Want to work at a start-up? This is how to go about it

Of the better ways to learn the startup scene is simply to work at one, and while you typically won’t find startup jobs listed on your typical job portal that is not to say those positions are not out there.

With that said, the benefits of working at a startup are many, possible chance at acquiring equity, experience that is then pivotal to start your own company, or a chance to break into venture capital.

While some websites exists that offer a job board for early stage companies, such as http://www.startuphire.com/, http://www.startuply.com/, and http://startupers.com/, they are often flooded with hundreds of applications, and moreso at times of economic trouble like what we’ve seen since 2008.

A better approach to securing a position at a startup, and any position for that matter is networking. If you’re into the scene, chances are you should know people within it, or at least make your way out to some entrepreneurially focused meetings / groups where you’ll not only meet people working within the startup industry of your interest, but it will also allow you to feel out the market as a whole.

Another, and a more novel approach is to focus your search through venture capital funds / groups. More often than not, VC’s will have their portfolio companies listed on their websites, and better yet, some will even have a listing of the jobs that their portfolio companies are looking to fill. Another advantage here is that the above method will allow you to better fine tune your search in terms of industry and expose you to companies that you may not have been previously aware of.

But how do you do it? Call up the VC fund, ask who to speak with at the startup of your choice, then call the startup directly. Make yourself stand out and show that you have what it takes to make it in a diverse and often chaotic environment that requires quick thinking and an innovative approach to problem solving.

Startup Feature: Teambox

We recently had the chance to talk with Pablo Villalba from Teambox about how he got started and what advice he has to pass onto new and budding entrepreneurs, better yet, Teambox is now inBloon’s project management solution. The trickle effects of Next Top Startup, but I digress.

So without further ado, the startup feature of : Teambox

How did you come up with the idea for your company?

On one hand, I was looking for something that would tie our team together as a group. We tried some online solutions, excel spreadsheets, blogs and Gantt planning, but nothing worked.

When a client asked to deploy a solution in his own server, I started some real research for a quality open-source project manager. There was not such a thing. So, with a little seed funding, we got started.

The first versions were merely proofs of concept, and were only available on Spanish. However, they taught us important lessons on software development and clients’ needs. All this made a difference for Teambox 2.

Any milestones that you’d like to share?

When Teambox 2 was launched, it was one of a kind. It was the first Twitter-style collaboration tool that grouped team communication and task management.

After exiting the beta period, we set up some pricing plans for users who needed more of what we were doing. So far, we have over 100 paid accounts for the online version and we’re starting to have our first corporate clients. This means a lot of new lessons to learn, and the need to adapt quickly.

We recently acquired an online group chat application in our space, and we have plans to integrate its functionality in Teambox while expanding its offerings. We’re very excited about the possibilities.

Can you tell us a bit about the team?

At the heart of Teambox, we’re very technically minded people with a passion for design.

We had endless discussions over little details, because we care about usability. You can spend months developing the coolest feature on Earth, but unless you make it simple nobody is going to use it.We’re currently 5 programmers and 3 mixed profiles for sales and marketing. We expect to keep things small and simple, scaling our service without a significant increase on staff.

For that, we only work with the best. Our open-source community has been a great talent pool, where people can learn our working style before joining the company.

Any difficulties you’ve experienced in the startup process of your company?

It’s been extremely hard to get funded during the hard times economy has been through. Nevertheless, we were lucky to find the right investors who trusted the startup and team and made it possible.

It has also been very disappointing to see how public grants have more to do with political reasons than real innovation and supporting research and development. Lessons learned from this: Private money is reasonable, and it’s always better to survive with your own money or customers than looking for money from others.

Any advice to pass on to budding entrepreneurs?

Just get started. Entrepreneurship is like a George Lucas film, where you meet your friends during a long journey to an uncertain destination

Startup Feature: InBloon

Back in May we asked Jose Mariano of In Bloon five questions about his startup, being that he entered the Next Top Startup competition we felt it unfair to feature him and not the others, however now with the first edition of the competition well behind us we feel it’s time to publish his answers to our 6 questions.

What is bloon?

It’s an experience by which you will see the Earth shining round and blue on the eyes of the person you love. All in a safe, clean, not requiring strenuous training manner. A flight beyond the blue skies into the starry blackness of the cosmos. And with zero emissions.

Here’s the official definition:

bloon |bəˈloōn|

1. a sustainable, cost-effective, inspirational and elevating device that enables out of this world experiences to her passengers, including unparalleled views of their planet while helping preserve it in the process; to be enjoyed by individuals, families, and other groups worldwide: inside the bloon we were one with the Planet.

2. zero2infinity first project.
verb [ intrans. ]

1. to feel elevated, to raise to a new level, to transform yourdreams into reality: We are about to bloon… ORIGIN Barcelona, early 2009 (originally denoting a previous concept from 2000): from French ballon ‘large ball.’

How did you come up with the idea for bloon?

I grew up surrounded by rockets, telescopes, astronomy and balloons because of my dad’s job. After graduation in 2000 I started to think about the possibilities of Space Tourism and it seemed obvious to me that the view is the core element of the experience and that balloons are the safest means to achieve the altitudes where the view can be enjoyed. I made a publication, then a business plan, technical design, patent and finally a company.

