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The latest news on Entrepreneurship from Business Insider

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    Mike Myatt

    Today's advice comes from Mike Myatt, manager director at N2growth, in his post on

    "Great leaders are never satisfied with traditional practice, static thinking, conventional wisdom, or common performance."

    Myatt says leaders aren't going to stop at just reaching the status quo. They will always be in pursuit of the best, of what's next, and why they're not completely satisfied with what they've got. They are always looking for something bigger.

    If you don't have these qualities, you might be a phenomenal worker, but you're not a leader. It takes a little more push to be a leader. 

    Furthermore, you have to be a  pursuer — constantly pursuing more than what's in front of you in all aspects of your life. But you have to pursue the right things at the right time and it must be "intentional, focused, consistent, aggressive, and unyielding."

    "Having a mindset focused on pursuit is so critical to leadership that lacking this one quality can sentence you to mediocrity or even obsolescence."

    Want your business advice featured in Instant MBA? Submit your tips to Be sure to include your name, your job title, and a photo of yourself in your email.

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    girl relaxing sunglasses womanQuestion: How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance as an entrepreneur?

    1. Let go of fear.

    "Many entrepreneurs struggle with fear that if they're not working every minute that they could possibly be working, their business will fail and they will regret not having put in more time. However, in my own experience and in observing other successful entrepreneurs, letting go of this fear not only leads to work-life balance but also more meaningful productivity and accomplishment."

    Elizabeth Saunders | Founder & CEO, Real Life E®,

    2. Build lifestyle into the brand.

    "These days, so many people are focused on getting funding, explosive growth and spending 80 hours a week on their business. While that's all great stuff, it can lead to burn out and unhappiness really quickly. Make lifestyle the most important factor in business from the beginning, and then grow with that principle in mind—less stress, more happiness."

    Sean Ogle | Chief Adventurer, Location 180, LLC,

    3. Schedule your life, not just work.

    "Reserve set times in your schedule for activities that allow you to recharge and that add value to your life, such as daily exercise, a weekly date or social night, time for family activities, and an annual vacation. You not only will have something to look forward to, but also extra motivation to manage your other time well so you do not have to cancel on others—and yourself!"

    Doug Bend | Founder/Small Business & Startup Attorney, Bend Law Group, PC,

    4. Set some boundaries.

    "Calm down. It's 11 p.m. You're not going to lose that client if you wait until tomorrow to respond to his request for a project estimate. Set work hours for yourself and stick to them. If you make yourself available at all hours—while out to dinner, while on vacation, during "sexy time"—you set a dangerous precedent!"

    Steph Auteri | career coach, writer, and editor, Word Nerd Pro,

    5. Turn it off!

    "Our smartphones are a part of our everyday lives, but as an entrepreneur, we literally sleep with it tucked under our pillow. Simply turn off the phone and be amazed at how much you can get done—you can even fit in a work out. You have to know when to separate work and life, which starts with shutting off from everything to take time for yourself. That's why there's a thing called voicemail!"

    Ashley Bodi | co-founder, Business Beware,

    6. Learn something new.

    "I started taking beginner piano lessons at age 26 so I could schedule time away from my computer. Now I know that my Tuesday and Thursday evenings are piano nights. I'm paying money to be there, so you better believe I'll be shutting off my work to get there."

    Allie Siarto | Partner, Director of Analytics, Loudpixel

    7. Work it all out.

    "Being an entrepreneur often uses up all of your time, but it's important to remember to stay healthy and work out. Try and add a calendar invite reminding you to go to the gym, run or do whatever fits you. If not, you'll most likely regret it when you start seeing negative results."

    Ben Lang | Founder, EpicLaunch,

    8. Figure your fuel.

    "Too often, the work-life balance discussion revolves around sleeping and exercising schedules; but for nonstop entrepreneurs, the conversation needs to begin with what we're using for fuel. It's important to stock up on healthy snacks that will reduce your cravings (for less healthy foods) and keep you going 24/7. Stash them in your desk, computer bag, and car for emergency use."

    Benjamin Leis | Founder, Sweat EquiTees,

    9. Remember your friends?

    "Many entrepreneurs I talk to often think about how much time off that their peers have because of their cushy corporate jobs. Entrepreneurs should try creating similar schedules as well so that they can have proper work-life balance. If corporations can make it happen, entrepreneurs can too!"

    Danny Wong | Co-Founder, Blank Label Group, Inc.

    10. Delegate your life.

    "It's great to delegate bookkeeping, marketing, and admin work, but for many who are just starting off your budget won't necessarily allow for it. Get creative and delegate more of your "life" duties like childcare, cleaning house, and grocery shopping to a spouse. Having my husband help me out by doing some grocery shopping means I have more time to spend with him when we're at home."

    Jennifer Donogh | Creator and Director, Young Female Entrepreneurs,

    11. Try Time Boxing

    "If you can offload common tasks, such as scheduling and other appointment setting, you'll free up your time to focus on the most important tasks. Time boxing will allow you to apply laser focus to one project at a time."

    Jeff Slobotski | Founder, Silicon Prairie News

    12. Put yourself first.

    "If you're an entrepreneur, your business relies heavily on your sleep and sanity. Make sure that you are putting yourself first by eating right, sleeping well and exercising (at a minimum). Remind yourself that those things are critical to thinking, creating and performing at your best, and make sure you stand firm to your commitments to all three."

    Jenny Blake | Founder, Life After College,

    13. Balance is not "equal."

    "Personally, I'm not happy if I'm evenly dividing my time between work and other things. I really enjoy what I do, to the point that I get bored with a lot of hobbies. I focus on making sure that I'm doing well on a personal level: if I'm feeling stressed out, I'll take a step back; if I feel like I'm not getting enough work done, I'm cool with investing more time."

    Thursday Bram | Consultant, Hyper Modern Consulting,

    14. You deserve a reward!

    "It's easy to forget about the "life" part. Unfortunately, this ends up making you burn out, while never giving yourself "me" time and enjoying the fruits of your labor. Reward yourself, whether it's by taking a vacation, treating yourself to a day at the spa, or turning off your devices and reading a book. It will make you a better worker in the long run."

    Steven Le Vine | CEO/President, grapevine pr

    15. What's your work-life story?

    "Whether I spend 80 hours a week working on business or I'm on vacation and give 100 percent of myself to my reflection and refueling, my experience of both are pretty much the same. I make it my priority to narrate the story of what I'm doing, how I'm feeling, and how I'm spending my time in a way that makes me feel good and balanced. The story I tell myself is what keeps me thriving."

    Alexia Vernon | Communication and Leadership Author, Speaker, Coach, and Trainer, Alexia Vernon Empowerment LLC

    16. Schedule it like you would an important meeting.

    "If you want time for yourself, you need to schedule it into your day. 4 days a week I make 2 hours for myself through Crossfit. There is nothing more important to me than my health. To ensure I never miss a class, it is scheduled into my calendar weeks in advance and my day is planned around it just like an important meeting with a client. If it's scheduled, you will do it. If it's not, you won't."

    Greg Rollett | CEO, The ProductPros,

    The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.

    Read more posts on Young Entrepreneur Council »

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    timothy sykesToday's advice comes from Tim Sykes, founder and CEO of Investimonials and, via his interview with Young Entrepreneur:

    "Quit being such babies. If you always wait for perfect opportunities, you'll waste precious time that could be used to learn and gain experience during the tough times."

    While attending Tulane University, Sykes started his entrepreneur career by regularly trading penny stocks and turning the $12,415 he received in his Bar Mitzvah into $2 million. He ended up starting a hedge fund during his senior year. 

    Sykes says that if entrepreneurs are able to succeed in tough economic times, they'll be even more successful when the market "bubbles."  

    His idea is that when there's not a lot to lose, you've got nothing to lose, so why not go for it?

    "Long story short, it's great to get into an industry when it's depressed and then sell out when there's too much hype and morons are willing to pay excessive premiums for something you know goes in cycles."

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    Chris Granger

    Light Table, a new startup that came out of a crowd-funded Kickstarter campaign, is an application that can already shorten the process of developing an app by more than 20 percent.

    But that's just the start. After raising hundreds of thousands with Kickstarter, Light Table is soon going to be the future of developing.

    Here's how it works: normally, when you develop an app, you have to compile everything altogether, and hope for the best when you run it that everything works.

    But with Light Table, you can see the app working in real time, and determine if things are working right away or not. That means you can more rapidly debug your apps, making the whole process of building an app much, much faster.

    And it's also a good way to find your mistakes quickly — making it a powerful learning tool, too.

    We caught up with co-founder Chris Granger to see what it's like trying to reinvent programming. Here's what we learned:

    • Just after closing a $316,720 Kickstarter campaign, Light Table joined Y Combinator. It was "just two guys" at first, but now they're looking to hire a lot of new people.
    • Light Table speeds up your development time by 20 percent — and that's just right now. The team hopes to speed up development time by "orders of magnitude."
    • Light Table might end up being the perfect way to learn how to program, too. Because everything happens in real time, you can immediately see where your mistakes are and parse your results. Light Table's co-founder wasn't a programmer to begin with, and learned how to do so by building Light Table.

    Here's a lightly-edited transcript of the conversation: 

    BUSINESS INSIDER: Can you tell me a little bit more about your background?

