Tag Archives: hustle

SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!!

No Sweat

Act I: “No Sweat!”

The students have been making more progress with their Online Venture Challenge projects. As a reminder, they have one month to make as much money as possible that they will then donate to a charity. A few groups have made sales (three figures!) – which means they have identified a charity, identified a product that aligns with the charity’s mission, set up a Shopify store, marketed their cause and product, and closed customers! They for the most part don’t really see the progress they’ve made, even though I work hard to point it out. One student remarked “this entrepreneurship thing isn’t as hard as I thought.” That’s funny – can’t wait for him to hit the wall. Here is a quick breakdown of where they are:

Can Crafts

 

 

Can Crafts is supporting the Wounded Warrior Project with airplanes made from recycling cans. It’s a fantastic charity, a great product, and since these guys have a steady stream of cans, they should do well.

 

 

 

Drinksbee

 

 

Drinksbee is supporting Mothers Against Drunk Driving by selling a game popular with college students at tailgates and outdoor events and spaces. (I know – I had the same look on my face)

 

 

 

Wishbone

Wishbone Tees is selling t-shirts to support the Wish Bone Canine Rescue. Not just any shirts, though. They have a picture of a dog at the rescue and the saying “Rescued Is My Favorite Breed”.

 

Other groups are slowly getting there (I’m struggling as usual with wanting them to pull the trigger, but also needing them to learn that lesson on their own). I’ve explained to them the basics of customer development and experiments – how to set up the basic experiments they need to run, how to analyze data they get, how to set non-vanity metrics. I’m not sure they’ll put any of that to use in this one month challenge – they’re just going balls out without much experimentation and discovery and such. More just hardcore selling and hustling. Which is OK – that’s a great experience for them, to see just how much good they can accomplish with an idea and some hustle. But when they get to their individual venture after this, I will again revisit and stress the experiment and customer development process.

Act II: The Learning

We are continuing to read Diana Kander’s All in Startup. Every semester, every time I open this book I’m amazed at how engrossing it is. The students are devouring it (at least those that have cracked it open are). They’re really picking up and internalizing the ideas of making small bets and of looking for real problems that real customers have. I fear that many of them will still be focused on problems they have and get blinded by that. So, I keep hammering them with getting off campus and asking questions, measuring, analyzing, pivoting. And most of all, hustling!

Looking toward their individual efforts, I’m very excited to have developed a tri-class collaboration around my students’ new venture ideas (the next phase of my class):

*   I will to provide an IT prof 30ish startup ideas early October with name and concept, target audience, short-term goals, and tangible deliverable (app, website, etc)
*   The IT prof’s class will work on ideas, and develop them into flat high-fidelity mockups during the month of October
*   The IT prof will hand off 10 flat mockups (most likely with multiple screens) to an Arts Technology prof for online heat-map testing first week of November.
*   The Arts Tech prof will return data the second week of November.
*   The IT prof will return data back to his students for changes and edits to design

And then it all comes back to my students. It’s not a perfect scenario because it won’t be truly collaborative, but it’s very exciting that three classes in three different Colleges in ISU will be working together and all students are getting a “realistic” project to work on.

Last, I think to encourage and support them in their individual efforts, I will require them to individually meet with me for 30 minutes sometime over the next few weeks to chat about where they want to go with that opportunity. I want them to feel comfortable approaching me, to feel supported, and to feel excited. Best way to do that is to meet with them and lay it all out there.

In the meantime, I’m still struggling to find a problem to solve for my project. Oh well, it will come to me as I keep engaging with my environment and tons of folks in tons of settings.

Straight Outta Normal

Leap of faith

Week 1 is in the books, and my students took the leap of faith!

