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The latest news on Entrepreneurship from Business Insider

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    Ross Bailey CEO Appear Here

    • Appear Here lets businesses rent pop-up space and has been called the "Airbnb of retail."
    • The London startup raised over $20 million to date and is currently planning international expansion.
    • CEO Ross Bailey sat down with Business Insider to talk department stores, skipping university, and how to maintain company culture.


    LONDON — Ross Bailey wants to talk about department stores.

    "If analysts walked around some of them I think they would be trading at less than 30% their net asset value," Bailey says, referencing the already bombed out US "mall" sector.

    He whips out his phone and starts scrolling through pictures that illustrate his point — dreadful carpets, too much stock cluttered together, and bad paintings hung up near concessions.

    "If you saw that in someone's house you'd think they've got bad taste," he says in his typically enthusiastic style.

    Why does he spend his time photographing poorly designed department stores? "It's my passion."

    Appear Here, which Bailey founded in 2012, is a startup trying to do for retail space what Airbnb did for hotel rental. Bailey spends his days engrossed in retail — both good and bad.

    His platform lets people and brands rent "pop up" space across cities, letting aspiring entrepreneurs trial ideas like takeaway porridge stalls or designers launch capsule collections.

    Over 1,000 spaces are listed by Appear Here in the UK, with 1,000 in New York, where it launched last year, and even more in Paris. Everyone from Google to Moleskin has used the platform to book space and Made In Chelsea star Jamie Laing used Appear Here for the launch of his sweet brand Candy Kittens.

    Netflix (Black Mirror) 23 ©Appear HereBailey had the idea for the business while running his own pop-up. He quit school at 16 to move from his home in Buckinghamshire to London and was involved in several entrepreneurial endeavours before running a temporary fashion stall in Soho to coincide with the 2012 London Olympics.

    He noticed that people were coming up to him to ask about he'd managed to secure the space — Under Armour even approached him at one point.

    "There's a pricing issue in real estate," Bailey, now 25, says. "It's based on 10-year leases. That model doesn't work anymore. Now we're seeing rent is a variable cost, not a fixed cost."

    Retail occupancy rates are declining around the world as traditional players grapple with the rise of e-commerce. Shops are closing, sales are down, and fewer people are visiting.

    Real estate needs to move more towards a more flexible pricing model, Bailey argues, like Uber's surge pricing or how hotel prices rise when a conference is in town.

    "If you can make 70% of your revenue in December, you shouldn't be saying the same price for the space in January when there are no sales," Bailey argues.

    "A few years ago people said it was a stupid idea, landlords will never do it. Now it's a case of OK, this is definitely going to happen."

    Ten of the biggest landlords in the US have signed exclusive deals with Appear Here, including Blackstone and Simon, the biggest mall operator in the US. (Bailey didn't say whether he'd critiqued their carpets.)Warner Brothers pop-up Appear HereAppear Here raised $12 million last year to go global and Bailey is currently scoping out a location for a new US office. Property VC Fifth Wall, which is backed by the likes of CBRE and Loewe's, has also invested an undisclosed sum and Bailey hints at another deal with a "fashion fund" that will be announced shortly.

    It's all very impressive for someone still just in his mid-twenties. "Instead of uni, this has been my learning curve," Bailey says.

    Six years on, what has he learned?

    "I think I've definitely learned to delegate. You need to jump between high-level stuff and details."

    Bailey logged 80 flights between London, Paris, and New York last year. He says he is always tired but it doesn't show — he is a whirlwind of ideas and opinions, talking a mile a minute. Towards the end of our conversation, though, a solitary yawn escapes.

    "A big focus over the last six months was building out the exec team," Bailey says. Appear Here recently hired two execs from Uber to run the London and Paris offices. The company has also hired a new CTO and a new chief strategy officer.Kanye West pop up London Appear HereThe company has yet to file a set of full accounts, claiming small company exemption, but Appear Here says it has booking requests worth $110 million made every month across its platform — although not all are successfully fulfilled.

    Appear Here charges a 15% booking fee, meaning that if even a small fraction of that $110 million figure is actually being booked, it is likely making tens of millions a year in revenue.

    The future looks rosy for Appear Here but Bailey is keen to maintain the company culture as it grows. All employees use the same company issued notebooks and pens — a small touch, but one that's clearly important to Bailey — and all 70 staff still have lunch together on Fridays.

    "You have to build a company that you're going to love and attract people with the same values," Bailey says.

    Where did he learn that? During our interview, he mentions lunches with Net-A-Porter founder Massenet and hanging out with Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky in San Francisco ("He loved our brand").

    Ross Bailey, Appear HereNet-A-Porter and Airbnb are two of the three companies Bailey most admires. The other is Nike. He has just finished reading Shoe Dog, the memoir of Nike founder Phil Knight, and implores me to read it.

    "Nike defined an industry," Bailey says. Before Nike, "if you weren't running track, you didn't buy trainers. We want to be the Nike for entrepreneurs and creatives."

    Around 40% of pop-ups on Appear Here are food and drinks stalls, while the rest are fashion, consumer goods, or other retailers like florists. Around 125,000 people have registered on the platform to rent space.

    "I love the idea that we can help everyone bring their ideas to life," Bailey says.

    Tokyo, Manchester, and even Toulouse come up when we talk about cities that could be interesting to Appear Here — but Bailey won't be drawn on specifics.

    "We've got to be where the best ideas are," he says simply.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's what Apple's battery-slowing controversy means for iPhone sales


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    woman taking notes

    • One the greatest challenges for leaders today is keeping up with the constantly changing business landscape.
    • In this post, serial entrepreneur Faisal Hoque flags the trends that professionals in every field will have to adjust to, and how to do it.
    • Leaders have to think digital, embrace design thinking, and read every day to keep up.

    The modern economy — local, domestic, and global — operates in a state of accelerating change, driven by increasing and changing competition.

    This is due in part to easier market entry created by advances in technology and communications infrastructure, restructuring of product sourcing arrangements, the growing availability and changing costs of global labor pools, the continuous restructuring of capital markets, and the emergence of new economic powers.

    One of the greatest challenges that businesses leaders face is the ability to quickly respond to this constantly accelerating change and to act as the catalyst of organizational adaptation.

    Whether you’re in a leadership role, focused on innovation, running your own business, or all of the above, here are six traits and trends that will impact your work today and for years to come:

    1. Reading a lot will keep you open to change

    Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and Warren Buffett all put ample time on their iPads and/or with physical books and publications, and you should, too.

    Reading can force our minds to attract, retain, and cultivate new knowledge and skills. Success can quickly inflate egos and cause isolation of leadership, but reading can help break down those walls. Leaders who read can get into continuous learning loops that allow them be more empathetic and collaborative, rather than commanding and controlling.

    2. Remove 'end points' around innovation

    When was the last time your cable company introduced a groundbreaking, innovative product? Or your electric company rolled out a pioneering new service? The answer is probably "never," and that’s because competition spawns innovation.

    In the absence of a competitor knocking on customers’ doors, trying to sell them a newer, better, and more efficient product, the drive to innovate dwindles.

    Innovation includes everything—how you take your product to market, how you serve your customer, and how you come up with effective pricing. All of these activities go well beyond the very narrow "cocktail napkin" approach to innovation. By adopting this mindset, companies can become more competitive, customer-friendly, and profitable. The latter is a particularly important point in industries where thin margins and higher levels of competition are challenging firms to find more innovative ways to generate revenues.

    3. Think, act, and do digital

    Technological transformations will continue to reshape the way the business world is organized. As information becomes more plentiful and less centralized, more organizations are likely to decentralize, too, in order to respond swiftly to it all.

    As I wrote in a recent article, we are being inundated by a new wave of challenges and opportunities as the planet becomes increasingly connected.

    Today technologies have wildly different fates:

    • Anything that can be digitized will be
    • Anything that can go wireless will
    • Anything that can get smaller will
    • Information will move more freely

    Digital transformation can be defined as a process whereby an organization shifts their business models, processes, and organizational culture with digital technologies to adapt to changing customer behaviors.

    4. Apply AI and machine learning

    Nebulous and complicated by nature, AI and the movements it fuels all require a highly specialized skill set. For it to work, people must connect the dots between AI and how it can be effectively applied in the private or public sector.

    That’s not always easy to do — and the very notion of it may be scary to some who think that the day when machines "take over" isn’t that far off — but the positive results are already evident.

    As AI and machine learning continue to evolve and mature, it’s time for every company to start experimenting with the many ways these technologies can help organizations work smarter, better, and faster.

