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How Brooklyn Brewery Tripled Sales In 5 Years Without Traditional Advertising

            Brooklyn Brewery cofounder Steve Hindy.

           Brooklyn Brewery cofounder Steve Hindy.

There's a good chance you've tried or at least heard of Brooklyn Brewery's products. Its beer is stocked in restaurants, bars, and retailers in 26 U.S. states and 20 countries, and it's on track to sell 270,000 barrels of beer by the end of this year.

That's why it may surprise you that the company has achieved this success without placing any ads.

Despite its lack of traditional television, print, and online advertising, Brooklyn Brewery has tripled sales in the past five years. It's done so by sponsoring events in its main distribution regions and telling a story that hooks people.

"It took us 20 years to get to 100,000 barrels sold [in a year]," brewery cofounder Steve Hindy tells Business Insider, "and just three years to go from that to 200,000." 

Brooklyn Brewery, founded in 1988, brought in $16 million in revenue in 2008. Last year, the company had $50 million in revenue and sold 216,000 barrels.

This meteoric growth is partly due to timing. Consumers embracing craft beers over bigger names like Budweiser, the rejuvenation of Brooklyn, and the rise of social media all contributed. But Hindy says the seeds were planted from the very beginning, 26 years ago.

When Hindy founded the company with Tom Potter, they didn't have enough money for traditional advertising, but even once they had more funds, they realized it wasn't for them. They tried a series of radio ads on sports radio in the early 2000s, which Hindy says "never really felt right."

Instead, the pair decided to take a more grassroots approach and grow the brand through word of mouth. They wanted their customers to discover it themselves at an event or in a bar, hoping it would give them a sense of ownership.

Rather than commercials, they invested in community outreach. This entailed sponsoring local art events in Brooklyn and led to relationships with organizations like the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Those who attended these events would get free beer and the local business owners and artists running the events would appreciate the support and keep in touch.

"The board can't quantify being a good neighbor," Hindy says with a laugh, "but it's been very satisfying for us."

          The brewery's kegging machine.The brewery's                                                 kegging machine.

         The brewery's kegging machine.The brewery's                                                 kegging machine.

In the foreword to Hindy and Potter's 2005 autobiographical business book "Beer School," former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg credits Brooklyn Brewery with being a key player in supporting the recent rise of an entrepreneurial creative class in Brooklyn, which has helped revitalize the borough.

Hindy and Potter have taken the good-neighbor approach to developing markets outside of New York City, as well. The brewery created the Brooklyn Mash festival, a celebration of local artists and restaurants that began its second annual tour in Nashville this past March. The festival is making stops in cities across the U.S., as well as in Brooklyn Brewery's growing markets in London and Stockholm.

"We don't want to make it all about us," Hindy says. "We want to say, 'Let's celebrate your creative class.'"

How Hindy and Potter tell the brewery's story is important to this approach. Every social media post and even every beer-bottle label is designed to bring customers to the Brooklyn Brewery website, which prominently features a company history that includes essays, photos, and videos. It aims to get customers excited about the people who make the beer they're sipping, Hindy says, which can differentiate the product from the countless other brews on the shelf.

"Most people have a hankering to start their own business," Hindy explains. "People can relate to an honest story."

Hindy says Brooklyn Brewery's biggest opportunity is expanding internationally. He aims to grow international exports from 30% of the business today to 50% in the next few years.

They plan to use the same tactics that worked in Brooklyn to market the brand abroad, like sponsoring a local art show in Paris, for example.

"We're just doing what we've always done," Hindy says.

References

Feloni, R. (2014, July 17). How Brooklyn Brewery Tripled Sales In 5 Years Without Traditional Advertising. Retrieved on October 24, 2014 from http://www.businessinsider.com/brooklyn-brewerys-growth-2014-7

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Why You Can't Rely On A Salary To Get Rich

Editor's note: This post originally appeared on Quora, as an answer to the question, "What is the most reliable way to be making at least $250,000 a year within 8 years of graduating with a bachelor's in computer science?"

I'll answer this with the same advice I've given my kids. First off, forget about your bachelor's in computer science. I did that and then went to grad school for CS. Worthless. 

The only way to make real wealth is to get rid of your salary. In a salary, by definition, you are creating wealth for others and you are creating a chain and handcuffs for yourself. 

Some people like that but it's not the way to make $250,000 a year or whatever you want to make (why'd you pick $250,000?). 

I'm on the board of a billion revs employment agency. I can tell you the facts: Income is going down relative to inflation for 40 years in a row. And the entire middle class is getting fired. I don't mean this in a scary way. It's just the facts right now. Maybe it will change. I hope so, but I doubt it. 

I'm not even suggesting go out and start a company. Running a company is a lot of painful work. Employees have sex with each other, clients want bribes, and programs don't work at demos. 

More than half the unemployed have college degrees (another comment: "College is not just about the money." And my response: "Then don't let your kids get $100,000 in debt just so they can read books for a few years.")

I wanted to find someone who was neither an entrepreneur in the traditional sense nor an employee somewhere. 

I kept seeing this guy Steve Scott on Amazon. His books kept beating my books on Amazon's lists. How could "23 Anti-Procrastination Habits" rank higher than "Choose Yourself!" 

