Pitch your Startup

Invision – Web & Mobile Prototyping and UI Mockup Platform

 

I regularly listen to This Week in Startups which is produced by Jason Calacanis, he does a great weekly video which runs for an hour and has in depth interview with VCs and startup founders, who he manages to get to reveal some pretty interesting stories, often gets them to admin to things they may not have before, its one of the better webcasts for startups and a great laugh at the same time.

Jason does the Web equivalent of a live read for his sponsors (those of you who have ever advertised on radio will be familiar with the concept) and one of the companies he mentioned the other day was Invision a new prototyping, collaboration and workflow platform.

Having tried about 10 prototyping/wireframing/mockup apps in the last year for one of the projects I am working on, I can tell you they pretty well all suck big time on the collaboration aspect.

Also commenting and keeping track of problems is also a major headache, invariably you need to switch out to another platform to track the requests/bugs etc and don’t even talk about keeping version control over design suggestions and mockups, its not trivial or commonly done.

So Invision seems to solve the problem for design collaboration and prototyping in a similar way to how Github solves the problem collaboration problem for code and version control.

There is a 30 day free trial and the plans seem reasonable including a free plan for only one project. Check it out here Invision App.

Invision prototyping-mockup real time commenting

Invision prototyping-mockup real time commenting

prototyping and mockup and manage


Invision editor screenshot

Entrepreneur Support at University: Risk & Reward

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Guest post by Josh Flannery,  Manager, Student Entrepreneur Development , University of NSW. Josh has a Master of Business & Technology (AGSM), a degree in Communications and has worked across Asia in both Startups and Commercialisation roles including 6 years in Japan, and 2 years in China & Hong Kong as Senior Regional Manager, China for Macquarie University. In 2005 Joshua Co-founded edtech company StudyLink株式会社, the Asia based sister company to Learning Information Systems Pty Ltd and also ran a boutique education consultancy in Japan, InterCreations, with fellow Japan guru Jeremy Breaden.

Josh has developed and launched the student enterprise program at UNSW which has helped launch early-stage start-up ventures for ~200 student entrepreneurs. If you want to get involved as a mentor, industry partner or a sponsor you can connect with Josh on Linkedin. The companies shown below are some of the startups launched in the last two years.

Too Early to tell

In 2014 one thing is certain when looking at the way universities in Australia are beginning to support their students in the area of entrepreneurship: no one REALLY knows if they are doing the right thing.

consciousstep

Conscious Step

One of the reasons is that we are still too early in the game. No university in Australia has formally dedicated resources to supporting student owned start-ups (i.e. start-ups where the uni holds no equity stake) for long enough to know.

If the university is not asserting ownership over students Intellectual Property nor taking a percentage of equity in their start-ups, then how can the investment in providing people, services and other resources really be sustained or justified?

Here are three medium to long term reasons why this investment by universities makes sense.

Student recruitment and differentiating the student experience

International student recruitment has been the key source of revenue generation for universities in Australia for a long time. Having served on the front line of international student recruitment for both an Australian university and as a service provider to many Australian universities, I have worked closely with student recruitment agent partners, schools and foreign universities in marketing to and recruiting international students. It has been the case for at least the 14 years I’ve been around that beyond the various groups, alliances and unreliable rankings, Australian universities have a tough time differentiating from each other – let alone strong competition from other traditional destination countries (US, Canada, UK) not to mention increasing competition from Asian countries too.

couchelo

couchelo

“What kind of job and salary can my daughter get if we pay for her to study at your university?” or, “What internship and work experience options does your university offer?” were two of the most common questions asked by parents of students ready to hand over their savings to invest in their child’s education. The only more common questions were regarding scholarships. In 2014, a good internship and promise of starting salary is not enough to stay competitive. There is an opportunity now, leveraging student entrepreneur and start-up support, to offer something more to these potential students and their parents. Whether or not a student continues an entire career of entrepreneurship or tries, fails and learns from a start-up journey before going for a safer graduate job think about this: If you were the person hiring new graduates for a role in your company, would you choose the student who has experienced running his or her own business or a student that has not?

Engaging industry and alumni for the one cause: student entrepreneur success

Universities in Australia are struggling to engage both alumni and industry to the same extent it happens in the US. Whilst alumni and industry are very different challenges, for different reasons working with innovative students brings real benefits to all involved. Whether it be big companies working with universities in running competitions and hackathons, or a university nurturing a network of alumni and then matchmaking alumni mentors and new student entrepreneurs, the results can be win-win-win.

Innovation for big companies, unique experiences for students or pre-backed start-up companies for students, alumni and industry can all be bi-products of these activities.

Foodbank Local

Foodbank Local

Once a university has a track record in this area, could the perception of that university change to mean it has become “a place to collaborate” and “a place where innovation happens”. If yes, then this alone validates an investment in student entrepreneur support both financially and in value of reputation.

Building an army: 10 years = 10 cohorts of students with a reason to give back

Longer term, of course, is the same reason US powerhouses like Stanford and MIT do this.

Supporting hundreds of student start-ups year-on-year can only mean planting seeds for future “good will”. The hypothesis says that when a student entrepreneur “graduates” to become a billionaire global success story, she will remember also the little university back in Australia where it all started. She will naturally want to “give back” a donation to the new batch of budding student entrepreneurs who hope to be like her one day.

Issueby

Issueby

Encouragingly this is already starting to happen, if only anecdotally. For example, the generous Mr. Michael Crouch has recently gifted a large donation which has resulted in the soon to launch Michael Crouch Innovation Centre at UNSW.

The UNSW Centre For Innovation

A Model Of The UNSW Centre For Innovation
Source: http://www.facilities.unsw.edu.au

So with these three examples alone, do the potential benefits in investing in free support for student entrepreneurs outweigh the risks for our universities?

