How Co-Living Will Change The Way We Live Forever

[Originally posted on Medium]

Social isolation Isn’t working. We need to change the way we live.

Have you noticed how the streets are busy but nobody’s talking? There is an epidemic that has been sweeping through the US for years now. It’s contagious and often causes depression in those affected. Loneliness and isolation are sweeping through an entire generation of Americans — the General Social Survey found that the number of people with no close friends has tripled since 1985.

While it’s not only the young who are impacted, loneliness particularly affects millennials because they have been raised on the internet. Social media creates connections with people who they never meet, social video gaming allows interactions with people they never see. The red notifications on Facebook cause a rush of endorphins that make you feel popular and included. But when there are no red notifications, you crave that release and your mood suffers. Ironically, in an age of ultra connectivity, we are at our most disconnected.

Co-living reintroduces the physical.

This isn’t a new idea but it couldn’t be more urgent. Modern co-living originated in Denmark in the 1960s. Bodil Graae wrote a newspaper article in 1967 that questioned the structure of the traditional family unit. The article inspired a group of families to develop the Sættedammen co-living project in 1972. The Danish term bofællesskab (“living community”) was introduced to North America by Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett in their 1989 book Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves. The documentary One Shared House highlights an insightful history of this movement.

Fast forward to 2016 and New Yorker magazine was starting to talk about the idea of being Happy Together. The American Dream is founded on the idea that you work hard, make lots of money and eventually have a McMansion (well that’s a sweeping generalization we realize!). But what if isolation equates to loneliness? What if it is not about the possessions we have but rather the experiences we have gone through. That $10,000 rug isn’t going to make you smile anymore than your $250,000 Ferrari if you lose your job.

Co-living is striking a chord and appealing massively to millennials. But why? As digital natives, millennials have everything they need on their tablet, laptop or phone. They don’t need lots of shelving to house their collection of music, nor do they need a DVD player or expensive speakers. Millennials are craving experience over stuff. And due to this lack of stuff, they do not need as much space. Reduced living space is becoming accepted as long as there is a way to meet like-minded people and truly experience life. Wellness is another important factor in living, and without balance we are lopsided as human beings — burned out, vitamin D starved and anti-social.

Recent examples of co-living concepts include Ollie, Common and WeLive. Most of these co-living communities are located in major cities where there is the obvious lack of space and the common theme seems to be community which is hard to find in the urban jungle. Roam goes beyond the US borders and is attempting to appeal to digital nomads who are not anchored to a single location. They need to travel and need a place to work out of. A more recent example is Podshare which is based in Los Angeles. Critics have argued that this is just a revamped hostel concept but their communities have grown, reaching recent graduates and interns who need a short-term place to stay while interviewing in LA.

Technology can enhance relationships instead of isolating people.

My company Qwerky aims to be the next step in the co-living movement. With entrepreneurially-minded millennials needing a support system, a co-living community designed for these people is paramount. Co-working has proven a great way to work around other Founders but your shields are always set to “HIGH” when you enter and exit the space. In a living environment, your shields are down and informal conversations begin to happen. Wine flows, you are lying in a hammock, you take an impromptu walk with a member of the community.

Suddenly, you find yourself talking frankly about a subject because you know the person you live with. You are on the same journey. You are on the same path. Something clicks into place. You get back to the house and decide to suggest an initiative to your community members. They love it. Now as part of your week, you have a top chef cook dinner for you all while you discuss how best to pitch to investors. Weekend arrives and you take an investor meeting on a surfboard. You now find that your work is following the way you live rather than the other way around. You are in control.

Technology is something that we believe is currently being missed in co-living spaces. Like many condominiums, the focus is still on how cool the gym is or how close to the bars residents are. What if the idea of a “smart home” was implemented in co-living communities? Instead of just going to sleep, can we create a pod where your sleep can be studied so as to optimize your sleep. Effective sleep is crucial if you are hustling all day and you need energy to change the world! Extend technology to monitor our level of happiness, our wellness, our effective relationships and to track how we are not only doing on our own projects but how we are helping others to achieve their goals, be successful and ultimately be happy.

The next step for encouraging learning and developing community.

