‘Cause we all just want to be big tech stars!

I love the technology world.  There is so much creativity, and the following video is a great example of that.  This music video is a parody of Nickelback's Rock Star music video.  Check it out.  There is more reality in this video than most of us would like to admit. 🙂

I saw this video on Brad Feld's great blog, "Feld Thoughts", so special thanks to Brad for bringing it to our attention.

Thank you buySAFE!

Buysafelogo
Today, I am starting a new chapter in my entrepreneurial story. It is with both a bit of sadness and a lot of excitement that I share with you the news that I have left buySAFE to pursue other start-up and entrepreneurial interests. In addition, I have joined buySAFE’s Board of Advisors so that I can continue to assist the company in whatever fashion is necessary.  Click here to see buySAFE's announcement on the buySAFE blog.

After almost nine years of building buySAFE, I am leaving the Company in very capable hands, with fresh funding, and the brightest future that the Company has ever had. It has been a deeply satisfying experience to create something valuable, and I want to sincerely thank our customers, our partners, my colleagues and the many investors who made buySAFE possible. I am obviously looking forward to my next adventure, but I am also very much looking forward to buySAFE’s continued success over the coming months and years.

I founded buySAFE after getting burned in an online transaction on eBay. As a student, I didn’t have any extra money to lose to ecommerce fraudsters, and so I decided that there had to be a better way to buy and sell products online. buySAFE was born!

This adventure started for me while I was earning my MBA at Wharton in 2000, and as with all start-ups, there have been huge successes and great challenges. For me, both have proven to be invaluable learning experiences.

Developing buySAFE’s early business/technology plan, acquiring our major financial institution and strategic partners (including two major strategic partners to be announced in the coming months), and raising our $30 million in venture capital financing were all challenges that I ultimately found to be great learning experiences. Over time, I was able to lead almost every aspect of buySAFE’s business operations, and all of these experiences were amazing for me personally and professionally. I plan to share with you many of the lessons I learned at buySAFE over the coming months.

Perhaps the thing I am most proud of at buySAFE is our team. Early on, I recruited Jeff Grass, Tim Woda, and Hans Dreyer to buySAFE. Today, Jeff is buySAFE’s CEO, Tim is the VP – Sales, and Hans is the VP – Operations. They are the core of our team even to this day. The rest of our team is amazing as well, and it has been a pleasure working with each and every one of them.

I never intended to spend almost a decade working on my Wharton class project, but along the way, buySAFE provided me with an amazing opportunity to make great friends, to learn important new skills, and to see that anything is possible with persistence and creativity. It also taught me that you can’t build a company by yourself.

Although I could never hope to name all of the folks that deserve my thanks, I wish I could. A few folks in particular – my wife, my brother, and buySAFE’s employees, customers, investors, and advisors – have all obviously been invaluable to both me and buySAFE. To all of you, thank you! I sincerely appreciate your investments in time, capital, expertise, and support. There would be no buySAFE without you.

As far as the next chapter in my entrepreneurial story, I am not ready to share the details quite yet, but please stay tuned. I will share my adventures with you here on my blog, so if you are interested, please make sure to subscribe using the form below.

Thank you buySAFE!

Related posts:

"Steve Woda, Founder and Chairman of buySAFE, Pursues New Entrepreneurial Ventures" on the buySAFE blog

"Founder of buySAFE, Steve Woda, Steps Down" on AuctionBytes.com

1 in 5 young employees want this more than money!

Youngman
More money!  That is obviously what you expect your employees to want the most, but it turns out that for many young employees, freedom is what matters most to them.

1 in 5 young employees say that the "freedom to use technology how they want while they’re at work" is the number one thing they want out of their jobs.

Sam Narisi wrote a nice article on this recently, and it is an interesting read.

These employees want access to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.  They want to use the favorite personal devices whether that be Blackberries, iPhones or their own laptops.  They want to use the Internet for their personal business.

To be honest, I don't think this is important only to young employees.  I suspect that a large percentage of older employees would echo those thoughts.  As you manage your teams, keep these needs in mind.  It will inevitably help you lead more effectively if you can offer a work environment that caters to your employees and the things they hold most dear.

Dancing with First Round Capital

Firstroundcapital
First Round Capital's 2008 Holiday Card (video) proves once again why every early-stage entrepreneur wants to find a way to meet with this terrific investor group.  Check it out! 

These guys are creative; they have been in the trenches themselves (multiple times!); they have been successful (multiple times!); and most of all, they like working with entrepreneurs because they are entrepreneurs.

I have had the pleasure of working with and knowing lots of technology investors, and along the way, I have learned a thing or two about who you want to try and work with (and what you want to avoid).  These guys are good.  Period.  In addition, their holiday video is brilliant,
low-cost, and fun, and it highlights their strengths in an intangible,
yet powerful manner.