Perhaps the greater risk greater is NOT making that investment. What do you think?

From 0 to 200 start-ups in 24 months at UNSW

 Guest post by Josh Flannery,  Manager, Student Entrepreneur Development , University of NSW. Josh has a Master of Business & Technology (AGSM), a degree in Communications and has worked across Asia in both Startups and Commercialisation roles including 6 years in Japan, and 2 years in China & Hong Kong as Senior Regional Manager, China for Macquarie University. In 2005 Joshua Co-founded edtech company StudyLink株式会社, the Asia based sister company to Learning Information Systems Pty Ltd and also ran a boutique education consultancy in Japan, InterCreations, with fellow Japan guru Jeremy Breaden.

Josh has developed and launched the student enterprise program at UNSW which has helped launch early-stage start-up ventures for ~200 student entrepreneurs. If you want to get involved as a mentor, industry partner or a sponsor you can connect with Josh on Linkedin.

Introduction

The title of this article is a little misleading as start-ups have been coming out of UNSW for many years prior, however, in the last 2 years something different has been going on at UNSW to encourage, support and champion over 200 new start-up projects led by students or recent alumni.

There is no solid data to know for sure, but we have a hunch that this is the highest number of start-ups from any university during a 2 year period nation wide. It’s almost certainly more than any other 2 year period in the history of UNSW.

So what are we doing differently?

UNSW Startup - Smart Sparrow

UNSW Startup – Smart Sparrow

Know the role of the university within the start-up ecosystem

There is a trend in Australia to take a proven or traditional accelerator program model and replicate it on a university campus. Now this model certainly has merit and has its place in the ecosystem. In our case, we saw an abundance of excellent accelerator programs within 15 minutes drive of our campus so recreating the same model on campus would not be creating a new value proposition for our student entrepreneurs. More likely it would attract the start-ups who did not get into the city based brand name programs and the mentors that did not get chosen by the well established programs using the same model.

We see the role of the university in this ecosystem as primarily for providing cross-faculty (read complimentary skill sets), “learning by doing” experiences for self-selected students with a real interest in entrepreneurship. It is to fill the gap between first time entrepreneurs still studying (or recently graduated) and teams with validated ideas who are at the point where they are finally ready to pitch for entry into an accelerator program.

No one is knocking an on campus accelerator, but if a university doesn’t have resources and programs in the “pre-accelerator” space I describe above then the university is trying to pick winners and focus on the 6 or 12 start-ups that win entry into the accelerator model program each year whilst excluding the hundreds – or thousands – of other students from much more than an invitation to Demo Day.

First time student entrepreneurs need a few basic but solid things to work towards their first failure aka real learning:

(a) A sounding board (not consultant) with a network to introduce mentors, service providers or other useful people and organisations

Bart Jellema runs the Startup Games at UNSW

Bart Jellema runs the Startup Games at UNSW

(b) To feel part of a larger community, a micro-ecosystem that is full of students at the very same stage, facing similar challenges along the entrepreneur journey but also some a little behind or further ahead in this journey for casual communication of real value to take place.

Student entrepreneur wins and challenges need to be celebrated as a group

One of the best things we ever did was create a closed social media group exclusively for student entrepreneurs currently working on live projects. We are participants more than administrators and with a few hundred members the group is now a go to place for help requests, co-founder hunting, mentor requests and other exchanges that may not be as appropriate in more public forums. It took some encouragement but now the group has a life of its own.

This list is just touching the surface, but it’s where we started. It’s an experiment for us that is working well and it feels like we are just warming up.

Watch this space!

Josh

 

Nailing It – Lisa Messenger

A quick note of thanks to Mike Nicholls (the Ed) for allowing me a wider platform to express my gratitude than I’ve had before. This time last week I was writing these ‘Nailing It’ posts on my Facebook page… Wardy

What is “Nailing It” about?

For those that are new to the ‘Nailing it‘ concept it goes like this…

In my life I come across people, some of which are simply amazing, high-functioning workaholics. That’s not nailing it. Nailing it is when these people also combine non-work excellence, generosity of spirit or cross-functional capability.

“Nailing it”  is my way of saluting these high performers.

Lisa Messenger

This week I’m nominating my old flat mate and all round go-getter, Lisa Messenger.

Lisa Messenger - Renegade Collective

Lisa Messenger – Renegade Collective

Lisa has always been high-functioning and certainly doesn’t need any more press. Most recently she launched the Renegade Collective with just under 20 assets, it’s the definition of “new media”.  What makes it special though is its flagship asset is a print magazine that counter-cyclically is knocking it out of the park when traditional big wigs are barely holding it together or simply going out of print.

Renegade-Collective-Cover

Not only has Lisa developed this business from scratch in effectively 18-months (with no prior magazine experience) she’s getting my nailing it nomination because at the same time she’s improved her familial relations to a point that they are now better than they have been since she entered adolescence. Often entrepreneurs have poor family relationships for precisely the reason they make great entrepreneurs. At a time when Lisa is professionally booming so is she personally.

Lisa has found a love interest and personal relationship that’s her equal. This takes humility and guts. We all know what it’s like to ‘get back on the horse’

Lisa has found time to travel. Not just junkets but real soul-searching, find-yourself-in-awe-of-nature travel – both in Australia and overseas.

Lisa has “laid down” on the tracks for her team

Renegade-Collective-Cover2

 

Lisa has managed all this without slipping into vanity or intoxication of one sort or another (be that self-obsession, the bottle or whatever your poison – as we all know, that demon hunts)

For all of these reasons – business and personal – she deserves the recognition of my gratitude.

