entrepreneurship Archive

What Other Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Dogster

Pets.com may have been one of the most wasteful and frivolous of dot com companies, but Dogster is one of the most disciplined of the Web 2.0 generation. It's interesting since Pets.com had a clearer business model, and satisfied a more obvious need. Just goes to show execution wins, in a downturn or no. While a lot of Dogster's smart moves were made in the company's early days, there are plenty of tips in my TechTicker interview with Dogster CEO Ted Rheingold for cash-strapped entrepreneurs worried about 2009.

Clip one:

Clip two (featuring moxie!):

A Very Special Lacy Christmas

I met two very impressive gents at the Entrepreneur Summit in Cancun last week, and as a result I'm declaring a zero gift, all-giving Christmas at least for me, hopefully roping Mr. Lacy and other members of my family into this plan too. I've had an amazing year-- I never thought I'd be able to buy a house in San Francisco or publish a book or any of the other things that I've enjoyed in 2008. I don't need anything else, and so many people in the rest of the world do. This year I'm going to help give them shoes and water.

Gent #1 was Blake Mycoskie of TOMS shoes, an organization that set out to put shoes on poor people around the world back in 2006. It's on pace to donate 200,000 shoes this year alone. The premise is simple and perfect for the holidays: You buy a pair, and TOMS gives a pair. This Christmas it's setting out to give away 30,000 pairs and most of my loved ones will be getting TOMS shoes to that end. Here's a video that explains more:

Gent #2 was Scott Harrison of Charity: Water. Scott has an amazing story, and I'm not going to do it justice in one blog post. In short, he was living the high life (literally) in New York as a club promoter dating super models and ordering $400 bottles of Grey Goose at parties. He was miserable, so he set out to do the exact opposite and got a volunteer job on a Mercy Ship, which travels around performing free surgeries for poor people. Scott documented a lot of things we've never seen in this country, like people being choked by tumors the size of grapefruits. The most pressing need he found was for clean drinking water.

For just $5,000 his organization can give a village a well and 100% of the proceeds goes to the cause. In the interest of fair video play, here's a PSA Charity: Water produced. As you can see here and from the site, the organization has brilliantly used design to get attention, tell its story and raise money. But don't be fooled: this is a lean organization of just seven people.

Scott said he thinks Charity: Water can bring clean drinking water to some billion people who don't have it now. He estimated the cost at just over $10 billion. That's a lot of money. But pointed out that Americans spend some $450 billion annually on Christmas. So, I'm giving my family members and loved ones a choice: water or shoes. And they also have a choice for which to donate to instead of buying me a gift.

As a side note, I talk to entrepreneurs in the Valley all the time who've suddenly made millions and want to give, but don't know how. As people who've built nimble, scrappy businesses, entrepreneurs want to make sure the organizations they give to are just as, well, entrepreneurial. They're out there, and these are two great examples. These guys have not only used YouTube, Facebook and other Web apps to get awareness and make the world a better place, they've borrowed from the very ethos and soul of how a scrappy startup is built.

So, come on, who else is willing to forgo material items this year for the greater good?

So Fifteen Entrepreneurs Walk into a Cave...

So, I’m standing chest deep in freezing water wearing a bright orange mining helmet, some water shoes with holes in the toes and a rented wet suit that was already wet when I winced and shimmied into it about ten minutes earlier. (Ew.) I’m hundreds of feet below the earth in an ancient Mayan death cave that’s just been discovered two years ago. Apparently a local who thought a creepy jungle 40 minutes from civilization would be a good venue for weddings and Sweet 16 parties bought the property a few years ago. One day he saw an Iguana, which is apparently equivalent to Kobe beef in Mayan culture. Like some Mayan Alice in Wonderland, he chased the Iguana into a hole and kept digging while the hole got deeper and deeper. He found this enormous cave. How enormous? No one knows. They haven’t even explored all of it yet. In fact the Discovery Channel is coming next week to help. A white thread tells you when you’ve entered unchartered territory. That, and some skulls.  After all, they don’t call this a death cave for nothing.

I’ve already been told not to hurt the spindly crab spiders who also share the death cave, and I nodded, even though I know I’m smashing that guy into a rock if he comes near me. I’m trying to avoid jagged rocks and growing stalagmites on the floor of the cave and looking up to see a huge vaulted cave ceiling with thousands of sharp pointy stalactites over which is our van or a forest or something. Maybe even that MIA iguana. Being from San Francisco, I immediately start thinking about earthquakes and these thousands of spears coming crashing down on all of us.

Just then, the guide tells us in broken English that we’re about to turn off our helmet lights and sit in total blackness for a while. And I freak out, mostly because I can’t understand what he’s saying I just hear “total darkness” on top of the uncomfortable situation I’m already experiencing. “I’M NOT COMFORTABLE WITH THIS!” I shriek. Yeah, all those people who keep writing about how fearless and ballsy I am? A cave full of entrepreneurs now know the truth. Especially Tony Hsieh of Zappos, whose hand I squeezed so hard, a few fingers could be broken.