Let’s Get It On: Day 1

I had told the students before class started that on Monday to meet me in the little shopping district just off campus called Uptown Normal. Here are some picturcombine_imageses of their environment:

 

 

 

 

As students showed up, I gave the first one 10 $1 bills, and the next three I told were in a group with that first person. As each 5th student showed up, I began the process again. You can imagine their curiosity and anxiety when on the first day of class they have to meet away from campus, and their teacher is handing them cash with no explanation. Once all students arrived, I announced (some version of this):

“You have 35 minutes to make as much money as possible. Each group has 10 $1 bills [some actually had 15 bills and 5 members because a few stragglers showed up and I had to wing it]. Look around you – there is a CVS, there are plenty of stores, there are a wide variety of people walking around and sitting. There is a hotel and conference center. There is a hotel being constructed. There are cars everywhere. Whichever group LEGALLY makes the most money gets all the cash. I’ll see you back in the room at 2:45″

I saw mostly shock and confusion. Not a whole lot of excitement. But also not a whole lot of fear (likely because those with fear could lean on the group dynamic to cover it up and/or hide it). I walked back to my car super excited to see what they would come up with.

The Delivery

I was impressed that all the groups seemed to accept the challenge and at least engage with some enthusiasm (after all, there was at least $80 in the pot, plus whatever profit they made). The group that won made $27 profit. Nothing earth shattering. But profit. In 35 minutes. All other groups except one made something; one group lost 76 cents [I’m still not quite sure how that happened]. The most common strategy seemed to be buying bottled water and reselling it. Nothing shocking there. The groups that made some profit headed back to campus and sold it to college students. The group that won headed over to the Hyatt Place hotel being built and sold it to the construction workers.

Bottled Water

Quick Lessons Learned

  1. The money is a distraction. Most students will immediately think of what they can buy to resell. I purposely planted or reinforced this seed by pointing out the CVS only a block away.
  2. Selling anything to college students is difficult if you want to make a profit. They are usually on a budget. They are usually in a hurry.

The Debrief

We talked about the variety of approaches to this experience. I tried to hammer home the idea that money is a distraction and that it is a bad idea to spend first and then figure out how to dig out of that hole. Instead, I introduced the idea of focusing on the potential customers. Identifying a problem they might have and figuring out how to solve it. There were plenty of individuals and plenty of businesses these students could have approached to interview and identify problems they could solve. Opportunity overlooked.

A few days after this class session I spoke with a friend of mine who related this story. Turns out she was standing on an adjacent corner from where the students started when the exercise went off. She had a $20 bill in her hand. A couple groups passed her by, but when one group caught her eye, she asked them if they were in my class. They said yes, so she showed them the $20 bill, explained she had money and wanted to know what they could do for her. Apparently, they had a very difficult time answering that question. Eventually one young woman mentioned social media, and my friend asked how many likes they could get her on Facebook and Instagram. The students floundered and didn’t get the money. How much easier could it have been?

In the end it was a fantastic exercise to introduce them to my course and to what I would be asking them to do the rest of the semester. They resoundingly said it was a good exercise and I should do it again, so I will. I was proud of the students for engaging [uncertainty is scary] and for being able to see the opportunities they missed.

Let’s Get It On: Day 2

How do I follow up that first day? With Idea Sex and Idea Math. As with most things, I don’t come up with these things, I just borrow them from others much smarter than I. In this case, these come from James Altucher, who is a genius in so very many ways.

Idea Sex

Idea Sex

I had each student make a list of things they loved, were passionate about. I then had them pair up and combine one from each person’s list. [Three guys got together and used three lists – referring to it as a threesome – gotta love college humor!] Most of the ideas were silly and really bad. The one I remember most was something about people paying to ice skate with a walrus. I mentioned how that was a terrible idea in so many ways, but that people might pay to ice skate with penguins (they are safe and cute) so they could work with the original nugget of an idea to arrive at a much more viable alternative. I encouraged them to write lists all the time – of things they observed, of thoughts they had about any random topic, of ideas they had. Anything, just as long as they were making lists, then they could come back to those lists and have Idea Sex anytime to keep their brain firing and to keep coming up with better and better ideas.