For the tribe of Renegade Collective who each month get her editors note which, invariably starts with something like ‘I’ve been so blessed…’ She is teaching soul-enriching, business-improving, world-changing practices – she is truly nailing it.

Well done.

 

andrew-wardAndrew Ward is the CEO of 3 Minute AngelsAustralia’s largest massage company and one of my old fellow members of Entrepreneurs Organisation+

Andrew is actively involved in shaping the debate on Crowdfunding and has created a community website www.csef-Australia.com.au to help stimulate discussion and formulate a submission for the Australian Crowdfunding Legislation review.

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The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Becoming an Idea Machine

 

James Altucher

James Altucher

Guest Post: James Altucher is an entrepreneur and bestselling author who has founded over 20 companies, failed with most of them but managed some big wins including founding and selling StockPickr and Reset, each selling for approximately $10 million.

James is an Angel investor and was one of the first seed investors in Buddy Media which sold to Salesforce for $745 million and managed to get angel investments in Bit.ly, Ticketfly, CTera, Acebucks, Cancer Genetics and Optimal.

He has published 11 books including Choose Yourself40 Alternatives to College, How to Be The Luckiest Person Alive and is a frequent contributor to publications including The Financial TimesTheStreet.comTechCrunch and The Huffington Post.

James blogs at The Altucher Confidential, you can sign up for his Insiders List here

Ed: You may have read some of my rants of recent times about talented would be entrepreneurs working on non problems and the dearth of investable startups as a result. I asked James if we could share his idea machine post to help those of you trying to start new businesses so that you don’t get too locked into to your initial (and possibly suboptimal) ideas.

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Becoming an Idea Machine

The way to have good ideas is to get close to killing yourself. It’s like weightlifting. When you lift slightly more than you can handle, you get stronger.

In life, when the gun is to your head, you either figure it out, or you die.

When you cut yourself open, you bleed ideas. If you’re broke and close to death, you have to start coming up with ideas.

If you destroy your life, you need to come up with ideas to rebuild it.

The only time I’ve been FORCED to have good ideas is when I was up against the wall. My life insurance policy was like a gun to my head: “Come up with good ideas… OR ELSE your kids get your life insurance!”

At an airport when I realized a business I had been working on for four years was worthless.

Or when I was sitting in the dark at three in the morning in the living room of the house I was going bankrupt and losing my home, my brain figuring out how to die without anyone knowing it was planned.

Or when I was getting a divorce and I was lonely and afraid I wouldn’t make any money again or I wouldn’t meet anyone again. Or my kids would hate me. Or my friends would be disgusted by me.

The problem is this: you’re NOT in a state of panic most of the time. States of panic are special and have to be revered. Think about the times in your life that you remember – it’s exactly those moments when you hit bottom and were forced to come up with ideas, to get stronger, to connect with some inner force inside you with the outer force.

This is why it’s important NOW to strengthen that connection to that idea force inside of you. This post is about HOW.

Nothing you ever thought of before amounted to anything – that’s why you are exactly where you are at that moment of hitting bottom. Because all of your billions of thoughts have led you to right there. You can’t trust the old style of thinking anymore. They came, they saw, they lost.

You have to come up with a new way of thinking. A new way of having ideas. A new ways of interacting with the outside universe.

You’re in crisis. Time to change. Time to become an IDEA MACHINE.

People know what “runner’s high” is. It’s when you are running for a long time, at the point of exhaustion, and then something kicks in and gives you a “second wind”.

400,000 years ago people didn’t jog for exercise. They didn’t even have jogging shorts. Or sneakers.

400,000 years ago people need to eat and live. And either you’re running to catch a prey, or you are running from a lion. You’re the prey! And you need that second wind in both cases or you DIE.

The same thing happens in the brain. When you are about to die, a second wind kicks in. Ideas, experiences, opportunity, and probably hidden forces and neurochemicals we don’t understand.

But you can’t get runner’s high unless you’re ALREADY in good shape. Unless you are already able to run long distances.

This is why it’s important to exercise the idea muscle right now. If your idea muscle atrophies, then even at your lowest point you won’t have any ideas.

How long does it take this muscle to atrophy? The same as any other muscle in your body: just two weeks without having any ideas. Atrophied.

If you lie down in a bed for two weeks and don’t move your legs you will need physical therapy to walk again.

Many people need idea therapy. Not so that they can come up with great ideas right this second (although maybe you will) but so that people can come up with ideas when they need them: when their car is stuck, when their house blows up, when they are fired from their job, when their spouse betrays them, when they go bankrupt or lose a big customer, or lose a client, or go out of business, or get sick.

Ideas are the currency of life

Not money. Money gets depleted until you go broke. But good ideas buy you good experiences, buy you better ideas, buy you better experiences, buy you more time, save your life. Financial wealth is a side effect of the “runner’s high” of your idea muscle.

Whoah! That was a big intro. Depending on where I post this, some people will write “tl;dr” which I had to look up and it means “too long, didn’t read.” I encourage those people to stop reading here and save yourself the trouble. It’s ok. I’m not mad at you. I’ll write smaller articles also. I’ll even draw cartoons.

I’ve often written about the idea muscle as part of what I call my “daily practice”. Every day I have to check the box on physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.

And I get a lot of questions about it so I will try and answer them here. If you have more questions, ask in the comments and I will answer.

Sometimes people ask, “did you only start coming up with ideas because you already had it made?”

ANSWER: I was on the floor crying because I was dead broke and dead lonely and had no prospects so that’s why I had to do it.

So now, 1000 words in (“tl;dr”) The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Becoming an Idea Machine

The below is what I do and what works for me. If you have anything to add, please add them in the comments, I need all the help I can get.

