Why is the TV show “Start IT Seattle” a Good Idea?

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Starting a company is not easy. Period. It doesn’t matter if you are a solo consultant, a dry cleaner or a fast-growing software as a service company.  And, it doesn’t matter if you have done it before or not. It is just very hard to be successful and anyone who has done it before knows this. That’s why many previous founders are always willing to help others. (I am in this bucket.)

Get Your Business Off the Ground

Start IT SeattlePeople all around Puget Sound need a hand getting their businesses off the ground.  Potential founders in downtown Seattle or Bellevue have access to many events that will help them meet, learn, and gain insights from experts. But, that doesn’t support the millions of others who are not within 5 miles of downtown or who don’t know about these events.

We are founding Start IT Seattle to help everyone with an idea for a business to connect with the encouragement, support, and tools they need to get their companies started. This half hour program will be broadcast on KIRO TV 7 and we’ll have additional material available on the web. We’ll provide tools and tips plus learning sessions with previous founders, funders of startups, and supporting service providers. We also will present some of our region’s inspiring founders and highlight innovative products and services that are being created here in the Northwest.

The show will enable you to hear directly from people who have been successful founders and have learned the many things that will help you get your idea off the ground. You will hear from people who have gone from working as a lawn care professional to CEO and from a one-time engineer to co-founder of a multibillion dollar company. Because we know you can be more successful when you surround yourself with smart people and learn from others who have already pioneered that path to success.

Many of the startup ecosystem leaders in the Seattle area have been talking to me about having a way to showcase and support all of the great companies that are being born here each month. Start IT Seattle will be filling that need. Our show will also be helping first-time entrepreneurs gain some level of recognition or exposure that they just can’t get by going to local pitch or demo events. Everything about this new project will support local entrepreneurs and inspire potential founders.

A Top Place for Starting a Company

Seattle is one of the top five places for starting a company in the United States and Start IT Seattle will help bring some recognition to the region by letting others see what is going on in the great Northwest. It is time for Seattle to standup and be recognized as a leader in both technology and as a terrific place to start a business of any kind. Sure, we have a high percentage of software and technology focused companies and we have an extremely talented tech workforce that can be hired to help grow your business. But, we also have a fast growing population that needs services to support all the wants and needs of the urban dwellers. Take a look around downtown and Capitol Hill and you can see what I mean. The building cranes are like rabbits; they just keep multiplying.

We are going to have fun, learn a lot of things and see success and failure along the way. We are going to treat the show just like you would a startup. We’ll try things that sometime don’t work and really listen to our audience so we’re making changes based on your feedback . We will make a few mistakes, tell you how we learn from them, and we will share insights from the very smart people we find to help us.  I’m excited to start sharing the stories of amazing entrepreneurs.

Watch, Learn and Participate in Our Empowering Startup Culture

Oh and one more thing, we will be sharing this process of building a successful show with everyone via our Facebook page and here at michaelgrabham.com.  We will be listening to your comments and ideas plus providing resources for budding entrepreneurs.  This is going to be a fun journey giving thousands of people a front row seat to watch, learn, and participate in this empowering startup culture. And, it’s just going to be darn fun no matter which way you look at it. I am both excited and proud to be able to show the Northwest what it means to Start IT.

Follow our progress and give us feed back on this project @StartITSeattle on Twitter and on our Facebook page. Watch KIRO TV 7 for our first broadcast at 7:30 p.m. on December 12.

Startup Weekend, Startup Grind, its all about startups

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learn more buttonStartup Weekend has events all around the globe and is helping entrepreneurs get their idea off the ground. They hold 54 hour weekend marathons that put people in a room and produce some kind of a usable product/service. If you have not been to one yet you should but it on your bucket list. Innovation happens at these events and companies are being launched as a result of them. They are truly helping thousands of people start a business or create a product each weekend where none existed before a weekend started. Marc Nager is the CEO of Startup Weekend and will be having a fireside chat with Derek Anderson on Jan 25th at 6pm at the offices of Graham and Dunn Law on Pier 70. Derek Anderson, the founder of Startup Grind, which hosts events in 39 cities across the globe each month with the goal of inspiring, educating and connecting entrepreneurs  Started in Silicon Valley Derek has added 35 chapters in the last 9 months.

Between these two entrepreneur friendly guests they know the pulse of the startup community like no other two people. They are able to share insights from around the world and have a unique perspective how how to create a lasting environment for startups. Learn about how companies are getting started by bootstrapping and by raising capital, learn how others are getting their ideas off the ground by sharing and relying on one another. Come meet these two entertaining and insightful founders with other like minded founders, developers and wantrapreneurs that will be in attendance. Enjoy wine, beer and good food (not pizza). To RSVP go here. 

Inspiration is everywhere… you just have to listen

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I was in Silicon Valley at the first ever Startup Grind 2013 conference this week. It was a two day conference that was full of speakers who had started companies or were starting companies, VC’s and angel investors. It was all about helping each other get their company/idea off the ground. There were big names like Steve Blank, Clay Christensen, Mark Suster, Brad Feld and many many other wonderful, talented people. There were about 500-600 people attending each day.

