, Name Generation, and Entrepreneurial Challenges.

High-Level Description

The description of the business and product was discussed in the introduction.  However, there are more details to the product that Natalie was nice enough to share.  According to Natalie, “there are 2 servings in each bottle. One serving has the amount of caffeine of a cup of tea but half the calories of a cappuccino. The result though is this amazing steady feel-good energy. ONE BOTTLE of Metabrew replaces all your coffee needs for the entire day, keeps you running through your full/busy schedule, helps you focus, fuels your workout, and even cures your hangover.”

Idea Generation

As mentioned earlier in the article, Rad and Neu met while conducting their masters’ program.  Then, the two started experimenting to see what individuals could eat to perform their best.  The idea of Metabrew kind of spiraled up from there, since many people began signing up to help with tests of the healthy-mixture.  The interesting part of the Metabrew recipe was that it was part of the breakfast offering for people.  The idea focused on starting the day off on a strong note (since breakfast is the most important meal of the day).

Competition

When Metabrew started there was little competition in this space, according to Natalie.  However, over the last year or so there have been other startups working on beverages that can compete.  A competitor that has made a name for itself in this space for some time now is Bulletproof.  Natalie does not consider Bulletproof a director competitor though, since they do not offer ready-made products.  Both companies are creating a dietary lifestyle.

Entrepreneurial Influence

Natalie didn’t really consider herself an entrepreneur until she started researching the idea of the healthy-mixture.  Sure, she was an industrial designer who loved building and taking apart things from an early age, but entrepreneurship never came up until later in her life.  She originally went to school in Germany and then came to the United States to obtain her Masters (good thing she came here or perhaps Metabrew would have never been born!).

Name Generation

One of the most interesting parts of our conversation was how she and her founder landed on the name Metabrew.  I really like the name of the company so it was great to hear the meaning behind it.  It turns out that the name was chosen based on the Greek word Meta, which is a “word-forming element meaning 1. after, behind, 2. changed, altered, 3. higher, beyond.”  Natalie really liked this word because it basically stands for “beyond.”  She likes this term because she wants her company to empower customers and feels that Meta reflects that the best.

Entrepreneurial Challenges

Every entrepreneur faces challenges at some point in their journey (if they don’t then something is probably wrong).  It was interesting to hear how Natalie had to deal with some of the common problems that many new entrepreneurs face.  Some of her initial issues or hurdles consisted of:

  • Legal process
  • Operations
  • Producing a product
  • Licenses
  • Finding a good team
  • Learning things quickly

These were some of the key issues that Natalie and the Metabrew team had to face.  It just so happens that many new entrepreneurs eventually have to jump over these same hurdles as well to make their companies or products come to fruition.

Conclusion

It will be interesting to see where Metabrew is 2-3 years from now.  Hopefully within the next year or so, I can catch up with Natalie again and see what has changed since we last spoke.  In the meantime, be on the lookout for this healthy coffee beverage! Please check out Metabrew’s site at http://www.themetabrew.com/ and follow them on Twitter @themetabrew and Instagram @themetabrew

*StartupConvos has no investment in this company

 

Sumu – Startup Profile

Introductionsumu logo

Sumu helps users locate and obtain a great place to live at the best price (in the Boston area).  The platform is able to do this through things like financing, social verification modern UX, and secure deposit transfers, according to the company’s LinkedIn page.  Sumu is located in Boston, MA and was founded in 2014 by Daniel Tewfik and Ethan Setnik.

The Platform

sumu image

Our Conversation

On Friday, March 25th I was able to discuss Sumu with one of its co-founders, Daniel Tewfik.  Right from the start of the conversation, I could tell how passionate Daniel is for Sumu.  It always gets me really excited about a product or service, when one of the founders absolutely loves what they are doing.  History shows that when a founder is heavily into their startup it can often mean future success for the company (although there are numerous other factors that play a role in that as well).

High-Level Description

Sumu is a platform that helps people find housing in Boston, according to Daniel.  It helps people find better housing by utilizing:

  • User’s needs (what does the user want?)
  • Better analytics & tools
  • Nice and clean platform

Idea Generation

How did Sumu even come about?  Daniel was looking for an apartment a while back and was using things like Craigslist to see what was available.  His best friend was looking to buy a home so there wasn’t really any good options for him.  As Daniel put it, the whole process was a “horrible experience.”  Daniel felt almost taken advantage of during the whole process.  It was around this time that Daniel and Ethan thought they could make this process much better.  Daniel and Ethan began learning a lot about this space and eventually dove into business.  Daniel is proud to say that Sumu has been in business for over a year now.