We need to build bridges not walls. Cross border initiatives are a hot topic especially in cities like San Diego. America’s Finest City is tipped to be America’s next big startup hub. One of its unique factors is its proximity to Mexico. Once known for cartel activity and gang violence, Tijuana is quickly turning into the Berlin of Mexico. The border town has an entrepreneurial vibe that is growing fast.

Co-working spaces are popping up, independent brands are exploding and many San Diego businesses are turning south of the border for digital work, software development and other services. Imagine if co-living communities can be introduced in San Diego and Tijuana to encourage learning, allow people to practice their English and Spanish respectively, test their products is a foreign market and even attract foreign investment.

This is just the beginning. I created the Qwerky concept originally to help people reunite but as I’ve come to know my city and its residents, I’ve discovered that co-living is much more than an apartment share or way to cut expenses. It’s a fundamental way to change your experiences, meet people who change your life for the better, and achieve your goals.

David Lowe is the Founder of Qwerky Coliving. Find him on Twitter @davidjlowe and email him here: hi@qwerkycoliving.com

The Lost Art of Conversation (And How To Seduce Your Customers)

The year is 2017. Conversation is dying. Emojis are winning. Is there anything that can be done to save the lost art of conversation?

When I first came to the USA in 1993, my parents brought me to Orlando, Florida. Smiles were ubiquitous, “have a nice days” were delivered every time you left a building and at a time before mobile technology had found its way into our pockets, conversations were deeper. People were curious to know more about each other because there was no other way of acquiring that knowledge. Between 2008 and when I first moved to the US to live in 2012 (I chose Austin, Texas), I realized something: everything had changed. The most obvious changes I noticed were:

1). Everything comes back to Google

People are lazy. They don’t need to use their memory anymore. They simply “Google it”. Even during formal occasions, people will have no problem pulling out their mobile phone and searching for their answer. But here’s where the conversation nose dives. The “Googler” suddenly notices a text, a Facebook alert, a tweet and then comes the inevitable line, “my phone’s going kind of slow. The signal’s kind of weak in here.” Roughly translated: “I was going to search for the answer but got sidetracked by what my “friends” were doing on social media. My digital addiction is comparable with that of a crack addict and I need help.”

Solution: I read recently that the best thing you can do when you meet someone face-to-face for a business meeting (or even coffee with a friend) is to not put your phone on the table. It is a subtle way of telling the person you are with that they have 50% of your attention until the phone pings. Make eye contact, not in a stare out champion/serial killer kind of way but to show you are listening. Make the person opposite you feel like the most important person in the room.

2). Emojis Rule

One of my favorite recent events I attended was Creative Mornings in San Diego. The speaker was Nuvi Mehta – the San Diego Symphony Special Project Director. What he absolutely nailed was the way that our attention span is decreasing at an alarming rate. The evidence: we used to write letters. We used to spend time thinking about what we could conjure up and scribble onto the page. Then along came twitter and suddenly we were forcing ourselves to express ourselves in under 140 characters. When the iPhone introduced emojis, what Mehta and many other people realized was that an emoji actually means very little other than the person using it doesn’t really want a conversation. He drew a parallel between a piece of classical music and a pop song. An orchestral movement is long. It takes time to build, there is a crescendo and your patience is rewarded. Your emotional spectrum is maxed out. With a pop song, like bubblegum, you chew it for a few moments and then discard it. Emojis are the pop songs of our culture. Or are they even less? What interests me personally is the evolution of the human race and how we started out with hieroglyphs. With emojis and digital icons, did we make a full circle?

Solution: Listen to more classical music or jazz. Write more. Listen better. Rely less on emojis (especially in business!).

3). People Stopped Discussing Things In Front Of Them And Now They Just Film It

Open mouth. Pan video camera on phone. Upload to YouTube. Share with your friends. Hope, pray and possibly sell your soul to the devil in return for a viral hit and a few thousand likes. Pow!

Solution: Talk to people around you. Learn about why they are filming things. What makes people tick? Do less on social media so when people see you they don’t already know that you did a “Frank The Tank” midnight streaking run at the weekend.