Did I mention I’d actually signed up for a lazy afternoon of snorkeling?

Me on Stage at a Strip Club. (Sadly, I'm Serious)

Here's some clips from my London book launch event, which in Robert Loch's infinite politically correct wisdom was held at the second oldest strip club in London. It sounds shadier than it was. It was actually an amazing venue and the proper business-y crowd and Fidelity Ventures sponsorship poshed it up more than my Minnie Mouse hairbow ever could have. If you've heard me speak, you've probably heard half of this before. If not, enjoy! Thanks again to Loch, Washy and Carr for an amazing event. Let's do, say, Germany next?

Um, Do You Know What Business We're In?

So, I better write this post now because after tomorrow it might violate David Hornik's sacrosanct "What Happens at the Lobby Stays at the Lobby" rule. Some people-- cough, cough ValleyWag-- take that rule to mean the Lobby is about partying and the attendees don't want that to get out. In actuality, the Lobby is about business and the attendees don't want THAT to get out. "Who's shameless enough to go to the Lobby this year?" Hmm... off hand, I'd say people doing their jobs.

Is Your Startup Going out of Business?

My guest today on TechTicker was Keith Rabois of Slide. Before Slide, Keith was an early member of the PayPal mafia and an early exec at LinkedIn. He also has an advisory role with Sequoia Capital -- where among other exploits he pretty much hand-delivered YouTube to the firm. In other words, in a sea of engineer-minded entrepreneurs, Keith actually knows a thing or two about the business side of startups. He also has opinions and isn't afraid to voice them.

I had to de-Southern myself before taping as I usually sound like I'm saying "Rab-a-way" instead of Rabois. No joke, Mr. Lacy thought it was spelled this way for about the first six months I knew Keith. Ah, the downside of being on camera-- proper pronunciation!

The funniest backstage moment this morning was when the control room told me my guest was ready and I sat down, shuffled my notes and looked up to see a very, very old man in the monitor. "Um, that's not Keith," I said. Oddly enough, the guy sort of looked like a 50-year-older Keith, so I half-wondered if the downturn was just aging him. Turns out, the studio was just confused.

So here are the clips in case you didn't make it over to TechTicker today. The first one is on all the layoffs in the startup world last week (some 250 jobs all together and counting) and what separates companies that are seeing opportunity in the downturn from those seeing doom and gloom. The second clip is about how all those layoffs and hard-to-get-series-b-rounds will ripple into Silicon Valley's macro economy. And the third is about Slide itself: a company planning to spend its way out of the downturn.

Um, Gym Time Anyone?

I went on Flickr to find a picture of me giving a keynote for the speaker tab I'm about to add to the blog. (Yes, having conquered all that keynote angst, I am for hire!) Apparently, I've never searched my name on Flickr and was stunned to see so many pictures from the book tour that I'd never seen. It was actually a nice walk down memory lane. We're so nostalgic, Olivia is going to pull a few for a post later today.

I also came across this one by Thomas Hawk and suddenly, viscerally remembered how much MORE I worked and stressed out when I was on staff at BusinessWeek. This was right after my Digg cover that sucked up six grueling months of my life--including weekends and evenings-- and almost didn't even run. When it did run, it was my first big controversy, and I had no idea how to handle it. All I wanted to do was hide under a bed. It was just before the book deal that changed my life. It was a period when I wasn't eating (clearly!) or sleeping and actually started running to stay sane. I was barely in my 30s, depressed about the state of magazines and trying to figure out what the hell to do with the rest of my career. I honestly didn't know if I could even be a reporter still and be happy or if all those jobs were just gone.

It reminded me of Jason's now much written about (and somewhat mocked) Startup Depression post. This was my period where my ass was getting kicked-- the point when it was, as he says and the awful cliche goes, darkest before the dawn. It was the time I could have just given up and, I don't know, gone into PR or had some babies. (Stop laughing, Olivia.) There was no way for me to know how much my life would change in just two years. I should remember this time every time I feel overworked, because I'm really amazingly lucky. (Or maybe good...? Groan, sorry.) I don't know many reporters who have as great of a life as I do right now.

Also, um, I know it's a wide angle lens and an artsy shot, but I don't remember ever being that skinny!
I'm going to the gym now. (Such a girl, I know.) After the gym, less sap. Really.

