Tagged entrepreneurship

From Savannah to the Startup Institute Boston

(Brent Grinna is the CEO and Co-Founder of Evertrue. This post was originally featured on their blog. Thanks for speaking with us!)

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak to the new class of Startup Institute Boston on the first day of the program.  I am a big fan of Aaron O’Hearn, Shaun Johnson and the entire SIB team. Many of the schools we meet at EverTrue are over two hundred years old.  SIB is less than two years old.

I was blown away by the insightfulness and passion on display during our 60 minute Q&A.  The students thoughtfully articulated why they are pursing entrepreneurship or early-stage employment opportunities in lieu of more stable positions at big companies.  Impact, passion, culture and influence were commonly cited.

These students are going to learn a lot of hard skills in the coming weeks.  But my main message was that the relationships they build and the entrepreneurs they meet during the program are likely to have a far greater impact on their near-term and long-term successes.  I shared my story of accidentally meeting Walt Doyle and Scott Kirsner while volunteering at Venture Summit East in 2010. Walt and his team at Where adopted me, which led me to accidentally meeting my Co-Founder and CTO Eric Carlstrom at Drinks on Tap #6, which led to TechStars, MassChallenge and our first round of funding. And I’m pretty sure those experiences will continue to lead to many great things to come personally and professionally.

As I walked up the stairs at South Station this morning, I was greeted by one of the Startup Institute students. Her name is Candice Oyer and she is an aspiring entrepreneur with a background in apparel design.  While walking to our office, I asked her how she got connected to Startup Institute Boston.  She shared that a classmate from her graduate program at the Savannah College of Art and Design was a member of the inaugural class of SIB.  They reconnected in Boston and her friend suggested she apply to the second class. So she did.

Based on my quick conversation with Candice, I think she’s going to get a lot of out the program.  She is in the early stages of getting her apron ecommerce business, Typo-O by CEO off the ground.  Her designs are impressive and she’s bringing Vineyard Vines and Lilly Pulitzer style to a boring category.

Type-O by CEO

Hearing Candice’s story was a simple reminder of the impact of alumni networks and networks in general.  I’m willing to bet that when she left Savannah she couldn’t have guessed her education would lead her to the Startup Institute.  But I’m glad that it did.

Candice will soon be a part of the Startup Institutel alumni network.  And that network will bring its own surprises for Candice and her peers.

To the students at SIB: thank you for choosing the road less traveled.  This ecosystem is pulling for you because we need you to help make a difference for our customers, users, team members and investors. Good luck, and make sure to Never Eat Alone.

Ever True!


Education and the Reassurance of Employment

Reflecting on the recent presidential debates, employment has become an easily identifiable topic. A clear weathervane for and consequence of the economy, the solution is quite complex and cannot be exhaustively distilled in the time allotted to either presidential candidate. At the same time, the solution or solutions are worthy of articulation and action. From my vantage point, one solution sits at the nexus of education, entrepreneurial activity, and the innovation economy: Training highly skilled individuals that are prepared to work in areas of job growth.

President Obama has stated that “making an investment in education is critical to not only you (the individual), but the entire nation.” Although this is true, the standard path of education vis a vis a four-year university has faltered under during these tough economic times, not always delivering on the promise of employment. Additionally, President Obama has highlighted how important it would be for him to make sure that the best education is available. So what then, can be done to keep education in line with employment?

“What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?” —Jeremy Epstein (20), Junior at Adelphi University

At Startup Institute, we believe our approach is unique– helping new and transitioning professionals to gain practical and in-demand skills, all the while transitioning into full-time employment at some of the fastest growing startups in America. With 80 percent percent of its graduates gaining high-skilled jobs in one month after completion, this is a marked improvement on the current national statistic — 40 percent of those unemployed have been so for 6 months or more.

