• Data shows that the future of the startup ecosystem is bright

    “It’s an exciting time to be an entrepreneur with a software company.” That’s according to Mark McCaffrey, whose company PricewaterhouseCoopers released a report today revealing that venture capitalists’ investments in software companies in the third quarter of 2013 exceeded $3 billion for the first time in 12 years.

    In addition, the fact that more than half of the quarter’s deals came from early and seed stage deals prompted McCaffrey to state, “There’s credible reason to be optimistic about the future of innovation and the vibrancy of the startup ecosystem.”

    All told, VCs invested $7.8 billion in 1,005 deals in the third quarter of 2013, representing a 12 percent increase in dollars invested and a 5 percent increase in the number of deals over the last quarter, according to the MoneyTree Report from PwC and the National Venture Capital Association, which is based on data provided by Thomson Reuters. McCaffrey predicts that at the current pace of investing, “total venture capital

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  • Lauryn BallesterosMarketing is not for the faint of heart. Ridden with twists, turns, vulnerability and emotional roller coasters - it’s inherently about trying things that may or may not work.

    It’s no wonder that when the opportunity arrives to be different, it feels safer - and if we’re totally honest, easier, to follow the crowd.

    But following the crowd blindly is a horrible marketing strategy (if not a destined-for-failure life strategy, too).

    So - what is the solution for small business owners to market themselves like a pro (without breaking the bank)?

    Below are three ways you can begin to stand out online and position yourself as a respected leader in your space.

    #1 Be vocal.

    Your cheapest and most compelling marketing strategy is to be willing to talk/do/say what other industry leaders are too afraid of to do or say themselves. The world is over saturated with people promoting outdated opinions, safe ideas and boring design all because it won’t rock the boat.

    But for those of you willing to call it

    Read More »from Three Clever Strategies to Market Your Online Business
  • Fundable: A website that generates $1 million a week in startup funding

    Uncharted Play, developer of the Soccket, raised $500,000 on Fundable

    While crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo were transforming the way artists, dancers, filmmakers, game and app developers, and other creative types get project funding, Eric Corl saw a need for a similar platform that could help everyday small businesses raise capital.

    He’d already had experience at a company that connects entrepreneurs with investors online: as an Ohio State University freshman in 2004, Corl had served on the founding team at Startups.co.

    Corl’s idea eight years later was that, similar to the way projects on Kickstarter and other popular platforms reward funders with branded t-shirts, coffee mugs, and cameos in films and books, businesses could raise money by taking pre-orders for products in development. He would provide the platform for offering pre-orders, as well as for conducting equity crowdfunding with accredited investors (individuals with an annual income of $200,000 or a net worth of $1 million). Businesses would offer shares of company stock

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  • Backblaze: Backing up should not be hard to do

    Gleb Budman is one of those techie types who is religious about backing up his computers. So, a few years ago, when he found out how his girlfriend was backing up the gigabytes worth of photos that she stored on her laptop, he was dismayed. “She had a COB flash key,” Budman says. “I said, ‘that’s only 1 gig. There’s no way all your stuff fits on it, you’re probably not backing up to it daily, and you keep it in your laptop bag, so your backup drive would go with the laptop if it were stolen’.”

    It might seem obvious, but most of us are doing even less to protect our data than the woman who became Budman’s wife. Many people he encounters are uncertain whether their data is backed up or not. “There are a lot of things out there that seem like they’re maybe taking care of it,” Budman says. A reporter he spoke to, for instance, had a vague notion that her iMac was automatically backing itself up to iCloud for free. He set her straight: iCloud’s free storage limit is 5 gigs, and it only

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  • Memo to garage inventors who have spent years pitching their brilliant idea but can’t find a retailer willing to put their product on the shelves: pay attention to Eduardo (Eddie) De Arkos and Clark Whitehead, a couple of twenty-something college dropouts from Sonoma County, Calif.

    In 2012, the childhood friends decided to launch a watersports business making colorful pool-toyish inflatable tubes that lock together like jigsaw-puzzle pieces. Within weeks of filing for a utility patent for their unusual invention, which lets groups of friends easily hitch themselves together so they can float rivers and lakes en masse, the pair got a chance to pitch their idea to Big 5 Sporting Goods, one of America’s top sporting goods chains.

    Less than 15 minutes after detailing their product for a Big 5 buyer in Los Angeles, Whitehead and De Arkos were celebrating their first order: a 3,200 unit deal that validated their gamble to start their own company with $6,500 in life savings.

