July 03, 2018

Interviewing via video conference

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I want to share some thoughts I’ve had over the past month as Chris and I have interviewed candidates for our next Techstars Adelaide accelerator program.  We talked to many great founders about some really interesting ideas, but we also saw a lot of things that could have been improved in the interview process.  Here is a list of things to consider if you have to do an interview or even a sales call via video.
 
Let’s start with the basics - you need a high-speed internet connection.  If you don’t have it at home or in your workspace, take the time to find a place with reliable internet, otherwise, we are going to see frozen video and we will have trouble hearing you.  This is really important.  If we can’t hear you, or you can’t hear us, nothing else matters.
 
Think about the room you are in and what we will see from our side.  The best teams called in from a lab or a workshop.  Calling in from a coworking space or even your home office is OK, but not if we are getting distracted by lots of people walking around behind you.  If you are at home, please find someone to mind the dogs and family.  We love dogs and family, but if either of us is distracted by them, you aren’t going to come off as well as you could.
 
Make sure you look at your camera lens at least some of the time. That is the only time we really feel like you are talking to us directly.  The worst look is for you to be constantly looking over your laptop screen, scanning everyone who comes into your coworking space, making it look like we are really the distraction in the room.
 
If you must call in from your mobile phone, don’t walk around while you talk.  We appreciate that you are busy, and some of our best calls came from founders who were outside or in their cars, but don’t pace around while you talk.  We nearly got dizzy from one call, and again, look at your camera occasionally.
 
You should also be looking at our video occasionally for signs that we want to interrupt or perhaps that we’ve even stopped listening.  We don't do that very often, but if you just keep talking without a break it makes it hard for us to get through all of our questions.  It’s tough to break in if you don’t pause occasionally, and you need to see if we have follow-up questions or if perhaps you aren’t even answering the right question.
 
If you are working on hardware, show it to us.  Then it’s OK to get up and walk around.  One of our best calls was with a founder building a new type of sensor.  When we asked if the sensor could be used with aircraft, he stood up, panned the camera around and showed us the aircraft fuselage he and his team built in the workshop for testing!  We were very surprised, and very impressed.  Even a 3D printed model will help us understand what you want to build, just don’t try to pass it off as the real deal if it is just a model.  On the other hand, another founder showed us what we thought was a model, and it was only later that we realised it was actually a working version of the product so it goes both ways.
 
Be ready to talk as soon as your time arrives, and don’t wait until then to find out that you need to download and test a video conference client.  We understand technical problems happen, and we have backup plans.  Things happen, and we get it, but try to be on time and be prepared, and if you can’t, then let us know as soon as you realise you won’t be on time.  If we think the call isn’t important to you, it won’t be important to us.
 
Now for some bonus tips for applying to an accelerator, incubator or any other startup program.
 
If you are a startup, we get that you are early stage, but please get a domain and an email address.  At the very least put a signature in your email with your name and company name.  I receive lots of emails and it slows me down and doesn’t give a good impression if I have to figure out who Joeblow3432@gmail.com is before I can answer.  I also appreciate it if the subject line is something like “News and pitch deck from Mycompany” rather than a reply to one of my own mass emails like “Re: congratulations on making it to the top 80”.  You want to stand out from the top 80 and it begins right here.
 
If you have to fill out an application, do a good job, please.  Unanswered questions or answered questions that didn’t show much thought will hurt you.  If we ask, “Why are you applying?” don’t answer “Because we need the money.”  Also don’t run on and on with all the details about your company in the first answer.  It’s a balance.
 
Be sure and update your LinkedIn profile with your new company unless you really are in stealth mode. Telling me you are working full time on the business and then having it not show up when I start looking around doesn’t feel right.
 
Don’t claim to be bigger or better than you really are.  If you make a claim, we just might see if we can verify it.  I only work with people I trust.
 
If the application process allows you to upload a photo of yourself, strongly consider doing it.  We’re not profiling you but it does help us keep everyone straight in our minds as we talk to many founders.  At least put up an avatar so we can remember you.
 