Let me share one quick story that illustrates why I like these guys so much.  Although they won't likely remember it, both Howard Morgan and Josh Kopelman provided me with a helping hand while I was trying to get buySAFE launched back in 2001.  I was introduced to Howard via a mutual friend, John Tedesco, and Howard offered to meet with me in NYC and provide me with feedback on my business plan.  At the time, the venture was called BondMyAuction.  I was not ready for primetime, and yet, Howard spent two hours listening to me and coaching me on how I could improve my plan.  Howard also introduced me to Josh Kopelman.  At the time, Josh was an executive at eBay because he had recently sold his business, Half.com, to the ecommerce giant.  For no reason other than to be helpful to me, Josh also spent almost two hours on the phone giving me feedback and advice on how to proceed. 

I will be forever grateful for their assistance since I was no more than an aspiring entrepreneur with a paper napkin business plan.  Their help was both gracious and inspiring.  In many ways, they (along with a few others like them) gave me the extra motivation and confidence that I needed to stick it out through the inevitable challenges of getting a business launched.  Since then, I have tried to return the favor with other aspiring entrepreneurs because of their good example (although I am quite sure that I could never be as helpful as they were for me).

Again, check out First Round Capital's holiday video, and I think you will agree with me.  These guys are authentic, and entrepreneurs clearly have good reason to want to work with them.

Nice job Howard and Josh!  For everyone else, enjoy!  http://holiday.firstround.com/

How Do You Win a Business Plan Competition?

The short answer is that you need to be very, very good.  There are a lot of terrific, aspiring entrepreneurs out there, and so a bit of luck is useful too.  Having said that, winning isn't everything. 

buySAFE is actually a product of the 2002 Wharton Business Plan Competition, but the plan was not the winning plan.  PayMyBills.com has a similar story.  The founders and my good friends, Jeff Grass and John Tedesco, were finalists, but not winners, in the 1999 Wharton Business Plan Competition.  However, they went on to raise tens of millions in venture capital and they built a really nice business in the process. 

Simply going through the business planning and critique process is the real benefit of these competitions in my opinion.  Business plans are funny things.  Business planning is a fairly simple exercise, but if you haven't previously developed a plan, the effort can seem very daunting.  Business plan competitions typically provide basic advice to the entrepreneurs on how to get started.  The competitions also have multiple stages with each stage presenting an opportunity to receive valuable feedback from the experienced entrepreneurs and investors that are judging and/or mentoring in the competition.

The following Business Week video does a nice job of covering the basics regarding what you need to know before submitting your business plan.

Winning a Business Plan Competition | The Businessweek Video Library

In the video, the University of Oregon's Randy Swangard talks about how to win that business plan competition — what to keep in mind before you apply, and why it's sometimes better to come in second.

The Wharton Club of New York is running a business plan competition now, and here is all the information you need to enter as a participant.  I highly encourage you to participate if you can.

Also, you might find the following NY Times article interesting.  "Beyond Grades: Business Students Put Their Start-up Ideas to the Test" does a nice job of covering the ins and outs of business school business plan competitions.

Have fun, and good luck!

Does Your VC’s Fund Have the Capacity to Do Follow-on Rounds of Financing?

Another great post on TheFunded.com….

When considering a term sheet from a prospective VC, it is key to understand whether they have have the means to fund follow-on rounds. Most VCs will not do cross over funding and often startups find themselves in trouble when their VCs can not provide subsequent financing. So, it is key to determine…

If your VC’s fund is having problems (financial, political, hiring or retention, etc..) or if your VC’s fund is at the end of its lifecycle, you may ultimately experience artificial, unnecessary problems that you will have to navigate in the future while running your business.  For entrepreneurs, this is a very serious issue to consider before you allow an investment, not after an investment has already taken place.

Read the rest of this article at TheFunded.com: Fund Diligence Item in order to learn the three critical questions you should ask your prospective investors before taking their venture capital dollars.

Post Funding Advice for VC-backed Entrepreneurs

If you have ever raised venture capital, you know how important the post-funding relationship is with your venture capital investors.  Your pre-money valuation and financing terms are all important needless to say, but to be candid, the post-funding relationship you have (or are likely to have based on a VC’s previous track record) is probably the most important issue for you to consider as an entrepreneur.

An experienced entrepreneur posted a great article on the subject on TheFunded.com, and here is an excerpt of the article…

There are a lot of postings here about getting the initial term sheet and getting the VC on board. However, just like marriages, many of these courting periods can be quite different from the month to month evolving operations and business that we face a year or two down the road. Remember that often these VCs will sit on your board, and direct your business in different ways and depending on your dilution can dictate how operational decisions should be made. Thus, it is important to get an early feel from your VC dialogue, especially how they would respond if the actual business is less than the wonderful picture we sometimes paint in our pitches.

If I can give you piece of advice that you need to follow religiously in your quest for venture capital, it is that you MUST speak to the entrepreneurs and CEOs that have previously taken money from and worked with the VC firm and the VC partner that you are considering.  Do not limit your discussions to the entrepreneurs and CEOs of the successful deals, but rather, you should talk to the entrepreneurs and CEOs of the unsuccessful deals as well.  In my experience, the VCs play a critical role in both outcomes, and you need to make sure you get the full, unedited scoop before you take money from a VC.  This is absolutely critical to your success or failure as a startup.

Speaking of which, I am always happy to share my insights on this subject with folks that are interested, so don’t hesitate to email me with your questions.

You can read more of the original article here >> TheFunded.com: The post funding experience