    Whitehead, 23, and

    Read More »from Art of the Pitch: The young entrepreneurs behind Fluzzle interlocking floaties on closing
  • Angie’s (List) lessons for building a great team

    Had her co-founder not noticed her strengths when she was just 22, Angie Hicks might not be the multimillionaire she is today at age 40. Hicks was just out of college when venture capitalist Bill Oesterle offered $50,000 to get her to move from Indianapolis to Columbus, Ohio, and work for a year on his idea to create a neighborhood publication that aggregated reviews of local plumbers, electricians, landscapers and other small service businesses.

    Hicks had interned in Indianapolis for Bill Oesterle the year before she graduated from DePauw. She impressed him as an intern, not just because she was smart, but because, in his words, “She got things done.” He says there wasn’t a job he gave her that she didn’t give it her all – whether it was low level or high. The next year, he had moved to Columbus, Ohio and ran into trouble finding a local HVAC guy and looked around for a service he’d used in Indianapolis. That service didn’t exist in Columbus, and he thought it could work there just as

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  • Talented people are a company’s greatest asset. Especially for a small business that might only have a handful of employees, finding and keeping the right people with the right skills is one of the most important avenues to success. It’s easy to imagine that the best or only way to do that is by offering above-market salaries. But did you know that incorporating programs aimed toward doing social good as part of your business can help promote an engaged workplace culture and make sure that talented people want to work for you?

    Showing your employees that you care about their values will help small businesses to attract and keep the most talented people. By giving your employees the chance to donate to the causes that matter to them and (in some cases) by matching their donations up to a certain point, you show them that their values are important to you. Establishing a company charitable giving program is a way to show employees that your company is not all about the bottom line.

    Read More »from Social Good Could Be Your Business’s Best Partner
  • Live video chat with Mike McGee, Co-Founder of the Starter League

    Here are the highlights from the live chat with Mike McGee

     










































    Mike McGee is the co-founder of The Starter League, an in-person school in Chicago that teaches beginners how to code and design web apps in 3 months. Before The Starter League, Mike's greatest claim to fame was that his High School mascot was a pretzel. He went to Northwestern for four years where he spent two years being a student and two years in student government - miraculously becoming Student Body President Senior year. In Spring 2011, Mike decided to turn down Obama for America (his first real job offer) to co-found The Starter League.

    #StartupLab is a free virtual mentorship program created by The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of hundreds of America’s most successful young entrepreneurs. #StartupLab takes YEC's mission to help more people start successful businesses to the next level by offering millions of entrepreneurs direct access to YEC members through interactive video

    Read More »from Live video chat with Mike McGee, Co-Founder of the Starter League
  • Announcing a live chat with Mike McGee, co-founder of the Starter League

    We will host a live chat with Mike McGee on Thursday, October 17th at Noon PST, 3PM EST, right here on the Young Entrepreneurs blog. Mike McGee is the co-founder of The Starter League, an in-person school in Chicago that teaches beginners how to code and design web apps in 3 months. Before The Starter League, Mike's greatest claim to fame was that his High School mascot was a pretzel. He went to Northwestern for four years where he spent two years being a student and two years in student government - miraculously becoming Student Body President Senior year. In Spring 2011, Mike decided to turn down Obama for America (his first real job offer) to co-found The Starter League.

    #StartupLab is a free virtual mentorship program created by The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of hundreds of America’s most successful young entrepreneurs. #StartupLab takes YEC's mission to help more people start successful businesses to the next level by offering millions

    Read More »from Announcing a live chat with Mike McGee, co-founder of the Starter League
  • When 1 in 10 entrepreneurs work 70 hours a week, it’s a safe bet that business owners have a lot of issues competing for their attention. Making a great product, generating sales, building customer relationships and managing employees are often the most pressing issues for business owners.

    It can be easy for big-picture questions to slip to the bottom of the to-do list. But it’s important to step back and assess the health of your business from time to time. Knowing how great you are at making money or managing resources is the first step in making sure you spend your time and business resources wisely. Failing to recognize shortcomings early on can have disastrous consequences.

    Indeed, a University of Tennessee study found that nearly half of startup failures could be blamed on “incompetence” – a category that researchers said included “living too high for the business,” no knowledge of pricing and “emotional” pricing.

    Looking at financial metrics that are important to business health

    Read More »from How healthy is your business? 6 ways to take the “temperature”

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