Any milestones that you’d like to share?

We are happy we just received our first piece of investment from Ultramagic, the world’s second largest producer of hot air ballons. Their qualified endorsement along with their expertise in the ballooning market, certification rules and technical acumen bring us closer to our goal.

Can you tell us a bit about the team?

Full time there are 4 Aerospace Engineers (Master’s level), there are many part time collaborators and interns. We are looking for a Chief Technology Officer and a Chief Marketing Officer. Our adivsory board is highly committed and comprises senior leaders in key sectors for our business.

Any difficulties you’ve experienced in the startup process of your company?

The fact that I had worked on the concept for 9 years prior to incorporating the company had me well prepared. One important skill that I wish I had before, and only now I am starting to grasp is the ability to tell the people that just find your concept cool from the ones that can really help you. Generally in the EU there is a lot of talk about innovation and entrepreneurship as the best thing since bread came sliced, however there is very little real action in this topic. I think politics has distorted so much the landscape that it’s hard to find people driven by pure entrepreneurial spirit.

Any advice to pass on to budding entrepreneurs?

Be open minded and get as much high-quality advice as possible but don’t forget you know more about your business than anybody else.

If you have a startup and would like to have it featured, please write to info [at] f3fundit.com

Startup Saturdays: Foundation for Global Collaboration and Peace

In this session of Startup Saturdays we present a different type of a startup – one with a social cause in fact – a non-profit. Started by Wendy Hong in 2009 the Foundation for Global Collaboration and Peace aims to create on-going dialogue between communities worldwide, in order to better collaborate on a global scale to achieve and maintain peace holistically.

1. How did you come up with the idea to launch the “Foundation for Global Collaboration and Peace” and what are your goals?

Considering my own experiences with prejudice, knowledge of human behavioral psychology and understanding of how bigotry, prejudice and ignorance are used to mobilize genocide and war and the lack of a central repository for universal human commonality knowledge, I thought building such a virtual library that required global collaboration would be a great way to give support for the human race to thrive together.  Since its inception on October 13th, 2009, the idea has become more robust and inclusive, as you can see from our Vision Statement and Mission Objectives.

2. Any milestones that were specifically memorable that you would like to share?

Quite a few, actually; In mid December of last year we discovered that we’d received over a thousand responses to our ““What is Your Primary Self-Identifier” survey”, furthermore publishing the survey results was exciting as well.

In the first week of this year our first volunteer Crystal began working with us, and on January 20th we began forming our Advisory Committee.

On February 11th, the Founder and President of Genocide Watch joined the Advisory Committee.

3. Can you tell us a bit about the team? How did you come together?

Our current permanent team members include a serial entrepreneur and business strategist with MBA degrees from both Columbia and London Business School (Wendy W. Hong, Founder and CEO), Senior Vice President of a well-respected hedge fund, with 16 years of IT experience (Stephen R. Payne, Board Member), and a seasoned marketing professional with both for- (W Hotels) and non-profit (Brooklyn Public Library) experience (Lillian Wang, Board Member).

In addition to her two MBAs, Wendy holds a BA in Political Science and French (Columbia University) and another in English Literature ( Baruch College, CUNY).  Her 15 years of work experience spans the banking, consulting, journalism, non-profit, publishing, social-networking, sports and travel sectors.  She has lived and worked in seven countries across four continents and has a working knowledge of Chinese, French, Italian and Spanish.   In addition, she has a keen interest in human behavioral studies, psychology and the sciences in general.

Stephen graduated from Cambridge  University with a BA in Computer Science.  He relocated from the UK to theUS  eleven years ago.  Stephen is also an amateur photographer and has a general interest in psychology (Jungian) and science in general.

Lillian is a PR professional with an MS in Marketing from  Baruch College.  Previously, she lived in Milan while taking graduate courses in International Health Care Management at  Bocconi University.  She also holds a BBA in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from  Baruch College.  Lillian is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and knows basic Italian and Spanish.

4. Any difficulties you’ve experienced during the startup process of your social enterprise that you would like to share, any mistakes that you made which others could learn from?

Expecting things to happen a lot quicker than they actually do.  This brings on a lot of unnecessary stress and paves the way for bad decision making.  My advice for dealing with this is to realize that things will not get done any faster if we get stressed out and that we’re both hurting ourselves and our organization in the long run by getting all worked up about things over which we have no control.

For those people who need to see progress to feel accomplished, I would suggest starting several mini projects (of one business) with varying deadlines and/or progression speeds at the same time.  Then if one thing stalls, you can turn your attention onto another.

The other, better personal solution, is to work on maintaining a personal life outside of our business.  No matter how noble we think our cause may be, we are more likely to burn out and lose those who are important to us if that is the only source from which we derive personal satisfaction, connections with others, financial security, etc.

5. Any additional advice to pass on to budding social entrepreneurs?

As you can see, this question inspired a lot of advice.  I will also post this list on the Foundation’s FAQs page.  Thanks for the inspiration!