Other books would be: "70 Healthy Habits" or "How to Start a Successful Blog in One Hour."

And every few weeks there would be another book. First I noticed it under Steve Scott. But then, with a completely different picture, I noticed the same style of books coming up under SJ Scott.

He was like a machine of books. ".99 is the New Free," "Declutter Your Inbox," and on and on.

So I called him. I didn't know him. I didn't have any friends who knew him. I think he lives in the middle of Ohio.

I wanted to know what the hell he was doing. I wanted my kids to do it so they would never have to have the worries and anxieties that I had all through my 20s and 30s.

He came on my podcast "The James Altucher Show" (I'm not trying to get you to listen to it. I'm going to tell you everything he said here). 

He told me just two years ago he was dead broke and trying to figure out what to do. He had basically zero in the bank and was making no money.

"Last month I made over $40,000," he told me. He's written 42 books in the past two years. He now writes a book every three weeks.

"Can anyone do this?" I asked him.

And he said, "yes," and we made a podcast out of it because I wanted everyone to hear his detailed answers. You can listen for free on iTunes or Stitcher (for Android phones).

He basically writes 2,000 words a day. In the front of each book he has various things he gives away for free if people sign up for his email list.

"Take a concept you're interested in," he told me, " and break it up into a lot of parts and write a book about each part.

"For instance, if you are interested in golf, write a book about how to get the right equipment, write a book about how to improve your swing in 10 easy steps, write a book, "Learn to Putt 100% Better in 60 Minutes," and so on.

Each book gets him more email subscribers. More email subscribers get him more book sales. And so on.

Did he study writing or marketing in college? You decide: He majored in criminal psychology at Montclair State University.

It took two years to build up, but now he is a marketing and entrepreneurial machine — even though he has never done anything like this before. 

He has no boss. He enjoys his free time. He makes more money than 95% of the CEOs in the corporate world. If I were graduating with my CS degree this is what I would do right now instead of what I did do.

I asked him why he was being so transparent. Why he was telling me EVERYTHING. "Can't anyone just copy what you do?"

"Sure," he says. "But I work really hard."

References

Altucher, J. (2014, July 17). Why You Can't Rely On A Salary To Get Rich. Retrieved October 16, 2014 from http://www.businessinsider.com/you-cant-rely-on-a-salary-to-get-rich-2014-7

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17 Web Resources That Will Improve Your Productivity

In today's fast-paced world, we don't want to waste any more time than necessary.

Here are some highly useful and innovative web resources that will help make you more productive and save you a lot of time in the long-run:

Clear Focus — This timer uses the Pomodoro Technique to prevent you from wasting time on distractions. Instead, it helps you focus on what really matters, by alternating work sessions with small breaks. You'll be able to concentrate more easily and get things done. Just tap once, and get working.

Coffitivity — It has been scientifically proven that people work better with white noise in the background. This site replicates the sound of a coffee shop to achieve the perfect combination of calm and commotion. It'll help you get your creative juices flowing so you won't feel stuck. Other websites that provide great background noise for focusing are Rainymood andFocus At Will.

Do Nothing For 2 Minutes — Although it seems counterintuitive, this website is the perfect way to refocus your mind after a hard meeting or stressful call, in just under 120 seconds.

Doodle — Trying to schedule a meeting? You never need to endure tedious email threads about everyone's available times again. Instead, use Doodle to identify a few potential windows of time for the meeting, and ask everyone else to identify when works for them within those times. It'll be much easier to find the time slot that works for everyone.

Evernote — This simple yet sophisticated note-taking app is legendary for productivity. It organizes your notes in an elegant way, allows you to search for text within an image, captures everything from PDF to web pages, and even has a Webclipper so you can save anything you see online with a single click. 

Feedly — This useful site organizes the content of your favorite news websites or blogs into one place, so you can easily read and share what matters to you. 

FocusWriter — This tool provides a simple, distraction-free writing environment for anyone who needs to get things done. You get a nice, full-screen blank canvas to focus on the next paper you have to write. It also includes timers, alarms, goal setting, themes, typewriter sound effects, statistics, and spell checking. 

Hootsuite — If you need to manage multiple social media accounts, this is the site for you. Hootsuite is a social media dashboard that helps you reduce the amount of time you spend on Twitter and Facebook by scheduling posts for the upcoming weeks. Get your social media work out of the way in one block of time, instead of spending a few hours every day on it.

IFTTT — Create productivity chains with this simple app. It uses the idea of "If this, then that" so you can make recipes of Triggers and Actions to prompt you to stay productive. For example, you can make a recipe to unmute your phone when you get home, mute your ringer at bedtime, or text your wife when you leave work.

Lift — Do you want to run every day? Drink more water? Spend 15 minutes reading before bed? Lift helps you develop better habits by keeping track of your daily progress and sending you push notifications to remind you to stay on track. Another great site for building good habits is HabitForge, a program that will send you a daily reminder of your goals.

Pocket — Use pocket to help you store information, links, and images so you can search through them later. It's also great for bookmarking things to read for later. Another great resource to save articles is Instapaper, which also allows you to highlight important information.

Productivity Owl — This Google Chrome extension will force you to be more productive. An owl follows you to every website you visit and swoops across the page when you're not being productive.