Ask if you can send more information outside of the application.  We are happy to learn more about your company and while we may not answer every single email and we don’t want you spamming us, it does help us get to know you and your product.
 
In our process, we ask for a video of your team, and while we don’t expect great production values, we do hope you will let everyone at least say hello and show some of your team’s character.  Have a bit of fun with it.  We are trying to get a feel for who you are and if we would like to work with you.
 
Remember you are not out of the running until the program starts without you.  Keep showing you are interested and ready to participate right up until the end, because things happen and you might get your chance to join when someone else drops out or doesn’t get through due diligence.  And speaking of due diligence, if there is anything negative that might show up you want to come clean about it before due diligence.  If you wait for us to find it, it won’t be as good as if you take us aside and explain a youthful mistake or a failure you have learned from.
 
Last year I encouraged a company to apply to our program just for the experience of applying because we ask good questions and I thought it would be good practice for them.  It turns out they did great and got into the program and are now doing fantastic.  I hope this helps you get into your program!

July 3, 2018 in Entrepreneurship | Permalink | Comments

February 26, 2018

GigCity and beyond: Adelaide’s high speed, startup revolution

GigCity and beyond: Adelaide’s high speed, startup revolution

Terry Gold, Techstars Adelaide

 

While Silicon Valley was known as the only place where startup dreams were made, gone are the days when being based in the Bay Area - or even the United States - is necessary to become a successful tech company. Now, location is no longer number one. Getting a startup up and running is more about having a great team, a unique idea, the right contacts, and a high-speed internet connection.

Adelaide is lucky to be a place where you can find all of those things. It’s undergoing a transformation. In the last six months alone, the South Australian government has announced that it plans on creating a digital gaming development fund, has established a giant lithium-ion battery in partnership with Elon Musk, and this week announced that its GigCity project has had 16 new innovation precincts added to it - one of which I’m excited to say is Techstars Adelaide.

GigCity makes Adelaide one of the most connected cities in the Southern Hemisphere. The first of its kind outside the United States, the $7.6 million fibre network is connecting key innovation hubs to internet speeds 100 times faster than the national average. Where the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network has encountered challenges and changes to its speed and delivery, GigCIty is already enabling South Australian businesses to develop new ideas, products and services and bring them to the world through the fibre optic Australian Broadband Research and Education Network (SABRENet).

Just before I moved to Adelaide in 2016, I was living in Longmont, Colorado. The city was in the midst of a gigabit fibre network install for businesses and homes. The network was Fibre to the Premises, and cost $US49 per month for a Gigabit for downloads and uploads. On my first visit to Adelaide, I was shocked to see download speeds of just 1.6 megabits per second.

But, even as a massive consumer of data, I gladly made the move to Adelaide, because I believed that the city had the potential to be a regional startup capital. It’s Australia’s leading smart city, recognised for its enviable infrastructure projects and technology, and is also home to the nation’s first Internet of Things innovation hub – Adelaide Smart City Studio. And it’s a beautiful city with friendly people!

The week I arrived here, the city announced its intentions to become the first GigCity in Australia. Initially connected to 14 innovation sites including Tonsley, TechInSA, and Hub Adelaide, applications opened late last year to join these great spaces in the second round of sign-ups. I was so excited to be told last week that Techstars Adelaide’s application had been accepted and that we’d be joining 15 other connection points in the next stage of the rollout.

So what does it mean for Techstars Adelaide? As a global network, having a smooth internet connection is vital for what we do. Our last accelerator attracted applications from startups in 49 countries. These startups wanted to come to Adelaide to take their products to the next level. They need to be plugged into the world, and that means fast internet. Being able to match upload and downloads speeds at a global level is going to be of huge benefit to us and the people we work with. It makes Adelaide an even better place to base your startup.

It’s a necessity for our future Australian companies of to succeed, and if they don’t get it here, they will go somewhere else.  Australia needs to keep investing in the future, and the Gig City project is a great first step towards that. Having fast internet is not about streaming Netflix movies, it’s about enabling new technology businesses and keeping them from having to move elsewhere to get the infrastructure they need.  Adelaide and South Australia have made a vital step forward to making this an even better place to live and create new businesses.

