Social Venture Startup: Lessons Learned(?)

Had some fun with a presentation for a group of students at BYU last night.

For those who don’t have 4 whole minutes, or who just find my voice annoying, here’s a quick recap:

Be Social.

This isn’t referring to some sort of holistic life balance—since I obviously haven’t figured that one out. I’m talking here about the social life you give your idea.

When something truly innovative and exciting takes root in us, a lot of people have this really counter-intuitive reaction to protect it, to be afraid to share it, to put it out in the world. Trust me. I did this. All it took was one person asking me “what’s to stop Causes from just implementing this next week?” and I panicked. I deleted the blog post I’d put up about TB, I didn’t attend any of the social venture competition networking events. I really guarded that idea.

And I regret it.

Talk to people. Share with them, ask for feedback, let your idea have a life. The chance of someone actually stealing it is a tiny price to pay for what you’ll gain by talking to people.

The second way I would tell you to be social is to purposefully engage with social media. That means you have to get beyond Facebook stalking  You don’t have to produce a lot of content, probably the best thing you can do is listen to other people, and then let them know that you’re listening in meaningful ways.

And, if you haven’t figured out Twitter yet. You need to. Period. Let me just say that I the two most lucrative and beneficial connections I have made to date both happened through Twitter. You’re missing out if you don’t get it yet.

Double-Dip at Every Opportunity

Second piece of advice is to double dip whenever you can. Please don’t apply this at parties—that’s not what I mean…
I just mean that you should find ways to get credit for your work. Better yet, find a way to get paid for it. If you can’t make the things you’re doing that you’re passionate about fit into your studies, your work, etc. it may be time to change your major/job. There’s a lot more flexibility to the academic system than most students take advantage of.

“They’re more like guidelines anyway…”

Speaking of flexibility. Your business plan is a working document. Remember that.

Use ALL the resources that are available to you to get ideas, mercilessly edit your own work, and perhaps most importantly, do everything you can to get things as concrete as possible—the numbers you need are out there. And if you carefully track both your sources and your assumptions, you’ll be much better able to adapt when things come along and change your plan—and trust me, they will.

Oh, and remember to put your contact information in your business plan. We got all the way through the competition without catching that little detail.

ASK!

The last thing is to ask for help. There are people out there just waiting to get excited about your idea and jump on board. Open your mouths. My favorite question has become “what would it take to get this for free?” After getting into a few $1500 conferences in exchange for a few hours manning the registration desk (an awesome networking opportunity anyway!) I ask this question all the time now.

You’ll be surprised what you can get.

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