The Crisis of Mid-Career Entrepreneurs

We started iScripts.com in 2005 offering just a few software scripts to build online businesses. Early on, we weren’t exactly sure who would need our products but concluded that target customers would be webmasters managing a number of websites. Our software made the process easier for them by cutting down on time and effort needed to build elaborate platforms.

After some time, we began getting inquiries from entrepreneurs looking to create online businesses. In response to this, we created web software with customizable business models already built into the software. We attempted to produce internet scripts including optimal business models for each type of business and industry. Once again, we were surprised by the ingenuity and variety of the ideas and plans presented by our customers. The small offering of products that were designed to help experienced programmers had instead evolved into an established line of web apps developed for entrepreneurs from various backgrounds diligently working towards individual business plans.

Derived from experience in working with thousands of entrepreneurs and startups, I can say that many are created by mid career entrepreneurs. These folks choose the path by chance or choice after spending many years in the business world.

In the media, we see many examples of very successful startups created by young entrepreneurs. Most of these prodigies drop out of school or start things just after graduation. Founding teams usually include classmates or college friends working out of a dorm room or parents’ garage. These teams have created world-changing ideas and companies. We have seen this with Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Sergei Brin, Larry Page and Steve Jobs – just to name a few. They tout, the young age and time somehow contributed to the monumental success they ultimately achieved. But I contest, it is the law of averages working in their favor.

Unfortunately, the ecosystem is somewhat stacked against the mid career entrepreneurs. Currently, most startup accelerators, incubators and startup ecosystems found in the West Coast, Midwest and East Coast of the United States are set up to target and enable a young crowd that can live on a Ramen noodle budget every day. Those who already have mortgages to pay or kids in high school usually cannot pound out a 100 hour week like their diligent Ramen noodle counterparts.

Mid-career entrepreneurs require different types of assistance to create businesses. They call for a shorter timeline to launch as well as assistance with a range of business matters. Despite being equipped with massive domain expertise within a chosen field, they still may lack certain skills such as the technical proficiency, fundraising knowledge, or legal familiarity required to start a successful startup.
The mid-career entrepreneur will most likely have a massive number of connections, but comprised mostly of those within their specific area of expertise. Unfortunately, these connections are usually very limited in the scope of the startup world.

Mid-career entrepreneurs require vehicles enabling them to establish and sustain important connections vital to success. At some point, even young entrepreneurs learn that they cannot carry out every task themselves and uphold a long-term business merely on personal eye of the tiger mentality and personal skills alone. While it is initially imperative to have the drive, determination and time to start a valuable venture, it is just as important to grow out and up out by seeking connections. After a certain point, business potential can instead be limited to the capabilities of one individual or a select few.

Since mid-career entrepreneurs can create startups with a higher chance of success based on experience, there is a need for accelerators and incubators focusing on this entrepreneurial sector. These experienced entrepreneurs can hit it big when acquiring a cofounder with complementary skills or discovering teams that can fill the gaps. When offered more opportunity to connect, mid-career entrepreneurs have a huge chance of excelling simply by joining forces to push ahead.

While we should continue to guide young entrepreneurs, we also need to realize the importance of fostering connections among existing entrepreneurs. Those with established experience and specialized skills to make big ideas a reality should be given more opportunity to do so. By overlooking the needs of mid-career entrepreneurs, we are allowing a great deal of potential success to fall through the cracks.

SocialDefender – Social Reputation Management Platform

Social media can be hard to control. From small and medium-sized businesses lacking additional manpower, to large companies requiring a method for scheduling numerous team members, we decided to create a tool that will add additional value to social media efforts.

Social Defender provides real-time social media monitoring, insights and gives the ability to accurately moderate social media efforts and understand customer sentiment.

By using the tool, businesses can manage multiple social media networks including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, G+, blogs and forums using just one login. This social media management tool gives businesses the ability to analyze what is being said online about a brand, service, industry, and competitors. Analytics provided by Social Defender may be incorporated with future goals or business plans.