    5. Embrace design thinking

    Contrary to the popular belief that design thinking is only used for a new product or service, existing business processes greatly benefit from design thinking. They usually need to be reinvented the most.

    Although there are many models and frameworks available for applying design thinking, let’s establish some basic concepts:

    • Research — Do extensive cross-industry market research, both qualitative and quantitative, to understand current and changing customer behavior.
    • Define — Define the problem that needs solving.
    • Ideate — Consider many options from many perspectives, disciplines, and sources. Design thinking requires multiple iterations of idea generation before picking the ultimate winning idea.
    • Execute — Develop rapid prototypes to gather feedback from stakeholders. Once the final solution is refined and approved, an execution plan is then produced to move forward.

    Design thinking is not just about creativity, as complex problem solving requires a collaborative approach incorporating all parts of an organization — from internal resources, to partners, and customers.

    6. Remember, empathy always pays dividends

    For communication to get through on all sides, we have to be clear about what we want from each other. As a leader, I try especially hard to remain approachable and keep an open dialogue flowing. It’s difficult to keep everyone motivated, asking questions, and sharing their concerns when a lot is changing. But getting it right just means doubling down on the type of empathy leaders love to talk about under much steadier conditions.

    This means not just clearly articulating our message but also listening actively—without bias or judgment and with a real willingness to consider different perspectives. It’s about trading messages respectfully and accurately, not just delivering them.

    Leaders may feel their job is to reassure their teams—to talk more than they’re used to. But I’ve found listening to be even more important. When I’m actively listening, I’ll hear genuine concerns and clear a space for talking level-headedly about how to cope with them together.

    Serial entrepreneur Faisal Hoque is the founder of Shadoka, which enables aspirations to lead, innovate, and transform with its accelerators and solutions. He is the author of "Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation, and Sustainability" (McGraw-Hill) and other books. Copyright (c) 2018 by Faisal Hoque. All rights reserved. Follow him on Twitter @faisal_hoque.

    SEE ALSO: 11 successful entrepreneurs and execs reveal how they use their downtime to be more successful

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: What 'Dilly Dilly' means — and how Bud Light came up with its viral campaign


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    BrainzPowerDayintheLife (6 of 19)

    • Andrew Kozlovski, a 21-year-old student at the University of Southern California, runs a business selling cognitive-enhancement supplements through his company, Brainz Power.
    • He says Brainz Power generates $6,000 to $10,000 a month, primarily driven by marketing on Instagram.
    • Kozlovski wakes up at 5 a.m. every day and splits his time between working on the business and attending class. He rarely socializes outside of meals or the gym.

    Unlike most college students, Andrew Kozlovski doesn't leave much time for socializing. He's too busy updating Instagram. Literally.

    Kozlovski, 21, has built a business selling nootropic supplements, primarily by marketing on social media.

    Kozlovski was finishing up his first year at University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business when he heard about students taking Adderall or other drugs intended for people with ADHD to finish their schoolwork. When he found out how dangerous the drugs were, he realized there could be a market for a safer alternative.

    As a star swimmer in high school, Kozlovski had taken all kinds of natural supplements, so he started compiling a list of those said to boost cognitive performance. Then he found a lab near his hometown of Atlanta that was licensed by the Food and Drug Administration and willing to run a small order of pills combining the various supplements; he'd pay using the $500 he had saved up over the year.

    While supplements are legal and many people swear by their effects, evidence about their benefits are murky, and US poison-control centers have received about 275,000 reports of people reacting badly to them over the past two decades. The supplements industry, estimated to be worth as much as $37 billion a year, is not regulated by the FDA.

    But the burgeoning demand for supplements presented an opportunity for Kozlovski, who has built a social-media following selling a supplement called Brainz Power. Today, he has nearly a dozen accounts — with followers in the hundreds of thousands— where he posts aspirational content for budding entrepreneurs, fitness nuts, fellow students, and people who just like looking at pictures of cool cars and California sunrises.

    He told Business Insider that posting and marketing on social media had turned into consistent sales of Brainz Power, generating $6,000 to $10,000 a month. He first uses the money to pay his college tuition and living expenses in downtown Los Angeles; everything else goes back into the business.

    "I realized that if I wanted to be a successful businessman, I needed to start now," Kozlovski said. "I thought I'll learn a lot more from actually running a business while in business school than waiting four years to get started."

    But running a business while attending school isn't easy. Here's what a typical day is like for Kozlovski.

    SEE ALSO: These nomads spend nearly their entire lives at sea — but they could be the last generation to do so

    Kozlovski wakes up at 5 a.m. every day to answer emails and fulfill orders for Brainz Power. The lab and the fulfillment center he works with are in Georgia, so they are already open by the time he wakes up in California.



    After powering through emails, Kozlovski likes to grab a coffee or a smoothie and head to the gym. Usually, a friend will meet him there. "My friends are just as busy as me, so we've learned to use everyday things like the gym to catch up," he said. "The 30 seconds or minute between sets is perfect to catch up on life."



    Kozlovski gets back from the gym around 7 a.m., then films his first vlog of the day. He has an extensive presence on YouTube and Instagram to market Brainz Power and build his brand as a young entrepreneur. He said that before he started marketing on Instagram via his brand pages and ads, nothing was generating sales.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    seattle washington

    • U.S. News & World Report just released its annual best states ranking.
    • The rate of economic growth, the employment rate, and the rate of new business formation were all taken into account.
    • The list of the best economies in the US is topped by Colorado, Utah, and Washington.


    If you're considering a move across the country, you'll definitely want to know where the economy is strongest — and weakest.

    U.S. News & World Report just released its annual best states ranking, and they looked partly at economic factors. Each state was ranked on three economic indicators:

    • Growth: The GDP growth rate, average net migration (people moving into and out of the state) between 2013 and 2016, and growth of the young population between 2013 and 2016.
    • Employment: The annual growth rate of nonfarm jobs between 2013 and 2016, the percentage of state residents age 16 and older who participated in the labor force, and the December 2017 unemployment rate.
    • Business: The rate at which new businesses were formed between 2015 and 2017, total state and local taxes as a percent of total state income, the average number of patents granted between 2014 and 2016 per million residents, the number of top company headquarters per million residents in 2016, and venture capital dollars invested per $1,000 of nominal state gross domestic product in 2016.

    Combining growth (50%), employment (30%), and business (20%), U.S. News & World Report put together their list of the best economies in the US. Colorado took the cake, followed by Utah and Washington.

    Read on for the list of the 19 US states with the best economies — and see how it compares to last year's.

    SEE ALSO: 27 cities around the world where expats say there are more than enough jobs to go around

    DON'T MISS: Silicon Valley is so expensive that people who make $400,000 think they're middle-class — here's what the middle class actually is in the 25 largest US cities

    19. North Dakota

    Population0.76 million

    Growth rank: 20

    Employment rank: 2

    Business environment rank: 42



    18. North Carolina

    Population: 10.15 million

    Growth rank: 15

    Employment rank: 28

    Business environment rank: 21



    17. Iowa

    Population: 3.13 million

    Growth rank: 17

    Employment rank: 8

    Business environment rank: 46



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    clem onojeghuo 228522 unsplash

    • Being memorable for the right reasons will give you a leg up in the business world.
    • Author Jayson DeMers, a serial entrepreneur, says he largely owes his success to taking steps to make himself more memorable in job interviews and networking situations.
    • To be more memorable, he advises people to play up the unique parts of themselves and work on your storytelling skills.

     

    You may have a lot to offer — a decade of professional experience, an advanced degree, or an unparalleled work ethic — but are you truly memorable?

    I asked myself this question as I built my career in SEO and marketing, first as a consultant, and then as an entrepreneur. Over the years, job interviews, networking opportunities, and presentations have helped me build multiple businesses from the ground up — and I largely owe my success to the time I took building a memorable personal brand.

    The advantages of memorability

    Let’s take a moment to explain why it’s so important that you be memorable to your interviewers, investors, and new contacts.

    • Standing out. Chances are, you’ll be facing significant competition; your prospective employer will be interviewing dozens of candidates, and your networking event is probably filled with dozens of strangers. Being memorable, when everyone else is forgettable, means you’ll have a better chance of getting a callback.
    • Future opportunities. If you’re memorable, your contacts will think of your name when they have a need you could fill; for example, if you’re a photographer, and at some point in the future, your contact needs photography, you may be the first person they call.
    • Word-of-mouth. Being memorable also increases your chances of being mentioned in outside conversations; in time, this could significantly build your reputation.