4). The Customer Is Never Right

When I walk in most coffee shops, the smiles are gone and replaced with baristas who are hungover or on comedowns. The idea of making the customer special has gone. The notion of regulars being remembered and conversation developing at each visit is a distant memory. The lack of customer service has never been more evident than when using airlines. Remember when you were welcomed on board with open arms, smiles and treated like royalty? That time is gone. American airlines especially have become the worst in the world which is why we are frequently seeing passengers being escorted off planes because they did things like speaking the wrong language.

Solution: Incidentally, the above incident happened on a Delta flight in December 2016. I just got back from a trip to New York and flew with them expecting something similarly horrendous. That negative press must have been just the shock they needed because it was one of my best experiences with an American airline in my life. We were greeted by friendly staff on board, their conversation was curious, humorous and not forced. They went above and beyond their expected role and we even got a free upgrade because we had a baby and they wanted us to be comfortable. This is what every airline, barista and anyone in customer service should be doing to seduce the customer.

5). Social Media Means We Know Too Much

As a kid, I was always taught by my teachers and parents to read the newspaper. For most people, social media has replaced the newspaper. Everyone knows everything and they know it the second it happens. I was talking to a barista in New York last week and they mentioned a movie that had won an Oscar. It was Moonlight (or should that have been La La Land?!).
I played dumb and said I hadn’t heard of the movie. They were shocked and asked me why I hadn’t watched The Oscars ceremony and seen the most epic of Oscar fails? I said I was tied up and this was the catalyst for a great conversation which slalomed through different eras of film-making and ended talking about a startup company. These are the kind of conversations I need.

Solution: If you are a conversationalist, always try and find a way to trigger the other person to talk. Whether it is being controversial, insightful or knowledgable, your goal is to learn.

6). No-one Talks To Their Neighbors

The American Dream was devised to encourage Americans to work too much, earn a lot, spend a lot and have a big house and yard for your family. What this has done has created a sense of isolation amongst the population. The “Jones Theory” and reality TV means people are always comparing  themselves to each other before trying to beat each other. Communities are dissolving and support systems are also disappearing.

Solution: Make an effort to say hi to people when you pass them in the street or at the park. Learn about your neighbors and go to markets to meet the vendors and people who have created local businesses. My next business aims to focus on experiences, community and conversation and is less about material things. Qwerky Coliving will be a coliving community for people who want to change the world. The goal is to bring people together who have things in common with the hope that amazing relationships can be formed.

What are you doing to rekindle the lost art of conversation? Looking forward to your replies in the comments.

Build Bridges Not Walls: How Cross Border Initiatives Can Make America Great Again

My two biggest passions in life are entrepreneurship and traveling. One of the reasons I chose to move to San Diego instead of San Francisco or Los Angeles was the proximity of Mexico. I see San Diego, Tijuana and the Baja California region one day being a super economy. The ability to travel, learn about another culture, do international business and practice your Spanish within 30 minutes from San Diego is something that most San Diegans ignore because of the stigma created by the US media. Very few people have this luxury on their doorstep.

In recent news, the US President and Republican party have laid down plans for a wall to be built between the US and Mexico. I’m not a politician so it would be futile to debate this stance. However, as an entrepreneur, I feel it is now my duty (and the duty of every entrepreneur in San Diego and California) to look at how we can build bridges not walls between the US and Mexico. The US sets the example for the rest of the world. The way it encourages an entrepreneurial ecosystem is far more progressive than most countries. So with Tijuana so close, here are a few ideas of how we can collaborate:

1). Launch projects like the Dos Puertas International Trade and Innovation Center 

The project is spearheaded by Carl Nettleton and his plan is to create a place where, for the first time, the border can be seen as a place to come together rather than an obstacle to cross. When I first heard about this, it was described to me as a building that had a virtual borderline running through the middle of it. Mexicans and Americans could effectively be collaborating freely and working on big ideas.

2). Stage more events like Tijuana Innovodora

Tijuana Innovodora Creativa 2016 brought elected officials from both sides of the border to Tijuana’s World Trade Center. They celebrated Tijuana’s potential and the broader cross border region.The eight day event brought creatives, startups and food trucks together for a cultural melting pot. Mayor of San Diego Kevin Faulconer is one of many prominent officials that is championing Tijuana and has even looked at teaming up with Tijuana to make it a bi-national event with San Diego.