 

February 26, 2018 in Australia, Entrepreneurship | Permalink | Comments

June 30, 2017

The Boulder Thesis in Adelaide

Startup-communities
 
It used to be believed that if you wanted to start a tech company, you had to move to Silicon Valley, especially if you were going to need to raise money to fund your startup.  Now you can start a tech company anywhere with a decent internet connection and startup communities are growing almost everywhere in the world.
 
I’ve heard Brad Feld say many times that he believes a startup community can be built in any city and that the future of cities depends on these startup communities.   He’s even written a book on the idea called Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City.
 
I was living in Boulder when Brad moved to town from Boston, and I’ve seen his commitment to this idea first hand.  As the startup community grew in Boulder and became known beyond Colorado, he began getting questions from other communities about how they could duplicate Boulder’s success.  Here’s the thing though - no one can duplicate Boulder, any more than Boulder could duplicate Silicon Valley.  A community has to create their own version of success -  but there are lessons to be learned from Boulder.  
 
Brad developed what he calls the Boulder Thesis and you’ll find it explained in Chapter Three of the book, but here is the latest version that I could find online as Brad has evolved it over the years.
 
The Boulder Thesis by Brad Feld
 
  • Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community.
  • The leaders must have a long-term commitment.
  • The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it.
  • The startup community must have continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack.
 
I moved to Adelaide, South Australia just over a year ago, and one of the many surprises I discovered was how many people knew about Boulder, and not just because of Mork and Mindy.  Startup people especially knew that Boulder was supposed to be a great place to create a company but they were usually surprised to hear that Boulder’s population is only about a 100,000 people and that’s counting the students at the University of Colorado.
 
So if Boulder, a city 1/10 the size of Adelaide can do it, why not Adelaide?  Well, of course, Adelaide can do it!  In fact, Adelaide has been doing it for years, but another thing Brad likes to say is you have to take a twenty-year view of the future, and that’s starting today.
 
I’ve found Adelaide to be a wonderful place to live and I can see startup founders not only growing up here, but people moving here to start their company.  We can certainly support the founders we already have so they don’t feel the need to go to Sydney, or Boulder or Silicon Valley.  That’s not a knock on any of those places, but if you have limited startup capital and a limited network of people, why spend any of that moving somewhere else?
 
The first two points of the Boulder Thesis are pretty easy really.  Entrepreneurs invest a little time outside of their own bubble giving back to the community and helping others.  Of course, the lawyers, accountants and government people are going to be working alongside, but the leaders have to be the founders themselves.  And you can’t just think about the next six months like we often do in a startup; you have to take the long view.
 
Being inclusive is harder, because not only do you have to go against stereotypes about what a startup founder looks like, you also have to work to include people who by definition are new, inexperienced and not connected to the network.  It can’t become a club of just the most successful or oldest community members.  Growing networks always beat exclusive networks.
 
The last point about having continual activities seems to be happening here in Adelaide too.  According to Josh Garratt, the Chairman of the Coworking South Australia Association, Adelaide has 28 coworking spaces.  That’s  the highest number per capita in Asia.  That right there is going to guarantee that something is happening for startups every day of the week, but there can always be more.  When I was involved in Startup Longmont, a town just up the road from Boulder, I encouraged anyone who wanted to create an event to just do it.  No permission required, and no worries about competing with someone else’s event, even mine.  The most interesting and helpful events will thrive and the rest will evolve or die after they’ve served their purpose, and that’s OK.
 
A lesson I learned in Longmont was that we, the startup community, had to always be reminding people about how great the community really was because some people both inside and outside the community just wanted to complain about what wasn't right.  If we complained about the lack of angels and VCs or that Boulder was farther along than we were, it just hurt our community.  We changed the language from saying we were “just a little country town” to being proud of where we lived while working hard to make it even better.  That’s happening here in Adelaide, and I’m very happy to be a small part of the movement.