Idea Math

Next I asked one student for a food, an article of clothing, and a country [my memory is horrible – I should have taken notes – I think it was homemade macaroni and cheese, knee-high socks and Australia]

I had the students, in groups, come up with an idea (product, process, concept) that involved those three things. I should have written the ideas down [my memory is horrendous] – they were all pretty bad. One was using the sock to hold candies with Australia shapes that tasted like homemade macaroni and cheese I think. None of them stood out as anything with much potential.

I explained the concept behind addition, subtraction, multiplication and division in this context, and that each member of the group should take one operation and come up with a new version of the original idea. The ideas didn’t get much better, but brains were working.

Wrapping Up

This first week was an adventure, for the students and for me. I exposed them to uncertainty, to anxiety, to selling, to customer development, to ideation, to creativity, to frustration, to profitability, to winning. I feel good that they are excited, that they seem eager to engage and are anxious to dive in. I hope I can sustain that and continue to keep that flame burning bright.

60 Minutes

Next week is Justin Wilcox’ 60 Minutes to Launch exercise and introducing the Online Venture Challenge.

A Lean Approach Is Right (Not Just For Some)

Lean Blah Blah Blah

I get that people are tired of reading and hearing about lean startups, that people have started to poke holes in the methodology and very eloquently explain the shortcomings of lean.  I definitely understand – it’s become like that really annoying song on the radio that you can’t get out of your head, and no matter what station you listen to, it is in the rotation.  I’m guilty of promulgating it.  But that’s because I believe, at its core, it is the right foundation upon which to build a startup.

Lean Is The Heart and Soul of Startups

Key word being foundation.  It is not the be all and end all of startups and entrepreneurship.  But if you look at the build-measure-learn loop, that’s the right foundation upon which to start almost anything.

Lean StartupWhy?  It’s the scientific method.  Testable hypotheses (build), the tests of those hypotheses (measure), and the analysis of the data from the tests (learn). The scientific method is a disciplined search for knowledge about something of interest.  Isn’t that what entrepreneurs do?  Or at least they should do?  Be disciplined.  Search for knowledge.  Pursue something of interest.  It just makes sense.  If you don’t think so, I call shenanigans.  You’re nuts.  All the buzzwords, I agree, are getting tiring.  But put those aside, look at the foundation, and it’s a rock solid foundation.

Look Within and You’ll Find Lean

Entrepreneurs – what to do?  Take the lean approach, put it into practice.  Build something.  Measure how people use that thing, how they interact with it, how they feel about it and about using it.  Measure whatever is important about the thing.  Then learn something from that measurement.  And do it all again.  And again.  And again.  Any entrepreneur out there not do that?  Really?  Put whatever label you want on it.  Whether it’s lean or something else, it doesn’t matter.  Fact is, you likely have gone through some version of that build-measure-learn process.  Because if you haven’t, you’re likely not in business anymore.  Because the scientific method is the the core of knowledge acquisition.  And isn’t that what we all do?  So, in the end, get over what anyone calls it.  Today’s label is going to be replaced tomorrow with new labels.  Forget about the labels – just understand the foundation (build-measure-learn) and learn to build your startup on that foundation.

Entrepreneurship of a Different Sort

Entrepreneurship is . . .

Entrepreneurship has many different definitions and variations.  I am often asked by students, colleagues, and various stakeholders of the organizations of which I am a part some version of the following question: “Have you ever started a business?”  I am in the midst of starting three right now:

1. internrocket, which is aimed at blowing up the internship and hiring processes by focusing on micro-project experiences.

2. That Ain’t Normal, which is aimed at disrupting what is normal in fashion (the basic model is like Quirky for apparel/fashion)

3. Legacy Out Loud, which is a global initiative to refocus the foundational conversations that inspire and empower young women to think, act and lead entrepreneurially.

So according to that traditional perspective of entrepreneurship, I am currently an entrepreneur.  I’ve tried a few in the past and failed miserably before much progress happened.  I’ve consulted for many folks who have started both successful and unsuccessful ones.  But the sorts of experiences I’ve had, I would argue, are equally (if not more so) valuable to my goal of engaging students in entrepreneurial thinking and doing.