Selfcontrol — This incredibly useful app temporarily blocks you from any distractions or addicting sites such as Facebook, Tumblr, and Youtube. It's only for Mac users, but don't worry — Cold Turkey has the same functions, specifically made for Windows users.

Unroll Me — When you sign up, you'll find a list of all your subscription emails. Unsubscribe instantly from whatever you don't want. For the subscriptions you want to keep, Unroll Me will "roll" them into one message so you can see them at a glance instead of reading through dozens of emails. More great resources for email productivity are Mailbox and Sanebox.

Wakerupper — This site provides you simple telephone reminders, so you can set a wake-up call at a specific time, remind yourself of important events, remember to take your medication on time, escape from a boring date or meeting, or simply set follow-ups for tasks you meant to do. A similar iPhone app is Due, which repeatedly alerts you about your tasks until you complete them.

Workflowy — With this organizational tool, you'll be able to free your mind of clutter and make your life much, much easier. It'll help you organize your personal to-dos, collaborate on team projects, take notes, write research papers, keep a journal, plan a huge event, and much more. 

Wunderlist — This is the easiest way to manage and share your to-do lists. It is applicable for everything from trip planning to shopping lists to even running your own business. Other great resources to help you with task management are Any.doRemember The Milk, and Todoist.

References

Zhang, M. (June 24, 2014). 17 Web Resources That Will Improve Your Productivity. Retrieved on October 15, 2014 from Business Insider. Link to website: http://www.businessinsider.com/web-resources-to-improve-productivity-2014-6

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Google-Backed Lending Club Brings Peer-To-Peer Lending To Business Loans

Peer-to-peer lending marketplace Lending Club is announcing a major expansion today into business loans.

Lending Club brings together lenders and borrowers who want to cut out banks in the process of investing among peers, has facilitated a total of $3.8 billion in consumer loans, and is growing at a pace of over $750 million a quarter. And the company has more than doubled annual loan volume each year since launching in 2007.

We’re told Lending Club business loans will range from $15,000 to $100,000 initially, increasing to $300,000 in the future. The loans carry fixed interest rates starting at 5.9 percent with terms of one to five years, no hidden fees and no prepayment penalties. We’re told the average interest rate on the platform hovers at around 12.5 percent.

Lending Club CEO Renaud Laplanche says that the company’s existing tech and credit products catered towards consumer loans can easily extend to other types of loans, including auto, business, home mortgage and others. “We want to cover the entire credit industry,” he says.

The company has raised just over $200 million from Google Capital, Foundation Capital and KPCB and was valued at $1.5 billion in its last round in 2013. Kleiner Perkins’ Mary Meeker, ex-chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley John Mack and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers are all board members.

Moving into the business vertical makes a lot of sense for Lending Club. The company will now compete woth CAN Capital and OnDeck, both of which focus exclusively on the small business lending market.

The alternative lending space is heating up, more players are growing fast and investors are placing their bets. Many of these companies could be interesting acquisition targets for traditional banks. And some, like Lending Club and Prosper, could also be IPO hopefuls.

References

Rao, L. (March 19, 2014). Google-Backed Lending Club Brings Peer-To-Peer Lending To Business Loans. Retrieved on October 10, 2014 from TechCrunch. Link to website: http://techcrunch.com/2014/03/19/google-backed-lending-club-brings-peer-to-peer-lending-to-business-loans/

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EarlyBird Raising $130M To Fund Startups In Turkey And Central Eastern Europe

Earlybird, the Berlin-based VC that has focused on backing startups in Europe and other ecosystems outside of Silicon Valley, is today announcing its latest fund and geographical target. It is raising $130 million for the Earlybird Digital East Fund (EDEF) to invest in early and early growth startups in Turkey and Central and Eastern Europe. Around $110 million from institutional and family investors has been committed so far.

Those investors include the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Fund, the International Finance Corporation and Turkey’s dedicated fund of funds and co-investment program Istanbul Venture Capital Initiative (iVCi) and family offices and entrepreneurs.

The shift to looking further afield beyond more established (and, some might say, oversaturated) markets like Silicon Valley is a trend that we have been seeing for a while. VCs like Atomico and Mangrove — both founded by entrepreneurs out of Europe — have made investments in regions like South America and countries like Russia.

Turkey and smaller Eastern and Central European republics like Romania and Bulgaria are a progression of that trend, and they come with some good basic building blocks for success:

“Unlike money, entrepreneurial talent is distributed equally around the world, and we want to find the most exceptional entrepreneurs,” Roland Manger, a co-founder of Earlybird and a leader on this fund, tells me. “The cultural bias in CEE and Turkey is that science and tech education are at a premium. The brightest go for those degrees at home and studying abroad.”

At the same time, these are countries that have been largely ignored by other VCs. The only other “investment-grade” fund in the region, he says, is 3TS, which focuses on CEE.

Manger tells me that he and other colleagues (Cem Sertoglu, Evren Ucok, and Dan Lupu are the other three partners managing this fund) have been scoping out Turkey and the other countries for the good part of one-and-a-half years as they prepare to invest. Some of that has led to them discovering companies but not yet being in a position to invest in them — for example distributed computing startup Hazelcast, which Manger encouraged to relocated to the Valley, where it subsequently picked up funding. We should be seeing some Earlybird deals getting announced “very soon” out of this fund, he says.