What do you mean Idea Machine?

You will be like a superhero. It’s almost a guaranteed membership in the Justice League of America.

Every situation you are in, you will have a ton of ideas. Any question you are asked, you will know the response. Every meeting you are at, you will take the meeting so far out of the box you’ll be on another planet, if you are stuck on a desert highway – you will figure the way out, if you need to make money you’ll come up with 50 ideas to make money, and so on.

After I started exercising the idea muscle, it was like a magic power had unleashed inside of me. It’s ok if you don’t believe me. Or maybe you think it’s bragging. There are many times when I don’t have ideas. But that’s when I stop practicing what I am about to advocate.

Try it for yourself. I’m not selling anything here. I have no reason for you to try this. I just want to share my exerience. It’s like part of your brain is opened up and a constant flow of stuff, both good and bad, gets dropped in there.

From where? I don’t think about it and I don’t care. But I use it.

In early 2009 was one of those times when I desperately needed to do this. I was fulltime either trying to find a girlfriend or I was trying to start a business or both. I was also going broke in the stock market and losing my home (until I personally saved the entire stock market – see my book).

Every night, I’d have waffles for dinner and a bottle of wine and start writing ideas down. This is before I went paleo (no waffles!) and stopped drinking alcohol (five years sober!) and I was writing 10-20 of the most ludicrous ideas a day down.

And you know what ? It worked.

How do I start exercising the idea muscle?

Take a waiter’s pad. Go to a local cafe. Maybe read an inspirational book for ten to twenty minutes. Then start writing down ideas. What ideas? Hold on a second. The key here is, write ten ideas.

Why a waiters pad?

A waiter’s pad fits in your pocket so you can easily pull it out to jot things down.

A waiter’s pad is too small to write a whole novel or even a paragraph. In fact, it’s specifically made to make a list. And that’s all you want, a list of ideas.

A waiter’s pad is a great conversation starter if you are in a meeting. Someone at the meeting will eventually say, “I’ll take fries with my burger” and everyone will laugh. You broke the ice and you stand out.

A waiter’s pad is cheap. You can get about 100 for $10. This shows you are frugal and don’t need those fancy moleskin pads to have a good idea.

Oh, and I just found out another reason for a waiter’s pad while I was writing this. Someone with alcohol on his breath, a bottle in hand, looking like he could crush me with one hand, just came up to me in the cafe I’m sitting at and asked for money. I held up my waiter’s pad and said, “Can I take your order?” and he said, “OH!” and he walked away.

Why ten ideas?

If I say, “write down ten ideas for books you can write” I bet you can easily write down four or five. I can write down four or five right now. But at six it starts to get hard. “Hmmm,” you think, “what else can I come up with?”

This is when the brain is sweating.

Note that when you exercise in the gym, your muscles don’t start to build until you break a sweat. Your metabolism doesn’t improve when you run until you sweat. Your body doesn’t break down the old and build the new until it is sweating.

The poisons and toxins in your body don’t leave until you sweat.

The same thing happens with the idea muscle. Somewhere around idea number six, your brain starts to sweat. This means it’s building up. Break through this. Come up with ten ideas.

What if I just can’t come up with ten ideas?

Here’s the magic trick: if you can’t come up with ten ideas, come up with 20 ideas.

But if I can’t come up with ten, how am I supposed to come up with 20?

For the obvious reason. You are putting too much pressure on yourself. Perfectionism is the ENEMY of the idea muscle. Perfectionism is your brain trying to protect you from harm. From coming up with an idea that is embarassing and stupid and could cause you to suffer pain.

We like the brain. But you have to shut the brain off to come up with ideas.

The way you shut the brain off is by forcing it to come up with bad ideas.

So let’s say you’ve written 5 ideas for books and they are all pretty good. And now you are stuck. “How can I top this brilliant list of five!?”

Well, let’s come up with some bad ideas. Here’s one: “Dorothy and the Wizard of Wall Street”. Dorothy is in a hurricane in Kansas and she lands right at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street in NYC and she has to make her way all the way down Wall Street in order to find “The Wizard of Wall Street” (Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs) in order to get home to Kansas. Instead, he offers her a job to be a high frequency trader instead.

What a bad idea! Ok, now go onto the next 15 ideas. (and it anyone wants to buy the movie rights to “The Wizard of Wall Street” please contact Claudia.)

How do I know if an idea is a good idea?

You won’t. You don’t. You can’t. You shouldn’t.

Let’s say you come up with ten ideas a day. In a year you will have come up with 3650 ideas (no breaks on weekends by the way if you want to get good at this). Maybe more if you are trying to do 20 ideas a day.

It’s unlikely that you came up with 3,650 good ideas (after you become an idea machine your ratio goes up but probably in the beginning your ratio of bad ideas to good is around 1000:1).

Don’t put pressure on yourself to come up with good ideas. The key right now is just to have good ideas. When Tiger Woods is practicing he doesn’t get disappointed himself if he doesn’t hit a hole in one every shot. You’re just practicing here.

Practice doesn’t make perfect. But practice makes permanent. So that later on when you do need good ideas to save your life, you know you will be a fountain of them.

When there’s a tidal wave of good ideas coming out of you, you only need a cup of water out of that to quench your thirst.

How do I execute on my idea?

Here’s what I do often when I am writing down ideas that I think I might want to act on.

I divide my paper into two columns.

On one column is the list of ideas. On the other column is the list of “FIRST STEPS”. Remember, only the first step. Because you have no idea where that first step will take you.

Imagine you are driving 100 miles to your home late at night. You turn on your headlights so you can see in front of you. All you can see is about 30 feet in front of you but you know if you have the lights on the entire time, you’ll make it home safely, 100 miles away.