Those who say the labor market needs to be focused on manufacturing and blue-collar jobs for the largest demographic of the U.S. are partly right. However, neither Mitt Romney’s plan to create 12 million jobs in four years nor President Obama’s plan to focus on training talent to incentivize companies to operate here cannot be achieved if technology startups are ignored.

Furthermore, the means by which we as a nation will be more competitive globally exist squarely in innovative endeavors. From an education perspective, this means fields such as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). One understated destination of a career in STEM, particularly concerning technology, is the tech startup. Here, these newly created companies pack themselves with the intelligence, ambition, and potential to create. If successful, that penchant to create leads to the creation of new jobs, new industries, and other geneses that will uplift our country. It is important that we bring these career paths to light; presenting opportunities that are a hybrid of the intellectual and entrepreneurial as viable route to employment outcomes.

The swings of the economy can bring about the rapid growth of corporations as well as the disruptive creation of new companies. But for the workforce to adapt to this volatility it takes practical learning, where practicality is defined by the subjective opinion of those enjoying the power and influence of an upswing. Regardless of which candidate wins the presidency this election, voters of both parties need amelioration around the long and circuitous road to employment we are facing at present.

Traditional Entrepreneurship for the 21st Century

By Andrew Dunn

This post was first featured on Andrew’s blog on 7/2/2012


What happened to “real world” startups? It’s a question I’ve often asked myself since the tech and startup world first piqued my interest, c. December 2010, after taking an amazing course at Università Bocconi in Milan titled Management of the Music Business. It was then when I realized the extent to which technology had dramatically disrupted not only the music space but nearly every consumer-facing industry on the planet, and if I considered myself an entrepreneur by any means then it was in my best interest to dive head first into the world of tech and startups.

Fast forward a year and a half of learning my ass off + entrep community immersion and I’ve finally put my money where my mouth is by starting a business around an original idea for [brace yourselves]: a tangible product (coming soon!). Gasp! Some might call it a budding s̶m̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶b̶u̶s̶i̶n̶e̶s̶s̶, but my startup team and I know that we are going to change the way people display and interact with memories. A few fellow Startup Institute students have their own real world ventures too: Max Ade is making a splash with his philanthropic Maji Bottles, while Jeremy Carter has been building high quality guitars at Carter Custom Instruments for years, Amanda Curtis is gearing up to launch her new fashion line, and Ida Apel and co want to provide people with healthy on-the-go meal options with Bentida.

What’s challenging about building real world stuff is that you have to worry about material sourcing and balancing quality with cutting costs and managing the supply chain and distribution and yikes I can go all day. Each of these processes takes lots of TIME and MONEY and can’t be done at the tip of your fingers. You have to deal with too many actors whose reliability is out of your control. You can’t iterate and roll out new features just like that. Investors aren’t interested because you can’t test the market demand and reaction just like that. It’s hard!

All the attention is on digital and web technology and SaaS these days. I’m not discounting those startups by any means, but I do know that the process of creating real world products and services, and more specifically consumer products (some of my favorite stories include those of Red Bull and Quiksilver), in what I consider to be traditional entrepreneurship, is pretty damn difficult too.

Fortunately, we appear to have reached a beautiful marriage between two of the most disruptive forces in the life of the Internet: e-commerce and social media. Look at all the amazing new crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, powerful e-commerce communities like Quirky and Daily Grommet and Etsy. Did you hear about Shopinterest?! Everyday folks now have the ability to create and sell to large audiences without nearly as much friction as before. Leveraging the latest Internet trends and taking advantage of creative marketing tactics that drive traffic to your site and dollars into your pockets. It still requires hard work and determination, but there’s a lot less risk involved, and there’s help every step of the way.

It’s no secret that power is shifting towards the independent musician, the author, the inventor. And the masses are finally coming around to buying online and hanging out in places where they will undoubtedly discover new brands. We’re going to see a lot of action on the real-world startup front in the near future. Great timing indeed for the entrepreneur in us all.

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