Category Archives: Noteworthy

We Publish Ebooks

If you’ve followed this blog, then you know that we have published a handful of Ebooks over the past year.

In each case, we have leveraged a set of the content from Naturally Caffeinated contributors, in association with a key content collaborator.

These have ranged from the Crunchbase/TechCrunch media group to IGNITE book authors David Neff and Randal Moss.

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What enables us to produce these quickly and cost-effectively is that we have unique content ownership and a disciplined process.

This process enables us to provide a meaningful project to high school and college interns, letting them earn a small stipend while they learn valuable writing, proofreading, production and project management skills.

If you are interested in publishing an Ebook, please Contact us through the website.

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Innovation Ebook: An IGNITE Collaboration

nc-ebook-coverWe’re thrilled to announce Corporate Innovation: Best Practices for Leveraging Startup Ecosystems & Igniting New Ideas, available immediately for download!

It is the third Ebook from the Naturally Caffeinated series. (The other two being Women In Tech and The Digest.)

It is also a unique collaboration with David Neff and Randal Moss, the authors of the great new book: IGNITE: Setting Your Culture on Fire with Innovation.

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The Ebook is roughly divided into three sections:

  1. changes in corporate innovation, brought on by the disruptive force of early-stage startups
  2. best practices in corporate innovation
  3. the new role of startup ecosystems — like Capital Factory in Austin, Texas — as corporate innovation partners.

These startups ecosystems are a new form of R&D network, increasingly essential to corporate innovation initiatives. Perhaps the best example of such a network is the Startup Federation, formalized earlier this year.

Please download the Ebook and share it. A big “Thanks!” to Capital Factory for supporting the effort. We look forward to hearing from you!

Download Women in Tech Report

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The Women in Tech Entrepreneurship Report is a 60-page Ebook presenting the ground-breaking research and reporting by TechCrunch and its companion database CrunchBase, interlaced with additional personal reflections by more than half-a-dozen women entrepreneur and investors profiled in Naturally Caffeinated: The Community Edition.

You may download a copy of the Report at this link.

The Report is the result of a non-commercial effort to provide the current information about the participation of women in tech in an easy-to-read, consolidated Ebook format to the widest audience.

Thank you to brightly Interactive for cover and book design and Jennifer Wilson for interior layout and design.

The Perfect VIP Gift

NC giftIf you are a business owner, chances are you appreciate your best customers.

And, every year, when the holiday season comes, you want to take an extra moment to thank them for their patronage.

But, it’s hard to find something you can buy that is distinctive.

Well, this year, our publisher, Weeva, has teamed up with us to produce a gift promotion that provides that distinctive edge.

With a minimum order of just 10 copies of Naturally Caffeinated we will produce a cover with your company brand and add up to ten pages of custom content.

You can reflect on the year’s highlights, write about plans for the coming year, or simply thank your customers and your team for their loyalty.

View the details online. If interested, contact us ASAP – deadline November 15 – so we can be sure to customize, order and ship the books in time for the holidays!

Fresh Off the Printer: Order Now!

Barely as old as a newborn kitty, Naturally Caffeinated: The Community Edition is available immediately to purchase.

There are two editions, to fit your pocketbook and your bookcase. Get all of the particulars and check out some preview pages on the publisher’s order page.

And, keep an eye on this page for future holiday and gift special offers!

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Dear Startup: A Faux Advice Column for Better Mentoring

by Duy Tran, guest blogger & faux advice columnist

ncblog-abbyIf someone decided to write a “how to” guidebook for mentees seeking effective mentors, I believe it might read like a dating advice book!

This is not surprising, if you stop and consider it, because a good mentor-mentee relationship is supposed to be emotionally stimulating AND tangibly beneficial.

Good mentors can be more than strictly business partners where only clear goals and objectives are set, yet it is also different than merely a friendship because some level of giving is still expected in a mentorship.

Thus, I’ve distilled all the insights and advice I received in my conversations with former mentees and mentors in a faux advice column where current mentees, mentors, and program leaders can improve their “game.”

= = =

Dear Reader,

In the real world, Prince(ss) Charming doesn’t gallop into your life and sweep you off your feet, and you shouldn’t expect to find a good mentor through serendipity. Tony Aguilar from Student Loan Genius emphasized the need to hustle, hustle, hustle; in other words, put yourself out there!