    Here's how to be more memorable:

    SEE ALSO: These 5 signs mean you're far more successful than you realize

    1. Do something novel

    Multiple scientific studies have confirmed that one of the most important factors for new memory formation and memory retention is novelty. The experiences we repeat every day — like driving home from work — aren't likely to be stored or recalled as new memories.

    But the experiences that surprise us or challenge our expectations are far more memorable. Accordingly, it's in your best interest to do something that breaks from the norm, whether it's jazzing up your resume with an innovative design or introducing yourself in an unconventional way.

    For example, in the eight years since I started my business, I've hired numerous employees and seen hundreds of résumés. One résumé I received was formatted just like a Google search results page. It instantly stood out to me, and I ended up interviewing and hiring the applicant. It was one of the best hires I’ve ever made!



    2. Make yourself physically identifiable

    One of the most important things you can do to be memorable is to be more physically identifiable. NFL quarterback Cam Newton, for example, is known for wearing flamboyant clothing at his press conferences.

    Obviously, you don't want to break the dress code for whatever event you're attending, but you can add a touch of uniqueness to your ensemble, such as a flash of color on your shoes or statement eyeglasses that you wear to every event. This will help you stand out in people's minds.



    3. Tell a story 

    Storytelling is one of our oldest and most valuable forms of communication. We follow narratives easily, and have a tendency to strongly remember details associated with the story, almost as if we’ve experienced them firsthand.

    Framing your work experience as a story, rather than a list of bullet points, will help people remember it, and may make you more appealing at the same time.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    advice from women 2_BI Graphics

    • Advice on how to find a job or start a business is thick on the ground. But who knows better than people who have done it?
    • Business Insider asked 20 professional women for their best advice on life and work.
    • Responses included how best to manage time, the importance of a support system, and why it's better to try and fail than never to try at all.

    If you're looking for advice on how to find a job, start a business, or feel better about how much you accomplish every day, you've come to the right place.

    Below, entrepreneurs, execs, and professionals across all levels share the advice they've learned, earned, and want to pass on to people at any stage.

    From Deloitte Consulting CEO Janet Foutty's advice on taking credit for your work, to AUrate New York co-CEO Bouchra Ezzahraoui's thoughts on being unapologetic about your goals, to SoulPowered CEO Sarah Kaler's insights on the importance of authenticity in every aspect of your life, these women know what they're talking about.

    Read on for their best advice.

    SEE ALSO: The 25 business schools in America that are most admired, most selective, and give graduates the biggest step up

    Give yourself credit for your accomplishments.

    "Give yourself credit for your accomplishments, and when someone congratulates you, accept the acknowledgement for the work you did. Too often, I hear my female colleagues say, 'Thanks, it was a team effort,' instead of 'Thanks, I worked hard on this.'

    "It's like we're all Meryl Streep at the Oscars: 'Oh, oh, thank you. I don't deserve this.' Yes, you do, Meryl! You're amazing! If we can't communicate our accomplishments, then we can't advocate for ourselves — for that position, that promotion, that pay-grade. If we see ourselves as leaders, the world will see us that way too."

    —Janet Foutty, chairman and CEO, Deloitte Consulting



    Don't give up your life for a job.

    "You can do an excellent job without giving up all of your spare time and jumping through a million hoops. The idea that the longer you work, the better job you do or the more you deserve a pay rise or promotion, is outdated.

    "Research shows that we work better and produce stronger work when we work less and have regular breaks. Don't give up your life for a job."

    —Danielle Mowbray, Evolved Digital



    First thought, best thought.

    "Women are urged so often to suppress impulses while men are praised for quick, instinctive, decisive actions — whether or not they succeed. I've faced adversity and have also made my share of off-the-cuff errors in judgment.

    "The best advice I could offer any women is 'first thought, best thought,' meaning trust your instincts before fear and doubt can kick in."

    —Ariane Daguin, CEO and cofounder, D’Artagnan



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Ryan Caldbeck Headshot

    • Silicon Valley CEO Ryan Caldbeck, the author, recently shared a series of charts on Twitter.
    • The charts revealed the most powerful lessons he's learned in his career.
    • The lessons range from the personal to the professional.

     

    Most CEOs would happily give you advice about raising capital, company culture, and personal sanity. I could talk your ear off on these topics, but have instead attempted to consolidated the lessons I've learned as a CEO into a series of x-y graphs. Enjoy. 

    SEE ALSO: This Ukrainian startup has its own Apple museum filled with rare gadgets — and we got a private tour

    The arrogance in VC — especially from the smaller funds — is kind of crazy to me. And offensive. (AuM = Assets under Management or size of fund.)



    If the VC is into you they will email ... right away. Meaning RIGHT away.



    Seeing a huge trend in tech over the past 2-3 years of founders getting profile pieces for themselves to build their personal brand names. Often disconnected with the brand of the company. Basically just a hedge for them for their next job.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Jeff Bezos

    • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told his parents he was leaving Wall Street to start selling books on the internet in the mid-90s, according to "The Everything Store" by Brad Stone.
    • At first, his parents were skeptical. Soon after, they invested $100,000 in the company.
    • Today, Bezos' parents run the Bezos Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization.


    "What do you mean, you are going to sell books over the internet?"

    That was Mike Bezos' — Jeff Bezos' father — first reaction when Jeff Bezos called to tell his parents about his plans to launch Amazon in the mid-90s.

    Brad Stone describes the situation in his 2013 book, "The Everything Store."

    According to Stone, Mike and Jackie Bezos — Jeff Bezos' mother — had been in Colombia for three years, where Mike was working as a petroleum engineer for Exxon. During that time, they had used a now-defunct online service called Prodigy to keep in touch with family members — meaning they weren't fearful of new technologies.

    Mike Bezos told Stone that their hesitancy was more about Jeff Bezos leaving a cushy gig on Wall Street to pursue something much riskier. (Though perhaps they shouldn't have been surprised, given that Bezos displayed an entrepreneurial bent even in middle school.)

    Stone writes that Jackie Bezos advised Jeff Bezos to work on his new venture on the side. Jeff Bezos reportedly told her, "No, things are changing fast," and, "I need to move quickly."

    It didn't take long for Jeff Bezos to get his parents on board. According to Stone, the couple invested $100,000 in Amazon in 1995 — even though Jeff Bezos had warned them there was a 70% chance they'd never see that money again.

    Mike Bezos told Stone that, even though they'd seen the business plan, they didn't exactly understand it. "As corny as it sounds, we were betting on Jeff," Mike Bezos said.

    Today, Jackie and Mike Bezos are the founders, and the president and vice-president, of the Bezos Family Foundation. According to its website, the foundation focuses on improving education and life outcomes for children.

    SEE ALSO: Jeff Bezos was profiled under a pseudonym at 12 years old — and he was a remarkable kid

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Jeff Bezos reportedly just dropped $23 million on the biggest home in Washington, DC — see inside


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    cat leblanc headshot

    • A business plan seems like a given for a successful startup.
    • But entrepreneur Cat LeBlanc started her company without a business plan, and she's convinced that for many people, that's the best way to do it.
    • If you're trying to raise outside funding from investors, however, you're the exception — that's the case in which a business plan is needed.

    Over four years ago I left my highly successful (read: stressful) job in investment banking to start my own coaching business where I help future online business owners find the right business idea, get paying clients quickly, and build a business foundation that scales.

    Eighteen months into the business, I had my first $20,000 month. Since then, the business has earned up to $24,000 a month.

    Little secret: I didn’t make a business plan, and you probably don’t need to, either.

    If you are raising capital for a startup, potential investors will need to see a plan — but if you are aiming not to borrow money, a plan may not provide any advantage at all.

    When I began my business I purposely didn’t start by creating a complex business plan. I knew that in the fast-paced online market I was entering, I would only get a true sense of the numbers once I tested the idea in reality, not on paper.

    Instead of a traditional plan, I took more of an experimental approach and created what I now call ‘a concept to test.’

    A concept to test includes:

    • The idea
    • The value proposition to clients
    • An offer
    • A minimal amount of marketing to test the concept

    This is just enough to put an idea to market and see if it works. No more, no less.

    My initial concept was based on a mix of my talent and people’s needs. I realized that people needed help with business ideas; specifically people who wanted to start online businesses. I saw that they were confused and overwhelmed and didn’t know where to begin. I knew that if I could get some time with them, to guide them through my idea generating process, that I would be able to help.