3). Introduce More Foreign Exchange Programs

When I attended the Mind Hub Demo Day at the San Diego Downtown Library, I was blown away. Here was a Tijuana company bringing the startups it was incubating to a foreign country, getting them up on stage to pitch (in English not their native Spanish) and then getting useful feedback from startup people. It made me think, why aren’t there more programs for US startups to go to Tijuana, learn Spanish and then pitch in Tijuana? What an incredible experience and a way to truly broaden your mind.

4). Create More Micro Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

When I visited Estación Federal in December 2016 for a posada (a fiesta loosely based on a traditional Christmas celebration), I saw something really interesting. Imagine a vibrant neighborhood that had been reduced to the size of a block. Now imagine a mini co-working space, restaurant, coffee shop and galleries then throw a communal area in the middle and you have this creative space. This model needs to be adopted in San Diego to create micro hubs for entrepreneurs to thrive.

5). Consider Mexico For Manufacturing 

You may be used to seeing “Made In China” on most products you find in US retailers but “Hecho En Mexico” (made in Mexico) is on the rise. Factories in Mexico are competing with Chinese factories and causing them to close. The other benefit of partnering with a Mexican factory is that you are on the same time zone, can drive to it to oversee production and have similar labor costs as you would in China. Your product can also be shipped and arrive much faster. If you also have a factory in the US, you can invite Mexican employees to the US to learn from the American employees and vice versa.

6). Launch Cross Border Investment Funds 

Why focus where everyone else is looking (Silicon Valley) when you can invest in Tijuana startups? If you back Silicon Valley startups, the high cost of living up there, high cost of team members  and operating costs will mean your investment will need to be much higher and will not go far. Plus, competition for equity will be sky high. With an exchange rate of $1 to 20 pesos, investing in Tijuana means your dollar is stretched so much further. If you can then help them launch their products in the US market, your return would be good.

What are your thoughts on these concepts? 

san diego aerial photo padres baseball ballpark

With A Little More Weird San Diego Can Become One of The Biggest Startup Hubs In The World

I moved to San Diego in the summer of 2016 because I saw a lot of unrealized potential. Cities like Austin (where I lived for 4.5 years), Miami, Las Vegas and Denver had become hotbeds of startup activity but Austin felt as if it was saturated and had already hit its peak. I needed a change and San Diego was it.

Reading The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator Silicon Valley’s Most Exclusive School For Startups by Randall Stross, I came across an interesting section where Y Combinator’s Founder Paul Graham talks about startup hubs and how they are formed. “I think you only need two kinds of people to create a technology hub: rich people and nerds,” said Graham. “Nerds congregate in places that host a leading department of computer science and also places that tolerate oddness because smart people by definition have odd ideas.”

It suddenly made me think, with a little more weird (it worked for Austin) and increased attention on computer science programs at the colleges, San Diego could become a magnet for hackers. The result: a world class startup hub. Here are the reasons why I think San Diego can become one of the biggest startup hubs in the world:

1). The startup scene is growing fast

San Diego Startup Week has grown at a rapid rate. With 2016’s event attracting 3000+ attendees and hosting 150+ events over 5 days, 2017 will top this. Startup Week is from June 19th-23rd. Use #SDSW. Startup Convergence is a mini startup week which takes place from January 24th-27th. San Diego is known for biotech and the US Navy but its startup community (especially in tech) is growing fast. Co-working spaces, an exodus of entrepreneurs from San Francisco and more investors moving to the area are other factors that will aid in San Diego’s rise.

2). There are lots of rich people

California is an expensive state to live in and San Diego is one of the most expensive cities in the US. The result: lots of rich people congregating in the same area. When you realize that the rich rattle their jewelry instead of applauding, you know there’s startup capital up for grabs.

2). It is cheaper than San Francisco

A lot of tech startups are attracted to San Francisco but leave quickly when they realize they have to sell their house, car and soul just to get a studio apartment 10 miles from downtown.

3). There is less pollution than Los Angeles

Ever flown into LAX and thought there was a storm rolling in? That’s the smog caused from the never-ending traffic jams and congestion in the city. Breathe that in on a daily basis, and you’ll be dreaming about surfing in San Diego fast.