    CHRIS GRANGER: Right now we're just two guys, we met back in high school. We've known each other for a little over a decade. He went and did biology at Johns Hopkins. I went to Chapel Hill, actually for German, and took courses all over the place. I graduated with a German degree and I'd been programming forever. I worked my way through college on contract gigs, programmed for a while in Charlotte and then joined Microsoft as a program manager for Visual Basic and C-Sharp (C#) for a few years. It's a precursor to what we ended up doing for Microsoft's own development tools. We just started talking and said, ah, we should do a company together, and here we are now.

    Light TableBI: How was your experience with Y Combinator?

    CG: I had applied with another guy a few times ago with a completely different idea. It's always been on our radar. This time, it was really great, we certainly learned a lot. Y Combinator opens up opportunities, not even to just investors, but to meet people you might not otherwise meet and learn from them. It's not even them giving you anything necessarily or opening doors, it's learning from people you would never have the opportunity to see. That's the most valuable thing we got out of it, beyond the fact it also let us focus. We didn't have to worry about, how in the world do you set up a company. They have a streamlined process, now it's all done, so go do your stuff.

    BI: So what is Light Table?

    CG: Light Table is a new environment for creating software. The main problem, is building software is way harder than it should be and it's really inefficient. A good analogy is like, being a developer today is being a painter with a blindfold. You make a stroke on the canvas, you don't see the result. The time to be able to see a change when coding could be anywhere from 30 seconds to 8 hours. That disconnect is hugely impactful, it means what we end up doing most of the time, instead of doing little things and trying them, we make huge changes and hope to god that we got it right.

    Light Table removes that blindfold and applies real-time feedback. It allows you to modify a running program. What this opens up is a new level of connection to the software. It's interesting, being able to see how data flows through your program, even so far as taking your code and seeing variables get filled in. It enables a real-time level of debugging, you write way fewer problems into the software. 

    Other software editors live in this world where the only thing we've ever had is text. Emacs is 36 years old, Vim is in the 20s, they were invented in the time where all you had was a teletype. As a result of that, they work in this very strict world where you have a file open and there's text in this file, and if you want more than that you're kind of screwed. One of the second things we're doing on top of connecting you is building an environment that basically mold it to the shape of your problem. We're talking about being able to edit running games and graph the performance, you immediately see it changing in front of you.  

    We're moving away from this notion where the only thing we have is a single file we work in or a couple of buffers, you can actually have all sorts of crazy stuff on your work surface. It's about creating a real work surface. If you look at other professions, they work on giant graphing tables, they have blueprints all over the place. 3D modelers have far more advanced tools that programmers have today, their work spaces adapt. Light Table takes it to that same level of adaptation.

    BI: What languages does Light Table support?

    CG: Right now we started with Clojure, the fastest growing language out there right now. Now that we're out of Y Combinator, we're pushing into Python and JavaScript because they're massively popular. What we're ultimately building is a completely open platform. You can't do what Vim did, doing it all themselves. There's a ton of value to letting the community build whatever they want to on top of it. The end goal is to create an open platform, any language you can ever want to support will be there. It'll be much easier for the greater number of applications, even Sublime Text or Vim or Emacs.

    BI: How much time do I save using Light Table, instead of a standard editor?

    CG: It depends on the kind of programmer you are and where we are. What we'll see, based on what we've seen so far, is you can see upwards of 20 percent faster development time. We're basically re-imagining the way you program, this is still very early stuff and I don't think we've got it all yet. Ultimately the goal we're talking is orders of magnitude faster. Right now, these very general environments we have, they're not necessarily good at anything. Once you get to the point that you have an environment that's tailored to what you do, you're playing a very different game. That's the difference between digging a posthole with a postholer instead of a standard shovel.

    "Once you get to the point that you have an environment that's tailored to what you do, you're playing a very different game. That's the difference between digging a posthole with a postholer instead of a standard shovel."

    BI: Sounds like it would be good for teaching?

    CG: One of the use cases we're most excited about is teaching. When we released the videos, a lot of organizations said it would be the most amazing teaching tool for programming that's been around. I feel very strongly about that. My cofounder, he wasn't a programmer when we started this. He learned himself, he provides great feedback for how to be a teaching tool.

    BI: Where do you go from here?

    CG: Right now we're looking to hire. We did a Kickstarter a while back just before we got into Y Combinator. We set out a plan for ourselves, we want to release our Version 1 in May next year. We're looking to hire four or five guys to finish this thing out. Toward the end of the year, we're trying to get a beta version of this JavaScript and Python stuff out. For us, it's getting back to the product.

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    Michael Seibel, Emmett Shear, Justin Kan and Kyle Vogt

    Just a little more than a year ago, co-founders Emmett Shear and Justin Kan were kicking around an idea: building a website specifically around streaming video game matches.

    Fast forward one year later, and now the site, called instead of, has more than 20 million visitors every month and has support from some of the top video game publishers in the world.

    On top of that, it's created a giant network of professional gamers that make money by streaming their video game matches, like StarCraft games and World of Warcraft games, on the site.

    Who knew that there was a market for watching video game matches online?

    We caught up with co-founder Emmett Shear and vice president Matt DiPietro to find out how the site is doing. Here's what we learned:

    • After launching about a year ago, Twitch.TV now has more than 20 million visitors every month. It grows by about 10 percent month-over-month every month and partnering with a ton of publishers. For example, is the streaming partner for PAX, one of the largest conventions in gaming and will unveil a host of new content from publishers like 2K Games.
    • now partners with 2,000 professional gamers, helping them earn money with their streams. They're launching a new program to find star talent that might be flying under the radar, too.
    • is giving out scholarships to high-performing academics who are also gamers. Think of it the same way that athletes get scholarships for playing games while in school.

    Here's a lightly-edited transcript of the interview: 

    BUSINESS INSIDER: So, give me a quick update. How are things going?

    EMMETT SHEAR: Things are going great, I don't even know where to start. In terms of top-line, where we are in terms of numbers, in July we crossed 20 million uniques, that's greater than 10 percent growth month-over-month since we launched a little more than a year ago at E3. That's huge, we're very excited about that, the partner program now has 2,000 partners, the other number we like to talk about that we're really proud of is the engagement. It continues to be outstanding, we get about 75 minutes average viewing time per person per day, if you compare that to other video-type platforms it's just off the charts high. We're really proud of it, it goes to just how sticky this kind of content is, how passionate gamers are. All of that stuff is great, we're coming up on PAX Prime.

    BI: Why PAX?

    ES: PAX is very gamer-oriented. It's very much meant for the public, people who love games will come. We're gonna be the official streaming partner at PAX. We're gonna have a bunch of people streaming from our booth: Sony, Trion, we're getting debut content from a couple different developers including 2K Games.

    MATT DIPIETRO: It's a much more gamer-driven show, there's lots of indie games that'll debut there. If you work in the video game space, you'll be very familiar with the idea of gaming media companies competing with each other in order to get the game preview, game reveal from publishers. What we're seeing now is that publishers are reaching out to us as first choice in order to get game reveals to their audiences. That's awesome, super exciting, we have a cross-section of the industry's largest publishers that are streaming on our site as a piece of their marketing program.

    BI: Sounds like you guys have picked up a ton of buzz since. 

    ES: At Gamescom in Germany, two weeks ago, Activision debuted COD: Black Ops 2 for the first time with Twitch as a launch vehicle for showing off the game. They chose Twitch for that because we really reach their audience and we let them do it live, instead of dropping a trailer. That's a huge vote of confidence, Call of Duty all on its own is the single-largest game, maybe the largest entertainment franchise on the planet. To work with a brand of that caliber is really fun.

    At PAX, in addition to have developers show off new games, we're gonna be announcing the scholarship program. We went to Alienware and a few others, said people who devote themselves to gaming should be able to get scholarships the same way sports scholarships work. We're giving $5000, $10000 scholarships to great gamers who participate in the community and get a good GPA and are student gamers. We're gonna be announcing those five winners at PAX.

    BI: Wait. A scholarship for gamers?

    MD: The community went absolutely crazy for it. $50,000 total, $10,000 for five upstanding gamers. We're culling through the applications as we speak. We're gonna hand off the finalists to the scholarship  committee. It surprised me the impressive caliber of applications we got. People that are so involved in the gaming universe while studying is amazing. They're creating amazing content and personally they are just proud and passionate about their skill level and achievements within their given communities. Those guys, I can't wait to make those phone calls.

    ES: We should probably show up with a giant check.

    BI: Wow, sign me up. Anything interesting in the pipeline that you guys can talk about? 

    ESOne thing we're working on, we're integrating streaming directly into games. We had that idea, when we were talking the very first time, we haven't gotten it into the games. We've partnered with Paradox Interactive, The Showdown Effect is gonna have one-click broadcast into Twitch. You'll be playing the game on your PC, and you click broadcast, and the gameplay will stream directly to your Twitch channel. This has been a very big initiative, we're working closely with lots and lots of publishers. We're hoping this becomes a standard piece of the game publishing business. Anyone who wants to be able to share their gaming experience should be able to, they shouldn't be held back by the fact that currently it's kind of tricky to do.

    "Anyone who wants to be able to share their gaming experience should be able to, they shouldn't be held back by the fact that currently it's kind of tricky to do."

    MD: We have a lot of game-changing, potentially game-changing announcements that are coming up in the next short- to mid-term, we can't talk about any of those things right now. We're building some apps too, the Twitch Xbox Live app will hopefully be available soon, that's dependent on Microsoft. We have a prototype that works right now on the office. 