The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship can be driven by necessity or by opportunity.  I grew up in a fortunate situation where I never had to think about necessity.  I always engaged in opportunity-driven entrepreneurship.  Entrepreneurship can also be legal or illegal.  In my younger, more immature days, I engaged in illegal entrepreneurship.  In order to get the cocaine I needed, I started dealing for some heavy hitters out of Detroit.  I would put that experience against that of any entrepreneur any day.  I had to manage product.  I had to manage employees.  I had to manage financials.  I had to manage stakeholders.  I had to monitor competition.  Anything a “real” business does, I had to do.  But I had to do it with the highest of stakes.  Not that I wouldn’t have food on my table, or I wouldn’t have enough money to pay rent.  I would have a couple dudes called Slim (he wasn’t slim by the way) and Frosty visit me from Detroit.  I had to cheat and steal and manipulate and operate well over that line between moral and immoral.  Every day I had to make very real, very dangerous (physically and emotionally) choices.  I would say there is nothing more entrepreneurial that this sort of experience.  It certainly shaped my current world view of what is possible and of how to get it.

The Bright Side of Entrepreneurship

As I matured and realized I needed to clean my life up, I turned to education.  As an educator, I am extremely entrepreneurial.  I look for opportunities to disrupt the broken ways of teaching that we too strongly hold onto.  I look for the failures of those who’ve come before me, and I give myself every chance to try some new method or technique, and to fail.  I hustle my ass off – weaving students, faculty, alumni, colleagues, associations, entrepreneurs, investors from around the world together around fantastic experiences.

Am I an entrepreneur?  I honestly don’t know what that means (Babson College is doing some cool projects around defining that word).  But my answer is categorically YES! So when I get asked that question about whether I’ve started a business, I often reply by letting people know that I’ve been entrepreneurial from an early age.  As my path through life changes, the focus of my entrepreneurial spirit changes.  But that spirit has always been in me.  Is it in you?  How does it manifest itself?  Find the opportunity.  Learn to fail.  And hustle.  The results will be extraordinary!

Education Comes Through Opportunity, Failure, Hustle

How does one succeed in education?  How does one succeed as an entrepreneur?

To me, three words:  OpportunityFailureHustle.

My Education

Opportunity

These three words define me and my path through life.  I grew up comfortable – not rich by any means (my father was a math professor after all and even though he was ridiculously intelligent and a workaholic, he was a math professor in the 1970s and 1980s of my youth).  My parents afforded me unbelievable opportunities.  Private school and boarding school.  Toys and books and sports – all the things important to a young boy.  Each opportunity came my way, and more often than not, I failed at realizing each one.  Not that I ever worked hard at them.  You see, I had an older sister, and she set a bar I felt I couldn’t reach.  I know, typical story, right?  So my parents thrust all these opportunities my way – all of them wonderful and some of them potentially life-changing.  But I failed, over and over again, by choice.

Failure

I failed at realizing the opportunities my parents so kindly placed before me.  Because I was convinced I couldn’t meet the bar my older sister set.  I accepted these failures, but didn’t learn to learn from them until I was much older.  See, failure, it turns out, is the most powerful learning force there is.  Fail at something, feel like shit, ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, angry, humiliated . . . whatever the feeling it’s not pleasant.  Stand up and choose to learn from that and I promise it’s a powerful learning experience.  I kept failing and not learning.  Until I figured out that there are good choices and there are bad choices.  My sister would always outdo me when it came to good choices.   She wasn’t a goody-two-shoes.  I always thought of those types as ones who really tried at being good, they had to work at it, and it was awkward.  My sister didn’t try, it was just natural.  It was her spirit.  I couldn’t compete with that.  I quickly found bad choices, and realized I could be really good at those.  I didn’t fail any more!  Now I was a success.  And to be a success at the bad choices, I had to hustle.