June 30, 2017 | Permalink | Comments

Why high-speed internet matters to the startup community

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In another post, I wrote about Brad Feld’s Boulder Thesis and how it relates to Adelaide.  In that post, I said that “Now you can start a tech company anywhere with a decent internet connection . . .”


I moved to Adelaide just over a year ago, and the first week I was here I was happy to see that Adelaide had declared it would become the first “Gig City” in Australia.  I moved here from Longmont, Colorado which was completing the installation of their gigabit fibre network to businesses and homes.  (Longmont is just up the road from Boulder and Denver).  As I was locking up the house to go the airport, the installer walked up the driveway to say they were ready to install my connection.  It was going to be fibre to the house, with 1 Gigabit speeds up and down, and it was going to cost $49 (US) per month.  I gladly gave that up for the chance to live in Adelaide.


Many people I’ve talked to either don’t know what it means to have a high-speed internet connection, or they just don’t think it’s needed.  The rest are pretty frustrated with the general state of the internet here and can’t wait for Adelaide to get the gigabit network going for all who need it.


Let’s start with how fast a gigabit really is.  I love this video because it graphically shows the difference between what many people in Australia and the US have and what’s possible with a gigabit network.


Usually though, when I’m talking to people about internet speeds I don’t have access to YouTube, so I’ve come up with an analogy.


I only have access to ADSL2+ at my home and I get about 2Mbs per second.  That’s 2 Million bits per second - sounds pretty fast right?  In Longmont, I was going to get 1,000 Million bits per second, so my speed here is 2% of what you can get in Longmont for about half the price.


I recently flew to Melbourne, and that took about two hours gate to gate.  If my plane had flown at 2% of that speed, it would have taken me 500 hours or almost three weeks to get to Melbourne!   It’s ironic that one of the local internet providers here is selling what they call high-speed internet with an image of a guy wearing an astronaut helmet in a lawn chair with balloons tied to it.  He’s no more going to space than they are selling actual high-speed internet connections.  (Google "limitless data plans have landed" if you want to see the image yourself - oh, and the gigabit in Longmont is for unlimited data as well.)


Some would say you don’t need a gigabit or even a fraction of that.  I know that plenty of people said that the aeroplane was a waste of time and money in the early days of flight and that the car was good enough and before that, the horse was good enough.  I’m sure some thought the expense of running power lines all over Australia and the USA was a waste of time and money because candles were “good enough.”


I am certain that one day we’ll feel the same way about the investments being made in the internet infrastructure.  High-speed internet isn’t just about being able to watch Netflix at home or reducing the time for a Facebook page to load.  The companies of the future and many of the present require actual high-speed internet.  If they don’t get it here, they will go somewhere else.  The US and Australia need to keep investing in the future, and that means gigabit and beyond.  I’m proud that Longmont did it, and that Adelaide is doing it now.

June 30, 2017 in Australia, Entrepreneur Essays, Entrepreneurship | Permalink | Comments

March 08, 2017

Wow, I'm the Managing Director for the new Techstars Adelaide

File 9-3-17, 12 27 47 am

Adelaide Oval and the River Torrens Karra wirra-parri

 

I'm going to keep this short because it's after midnight here in Adelaide, Australia and it's been a busy but fun day. By the time you read this it will have been announced that I am now the Managing Director of Techstars Adelaide.  I can hardly believe it myself, and there will be a blogpost on the techstars.com website soon about how this came to be.

I'll then come back here in the next day or two and fill in the details and add links to this post.  This will be the first Techstars accelerator in Australia and the Asia Pacific region and I'm feeling incredibly lucky to have this opportunity in this wonderful city.

More to come . . .

Terry

(Thank you Jana)

March 8, 2017 in Australia, Entrepreneurship | Permalink | Comments

January 05, 2017

Help me help you

A former salesperson from Gold Systems emailed me recently to comment on an article I had written and to say that he was starting his own company.  David Colliver is his name and his new company is Colliver Technology Group. He's helping companies get a handle on their sales support technology.