    BI: How is the partner program coming along? 

    ES: The biggest thing for people is that as we've grown the number of partners, it's become clear that if you work hard as a community broadcaster you can get into the partner program. Most people we're adding now are community broadcasters. We've partnered with the major brands, ESL, they were major partners quickly. As we did more research, it's been lots of people in the community being inducted. That had a positive effect on the community, they can make it to that level if they can just grow their audience.

    MD: Just yesterday, we launched a little program called the Twitch Hidden Gems program, our inside term for it. The idea was to find all of the undiscovered potential Twitch stars that don't get a lot of promotion, but create really great content and have a really passionate audience. We selected a bunch of those folks and are starting to highlight those smaller but really impressive channels. We plan on building that program out regularly going forward. We think there's a lot of people out there that we want to enjoy the same kind of promotion and getting to the threshold of becoming a partner.

    BI: Are you feeling pretty good about your decision to pivot?

    ES: I think, in retrospect I remember people asking me, is this even gonna work. It's pretty clear that it has, you can think of where we were in terms of uniques when we started this, we were at 3 million when we first looked at it, we're over 20 now. That's pretty awesome for one year. I personally feel really good about it. I really look forward to, especially with the SDK, grow it to something that's not just part of some gaming communities, but something that can be on the precipice of all gaming communities.

    MD: I believe we are building the social video layer for the entire video game industry. If you look a the content, it really bares that out. There's an amazing cross-section of people streaming video game content. Individual gamers to the biggest publishers to media organizations, when we're able to get Twitch embedded into devices and set-top boxes with the SDK, I think we have the chance to really fundamentally change the entire industry.

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    daniel gross greplinWe just spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley, asking around to find out who the top new CEOs are in technology.

    What follows is a round of the executives of the companies that people are most excited about, and what we've learned about them.

    Will Harbin, CEO of Kixeye

    Facebook games are not dead, Kixeye CEO Will Harbin will tell you.

    That's because Kixeye goes after a slice of gamers that, while smaller than the typical casual crowd, pay much more than your traditional FarmVille player.

    Harbin doesn't pull any punches and is quick to go for the jugular when it comes to casual competitors like Electronic Arts and Zynga. In a recruitment video, he's seen putting on a horse head mask and riding a helicopter out of his main office.

    That's helped Kixeye significantly in the long run, giving Kixeye its explosion-loaded marketing message that's attracted a branch of gamers that prove that Facebook games are, indeed, not dead.

    Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber

    Travis Kalanick is quietly building one of the best startups in Silicon Valley.

    It's pretty much impossible to get a cab in San Francisco, much less any city in the southern SF Bay Area. But thanks to Uber, that isn't much of a problem (though it is still quite pricey).

    Now Uber just unveiled Uberx, which increases the size of its fleet. The cars also cost only a little more than what you might pay for a typical taxi, which makes them even more competitive.

    Jamie Wong, CEO of Vayable

    Jamie Wong speaks multiple languages and has spent her life traveling the world. Now she's building a startup that makes it much easier for everyone to do the same.

    Vayable basically shortens the process of planning a vacation from 30 hours down to about 5 minutes. It makes it easy to plan "experiences," like touring the Louvre with a French student instead of riding a tour bus around town.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

    Please follow SAI on Twitter and Facebook.

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    Gene Wade

    Today's advice comes from our interview with Gene Wade, founder and CEO of UniversityNow:

    "It takes a certain kind of person to be able to handle pushing for something one day, and pushing against it the next."

    But this is exactly the thing that happens in a startup environment. 

    Wade tells us that before you can achieve a repeatable business model, you actually have to search for it. This means that your company will go through all kinds of changes, and you have to employ people who can "live with ambiguity." These are people who are okay with frequent changes and can handle short-term failures. 

    It's easy for employees to "get demoralized" when the culture and tone of the company is unclear, so to prevent this situation from happening at your own startup, the entrepreneur says you need to be completely honest with your staff as to why the changes are being made, and also to acknowledge that this time might be confusing for your team. 

    "I have to constantly tell people at my company, 'This is where we are, we are not an established company and we're in a place where we don't have a repeatable business model yet.' "

    Wade says that this doesn't mean that what they did last week was "bad work." This means that everything that anyone does at the company plays an integral role in defining the company's identity and forming an efficient business model.

    "The market place has the right to vote, and as a new company, we're going to redefine ourselves all the time."

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    clever tyler bosmeny

    School systems have some of the oldest and worst technology in the world. It's difficult to access and parse data about students, from attendance to grades and just about anything else.

    It's causing some major headaches as the rest of the world moves into the 21st century. 

    Enter Clever, a new startup that parses that information and wraps it all together in a neat way that's easily accessible.

    Clever gives trusted third-party developers a way to access that data and build new applications that can help teachers access and analyze the data they have, making them better at their jobs.

    It's a startup that's long, long overdue. Better teachers make better students, so the results are good across the board.

    We caught up with cofounder Tyler Bosmeny to find out how Clever is doing. Here's what we learned:

    • Clever is now deployed in more than 1,000 schools. That's a pretty high number. Advisors at Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley startup incubator, had set a goal for Clever to be in 40 schools by Demo Day. It just shows how much pent-up demand there is for the service.
    • Clever can reduce overhead tech costs by more than 50 percent. Since it's easier to access, update and move data, you don't have to spend a ton of money training people and buying up the latest up-to-date software. It also only takes a few minutes to get Clever running.
    • Anyone can develop an app on Clever. Once a school deploys Clever, they can use a whole host of apps built by trusted third-party developers to access and parse the data they have on their students—and find out trends about how classes are doing. 

    Here's a lightly edited transcript of the interview:

    BUSINESS INSIDER: Can you tell me a little bit more about the team? 

    TYLER BOSMENY: Dan, Raf and I were all best friends at Harvard. I studied applied math, Dan was biology, Raf was computer science and applied math. After we graduated we all went in different directions. Dan went into a school district, and over time was promoted to become director of technology for that district. He realized it was insanely difficult to use technology in the classroom. Everyone says, "Why hasn't technology transformed technology like it has for every other industry?" Technology was creating more work for teachers, and not less.

    BI: How did you guys come to start Clever?

    TB: Well, when we were just starting, we didn't have a key insight which is that we could build a business-to-business [B2B] company that could help developers right away. At first we thought it would be great to build a product, but it's hard to sell to schools. But we saw we could build a B2B company that could help developers who are having these big headaches, and that's what led to us founding Clever. That led to Y Combinator, and everything everything else.

    BI: How did you find the Y Combinator experience?

    TB: You get to talk to the smartest people, they're doing companies themselves. It's a really inspiring place to be. I'd say, in Y Combinator they put a lot of emphasis on growth. So, that was something that we put a lot of emphasis on as well. It's the kind of thing, they're mentioning their growth weekly. You show up to Y Combinator every Tuesday and you get asked about your growth. We're motivated to keep figuring out whatever it takes to grow. You gotta get those growth numbers higher. 

    BI: So what does Clever actually do?

    TB: We are helping get data out of school systems and into a common platform that applications can be built on. Right now, developers have all these frustrating ways to getting that data. There are just arcane ways of getting data. We've noticed that this problem of moving and managing data is one of the biggest problems in education today. You spend all your time reinventing the wheel trying to move data around. It was really frustrating developers who have to deal with it.

    "You spend all your time reinventing the wheel trying to move data around. It was really frustrating developers who have to deal with it."

    It adds a lot of overhead to costs.

    Most companies we work with tell us moving this data is their No. 1 support cost. And it's also the No. 1 complaint about the products. Teachers say things like, "I set up the product, and by the second day of school everything was already out of date." When you use Clever, it's completely automated. You get modern, clean data from the school. We can do two things: decrease support costs by 50 percent, and we can make it possible to get things up and running and deployed in a school in minutes.

    BI: How do you capture that data?

    TB: We interface with all the systems that schools run on today, they're called student information systems. Those have information about students, attendance, grades, everything. We bring it out, clean it up and provide a modern way for developers to access it [an API, or application programming interface]. This is one of the most beautiful APIs that I've seen in education. This isn't an industry where things are usually moved around with APIs.

    BI: What about security? Has there actually been a lot of interest?

    TB: Before any data is moved, a school authorizes Clever to send data to a provider before Clever will do it. We launched in June. We were in basically no schools. We were in around four. Paul Graham gave us a goal of being in 40 schools by Demo Day. On Demo Day, we announced that we had hit 1,100 schools. There has been so much pent-up demand for this, it's grown in ways that we could never imagine.

    BI: What happens next?

    TB: Right now, we just need to keep growing. We have a huge backlog of schools, we have a lot of partners who want to come on to our platform. We want to be the best platform in the universe for education.

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    girl running late

    They say "Half of life is just showing up," but in this economy, you need to prove that you can accomplish more than being in your cubicle by 9 a.m. 

    You chances of succeeding in a "ROI Nation" depend on whether you can bring in money for your company, Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, tells's Bridget Quiqq in a recent interview.

    Are you a return on investment for your employers? Are you bringing in numbers? Does your work help attract investors? 

    Schawbel goes on to explain it no longer matters if you're the first one in the office or rolling out of bed at 11 a.m. as long as your work is completed on time, the numbers are sufficient and the quality is phenomenal. 