Hustle

We all hustle.  It’s that drive that pushes us toward a goal.  It’s that fire that wakes us up, that gets us through the day, that keeps us up at night.  Some of us hustle for good, some of us hustle for bad, some of us hustle for ourselves, some of us hustle for others.  But make no mistake – we all hustle.  It’s a beautiful thing!

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Photo Credit: C. Ha via Compfight cc

 

I saw opportunity all around me – kids getting high and paying lots of money to do it.  I had failed many times at trying to be “good”.  So I turned my hustle to dealing drugs.  I was good at this hustle.  For many years.  Learned to read people, learned to negotiate, learned to sell, learned about numbers and cash flow and profit and loss.  Learned about customer relationships and supplier relationships.  Learned about  . . . way a second, sounds real similar to the kinds of things my business school courses claimed to have taught me.  You know what?  I don’t remember shit from those courses.  But I remember all kinds of lessons I learned from the hustle.  So if we could make education a system where students hustle to realize opportunities and learn from failure, students would have a better learning experience.  That’s my hypothesis, and I’m sticking to it.  So what are these three elements about?  Why are they so important?

Opportunity

Opportunities bombard us every day, through every one of our senses.  They seriously do – while I at times enjoy this sensory overload, most days it drives me bananas.  Any time we hear someone bitching about something BOOM! that’s an opportunity.  Any time we see someone struggle with something – physically, mentally, emotionally – BOOM! that’s an opportunity.  Anytime you see or hear giddiness, BOOM!  that’s an opportunity. And then there are those times in the shower, in your car and other private moments we don’t need to discuss when those seemingly stupid ideas flood the dull moments.  Opportunities never stop – we just have to be alert to them.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, just someone who is in tune with their surroundings, and with them self.  Just pay attention to what the fuck is going on around you.  Stop trying to create opportunities and look and listen – there are more than enough already there waiting to be realized, there’s no need to undertake the impossible task of creating one.

Failure

So the opportunities are out there, so what?  So pick one that’s interesting and act on it. Take a class, talk to a group of interesting people, learn a craft, try a new food, travel to a new location, reverse-engineer a product.  The list goes on – but only if you care enough to hold down the off button and be alert.

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Photo Credit: عدسة شاب سوري – Young syrian’s Lens via Compfight cc

 

 

If someone wants to try and learn something, or wants to try their hand at entrepreneurship – if these are the opportunities that they seize, hate to say it but they’re likely going to fail.  So what?  We’ve been failing all our life – since we were trying to figure out how to roll over unsuccessfully.  Seriously – think about it.  You failed in school.  You failed in sports.  You failed socially.  Failure is as much a part of life as are opportunities. They co exist and keep us on our toes.   And give us a chance to hone the most valuable skill possible: hustling.

Hustle

Some people cringe at the word.  It kind of makes me glow.  I love to hustle.  I love to figure out how to make something happen.  I love to work under pressure.  It’s a beautiful thing!  Because it’s a universal language of getting shit done.  No matter where you are, no matter who you’re talking to, no matter how different you are, everyone understands hustling.  Because in order to avoid failure, we hustle.  In order to take advantage of opportunities, we hustle.  It’s a glorious cycle of sorts I guess.  It’s the action that connects opportunity and failure in an enduring circle.  Learn from one, then experience the other.

Education: Back To Why We’re Here

So what does this have to do with education?  Education is at a crossroads, on a precipice, whatever one wants to call it, it’s a critical juncture.  We can proceed with the standard Baby Boomer model delivering education.  Or we can implement a more Millenial standard of hustling.  There are so many opportunities now being created in the educational technology space.  Technology enables educators to share resources and experiences in real-time.  The opportunities are endless to disrupt this tired, broken model of education.  Failure is inevitable, because we’re dealing with extraordinarily bureaucratic support.  Because it’s a new frontier.  Because while the possibilities are endless, it doesn’t mean all of them are good ones.  But we need to start trying them out.  We need to start hustling.  No more talking (you hear me you stodgy old academics?)  Get off your asses, forget about your conservative ways of approaching education, and start disrupting.  Be entrepreneurial.  Hustle!