Activating the idea machine is how you turn the lights on so you can get home. But you don’t need to do any more than that.

One of my favorite examples: Richard Branson didn’t like the service on some airline he was flying. So he had an idea: I’m going to start a new airline. How the heck can a magazine publisher start an airline from scratch with no money?

His first step. He called Boeing to see if they had an airplane he could lease.

No idea is so big you can’t take the first step. If the first step seems to hard, make it simpler. And don’t worry again if the idea is bad. This is all practice.

For instance, let’s say one of my ideas is: “I want to be a brain surgeon”. My first step: I would buy a bunch of books on how to do brain surgery. I don’t have to plan my whole way through medical school.

Wait!? Did I just say I would be a brain surgeon without a medical degree? No. I simply had a bad idea and the first step I would take if I was going to “execute” on that idea. And, yes, I’m absolutely confident I would be able to do successful brain surgery before someone throws me in jail (hence, the bad idea aspect of it).

A real life example: In 2006 I had ten ideas for websites I wanted to build. I knew how to program but didn’t want to. So my first step was to find a site like Elance and then put the spec up and find programmers in India who could make the websites for me. One of them I paid $2000 to develop and sold for $10,000,000 9 months later. (this is not bragging – I went dead broke about 2 years after that).

Nine of the ten ideas were BAD. But you only need one.

But if I’m coming up with business ideas, how do I know if I’m on the right track?

There’s no way to know in advance if a business idea is a good one. For instance, Google started around 1996 but didn’t make a dime of money until around 2001.

Here’s my favorite example. A company called Odeo was a software company to help people set up podcasts. Since I do a podcast now this seems like a great idea to me. So they raised a ton of money from professional venture capitalists.

Then one of their programmers started working on a side project. The side project got a little traction but not much. But the CEO of Odeo decided to switch strategies and go full force into the side project without having a clue if it would work.

He felt bad since this isn’t what the investors invested in. So he called up all of the investors, some of the best investors on the planet, and described the side project to them and all the traction they were getting, etc and then made an offer, “Since this is a different direction, I’d be willing to buy all of your shares back so nobody will lose any money.”

100% of his investors said, “YES! GIVE IT BACK!” and so he bought all of his investors’ shares back. Now, Ev Williams, the founder of Twitter (which was the side project), is a billionaire as a result.

Nobody knew. Nobody knows. You have to try multiple ideas and see which ones gets the excitement of customers, employees, and you can see that people are legitimately using it and excited by it.

When I started Stockpickr someone once wrote me and said, “please block me from the site. I’m too addicted to it and it’s ruining my life.” That’s when I had a sense that I had a halfway decent idea. And that was one of ten ideas I was trying simultaneously. The rest failed.

So don’t be afraid to test, fail, test, fail, try again, repeat, improve, test, fail again, and keep improving. The way to keep improving? Keep coming up with ideas for your business and for other new businesses.

As your idea muscle improves, so will your ability to “fail quickly”. Failing quickly is a better skill than executing quickly.

When do I shut down an idea?

In 2009, I started The Leading Love Site on the Net. It was going to be a dating website where your twitter feed was your profile. Everyone I spoke to say, “that’s a great idea!” I had already raised money and was raising more.

Then, on the day I was going to close the fundraising round I woke up shaking. I had this vision of myself a year from now explaining to all of the investors why it wasn’t going to work. I returned all the money. I was out the money I had spent to create the website.

I can guess why it was a bad idea (people on dating sites want to be anonymous, for instance) but I didn’t really know. I just knew I had to return the money.

When your idea muscle is developed and the other legs of the daily practice are fully developed (Phyiscal, Emotional, Spiritual) you’ll have a better idea when you should shut things down. When you are shutting them down for the right reasons. When you are “failing quickly” as opposed to self-sabotage or fear of success or you’re just stupid.

That was the last time I tried to start a business. Since then I’ve done very well by not starting businesses. Starting businesses is not the only way to make money in this world. There are many ways.

How do you keep track of your ideas?

I make a list of ideas and then I usually just throw them out.

The whole purpose is to exercise the idea muscle. I know most of the ideas are bad ideas so I there’s no sense keeping them around.

If one of the ideas is good then I will probably remember it and build on it for the next day. Sometimes it’s kind of funny when I come across an old list of ideas to see what I was thinking. Every now and then I think I find a good idea in my old lists but it’s rare.

And then what do I do with that rare good idea? Probably nothing.

Are all of your ideas business ideas?

No. Almost never. It’s hard to come up with over 3000 business ideas a year. I’m lucky if I come up with a few business ideas.

The key is to have fun with it. Else you don’t do it. People avoid things that are not fun.

Here’s some types of lists I make:

