Great Advice for Entrepreneurs from Tim Berry

Some much of our time educating entrepreneurs and thinking about business opportunities is spent on trying to develop the next big thing. Trying to find a revolutionary concept to sell.

In his post Startups: Unique and Revolutionary, Or Forget it?, Tim answers a readers email on this topic and writes the following:

You don’t have to be first to be a success. You don’t have to be unique. You don’t have to be revolutionary.

What you do have to do, however, is give people value. Give them a reason to buy from you instead of from somebody else. You have to show up, open the doors, answer the phone calls, solve the problems and do whatever marketing you need so that people know it. How’s that for unique and revolutionary?

What I love here is Tim’s direct statement that you have to ‘give people value.’ This is a basic key to any successful venture. You must provide value.

While my business, Family Fantasy Sports, is the first to offer fantasy sports games designed for family play, we still work every day to provide value directly to our customers, knowing that simply just being here is not enough. It is why we host a radio show for our listeners online each week, why we give kids an opportunity to write about sports for our blogs, provide motivational quotes with our fantasy football results each week, and why we discuss and award college savings prizes each week.

We continue to try to add value through new services and products knowing that each time we do, the bar has been raised. I believe all great entrepreneurs are looking to add more value to their offerings that will have meaning to current and future customers.

MTVU’s Social Entrepreneurship Contest Is Open

mtvU has opened a new social entrepreneurship (or social innovation) contest targeting college aged moverschangersstudents. Some of the finalist will be featured on a new show on mtvU called “Movers and Changers”. Grand prize is $25,000 for the winning venture and a chance to ring the opening bell at the NYSE. Three finalist will fly to NY and present to leading social entrepreneurs including Blake Mycoskie, Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS SHOES.

From their press release:

“Movers & Changers” calls on 16-28 year old college students, individually or in teams of up to three people, to develop and produce a compelling business proposal to revolutionize the future of the world’s social market.  Ideas must be creative, original, and scalable to large corporations, in addition to illustrating determination and persistent optimism.  Students can submit entries online at http://www.moversandchangers.com and are encouraged to submit a video “elevator pitch” application beginning at noon on August 17, 2009 through midnight on October 16, 2009.

The competition will culminate at NYSE Euronext’s Global Entrepreneurship Week: Mentoring Madness, where students from around the world will gather with business leaders and hear leading entrepreneurs talk frankly about how young people can create their own futures.  The top three “Movers & Changers” teams or individuals will fly to New York City for “Mentoring Madness,” to network and connect with prominent business leaders and present their pitches to the NYSE “Movers & Changers” Board.

I love what is happening with growth of social entrepreneurship in and around college campuses and look forward to seeing what some of the entries are. Nice work my MTV & Viacom on this one.

As some of you may know, my company, Family Fantasy Sports, is a social venture focused on higher education funding and I was named a Campus Fellow at George Mason University (GMU) during its participation is Ashoka’s Campus Changemakers Program. I was also lucky enough to participate in a semester long Social Entreperneurship Seminar with Phil Auerswald at Mason’s School of Public Policy (SPP).

So get out there, take advantage of this opportunity to get involved in changing the world. Use this exercise to ask questions, sharpen your ideas, play with YouTube, and look into all the challenges that surround launching a new venture, social or otherwise.

Recession is Here, Time To Launch A Biz!

I was fortunate enough to be interviewed recently by a personal finance magazine writer (I will let you know which mag it is if I make it into the article) and was asked whether I thought a recession was a good time to start a biz. I thought yes because a) fewer people are willing to take a risk and just want to hold onto their jobs and b) larger firms are also in a conserve position.

It appears that some researchers at Kauffman have some data that shows that more than 1/2 of the Fortune 500 was founded during recessions. From our friends over at the Growthology Blog:

I started with a question posed by our Kauffman colleague Keith Mays: how many companies on the Fortune 500 list were founded during a recession? It turns out that well over half of the companies on the 2009 list started during a recession or bear market.