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UGBT Memphis: Let's Play to Our Strengths, Guys

I have a lot to say about the past few days I've spent touring the various nooks and crannies of Memphis and its entrepreneur scene. And as luck would have it-- I finally have a few hours to say it, er write it. A theme that has consistently cropped up during this tour is what each city means by entrepreneurship, and what they want to get out of building their own culture to give rise to it. Increasingly, it's the cities who never really tried to be Silicon Valley in the late 1990s that seem to really have an exciting and burgeoning scene. Why? Because they were forced to play to their strengths.

I'd put Omaha in this category. Omaha's entrepreneur scene is totally nascent and who knows what will come out of it. But it's endemically Omaha-like. Same with Portland, to a degree. And, I think, that's even more pronounced in Memphis. (More on that in a second.)

The corollary would be Austin or Seattle, cities that have followed a more Valley-like model with varying success and failure. The success is obvious: More venture capital money, more jobs from what big or mid-sized companies have emerged. But is there really a sustainable culture around entrepreneurship? Or is it about being a Valley-satellite? And frankly-- which would a city rather have? Because you can argue the first brings in more jobs, prestige and money.

But I argue, there's something great about a city that at its core has its own unique, scrappy entrepreneurial drive.

UGBT Austin: Conjuncture(d) Junction, What's Your Function?

Coworking. The notion tickles me to no end. Back in my glorious college days- an epic four months ago- it was fairly commonplace for a random group of people to sit at a large table and tippy tap on their computers on various papers or presentations and keep each other company. Clemons Library became Club Clemons- you weren’t cool if you weren’t there on a Monday. With bloodshot eyes and moo goo gai pan breath no less.

Thus, our visit to Conjunctured Coworking in Austin filled me with a flood of familiar warmfuzzies. Just barely over a month old, the space has been refurbished with all the amenities of home, combined with the open feel of a creative think tank and some solid camaraderie. And Rosie. And, er, “Lenny?” Interesting.

And remember, if you have a fantastic coworking space you want SarahLacy.com to infiltrate, head to the UGBT website to check out tour stop dates and times and a way to get in touch with us!


Coworking in Austin from sarah lacy on Vimeo.

UGBT Austin: Why Not Eat (Alot) When You Have To?

So, as I type this, @sarahcuda-the ONE, the ONLY-and I are squooshed into a teeny commuter jet leaving Austin-one city down, four to go. We could not have asked for a better start. Austin has so much brewing that assuming this town revolves around “South By” is like assuming Memphis revolves around Elvis week. Read: both events are just a few days where the out of town freaks come out to play-aaay. In reality, Austin is a unique pocket of amazing, creative, and dare I say it, innovative people, who are putting their ideas into action. From the incredible turnout at the UGBT event during Austin Tech Happy Hour, to an animated speech at AMD, to a tour around a burgeoning co-working space, the tech scene in Austin is so multi-layered that it is truly impossible to describe it in words.

Which is why we brought the Flip cam along for the entire ride (and not just in the Rowdy Rickshaw).

Now, if there is anything I have discovered in our initial days of life-chatting our experiences, it is that:

a) Sarah never stops reporting- the dialogues that I have witnessed in just these three days have elevated my learning experience to a whole new level. As much as I gripe about losing personal, face-to-face connections within this industry, there actually is a vibrant current of human interaction that extends beyond a Twitter handle. My initial observations proved wrong once again? Imagine that!

and

b) I have somehow adopted an onscreen persona akin to, say, your frootyloops neighbor Crazy Matilda- meaning finger guns and bad clichés with an extra side of cheese please. Sarah eats it up with a spoon because I make the always controversial Sarah Lacy look cool as a cucumber at all times. Told you it was bad cliché time. Yikes.

Oh, and apparently I have wobbly hands and completely lack all Flipamatography skills after forgetting to eat for two days. It's a good thing Kristine Gloria knows her barbecue joints...


Food. Yay. from sarah lacy on Vimeo.
Part insightful analysis of what ails Silicon Valley and part madcap journey to far flung hubs of aspiration and innovation, Sarah Lacy takes us around the world in 180 pages to find the fascinating people who are creating the new wealth in a new world of start ups and ventures that America ought to be paying a lot more attention to.
Brilliant. Crazy. Cocky.

New Book

An unforgettable portrait of the emerging world's entrepreneurial dynamos Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky is the story about that top 1% of people who do more to change their worlds through greed and ambition than politicians, NGOs and nonprofits ever can. This new breed of self-starter is taking local turmoil and turning it into opportunities, making millions, creating thousands of jobs and changing the face of modern entrepreneurship at the same time. To tell this story, Lacy spent forty weeks traveling through Asia, South America and Africa hunting down the most impressive up-and-comers the developed world has never heard of....yet.

Excerpt »

Buy it from these sellers

Srah Lacy

Sarah Lacy is an award-winning reporter who has covered high-growth entrepreneurship for more than fifteen years. She is the founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of PandoDaily.com, the site-of-record for the startup ecosystem. She lives in San Francisco.

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