  • IDEA SEX. Combine two ideas to come up with a better idea. Don’t forget that idea evolution works much faster than human evolution. You will ALWAYS come up with better ideas after generations of idea sex. This is the DNA of all idea generation.
  • OLD TO NEW: 10 old ideas I can make new. (Dorothy, Wall Street, etc). Similar to idea sex.
  • 10 ridiculous things I would invent (the smart toilet, etc).
  • 10 books I can write (The Choose Yourself Guide to an Alternative Education, etc).
  • 10 business ideas for Google / Amazon / Twitter / you
  • 10 people I can send ideas to
  • 10 podcast ideas I can do. Or videos I can shoot. (“Lunch with James”, a video podcast where I just have lunch with people over Skype and we chat).
  • 10 industries I can remove the middleman.
  • 10 Things I Disagree With that everyone else assumes is religion (college, home ownership, voting, doctors). Or, for any one of those ideas. 10 ideas why!
  • 10 ways to make old posts of mine and make books out of them
  • 10 ways I can surprise Claudia. (Actually, more like 100 ways. That’s hard work!)
  • 10 items I can put on my “10 list ideas I usually write” list
  • 10 people I want to be friends with and I figure out what the next steps are to contact them (Azaelia Banks, I’m coming after you! Larry Page better watch out also.)
  • 10 things I learned yesterday.
  • 10 things I can do differently today. Right down my entire routine from beginning to end as detailed as possible and change one thing and make it better.
  • 10 chapters for my next book
  • 10 ways I can save time. For instance, don’t watch TV, drink, have stupid business calls, don’t play chess during the day, don’t have dinner (I definitely will not starve), don’t go into the city to meet one person for coffee, don’t waste time being angry at that person who did X, Y, and Z to you, and so on.
  • 10 Things I Learned from X. Where X is someone I’ve spoke to recently or read a book by recently. I’ve written posts on this about the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Steve Jobs, Bukowski, the Dalai Lama, Superman, Freakonomics, etc.
  • Random: 10 Things Women Totally Don’t Know About Men. (that turned into a list of 100 and Claudia said to me, “uhhh, I don’t think you should publish this”).
  • Today’s list: 10 More Alternative to College I can Add to my book: “40 Alternatives to College”.
  • 10 Things I’m Interested in Getting Better At (and then 10 ways I can get better at each one).
  • 10 things I was interested in as a kid that might be fun to explore now. (Like, maybe I can write that “Son of Dr. Strange” comic I’ve always been planning. And now I need 10 plot ideas).
  • A problem I have and ten ways I might try and solve it. This has saved me with the IRS countless times. Unfortunately, the Department of Motor Vehicles is impervious to my super powers.

This is just a sample. Every day, 10 ideas. The other day, “10 ways I can release more endorphins into my body”. Today is, “10 ways I can help people build their idea machine”. Tomorrow is “10 Ways I can turn my next book into a webinar for Oprah.” The day after that: “10 things I can talk about in my next talk on May 3” (which means, developing an entire standup comedy act from scratch since I have a rule, “if it’s not funny, then a tree fell in the forest and it didn’t make a sound.”)

Is the idea muscle the most important part of what you call “The Daily Practice”?

No! They are all EQUAL.

Imagine you’re sitting on a stool. By the way, I only see stools in bars because you have to be drunk to sit on a stool. It’s so uncomfortable. And then invariably, someone falls off a stool and then half the people laugh and half the people say “is he ok?” but everyone crowds around because we smell blood.

So, now you’re on a stool with four legs. If someone pulls away one of the legs you might still balance and the stool stays up but it’s tricky. If someone pulls two legs off, you’re down for the count.

The Daily Practice is to be: Physically, Emotionally, Mentally (the idea muscle), and Spiritually healthy.

If you aren’t physically healthy you won’t come up with ideas. You’ll be coughing and vomiting.

If you are around people who hate you, you won’t come up with ideas. Because they will be yelling at you while you are trying to think.

And if you aren’t feeling grateful and calm in your life on a regular basis, then you will be anxious and it will be harder to come up with ideas.

So all four parts of the Daily Practice work together to come up with great ideas.

Do I really do this every day?

Let’s say you get tired for a day of writing ideas. Try something different. The key is to keep activating parts of your brain that have atrophied.

Sometimes if I don’t feel like writing down a list of ten ideas I’ll do something else.

Like I’ll draw ten eyes.

Or I’ll make a collage.

Or I’ll take photographs of the ten most beautiful women I see today. Or the ten ugliest men (if I take picture of the ten most handsome men then I might get jealous and that’s a whole other thing I’d have to deal with).

Or I might come make ten prank calls (well, when I was a kid I did that. I never do that now! Maybe).

Is it important to read before writing?

I don’t know. But I do. Here’s what I do:

At any given point I have about 10-20 books on my “to go” list. Books that I can just pop in and continue reading.

Every day I read at least 10% of a non-fiction book that gives me tons of new ideas, an inspirational book, a fiction book of high-quality writing, and maybe a book on games (lately I’ve been solving chess puzzles). And then I start writing.

Right now the inspirational book is “The Untethered Soul”. The non-fiction book is “Antifragile”. The fiction book is “Blind Date” (Kosinski) and the games book is actually my chess app (“Shreder”) which has non-stop puzzles. But this list changes almost every day.

How long does it take? 

It takes at least six months of coming up with ideas every day before you are an “idea machine”.

Then your life will change every six months. I’ve said this before but my life is completely different than it was six months ago, and six months before that, and so on. So different there is no way I could’ve predicted the differences.

Six months ago I had no podcast. Now it’s a big part of my day. Six months before that, “Choose Yourself” had not come out. Six months before that, several I had not yet gone on several board seats that have done well for me. And so on.

Do I give my ideas away for free?

When you come up with ideas for someone else, always give ALL the ideas away for free if you think they are good ideas (remember: six months).

I read recently one person said to give HALF of your ideas away for free and make them pay for the other half.

This is very bad. This guarantees you will only come up with bad ideas. Because you will hoard your ideas. You will develop a SCARCITY COMPLEX around your ideas.

Ideas are infinite. But once you define your capacity of good ideas (“half”) then they instantly become finite for you. Not for anyone else. But just for you, your ideas will be finite.

If you stick to an abundance mentality, and be grateful for the ideas that are flowing through you, then they will be infinite. Where they come from, nobody knows. But they will be infinite and lucrative for you.

So give ideas for free, and then when you meet, give more ideas. And if someone wants to pay you and your gut feels this is a good fit, then give even more ideas.

I keep coming up with ideas and they keep failing. What do I do?