So will Earlybird follow through on its namesake and become the canary in the coalmine, with other VCs to follow? The company already co-invests with others like Sequoia, which it partnered with in the latest round for Wunderlist, marking Sequoia’s first investment in Germany.

“There is a signalling effect that we see,” says Manger in response to the question.

Wunderlist, in fact, is a fitting example in another way: it may have been developed in Berlin but it very much has ambitions to grow more in the U.S. as part of a wider global vision.

“I think that will be the case for the portfolio companies in this latest fund as well,” Manger says. “We’re not investing in local companies but tech startups. Most of these will have products and services relevant for a local and a global audience. It just may be that the best founders happen to come from Bucharest or Sofia.”

Indeed, that turned out to be something of a surprise to Manger at first. “I had some preconceived notions that the opportunity that Turkey was one of e-commerce. But when I looked more closely I saw more.”

All the same, they are keeping a level head about the opportunity. “We’re not going after the superunicorns. Many of the most successful venture companies are not household names. And those household names didn’t start out that way.”

References

Lunden, I. (January 21, 2014). EarlyBird Raising $130M To Fund Startups In Turkey And Central Eastern Europe. Retrieved on October 6, 2014 from TechCrunch. Link to website: http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/21/earlybird-raising-130m-to-fund-startups-in-turkey-and-central-eastern-europe/

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7 Steps To Delivering A Powerful Elevator Pitch

You might have ended up here for one of three reasons: You don't know what an elevator pitch is but know you need one, you have an elevator pitch that needs some work or you tried an elevator pitch and received a response that wasn't so positive. No matter what brought you, follow these steps to write your best elevator pitch today.

1. Know and define your purpose. Chris Westfall, the 2011 national elevator pitch competition champion and author of "The New Elevator Pitch," says "an elevator pitch or speech is the best way to start off a persuasive conversation." You could be trying to convince someone to invest in your idea or consider you for a job, but your aim should be to get the listener to keep listening.

"You are trying to garner someone's interest to continue the conversation. You really want to build a sense of intrigue so people want to know more," says Stephanie Burns, founder of Chic CEO, an online resource for female entrepreneurs. Whether you are trying to fundraise, find clients or just introduce yourself, elevator pitches must be tailored to the listener and environment. "You want to create multiple elevator pitches for the audience you're talking to," Burns says. "Between networking and meeting with investors, the beginning of your pitch may be the same, but the end may be different."

2. Start the writing process. Now that you understand an elevator pitch, you have to put it together. Its anatomy can be simple or complicated, depending on your audience. Westfall suggests that you include something surprising – but surprising in a good way – counterintuitive and/or innovative to set yourself apart from an inauthentic sales pitch. Burns adds: "Clearly state what you do, know who you are targeting, the problem you are solving and include a hook that is intriguing."

3. Form a clear introduction. Practice one that's no longer than two concise sentences in which you introduce yourself and explain what you do. Burns warns not to make this common mistake: "Avoid being vague in what you do and how you can help them." Westfall says some people have difficulty being concise. So if you're a doctor, don't go into detail about your surgical procedures, and if you're a lawyer, don't start rattling off all the cases you've won. "Stop looking at yourself and reciting your LinkedIn profile. You have to demonstrate that you have done your homework," he advises. You're there to start a conversation – not chase your subject away.

4. Tell a story. Telling your story is the quickest and easiest way to differentiate yourself from everyone else your subject has talked to. According to Westfall, you should use your story to tell your history and accomplishments. "The story is the meaning factor and gets the listener to ask, 'Tell me more.'" Use the basic principles of storytelling by discussing a challenge you faced, how you solved it and what you learned.

5. Answer why and consider the solution you can provide. If your pitch or speech is ineffective, people will think, "So what?" and wonder, "What does that have to do with me?" Consider whom you are talking to and your setting. "You will have a different pitch with your boss than the board of directors, and a different message delivered to your team as opposed to the C-suite," Westfall says. "If you don't phrase your accomplishments and goals in context, it's not phrased for the listener."

Westfall adds that you have to walk the line of authenticity. You can say something like, "Because of this, I believe I might be able to do this." But it can be too aggressive to assert that you can fix or solve someone's problem tomorrow.

6. Hook your listener. Adults have short attention spans, so you have to hook them like a fisherman hooks a fresh catch. Burns calls this the "wow factor," or in other words, something that leads the conversation. Westfall suggests you avoid slogans and sales pitches. "You want to show you thought this through, but you don't want it to sound rehearsed," he says.

7. Leave a call to action. Your call to action should be tailored to your listener and purpose. If you're at a networking event, you may want to schedule a coffee meeting. If you meet a potential investor, you may want to schedule a follow-up to share your budget details. "Your call to action is a logical next step. It should be easy to say yes," Westfall says.

After You've Written the Pitch

Practice, practice, practice, and make revisions based on the feedback you receive. Burns says some of the biggest mistakes are "not answering the questions of who, what, when, where and why, crafting a pitch once and not modifying it, and not paying attention to the feedback." She says your pitch should evolve over time, and if a subject's eyes glaze over or they walk away, your pitch needs work.