    I fleshed out this concept by clarifying exactly who my client was, created the messaging that would speak to them (my value proposition) and designed offers that would appeal to their needs.

    To test this concept I first posted in a Facebook Group full of my ideal clients to gauge interest. Immediately I got my first US$197 sale. I was then able to grow my business very quickly from there.

    What I learned from this experience was that starting your business, or launching a new product, does not have to be as complicated as we tend to think. It can, in fact, be really simple. All that matters is that:

    1. You get in front of the people who need your help, and
    2.  They can see the value in your help.

    Now, whenever I want to create a new product or service, I take the same approach. I design a concept to test and see how the market reacts. In the case that it doesn’t sell at first, I am able to make adjustments relatively easily and test again. Doing this means I can stay flexible and launch products at low cost rather than going through a complex planning and build procedure each time.

    This year I tested a new iteration of a product that hadn’t landed in the past: a program now called ‘Ramp Up.’ I didn’t invest months of my time, thousands of dollars, or do a gigantic product launch. Instead, I reached out to a few people I thought might be interested in it.

    I sent them some basic marketing material to see if they would like to sign up. They did. I got the first few people into the program. I then created the first months of material and just started growing from there.

    In this way I was able to build the revenue stream flexibly and there was close to zero loss when the first version didn’t work.

    No complex business plan in sight.

    It turns out that there is research to back up this no-plan approach.

    Julian Lange, Entrepreneurship Professor at Babson College, with his colleagues studied 457 new ventures to find out the effectiveness of business plans.

    The conclusion? "There is no difference in the operating performance of businesses started with or without written business plans," Lange found.

    This doesn’t mean that there’s no value in planning. Planning can help with the thought process and can help you consider different aspects of the business. But planning in advance doesn’t appear to help once you are up and running and dealing with the mechanics of your business in the real world.

    I believe this is because, when you create a business plan before you’ve opened your business, most of your data is hypothetical. You truly don’t know how many units you will sell or exactly what your costs will be until you have made the sales and have delivered.

    Once you have the business or revenue stream up and running, you have a much truer sense of the numbers and can then plan and make projections accordingly.

    Cat LeBlanc helps future online business owners find the right business idea, get paying clients quickly and build a business foundation that scales. You can watch her free Zero To Paying Clients Masterclass to get more details on the testing process. Follow her on Twitter:@catjleblanc.

    SEE ALSO: I built an online business that earns up to $24,000 a month — here's the best advice I can give you

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon, founder and CEO of Founder Gym

    • Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon succeeded in Silicon Valley despite not knowing anything about the tech industry before she moved to the area — and despite being a biracial woman.
    • But Dixon recognizes she was lucky; entrepreneurs who are women or people of color have struggled to gain a footing in the valley.
    • Hoping to use the lessons she's learned and pass them on, Dixon's founded a new startup that offers training courses designed for non-traditional entrepreneurs like herself.


    When Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon launched her first startup, DemoLesson, seven years ago, you likely wouldn't have given her much of a chance of succeeding in the tech industry.

    At the time, Dixon didn't live in the Bay Area, didn't know anyone in the industry, and knew little about how to fundraise or how Silicon Valley worked. She's wasn't a coder or an engineer; instead, she had been a middle-school teacher and working on a PhD — in education. What's more, she's a biracial woman with an African-American dad and launched up her company at a time when there were few women or people of color founding startups.

    "My experience in this space was really isolated," she said. She continued: "I didn't know what i was doing most of the time."

    But Dixon succeeded even so. During an event sponsored by Startup Weekend, she connected with other founders and investors. That helped her secure venture funding for her company, a kind of LinkedIn for teachers, from famed tech investor Mitch Kapor.

    When her startup didn't pan out, the connections she'd made led to a job at Startup Weekend helping organize events for entrepreneurs in the education technology space. After Startup Weekend transferred her program to another organization, Dixon eventually went to work for Kapor's Kapor Capital, helping mentor other startup founders funded by the venture firm.

    And now she's got a new startup, this time focusing on helping other women and people of color succeed in the industry. Dubbed Founder Gym, the new organization offers a four-week training course for entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups that are intended to give them the knowledge and connections they'll need.

    Dixon's experiences in the industry have given her a view of it and insights into it that many women and people of color don't have, she said. Her decision to start Founder Gym was also fueled by being the child of civil rights attorneys and her experience as a former teacher.

    "I've navigated spaces and been in rooms with people most people never have access to," Dixon said. "I actually feel like it's my duty to share this information that I'm getting and spread forth this message."

    Founder Gym's program is structured like an online course

    Given Dixon's background, it may be no surprise that Founder Gym's program, which costs $400, is structured like a class, albeit an online one. Students have a curriculum and weekly coursework. The program features weekly video presentations from professional investors. And students collaborate with each other and critique each other's work.

    mitch-kaporAfter launching Founder Gym in November, Dixon trained her first group of 26 founders early this year. A second group of 44 entrepreneurs recently completed the program, and a third group of about 50 will start soon.

    The entrepreneurs come from a variety of backgrounds. Some had already raised venture funding. Others hadn't. Many live outside Silicon Valley. All are either women or representatives of groups that are underrepresented in tech.

    Dixon has tapped people in her network including Kapor, Ellen Pao, and Charles Hudson, who is one of the few African-American venture partners, to serve as visiting lecturers and mentors. She intentionally brought in people who were comfortable, willing, and able to have frank discussions with the founders about issues of race and gender — the kinds of conversations they couldn't have elsewhere.

    "When you go to Y-Combinator's startup school, those things aren't being addressed," Dixon said, referring to one of Silicon Valley's most well-known incubators for new tech firms.

    The program helps connect founders with others like them

    But for many students, the best part of the program is being able to meet and share experiences with other founders who come from similar backgrounds.

    Sunny Washington, the founder of Because Learning, an education startup based in Salt Lake City"When you're building your startup, it's a pretty lonely experience at times," said Sunny Washington, a Korean-American woman who was a member of the first Founder Gym group.

    "The reality is that if you are a person of color or female, you don't fit in this cookie-cutter mode. Your experience could be different," added Washington, whose three-year-old startup, Because Learning, sells software and hardware kits to schools that are designed to interest kids in science, technology, and math.

    Founder Gym's initial sessions have all focused on fundraising so far. That's on purpose, Dixon said, because having sufficient funding is crucial to a startup's success. And how to play the venture funding game is a skill that many founders, particularly those who aren't from Silicon Valley or don't have a background in the industry, just don't have.

    "There's no precedent for teaching underrepresented founders how to fundraise," Dixon said. "We are literally creating the textbook for this."

    She plans to eventually offer a whole curriculum for founders that includes a range of topics. Those will be inspired both by the questions entrepreneurs raise, but also by the topics investors affiliated with the program think founders need to be familiar with, she said.

    "We have both sides of the equation," she said. She continued: "We're bridge-building between these two worlds that don't really know each other."

    The tech industry has a big diversity problem

    Dixon's identified a real problem in the tech industry. Even though the Bay Area — Ground Zero for the industry — has a liberal bent, women and people of color, particularly Latinos and African-Americans, have long been underrepresented at tech companies. Despite public pressure in recent years from the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the #MeToo movement, the situation hasn't gotten a whole lot better, as the diversity reports from companies including Apple and Google can attest.

    But the problem is particularly acute among tech startups. Only 17% of venture-backed startup firms launched last year had at least one female founder, according to PitchBook. Just 1% of startups had an African-American founder in 2010, the last year CB Insights made such data public.

    U.S. civil rights activist Jesse Jackson speaks to reporters in Havana September 29, 2013.  REUTERS/Desmond Boylan And the lack of diversity is a self-reinforcing problem, say critics inside and outside the industry and researchers who have studied the issue. Much of venture capital investing stems from what they call pattern matching.

    VCs often base their investment decisions on the pictures they have in their minds of what successful entrepreneurs look like, researchers and critics say. More often than not, that archetypal startup founder is white and male and has a degree from — or at least attended — a prestigious university such as Stanford or Harvard. That's largely due to the fact venture partners are overwhelmingly white and male and attended those kinds of schools — and because the startups they've funded in the past were founded by people just like them, researchers say.

    For founders who are women or people of color, "it's harder to raise money," said Fern Mandelbaum, a lecturer at Stanford's Graduate School of Business and a partner at Vista Venture Partners. "We know it still is."