Years ago David was a sales person at my company.  I remember he heard me speak at the University of Colorado and he made it his business to get a job with us.  I liked his attitude and we hired him to be our newest sales person.  Besides being a likable person, the thing that stood out about David was how effectively he would ask for assistance.  Many sales people were too afraid to ask the CEO to help them with a deal.  I don't think I was that unapproachable unless I was starting to suspect that they couldn't sell.  I did my best to help without stepping on their toes and I always believed that if I went on a sales call, they were the leader and I was supporting them.  Dave got that and we had many enjoyable and profitable sales trips together.

The idea of "help me help you" came from me noticing that many of the salespeople (not Dave) would ask for help by sending me an email saying "Can you help me with a client?"  I would answer, "Sure, who's the client."  They would answer "Big Insurance Company."  I would respond, "Great, I would love to work with you to get the sale, what do you need me to do?"  They would answer, "Can you send an email to their VP of Whatever saying how much we want their business?  Me - "Sure, who are they"  Them - "Jayne Smith."  Me - "Ok, what's their email address?"  If it was tedious to read that, it was really tough for me and each of my responses would get slower.

Dave was different.  He would send me an email more like this:

Hey Terry, I'd like your help with a deal I'm working on with Big Insurance Company. I'm to the point where I would like to ask them for a meeting where we will go out together and try to close the sale, and I'd like you to send an email to Jayne Smith at Jayne@BigInsuranceCompany.com.  I want you to send something like this if you would please.  Feel free to put it in your own words.

    Hi Jayne,

    David Colliver who is your account representative at Gold Systems has told me that he is trying to set up a meeting at your headquarters to discuss our proposal.  I would love to join David on that trip so that I can meet you and answer any questions about how we'll take care of you as our customer.  I'm sure David has done a great job and I would like to now introduce myself and accompany him on his next visit with you at Big Insurance Company headquarters.  If that's OK, I'll ask my assistant Angela to help us coordinate schedules.

    Thank you and I look forward to meeting you!

    Regards,

    Terry Gold

(Back to Dave's voice here)  If that looks good to you Terry, just send the email, copy me and I'll work with Angela to make it happen.  I've also attached a copy of our latest proposal to this email in case you want to take a look.

Thanks!  -- Dave

Do you see the difference?  Rather than me having to drag every detail out of the salesperson over multiple emails, Dave made it extremely easy for me to help him.  He anticipated everything I would need to know, and in fact gave me more than I needed.  I could have looked in our CRM system for the contact's email and our proposal database for the document, but that would have taken me more time and might have delayed my response to Dave.  You see he was making it so easy to help him so that I just did it as soon as I read his email and gave him what he needed.  Dave was and is a nice guy but he did this to improve the odds of getting my help and making the sale.  I've always appreciated him for that, and I've told this story in many mentoring sessions.

So before you ask someone for help, take a lesson from Dave.  Anticipate what they need to know to help you, and give it to them clearly and concisely in a way that makes it easy for them to help you.

Dave, all the best with the new company!  I'm sure you will do a great job of anticipating your customer's needs and making it easy for them to buy from you.  

 

 

January 5, 2017 in Entrepreneurship | Permalink | Comments

December 18, 2016

How fast is a gigabit Internet connection

2016-12-19_9-20-34 2016-12-19_9-24-10
Click here for more info on Longmont's Gigabit network

 

I've moved to Australia to help entrepreneurs grow their companies at The Centre for Business Growth at the University of South Australia, and I'm having a great time.  Last week I was asked to get involved in a movement to bring faster internet to Adelaide and South Australia.  I'm sure my name came up because I've talked so much about how Longmont, Colorado was able to bring gigabit internet to the city.  The day I was leaving to go to the airport back in May, a Longmont NextlLight installer showed up and said they were ready to install it at my house, so I missed out on it.  I was just days away from having a gigabit up, and down, for $49 a month USD.  And to be clear, that's how fast the connection is, not how much data you get per month.  Here in Australia many plans are capped so they advertise the cap and rarely talk about how fast the connection actually is.  Because so many people are still on ADSL2+, it varies from a single megibit, to maybe 10 megabits.