There’s this “cult of failure” that has popped up recently. That you need to fail to succeed.

This is not true. Failure really sucks. You don’t want to fail. There is an easy way to solve this. Take the word “fail” out of your vocabulary.

Everything we do in life is a success. We breathe, we love, we practice kindness, we deal with other human beings. We improve. We have experiences. This is magnificent and abundant success. Just even being able to try new things is something to celebrate every day. To smile at another person. To play.

Most things I try to do don’t work out as I planned. But who am I to predict the outcomes of my preparation. My only job is to prepare.

Everybody, EVERYBODY, is a poor predictor of outcomes. From the weatherman, to the stock analyst. But we can all be good at preparation.

And once I prepare, I show up at the starting line. Then the whistle blows, the race begins, I try my hardest with the most amount of integrity, and the results are not up to me.

Then I go back and learn from the race, I prepare more, I love more, I celebrate more, and I shop up for the next race. The whistle blows, and eventually good things happen. Preparation leads to Faith in yourself.

I used to think good things never happen. I saw my father die without anything good happening to him. I thought my fate was going to parallel his. But every moment, this moment while you are reading this, you get to choose abundance, gratitude, kindness, integrity, “goodness”. Only you get to choose what is in your universe.

When you don’t choose, you excuse.

Is it really worth it to become an idea machine?

Every day I come up with ideas. I haven’t had a business since 2009. And it failed, as mentioned above.

Since then I’ve made more money than I know what to do with because I come up with ideas for people, for companies, for me, for people who have no idea who I am, for random anonymous things.

I then get invited to share my ideas. Sometimes I get paid for them. Sometimes I give them for free. Sometimes I get more introductions to people and sometimes I get a chance to advise companies that do well and make me money. And sometimes I write books.

When you’re an idea machine, everything you look at breaks down into a collection of ideas, just like physical objects ultimately breakdown into collections of particles if your eyes were subatomic microscopes. Your eyes and brains become sub-idea microscopes that see the ideas that become the building blocks for everything in society.

See them, build them, change them, seed them, birth them, love them, live them. Ideas are the dark matter of the universe. We know it’s there but only those “in the know” can see them.

– – –

What do you do once you become an idea machine?

This is what I don’t know the answer to.

Now you have super powers. Now you’re ready to take your unique place in the world. You will know how to get to the Justice League satellite that orbits the Earth and solves problems at a moment’s notice.

You will know what to do. I don’t know. Nobody else knows. You’ll do it and the world won’t be the same.

Some of our favourite stories from The Altucher Confidential

How I screwed Yasser Arafat out of $2mm (and lost another $100mm in the process)

Its Your Fault

100 Rules for being an Entrepreneur

The easiest way to succeed as an Entrepreneur

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Updated – Sydstart 2014 Agenda released – tickets now on sale

Arguably Australia’s best and largest startup event Sydstart 2014 is set for May 2nd 2014 at Sydney Entertainment Center.

Combining successful international and local entrepreneurs and investors with pitch sessions from new startups Sydstart is the best place in Australia to launch your new startup or find your next startup investment.

Sydstart Discussion Panels

Sydstart Discussion Panels

Agenda and speakers are still  being finalised, you can find updates here http://sydstart.wordpress.com/agenda/

  • 0800 Expo Open
  • 0900 Conference Open –  Plenary in Auditorium –  Community Welcome and structure of the day – Opening by VIPs
  • Wave One Speakers – People Who Have Done Stuff – Personal Journeys. Inspiration. First hand insight.
  • 0905 Pete Cooper – SydStart Founder – State of the Startup Keynote – Confirmed
  • 0925 Pitch Rush – Confirmed
  • 0930 Official Opening by the Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore – City of Sydney – Confirmed
  • 0940 Keynote/Panel
  • 1000 Keynote/Panel – Matt Barrie – Freelancer.com – CEO & Founder – Recent  IPO ASX:FLN – TBC
  • 1020 International Keynote/Panel
  • 1040 International Keynote/Panel
  • 1100 Morning Break in Expo
  • 1100 Breakout for Masterclass  – Ric Richardson on planning and protecting your startup (patents, intellectual property & other techniques) – from Uniloc – confirmed
  • 1100 Breakout for Masterclass – Kevin Lippy from Fishburners on growing very large Facebook communities fast – from Mumbership – confirmed
  • 1100 Breakout for Masterclass – Rob Wood from Fishburners on growing a huge special interest community online – from LightStalking – confirmed
  • 1100 Breakout for Masterclass – Shelston IP –  Mike Zammit on strategic intellectual property management – from a leading firm TBA – confirmed
  • 1120 Speaker/Panel
  • 1140 Speaker/Panel – Investments