    The venture funding process is stuck in a "feedback loop"

    Because white male founders get a disproportionate amount of venture funding, a greater number of them are likely to be successful. Those entrepreneurs are then often targeted by venture capital firms looking for new partners. Once they fill those positions, the cycle repeats itself in a kind of "feedback loop," said Y-Vonne Hutchinson, the founder and CEO of ReadySet, a consulting firm that helps other organization improve their diversity.

    "This is how power, money, wealth, and opportunity gets concentrated in the hands of the few and excludes the many," she said.

    That's obviously bad for women and people of color. But it's not good for the tech industry. Researchers have shown that companies with more diverse teams tend to perform better than those without them. Companies with leaders that come from a variety of backgrounds can recognize trends and customers bases that more monolithic firms might miss.

    Thanks in part to the #MeToo movement, in Silicon Valley there's starting to be "a recognition that diversity is going to translate into better outcomes," said Dana Kanze, a doctoral fellow at Columbia Business School who has focused on gender discrimination issues in the tech industry.

    Non-traditional tech founders have few role models

    The flip side of the funding problem is women and people of color have relatively few role models or examples they can point to for how people like them can succeed in tech. Many may not realize that becoming a tech entrepreneur is a possibility as a career.

    ellen paoThose who do generally have few people like themselves who can guide them on how to navigate the industry. And because they often don't know anyone else who has gone through the process of building a tech startup, many just don't have the knowledge they need to succeed, whether that's about how to pitch a venture capitalist or even just how to get a meeting with one.

    That's the part of the diversity problem that Dixon designed Founder Gym to address.

    "There are all sorts of ways in which gaps get created in knowledge and preparation" between the traditional white male entrepreneurs and those who are women or people of color, said Kapor. "What Mandela is doing is, in an intensive way, helping close some of those gaps."

    Dixon is hoping to pass on what she's learned about the industry

    Dixon knows first-hand about some of those knowledge gaps and lack of preparation. While she successfully launched and attracted funding for her startup, she says she was lucky.

    She had no idea how to pitch a venture firm, but she gave her presentation to Kapor and his wife, who have placed a premium on diversity and made a point of backing founders who come from underrepresented groups. They overlooked the fact that she gave a non-traditional presentation and decided to back her startup anyway. Once they were on board, she was able to lure other investors.

    "I just stumbled into it," she said. She continued: "I'm not sure I would have been been welcomed in this industry if I hadn't gone through that door."

    Unfortunately, there are lots more founders who are women or people of color than the Kapor's small firm can back. So, not everyone can be as fortunate as Dixon was; other investors typically aren't as receptive to pitches that veer from the standard script. Dixon's trying to make sure other entrepreneurs are better prepared than she was — and hoping to help them succeed.

    "We need case studies" for what a successful woman- or minority-run startup looks like, she said. "I understand my privilege and the doors that have been opened for me.

    "I want to throw a rope down and help other people climb up."

    SEE ALSO: This Stanford grad went from living in motels to working in VC — here's his unusual path and how he wants to help others like him

    SEE ALSO: Silicon Valley's MeToo moment is changing the venture capital industry — but many wonder if it will last

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    Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon, CEO of Founder Gym, on February 21, 2018 in San Francisco

    • Mandela Dixon, a longtime mentor of entrepreneurs, has a new startup that trains non-traditional tech founders on how to succeed in the industry.
    • One of the most important lessons she teaches is a concept she calls the "cosign," which is related to networking.
    • With her own startup, Dixon was fortunate when it came to getting a cosign, but many other non-traditional founders have a tougher time with it.


    It's a cliché that whom you know is more important than what you know — but that doesn't make it any less true.

    Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon found that out in her journey from being a school teacher to a startup founder. And now it's one of the key lessons she tries to impart at Founder Gym, her new company that trains women and people of color in the basics of tech entrepreneurship.

    Dixon's got a catchy name for the lesson. She calls it the "cosign."

    "It's one of the most important things in this industry," she said.

    The tech industry in general and the venture capital business in particular are fairly insulated and driven by networks of connections. If you're new to the industry or to Silicon Valley, it can be hard to break in.

    That's where the cosign comes in. If you're looking to raise money from a particular investor, one of the best way to get a meeting with the investor is to have someone who knows the investor introduce you, Dixon said. It's even better if the person who introduces you is a fellow founder in whom the investor already invested.

    "You need someone in the industry to validate you to who you're trying to get to," Dixon said.

    In her case, Dixon, a biracial woman, says she lucked out with her cosign. Her first company was an education startup. But at the time, she was based in Los Angeles and was completely new to the tech industry, so she didn't know anyone in Silicon Valley or in tech.

    But at an event organized by Startup Weekend, she met a bunch of different founders and investors. One of those founders introduced her to Mitch Kapor, a legendary investor who, along with his wife, has made a point of supporting startups founded by non-traditional entrepreneurs. Kapor and his wife ended up the first investors in Dixon's startup, which led to investments from other firms.

    "I had no idea who Mitch was until I met him," Dixon said. "We were so lucky. We really, really were."

    Networking is particularly important for non-traditional founders

    The cosign lesson is a crucial one for the types of entrepreneurs Founder Gym is focusing on, she said. After she closed down her startup, Dixon helped mentor other entrepreneurs, first at Startup Weekend and then at Kapor Capital. In that role, she saw firsthand the stark difference between the typical startup founders and the non-traditional ones.

    The typical founders were white, male, and affluent. And they generally had previous experience in the tech industry or knew or were related to someone who was in it. In other words, they already had networks in place and people who could cosign for them with investors.

    Al Nolan, founder of Notearise, which offers a note-taking app designed for students"They already have a huge advantage in this playbook," Dixon said.

    Not so the non-traditional investors, who might be women or people of color or people for whom English was their second language. It's those founders whom Dixon is trying to help with Founder Gym.

    In her courses, she not only tries to pass on what she's learned about the industry, but she gives her entrepreneurs the chance to network with founders like themselves and learn from each other. They also get a chance to meet and talk with investors such as the Kapors and Ellen Pao who are willing to invest in non-traditional founders and understand the challenges they face.

    Al Nolan, who was in Founder Gym's first group of trainees earlier this year, said it was great to be able to use the program to build out his network. Nolan, a black entrepreneur who created a note-taking app for students called Note Arise, loved being able to meet other founders like himself and some top investors in the space. He's already capitalized on what he's learned to get as many meetings with investors as he had all last year.

    "That's where I want to be as a founder, knowing who to talk to and what to bring them," he said. "Those are tools I just didn't have before."

    SEE ALSO: This female founder went from teaching middle schoolers to mentoring tech entrepreneurs — here's her unusual path and how she plans to help others succeed in Silicon Valley

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    Barbara Corcoran

    • Barbara Corcoran has appeared on "Shark Tank" for years, and has invested in many startups through the show.
    • She is a successful entrepreneur in her own right: In 2001, she sold her real-estate company, The Corcoran Group, for about $66 million.
    • Speaking with host Farnoosh Torabi on an episode of podcast "So Money," Corcoran said the most successful companies in her portfolio are run by "partnerships"— two people instead of one.

    Barbara Corcoran started her real-estate business, The Corcoran Group, with a $1,000 loan, and built it into a behemoth that sold for $66 million.

    Then, she became a "Shark" on ABC's hit business show "Shark Tank," evaluating and investing in startups looking for funding over the course of nine seasons.

    So you could say she knows what she's talking about.

    On an episode of podcast "So Money," Corcoran spoke with host Farnoosh Torabi about money, from her childhood lessons to her present-day investments.

    Torabi pointed out that Corcoran's fellow Shark, Kevin O'Leary, has said in the past that he sees a commonality among his most successful companies: They tend to be run by women.

    Asked by Torabi if she sees the same, Corcoran said she hasn't observed that pattern, but she has found another one. The most successful companies in which she's invested tend to be led by "partnerships"— as Corcoran puts it, "two people for the price of one."

    In fact, among her own investments, she finds those led by two men have been the most successful so far. "Isn't that weird?" she asked Torabi. "I'm going to have to trade businesses with [O'Leary]. I'd much rather be working with the girls and the guys."

    Corcoran didn't name the startups she's talking about, but she's told Business Insider in the past that her most profitable investments from "Shark Tank" have included online cake company Daisy Cakes, women's apparel company Grace and Lace, gourmet popcorn company Pipsnacks, women's swimwear company Raising Wild, and food truck company Cousins Maine Lobster

    Out of the admittedly small sample size, Cousins Maine Lobster is the only one run by two men, cousins from Maine who moved to California. Corcoran told Torabi the cofounders "are like dream entrepreneurs."

