There’s so much wisdom to be gained from listening to entrepreneurs, we thought we’d share.
From Michael Isaacs, entrepreneur and co-founder of GetCharitable, who in August put his senior year at Auburn University on hold to join Blueprint 4 Business’s (BP4B) business accelerator:
On real world versus classroom experience:
“Kyle DeTullio (co-founder of GetCharitable) and I have known each other since we were pledge brothers at Auburn. We have always talked about how we wanted to start a company, and we both thought social conscious companies are cool.
We talked to our friends, generated some interest and then heard about BP4B from a friend. When we got accepted, both sets of parents were really supportive. They knew how big of a learning experience it would be. We also talked to our professor from Auburn, who told us that professors can only teach so much in the classroom — that entrepreneurs have to go out there, be hands-on, and do it.
Now here we are 12 months from when we started talking about this idea with people using their app on their smart phones. We’ve been reaching out just like any other media company to advertisers. It’s fun. I sold advertising for the college newspaper, and that was great, but it’s even cooler to deal with a totally new medium. We’ve been reaching out to companies and are in talks with advertisers large and small.”
On protecting ideas:
“In the past, we would always hear, keep your idea quiet or someone will steal it. We’ve learned that the risk of that is so much lower than the risk of no one hearing about your idea. There is nothing wrong with generating a little buzz about your startup. Yes, someone can come along and try to use our idea, but we will someday release to the public and risk that anyway. The speed at which we work, combined with the execution is 100 times more important than the idea.
It feels like a leap of faith sharing ideas with other startup founders, but it’s great. Even if you have the best idea in world, entrepreneurs are so passionate about their own products, that it has to be extremely rare that someone else is going to drop their own idea to steal yours.
Ideas are important, but two people might have the same idea but only one will pursue it and succeed. At some point, there is always more than one hamburger restaurant. Entrepreneurship is all about execution, not just ideas.”
On the value of mentoring
“While BP4B provides seed investment money, what’s more helpful and important are the mentors they set you up with. We met a ton of people who are successful in business and are great people. They advised us on our pitches. They introduced us to other startups and to more business people in the community.
They took us through all the steps of setting up a business. We weren’t familiar with any of that. They helped us set up our LLC paperwork in one day. Knowing that it was done right was reassuring. The combination of their business smarts, wisdom and experience helped us build our business faster.”
From Devan Twyman, serial entrepreneur, co-founder and CEO of RaiseMore, an interactive fund raising platform that participated in VentureSpur’s venture accelerator program:
More on Mentoring
“VentureSpur was a great program. I had five mentors that I worked with; they coached me through experiences that they went through. At points where I needed advice, they told me what they went through in the same scenario.
It was great to have that one-on-one experience with entrepreneurs who were in my shoes at one time. The things they wish they had known at that time, they taught me. I treasure those ongoing relationships that I’ve built with other entrepreneurs who want RaiseMore to succeed and continue this relationship even now that our VentureSpur time is over.”
On the pursuit of passion
“It goes back to how my family raised me. From a very young age, they encouraged me to work hard and always be thinking about doing something that you love. They said to give it all you have and you will find fulfillment in your success. If it fails, then you are going to learn through that experience. My dad was physical therapist with his own business and I have to say I have his passion of helping others. I graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in entrepreneurship and venture management. I always knew that once I found something I was passionate about, I would do everything I could to make it successful.
I have a special passion for RaiseMore. My niece, who turned 1 in September, was born with Down Syndrome. We did the Buddy Walk with her this year, and I saw the value of connecting people who give money to these organizations with the families who benefit.
At RaiseMore, I’m taking my college and real world experience and passion to make this company a success.”
“All entrepreneurs can’t sleep at night in the early stage of building their company. We are in this position where we are lean, mean and often green. There is always something keeping us up.
We just finalized the hire of Luke Woodard, our CTO; it’s exciting to bring him on board. He shares our passion. It’s a celebration to bring someone like Luke on full-time, but anytime you bring another employee on board, you feel responsible. You hope that everything you planned goes through.”
From Dustin Curzon, founder of Narrable, a Tulsa-based startup that is launching an online storytelling platform this month.
On meeting the needs of the marketplace
“Our focus is making this beautiful product that we believe can change people’s lives. When people tell stories, when you hear someone’s voice talking about a photo, it mixes with your imagination. Voice and photo create a unique combination and sense of empathy between the viewer and the storyteller.
When people talk, they give their own perspective. We think it can go beyond family photos. People are passionate about a lot of things. Non-profits are all in the business of helping other people. They are all about telling the person’s story — speaking for people who can’t speak for themselves.”
On leading a balanced life
“Although I’m passionate about Narrable, I try to balance that with my family and life. We are told through the media that if you want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, you have to sacrifice everything else. I have a duty to Narrable, but I also have a duty to my family. My co-founder and I feel strongly about that. Our lives outside of Narrable are what give us the energy and creativity to make Narrable great, so there has to be a balance.”