References

Taylor, E. (January 20, 2014). 7 Steps To Delivering A Powerful Elevator Pitch. Retrieved on September 3, 2014 from Business Insider. Link to website: http://www.businessinsider.com/7-steps-to-delivering-a-powerful-elevator-pitch-2014-1

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3 Ways to Boost Your 'Executive Presence' While Pitching for Funding

Having "presence" and a personal brand are must-have attributes in our noisy me-too world of neck-and-neck competition. Alas, it's often not enough to clinch the deal or make the sale.  

Even with a proven track record and a well-established reputation, an entrepreneur has precious little time to convince anyone -- not just the skeptics -- that they and their ideas are the real deal.

Here are three strategies that have served thousands of entrepreneurs and corporate managers in selling their ideas and proposals to even the most critical audiences. Combine them and boost your chances for funding, no matter how high the stakes.

Offer real value right away. With adult attention spans maxing out anywhere from eight seconds to 20 minutes, presentations that fail to capture interest immediately and sustain it through the critical parts have a slim chance of winning converts.

Say you're the flip-flop wearing nerd with a comic-con T-shirt and a haircut that says "past-due," and you really have no business addressing more civilized audiences, except that you're a genius and you have something to offer that would change lives for the better. Your look may give you some "Silicon-Valley street cred," but that's going to expire like yesterday's milk unless some really good stuff comes out of your mouth from the start.

More than anything else, influential decision-makers want to know how you think, whether your ideas make sense, whether you should be trusted, whether you have the confidence to pull it all off, what the numbers really mean to them and the company, and most importantly, what the business outcome is if your proposals are accepted and turned into projects. They have a lot of questions on their minds and the quicker you answer them, the more they'll like you, dirty fingernails and all.

Don't flinch in the hot seat. Don't expect the audience to wait for the formal Q&A to start. In preparing thousands of entrepreneurs and corporate managers for high-stakes presentations, I've rarely seen an audience of decision makers wait for a cue when a red flag pops in their mind. The way you conduct yourself when the tough questions come flying from all directions can determine the outcome of your pitch, for better or worse.

Therefore, know your material from all sides. Know what holes they'll poke before they raise their hand. Ask yourself the tough questions -- and come up with answers -- before they do. Have the research in your back pocket. Be measured and calm when the pressure is on. Losing your cool when emotions run high will lose you points in the final tally. Keep your answers short and to the point. Offer to provide more data if needed and follow up immediately.

Tell stories that communicate values. Stories accomplish what numbers and stats can't. They create a human connection and give others a glimpse into your values and beliefs. Tony Hsieh of Zappos told the story of an employee who, on her own, sent flowers to a customer who'd just lost her husband. "You can't put that into an employee handbook," he said. Rather than telling people who you are, tell them a story that demonstrates what's important to you on a deep level and capture not just their minds, but their hearts in the process.

To find these stories, reflect on the many common bonds that connect us as humans. We've all learned lessons, turned around a bad situation, found inspiration in others successes and joined in collaboration toward a worthy goal. The powerful messages gleaned from these stories are what make a business pitch real and the pitcher trustworthy to an audience.  

Executive presence is most of all about authenticity, credibility and the human connection. And those are as often dressed in a hoodie as in a pinstriped suit.

References

Monarth, H. (January 15, 2014). 3 Ways to Boost Your 'Executive Presence' While Pitching for Funding. Retrieved on August 27, 2014 from Entrepreneur. Link to website: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230803

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10 Startup Founders Share The Best Advice They Ever Received

When you're thinking about starting a company or first in the entrepreneurial trenches, any nugget of advice you can get from someone who's been there before is like gold.

But as time goes on, you'll realize that some of those tips are better — and more applicable to your business — than others.

So, to get you started on the right foot, no matter where you are in your startup journey, we asked 10 founders to weigh in on the absolute best advice they received as they built their companies. Take note of these (sometimes surprising) lessons for your own venture.

1. Get Comfortable With the Unknown

You will never know enough. You will always be forced to make a decision without fully understanding what is coming. As a founder, that is just something you have to get comfortable with.

— Aaron O'Hearn, Co-founder and CEO of Startup Institute

2. It's Not Just About You

The best advice is to not give yourself too much credit when times are good and too much blame when times are bad. Once you realize that luck plays a necessary role in success, it makes you both more humble and more self-confident at the same time.

— Ethan Austin, Co-founder and President of Give Forward

3. Show, Don't Tell

'Show, don't tell' is a dynamic axiom, but it's such a good one.
For startups, being evidentiary about your value proposition is huge. So many upstarts talk about being the Facebook Killer, or the X for Y, loftily and prematurely positioning them among megasuccesses. Talking instead about what your company does and has achieved sets the stage for your vision in a way that is authentic, believable, and much less highfalutin. Always be a producer of value, so you can highlight current and translatable proof of what you factually can do versus what you aspire to become.

— Shaun Johnson, Co-founder and COO of Startup Institute

4. Know When to Let Go

As a founder — or anyone who feels proud of and close to the product he or she creates — you struggle to have the right perspective about your business. It's easy to get too close, and that can be distracting. Here's the good and bad news: No one is looking at your work as closely as you are. So, remember that when you're on hour four debating which shade of navy blue works best for your logo. Yes, details matter. But at a certain point, you have to let go and move on to the next thing.

