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.


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,, 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 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 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?

Fantasy Football Skills Pay College Bills

Thats the headline for the press release we are distributing this week to announce the winners of our inaugural fantasy football season at — my startup.

For our company it is a big milestone; the completion of a full product life-cycle with a large beta sampling. We have learned a lot and are ramping up for next season. Basically revisiting every part of the business: from our legal structure to the league sizes. Sign-up to learn more about our new features and get notified about next free fantasy football season and prizes.

This season we awarded more than $40,000 for 529 college savings plans. Read about this year’s winners.

Here is a snippet from the press release: Continue reading “Fantasy Football Skills Pay College Bills”

What My (Your) Region Looks Like

While we talk about national economies all the time, it is typically your local city/metro/region economic health that matters most to your business, housing values, etc. Today, via Potomac Tech Wire, I received news that VC in my metro (the DC metro) is down quite a bit… From the newsletter,

DC-area companies raised $193.6 million in venture capital during the fourth quarter, the lowest total in seven quarters, according to new figures from Dow Jones VentureSource. The largest chunk of that funding, about $83.6 million, went to companies in the information technology sector, including McLean-based Trust Digital ($14.5 million) and Reston-based LucidMedia ($8.8 million). Bethesda-based medical software firm CodeRyte had the largest round of any local company in the quarter, closing $47.2 million in October. The lower overall numbers mirrored a national trend, which saw U.S. companies raise $5.5 billion during the quarter, 30% less than the fourth quarter of the prior year. “The data confirms what we’ve being hearing anecdotally for some time that many venture capital firms are circling the wagons to weather the downturn and are focusing more on the health and vitality of current portfolio companies rather than new investments,” said Jessica Canning, the director of global research for Dow Jones VentureSource.

While my venture has not gone out for funding, we often look to our local peers for feedback etc. Another way in which a local economy can influence the growth of a new venture. That said, in recent weeks, I have used the GMU network to put feelers out related to angel funding.

As a consumer related gaming company we are very out of step with many of the new ventures in our neighborhood. Fortunately, we are close to New York and hook up with many firms through trade groups.

WSJ Covers My Fantasy Sports Biz

Just a quick update on my new venture — The WSJ’s fantasy sports columnist Nando Di Fino wrote a great piece yesterday titled, “Family-Style Fantasy Sports,” that profiled our venture.

It is a positive article that will hopefully help us as we grow our business during over the next few months. From the article,

Even though he is just 11, Austin Metzger is part of a growing group of young fantasy players emerging as second-generation fantasy consumers. Many of their fathers have played in leagues for years, and father-son pairs are now discovering that fantasy sports can be as powerful a bonding experience as tossing a ball around the backyard.

One of those fathers, David Miller, runs, a family-oriented fantasy sports site that aims to address broader family concerns as well. The site has a blog for grown-up visitors, offering advice on everything from investing for college to family movie picks. A special section for the kids gives tips on strategy and trade advice. Mr. Miller has purposefully left message boards off his site because they may “detract from the family atmosphere.” also puts some juice into the action – the owner of the fantasy team that scores the most points in their league’s championship football game this season will win a $25,000 deposit in a 529 account for their child’s college education. The owner with the second-highest total wins $10,000. Although the idea of a prize for winning a fantasy contest is nothing new, it’s worth noting how well the site matches its prize to its mission statement.

“It’s really just about spending time with your kids,” says Mr. Miller.

Still, Mr. Miller’s site seems like more than kid stuff. The interface is fairly smooth, and the site has a surprisingly deep amount of fresh content in the non-fantasy areas (one recent blog post addressed vitamin D deficiencies in children). The game will be run by STATS, Inc., the same company that provides the statistics for the NFL.

“We wanted a world-class game,” Mr. Miller says.

There is a big difference between press and revenues, we know that. But we could not be more excited about the coverage in the WSJ and hope it will lead to more players joining our free fantasy football leagues.