4). Tijuana is next door

About 10 years ago,”TJ” as locals call it, was not the safest place to go. Gang violence escalated and drug smuggling was at its peak. Well, Tijuana in 2017 is a different story. You will probably find the best tacos you have ever eaten south of the border, Avenida Revolucion is like the Gaslamp District on steroids and the people are super friendly. If you want to pay a third of the price for everything and party like a king, TJ is the place for you. They also have a sports team that wins things (sorry Chargers and Padres!). Their soccer team – Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente or “The Xolos” – play at Estadio Caliente and the atmosphere is electric. TJ’s startup scene is also blossoming and Tijuana is becoming attractive to early stage startups that cannot afford the high costs of web development in California. The MindHub tech incubator is in a great position to capitalize on this. If you want to practice your Spanish, experience a completely different culture and keep an eye on your website or app, TJ is only 14 miles away and a quick stroll across the border crossing. Cross border initiatives are also trending so look out for San Diego/Tijuana partnerships coming soon.

5). The weather is so perfect, the weather presenters often talk about other stuff!

When the weather is sunny with blue skies and 75F for most of the year, you never have to worry about missing out on the great weather. If you are working on a startup, the hours can be grueling for the first 1-2 years and you spend a lot of time inside. Whenever you need a timeout or a weekend to recharge, get a dose of vitamin D courtesy of SD’s rays. Better than San Francisco’s chilly summers and fog!

6). There is weird. We just need more of it!

Hackers and startup people are weird. They think differently. They need to see things that are different not gentrified areas with dozens of Targets and Starbucks (more Dark Horse Coffee please!). There are areas around Balboa Park that could fall into the weird category (Normal Heights, North Park, Barrio Logan and Golden Hill). But we need more of it. Austin and Portland share taglines – “Keep Austin Weird” and “Keep Portland Weird”. Maybe we should “Keep San Diego Strange”.

7). With the vote against the Chargers stadium, can the $1.8 billion money be used to fund startups and create a hub?

As Y Combinator’s Founder Paul Graham notes, “for the price of a football stadium, any town that was decent to live in could make itself one of the biggest startup hubs in the world.” With the city of San Diego voting against the construction of the San Diego Chargers new stadium (which subsequently saw owner Alex Spanos finally move the team to LA), surely that kind of capital could be used to back startups and create a world class startup hub?

8). Our earthquakes are much weaker than up north

When tectonic plates get jiggy and seismic shifts happen, San Francisco and Los Angeles feel them the most. If you don’t like the idea of losing your house because you probably can’t get earthquake insurance, the mild tremors in San Diego might be for you.

Startup Lingo: A Glossary of Business Terms

Over the last few years, I have learned a lot about business. I always tell people my first startup (Uberpong) is my MBA. You frequently find yourself in situations where business people (who have probably got an actual MBA) use acronyms or lingo to either try and confuse you or make you think that they know what they are talking about. Due to these endless abbreviations and expressions, I decided I had to make a list of the ones that I see the most. I have also started a visual guide for startup lingo for my next startup Qwerky Coliving. You can see them on our Instagram channel. If there are any acronyms I missed, please add them in the comments so I can update the post. Enjoy.

Accelerator
A hub where startups are given mentorship, space to work on their ideas and sometimes seed capital.

Accredited Investor
The SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission ) defines an accredited investor as, “A natural person with income exceeding $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with spouse exceeding $300,000 for those years and a reasonable expectation of the same income level in the current year; or A natural person who has individual net worth, or joint net worth with the person’s spouse, that exceeds $1 million at the time of the purchase, excluding the value of the primary residence of such person.” In layman’s terms, it is a rich individual potentially interested in investing in your company.

Advertorials / Advertainment
Advertorials are paid content that is meant to look and feel like a true story or blog post. Companies are turning to these because display ad pricing has become less effective and viewers have become immune to them.

Acquisition 
When one company or investment group buys another company.

Boot Strapping
One of the most common expressions in the startup world. A lot of people will quote “the Three Fs”: Friends, Family and Fools. These channels are often where you get your first cash to get things going. If you are using very little capital and proving your hypothesis, you are successfully boot strapping.

B2B
This means you offering a “Business To Business” product or service to other companies.

