BUVA is a student-run organization started at Boston University to help students and alumni build their startups in the best environment possible. From 2012, BUVA has helped tens of startups at BU develop their ideas, and the program pairs them with resources that they need.
The BUVA program runs every semester, for eight weeks and follows a rigorous curriculum covering from the very basics of market validation, to creating a startup’s first business model and financials. The program welcomes 8-10 ventures and assigns project management teams to help achieve their goals.
The capstone event of BUVA is the Demo Day. An opportunity for the ventures to show the audience what they’ve been working on throughout the semester. A lot of people are invited, including fellow students and friends, BU professors and mentors, individuals from the Boston startup ecosystem, entrepreneurs and more. Demo Day serves as a venue for the startups to connect and network, and receive feedback from experts. Each venture presents their startup in a 5-min pitch with a slide presentation and received a short Q&A after.
The most recent Demo Day was hosted at the Terrace Lounge at George Sherman Union of BU and welcomed about 60 guests. The atmosphere was vibrant and everyone was excited to hear the ventures pitch. The 5 finalists of the program, Hobbe, Involved, Ranam, RASE and POP had worked really hard throughout the entire semester to perfect their pitch and be able to answer questions. And they didn’t fail to impress– the pitches were received positively and applauded by many.
A highlight of Demo Day was the guest speaker, Nikolas Onoufriadris, a successful Boston entrepreneur and consultant who shared with the guests his experiences as an immigrant to the US and his persistence to become successful and do what he wants. The guest speaker and the ventures were thanked with a symbolic gift in the end for their contribution to the program.
BUVA is looking forward to a new semester full of activities and yet another rigorous program. They’re currently recruiting for their Spring program, so check out their website for more information: http://buventureaccelerator.org/
Kicked off on Jan.17th, multiple teams, each with their own mentor, would ultimately be developing 2-3 strategic recommendations for Sleepbox, including thoughts on implementation.
What’s the difference between a business incubator and an accelerator? Do all graduating businesses thrive? How do you define “success?” What is the cohort network really worth? Working with MassChallenge.
Seraf Co-Founder Christopher Mirabile interviews several experienced angel investors from around the country to ask: What Entrepreneur Behavior Drives You Nuts? Hear from leading angels why they avoid working with entrepreneurs who lack integrity, don’t listen, aren’t coachable, and won’t stop pitching.
Mark Hurd | Oracle
Rich Miner | Google Ventures
Eric Hadley | Pinterest
Brian Tilzer | CVS Caremark Corp
Eric Hellweg | Harvard Business Review
Last June, we sponsored Cameron Montague who gave us this feedback:”The Nantucket Conference was a great opportunity to learn from a small group of extremely smart and successful entrepreneurs. The conference is small and tight knit, which provides ample opportunity to network with the heart of the Boston tech start up community. If you are lucky enough to attend the conference, be sure to utilize the weekend to not only soak up the information that is presented, but also to network and market yourself. The value in the conference truly lies within the networking opportunities provided. Personally, the experience was a highlight of my time at BU – but it is truly up to the selected student to make the most of the opportunity!“Click this link to find out more about the conference: http://nantucketconference.comPlease contact Sarah Lorkin: firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a business idea you are working on and are interested in applying for the BUzz Lab conference fee sponsorship.
To start with a great 2017, let us hear BUzz Lab entrepreneur fellow Dr. Martin J. Steinmann’s advice on how to grow your company and market your way to success.
Download the slide here: Growing the company.
Seraf publishes industry leading materials on all aspects of early stage investing. But we also curate great pieces from the best and brightest in our industry to help you expand your angel education. Because we curate across many platforms, (you can follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+) we have established an annual tradition of bringing you the best angel investing articles of the year, handpicked by our co-founders Hambleton Lord and Christopher Mirabile.
As we look back on 2016, here is a selection of the most interesting and informative pieces we read. From human capital to flying cars, from startup risk to board directors, from scaling your business to avoiding the Series A crunch, we salute the authors and hope this collection provides insights to make 2017 the best year yet.