Kim Gorsuch from Weeva corroborated and expanded on this advice by suggesting to think of interactions as belonging to three different tiers:

  1. tier one is the first date, so to speak, where you assess mutual interest
  2. tier two is when a mentor becomes interested in your venture and decides their expertise to help you, but it is more of a one-time situation
  3. and tier three is when the mentor becomes so invested in your venture that they embed themselves into your team for the long run and help you grow over time

Tier 2 and 3 interactions are the ones you’re shooting for, but that is only possible after many, many tier 1 interactions.

Now, of course, every entrepreneur knows that hustling is a key component of success, so what’s so insightful about this advice, anyways?

Well, a topic that was raised in every single one of my conversations was that oftentimes these initial interactions are mandated, forced, or otherwise inorganic. Thus, it becomes difficult for a mentor to become invested in your venture.

This is where having honest communication is absolutely crucial. Founders I spoke with would really appreciate it if mentors were upfront about not being interested in a venture instead of stringing them along. Transparency, even if it’s a little uncomfortable, would go a long way in increasing the efficacy of tier 1 interactions.

However, don’t be disheartened if someone isn’t interested in your venture because they can still be invested in your success. If half of the transparency equation is mentors being brutally honest, then the other half would mentees “being themselves.”

It would be a good idea to pitch yourself so that uninterested mentors can refer you to a different mentor or even convert them into a cheerleader for your venture. In fact, there was unanimous consensus that one of the best, if not the best, aspect of mentorship was having a mentor as your cheerleader.

Kim Updegrove of Milk Bank of Austin said that an invaluable aspect of her mentorship is her mentor telling her she can do it, that being overwhelmed sometimes is normal and that she can push on.

Entrepreneurship is hard and you can get all the best advice in the world, but it’s all useless if you don’t have the willpower to execute those advice. Look for mentors that will emotionally support you in addition to offering their expertise.

Of course, the burden of good mentorship should not fall solely on the shoulders of the mentees and mentors, which means that program leaders who manage mentor networks really ought to consider some rudimentary matchmaking framework. This will allow for mentees and mentors to look for common ground and build upon it.

Suggestions during my conversations included specifying whether or not the mentor was also looking to invest, opt-outs for different types of ventures, and being forthcoming about their time commitment.

Program leaders wouldn’t even need to reinvent the wheel: there are plenty of matchmaking models that are already quite successful. Examples range from dating sites – I wonder what a “Tindr for mentorship” would look like – to more complex and thoughtful models, along the lines of roommate matching at colleges.

Finally, be flexible and allow yourself to be challenged. One founder suggested not having too much of an agenda when looking for mentors.  Otherwise, your worldview is too myopic to incorporate any major or unconventional advice that seeks to address critical flaws in your venture.

It is also useful to avoid overestimating your abilities. Going back to the basics can prove to be useful when reassessing your business model, either as validation or recognizing the need for change.

Being challenged is also good for mentors! A founder really appreciated when her mentors had differing opinions and they would debate their advice because that discussion leads to a more nuanced and holistic understanding of the situation.

So, Dear Reader, to summarize, when it comes to ensuring a more successful mentor relationship:

  • Put yourself out there!
  • Honest communications is absolutely critical
  • Look for a mentor who is a true cheerleader
  • Find common ground and build upon it
  • Be flexible and allow yourself to be challenged

ncblog-homeawayGood luck and keep searching for that Mr. or Mrs. Right Mentor. Hopefully, by following this advice, there will be celebration bells of a different kind ringing in your future!

Download and Use the “Naturally Caffeinated” Artwork, Royalty-Free

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 12.16.23 PMIn the spirit of making all of the content for the Naturally Caffeinated Ebook available at no charge and royalty-free, if proper attribution is provided, we wanted to share the high-res graphics images with you from the artist.
Andrew of ATXsnapshots developed 11 original, coffee-themed images that we used for the chapter headers and, in a couple of cases, as illustrations in the Ebook. Those images are available for download at this link.
Like the music business and other creative industries, many artists like Andrew earn their livelihood on actual projects and associated events that they are hired to produce, rather than on royalties from the individual works they create.
So, feel free to download, re-use, and re-mix these original graphics — at no charge, royalty-free, in perpetuity — but please make sure that you attribute ATXsnapshots when you do. And, contact them for your next project or event!