    Cofounder Jim Tselikis told Business Insider's Richard Feloni that some of the best advice Corcoran ever gave them was, "Everything that comes your way isn't a good opportunity."

    Corcoran has also told Business Insider in the past that her most successful entrepreneurs tend to be people who are "street smart" and who take responsibility for their own failures. "When they're slammed they don't feel sorry for themselves," she said on an episode of Business Insider's podcast, "Success! How I Did It." She continued: "Every one of my successful businesses are run by entrepreneurs who are so good at taking a hit and getting back up."

    Listen to the full episode of So Money »

    SEE ALSO: After getting a brutal rejection, Barbara Corcoran spent 8 minutes writing a powerful email defending herself — and it changed the next 9 years of her life

    DON'T MISS: 3 of the 6 'Shark Tank' investors are dyslexic — and they credit it for their success as entrepreneurs

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    susie moore

    • Starting a business can be an intimidating task, with hesitations like funding, resources, and uncertainty holding you back.
    • It can be hard to set your business apart from existing competition, although there are a few things you can do to gain success, fast.
    • Here are five unconventional things I did to grow my coaching business.

     

    When someone says they’re a life coach, they probably fall into one of two boxes. They’re either leveraged and running an online, scalable component to their business, or they’re struggling to find 1:1 clients (hey — it’s hard out there).

    Like most industries, there’s a lot of noise in the coaching space. It can be hard to stand out and set yourself apart from your competition.

    I understood this from day one and did a few things – fast! – that got me inbound clients, a strong reputation as a coach, and a steadily increasing income stream.

    1. Start calling yourself a coach immediately

    I started calling myself a coach pretty much overnight. I signed up for coaching classes at NYU, and on day one of training, I looked around the room of 12 people and thought, “probably 2-3 of us — MAX — will make this happen.”

    I wanted to be one of them. So, instantly, I introduced myself as a coach to everyone I met, changed my social media (apart from LinkedIn) to Susie the coach, and announced to all my friends that I was ready to start accepting clients (at a bargain rate) while I built up my “practice” — a term I picked up in class.

    I had my first three paying clients within just a few days — because nothing beats action.

    2. I didn’t get a coaching certification — and I still don’t have one

    It’s upsetting that many talented and brilliant people can get stuck in the loop of gaining certification after certification. I’m still not certified as a coach on paper — and it doesn’t matter one bit. Just as an artist becomes an artist by creating, a coach becomes a coach by coaching. This doesn’t apply to every field, of course. But for something like coaching, it’s the creating, doing, being, and serving others that counts.

    3. Talk it up

    In my enthusiasm to attract new clients, I speak passionately about how self-development is the foundation of everything great. Sometimes people need a nudge in the right direction, so I use my social circles and social media to encourage people to get the help, advice, and support they need.

    Books, online workshops, and meet-ups count, too! In fact, that’s why I created a free workshop — Side Hustle Prep School— because as people saw me slowly transition out of my 9-5 into a full-time business owner via my side hustle, they wanted to follow suit. With so many people who hate or feel stuck in their jobs, this is no surprise.

    4. Meet other coaches

    I know we’re all busy as heck, but there’s tremendous value in meeting other people in your field who are a little bit ahead of you. Seeing other people live the life you want not only inspires you, but it also affirms that it’s actually possible for you to achieve success.

    Meeting other coaches and being intentional about meeting entrepreneurs – Facebook groups are a great place to start – is often what separates the amateurs from the pros, especially over time. You want to be around as many people like you as possible – the idea sharing, bigger picture thinking, and encouragement are truly worth it.

    5. Share life-advice online

    I used to read MindBodyGreen, a health and wellness website, at my corporate job when I was bored as hell and day dreaming about working in the personal development space. One day I thought, maybe I could write for them! And so I did.

    I submitted 550 words and two weeks later, there I was — in print! I’ve kept going ever since. And it’s been the single biggest factor in exploding my business and brand. I’m still astonished more people don’t do it.

    Because instead of getting “out there” and hustling for clients, you can type away in the comfort of your bed and share your life advice online, and let the right people find you.

    So instead of thinking – Where’s my next client coming from? How will I get people to know about me? I’m spinning gold, where are my fans?Copy me. And let ‘em find you.

    Susie Moore is a high-performance coach, consultant and author in New York City. She’s been featured on the Today show, Forbes, Oprah.com and more! If you’re ready to skyrocket your reputation, grow your client base exponentially, or become the go to expert in your space, sign up for her free workshop here.

    SEE ALSO: 10 things I wish I'd known before I quit my job to work for myself

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    Sam Yagan

    • Sam Yagan is a lifelong entrepreneur and exec.
    • He is the cofounder of OkCupid, and was head of the dating site conglomerate the Match Group for seven years. His first company was SparkNotes, which he founded while at Harvard.
    • Yagan told Business Insider that when SparkNotes first launched, the team got a flood of hate mail, but it was "the best kind of hate mail to get."

    Sam Yagan cofounded his first company when he was an undergrad at Harvard.

    That company was SparkNotes, the book summary site beloved by time-crunched students across the US. 

    Yagan had been recruiting for consulting firms when his roommate and friend, Chris Coyne, pitched him the idea of a humor site called The Spark, and a study guide site called SparkNotes. In the spring of Yagan's senior year, they set the site live ... to a flood of hate mail.

    But the nasty messages weren't what you might expect.

    "People were pissed," Yagan said on an episode of our podcast, "Success! How I Did It."

    And why?

    "Because we didn't have the SparkNote they needed!" Yagan said. "Because we only had 10, and they wanted 'Romeo and Juliet.' Or they wanted 'Hamlet.' Or they wanted whatever book we didn't have. And it was, like, really real anger, because they're, like, 'Oh we found this site with free study guides,' and then they're scrolling and they don't see what they want."

    But as Yagan said, "that's the best kind of hate mail to get, is we need more product. And so we spent that summer, we hired a couple of editors, and their foil was to get a hundred SparkNotes up by the fall, and the rest is history."

    Before the launch (and hate mail) Yagan and Coyne had turned to the most convenient workforce: other college students. "One of the nice things about being in a school, a liberal-arts school with a good English program, is we had all these friends who were just getting done paying a hundred grand to a school to allow them to write papers, and so we went with this great offer: 'We'll pay you 400 bucks to write a paper,'" Yagan said.

    "And their heads exploded. They're, like, 'Wait a minute. You're going to pay me to write a paper? This is amazing.' And so I remember it was, like, we had spring break late in March that year, and we went to people right before their spring breaks and said, 'Hey, can you spend your spring break writing this paper?'"

    By the end of spring break, they had their first 10 papers — enough for a site, but just the beginning.

    SEE ALSO: The cofounder of OKCupid says 3 lucky moments led him to run a multi-billion-dollar company

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Sam Yagan

    • Sam Yagan was born in the United States after his parents immigrated from Syria.
    • Yagan cofounded SparkNotes and OKCupid, was the previous CEO of Match.com, and is the current CEO of ShopRunner, a shopping service and Amazon Prime competitor. 
    • "I think that immigration is the ultimate entrepreneurship, in many ways," Yagan said.

    Being the son of Syrian immigrants gave Sam Yagan a certain amount of motivation — the kind of motivation that leads to creating and running billion-dollar companies.

    Before graduating from Harvard University, Yagan and his friends started SparkNotes, a study-guide website. Later, Yagan cofounded OKCupid and became the CEO of Match.com. Now, Yagan is the CEO of ShopRunner, a shopping service competing with Amazon Prime.

    Born in the United States and growing up in Illinois, Yagan described his young self as "super nerdy" on an episode of Business Insider's podcast, "Success! How I Did It." He said his parents made huge efforts to "Americanize" Yagan the best they could after immigrating from Syria.

    While attending Harvard University, Yagan met his future business partners and cofounders, but he said he ultimately got a great education in entrepreneurship from his parents. "I think that immigration is the ultimate entrepreneurship, in many ways," Yagan said.

    Yagan said entrepreneurs give up a sense of certainty, like a job, income, a career, or money, for a speculative long-term goal that they think will be successful but realistically don't know what the outcome will be. 

    "And that idea of being super, super comfortable with uncertainty, being super comfortable with the unknown, this idea that, just never give up, this relentlessness, were all attributes that I realize my parents have been imbuing in me, had been teaching me or demonstrating not to be an entrepreneur, but just because that's how they lived," said Yagan. 

