Thursday, August 29, 2013

The End of Startup Incubators? Enter the Era of Startup "Excubators" with Ensemble.

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/29/2013

I just guest authored a new post for StartupBeat called " The End of Startup Incubators? Enter the Era of Startup "Excubators"...

I just guest authored a new post for StartupBeat called "The End of Startup Incubators? Enter the Era of Startup "Excubators".  This post summarizes the plusses and minuses of the "incubator/accelerator" models vs. this new "excubator" model being pioneered by Ensemble, comparing program entry, duration, location, mentorship, expertise, focus, convenience, team, equity, brand impact, cash discounts and more.

Take a read of this post, and tell me if you think Ensemble is heading in the right direction with its new "excubator" model.  We certainly have received a lot of positive feedback, but I welcome the reaction of Red Rocket's broader reader base in the comments section below.

For future posts, please follow us at:  www.twitter.com/RedRocketVC.  Thanks for sharing this post with your social networks, and helping us to get the word out there on Ensemble.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Lesson #151: How to Start a Business

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/26/2013

I was doing some keyword research on Google looking for topics that entrepreneurs were looking for answers to, and the number one searched t...

I was doing some keyword research on Google looking for topics that entrepreneurs were looking for answers to, and the number one searched term was "how to start a business".  I have been writing for over two years now, and just assumed most of you had already started a business.  But, for those of you who have not already started a business, or are trying to figure out how, this is the lesson for you.

DETERMINE IDEA

You can't start a business without a good idea.  Back in Lesson #1, we talked about determining: do I have a good business idea?  And, in Lesson #112, we learned how to come up startup ideas, if you didn't already have one.  So, I won't reiterate those posts.  But, at the end of the day, your idea needs to build a real-world solution to a real-world problem, preferably in a sizable market.  And, in all cases, do what you love, as it is important you have a passion about your startup (Lesson #50) to get through the good times and the bad.

SET EXIT EXPECTATIONS

You need to decide if you are building this business as a lifestyle business for yourself, as the sole owner, or if you are trying to attract outside capital.  Because the things you would do for yourself, may be different than the things you would do for outside capital.  Outside investors will most-likely require much faster growth and a clear roadmap to exit for their investment after around five years.  Whereas, you may be personally fine building a small revenue business that covers your desired lifestyle, without the hassle of outside investors.

RESEARCH YOUR MARKET

Before you get started, you need to do some preliminary market research for your startup, which we learned now to do back in Lesson #118.  How large is your market?  How competitive is your industry (Lesson #19)?  How well funded are your competitors?  Is it a market that will appeal to venture capitalists?  You want to make sure you know what you are getting yourself into before you start.  You are practically trying to kill your startup before you start (Lesson #128), and if you can't find a good reason to kill it, you are off to the races.

BUSINESS PLANNING

Once you have finished your market research, you need to build a a business plan (Lesson #7), determine your revenue model (Lesson #108), build a sales and marketing plan (Lesson #21) and build a budget for your business (Lesson #78).  Where you can, bias businesses with a recurring revenue model (Lesson #132), to better leverage your upfront sales and marketing investment.  As we learned in Lesson #120, in addition to budgeting for the development of your product or service, make sure you leave enough budget to test your sales and marketing efforts and acheive a profitable cost of customer acquisition and proof of concept that will appeal to future investors.  In all cases, set reasonable milestones to shoot for along the way (Lesson #122)

BUSINESS FORMATION

Once you are sure you have a good and well-researched idea and business/financial model that makes sense, you should be in a position to launch your business.  This includes a mix of frequent legal questions of startups from Lessons #56 and #70  (e.g., determining corporate structure, intellectual property protection, state of formation).  And, it includes the basics of setting up your bank accounts, accounting policies and process (Lesson #61), employee handbook policies (Lesson #60) and insurance protection (Lesson #62).  You also need to decide where best to locate your startup (Lesson #134) and how best to set up your board of directors and advisors (Lesson #12).  A good startup lawyer, will be critical here.

PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

Now, you need to build the actual product or service you plan on taking to market.  That always starts with a good product and pricing strategy (Lesson #120).  And, where you can, "productize" your business for maximum efficiency and scalability (Lesson #129).  In building your product or service, you will need to decide if better to build your startup with in-house employees or third-party contractors (Lesson #130).  In all cases, you will want to build a minimum viable product with which to test and to optimize over time--don't build a "Rolls Royce" if a "Toyota" can do the job to start.

STAFFING

Now, you need to build your startup team (Lesson #2), and determine your team's roles and responsibilities (Lesson #83).  Once you know what roles you need to fill, you need to recruit employees for your startup (Lesson #34), determine employee compensation (Lesson #58), determine employee benefits (Lesson #59) and potentially give equity to key employees (Lesson #9).  In all cases, make sure you hire people that are well-suited to fast-moving, nimble startup environments, preferably with a proven track record at prior startups. 