    “You’re going to see Millennials force companies to allow them to telecommute or work from home, however the job gets done. I think it goes back to the old term R.O.W.E., results only workplace environment," he says. "As long as you can prove results you’ll have a good career.”

    "It doesn’t matter who you are doing it with or where you are doing it, it’s just that it is getting done."

    Furthermore, Schawbel says this is why you see more young people working for smaller companies compared to more corporate, larger ones. Employees may have more resources and higher salaries at a larger company, but they won't experience the same flexibility and trust that they will at a smaller place. 

    You'll also most likely be working longer hours at a smaller place, and this proves what Millennials really care about when it comes to their professional lives.

    They'll happily put in more hours for less pay if they feel they're heading toward more opportunities in the near future. Most of these young people will choose to work around the clock at a startup environment instead of the 40 to 60 hours they might put in at a larger company. 

    Employers need to understand these concepts and know that it's less about the "nine-to-five work week" and keep their sights on their end goal. 

    Schawbel also says that young workers will likely have nine different jobs between the ages of 18 and 34, and typically leave after two years due to a "lack of career opportunities." 

    NOW SEE: 14 ways the recession has changed how Millennials view work > 

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    Peter Bell

    In our technologically-driven world, it's essential that when launching a new business that those involved can quickly share and access files between one another. 

    There are a wide range of cloud computing services that can be crucial tools for businesses in the midst of growing rapidly, but also need to remain conscious about spending. 

    To get some insights on what business owners should know when choosing cloud-based tools, we turned to tech coach Peter Bell, Senior Vice President of Engineering at General Assembly, an organization specializing in education in business and entrepreneurship

    Below is a slightly-edited transcript of our conversation:

    What is the most important thing most business owners should know about cloud computing?

    Cloud computing is becoming the default option for companies large and small. It's usually quicker, cheaper, more secure and allows you to focus on building your business — not installing and configuring servers and software. For a long time people were concerned about the security of cloud computing platforms, but most of them are actually now much more secure than anything you're likely to be able to set up on your own.

    What are some examples of cloud computing services that business owners should consider?

    Start with Google. If you want to set up an email account for your company, Google apps for business is an inexpensive offering that allows you to set up email, calendaring, and document sharing for your team. The email is easy to set up and use, the calendaring is simple, but workable, and you can easily share documents both within the company and with external consultants and vendors.

    As your company grows to between 50 and 100 employees you'll start to run into some of the limitations of the system in terms of administrative and security capabilities, but it's a great way to get started.

    You probably also want to check out Dropbox for sharing files. Their "team" version is perfect for growing businesses.

    Most of the other offerings depend on what you need to do. is probably the best CRM for most small-to-medium sized businesses, but if you're smaller or have simpler needs you should also check out Highrise from 37 signals. There are also passable online accounting offerings like Quickbooks Online or Freshbooks if you have simpler requirements and mainly care about invoicing. 

    What if your company decides to write your own software?

    Even if you have developers and are writing custom software, instead of renting servers, you should consider cloud based hosting. Amazon S3 — for storing and serving static files — and EC2 — for computing power — are the industry standards, but if you can, check out providers like Heroku that make it even easier for your developers to set up a robust staging and production environment for your applications.

    What are some of the limitations of cloud computing?

    The main limitation is that because someone else is controlling the software and the hardware, there are limits to how much control you have over configuration. With Software-as-a-Service offerings like Google apps for business, if you don't like the way the administrative setting work, you have to move your entire company to a new email hosting provider — you can't just get the code changed to meet your exact needs.

    And even with cloud hosting of your own software, there are some optimizations you won't be able to perform with some of the cloud hosting providers that you could with your own server.

    The other common limitation is that depending on the provider, the quality of customer support is not always great. If you call up SalesForce with a problem they'll take care of you, but if you have an issue with Google apps, you're pretty well stuck with checking the internet for similar issues. 

    However, generally the limitations of cloud computing are a small price to pay for the huge savings in cost, complexity and time to market. It's OK to outgrow a system once in a while. That's a quality problem to have.

    NOW SEE: How this tech startup expanded its operations from Paris to New York City > 

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    jake jolis

    Our company has a new rule: everybody on the team has to talk to users.

    Everyday users can explain what they do not like about your product and provide crucial clues on how to make it better.

    Admittedly, talking to users seems at face value seems like a blindingly obvious starting point for any company that has a product, since users (or customers) in a free economy ultimately determine whether you succeed or fail.

    But it’s striking how easy it is not to talk to your users and thereby commit a huge mistake.

    Users vote with their feet. And this is triply true on the Internet. Because the web is the most competitive, integrated marketplace on earth, it’s very easy for a user to shift from a bad service to a superior competitor, which is why the best online businesses can achieve hyper growth more quickly than, say, a dry-cleaning service.

    Despite this, it doesn’t take long to come up with a dozen startups that died because they seemed to prioritize the user last. The biggest reason burgeoning companies don’t focus on users is that they get distracted, especially by agenda items that feel like real work but that don’t in fact contribute to the end product or the user experience.

    This quickly kills startups that don’t yet even have a product, much less users. The uphill slope for younger startups is so steep that losing focus is bound to turn the idea belly-up. Startups that have a blog before they have a prototype, company t-shirts before they have users, or an office before they have growth, tend to be among the companies that die out fastest. It’s Darwinian law.

    We didn’t want to be in that pool.

    Our product, Verbling, is a site where language learners can practice with native speakers around the world through live video in the browser. Because we have the luxury of talking to users through our product, we get to do both quality-assurance testing and user-feedback gathering at the same time.

    At the end of 2011, a point still early in Verbling’s life, spirits within our team were low because we weren’t seeing the explosive growth we wanted. We had a hunch that both productivity and morale would increase if we let our users hold us directly accountable for the work we did every day. We’d still look at the Mixpanel charts for macro trends, but all of us would also speak with “real human” users, a lot, every day, in order to understand why the numbers trended the way they did.

    To do this, we’d simply link up to face-to-face conversations with our users, using the live video technology on which Verbling is built. We’d eliminate excuses and justifications for what was weighing down growth and instead zero in on actually solving big problems in users’ lives. Our typical user—a Spanish-speaking, 25-year-old, middle-class college graduate—needs to become fluent in English in order to reach her career goals, so she genuinely cares about this product.

    Our premise was that if users told us they didn’t like a feature, or that our product was too broken, we’d understand this was our fault. Consequently, we’d do something quickly to fix it: improve the product, make users happy—users who’d in turn tell their friends and create generations of recommendations. Pretty simple. Except many companies fail at this and thereby commit suicide.

    Seeing the faces of our users turned out to be the crucial part for us. Even though they were literally oceans away from us, the live video component of Verbling helped us emotionally connect with and commit to the people we talked to. We attached names, faces, and expressions to what for most companies is simply a different digit in an Excel spreadsheet. By our direct video link connection, we’ve personally promised to solve the problems of Andrea in Madrid, Susana in Bogotá, and Harry in Tennessee—and face-to-face promises are difficult to break.

    But you don’t need a live video link to your users to get this effect. When we redesigned the most heavily used Verbling page, my cofounder and I ran around the Safeway on Bernardo & El Camino in Sunnyvale, asking grocery shoppers to point at the things on our paper mockups they thought looked important. This helped us understand how people unfamiliar with the site would try to interact with it. Obvious stuff, yet easy to neglect.

    Most of the hypotheses we’ve had since starting this company have been wrong. This, however, was not one of them. We immediately became a more efficient, motivated, and happy team. We showed up at the office a little earlier in the morning and left a little later at night. Some nights, we even slept at the office.

    Early morning hours just before sunrise were characterized by a deep sense of camaraderie. We were soldiers in the trench. Laughter, incredibly hard work, and the sense of being part of something greater than ourselves were all of a sudden part of our daily routine. And it showed in the end product.

    So now we’re growing faster than ever. We’re focusing on all the right things—and only on the right things. We are seeing fresh, wide streams of users from around the world, while old users are sticking around because they see that the product is better. Engagement is up. And we’ve made that process a routine, systematized, core part of our company culture. Before implementing any changes, we ask ourselves if doing so will improve the experience. If the answer is no, we don’t do it.  

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    michael waxman headshot

    Instead of relying on machine-driven algorithms to find you a potential date or new friend in the real world, New York-based startup Grouper tries to do things a little more, shall we say, humanely.

    Here's how it works: You link your profile to your Grouper account when you sign up, and set up a few "preferences"—like how much older or younger you want the people you are meeting to be, and what kind of bar you want to go to.

    Then, Grouper uses your Facebook profile to match you up with three other people—guys or girls, depending on what you select. You bring two friends—"wingmen" or "wingwomen"—and meet for a drink, and it goes from there.

    Worst-case scenario, you had a quick drink with friends and some new people. Best-case scenario, you met your future wife, or friends that will last a life time.

    Sounds like it's worth the quick hour.

    We caught up with cofounder Michael Waxman to find out what makes Grouper different from other sites. Here's what we learned:

    • Grouper has served tens of thousands of events since launching about a year ago. It's live in San Francisco and New York, as well as a few other cities. The best cities so far have been New York and San Francisco.
    • Grouper is designed around "stacking the deck" in your favor. It still includes a big element of randomness, given that you're meeting people that you've never met before and that you are relying on a third party to match it. But the site, using an actual team of people and a few algorithms, makes sure the people you are meeting have enough in common.
    • So far, it seems to be working as a dating app and a way to discover friends. Users have ended up dating since the site's inception, and the site's also ended up merging groups of friends into even larger groups. 

