Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Lean Startup Essentials: Harlan's new Class at University of Texas McCombs School of Business

Hello Friends and Followers!  My NEW UT McCombs Undergraduate Class on Entrepreneurship - Lean Startup Essentials, begins this Fall 2015!

* no pre-req.

This class is designed for any undergraduate student at UT Austin who wants to learn about Entrepreneurship.  You will learn all the basics (essentials), but in a way that also teaches the latest and greatest in startup trends: especially Lean Startup, the groundbreaking new trend in startup success.  A great thing about the class is that it will also teach practical skills to actually launch a startup.  In fact, YOU WILL LAUNCH A STARTUP as part of this class (albeit from a canned selection of products/services).

There are still open seats for Fall 2015 (TTH 11-12:30).
Here is a link to the course & registration (Any UT Undergrad):
      https://utdirect.utexas.edu/apps/registrar/course_schedule/20159/04967/

Please add... or consider drop->add to get into my class!  It'll be really fun and send you on your way to a great career in a Startup (maybe your own!)!

Here is the course official description:

Course Unique ID: 04967   
T,TH 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
CBA 5.328
Instructor: BEVERLY, HARLAN T
MAN 337 LEAN STARTUP ESSENTIALS
Prerequisite: None.

Topic description:  
This course uses the "Lean Startup" concept as a canvas to give students the essential knowledge needed to either start their own business or join a startup and be a major contributor. In addition to learning about entrepreneurship, the legal aspects of starting a business, and the life and experience of working at a startup, students will get hands-on skills they can use in any startup or to start their own business.

Textbook: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Patent Thoughts for Startups

Patents are an odd thing... if you might have one, it's valuable.  If you do have one, it's of little more value than maybe having one.  Writing one is hard.  Getting one is hard.  Using one is nearly useless.  So what should a startup do?

In my 15 years and 21 patents worth of experience, this is what has worked for me.  As with all such thoughts, this is not legal advice, simply my experience; I am not a lawyer.

First, it is cheap and easy to file a provisional patent.  Just got to http://uspto.gov and file it.   Utility Provisional is what you want, and startups can usually pay even less by selecting small business option.  Less than $200 is all you should need.   Write it in plain English, what it is and does, and include at least 1 figure.  Easy-peasy.  Suddenly you get the MOST value out of a patent you can get, but it expires in 1-year so be careful!   During that year, you can say "patent pending" and that's crucial for startups (sometimes).

Next, don't bother filing the real (non-provisional) patent unless a.) you have the money [around $10K, because a patent attorney is a must].   AND  b.) either the product is somewhat successful or the patent seems really good to you.  Remember, you have 1 year to file it, and must reference the provisional... or you lose the date of the provisional filing.

Last, why bother?

Because, saying patent pending is good marketing (usually).  Also because investors like it.   After you are funded, they will like it if you keep building up your actual patent portfolio (of real patents, not provisional patents).

Now, get out there and LAUNCH a real product, stop worrying about patents, just write your own provisional and move on!  It won't matter unless your product is a success anyway!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Job vs. Career: How much should you like your job?

Every job has fun parts and boring parts.  Some jobs also have really difficult parts, which may be fun or may be boring.  As a manager, I think a lot about my employees and  how much they like their job.  The answer can never be 100%, not even for me.  So how much is enough?  How much should you like your job?

To answer that question, I want to break down life on the job into three parts:  part 1 - the environment of the job, part 2 - the people you work with, and part 3 - the work itself.   The reason to break this down this way is because the work itself is really only a part of the overall aspect of working.

So, how much should you like your job?   Well, let's look at each part.

Part 1 - The Job Environment:
   You really should like all these things about your job environment: Temperature, Workspace, Bathrooms, Odor/Air Quality.
   Some things you can "not like" because it's just part of "having a job": hours, breaks, location (distance from your home)
   Extras: these things you can like, but don't expect them: perks, comfort
   My count: you should like your Job Environment 4/7 or 57%.   Above 57% and you may have yourself a career!   Below, and you should look for a new job now.

Part 2 - The People:
    You should not dislike more than 50% of your coworkers.  You should respect your boss (not necessarily like him/her). Your boss should have a path for promotion for you in mind and want you to succeed.
    You do not have to like: everyone.  You do not have to be 'social' with anyone from your job, if you are consider that a bonus.
    My count: If you dislike more than 50% of  your coworkers or do not respect your boss or your boss does not want you to ever get promoted (no path), then you should look for a new job.  Otherwise, you may have yourself a career!   Read on!

Part 3 - The Work Itself:
    As said before, there are parts you like and parts you don't.  It's true for every job, even CEO job (maybe especially!).  Here's a checklist of should's:
   1. You should identify with the department you are in "engineering, marketing, sales, production, etc.".
   2. You should like the 'main thing' that your job is responsible to do.  (build stuff, market stuff, sell stuff, etc.).
   3. You should find your work challenging but doable.
   4. You should be able to learn new things constantly in your job.
   5. You should not expect to do only stuff you like all the time.  You may only get to do stuff you like about your job about 25% of the time.
   6. For doing stuff you don't like, you should not "absolutely hate" more than 25% of the stuff you do.
   7. That leaves about 50% of stuff you don't like but don't hate, and that's okay.
   My Count:  If you like at least 25% of the stuff you do, and don't hate more than 25%, and you identify with your department and find your work challenging and learn new stuff.... you have yourself a career.  IF not, start looking for a new job... perhaps in a new department.

So, do I like my job?  The picture below should answer that:



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Is your product idea good? Top 3 Ways to Know for Sure!

Ever had a product idea and wondered if it was any good?  Whether you are an engineer, an MBA, or a stay-at-home mom, these 5 tips will help you answer definitively whether your idea is good... or not!

Tip #1: 
What is your goal?  Do you want to build it for yourself or friends or sell it as an idea?  Do you want to start a full business or just make some for side-money?

Depending on your answer, good has different meanings... And tip #1 is essential to answer before you go any further.

Three possible answers make your product idea good:
Sell the idea!   Stop.  Nobody buys ideas.
Start a real business.  Yep, step 2.
Make some for side-income?   Okay, but tread carefully to step 2.

If this is a lark, stop now and proceed to hobby lobby!

Tip #2:  
Who cares?

Really, is there anyone who cares about your idea?  Does it solve someone's problem or is otherwise desirable by some specific kind of customer?

If not, stop.   Someone, some specific demographic, the smaller the better, must care, have the problem, or otherwise desire the product, or else, stop.

Tip #3:
Can you sell one and for how much?

I don't mean build one then sell one.. I mean sell one!

The best way to know if your product idea is good, and the TOP TIP to know for sure if your idea is good is to PRE-SELL it!

Literally, setup a 2 page website where page 1 introduces the product, page 2 accepts a pre-order.  If you can get a few pre-orders, go ahead a build *a few*...
You could also do this with Kickstarter or Indiegogo, but those services expect bigger ideas and a real budget for video/marketing/etc.  Instead take the money you make on the first few orders to build some.... then build a few more... once you've sold 100, go ahead, do your kickstarter!

Good luck!

Go out and SELL!  Sales is the only way to know if your product ideas is good or not.


Now, back to my Smart Watch idea....

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