Startup Related Items
The seasoned VC says Silicon Valley will remain a tech hub for years, but Silicon Alley, with its focus on content, is paving the way for exciting changes.
That's why his firm is changing its name.
"I think it's a bit rich that we go around to entrepreneurs and say markets are being disrupted, you need to change," he said during the Venture Forward Conference in New York on Tuesday.
The new moniker, which he wouldn't disclose at the conference but plans to unveil next week, will be the first such change for GRP in 17 years. It's meant to reflect GRP's renewed focus on transparency and investment in infrastructure--two things entrpreneurs say they want.
The idea came after polling a group of entrepreneurs, who also said they look for operational experience, industry insight, marketing help, and people who can bring capital to the table from their VC firm. Since all those encompass what GRP does, "We felt we needed a name that would represent all those things," he said.
When asked how hard it's been to do business "so far south of Silicon Valley," Suster acknowledged the challenge, but pointed to markets outside of the tech hub.
"Silicon Valley will always produce the biggest hits; it will always be the tech ecosystem for the foreseeable future," he said. "But there are market conditions that make it easier and better to build outside Silicon Valley."
Focusing on software-based start-ups has proven this: Many things which revolve around the Internet--content, commerce, and communication--aren't dominated by the Valley, he found.
"Commerce is something great trading cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles have always done well," Suster said. In terms of content, "New York has a significant advantage there." And communication has strongholds in Washington, D.C., Kansas City, and "of course, New York. That's why we've seen companies standing out more."
This vicious curse can take you down if you let it. Here's how to beat it.
Anyone who has started and ran a business knows the entrepreneur's curse.
The frustrating dichotomy between never having enough spare time outside the business and the frightening reality when you do.
When I started Wild Creations a number of years ago, I lived the curse firsthand. As someone who had just come from the corporate world and was a master at leveraging vacation days with three-day weekends and long holidays, the entrepreneurial transition was challenging. I had lofty aspirations of "being my own boss" and having more freedom and independence.
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Like any new business, it consumed every minute of spare time and every ounce of energy I had. When I actually took a few hours off, for example on a weekend to indulge in a simple college football game, the enthusiasm and pleasure of doing so were always dampened by the heavy guilt I felt for not working at the business. If we were slow enough to take time off, should I not be focused on trying to get more business?
It was a vicious cycle.
After a while, however, I learned to effectively deal with the "curse" and in fact became quite adept at avoiding it altogether. Here are a few tips on how other entrepreneurs can do the same:1. Find a Partner
Many entrepreneurs, by nature, are soloist. While completely understandable, I personally find it to be less optimal. I was fortunate to find a trustworthy partner and co-founder at Wild Creations. We had met and worked together on a USAID project overseas and discovered that we shared similar entrepreneurial aspirations. It took a number of months to establish the rapport and the trust we needed, but the patience paid off. When one of us needed time off, we could always feel confident knowing that the business was in capable hands.2. Hire Better People
If you cannot find a good partner or opt to go at business yourself, make sure to find better employees. And by "better" I mean better than you. Let's face it, the most capable and trusted person you are going to find to run your business is you, so do not compromise on selecting employees that you will trust to do it for you.3. Learn to Delegate
For many entrepreneurs (present company included), giving up control of any aspect of the business is difficult. I often compare my business to my children. As nice as it might be, turning over the responsibility to watch and protect them is not easy. It is important to understand, however, that you cannot do or control everything. Indeed, there are individuals much better qualified for particular tasks. Understand your strengths and the priorities of the business and trust the rest to your team.4. Find Your Happy Place
Like any parent, you will always worry about the business, regardless of the team you have in place. For me, I find it useful to have a "happy place" where I can go and tune out the business and outside noise. The time allows me to recalibrate, mentally, so I make certain I am focused on what is important. Whether it is a beach, a reading bench, a set of headphones, or a state of Zen, find your place and be willing to allow yourself the indulgence of "letting go," even if for a short time.5. Do What You Love
It may be a cliché, but it is spot on. Most entrepreneurs choose to start businesses to pursue a personal passion or interest but quickly get lost in the rigor, stress and anxiety of running the business. When you start to get frustrated, remember why you started your business and reclaim the enthusiasm you had before. Working tens of hours in the business then feel a little less like a chore.
The entrepreneurs curse is, for the most part, mental. It requires the ability to turn the business "on" and "off" at a moment's notice, which is completely achievable but takes practice ... lots of practice. In the end, you may not find more spare time to enjoy, but you will most certainly learn to enjoy the spare time you have.
As for me, I finally learned to enjoy my ASU Sun Devil football games ... outside the office!
Have any other tips for beating the entrepreneur's curse? Please share them below!
Vishal Sankhla, the founder of a VC-backed start-up in Silicon Valley, explains what it feels like to have his visa status hang in the balance of the current immigration debate.
Over the next several weeks, the Senate is set to debate immigration reform legislation.