    • Stuart Fox – Artesian Capital/Venture Crowd – Director/Founder – Australia’s first equity crowd funding platform – confirmed
    • Anna Maguire – Crowd Fund It – Author – has researched over 300 crowd funding and related platforms for her book – confirmed
    • Niki Scevak – StartMate/BlackBird Ventures – Co-Founder – Arguably Australia’s premier accelerator and most innovative and well connected venture capital groups – confirmed
    • Bill Bartee – SXVP / Blackbird Ventures – To be confirmed
    • Susan Wu – Panel Moderator – Stripe Payments ($1.75 billion valuation) / Charles River Ventures (Boston Venture Capital) / Apache Software Foundation / Obvious (aka Medium) – to be confirmed
  • 1155 Speaker/Panel
  • 1200 Breakout for Masterclass
  • 1200 Sebastian Eckersley-Maslin – Blue Chilli Group – CEO & Founder – Just raised $9.5m for startup incubator accelerator – confirmed
  • 1220 Matt Symons  – Society One – CEO & Founder – Just raised $8.5m for p2p lending platform – tbc
  • 1230 Bosco Tan & Alvin Singh – Pocketbook – Co-founders – Just raised 500K after SydStart launch and growing rapidly – confirmed
  • 1235 Benjamin Chong – Founder Institute – Director (Sydney) – One of the largest mentoring and accelerator organisations globally has produced over 1,000 companies. An update and call for their May 12th intake class. Ben is also Director and co-founder of his own VC firm Right Click Capital.
  • 1245 Daniel Noble – Fishburners – General Manager – One of Sydney’s largest startup co-working spaces is getting a makeover, Fishburners 2.0 update from Dan who is a serial entrepreneur is his own right
  • 1255 Lunch
  • 1400 Speaker/Panel
  • 1415 Speaker/Panel
  • 1425 Speaker/Panel
  • 1430 Mike Cannon-Brookes co-founder and CEO of Atlassian on disrupting enterprise and building a multi-billion dollar multi-national startup (MNS)
  • 1445 Sebastian Eckersley-Maslin CEO of BlueChilli on innovation
  • 1500 Afternoon Tea in Expo – Confirmed – Catering by SEC
  • 1520 Speaker
  • 1500 Speaker
  • 1530 – Wave Two – Pitching Competition – People Who Are Trying To Do Stuff – Intro
  • 1535 Startup Trophy Competition – Shortlisted from 180 applicants – Judges assemble – Battle for Prizes decided by Judging Panel
    • 1540 Pitch 1
    • 1550 Pitch 2
    • 1600 Pitch 3
    • 1610 Pitch 4
    • 1620 Pitch 5
    • 1630 Pitch 6
    • 1640 Pitch 7
    • 1650 Pitch 8
    • 1700 Pitch 9
    • 1710 Pitch 10
  • Oversight of the judging process is with thanks to our supporters PwC
  • 1730 – Subject to available time we may also see a pitch from some others that just missed the short list. TBA
  • 1730 Judging and Awards – Startup Trophy
  • 1730 Thank you to sponsors, volunteers, supporters, speakers, community and exhibitors
  • 1730 Drinks
  • 1900 After Parties – Nearby venues

Early Bird Tickets are on Sale now at Eventbrite

Past SydStart Pitchfest Companies

Past SydStart Pitchfest Companies

 

 

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Intuit acquires Docstoc – The founder @jasonnazar built a business with 25 million users these videos are worth watching

Docstoc.com

Docstoc.com

As reported by PandoDaily.com Docstoc which is a massively successful business documents website has been acquired by Intuit. 

Docstoc has over 20 million documents and resources including expert videos, articles and productivity tools and is among the top 500 most visited websites (quantcast) and has over 25 million registered users.

Docstoc Inc. was founded by Jason Nazar and Alon Shwartz and launched in October 2007. 

As you know this is not really a news site we tend to do longform not snippets but I wanted to share this with you because I have recently watched Jason on a number of Youtube Videos and he is a fantastic presenter.

Entrepreneurs I strongly recommend that you take a look at

 

 

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UNSW breaks ground on new Crouch Innovation Building

The UNSW Centre For Innovation

A Model Of The UNSW Centre For Innovation
Source: http://www.facilities.unsw.edu.au

The University Of New South Wales (UNSW) has started to get real Entrepreneurial and Innovation momentum. There are numerous pitch competitions, entrepreneurial groups and hardware hackers such as NSW Create, it feels like an entrepreneurial spring is blooming.

New South Innovations the commercialization group for the University has put significant effort into the new ‘Crouch Centre For Innovation’, which was inaugurated by its generous benefactor Mr. Michael Crouch.

Michael is the Executive Chairman of Zip Industries the company that pioneered instant hot water heaters. The ‘Crouch Innovation Centre’ is established with a vision to make Sydney the ‘hub of innovation’ of the Asia-Pacific region.

A Word About The Benefactor

Michael Crouch is an Australian businessman. Interested in promoting Australian exports, he was also the prestigious member of the APEC Business Advisory Council from 1996 to 2007. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Australian School Of Business, and was a former member of the advisory board of the Faculty Of Commerce and Economics at UNSW. He also holds an honorary Doctorate of Business from UNSW.

Breaking ground on Crouch Innovation Centre

Breaking ground on Crouch Innovation Centre _ Credit UNSW ASB

An avid supporter of entrepreneurship and innovation, Mr. Crouch believes that Australia can achieve greatness through innovation.

The ‘Crouch Innovation Centre’ aims to promote entrepreneurship and innovation for its students. The centre will house state of the art facilities such as: an innovation hall and multipurpose work space; and a floor dedicated to special materials for fabrication. The various types of fabrication will include 3D printers, laser cutters, electronics, machining, etc. Initially the innovation centre will be available only for students, and then it may be extended to the university faculties and researchers. The centre will take the best of the innovation schools which are already up and running in Harvard, Yale and MIT, etc;  in the words of Mr. Geoffrey Garrett, the dean of the Australian School Of Business, “ inspire in students a life of innovation; to seek better ways to do things and solve problems.”

Location of the Premises

The centre is located beside the Australian School of Business building and inside the Material Science Engineering Building at the UNSW campus.

The UNSW Centre For Innovation 2

The UNSW Centre For Innovation
Source: http://www.facilities.unsw.edu.au

Final Word

The UNSW’s ‘Crouch Innovation Centre’ will help the university achieve greater milestones in the field of innovation. The centre will also be of huge assistance to the university’s various research initiatives that are happening in ASB and NSi. The construction of the centre will be complete by the commencement of the first semester of 2015, i.e. probably by April 2015.

 

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