— Pavia Rosati, Founder of Fathom

5. Know the Startup Hierarchy

Think of the startup community as high school: You've got your freshman, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and then teachers and staff. When you first enter the community, whether as a founder or an employee, you're a freshman. By all means, develop relationships with mentors and more senior, experienced people, but also foster relationships with people just one or two steps ahead of you. Ask them the 'stupid' questions and the things that seem silly or small; soon enough you'll be the sophomore or junior and pulling the newbies up the ladder with you.

— Christina Wallace, Director of Startup Institute NY and Former Co-founder of Quincy

6. Find the Balance

With the community, give before you get. Do deep research for your ideas, but trust your instincts. Actively seek guidance, but know the advice often conflicts, so you need your own conviction. With product, think expansively, then pare it back to basics. Be proud of what you build, though there will never be perfection. Be aware of competition, but don't worry about it. Be direct with your team, but always kind, empathetic, and self-aware. Understand that maybe the world doesn't need your idea, so know when to move on. Luck and resilience are as important as ideas and talent. Don't believe your own press, good or bad. Don't take yourself too seriously, even if you're trying to change the world. Never lose sight of the important stuff: love, friends, family.

— Jamyn Edis, Founder and CEO of Dash Lab

7. Do Anything and Everything

The best advice I ever received was from Stacy Blackman, who runs a successful MBA admissions consulting company: 'Definitely do anything and everything. When I started, no coffee or meeting, no speaking engagement, was too small. A lot of people have asked what's brought in the most leads. I have had hundreds of partnerships and marketing initiatives, but our success has been an aggregate of everything. I have had partnerships that I thought might be the one big thing, the slam dunk. But I don't know if the slam dunk exists.'

— Jenn Yee, Director of Startup Institute Chicago and Founder of MBASocial

8. Don't Worry About the Noise

Ignore the hype you see about other startups in the press. It's usually a pack of lies, and half of them will be dead in a year. Focus on building your business so you can be the one left standing.

— Jules Pieri, Co-founder and CEO of The Grommet

9. It's Your Company — You Decide

We've been fortunate to have many incredible mentors throughout our journey building EverTrue. But these mentors often provide conflicting advice. 'Go after big accounts!' 'Go after small accounts!' 'Go B2C!' 'Go B2B!' Mentors provide a point of view based on their professional experiences and limited perspective into our market and customer base. Katie Rae helped my fellow TechStars founders and me understand that while mentor feedback is extremely valuable, we ultimately need to make key decisions ourselves.

— Brent Grinna, Founder of EverTrue

10. Don't Seek Risk

The best entrepreneurs don't seek risk. They seek to mitigate risk.

— Rick Desai, Co-founder of Dashfire

Image: Evans/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

 References

Startup Institute for The Muse (January 9, 2014). 10 Startup Founders Share The Best Advice They Ever Received. Retrieved on August 20, 2014 from Mashable. Link to website: http://mashable.com/2014/01/09/10-startup-founders-best-advice/#:eyJzIjoiZiIsImkiOiJfbnRhaTF1YXluMzJiZjR1OGpveWFjXyJ9

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Bill Gates Is Not The Next CEO Of Microsoft, But His VC Investments Are Picking Up

Bill Gates may be one of the world’s most famous philanthropistsentrepreneurs, and guest editors,  but could he be adding venture capitalist to the list? Over the past few years it seems that Gates has, in fact, been increasing his investment in startups.

Though not as active in venture capital as otherless-billionaire-y, technology billionaires, Gates is nonetheless putting together a growing stable of technology companies. And the pace of his investment is steadily increasing, according to the data in CrunchBase.

Last year, Gates was involved in at least six new and follow-on investments in venture-backed companies, including a commitment to the energy storage technology developer Aquion, in a financing which wrapped up earlier this year. That’s up from four new and follow-on commitments in 2012, and three in 2011, the CrunchBase data indicated.

In addition to Aquion, the Gates portfolio also includes other companies tackling the energy problem, like the compressed air energy storage company, LightSail Energy, and the battery technology developer Ambri. And those aren’t Gates’ only sustainable investments.

 Varentec, an electricity monitoring and management technology developer, is another cleantech pony in the Gates stable. Even more ambitiously, Gates is backing TerraPower, the nuclear reactor developer spun out from Intellectual Ventures, alongside former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer and Intellectual Ventures founder and chief executive, Nathan Myrhvold.

Intellectual Ventures is behind two other Gates investments. Both Evolv Technologies andKymeta came from Myrhvold’s IP monetization factory.

Rounding out some of the newest investments in the portfolio of the man from Medina, Wash. are three healthcare investments focused on computational drug design and targeted cancer therapies: Nimbus Discovery and its development partner Schrodinger Inc. are both focused on computational drug design, while Foundation Medicine develops diagnostic tests based on gene sequencing to identify personalized cancer therapies for patients.

All of these investments hew pretty closely with some of Gates’ expressed goals of improving healthcare, or reducing carbon emissions in an effort to combat the effects of global warming, but he’s also an investor in NEOS GeoSolutions, a company which sells technology and services to improve the operations of oil and gas and mining companies.

Needless to say, Bill Gates did not respond to a request for comment for this post.

Photo via The Henry Ford and OnInnovation.