B2C
You offer your products or services to other consumers (Business To Consumer).

Bubble
Describing an industry that does not realize that it might be overvalued and over-inflated. When a “tech bubble” bursts, it means that a lot of startups go bust and investors lose their money. 

Burn Rate

How fast you go through your cash. The majority of startups lose before they break even and then make a profit.

Cash Flow Positive 
Accountant speak meaning that more money is coming in than going out. When you deduct your expenses from your earnings, you have a positive amount in your bank account. Staying in the black, especially when you are self-funded is the name of the game!

Churn Rate
The annual percentage rate at which customers stop subscribing to a service or employees leave a job.

Cliff
A cliff usually applies to vesting schedules (shares given to employees over time). Cliffs can be a device for the CEO to fire employees or let them leave without giving them stock within a limited period of time (usually 1 year). There are horror stories from Silicon Valley about early employees being cut just before they get to receive their equity stake. Cliffs are also used on CEOs by investors to make sure the CEO sticks around after getting the cash.

Copyright
Usually used in the creative industry, copyrights protect your music, art and film. It allows the creator to have exclusive rights for its use and distribution.

Cottage Business/ Cottage Industry

A business that is never going to make millions or scale but can be a nice lifestyle business.

Crowdfunding
Using a site like Kickstarter to get a tribe of early fans together to give you money to help you get your product/site launched. You keep 100% of your company and only give away a % the total you raise to the crowdfunding portal.

Crowdsourcing
Getting information for free from people on the internet or using a survey.

Deck (aka Pitch Deck) 
A presentation that covers all aspects of your business in a succinct and exciting way. If you ever need inspiration for a good deck, check out how Elon Musk uses his to demonstrate the TESLA Powerwall.

Demographic
Frequently used in marketing to describe the age, gender, income, schooling and occupation of your ideal customers.

Digital Nomad 
Typically a web or app developer who travels the world while coding. There are forecasted to be $1 billion digital nomads by 2035.

Disruptive Technology

Any tech that takes an industry, forces consumers to think differently and then adopt that technology as the new norm. Examples include Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and JetSmarter.

Early Adopters 
The first users of your product. They will typically be key influencers and active on social media. They will give you your most honest and sometimes overly direct feedback. If you can identify these people effectively and have them interacting with your startup from an early stage, you can get lots of free exposure.

Ecosystem
As with an ecosystem in nature, a startup ecosystem has its food chain. There are the hunters, the herd and the bottom feeders. Work out where you are and where you want to be then get involved in your startup ecosystem. If they city you are in doesn’t have incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, mentors and investors, you should a). move to another city, or b). start your own ecosystem.

Equity Crowdfunding 
Just like regular crowdfunding but instead of getting money in return for a fee, you pay a fee to the crowdfunding site and a % of the company to investors.

Evangelist
Someone inside your organization who is your number one fan. They love your company so much that they often go above and beyond their expected role to help promote your company. If you find an evangelist, hire them!

Exit Strategy
How you plan to sell your company to give you and your investors a return on their investment. This ranges depending on the industry but a standard multiple with technology investments seems to be 10x.

FMA (First Mover Advantage) 
The first to market is not always the first to capitalize on the industry. One reason for this is that it can cost a fortune to educate potential users or customers. That said, if you are a company like Disney, you lead and by innovating you stay ahead of the pack.

Freemium 
You give your basic product away for free and then try to upsell other features to your customers. It is a common and proven technique to acquire more users.

Gamify
If you “gamify” something, you add a game layer to your product that encourages people to use it with rewards of various kinds. See Foursquare and how they used virtual badges and the “Mayor” badge to encourage people to use their app.

Growth Hacking 
Growth Hacking was a term first used by Sean Ellis (Dropbox) to describe a marketing technique that focuses on quickly finding scalable growth through non-traditional and inexpensive tactics such as the use of social media. Other companies that have effectively used this technique are Airbnb and Foundr.

Hacking
Using your computer science degree and your entrepreneurial flare to create disruptive technology. Look out for “hacker houses” and “hackathons” if you want to join the tech community.

Hockey Stick
Used by investors to describe the shape of the growth curve they want to see in businesses they invest in. They want to see their startups grow quickly and at least double sales every year.