FUND RAISING

The last piece of the puzzle, which is required for any startup, is capital.  Back in Lesson #4, we talked about how to raise capital for startups.  For very early stage businesses, if not your own money, this most likely means finding angel investors for your startup (Lesson #5) and other bootrapping financing techniques (Lesson #125).   In all cases, you will need to build a reasonable bridge to a 10x return for your investors (Lesson #140) and structure the financing in a way that works for all parties (Lesson #116).

Now that I have finished writing this post, I pretty much could have sent the table of contents to Red Rocket's "101 Startup Lessons--An Entrepreneur's Handbook".  So, make sure to read all the other lessons therein, to make sure you are heading in the right direction.  Good luck!!

For future posts, please follow me at:  www.twitter.com/georgedeeb.  If you enjoyed this post, please click the social sharing buttons to share with your social networks.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

[NEWS] The @RedRocketVC Blog Passes 100,000 Reads!! Thank You For Your Continued Readership!!

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/21/2013

What started out as an unknown editorial adventure back in February 2011, has turned into over 100,000 reads of the Red Rocket Blog, to date...

What started out as an unknown editorial adventure back in February 2011, has turned into over 100,000 reads of the Red Rocket Blog, to date.  Thank you for your continued support and readership!!

I am glad you are enjoying our ever-expanding 101+ Startup Lessons--An Entrepreneur's Handbook (now up to Lesson #150!!).

I hope they are helping you grow your business.  Thanks for continuing to share these lessons with anyone you think can benefit from them.  The better we can collectively educate startups, a higher percentage of startups will succeed and the better our economy will grow.  Which is the ultimate goal!!

For future lessons, please follow Red Rocket at:  www.twitter.com/RedRocketVC.

Monday, August 19, 2013

[NEWS] Red Rocket & Ensemble Launch New Social Media Profiles--Please Follow Us

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/19/2013

As Red Rocket and Ensemble have expanded, so has our social media presence. In addition to our personal social profiles for George Deeb an...

As Red Rocket and Ensemble have expanded, so has our social media presence. In addition to our personal social profiles for George Deeb and Jay Stocki, we have recently launched new social profiles for Red Rocket itself and for our new Ensemble alliance. 

Please help us seed the new Red Rocket profiles with users at the following links: 
Twitter : LinkedIn : Google+ : Facebook : Vimeo : SlideShare : RSS

You can also follow the new Ensemble alliance profiles at: 
Twitter : LinkedIn : Google+ : Facebook.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

[VIDEO] George Deeb Introduces Ensemble on TastyTrade

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/15/2013

This morning, I had the pleasure of introducing the new Ensemble digital services alliance on TastyTrade's "Bootstrapping in Americ...

This morning, I had the pleasure of introducing the new Ensemble digital services alliance on TastyTrade's "Bootstrapping in America" program. 

Here is the link to the video on the TastyTrade site:
http://www.tastytrade.com/tt/shows/BINT/episodes/130815_BINT

To learn more about Ensemble's All-Star powered "digital services suite" bringing 20-40% savings to "Do-It-For-Me" entrepreneurs looking for high-ROI solutions based on current industry playbooks, please check out the video.  And, you can get more information on the Ensemble website.

Thanks to Tom Sosnoff and Tony Battista for the interview, and to Jules Weinstein for making it happen.  Also, be sure to check out TastyTrade's other Bootstrapping in America interviews with entrepreneurs on their website. 

Please follow Ensemble on Twitter at:  www.twitter.com/EnsembleHQ. And, if you enjoyed this video, thanks for clicking the social sharing buttons to share with your social networks.

Monday, August 12, 2013

[NEWS] Red Rocket Launches 20%-Time Shared Executive Program

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/12/2013

The quality of a management team can make or break a startup.  And, often times, tight budgets in the early years of a startup's life, d...

The quality of a management team can make or break a startup.  And, often times, tight budgets in the early years of a startup's life, do not allow it the budgets to truly afford A-Team executives with proven track records of success.  In an effort to make A-Team executives more affordable to startups or other cash-contrained businesses, Red Rocket is pleased to announce the launch of its 20%-Time Shared Executive Program.