    Yagan said he realized how lucky he was when the Syrian war broke out. Virtually his entire family remained in Syria until the war and most became displaced after it began. 

    "'The things they think about when they wake up in the morning and the things I think about when I wake up in the morning, I've got Champagne problems,'" he said. "It's, like, when I was at Match, or now at ShopRunner, it's, like, 'Oh, how do we compete with Amazon Prime on this? How do we build this product?' I'm, like, 'That's a great problem to be thinking about.' Because I'm not thinking about survival."

    SEE ALSO: These 15 immigrants became millionaires and billionaires after coming to the US

    SEE ALSO: Immigrants founded and co-founded half of all the billion-dollar startups in 2016, creating over 33,000 jobs

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    Kathryn Minshew

    • Coffee Meets Bagel cofounder Dawoon Kang and The Muse CEO Kathryn Minshew have similar takes on entrepreneurial confidence.
    • Both said they have to live with some amount of self-doubt, and that entrepreneurs don't always know what they're doing.
    • Research backs them up: Relatively low self-confidence can sometimes motivate people to work harder.


    Kathryn Minshew used to call herself the "Asker in Chief."

    The 32-year-old is the cofounder and CEO of job-search and career-advice platform The Muse. But she told me that she didn't start the company in 2011 because she had answers to people's questions. She started the company because, for years, she'd needed those answers herself.

    In the early days of building a business, Minshew said, she got involved with the local tech community in San Francisco and learned about some common startup traps to avoid. More importantly though, she learned that "entrepreneurs aren't magicians."

    She said: "It's easy to look at people on stage who have been building a business for five or, in some cases, 10 years and think to yourself, 'Wow. They're a hero. They're a magician. They have something intangible and magic that I don't.'"

    Eventually, Minshew was able to spend time with those entrepreneurs "behind the scenes."

    And often, she said, she learned that "yes, they're incredibly impressive and they've worked incredibly hard and they had a really brilliant idea at a great time, but underneath all of that, they're still just a person who doesn't always know what they're doing."

    This realization proved to be the wake-up call Minshew needed to get The Muse up and running. So far, according to Entrepreneur, the company has helped over 50 million people find the right jobs for them.

    Even the most successful entrepreneurs will never be completely confident in their decisions

    coffee meets bagel dawoon kangMinshew's moment of realization is similar to Dawoon Kang's. Kang is the cofounder as well as the COO and head of marketing of dating app Coffee Meets Bagel.

    Kang told me that in the early days of her Coffee Meets Bagel career, she "was of the mindset of, 'Oh, if people who are really experienced and know a lot more tell me that this is the right thing, then I guess they're right.'"

    Eventually, her mindset shifted: "No one has the right answer. My job is to investigate as much as I can, put together and learn as much as I can, but ultimately, I have to make my own decision."

    She put that new mindset into play when she and her cofounders declined a $30 million offer from Mark Cuban on "Shark Tank" because they thought the company was worth more. She did it again when she refused to simply copy Tinder, the way several investors had advised her and her cofounders to do.

    That doesn't mean, however, that Kang didn't feel conflicted about her choices in the moment. She told me that she'll never be as confident as she'd like to be in any decision that she makes as an entrepreneur.

    "You're doing something people have never done," she said. "I don't think you ever reach 100% conviction that this is the right thing to do. There's always a sliver of doubt."

    There's research behind Minshew's and Kang's observations about self-doubt. According to psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, writing in The Harvard Business Review, relatively low self-confidence can sometimes be beneficial. That's because it prompts you to work hard to master a task.

    As for Minshew, once she got to see some entrepreneurs in the wild, fumbling through their attempts to build companies, she realized, "Absolutely. I can do this too."

    SEE ALSO: Many successful people are driven by a quality no one likes to admit

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    john collison stripe

    • John Collison, the cofounder and president of Stripe, is the world's youngest self-made billionaire at 27.
    • He started Stripe, designed to transform the way people make online payments, with his older brother when he was just 19.
    • Originally from a small town in Ireland, he came to the US to attend Harvard — until he dropped out to focus on Stripe in Silicon Valley.


    John Collison founded the tech company Stripe in 2010, when he was only 19.

    Now Collison, 27, can call himself the youngest self-made billionaire in the world, with a net worth totaling $1.1 billion after Stripe's $9 billion valuation in 2016. The company was designed to transform the way websites accept online payments, and it's a favorite of huge companies like Lyft and Facebook.

    Collison started the company with his older brother Patrick, Stripe's CEO. Though the siblings have struck Silicon Valley gold, they haven't forgotten their humble roots in small-town Ireland.

    Today, Collison enjoys flying planes, running, and hiking with members of the Stripe team.

    Read on to learn more about the world's youngest self-made billionaire.

    SEE ALSO: 9 wildly successful people who were bullied as kids

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    John was born in Limerick, Ireland, in 1990, and his family eventually settled in the small village of Dromineer.

    Source: Bloomberg



    Collison, a brilliant student, finished with the highest possible marks on his Leaving Certificate, the equivalent of final exams in the US.

    Source: Independent



    Collison was accepted into Harvard before even taking his final exams, which he aced anyway.

    Source: Independent



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    RumbleMonkey Jacob Rapoport

    • Former VMware CEO Paul Maritz likes to make angel investments in companies that he understands. He doesn't play video games and never considered backing an eSports startup.
    • But when one of his former employees pitched an idea for a player-to-player wagering platform, he was intrigued.
    • And when Maritz saw people literally lining up around the block to wager on a game, he opened his wallet wide.


    As the ex-CEO of VMware, Paul Maritz is a well-known name in enterprise software . But he's the first to admit he knows nothing about video games, much less the hyper-competitive world of eSports. He's not even a little bit of a gamer.

    That's why even he was surprised when Maritz become the key angel investor for RumbleMonkey, a year-old eSports platform that launched in March. It lets gamers play head-t0-head games for small wagers. Maritz described his stake as a "Series A." The total investment was in the "very low millions," he says.

    Maritz was a key executive during Microsoft's early days, before he was poached to become CEO of VMware. Later, Maritz was tapped to be the CEO of Pivotal, a VMware spinoff. He retired as Pivotal CEO in 2015, but stayed on as executive chairman. In his semi-retired life, he's become an angel investor in a variety of companies.

    But eSports is way outside his expertise, he tells Business Insider.

    "[RumbleMonkey CEO] Jacob [Rapoport] has taken me in a direction I never expected to go. Other investments I have are much more in my background in enterprise software. Investing in a company like RumbleMonkey is something I never thought I'd do," Maritz says.

    A real world test, not a slide deck

    Maritz first met RumbleMonkey CEO Rapoport back in the late 1990's, when he worked for Maritz at Microsoft. Rapoport has come to Maritz with startup pitches several times before. What lured Maritz to say "yes" this time was when Rapoport convinced Maritz to come with him to the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX).

    Martiz had never heard of PAX — a major gaming convention, held regularly in cities all over the world, especially known for hosting massive tournaments. 

    "About 20,000 people show up to each of those conferences," says Maritz. "They are enormous. On one night they have to rent out Symphony Hall in Seattle to watch people playing video games."

    Pivotal Paul MaritzRapoport used the opportunity to tell Maritz about the money in professional eSports these days. The industry generated about $696 million in 2017 in revenue, according to some market research.

    Rapoport wanted to bring the excitement of playing video games for a real cash prize to the average gamer. "The equivalent of people who go out to a golf match, put money into the kitty and play for the kitty," Maritz says.

    So he built RumbleMonkey to be a platform that handles tiny wagers, verifies who won, and helps gamers find other players of similar ability to play and bet against.

    But the real selling point for Maritz was when RumbleMonkey tested his idea at PAX with a pro gamer. Any gamer could challenge the pro to a match for a $5 wager. If they won, they won the money. If they lost, the money would be donated to charity. 800 people lined up to play against the pro, "with lines around the block," Maritz recalls. 

    A light bulb went off that this was a potentially huge market. He opened his wallet and joined the board. His gamble on this company is proving solid, he says, because about 15,000 applied to be part of the beta program. RumbleMonkey launched in March with just one game, the mega-popular virtual card game "Hearthstone."

    "It is the mirror image of the sports world that's growing up in cyberspace," Maritz says. "It's a new opportunity for me to learn about a world that is emerging very rapidly."

    All in all, Maritz has a half-dozen angel investments, including a scheduling software company called BoldIQ and an aircraft company in his home country of South Africa. That last one is close to his interests — he may not play video games, but he's a seasoned pilot in real life. 