Now here's the problem.  If you've never had high-speed internet, you don't know what you're missing.  When Longmont was still in the process of building out the network, my friend Scott Converse showed a bunch of us at Startup Longmont this video to help us understand just how fast a gigabit really is.

This video starts out showing how fast a slow ADSL2+ connection is here in Australia, and moves on to a full gigabit.

In future posts I'll talk about why it is vital for a city to have high-speed internet if they want to have a startup ecosystem and participate in the next wave of business growth.  Adelaide is a wonderful city and I don't want to see it get left behind, so I'm really happy to be here and have a chance to help.  In future posts I'll talk about why fast internet is important, and why it's about so much more than just being able to stream NetFlix without pauses.  It's about building new kinds of businesses and creating jobs, and fostering innovation.  Australia is all about fostering innovation, so we have to have faster internet here.

 

 

December 18, 2016 | Permalink | Comments

November 03, 2016

Sidebar in UniSA Business Magazine

This month's UniSA Business magazine asked me to write a sidebar piece for an article on entrepreneurship.  I answer the question, "What three things do you need to start a business?"  You can check it out here if you want.  https://ow.ly/1W4e305m3fa  You can find the sidebar by looking at the top of the article for the "Further Reading" tab.

UniSA magazine

 

 

November 3, 2016 in Australia, Entrepreneurship | Permalink | Comments

October 28, 2016

The latest news, not from Australia

The latest news is not from Australia, though things are going great here and Spring is finally springing, but rather from Appleton, Wisconsin in the USA.

My son Christopher is a professional musician and I'm very proud of him, and a big fan.  He was named Wisconsin Singer-Songwriter of the year last year and he's a hardworking guy who is out there every weekend and a lot of week nights, while still being a great husband and father.  Yes, I am very proud.  Christopher and his wife Tori have done such a great job of raising a bright, fun, thoughtful young man and now my grandson Oliver is starting to get up on stage himself.  Here is a video of Christopher and Oliver together in the studio.  

If you want to sing along yourself, here's a version with the lyrics.  I had not thought about it until this morning, but this could be a good anthem for entrepreneurs.

Finally, because I can't get enough of watching my boy playing, here is a video from his latest album release party at the Rock Garden Studio with his band The New Old Things.

Christopher does a lot of benefit concerts, and his big Toy Drive is coming up soon.  He's also helping to raise money for musicforautism.org and you can support them by buying the audio track from the Roll On video above at https://christophergold.bandcamp.com/track/roll-on-feat-oliver-gold.  For more about Christopher Gold, check him out at www.christophergold.com where you'll find links to more videos, tracks and his blog.

Not to leave her out, but my daughter Amanda is doing great too.  More on her another time . . .

 

 

 

October 28, 2016 in Australia, Music | Permalink | Comments

September 20, 2016

Fail Good video with Brad Feld

This is one of many videos recorded of Brad Feld while he was visiting us at the Centre for Business Growth in Adelaide, Australia.  My Australian friends tell me that people here are much less tolerant of "failure" than in the US.  They say that you may not get to try again if something doesn't work here.  I'm not sure that's true, but it wouldn't be a healthy attitude for entrepreneurship if it was true.  I heard Brad say multiple times that he would invest in people who had "failed" as long as they were honest and learned from their experience.  We also talked quite a bit about what failure even is, or what a success is, and it's not just measured by return on investment.  That certainly is an important measure, but not the only measure.

 

Brad is being interviewed by Felicia Trewin from ANZ, who is one of our sponsors at the Centre for Business Growth.  They are great supporters of businesses and entrepreneurs!

If you would like to see more videos of Brad, check out his blog here at feld.com.  It was fun to spend a week with him here in Adelaide!  Thanks Brad!

September 20, 2016 in Blogging, Entrepreneurship | Permalink | Comments