References

Shieber, J. (January 10, 2014). Bill Gates Is Not The Next CEO Of Microsoft, But His VC Investments Are Picking Up. Retrieved on August 14, 2014 from Tech Crunch. Link to website: http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/10/bill-gates-not-the-next-ceo-of-microsoft-but-his-vc-investments-are-picking-up/

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The London 'Anti-Cafe' Where Everything Is Free But You Pay 5 Cents A Minute Just To Be There

Next time you're in London, you could walk into the Ziferblat cafe in the fashionable Shoreditch neighborhood and grab a coffee. Perhaps you might sit down on one of the comfortable armchairs, pull out your laptop and check your emails on the Wi-Fi network. Feeling a little hungry? There's some food in the cabinet; help yourself.

How much does all this cost? Well, if you spend, say, 45 minutes there, it will cost you £1.35 (approximately $2.20).

You see, Ziferblat might look like a traditional cafe or a coffee shop, but it's not. It's an "anti-cafe." Customers are welcome to come in and do whatever they like with the facilities, as long as they pay 3 pence (5 cents) per minute while they're there. So far, Londoners seem excited by the news — Time Out marveled at a raw onion in the pantry (to cook with, if you wish), while the Guardian wondered if having a piano in the cafe was a great idea, or a terrible one.

 Ivan Mitin

Ivan Mitin

Ziferblat (which means "clock-face" in Russian and German) is the brainchild of Ivan Mitin, an author who decided to open an anti-cafe in Moscow in 2011. The idea was so successful that he eventually opened nine more throughout Russia, and the idea of the "anti-cafe" has become a popular trend in the country.

While some might say the idea of an anti-cafe might fit in with collectivist ideas in Russian society, Mitin disagrees. In an email to Business Insider, he explained that he thought the idea was quite universal.

"We touch upon archetypal things that are common between anyone on Earth — it doesn't matter if you are Russian, African, European, North Korean, or whatever," Mitin writes. "It is a desire to be yourself and be loved unconditionally. Everyone wishes to get back to the fairytale of the childhood. Ziferblat reminds me of the idea of a treehouse — kids split together to build a small world of their own where the 'stupid and artificial' rules of society wouldn't work."

Interestingly, Mitin is quick to point to the Internet as a source of inspiration for the places — he likes to call the cafes "The Social Network in real Life." He sees it as much more than a place to go get coffee; customers are allowed to organize events at the space, for example (though there is one firm rule: no alcohol). The freedom and emphasis on the community element of Ziferblat is why he feels that the anti-cafe clones in Russia have not succeeded.

"They think that if they will rent a space, buy some cheap furniture from ikea, put some X-Boxes and ask 'clients' to pay roubles for minutes they will have a success," Mitin says. "It is not like that. People get bored of time payment and when nothing is behind that — they just don't come anymore."

London is the first branch of Ziferblat outside of Russia and Ukraine. Opening such a cafe in one of the world's most notoriously expensive cities (and in its hippest neighborhood) may seem to be inviting disaster, but Mitin says that is the point: It's a challenge. "If Ziferblat succeeds in London then it would mean that we can open it anywhere because it would be cheaper," he says, also explaining that his literary background and love of writers such as Lewis Carroll, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and C.S. Lewis, led him to the U.K.

The London space, despite being on one of the British capital's most fashionable streets, remains semi-hidden, and customers have to buzz in. Mitin says it's one of the smallest and coziest spaces he's opened so far.

"Happily people understand the idea and atmosphere [of Ziferblat] much faster and deeper than it sometimes happens in Russia," Mitin says. "They don't bother each other with loud laughs when it's quiet in Ziferblat, and they don't nearly make children in the corner as happens in my country. They understand that they should help themselves with coffee and tea and they wash much more dishes afterwards. It feels like people [in London] are much more tired of consumption and really happy not to be "clients" anymore."

Still can a place like this be profitable? Mitin says it can as long as the space maintains a core clientele who spend long periods of time at the cafe, and if the cafe sometimes asked for donations from its regulars. It is, after all, Mitin says, a social project, not a business model.

If it works, he's looking to expand. And there's an even more ambitious target in mind: New York.

References

Taylor, A. (January 9, 2014). The London 'Anti-Cafe' Where Everything Is Free But You Pay 5 Cents A Minute Just To Be There. Retrieved on August 8, 2014 from Business Insider. Link to website: http://www.businessinsider.com/ziferblat-london-russias-anti-cafe-comes-to-uk-2014-1

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Millennials Are Snubbing the Corporate World for Entrepreneurship (Infographic)

Unlike previous generations, for many millennials climbing the corporate ladders isn't a goal they are striving to attain. Indeed, 60 percent are turning their backs on the traditional career path and instead, consider themselves entrepreneurs, with ideas, capital and plans for startup endeavors, according to for-profit Rasmussen College.

Of those still at a "regular" job, 71 percent are pining to quit and work for themselves and 60 percent stated they will leave within the next two years.

While the motivations for branching out into the world of entrepreneurship run the gamut, the No. 1 reason is freedom, followed by ability to choose projects and unlimited income potential.

Related: Looking to Reach Millennials? Be Where the Action Is

Want to know more tidbits about the millennial generation and what tools and resources they are using to achieve their dreams? Check out the infographic below presented by Rasmussen College and designed by creative agency Column Five.