Some following the debate will be trying to divine the future ambitions of various Republicans or the general direction of the recently troubled party, others will argue the economic and demographic impact of reform. But in his office in San Mateo, California, Vishal Sankhla will watch closely for other reasons.
His professional and personal life both hang in the balance.
A U.S.-trained engineer originally from India, Sankhla was employed on a H1b visa when he got the idea for Viralheat, the social media start-up he has since co-founded.
"In late 2008, I got together with [his co-founder] Raj and we started toying around with ideas. That’s when we came up with the idea. I was itching to start my own company and my only option was to either stick with Cisco till I get my Green card, which could take several years, or take a risk and start Viralheat. I decided to take the risk," he explained to Inc. in an email.
In some ways that’s a gamble that paid off. The company has 17 employees and is planning to add more, and has also managed to raise $4.25 million in Series A funding. By just about every standard that’s a promising beginning for a start-up and a plus for our job-hungry economy. But Sankla’s success hasn’t been enough to win him a stable immigration status. After spending a year applying for a Green card, he was denied. Now he says he is applying through another category, but the uncertainty has an outsized impact on his business.
"I was on an H1b visa that made it impossible for me to join my own company that I had founded. I was lucky to have a co-founder who was a US citizen to even be able to explore this opportunity and get the company to where we are today," Sankhla says. The current immigration system affects his start-up in other ways too.
"We also have employees who are on H1b visas, so we have to spend a lot of time, resources and energy on their immigration paperwork. Being a small company we do not have full-time HR resources who focus on this, so it ends up taking my precious time away in making sure everything is going smoothly," he says.
All of which sounds like a nightmare for any growing business, but Sankhla notes that his immigration struggles have taken a personal toll as well. "It became very tedious to travel outside the country. Every time I travelled, I had to get a stamping done in India. The stamping process takes up a lot of time in terms of collecting all the immigration paperwork, employment paperwork, employment verification, pay-stubs. A lot of people end up getting stuck in their countries. The process never ends, you are always worried. Your immigration status becomes your number one source of stress," he reports.
And immigration challenges have affected other members of his family as well: "My wife is currently with Netflix on an H1b visa and her Green card is stuck Perm. audit so basically we are still quite far from getting a Green card done. Also, I worry about my mom. She has a visitor's visa that allows her to stay for up to six months in the U.S. after which she has to travel back to India. It becomes harder and harder for us to stay together, especially as she grows older."
Unsurprisingly, Sankhla has joined efforts to get immigration reform through Congress and is watching the debate closely. He’s optimistic, he says, but nervous.
"I worry because the debate is still largely focused on whether to create a path to citizenship for low-skilled, undocumented workers or illegal immigrants. The issues of legal immigrants go largely unnoticed and our issues are bundled tightly, so any delays around the former provision, also ends up delaying issues for people like me."
What’s he hoping for? A higher number of H1b visas, so that employers can access talent from abroad and "an easy way for people to apply and get their Green cards in a reasonable amount of time and a clear and timely pathway to US citizenship."
As a business owner, you can keep Sankla and his family in mind as the immigration debate unfolds in the coming weeks for humanitarian reasons, but he makes a far more hard-nosed business case for fellow entrepreneurs to get involved in the conversation.
"We need to recognize that and double down on entrepreneurs, because other nations are figuring this out. There is a billboard up on the freeway here inviting people having immigration issues to Canada. In the end, if US cannot attract, engage and retain top talent, it will be left behind."
Are you following the progress of immigration reform? What are you hoping to see come out of the process?
What's holding you back? Rob Ashkenas, managing partner of Shaffer Consulting, points out the root of the problem, and smart ways to fix it.
Slowdowns are inevitable, but to get through those slumps, you've got to know what's behind them, says Ron Ashkenas, managing partner of Shaffer Consulting, in The Harvard Business Review.
Here are three signs you've been stunted:
The law of large numbers. "As a company gets bigger, each percentage of incremental revenue suddenly represents a fundamentally larger number," says Ashkenas. There's also more pressure on the sales team to find new markets, categories, and geographies.
Market maturity. As a market moves through its life cycle, it becomes more crowded, prices stabilize, and the opportunity to grow through price increases, well, decreases. When a market gets saturated, it becomes that much harder to lure away buyers who are loyal to particular brands.
Psychological self-protection. Innovation is hard. So it's no suprise that rather than take a risk with a new product, many companies succumb to the pressure to preserve the base business and focus on "adapting existing products and services," says Ashkenas. Sadly, playing it safe leaves the door wide open for disruptive competitors.
There are two ways to keep up the growth, he continues:
Regularly re-examine your business model. "Don't limit your innovation and research to the development of new products and services, but also focus on the possibility of new business models," says Ashkenas.
Next, consider downsizing. Are all your products producing sufficient returns? Would you be better off shedding some customers? Acting on the answers "can liberate you and your resources to focus on new opportunities and will lead to more growth in the long term," he says.
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