This event had people from all over the world and I mean that. I met people from India, China, Singapore Australia and Mexico. They all came to learn from others who had been “successful” at some level and to meet others who were working the crazy people. For anyone that has not started a company, there are things about real entrepreneurs that just don’t make logical sense.

Everyone works 80+ hours a week. Some have real jobs to pay the bills while they are getting their idea to some stage of completion.  Very few people ever complain or comment about the number of hours they are working because they look at the bigger picture.

They all think their idea brings value to some segment of the population. They all have a slightly different spin on the way the customer uses or will use their product even when you talk to two people who are going after the same customer.

They all need help, whether it is funding, design, marketing, partnerships or something else they are asking for help. The good ones or more experienced ones come right out and tell you what they are looking for.

They are very rarely doing it for the money. You can tell fairly quickly the ones who are in it for the money because there is always a different spin on how they talk about what they “want” to do with their company/idea.

Most of them have a sincere interest in what everyone else is working on. Not that they want to steal an idea, they are looking for ways that they can make their own product/service a little better or a different way of looking at a solution.

Almost everyone I had a meaningful conversation with actually listened to what I had to say and heard what I was talking about. Most of you know… there is a difference between just hearing and actually listening what is being said. The latter is the ability great networkers and connectors possess.

Here is my biggest takeaway from the event. (This has nothing to do with what I learned that were actually usable techniques, processes and products.) All of the entrepreneurs at the event inspire one another. They don’t necessarily mean to do that but it happens because they take honestly about challenges and speed bumps that have or are occurring. When you listen to others experiencing similar or sometimes your exact challenges and then hear what others have done to solve it… it inspires others. The young and the old inspiring one another in different ways was really my surprise. It is needed by everyone at some point in there journey and most people need it numerous times in their quest for a successful product launch.

Inspiration can come from many angles (not Angels) and unlikely sources. It is an absolute requirement for most people and it can not be overlooked in its importance. Keep an open mind, absorb information from others when you meet and you might walk away inspired.

Do you really want to start it?

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I recently had a meeting with a wantrepreneur, (wantrepreneur is someone who has never started a company and has no experience running a company) thought he wanted to start a company.  Of course there is nothing wrong with wanting to start a company if you have not done before.  But what needs to be understood it is not easy to start a company of any size, no matter what the product or service. Can you devote the time necessary?

Everyone who has not started a company should take a real look at what they about to do from many perspectives the most important is how much time do you have to devote to the business. Most people try and start their company while they are still employed, which is great. I would strongly recommend doing it this way if you are starting it by yourself. If you have a partner(s), then there are many other issues that come into play that I will not go into on this post.

So lets assume you are starting it by yourself, you have this service you have become skilled at and you want to help others with your service.  You need to have time to start talking to customers or potential customers, how to you bill for your services?  what program do you use? Can you use the billing software yourself, have you set up a new company to do your service? The work/questions just keep adding up.. it will always be that way the first few years or until you can afford to hire some significant resources.

I point this out to show you that there are a ton of things to work on and the list will only to continue to grow and you can expect this for the first couple of years or until you can hire significant resources. Get use to it, expect and plan for it. That is what starting a company is about managing lots of projects/ideas and moving them forward.

I think you get the point… Starting a company is a crap load of work and it is not for the faint of heart. The success rate and the number of people who start companies is small because it is damn hard to start a company. Be prepared to sacrifice your time from friends, family and your own time. It can be “all consuming” but the rewards are amazing. So when you say “I am starting this “cool product/service” be aware that means you must covet the most important resource you control … your time.

Mobile payments… who is in your smartphone?

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I have been following the mobile payments space since last fall and I am still intrigued by the possibilities it brings to anyone that carries a smartphone.  There are many interesting startups in the space and I have gotten to talk to a couple smart people last week about what is happening in the space. There is a huge land grab going on right now with companies trying to establish a foothold as one of the leaders. From large retailers establishing a separate company to go after it.  (Merchant Customer Exchange). to many smaller ones like Dwolla, Cimbal, Card.io and of course Square (not so small).

They all have a different spin on how they are approaching it but it all boils down to when will consumers start being comfortable paying for  things with a text message, email, NFC or scanning a QR code. I know it is happening right now but it is far from any kind of mass adoption. The consumers have to start using one of these methods enough that they are requiring or strongly suggesting that they use a mobile payment solution. Square has done a good job of getting their white toggle in the hands of thousands of small business owners.  I love Dwolla but I know very few people who actually have a Dwolla account. The companies in the space are taking babies steps to get adoption of the technology by consumers and my guess it will take another 2 years before it is readily accepted to transfer money from your smartphone to a business or another consumer.

But what really excits me about this is the fees. There is a hundreds of billions of dollars at stake that lobbyist are trying to protect that are no longer required. This disruption of the 2.5 -4% transaction fees is very much underway. The big boys, Visa M/C are under attack and we will see those fees go to 1% or less in the next 3-4 years.  This is way there are many companies trying to enter this space as there will be more than one winner and there is tons of money at stake.  Looks like the making so of a great battle. Most will watch from outside the ring and few brave ones will enter the ring and fight it out. Go get’em Dwolla and others.



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