IP (Intellectual Property) 
This covers patents, trademarks and copyrights. It is a good way to protect your “secret sauce”. Generally I remember them like this:
Patents – the DNA of your product. They are typically used to protect your design.
Trademarks – they are used to protect your brand and depending on which one you register, you can add a “™ ” or “®” (Registered Trademark) next to your logo.
Copyright – they are used to protect your creative content (like film, music or art) and it allows you to use a “©” symbol on your content.

Iterate 
This means to try something, refine it, try again and keep trying using small steps until successful.

Laggards
Users who join your movement or buy from you much later than other customers.

Launch
To start a company, website or app. It is the euphoric moment when you feel that the blood, sweat and tears was worth it. Companies can either have a “soft launch” (minimal press exposure and staying in beta) or celebrate with a “launch party” which can be at major startup events like CES or San Diego Startup Week.

Lean Startup
Launching a company with as little startup capital as possible while getting data that can be used to improve the product. Speed is the key factor here.

Leverage 
Using something to accelerate your growth or success. This is often found in the form of technology or partnerships. Think about a Formula One car getting in the slipstream of a car in front of it so it can be catapulted out at a faster speed and overtake it.

Loss Leader Pricing  
Using deliberately low pricing to gain market share. The key here is to tempt your users with the low price or free offer and once you have acquired them, focus on how you can get repeat business from them.

Low Hanging Fruit 
The things that can be identified to quickly bring cash in the door. Your first customers will keep you afloat and help you get to your cash cows (reliable and consistent revenue generators) and whales (your accounts that make you big bucks).

Market Penetration
You will frequently hear the line “how much of the pie are you trying to get?” from investors. What they mean is how much market share will be yours and in what time period?

Merger
When two companies join forces and become a joint entity.

Monetize
How you make money. Do you sell online, offer consulting services or sell face to face? Without a way to monetize, most businesses die. The only exceptions are well funded tech startups where a bet has been made that the site will get enough users so that a monetization strategy can eventually be executed. This is highly risky but the reward is high.

MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
The simplest form of your product. This can be used to attract Beta users/early adopters or to pitch for funding.

OPM (Other People’s Money)
Funding your startup using the “Three Fs”: friends, family or fools.

Pivot
A change in direction as a company. This is a key moment in the life of a startup and can make or break it. A well known pivot is when Fab went from being a gay social network to being an e-commerce curator.

PR (Public Relations) 
It is useful to have a PR firm if you have a marketing budget. If not, you might want to spend some time reaching out to your local and industry specific publications.

Ramen Profitable 
An expression frequently used by Paul Graham of Y Combinator, it means  you are making just enough money to be able to pay for basic living expenses.

Responsive Design 
A site that has been built to function well across all devices. Your site might appear completely differently on the web compared to mobile but as long as your end users are always considered, you will be fine.

ROI (Return On Investment) 
When an investor puts money into a company, he wants to know what he will get out. This is called the “Return on investment”. The investor(s) will also want to know how long it will take to get their ROI?

Runway
How long your cash will last and when you think it will run out. The key here is knowing when to start pitching for investment so you can time it to come in before you run out of cash.

SaaS (Software as a Service) 
A subscription that is sold so that your user can use your software.

Scaleable
How big your business can grow, how much market demand you have and which markets you can grow into. A common question from investors is, “How scaleable is this opportunity?” If you cannot scale, you might fall under the “Cottage Industry” or “Lifestyle Business” category.

Serial Entrepreneur 
Someone who launches a number of businesses either simultaneously or one after another.

Sweat Equity 
Shares of your company given to early employees or contractors in place of cash. This is very common in the startup world before funding arrives. If you take a chance with a startup, your shares might become lucrative when the company sells.

Target Market 
You need to identify who will be buying your product, their demographic and their location. Once you have this data, you have your target market.

Term Sheet
When an investor makes you an offer to invest in your company, the term sheet is a document that outlines what they will get for what they put in — including % ownership and voting rights.

Traction
Proof that your executive summary (hypothesis) is working. People are actually buying your product or using your service. This is one of the most exciting times in a startup!

Thought Leader
Someone who is seen as being a leader in their field and who probably has done a TED talk.

