Jim Harrer


Discussion on startups. Discussion will include organizational development, customer development and product development.

Why everyone should experience a startup weekend.

Why everyone should experience a startup weekend.

I had the opportunity to attend a startup weekend here in my hometown of Bend, Oregon. In 54 hours, I watched 30 ideas, turn into 7 concepts that developed 7 companies including 7 websites, facebook pages and twitter feeds.  Each team conducted interviews with potential customers and defined their first release backlog for their Minimal Viable Product (MVP), embracing the Lean Startup principles discussed by author Eric Ries. Each team also created business models to help them understand their potential revenue opportunities, cost of goods sold, SG&A and profit potentials.  On Sunday night at 6pm, just 48 hours later, these new companies presented their five minute pitch deck to a group of judges.  One company had secured it's first paying customer, and another company was invited into a local World Market to test their homemade Venezuelan chocolates in the store. These teams gained an amazing amount of traction over the weekend. In this blog post, I plan to share some of the lessons learned from the weekend and how they can be applied to your startup.

I had heard of Startup Weekends being held in other cities, but I didn't give it a lot of thought.  Honestly, the idea of spending my entire weekend coaching teams didn't sound like a lot of fun.  Boy was I wrong.  Not only was it a ton of fun, it was insightful, rewarding and energizing. Let me explain...

Startup Weekend Bend OregonWhat is Startup Weekend you ask?

Startup Weekend is a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities to turn a pitch into a startup. These are 54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers, business strategist and past Founders (acting as coaches), come together to share ideas, form teams, build products and launch startups.

Some people assume Startup Weekend is a tech driven event solely for software programmers, like a hack-a-thon, they're not. Startup Weekend draws a wider audience with broader skills: sales, marketing, business development managers, finance, UX/UI, web, CSS, data architects, past founders and current CEOs, CFOs, VCs and a handful of experienced Angel investors.  Add these skills early on, when the MVP is being defined, changes the  typical focus on "product development" to "customer development", asking some tough questions, early. Like, "Who is our customer, what is their persona, and how much would they pay to have this product or service?"  Add in the 54 hour time box around the event, you also bake in a real sense of urgency to move quickly into customer discovery.

What happened at Startup Weekend – Bend, Oregon.

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5 Great Startups in Bend, Oregon. A Startup Friendly City.

Bend Oregon EntrepreneurBend, Oregon, is a great place for entrepreneurs. Located in the center of the state, east of the cascade mountain range which provides year-round recreational activities (snow skiing, hiking, fishing and mountain biking) and collects most of the rainfall Oregon is known for. For example, Bend averages just 11.4 inches of rainfall each year and records 295 days of sun shine. This is far better than Portland's 43.5 inches of rain and 200 days of blue skies. The pure beauty of the area, pleasant weather, and year-round activities make it a great place to live. The friendliness of the people in the community make it the best place I’ve ever lived.

I’m not alone, about 76,000 people agree. What many people don’t know is, Bend has an active mentor community filled with successful executives from every industry. Technology, medical, oil & gas, education, legal, software, fashion, film, theatre and sports, just to name a few. We have a lot of 50 “something” retirees who live in the area, looking for worthy startups to mentor. This past saturday I met a retired Navy SEAL commander who is volunteering his time to help as a project manager.  "Failure is not an option" has a totally different meaning for him.  He's impressive and so are all of the other mentors I have come to meet and now call friends. 

With the help of EDCO and the leadership of Roger Lee and Jim Coonan, we’re starting to see these mentors organize. It started as an excel spreadsheet of local “Stable of Experts”, a list of people who are willing to help entrepreneurs in the area, often for no-charge. Now we have our Bend Venture Conference and the VentureBox business accelerator joining the ecosystem.

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with five startups in Bend, Oregon. All were in our VentureBox business accelerator program. We met each Wednesday (3pm-8pm), for 12 straight weeks.  The founders, working with local mentors develop their business strategy using customer development and other lean startup principles. These companies have taken off and are now seeking business and strategic partners, customers (beta testers and early adopters) and angel investors. 

Here are 5 great startups in Bend, Oregon.

JettStream, Inc. (http://JettStreamInc.com)JettStream-Logo-300pxl

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Details on the CrowdFunding aspects of the 2012 JOBS Bill.

crowdfunding-1Yesterday, President Barack Obama signed into law the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS), a measure that includes U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet's "crowdfunding" amendment, easing securities regulations in a variety of ways with the goal of aiding small businesses. Many of us have been pushing for easing the requirements needed for startups to raise initial seed money from the public.

In the past several years, the term “CrowdFunding” has been kicked around. The website Kickstarter is jumped out as the clearer in the space creating a marketplace for startups and users to barter startup capital for products or other incentives, other than equity.

It’s always amazed me that anyone could go to Las Vegas and invest $1,000 on the craps table, yet if that same person wanted to invest $1,000 in a startup, they needed to be an accredited investor, meaning you must make $200,000k a year (for the past 3 years) or have a liquid net worth of $1 million or more. The JOBS Act removes this barrier.

Now for the first time in the United States the average Joe Investor (non-accredited) can make investments based on their income or net worth. Companies will be able to raise up to $1 million in a 365 day period.  There are some requirements we know about already, they include:

  • Companies must provide CPA reviewed tax returns or audited financials based on the amount they raise, here is the breakdown:
    1. Less than $100K: You are required to provide your income tax returns and have your financial statements certified by your CEO.
    2. $100K to $499K: Your financial statements will need to be reviewed by a public accountant.
    3. $500K to $1 Million: You will need to provide the investors with audited financials.
  • Companies must have a defined communication plan to communicate with its investors. Since investors can’t look up a stock symbol to get their news, another plan must be developed.
  • No single investor invests more than a specified amount in the offering, namely:
  1. The greater of $2,000 or 5% of the annual income or net worth of the investor, as applicable, if the investor has annual income or net worth of less than $100,000; or
  2. 10% of the annual income or net worth of the investor, as applicable, if either the annual income or net worth of the investor is equal to more than $100,000, capped at a max of $100,000 invested.
  • The websites offering CrowdFunding services must register with the SEC as a Registered Broker or “Funding Portal”.

There are a lot of additional conditions, including background checks on the issuer. For a complete list, check out CrowdSourcing.Org

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This Week In Startups - A weekly dose of startup insight.

This Week In Startups - A Damn Good Show!

If you have missed the first couple hundred shows, like I have, don't sweat it. They're all online. I actually subscribe to their iTunes podcast, and have been catching up on them while I hike with my dog Morgan. The last couple weeks have been remarkable, however, if you truly want to have fun, listen to some of the old tapes from 2009 and it will confirm just how fast our tech industry changes.

This Week in... is a web television network covering a wide variety of topics from tech to entertainment. Produced out of our Culver City studios, the shows feature guest experts, founders, movie stars, comedians, technologists and CEO’s — all keeping you up to speed on what’s happening this week with a fast and funny style. Informative and entertaining, ThisWeekIn is the place for whatever your interests may be.

The company was founded by Jason Calacanis (co-founder of Weblogs, SVP AOL, CEO of Mahalo), actor Kevin Pollak and Mark Jeffrey and is based in Culver City, CA.

I've been listening and occasionally watching some of the Podcast and have found them informative, educational, insightful and entertaining. Jason Calacanis is an excellent host with an amazing memory. If you're an entrepreneur or angel investor, especially if you don't hang out at all the startup events, you'll want to catch this show each week.


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