    Here's a lightly edited transcript of our conversation:

    BUSINESS INSIDER: How did you end up in New York starting a site like Grouper? 

    MICHAEL WAXMAN: I dropped out of Yale after my freshman year to do my first tech company. I moved out to San Francisco, had 25 full-time employees—including a cofounder of Airbnb—but unfortunately we flamed out. I was really humbled to have been able to work with people like that. But when it didn't work out, I went back to school and graduated and moved to New York after graduating. I was newly single and looking for a way to meet new people that didn't have any labels attached, like meet ups or networking events or online dating.

    "You need stories and experiences to take Instagram photos of, so that's where we come in, it creates friendships and adventures for those legendary stories."

    A week later, I launched the first version of Grouper and invited two friends who didn't know each other. They each brought two friends for the first groupers in July last summer. It branched out from there, and months later we've done tens of thousands of drinks with each other—mostly in New York and now in San Francisco. I'm dating a girl I met on Grouper, bringing things full circle. 

    BI: What is Grouper, exactly? A dating app?

    MW: We're a social club that sets up drinks between two groups of friends, three guys and three girls typically. Also three guys and three guys, et cetera. We view it as a much better alternative to hanging out in a bar, and so whether it is to expand your social circle, make new friends, or meet a guy or a girl to date or hook up with, or whatever, we don't like labels. We just want to come up with a context for meeting people that's better than anything that currently exists online or offline.

    One of our mantras is, "we like to treat humans like humans." We think it's a pretty dehumanizing and also just ineffective process to mechanically browse profiles and send hundreds of messages. We don't think it's enough in common to say, hey, we both downloaded the same app and we're near each other, we should hang out. Ultimately the goal of all these social services are face-to-face interactions and new relationships. We found a really cool way to jump right to the punchline. There are no profiles in Grouper, there's no browsing or randomness, it's six people matched up together, you spend five minutes on the site scheduling and figuring that out and it's straight to hanging out in person and seeing if there's chemistry.

    BI: How do you match people on Grouper? 

    MW: We use our members' Facebook profiles combined with just a few stated preferences that we asked people. Our insight there is that peoples' Facebook profiles tend to provide a very kind of deep and honest portrayal of what somebody's actually like, versus profiles on online dating sites where people are trying very hard to put their best foot forward. The short of it is that we use a combination of real humans who analyze your profiles and also algorithms.

    BI: What makes this different from, say, OKCupid?

    MW: We think we've just built up a really great context because, you're with your friends, you're in the real world, a third party brought you together. No one had to creepily lob a message or approach anyone at a bar. We think it's a really cool, comfortable, casual level because you're with your friends. It's like stacking the deck in your favor, social serendipity on steroids.

    "It's like stacking the deck in your favor, social serendipity on steroids."

    There's a balance between just pure randomness and first-come first-serve in meet ups and networking events versus the really analytical pure algorithm approach like OKCupid. For us, it's let's stack the deck, make sure the gender ratios are right, make sure everyone is pretty compatible and head straight to the most important part.

    One of the things that's been so kind of cool and reassuring is just how much almost everyone has in common when you take an hour out of your schedule to share a drink with a few new people. It's like, slowing down and getting offline and remembering the point of all this. You need stories and experiences to take Instagram photos of, so that's where we come in, it creates friendships and adventures for those legendary stories.

    BI: What are some of the best stories you've had come out of Grouper?

    MW: We've literally heard everything. On one hand we've had a number of people who have dated. We've had people who have been dating for almost as long as the service has been around. On the other end of the spectrum, people go out to other bars with each other, they go to Karaoke, they join each others' co-ed volleyball team. They go to concerts together, we've seen a ton of times where it's just two friend groups come together. They're the same age with similar background that don't have mutual friends in common, and you realize how well they get along. Two friend groups sort of become one, they go out together and hang out. We've heard the full spectrum.

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    Ryan Howard Practice Fusion

    Near the end of 2008, Practice Fusion—now one of the fastest-growing startups in San Francisco—was out of cash.

    He's sold his house. He'd sold his car. And in a motorcycle accident, CEO Ryan Howard had torn his rotator cuff in a motorcycle accident.

    When Geico finally paid him for his injury, he used that money to pay his employees instead. 

    Practice Fusion, a massive database of information for medical professionals and patients that includes everything from records and vitals to doctor reviews, has data for more than 50 million patients. More than 150,000 medical professionals use it to keep track of patient data.

    Howard followed up that Geico payment by raising $70 million in fresh funding and a massive period of growth starting in the beginning of last year. That's quite the turnaround from struggling to make payroll, needing two root canals, and recovering from a motorcycle accident.

    Here's the next big idea he's working on: Letting developers create apps that doctors can "prescribe" to patients. These might track their vitals, remind them when to take drugs, or otherwise help them stay on top of their health. They'll all tap into Practice Fusion's data.

    We caught up with Ryan Howard, CEO of Practice Fusion, to find out where they are today. Here's what we learned:

    • More than 50 million patients have data stored in Practice Fusion in the United States. Howard expects that number to hit 70 million by the end of the year when they start rolling out consumer-oriented products.
    • Soon, developers will be able to build apps that tap into that data. There are already a number of beta apps that are well-funded and on track to take advantage of it. One app, for example, is supposed to accurately predict how long you have to live.
    • Because it's Web-based, Practice Fusion has a cost edge on on-premises medical-record solutions. Most solutions cost around $50,000 to deploy.  Practice Fusion cuts that cost to almost nothing. And you can access the data anywhere, so it makes it easier for doctors to share data amongst themselves.
    • Because it's easier to share data, it's easier to save lives. Around 200,000 people die every year because there isn't adequate access to data. Howard says he has a number of stories about how having access to patient data has kept doctors for accidentally setting off negative reactions.

    Here's a lightly edited transcript of the interview:

    BUSINESS INSIDER: What exactly is Practice Fusion?

    RYAN HOWARD: Basically, you're a sick patient, you go to see the doctor, your doctor ideally is using an electronic health record. We facilitate this entire process, when you call the doctor's office, that appointment is in Practice Fusion. We have the entire scheduling system. All your vitals are being gathered by the nurse into the system, electronically. Let's say you have depression, we have prescription data, we're connected to 70,000 pharmacies. We're connected to labs. On the referral side, making sure the data gets to another doctor in the network, we facilitate that. It's basically CRM for doctors.

    "It's basically CRM (customer relationship management) for doctors."

    We have 50 million patients on the service and 150,000 medical practitioners—it's the largest community by far. The data on the clinical side can be used for a number of things, we know when an epidemic or pandemic is happening in real time. We have more physician reviews that we haven't posted, more doctor's schedules. Most of the solutions out there cost around $40,000 to $60,000, in our model it's totally free and totally web-based. We have a Gmail-ish model, you can be sending prescriptions in an hour.

    BI: Wow. How are you guys still a startup?

    RH: We're definitely getting toward the end. It's kind of binary, you're a startup or you're a company that's gone public. That's the switch. We're getting substantial, the patients, the doctors with 200 employees, it's starting to churn up as well. We're starting to have a lot of presence.

    BI: How did you guys get started?

    RH: We're about five years old. I was in integration product management. But I woke up one day and said, man, I'm working in a cube. I just wanted to have some purpose in my life, around that time I ran the Team in Training marathon. I was looking to do something more like that. The company I worked with was just doing integration, retail, supply chain. My epiphany was, even if I work for a company, even if I'm a cog in a big wheel, at least if it's a health plan, someone is benefiting at the end of the day.

    I had two jobs after that, one with the largest physician group in the Bay Area. They service a lot of doctors and patients, I learned a lot about the product space. You'll see 19 different doctors in your life, probably more, I was like, where's my data. How is it fetched. The answer is, it's in paper in the doctor's office, it doesn't get fetched. There are 200,000 deaths a year just because you can't get that data.

    From there I worked for Halsey Minor, the founder of CNET. Halsey was also the largest investor in He started a company called GrandCentral, it ended up being Google Voice, but the first incarnation basically was the cloud. You could integrate and build on-demand apps in the cloud before anyone else with GrandCentral.

    [That's where I realized] the doctors won't pay for software, this is a way to get doctors into a service.

    Practice FusionWhile I was at GrandCentral I started working on the project, the first incarnation shut down. Then I sold my house, burned through that, and sold my car, and burned through that, and went into massive debt. We got to about 1,000 users when the market across the board totally dropped out. It was a disaster. By the time I got the company funded I was four years behind my back taxes, I needed two root canals. In 2008, there was just no more money, and I couldn't call anyone. The current investors were tapped, they had all lost about 30 percent in their portfolios. I thought I had to shut it down. I had gotten into a motorcycle accident a few years back, and right then Geico decided to pay me. Instead of fixing my rotator cuff, I used it to meet payroll. Then we closed [a round with] our investors,, others, and that's how the story goes.

    When I coach or mentor or I'm on a board, I always discuss about how far you're willing to go. You think you'll build it and it'll be done in a few months, that's not how it goes. Building technology is generally an unknown quantity.

    BI: Is any of the service on-premise? Or entirely Web-based?