Unicorn
A company that gets a $1 billion valuation. As with most unicorns, they are extremely rare.

UI (User Interface) 
How the user and computer system interact. If you hear someone say “they need a new UI guy”, it means the user has difficulty operating the product.

UX (User Experience) 
The process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product. Think about any site or app you have opened. How did you feel? Was the site’s aesthetic appeal at the forefront of your mind when you used it?  If so, their UX person has done a good job.

Valuation
What your company is being valued at. “Pre-money valuation” is the value before you take investors’ cash. “Post-money valuation” is that amount plus the investment put in. I would definitely recommend speaking to other Founders and accountants about how to accurately get a valuation for your business. If you are selling your company, typically the Buyer is trying to get the lowest valuation so he can acquire your business for cheap. As the Seller, you have to establish a fair valuation (typically a fair multiple for your industry) with a slight margin. Example: if your net profit at the end of the year is $100k, it might be 2-3x ($200-300k) if the company has plateaued. If it is a tech business with rapid growth, the multiple might be 10x ($1 million).

Value Proposition
What makes your business uniquely attractive. Also known as USPs (Unique Selling Points).

VC (Venture Capitalist) 
If you are an entrepreneur, you might think of VCs as corporate, evil money hungry vultures. Some of them are and will screw you! Do your diligence on them (as they would on you and your startup) and make sure you have investors who align with your beliefs. Do they want to change the world like you (get them on board) or just want a steady return (yawn).

Visionary
An entrepreneur who sees the change in the world before it has happened. Many say that these people have an ability to peer into their crystal balls and then develop something that we will eventually need. Famous examples of visionaries include Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Walt Disney.

Build A Moat Around Your Business

A question you hear a lot on the entrepreneurial TV show Shark Tank is “how are you protecting your company?” What the investors mean is do you have intellectual property (a copyright, patent or trademark) or a special sauce that deters copycats from mimicking your business idea and stealing your customers?

If you feel that you have unique intellectual property, the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) and US Copyright Office have some useful information. However, I would always recommend backing this up by consulting your attorney who specializes in the area you are looking to protect. The analogy frequently used is that of the castle that is protected by building a moat and filling it with water. It is harder for the enemy to attack you.

Here are the 3 types of intellectual property:
1). Trademarks – typically your brand name or logo. You can start with a trademark in the country your business was incorporated in and as you grow into other countries, look at expanding this trademark coverage. Make sure when you have your trademark, you use the “TM” on your logo which adds credibility and deters copycats from stealing your brand. Trademarks can be registered without excessive legal fees and should cost around $300.

2). Patents – be careful here. It is very easy to be poorly advised and spend a lot of time and money applying for a Provisional Patent. The law used to side with the inventor/entrepreneur who filed first. Following a change in the law, it is now the first to invent so make sure you keep detailed documentation of this process. Once approved, you can apply for a Utility Patent but costs including legal fees can exceed $10,000 very quickly.

3). Copyright – typically used when you have created something (music, art, photography). Proof of copyright can be as simple as post stamping the intellectual property to yourself in the mail and then not opening it. Alternatively, for as little as $35, you can file a copyright.

With the rise of technology companies, intellectual property has extended into computer programming code and algorithms. Whatever you can do to protect your business can only help it as you become more successful and visible to your competitors.

 

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Think Like A Sniper

If you are a solo entrepreneur and particularly if you are launching your first business, you are nothing. You have no track record, no credibility and no followers. This is the time to think like a sniper. Most first time entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to please everyone, everywhere and give them as many things as possible to play with. They spread themselves too thin. They are like someone with an Uzi spraying bullets in every direction hoping to hit their target. If you have the mindset of a sniper, you have to make every shot count. You have to be patient and make sure that your bullet hits its target after every shot. Here are the rules of engagement when you’re starting out:

1). Hone in on your target.
Get to know them inside out. Know where they live, what they buy, who their friends are and what networks they are part of. Research and analyze until you have your model customer.

2). Give them something that will stop them in their tracks
Develop a product that solves their problem or makes the world a better place for them. 

3). Take a shot and don’t miss.
Reach out to them in the most direct way possible. Email, tweet or LinkedIn message are far more personal and cost effective than a Facebook ad.
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