1) Figure out the most meaningful goals to YOU in life.
2) As a McKinsey senior partner once said, ruthlessly prioritize your time.
3) Find the right people to help you (Which involves first getting to know yourself very well, the positives and negatives, in order to know which personalities you get along with and what skills you need on your team.).
4) Be clear, with yourself as with others–don’t expect people to read your mind or intuit the meaning behind your words.
5) Trust your instincts.
6) Believe in actions, not words.

To read the rest of the best practices – click here. And if you would like your startup featured on f3fundit’s Startup Saturdays please send an e-mail to [email protected]

Three Methods to Ongoing Innovation

Innovation is an ongoing process that your company should be taking a strong stake in, and as an entrepreneur it should always be on your mind. Why? Because as long as you’re working towards goals so are others, process improvements happen all the time, and new ways of doing things will always keep on evolving. If you’re not evolving, you’re in a way killing your business.

Look at it this way, you may have a technology that at the moment can clean water in a manner that is thus far cheaper and more energy efficient than your competitors, you have a decisive competitive advantage because of this technology, however, you know that there are also engineers out there working on similar products, ones that may be cheaper and more energy efficient than yours? So what do you do, you innovate. You look for different processes, different materials, ways to improve the process that will help you keep that advantage.

Today, we look at that relationship, the one between innovation and strategy. In all there are really three ways in which you can approach innovation within your company, and each is designed to work a bit differently. Read the methods, and think about which one of these works best for your enterprise and how you can most effectively apply in.

1. Strategy Defines Innovation – The company collects CI, looks at the market and then defines a strategy, i.e. in 5 years time we want to be at point X, we want to have Y% of the market and be in Z countries. How do we get there. In this scenario innovation effects are pursued to deliver and ensure value to the strategy, and the goal.

2. Innovation Defines Strategy – The company through the most excellent ideas of its board, entreprenerus and others has developed a number of concepts. These concepts are mapped, and a strategic evaluation is conducted based on CI, market factors, etc.. the selected innovation then fuels the strategy of the enterprise.

3. Innovation and Strategy Inform One Another – This is an ongoing dialogue between the two, Innovation and Strategy both affect each other equally, and the C levels manage the process throughout.

In terms of startups and smaller companies, you will find that option two tends to work the best. Why? Because chances are that you’ve embarked on a business venture due to the fact that you had a few good ideas, and chose to pursue one of them. This is the innovation process for those that are starting, or launching something totally new.

With that, your product, service, what have you can be easily augmented and adjusted to suit market needs, additional products, support products can also be added to your product, this is where No.1 comes in. How do you get from A->B how do you grow, and what and where can you innovate to help your business grow.

The last is the hardest to manage, specifically as it needs constant and ongoing attention which most startups lack do to limited resources. In practice it’s strongly supported by larger companies in high-innovation industries, bio, clean tech, hardware & chip design, etc… However that does not mean you should forget about it, Innovation and strategy should always be informing one another, always.

Free Consulting for Startups, you bet.


Free Startup Consulting?

So you’ve got a problem, there’s a process and you just can’t seem to understand how to get around that process while keeping that something vital to your business model. You talk to your partners, they’re stumped as well, friends and family can’t help, and colleagues just don’t have the time to devote to the problem.

What do you do? Get a consultant. Sounds great except for the fact that these guys can charge a couple of hundred an hour and as a startup the last thing you have is a a few spare grand laying around that you can throw at someone who may not be able to provide you with an adequate solution. But there is good news.

And that good news is you’ve got access to consulting clubs and entrepreneurship clubs at universities and MBA programmes. Most majour cities will have at least one university that has a good enough MBA programme, and those students who are in those clubs will be more than eager to tackle any real world entrepreneurship, or consulting issues you may have. Why? Simple, it’s real world experience, and they’re learning from the real – day to day – problems of your company. Not only that they’ll be able to slap that bit about helping you on their CV’s and it’s sure to look good.

But aside from just contacting a club and saying “hey, I’ve got this issue” – turn it into something more, propose presenting your company to these students, and then pose your problem, ask them how they would fix it. If you’re a non-business type entrepreneur where you’ve just recently learned about i.e. business plans & P&L’s, but know how to say… rectify colon cancer (no pun intended), then the business help from these lads and ladies may be exactly what you need and are looking for.

Why not hire a MBA intern?

There’s even a chance that the person you’re pitching to could spend a few good months over the summer with you getting you an your company ready to pitch to the right people. If the relationship between your company and the school and some of the students is a good one, consider hiring a MBA intern.

In terms of a consulting club, this is a bit of a different approach as these guys are going for the MBBB (McK, Booz, BCG, Bain) group, and you should pitch your problem as a possible project for them. They’ll get hands on experience, and you’ll get a report that otherwise would have cost you a nice chunk of change.

Remember, as entreprenerus, we have to be resourceful, and utilize those resources around us effectively, and efficiently. Business schools are a great place to find those resources, the students are motivated and yearn for hands on real world experience. Why not give them what they need?

If interested in working with MBA’s – or if a MBA and interested in working with Startups – contact us – info @ f3fundit.com – we’ll put you in touch.

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