    RH: It's all cloud-based. Regulations are pretty gnarly, it has to be certified against a federal standard. You as a patient have the ability to export your data at any time. The checks are cut if the doctor uses a certified system, they have to show that they used it on a large percentage of their patient population. It's, use the software in a meaningful way and start sharing data, because that's a key problem. 

    BI: When did you guys starting hitting critical mass?

    RH: Early last year we had about 10 million patients, that was the point where we were like, this is significant. Mid last year we had 20 million. This year and last year were the tipping points. What's the Schopenhauer quote? "All truths pass through three stages." First they're ridiculed, then they're violently opposed, then it's accepted as common knowledge. People would rip on it all the time, people thought it was vaporware. But we could set up implementation in a day or so. When we push an update, it goes to everyone. This data set can also be leveraged in a number of ways. We have more validated doctors, more schedules and reviews, this isn't even the core of what we do. 

    At the end of this year, we will release websites for all of our doctors. No other vendor can do that. We have more physician reviews than any other site on the web. When you look up a doctor on Yelp, you don't even know if that doctor is real. Our reviews don't go out until after the doctor signs the chart. When I'm seeing you, I chart that, I put in your allergies, your immunizations, and at the end I sign that note and it becomes a legal document. We know the visit happened, that's when we send off the review. It shows up in your email. When you look for a primary care doctor, you'll see one of our doctors' validated pages. These are some of the macro assets we're starting to make available. On the mobile side, we're doing a lot of work, and not just surfacing your data. 

    BI: How do you go about collecting data?

    RH: It's basically grinding it out. Everything doctors did in paper, that's all gone. There's a lot of different tools we're starting to incorporate. We have a big iPad push coming at the end of the year. We have a ton of apps in beta. There are lots of devices that are pumping out data,  and they are coming to us to drop their data. If a doctor prescribes it, it's different. We imagine very soon a doctor will prescribe a drug and then prescribe an app. We have more doctors engaged and making decisions, so we have the largest data source. 

    BI: How does it feel to be working on health care than, say, a photo-sharing app like Instagram? 

    RH: The epiphany I had a decade ago with Walmart stock price on my headstone still reigns true today. At some point, you're going to have to decide, what's your own long-term value. What have you contributed. This rock is gonna keep spinning the day you're gone, was it a net positive or negative. We'll see 100,000 patients today. At some point in your career it'll get bad, you'll be like, what am I doing. Are you working on a human resource payment solution, or a solution where it's saving lives? 

    "Facebook's a website, period. When you look at Google, they have self-driving cars. It put it in perspective."

    We hear stories, where, a doctor is seeing a patient today, but without this data I would have killed the patient. The best story we have, we had a patient where the standard course of care would be to give a blood thinner, but the data showed they had a clotting disorder and the thinner would have killed them. A really smart guy I know said it the best the other day: Facebook's a website, period. When you look at Google, they have self-driving cars. It put it in perspective. I tend to think this is my life's work. I'm proud of it, but it's not like, standard pride. I just can't think of working on something with more meaning.

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    1. Columbia Business School, follies videos Just because you earn a bigger title doesn’t mean you earn more respect.

    2. It’s easier to say “I’m sorry…” than to have to hire a fresh team of employees.

    3. A culture of fear only works for so long.  And it’s horribly destructive in the long run.

    4. Leading doesn’t need to include yelling. Actions matter.

    5. Being right isn’t your top priority any more. Helping your team win is the top priority.

    6. Just because you have authority doesn’t mean that you are the leader.

    7. A quiet look of support counts a lot.

    8. Performance isn’t always logical. Screwing up sometimes means your team member needs a kind word.

    9. What needs to be said usually needs to be said by you.

    10. You can blame your team or lead your team; but you can’t do both at the same time.

    11. A simple “Thank You…” will go a long way.

    12. Make passive aggressive the ultimate crime. Your team will stay better motivated.

    13. Anyone can do the easy things. Just make sure someone is doing those things.

    14. Just because you have haters doesn’t mean you are doing something right. Maybe you’re just a jerk.

    15. You can read the news or create news. You should do both, as often as possible.

    16. Make high performance the new status quo.

    17. The numbers matter. Eventually you have to defend vision with results.

    18. The opposite of innovation is procrastination. Keep deadlines sacred.

    19. Demand personal accountability. Start with you.

    20. Don’t do for your team what you are paying them to do for you — their job.

    21. If you aren’t getting results, change the rules. It’s your game; play it your way.

    22. Proving someone else wrong isn’t a good enough reason to do something — even if they are an idiot.

    23. Make mountains out of  molehills. The details matter. You usually find that out too late.

    24. Ideas are only as valuable as the effort you put behind them.

    25. Hire within. Inspire within. Lead within. Over the long run you can’t recruit better than you can mentor.

    26. Push your team to achieve the impossible. Help them believe it’s possible along the way.

    27. You’re only as good as your last weak moment. Think through your actions ahead of time.

    28. If they aren’t following it’s because you aren’t leading.

    29. Give first. You’ll avoid most personal issues by just not being selfish.

    30. What people say isn’t always what they mean. Look behind the words.

    31. Be the type of leader you would want to work for. If you can’t respect you, how can anyone else?

    32. Hire slow. Fire slow. And believe in second chances. You’ll need one yourself one day.

    33. Things always look different six months from now. Make sure your expectations and actions are free of baggage.

    34. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. Not doing anything with the help you get is.

    35. If you want to figure it out, you will. Breakthrough happens when urgency meets experience and effort.

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    noah dinkin, fanbridge, office tour, startup, bi, dng

    The theme of the first day of the Republican National Convention was "We Built It," a rallying-cry from entrepreneurs who insisted that they didn't need government to start their businesses.

    This week, we can expect the Democratic response to highlight the ways Obama's administration has empowered job creators.

    But what would an entrepreneur-first platform, stripped of party politics, really look like?

    Last week, I asked readers for answers. From hundreds of comments on the original article and notes on Hacker News, here are 19 comments that paint a big picture, even if some of the smartest comments disagree with each other:

    First, we need the economy to come back.

    Second, we need tax reform that both simplifies and refocuses on helping small companies rather than established corporations.

    Third, there was broad support for a universal health care option—or at the very least, a move away from employer-sponsored insurance subsidies, which put large and start-up companies on unequal footing.

    Finally, readers pointed to an array of regulatory, paperwork, and patent rules that needed tinkering. 

    Here are your ideas...


    It all starts with consumers:

    Address the housing/household debt crisis.  Homeowners cannot spend because they have near-record levels of debt (about 90% GDP vs. 50% in 1980).  Businesses are not investing without customers, so the economy is struggling.  The key insight here is that private debt holds back an economy to a much greater extent than public debt. So the government should go big, say $3 trillion in bonds issued for 1.75% over 2 years, and buy mortgages.  It then cuts the mortgage balances say 30%.  Households paying say 4% in interest would help the government recoup a chunk of the write-down.  Even better would be if the Fed just printed the money, but I'll take either.—Farcaster


    How health care costs pushed an entrepreneur into government work:

    Six years into my law enforcement career, I was hospitalized with a major illness. Although I had excellent insurance, my co-pays reached $10,000. Once released from the hospital, I returned to work because I couldn't afford to do otherwise. I paid off the $10,000 and concluded that the stress of my job was contributing to ongoing health difficulties. Although I had the skills and experience to start my own business, I decided that I could not do so because I needed health insurance and, as a self-employed person, I would be forced to obtain health insurance on my own. When I checked into it, I found that I could not purchase health insurance because of my "pre-existing condition". So, I spent the remainder of career working for government instead of as an entrepreneur.

    'Universal single payer would cause an explosion of entrepreneurship'

    Universal single payer health care would cause an explosion of entrepreneurship the likes of which the USA has not seen in a long, long time. In the current situation, anyone with a family or a chronic condition is pretty much restricted to working a BigCorp job unless / until this happens.—flxmglrb

    'The "pay raise" goes to [health] benefits':

    I am a small business owner, and each year the medical premium goes up. We haven't even be able to give pay-raises, because the "pay raise" goes to benefits. Give us a level playing field with China, and Europe by creating a single payer system.—lulucaliente

    'The last thing employers want to worry about is providing health care'

    We need universal health care for everyone, provided by, or at least coordinated by, the federal government. The last thing employers want to worry about is providing health care for employees, let alone themselves. And providing health care for yourself as an entrepreneur, even with a college degree, is no small feat. Many (but not all) states require that a "group" plan involve at least two people. Now that individual health care plans cannot as easily reject applicants on the basis of pre-existing conditions, this isn't as much of a problem, but it's still absurd that entrepreneurs in one state should have to work more or less hard to secure basic health care than entrepreneurs in another, or bring on other individuals too soon.—Aaron Greenspan


    'Let's get a non-regressive tax system for businesses':

    Allow Subchapter S corporations to retain earnings tax free up to ~$250K / year. Today, if a small (sub S) business makes a profit, the owner has to pay tax as though it were income. Despite all the bitching by the 1%, large corporations pay much less. Let's get a non-regressive tax system for businesses that favors startups and small businesses.—Zansfar Ifnif

    'Let's tax corporations that source labor or goods overseas':