References

Huspeni, A. (September 23, 2013). Millennials Are Snubbing the Corporate World for Entrepreneurship (Infographic). Retrieved on July 29, 2014 from Entrepreneur. Link to website: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228464

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7 Design Tips for a More Productive Office

The right workspace can greatly increase employee peace of mind and productivity. But before you panic and install a Google-style indoor go-cart track in your accounting firm's headquarters, relax. All you really need to do to boost your employees productivity is make a few small design tweaks.

It may seem trivial, but a few simple design fixes in your office environment can make you and your employees happier, healthier and much more productive.

SEE ALSO: 5 Excellent Productivity Tools for Remote Workers

Whether it's as big as painting the walls or as small as adjusting your desk chair, here's how you can tailor your office's design for maximum effectiveness:

1. Ergonomics

We don't even need to cite science on this one (but we will), because it just makes sense. You're not going to be productive if your back is killing you from an improperly adjusted computer screen or desk chair.

Take five minutes and adjust, adjust, adjust. Specifically, focus on the heights of your desk chair, desk and computer monitor so that your thighs are parallel to the floor and your upper arms are perpendicular to the floor. Your wrists should be almost straight. You want to ensure that everything is within easy reach without straining any of your muscles.

Trust us. Your body will thank you later.

2. Lose the Clutter

Another no-brainer, but keeping a clutter-free desk will greatly increase productivity and organization. As a manager, it can be difficult to enforce a "clean desk" policy, but you can encourage employees to scan documents for a more paperless desk.

As an employee, do your best to keep things neat and tidy in your personal space, including your computer folders. You'll save more time by developing a system and sticking to it than by scrolling through endless documents trying to find the one you want.

  Image: Flickr,  Nicholas Todd

Image: Flickr, Nicholas Todd

Some easy tips to get you started: Stick to a pattern for naming file names, labeling with the relevant project or event; develop an organized file system; and occasionally take the time to delete documents you no longer need, or nest them within one "Old Projects" folder.

Pro tip: If you are going to go paperless, please, for the love of tech, back up your files.

3. Color Me Productive

Color has long been proven to affect people's productivity at work. The Color Affects System, developed by world-renown color psychologist Angela Wright, determines that while individuals might have certain preferences for color, the effects of color influence people universally.

According to Wright's theory, blue stimulates the mind, yellow inspires creativity, red affects your body and green creates a calming balance. But just choosing a color isn't enough. Even more important than the actual color is the saturation and intensity of the color choice. Highly saturated, bright colors will stimulate while softer, muted colors will soothe.

If you can't change the color of your whole office, opt for accents so that different teams are surrounded by the colors that will best suit their type of work.

4. Get One With Nature

If you can't change the color scheme of your office or have no control over the lighting design, adding a small potted plant to your desk decor is one of the quickest and easiest ways you can maximize your productivity at work.

Two studies, one from 2011 and one from 2013, found that having a plant on your desk increases productivity and cognitive attention, as well as filter the air to remove mold and bacteria, keeping your employees happy, productive and healthy.

  Image: Flickr,  mjk photos

Image: Flickr, mjk photos

5. Light It Up

Letting in a lot of natural light increases productivity, energy and creativity, according to this study, which showed natural light improved test results and let to customers spending more time in stores.

It's unrealistic to assume every office can knock out a few more spots for windows and skylights, but you can work with the light you already have by making sure that as many desks are within view of a window as possible. It also helps to ensure all the windows and skylights are cleaned regularly for maximum light intake.

If natural light just isn't a possibility for you, it's better to opt for indirect light — that is, light that bounces off the ceiling or wall — as it's more soothing and calming than light that shines directly on employees.

6. Ditch the Open Plan

OK, so yes, this goes against everything that you've heard about open plans being great for collaborative work and productivity. But according to a recent study by Jungsoo Kim and Richard de Dear of the University of Sydney Faculty of Architecture, workers who were lumped together in an open floor plan often are less satisfied with their working environment, citing the lack of privacy — specifically "sound privacy" — as the reason.

If you need proof, just walk through every open plan office and count the pairs of headphones. Hardly anyone collaborates, because it's intimidating to talk to someone else when the whole office can hear your conversation.

  Image: Flickr,  Heisenberg Media

Image: Flickr, Heisenberg Media

If you must have an open floor plan, make sure there are plenty of private nooks or conference rooms available for people who want to have small meetings or to make a phone call, but don't want everyone in the office to hear them.

7. Up and At 'Em

Even the most well-designed office will make employees unproductive if they feel chained to their desks. Make sure that employees have the space to get up and take a walk occasionally, or maybe a lounge area where they can get a little work done without sitting in the same place all day.

An office environment goes beyond good design; it comes down to culture, in addition to whether or not your employees feel comfortable taking a 20 minute break to walk around for a mid-afternoon recharge.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

Image: Inkling

References

Casti, T. (December 28, 2013). 7 Design Tips for a More Productive Office. Retrieved on July 24, 2014 from Mashable. Link to website: http://mashable.com/2013/12/28/design-tips-productivity/#:eyJzIjoiZiIsImkiOiJfbnRhaTF1YXluMzJiZjR1OGpveWFjXyJ9

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