Social Defender has a Facebook page app, Twitter app, LinkedIn app, G+ app and more. Users receive real-time info for each channel. Each of these messages were fed to an NLP algorithm for sentiment analysis. We used a proprietary Bayesian algorithm for the sentiment analysis is developed by the team at Armia. This algorithm takes feedback from manual changes to the sentiment making self learning of the accuracy and effectiveness. Right now we achieved an accuracy level of 90% and fine tuning to make it better.

The brand manager can decide if they want the platform to auto moderate based on time, sentiment, brand etc.. Or if they want to be notified. It has a decent workflow manager to drive notifications to different users in the team. Also same workflow manager can schedule publishing of different contents to different platforms.

The user and admin area analytics were created using Flash. Know any businesses that need help with social media? Do them a favor and tell them about Social Defender (a free plan is also currently available).

Ravox.com Facebook Commerce Business Platform

Over the past few years, social media has gained quite a bit of attention. From social networks, to job searching and sharing products, social channels and their uses have been steadily increasing. What about Facebook as a shopping medium? Marketing products on a platform full of existing users is the next phase for businesses.

To take advantage of this new space, we have developed a solution called Ravox.com. Ravox is a distributed social ecommerce platform allowing sellers, business owners and vendors to create standalone ecommerce stores or link existing online stores to Facebook.

In the past we created another social commerce platform. Also developed a number of distributed ecommerce platforms with different storefronts, merchants and resellers and all. We took the same concept to social space to improve product discovery through social graph.

The Ravox platform was developed in PHP and utilizes social graph. The concept can be described as a combination of Amway, Shopster and Payvment. A number of features from the Facebook platform and open graph integration are included. Ravox receives a percentage of total sales generated within the distributed marketplace.

Without using a large amount of time, money or effort, business owners can utilize the benefits of social commerce on Facebook. Companies can begin to use social shopping and increase viral promotions through these Facebook stores. In addition to their facebook stores items are promoted through Ravox marketplace, distributed personal marketplace for thousands of users and their friends.

question is do you want to reach your fans or you want to reach friends of your fans? Ravox enables you as brand to reach your fans and heir friends. In addition your brand reaches our friends and their friends and followers. Right now we are in the final development stage. Keep an eye out for further news and our beta launch! I’ll keep you updated.

How NOT to Find a Technical Cofounder

Originally published byBuiltinChicago

I have been a techie for most of my life and cofounded multiple startups with varying levels of success. I had conversations with a number of teams and individuals over the last year, for partnering to create something great. After meeting with quite a few early stage startups and cofounders, I thought it would be helpful if I were to document some helpful points I’d like to make regarding the experiences and discussions during this process.

(These are generic topics that do not reflect on any specific individual or company I have spoken to.)

1. You do not have a Billion dollar idea.

Yes, if you build something solid around it, it could be. If your idea alone is spectacular, then sell the idea itself and hire me and my development team to implement it while keeping all of the equity.

2. What skills do you bring to the table?

Please don’t come in saying you are the idea guy – you have to come with more. Here are the skills I value: The ability to sell and gain revenue. A knack for product development. The keen sense to create slick and usable designs. Someone that can make something instead of talk about it. The ability to find partnerships , money and/or customers. Can you do any of these? If not, I’m not very interested.

3. Your diversified business skills are not enough.

Tell me what you have done and not the companies that have given you a paycheck. What have you specifically accomplished yourself? How?

4. Presenting top-down financial projections do not matter.

These can be derived easily. Furthermore, depending upon the startup specifics and logic involved, it may mean next to nothing in the long run.

5. Multipage financial models are not inspiring.

My team and I can program nearly any concept in most programming languages. Excel macros paired with vague assumptions is not stable enough to base decisions on.