    Address the trade deficit/globalized off-shoring model.  A trade deficit must be borrowed by definition. It wasn't a big deal at 1% GDP in the 1990's, but at 6% in 2008 it created so much borrowing (and the funds were diverted into houses) that it created a bubble, which has since burst. Bernanke has argued that a trade deficit pushes money into a country, which lowered interest rates. All of the countries in Europe that are struggling have significant trade deficits, while Germany has a sizable surplus. So let's tax corporations that source labor or goods overseas for the wage differential.  If a foreign company wants to sell here, it can build a plant here to employ our workers or else pay the tariff for the wage differential.  We allow our corporations to circumvent our labor laws, generating record profits for them and huge safety net costs for the government. We don't know about them because we are borrowing rather than taxing to pay for these costs.—Farcaster

    'Abolish the payroll tax':

    The number one most entrepreneur-friendly (and worker friendly and economy friendly) policy would be to abolish the payroll tax. Second one would be cheaper healthcare, as David Ryan points out. Third one would be to, if not lower taxes, at least drastically simplify the tax system. (Loopholes favor big companies at the expense of smaller ones.) - Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

    'All I need is for the tax code to stop trying to do hundreds of things (most of them badly)':

    The best thing we could do with the tax system to encourage entrepreneurs?  Simplify it.  At the moment, I have a choice of spending my money on an "expert" who can navigate the mess, or paying way more than I theoretically should because I don't have time and expertise to study tax law for several years so I can do my own. I don't need special tax credits.  I don't need special tax rates for capital gains.  I don't need subsidies.  All I need is for the tax code to stop trying to do hundreds of things (most of them badly), and just raise revenue.  Nothing more.  It doesn't even need to be a flat tax; probably shouldn't be.  It just needs to be simple enough that a normal person can figure it out.  I've got better things to do with my time and money than mess with the tax laws.—wjca

    'Simplify the tax code'

    The best way to help entrepreneurs is to simplify the tax code. Cut the tax rates to 1 or 2 tax rates. Eliminate virtually all personal deductions. The government should quit trying to play God in funneling where income should go. Specifically:

    • Find the income tax rate that raises the right amount of money. Maybe 2 rates. Give the practicability of low rate of tax to the government and stop all of the activity designed to lower taxes.
    • Equalize tax treatment for wages and benefits. Why should one form of income be tax free while another be taxed. This distortion makes companies find a way to transfer income via benefits instead of cash. Full taxation to individual for medical and other benefits provided by companies.
    • Elimination of large personal tax deductions, especially the mortgage interest deduction. A huge part of the entrepreneurial class is the guy who owns a single rental house. But distortions of the housing market due to deduction of interest increases prices of real estate makes it harder to purchase one.
    • Eliminate double taxation of dividends. There's absolutely no reason for income to be taxed both at the corporate and the individual level.

    I'll stop there. But there's lots more in the tax code. Every carve out by powerful interests hurt entrepreneurs (although some fit in both categories). Get the government out of the way so the entrepreneurial class can flourish is the best way to help them. —Buckland


    'Plant the seeds of entrepreneurship':

    [We need] some way of planting the seeds of entrepreneurship into the minds of young people. Maybe more ways to get school credit for work. More skills training that's relevant to entrepreneurship, like make business mandatory and make PE an elective.  Something in the education part of the platform. [We also need] community college or local education offerings to help small business owners get a handle on the parts they are not good at. Most of the successful business owners I know are really good at whatever generates revenue and had to learn a lot about running a successful business. Another education plank in the platform.—Joe Lessard

    'Foster entrepreneurial capacity'

    The real issue: fostering an entrepreneurial capacity within the population. As David Brooks pointed out in his brilliant piece, The Organizational Kid, the meritocracy does not really measure merit, but measures the ability of kids to configure their lives and personalities to optimally perform the tasks given to them. This social conditioning, from early childhood, robs this generation of the ability to challenge authority, think unconventionally, and take risks.

    Their ambition, drive, and intelligence is focused on getting 4.0 GPAs, to get to right college, to get to the right career, with the right firm... they're (we're) just looking for the next hoop to jump through, the next goal to achieve. If kids can't brawl in the sandbox, say "hell" in their graduation speech, or cross the street, in middle school, without a safety officer, can you really expect them to build a business? Is there a policy solution for that one? Well, let kids sell their lemonade without health officers shutting them down. That'd be a start. —A_Lee

    'Don't tell kids to drop out of school':

    In order to build a business you need skilled workers, and it's no secret that workers with modern skills are hard to come by these days. The solution isn't paying smart students to skip college, whatever Peter Thiel might like to believe. It's paying attention to students as individuals, instead of applying cookie cutter templates to wide swaths of people.

    So if a student is making great progress and is capable of running circles around Google's top engineers after three years, if that student wants to, what's the harm in letting him or her graduate a year early? Or if an elementary student with disabilities is having trouble with writing or any other basic skill, are there resources available to help that student get to the required baseline, or will an arbitrary standardized test dictate that he or she will never make enough progress to live an independent life? These issues are surprisingly simple to solve; they just require funding.—Aaron Greenspan


    'Reduce regulatory uncertainty':

    The biggest thing a government, Democratic or Republican, can do to help entrepreneurs is to reduce or eliminate regulatory uncertainty. A great example of uncertainty hurting entrepreneurship is the recently passed JOBS act.  Despite strong bipartisan support, the SEC has yet to rule on how the law will be implemented. I've spoken to many entrepreneurs who are delaying expanding their business or starting a new one because they aren't sure how the law will affect them.—Ilya Lichtenstein

    'Roll back the bankruptcy laws to pre-2005':

    Roll back the bankruptcy laws to pre-2005 to reduce the cost of risk. This is a big one. The change of bankruptcy laws to benefit huge financial institutions, that then got bailed out by the same tax payers against whom they lobbied to get these draconian changes to bankruptcy laws passed was... well not just shocking... not just a demonstration of how corrupt and off-track our political system has become... not sure what the word is but it goes beyond hypocrisy.

    I remember growing up outside of the US learning quite explicitly that one of the geniuses of the American system, a key factor in its dramatic success compared to other countries, and a competitive advantage, was its bankruptcy system that allowed people to try things; put in best efforts; but in the worst case scenario get a fresh start. Getting rid of that was insane and I worry about its long term consequences. US entrepreneurs already face additional risks versus their overseas counterparts - like lack of a healthcare system not tied to employers - and taking away a major structural advantage they had is almost certainly going to have a detrimental effect. - richardjordan

    Stop drowning small businesses with paperwork:

    Something as simple as payroll is a gigantic administrative issue.  Has anyone looked at a federal form 944 that must be filed quarterly if you have any payroll? Sure -- you can have an ADP do it for you, but the complexity of the government filing for doing something as simple as paying somebody to work for you is a bit much.  I am not sure people fully understand the amount of Fed, State and Local paperwork filing that must be done regularly, even for small businesses—all of which generally bears the legend of "required by law."—marketkarma

    'Reduce frivolous patent applications':

    As much as meaningful patent reform is sorely needed, so is reform concerning the way in which patents can be enforced. Patent holders should be required to prove that they are using their inventions in commerce in order to file a legitimate infringement claim in court. This single change would drastically reduce the number of frivolous patent applications coming into the USPTO, cutting down processing times for legitimate ones. The treble damages rule should also be amended to avoid incentivizing entrepreneurs to file "blind," only to learn that the same invention has been patented several times over.—Aaron Greenspan

    "Patent trolls are killing small innovators."—Zansfar Ifnif


    Customers and real estate prices are the over-arching challenges:

    As someone who's lived in Silicon Valley for decades, and has heard many VC pitches, I have to say that tax policy just isn't an issue for startups. Unless and until profitability is reached, taxes don't matter. Nobody mentions tax issues in their VC pitch, unless they're pitching some financial product. Health care is something startups would rather have somebody else worry about. Regulation by government isn't a big deal, either.

    Arbitrary regulation by the Apple App Store, Comcast Cable, or AT&T/Verizon is much more of an issue. (If your iPhone app is too good, Apple enters the business and kicks you off the iPhone. It's happened more than once.) Issues that matter to Silicon Valley startups are finding customers with disposable income, overpriced local real estate, and being crushed by cheap imports from China.

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    Allison O'Neill

    Today's advice comes from Allison O'Neill, owner of children retail shop Bundle, via her interview with Entrepreneur:

    "Cash is still king. Nobody can argue that. I have other assets like mailing lists of thousands of people now that I've accumulated of my target market."

    O'Neill says that if you don't have an adequate budget for marketing, you should create a customer database and social media following. 

    Another tactic would be to reach out to other businesses that offer similar products to your own and partner up with them to cross promote. 

    For example, O'Neill has partnered with about a dozen businesses that cater to the children's market. She promotes their business through Bundle's own social media platform, such as writing blog posts that features them, or mentioning them through tweets. As a return favor, the other businesses do the same thing for Bundle. 

    When you partner up, you can also offer discounts for each other's businesses in email blasts.

    "It's definitely gotten our name out there more,"

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    paul graham y combinator

    Y Combinator is the Ivy League of startup schools.

    The odds of getting in are incredibly slim, and only the top founders typically make the cut. Some graduates have gone on to become billion-dollar companies, like Airbnb and Dropbox.

    But what is it actually like once you get accepted?

    We've compiled thoughts from several Y Combinator founders about the incubator.

    Tikhon Bernstam, cofounder of Parse, says you have to get a year's worth of work done in 10 weeks.