The program is designed for companies on a tight budget who desire part-time costs, but long term expertise and involvement of a proven executive that can help direct/manage the company on a part-time basis. This would be a fixed-rate, permanent "outsourced 20%-time executive" for the cost of around $5,000 per month (depending on the role). One Red Rocket team member would fill any of the executive roles needed within your company, including CEO, COO, CMO, CSO, CFO, CTO, CIO, CRO, CAO, CHRO, CLO and CDO roles, with 20% of their time (one day a week). And, that same person would simultaneously be doing the same thing with four other companies in the four other days of the week. This would work best for companies with light workloads in those areas, or needing a person to cost-effectively manage/mentor the junior-level execution team members on staff.

So, now, there is really no reason not to employ a program like this.  It truly marries the best of both worlds:  bringing proven A-Team executives that can bring their proven "magic" to your businesses, all at an affordable $5,000 per month price and 20%-time structure you can afford.  So, let us know how we can help.

If you enjoyed this post or feel you know others that can benefit from this program, please click the social sharing buttons on this page to share with your social networks.  And, for future posts, please follow Red Rocket at:  www.twitter.com/RedRocketVC.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

[NEWS] Red Rocket Co-Founds "Ensemble": All-Star Powered "Digital Services Suite" at 20-40% Savings

Posted By: George Deeb - 8/07/2013

CHICAGO, August 7, 2013—Five of Chicago’s award-winning digital services companies announce today the formation of Ensemble , a one-stop dig...

CHICAGO, August 7, 2013—Five of Chicago’s award-winning digital services companies announce today the formation of Ensemble, a one-stop digital services suite alternative to startup incubator programs, designed for entrepreneurs desiring “do-it-for-me” solutions. Initial members of Ensemble include Red Rocket Ventures (business consulting & capital raising), Ora Interactive (technology development & design), Loud Interactive (search engine optimization), SocialKaty (social media marketing) and Walker Sands (public relations).

Ensemble’s “digital lab-in-a-box” solution aggregates the required niche skillsets needed for rapid growth of digitally-focused companies, including capital raising, business consulting, technology and marketing services, from Chicago’s best-of-breed digital service providers marketing under one cooperative brand. This provides a seamless and continuous client experience from startup ideation through successful growth.

Ensemble’s model is designed to materially increase an entrepreneur’s stand-alone odds of success, powered by Ensemble’s team of digital experts, which have been there and done that with current best practices in the industry and a roster of happy client case studies. In addition, by bundling disparate skillsets and companies into one digital services suite, Ensemble offers its clients a significantly lower cost than one-off service providers, given the operating efficiencies achieved by the economies of scale between the Ensemble members.
The economic benefits to companies using Ensemble’s collective services include 20 percent cash discounts for clients that buy services across the entire group of member companies, and up to 40 percent cash discounts for clients that Ensemble agrees to take an equity position in their businesses. This can lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in upfront cash savings to such companies.

Ensemble will be managed by its member companies with George Deeb, Managing Partner at Red Rocket Ventures, serving as the day-to-day general manager.
“We created Ensemble to fill a void in the market for entrepreneurs desiring do-it-for-me solutions from a one-stop team of digital experts who have proven they know how to quickly and efficiently scale up digital businesses,” Deeb said. “The Ensemble alliance structure will best serve clients, given our domain experts’ focus and expertise within their respective niches, and the fact we are all entrepreneurs ourselves. Ensemble is by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs, which you would never get in a big conglomerate agency.”

Digital companies and startups have many options to choose from when deciding how best to scale up their digital efforts. This includes venture capital incubators, accelerator programs, shared location facilities, general marketing agencies and other general networking groups.  Ensemble goes beyond the support traditionally offered in these types of programs (e.g., non-expert advice, short duration programs, lack of knowledge depth, peer vs. professional tutelage, outdated curriculum) to design a long-term, winning business model for itself and clients.
Each current Ensemble member company is headquartered in the Chicago area. While Chicago is a core focus of Ensemble, given the city’s robust digital startup and technology scene, the group will support a nationwide roster of clients. New members with complementary digital services will be added to the alliance over time.
For more information about Ensemble, please visit the alliance website at www.EnsembleHQ.com, where you can follow the alliance on the major social networks.

About Ensemble: Founded in 2013, Ensemble is a cooperative cross-marketing alliance of award-winning digital service providers in Chicago, each with specific and unique expertise. The current members include Red Rocket Ventures (business consulting & capital raising), Ora Interactive (technology development & design), Loud Interactive (search engine optimization), SocialKaty (social media marketing) and Walker Sands (public relations). This alliance structure better serves clients, as compared to generalist agencies, allowing member companies to stay deeply focused in their respective skill sets. At the same time, this model offers clients materially higher odds for success, given the deep domain expertise and 20-40 percent cash discounts available to clients that engage the collective services of Ensemble members. Ensemble’s digital services suite is a next-generation alternative for entrepreneurs looking for do-it-for-me solutions from a team of digital experts.

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