This, in and of itself, is remarkable. But it also turns out that the Fortune figure, when broken down by decade and when looked at in the context of recent Census papers that Kauffman has helped fund, fits neatly into a narrative of the American economy moving from the bureaucratic capitalism of Galbraith’s New Industrial State to the entrepreneurial capitalism of the past two or three decades (and the entrepreneurial capitalism of a prior era). The composition of the companies on the Fortune list is rather dynamic (surprisingly, I think), but even more importantly, startups have been enormously important in terms of job creation. Without startups, we would have had only a handful of years in which overall net job creation in the economy was positive.
So, whether you are a student, mid-career professional, senior manager, or retiree, if you have ever wanted to launch a biz, now is the time — the trends are on your side. Get out there and do it.

Former BSchool Dean Buys Pro Football Team

Professional football startup league UFL, has announced that the owner of the NY franchise is Bill Mayer, former Professor and Dean of the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.

According to the email I received from the UFL yesterday:

With over 35 years in private equity investing, Mayer has spent over 20 years at The First Boston Corporation (now Credit Suisse). While with First Boston, he held numerous management positions including President and Chief Executive Officer and served as Chairman of First Boston’s Investment Committee for eight years. Mayer was a Professor and Dean of the College of Business at the University of Maryland from 1992 through 1996.

As we have discussed in the past, the Smith School is one of the most entrepreneurial business schools out there so it is not a surprising to see a former Professor/Dean taking a leadership role in the startup UFL — especially in the very important NY market.

BTW, my football startup, FamilyFantasySports.com, has just relaunched its site. Check it out and let me know what you think — you can follow us @familyfantasy.

Double BTW, the UFL is teaming up with fast growing cable channel Versus (h/t BizofFootball).

Ashoka Changemaker Campuses Commencement

This April 24th, the Ashoka Changemaker Campus Program will complete its pilot year. Participating schools were GMU, University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins, and Cornell. I will be attending the event as a “Mason Changemaker Campus Fellow” for my work with Family Fantasy Sports and college savings awards and education.

The event will take place in the Hopkins’ SAIS building and will feature Ashoka founder Bill Drayton and other social entrepreneurship luminaries. I am looking forward to the event.

BTW, the Mason Changemaker Team has made huge strides this past year. Currently, the Mason Nation is considering making social entrepreneurship part of the schools 5 year accreditation plan — the Quality Enhancement Plan. For those who know higher ed policy making administration, and accreditation, this is a big deal.

You can read the full plan here, the title is: “Social Innovators and Social Entrepreneurs: 21st Century Leaders of Change”. Here is a synopsis, Continue reading “Ashoka Changemaker Campuses Commencement”

Entrepreneurship Prof Behind Celtics?

As an entrepreneur with a sports venture, I am excited to see that Profs and business schools view sports as a major growth industry and are tailoring entrepreneurship programs in response. We have covered the programs that schools are offering for pro athletes. This article, from the Economist, is full of great examples, including a campus entrepreneur in Nebraska and a Stanford Prof who helps manage the Celtics! (I had no idea, very cool) Mark Cuban, btw, created Broadcast.com so that he could watch his beloved Hoosiers after he had left Bloomington. From the Economist:

At American business schools, there are signs of faith in the sports business. One believer is Professor H. Irving Grousbeck, the director of the Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He juggles his academic duties with a role as managing partner of the Boston Celtics, a National Basketball Association (NBA) team.

Professor Grousbeck is part of Boston Basketball Partners LLC, a partnership that bought the Celtics in 2003. In the previous five decades, the Celtics had amassed 16 NBA championships, but a bad run in the 1990s and into the 21st century had tested the patience of their loyal following. Professor Grousbeck says he and his partners wanted to restore the team’s camaraderie and pride.

Not that sentiment caused them to forget the goal of profitability. Initially, the group considered buying a baseball team, but feared losing money. The Celtics’ asking price of $360m, says Professor Grousbeck, “felt fair”—although he stresses that, as a professor of entrepreneurship, he was aware the venture had its risks.

And,

And some sports-loving MBAs are taking their enthusiasm beyond the classroom. One such is John Wirtz, who got his MBA at the University of Nebraska and is now chief operating officer of Agile Sports Technologies, a start-up. While at Nebraska, he developed what eventually became “Hudl”, a software package offered by Agile that combines videos, playbooks, presentations and evaluations for players and managers to view online. In vindication of Professor Shropshire’s faith, the project was initially funded through prize money from business-plan competitions. In three years, ten teams have signed up, including the New York Jets NFL team.

BTW, the Economist has another piece on how Sport as an industry performs in a downturn. Is it recession proof?