    The best parts are, one, the YC founders support each other. They help with recommendations and suggestions for lawyers, fundraising, testing your product, help through the inevitable ups and downs of startup life, help with setting up payroll, hiring, leads on hires (like engineers), partnerships and deals.  Intros to whoever you need—you could ask for an intro almost anyone and someone in the group would have it (or one of the partners would).

    The Y Combinator partners are top-notch. Their help was critical to almost everyone. They helped with fundraising, constantly pushing you to launch early ("if you're not embarrassed when you launch, you've waited too long").  

    We demoed Parse (and Scribd the last time around) every week at dinner to our classmates, and that really helped push us every week to have something new to show.  The deadline of Demo Day forces you to get a years worth of work done in 10 weeks, and is a great motivator in general.

    Ryan Mickle, cofounder of Yardsale, said the finish line is already in sight as soon as you join.

    One of big advantages to being part of Y Combinator was the unfiltered advice. The partners and alums are exceptionally candid in helping founders navigate around easily avoidable mistakes that could waste time or come back to bite you later. Stuff like financing documents are standardized (and founder friendly) so you don't waste cycles and can focus on building your company. 

    That's not to say that you won't make mistakes—you will—but at least you dodge many of the avoidable ones, without needing to build a network of trusted advisors from scratch. The Y Combinator experience itself is a pressure cooker, as the countdown to Demo Day begins the moment you get in. So you're forced to stay focused and work as hard as you can with the time you have. It seems to work to effectively "reset" your work/social life. At least it seemed like the case for us, since we were one of many who moved down to Mountain View for the summer, leaving many of the things that would have distracted us in the City [San Francisco], so we could work hard to get into the groove of being productive.

    Finally, the support of alums was invaluable. They always seemed to make time when you needed help and the network is large enough that the problems you face are rarely if ever unique. And there definitely seems to be a spirit of indebtedness toward Y Combinator itself, so past founders look forward to helping future founders, because it wasn't that long ago when someone, perhaps an alum or YC partner, did the same for them.

    James Beshara, cofounder of Crowdtilt, says Paul Graham has turned Y Combinator into a "flight control center."

    During the program, I would say that the constraints of 90 days and weekly conversations about your product and growth are invaluable for focus and productivity.

    And since the more recent your batch, the larger the network you graduate into—the network of other founders and companies has become the single biggest factor in why I tell every tech entrepreneur I know that they should apply to Y Combinator.

    In their own words, PG et al. have almost turned into more of a flight control center ... "Oh you're having this problem, talk to these founders. Oh you're selling this solution, these guys need that." It's pretty incredible.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Jess Loren

    Today’s advice comes from Jess Loren, co-founder of digital marketing agency Kambio Group, via her piece in Fast Company:

    “Young entrepreneurs — myself included — can be seen as having a lack of professional experience; however, many are turning that idea on its head through a combination of hard work, knowledge, and confidence, paired with results.”

    Loren started and sold her first company before the age of 25.

    But she says whether it’s your own company or someone else’s, it’s important to present yourself as a leader. People may judge you because of your age, so you should bring your own set of skills to the table. These skills can come from work experiences or non-work experiences.

    Making yourself a positive presence outside of the workplace will gain you recognition within the company as well. This can include networking, taking public speaking classes, or volunteering.  

    Loren is on the board of Project Impact, a group that provides grants, management support, and networking opportunities to early stage non-profits. When you’re willing to put yourself out there and be seen, people will stop focusing on how old you are. 

    “Build a professional persona that people remember regardless of your age.”

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    apoorva mehta instacart

    Amazon has already conquered online retail, but it still takes too long to get your groceries. Why shouldn't they be at your door in an hour?

    That's the problem that Instacart, a new startup coming out of prestigious startup school Y Combinator, wants to solve. It's not the only startup attacking same-day delivery, considered a "holy grail" in technology, but it's one that certainly shows an enormous amount of promise.

    Instacart charges a flat fee to deliver groceries to your home in just an hour (or three). Its salespeople are equipped with the best tech and apps to get your groceries to your door immediately.

    Here's how it works: you fire up the app, select some groceries to buy, and an hour later they arrive at your door. You pay a delivery fee that's about $15.

    It might seem steep, but there's certainly a ton of demand for it: the app has already delivered tens of thousands of items.

    It's not the first startup to do online grocery shopping, though. Webvan was a famous dotcom-era startup that did much the same thing, now owned by Amazon.

    We caught up with co-founder Apoorva Mehta to find out where he plans to take Instacart. Here's what we learned:

    • After being operational for just a few weeks, Instacart has delivered tens of thousands of items. That's pretty impressive growth for an app that just came out of Y Combinator, even for one of the top startups in the incubator.
    • More than 90 percent of Instacart's users return after trying it. "They've stopped going grocery shopping," Mehta said.
    • Instacart might expand to other verticals, but it's just groceries for now. Amazon started with just books, and now it's the top retail site on the web. Instacart just wants to do groceries right first before expanding into new verticals.

    Here's a lightly edited transcript of the interview:

    BUSINESS INSIDER: Can you tell me a little bit about your background?

    APOORVA MEHTA: I used to be at, I was working on supply chain, a lot of what we are doing at Instacart is inspired by my work at Amazon. We fulfill items from local stores. A lot of the routing algorithms we're building was inspired heavily from my work at Amazon. Amazon is like clockwork, it has taken some time to get there and become a well-oiled machine and it's great to have that experience to start off with at Instacart.

    I was at Amazon for 2.5 years, and this problem was there for me all the time. You would realize that you would shop for everything, but to get groceries you'd have to go physically to the store. To me, that was a broken experience. Two places, one was offline and one was online, that was always broken. I wanted to create something that could solve that problem. For me, it was very clear, I had the exact product I wanted to build and had the logistic experience. That cross-section was what put me in the position of building instacart.

    Since then I've brought on two co-founders, both have been working on several startups. One was the first engineer at AngelList, a foundational knowledge of building networks. The other, on the other hand, has previously been a founder and CEO of a company that was acquired recently by Location Labs. He has a lot of operational experience. Right now the team is structured, I'm focused on the product and the logistics, Brandon is focused on the technology and Max is doing the operations.

    BI: Why start with groceries?

    AM: Everyone has to go grocery shopping, even if you don't cook you do need the basic cereals, your sundries, your toilet paper, your toiletries. Strategically speaking, we started with that like Amazon started with books. Amazon expanded to other categories, but when they started with books they were doing better than everyone. We wanted to laser-focus on groceries and do better than what everyone else did.

    "Amazon expanded to other categories, but when they started with books they were doing better than everyone. We wanted to laser-focus on groceries and do better than what everyone else did."

    We started with groceries because that's a problem that's not solved. 

    In the future, we'd like to add any unconsidered good as part of Instacart or if there are other apps we're building. We aren't going to get into the Apple Store, we're not gonna let you buy a big screen TV. We don't think we can add much value there, you don't need those things in an hour. You need something more impulsive or unconsidered. 

    BI: How do you handle the logistics?

    AM: We use something called managed crowdsourcing. It's different from other platforms, managed crowdsourcing means when you order something on Instacart, we ensure there's crowdsourced labor to serve your requests. These are trained people who are equipped with an Instacart shopper app. This app is extremely intelligent, when they are at the store, we know exactly where all the items are located, what department, what isle, what shelf. The drivers are routed in the store as well as outside. We get as much efficiency as possible when we fulfill these requests. We charge $14.99 for one hour and $3.99 for three-hour deliveries. We're going to expand it to scheduled deliveries, for later today, for the next day. Our logistics are so efficient that we can give you that pricing.

    BI: Do you guys see yourselves as being the go-to option for same-day deliveries?

    AM: The scale is enormous, we've already delivered tens of thousands of items and we've only been operational for three weeks. There's this concept of a jewel on the Internet, where there's, that's where you go to shop. In the upcoming years, Instacart is the place you're going to go shopping for groceries. After that, it's going to expand to other areas as well. Anything same-day, anything instant is something Instacart will be able to provide. Amazon has done an amazing job being the sole-shopping experience provider. They're also going into the same-day space, but they'll never have all the inventory in the city for you, and we'll be able to do that. Our scope is much larger than what it seems right now. Right now we're just focused on being the best grocery delivery.

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    china property construction

    Every company in the world wants a piece of the rapidly growing Indian and Chinese economies. The Boston Consulting Group estimates that the consumer market in both countries will triple by 2020, reaching $10 trillion.

    In a piece in bcg.perspectives, several partners from the firm lay out the lessons businesses need to learn from entrepreneurs who have grown rapidly with their economies.

    Those used to the discipline of Wall Street, where course corrections have little margin for error and come under immediate and harsh scrutiny by analysts can have the wrong outlook.   

    Entrepreneurs used to these markets think and act in a very different way. From the article:  

    "... these leaders have recognized that traditional return-on-investment calculations are not very relevant. This is because all the value sits in the terminal value of the company—given the massive growth.

    They believe that when growth is this dynamic you need to be faster, more creative, and more willing to learn as you go.

    For them, value creation derives from confidence and comfort with ambiguity, backed up by investment, talent, and fast cycles—and not from preprogrammed business plans and projections to two decimal places."

    It sounds risky because it is. But it's in step with the mindset and aspirations of the millions of people who will drive growth and consumption in these economies.

    Ambition and serious investment provide exponentially greater rewards than just testing the water when growth and change are as rapid as they have been in these economies.

    See also: 16 People Who Worked Incredibly Hard To Succeed 

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