Yes. Accelerators Are Worth It! (Part 1)

by Emily Savage

In recent years accelerator programs have sprouted up all over the world and gained immense popularity.

Twenty years ago, there were over 600 incubator programs in the United States alone. Now, in addition to incubator programs, conservative estimates are there are some 200 accelerator programs that have opened their doors worldwide.

IMG_6360_startx_orientation.jpg.scaled1000_19980Prominent graduates, representing the ideal for companies participating in an accelerator program, include Airbnb and Dropbox from the Y combinator accelerator.

While accelerators have demonstrated they can have tremendous upsides for startups, producing very high-value results, there is also controversy about their downsides and, in the worst case, the risk that they can actually reduce the momentum and have a negative effect on the value of an otherwise promising startup.

In Part One of a two-part series, we explore the question “Are Accelerators Worth It?” beginning with the affirmative argument for accelerators.

What IS an Accelerator and How Is It Different?

The terms “accelerator” and “incubator” are often be used interchangeably. However, in fact, they are distinct in their intent. The accelerator concept is a more recent phenomenon, primarily coming into vogue in the last decade, whereas the incubator concept has been around for many decades.

USASeedAcceleratorRankings2011Accelerators have a structured curriculum and specific duration, and often involve (not always) founders of the participating startups trading a percentage stake of the equity ownership of their company in return for a certain amount of funding.

Incubators, in contrast, are more focused on providing unstructured advice from its professional staff, tailored to the startup’s needs, without a specific duration. Incubators may also provide low-cost office space and access to a support network that can help with growing the company.

According to the 2010 State of Small Business report presented by the U.S. government, the Great Recession of 2008 caused a drop in startup businesses getting funding through traditional bank loans or investors.

Then, and now, startups often struggle with a lack of general business knowledge and the ability to get sufficient funding for company essentials, like access to affordable office space, internet, and more.

Accelerators provide startup companies that may be struggling to get off the ground with the ability to develop their product and business plan in a rapid period of time.

What Good Are Accelerators?

An accelerator allows entrepreneurs to spend less time on mundane business tasks and more time developing their company or product. One alumni of theStanford-based StartX accelerator estimated he saved over 1,000 hours of general business work over three months by being a part of the program.

Others have compared accelerator programs to graduate school, because of the immense business practice and educational benefits they can provide, with one even referring to their program as a “startup MBA on steroids.”

Among other benefits, entrepreneurs are granted validation for their idea. They are accepted into selective development programs and are given personal help and resources.

Accelerator-CFWhile accelerators are exclusive, with admissions frequently difficult to obtain, getting accepted to programs like Capital Factory or SKU in Austin opens the door to a whole new world of benefits.

It also helps to push a business along, due to the time-constrained and goal-driven nature of accelerators.

Above all, however, the most valuable benefit of accelerators is the interpersonal networking opportunity. In a study done of five of the most well-known accelerator programs, all participants cited some sort of networking as the most valuable asset of their program. One-on-one face time with experienced entrepreneurs is extremely beneficial for startup companies.

Many accelerators only accept mentors who have extensive entrepreneurship experience themselves. When asked, the majority of mentors very often say they are less motivated by the financial benefits of accelerators for themselves, instead being more motivated by the opportunity to give back to the startup community by helping others avoid the pitfalls that the mentors, themselves, experienced along the way.

As the popularity of accelerators has grown, the program themes, funding alternatives, and other services offered for startups have begun to vary widely. So, more than ever, due diligence on the part of a startup’s founders, is important before committing to a program, to make sure it’s the right fit.

But due diligence aside, something must be working, because according to a report published by the Small Business Institute Journal, 90% of participants in the top fifteen accelerator programs globally said they would participate in an accelerator program again. That’s good news, for entrepreneurs, accelerator directors, and advocates of disruptive innovations.

Emily Savage edits the NCtheBook blog. She is an intern with Powershift Group and will be a junior at  Vanderbilt University in the Fall 2015.