Competition

One of the interesting things about Sumu is that it can technically belong within several different industries.  Overall, there are thousands of competitors in the real estate industry.  However, Daniel said there are many different types of players within this industry.  These players consist of:

  • Technology companies
  • Old-school companies
  • Brokers (this type particularly seems to do a poor job of finding housing for people – according to Daniel)

Daniel feels Sumu has a competitive advantage in this space by offering users a tech-enabled, housing solution with a “CRM experience.”  As mentioned earlier, there are thousands of competitors in the housing industry, however there are only hundreds or less within the technology-housing industry, according to Daniel.  One of the interesting things with Sumu is that it is an inclusive housing app.  The platform will deal with anyone who is looking for help.

Entrepreneurial Influence

Daniel has always thought of himself as an entrepreneur and so has his co-founder, Ethan.  He said when he was about 8 years old, he used to work his neighborhood.  Daniel would go driveway to driveway offering to shovel driveways.  He would never set a price point for his shoveling services, but instead would offer a “pay what you were comfortable with” pricing model.  He continued his entrepreneurial ways and when it was time for leaves to be raked, he was there with his rake ready to go.  Daniel also said that during college he tried diving into a few ventures as well.  Daniel and Ethan are pretty similar in regards to the fact that they like to build a product that solves a problem.  As Daniel put it, “Ethan is the brains and I am the legs.”  I found that quote and way of thinking to be quite interesting.

Name Generation

The whole conversation up to this point was going swimmingly, but this section in particular really seemed to interest me (I always love hearing where a company’s name comes from).  Every year, Daniel along with his friends and family go on a trip in New Hampshire.  Daniel decided that on this trip he was going to utilize his friends and family to try and come up with a name for his latest venture.  He asked them what he and Ethan should name the company. After much thought, no one came up with a name!  Finally, Ethan’s wife, Namika said “the name of your company should be Sumu.”  It turns out that Sumu in Japanese means to live or to reside.  Daniel and Ethan liked this name and its meaning and thought the “live” part meshed perfectly with the platform since it dealt with where people would find places to live.  Another positive that seemed to come out of naming the company Sumu was that the company has really good SEO.  If someone were to search Sumu – it would be the first thing to come up.

Entrepreneurial Challenges

It is always intriguing to hear about the challenges that entrepreneurs are facing or have faced in the past.  Challenges are needed to be able to create a great product or service so it always interested me to hear about other challenges entrepreneurs face (this way there are no surprises – the more challenges I am aware of – the more challenges I might be able to solve).  Daniel said that when he and Ethan first started Sumu, they faced a lot of challenges.  He said “people see a certain sexiness to entrepreneurship; as if being an entrepreneur is like being a rock star, but what they don’t see are the late nights, high intensity, high volume, etc.” Since being an entrepreneur means likely not getting much sleep amongst other things; one thing is for certain – you need to love it!  Daniel went on to elaborate more about entrepreneurship and how it is not really taught in college or education in general (which is a shame in my opinion – entrepreneurship is something that should be taught as early as grade school because it develops creativity at a young age).  Daniel also discussed how catch-22s are common.  According to Daniel, “You can’t get money without users and you can’t get users without money.”  This is one of the better statements I have heard lately and that is mostly because it is so true when you stop and think about it.  Our conversation began to wrap up with Daniel adding one more challenge to the list and that was that “building a beautiful product is tough.”  It is certainly something many tech-entrepreneurs out there can agree with.

Conclusion

If Daniel and Ethan’s passion for Sumu continues, the chances of Sumu becoming a well-known company in the tech-housing industry will definitely go up.  It was a pleasure to have a nice conversation with Daniel about Sumu and entrepreneurship.  Hopefully we will touch base in the near-future.  Please be sure to check out Sumu’s site at https://sumu.io/ and follow them on Twitter @SumuApp

*StartupConvos has no investment in this company

 

Welcome!

Hello Everyone,

During my senior year of high school, I became very interested in early and late-stage startup companies.  I always felt as though I had a knack for spotting great and interesting companies early on in their business life cycle.  In high school, I gave presentations on Tesla and Terrafugia– discussing how innovative the two companies were and how one day they could be big.  The only thing that would have made spotting those two companies early even better, would have been if I actually invested in them.  Unfortunately, at the age of 17 or 18 years old – I wasn’t in the best position financially to invest.

While in college, my interest in startups and more established companies was still present.  However, since school, sports, and work took much of my time; I didn’t have as much time to spend on researching new and innovative companies.  Towards the end of my senior year in college, the time and interest in early-stage and late-stage companies came back in full force.  Except this time, I began researching startups on AngelList, Product Hunt, BetaList, etc.  Not only did I read about these companies, I began reaching out to many of them to speak with their founders to learn more about them, their thought process when starting the business, and how big they think their business could be.  It interested me so much so, that after several months of thinking it over, I decided to finally start this blog; which I would use to interview startups that interest me.

I hope you all like the interviews and learn more about potential “big name” companies!