    SEE ALSO: This ex-NSA hacker is hunting white supremacists and hate groups lurking on Twitter

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    fiverr mike zima

    • Mike Zima always dreamed of moving from the US to Europe.
    • To supplement his household income during a potential move, he started digital consulting on Fiverr, a platform for freelance and remote work.
    • Today, he lives in Mallorca, Spain; owns his own digital media business; and does all of his work remotely.


    In 2014, Mike Zima and his wife Irena were vacationing in the Bahamas.

    "We were floating like ducks in the warm water, and Chicago was an ice palace we didn't want to return to," he told Business Insider. "We wanted to be happy when we come home. To be fair, Chicago has good deep dish pizza, but we weren't happy coming home when we could have a better life."

    Zima, now 30, and Irena had always known they wanted to move to Europe, and when they returned home, he started seriously looking into how they could make that happen.

    "The typical transition is like, 'Ok, we're going to move, I'm going to find a job, everything will be all right,'" he said. "But that's almost working against the grain, because relocating to another country is very difficult."

    Zima started experimenting with Fiverr, a site that lets people pay others for tasks outside their expertise starting at $5 each.

    "I knew I would need income to supplement our lifestyle, because in Europe you have to take a pay cut with a traditional job," he said.

    Zima's day job was in digital marketing, so he used his experience to start consulting in a similar vein. Over the next few years, he gathered expertise in Google Analytics to enhance his side gig, and soon, his web consulting started picking up.

    In 2015, his income from Fiverr "went from $50 a month to a couple hundred a week," he said. "I started getting good reviews, and that's when I had the day job and the side hustle side by side."

    "All of 2016 was me doing the side hustle on my lunch breaks," he continued. "On my way to work and on my way home — almost every waking moment was going into this."

    That was the year he and Irena bid Chicago goodbye and headed for Spain. Now, after a stint in Barcelona, he lives in Mallorca, the stunning Mediterranean resort island that hosts the Spanish royal family on their annual summer holiday.

    He supports himself through his own company, data analytics and social media agency Zima Media, which operates through the Fiverr Pro platform with cofounder Damien Bouvier, who is based in London. In 2017, he earned six figures.

    mike zima fiverr barcelona.JPG

    Because he makes his own schedule, Zima is able to prioritize himself over his work. He generally works about 60 hours a week, and right now he's in the process of getting a Spanish driver's license. Irena also works on Fiverr, doing photo retouching and helping Zima Media with administrative work and design.

    "Mallorca is fantastic," he said. "It's almost a fairy tale."

    For people who have similar dreams of creating remote work that lets them live anywhere in the world, Zima has some advice:

    "I got really good at one thing," he said of mastering Google Analytics, "and then that just percolated to all of my other experiences. I took things that were a part of my day job, which I was very experienced at, and meshed it and overlapped it to make a more compelling offer."

    He continued: "If you're going to start a side hustle, it has to be about either learning a skill you never had the chance to pick up on your own, or exploring something that makes you happy."

    SEE ALSO: This woman quit her job, paid her debts, and bought a house thanks to a side job that earns $9,000 a month

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    Ross Bailey CEO Appear Here

    • Appear Here lets businesses rent pop-up space and has been called the "Airbnb of retail."
    • The London startup raised over $20 million to date and is currently planning international expansion.
    • CEO Ross Bailey sat down with Business Insider to talk department stores, skipping university, and how to maintain company culture.


    LONDON — Ross Bailey wants to talk about department stores.

    "If analysts walked around some of them I think they would be trading at less than 30% their net asset value," Bailey says, referencing the already bombed out US "mall" sector.

    He whips out his phone and starts scrolling through pictures that illustrate his point — dreadful carpets, too much stock cluttered together, and bad paintings hung up near concessions.

    "If you saw that in someone's house you'd think they've got bad taste," he says in his typically enthusiastic style.

    Why does he spend his time photographing poorly designed department stores? "It's my passion."

    Appear Here, which Bailey founded in 2012, is a startup trying to do for retail space what Airbnb did for hotel rental. Bailey spends his days engrossed in retail — both good and bad.

    His platform lets people and brands rent "pop up" space across cities, letting aspiring entrepreneurs trial ideas like takeaway porridge stalls or designers launch capsule collections.

    Over 1,000 spaces are listed by Appear Here in the UK, with 1,000 in New York, where it launched last year, and even more in Paris. Everyone from Google to Moleskin has used the platform to book space and Made In Chelsea star Jamie Laing used Appear Here for the launch of his sweet brand Candy Kittens.

    Netflix (Black Mirror) 23 ©Appear HereBailey had the idea for the business while running his own pop-up. He quit school at 16 to move from his home in Buckinghamshire to London and was involved in several entrepreneurial endeavours before running a temporary fashion stall in Soho to coincide with the 2012 London Olympics.

    He noticed that people were coming up to him to ask about he'd managed to secure the space — Under Armour even approached him at one point.

    "There's a pricing issue in real estate," Bailey, now 25, says. "It's based on 10-year leases. That model doesn't work anymore. Now we're seeing rent is a variable cost, not a fixed cost."

    Retail occupancy rates are declining around the world as traditional players grapple with the rise of e-commerce. Shops are closing, sales are down, and fewer people are visiting.

    Real estate needs to move more towards a more flexible pricing model, Bailey argues, like Uber's surge pricing or how hotel prices rise when a conference is in town.

    "If you can make 70% of your revenue in December, you shouldn't be saying the same price for the space in January when there are no sales," Bailey argues.

    "A few years ago people said it was a stupid idea, landlords will never do it. Now it's a case of OK, this is definitely going to happen."

    Ten of the biggest landlords in the US have signed exclusive deals with Appear Here, including Blackstone and Simon, the biggest mall operator in the US. (Bailey didn't say whether he'd critiqued their carpets.)Warner Brothers pop-up Appear HereAppear Here raised $12 million last year to go global and Bailey is currently scoping out a location for a new US office. Property VC Fifth Wall, which is backed by the likes of CBRE and Loewe's, has also invested an undisclosed sum and Bailey hints at another deal with a "fashion fund" that will be announced shortly.

    It's all very impressive for someone still just in his mid-twenties. "Instead of uni, this has been my learning curve," Bailey says.

    Six years on, what has he learned?

    "I think I've definitely learned to delegate. You need to jump between high-level stuff and details."

    Bailey logged 80 flights between London, Paris, and New York last year. He says he is always tired but it doesn't show — he is a whirlwind of ideas and opinions, talking a mile a minute. Towards the end of our conversation, though, a solitary yawn escapes.

    "A big focus over the last six months was building out the exec team," Bailey says. Appear Here recently hired two execs from Uber to run the London and Paris offices. The company has also hired a new CTO and a new chief strategy officer.Kanye West pop up London Appear HereThe company has yet to file a set of full accounts, claiming small company exemption, but Appear Here says it has booking requests worth $110 million made every month across its platform — although not all are successfully fulfilled.

    Appear Here charges a 15% booking fee, meaning that if even a small fraction of that $110 million figure is actually being booked, it is likely making tens of millions a year in revenue.

    The future looks rosy for Appear Here but Bailey is keen to maintain the company culture as it grows. All employees use the same company issued notebooks and pens — a small touch, but one that's clearly important to Bailey — and all 70 staff still have lunch together on Fridays.

    "You have to build a company that you're going to love and attract people with the same values," Bailey says.

    Where did he learn that? During our interview, he mentions lunches with Net-A-Porter founder Massenet and hanging out with Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky in San Francisco ("He loved our brand").

    Ross Bailey, Appear HereNet-A-Porter and Airbnb are two of the three companies Bailey most admires. The other is Nike. He has just finished reading Shoe Dog, the memoir of Nike founder Phil Knight, and implores me to read it.

    "Nike defined an industry," Bailey says. Before Nike, "if you weren't running track, you didn't buy trainers. We want to be the Nike for entrepreneurs and creatives."

    Around 40% of pop-ups on Appear Here are food and drinks stalls, while the rest are fashion, consumer goods, or other retailers like florists. Around 125,000 people have registered on the platform to rent space.

    "I love the idea that we can help everyone bring their ideas to life," Bailey says.

    Tokyo, Manchester, and even Toulouse come up when we talk about cities that could be interesting to Appear Here — but Bailey won't be drawn on specifics.

    "We've got to be where the best ideas are," he says simply.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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