6. Validate your idea.

If you are asking me to invest my time, effort, resources and development team, you need to back up yourself and ideas. You are ultimately asking me to invest in a startup, even though it is non-monetary. Treat it that way and convince me with something concrete.

7. Don’t be greedy.

Fairness goes a long way.

8. Know the difference between a technical cofounder and a developer.

If you need somebody to modify WordPress, Joomla or something of that nature, you don’t need a technical cofounder. Just hire a developer for few weeks and you will be done with it.

9. Don’t ask me to sign an NDA.

If you are not going to ask an angel investor to sign one (I hope not), why would you ask me?

If you take the necessary time and effort needed to present your idea wisely and stand out, you will be able to move forward with your endeavor. This is by no means a definitive list, but it is a great way to improve your chances of teaming up with the right technical cofounder.

Are you an Entrepreneur or Wantrepreneur?

Ever hear someone say “Hey! That was my idea”?

Anyone can have an idea, but how it’s executed is ultimately what matters. Wantaprenuers initially discuss ideas with a lot of zeal, but excitement and interest rapidly tapers off. In the end, nothing is produced and ideas are never executed. The saddest part of being a wantaprenuer is lack of follow through. So what defines a true entrepreneur?

“There is only one definition. An entrepreneur is someone who gets something new done.”
– Peter Drucker

Wantrepreneurs typically fail to create successful startups due to being overly-anxious about or having the inability to budget and gauge time. How can you become a true entrepreneur? First, determine what it is you really want to do. Then take the necessary steps toward your goals. Finally, take a step back to build off what you have learned. Repeat, repeat, repeat. If you act more like a true entrepreneur and attempt to get something new developed, you may gain more personal character than you ever thought possible.
Entrepreneurs constantly test and validate plans. The key is to start small, test, tweak and pivot if you are not successful. Once your idea is taking off, scale it and grow.

So what is the easiest way to accomplish your first step on your new path? For one, you could find a reasonably priced website solution with a built-in business model. For example, if you are thinking of developing a site like Etsy, there would be a lot of time and money to be spent on this idea before the site is even launched. Points to consider would be site design, payment gateways, website features, sellers, generating revenue, pricing plans, user profiles – the list goes on and on. This could take months to test, sort and thousands of dollars to create from scratch. If you were to start your site using a premade model, it would cut back on a lot of guesswork and initial investment. Instead of devoting all of this time, effort and financial cost to development of a site before it is even launched, wouldn’t it make more sense to apply it to marketing and be sure your concept will fly in the real world? Depending on how the public views your site and your idea, you may have to change or tweak certain aspects of the site anyway. If this is the case, you could very well find your hands tied when you need your resources the most. This is a typical pitfall for first-time entrepreneurs.

Another sign of a good entrepreneur is the ability to spot your mistakes, correct quickly and not repeat them. Although a scenario like this could be seen as a good learning experience, you can save yourself that lesson and preserve your financial cushion by getting off on the right foot. Utilize solutions that are already available to you and hold off on perfecting your site until you have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t for your business.

At iScripts our team offer ready made software scripts with built-in business models so entrepreneurs can get started in days instead of months while saving thousands in an effort to preserve your energy and resources for the future when you will need it most. What would we use for our hypothetical Etsy site? iScripts MultiCart was created with built-in features for entrepreneurs looking to build an ecommerce website with multiple sellers. Tailor the site with your logo, content, images, design and add your unique spin for your niche. You are ready to start. There are number of companies like iScripts allow you to go to market in days instead of months. If you are creating an ecommerce model try volusion or shopify instead hiring developers to create the software. For your crm try salesforce or sugar crm.

What makes this option even more appealing is its flexibility and scalability. When your idea is accomplishing realistic expectations, you will still have the ability and resources to perfect your online business as needed. Your site will be able to automatically handle an unlimited amount of users, sellers and products without any future trouble. You can also make changes and tweak your site at any point because the script is entirely open source.

So what are you waiting for? Do something with your ideas and stop being a wantrepreneur!