- Hiring, the Single Most Important Skill as a Founder by Moritz Plassnig
- A longtime VC on the virtues of not swinging for the fences by Connie Loizos
- Flying cars are closer than you think by Marc Andreessen
- Before You Grow by Sam Altman
- How to avoid the Series A crunch by Brock Benefiel
- Venture Capital is About Human Capital by Mark Suster
- It’s what you ask, not what you know by Dave Berkus
- ‘The rise of the rest’: Why startup hubs outside Silicon Valley are built to last by Dino Vendetti
- MailChimp and the Un-Silicon Valley Way to Make It as a Start-Up by Farhad Manjoo
- Lessons scaling from 10 to 20 people by Joseph Walla
- Active vs Passive Investing by Fred Wilson
- Radical Candor — The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss by First Round Review
- Drew Houston of Dropbox: Figure Out the Things You Don’t Know by Adam Bryant
- There are Only 3 Pricing Strategies for Your Startup by Tom Tunguz
- How To Beat Michael Jordan At Sports by Brad Feld
- ‘Give Away Your Legos’ and Other Commandments for Scaling Startups by First Round Review
- Thoughts on building weatherproof companies by Lars Dalgaard
- How To Recoup Difficult Angel Investments by Marianne Hudson
- Onboard your Board by Fred Wilson
- Startups are Risk Bundles by Leo Polovets
- The Case Against Startups Raising As Much Money As Humanly Possible by Craig Shapiro and Morgan Housel
The longer I’m involved in Codeship (the company I co-founded), the more other founders I mentor, the more I’m convinced that people and a great team is the lifeblood of a fast growing startup. I would even go so far as to say that people are the foundation of every organization, big or small, high-tech startup or huge corporate juggernaut. But the startup world is unique in its constraints and also in its opportunities and thus, the emphasis on building a great team is more important at a startup than in any other organization.
There’s no such thing as overnight success, as much as countless books and movies try to portray well-known entrepreneurs as geniuses. Success is the product of a variety of factors, hard work as much as great and unique skills, the perfect timing and elements outside your control, such as luck. The more you as a founder, CEO or leader can remove the latter from the equation, the better off you and your team will be.
Building a great culture, hiring skilled individuals and forming an amazing team out of it allows you to make your own luck. It’s a lot of hard work but it’s within your control.
Investors Invest in People, Not Ideas
As much as you like your idea and believe that the market conditions are perfect, the truth is that most companies will change and adapt their product down the road. The founding vision of Slack was to build a game, Instagram started out as a Foursquare-like check-in app called ‘Burbn’ and you all know the story of Twitter being a side product of a podcast platform. What all those companies had in common was a strong team that was able to take new ideas and build new products until they were the success they are today. The people working at those companies were able to adapt and change and build a great product. Maybe your company won’t pivot completely, but you will learn, adapt and improve, as you gather feedback from your customers. And the more feedback you incorporate, the better you get.
The ability to do that, to listen to the small feedback between the lines, knowing when to stay stubborn and when to adapt is one of the most important and hardest to learn skills for a founder.
Great investors, angels and VCs, know that and despite the importance of a potential big market, an important enough to be solved problem, the team is the key reason why they will eventually invest.
Early On, Every Hire is Crucial
Summarizing a successful startup in one sentence is simple: Great people build great products, get great customers and eventually will build a great company. As simple as it sounds, doing it right is incredibly difficult. You will face a lot of challenges in the early days of your company and the more successful you are, the bigger your team gets, the harder it gets to keep your team members aligned and your company on track. The one thing that you should keep in mind is that at the end of the day, everything, good or bad is caused by the people in your team. Empowering your team and getting out of the way is key but it’s only possible if you hire the right people.
Small companies don’t have the luxury of making a lot of mistakes. You are always resource constrained, both money and people, and despite not having enough you have to build a great product, nail the distribution and find a viable business model. This can all work out great if you did your job well and found great co-workers, but it can also go sideways instantly if you did a poor job. Nothing is more dangerous for an early-stage startup than one bad hire, one person who isn’t a culture fit or who is simply not good enough at their job. Even if you together resolve the situation fast, you will get distracted, most probably won’t build a great product during that time and lose a lot of time.
Bad hiring is one of the most risky and costly mistakes you can make in a startup.
Great People Attract Great People
Nothing is more attractive for talented job seeker than a team full of really skilled co-workers. Despite all the potential problems of a bad hire, the huge upside if you do it right is tremendous. With every great person that you can convince to join your team, your team gets better and it will also get easier to attract the next person. Hiring is a self-fulfilling prophecy and therefore gets simpler over time. The hard part obviously is to get everything started. How to hire the first employee if you don’t have an amazing team that everybody is talking about?
Solving this chicken-egg problem is crucial for getting your company off the ground. The good news is that you already have a team, even before your first hire. You and your co-founder(s) are already a team (which is one of a countless long list of reasons why you shouldn’t found a company alone). You found your first follower, you did the hard first step already. Maybe, you even managed to get a small investment or you convinced somebody to be your advisor. You will have a team long before you have hired for first employee, although it might not feel like that.
Culture is More Than the Sum of Every Team Member
Even if you hire only smart individuals, despite their respective skillsets you won’t automatically create a high-performing team. Great teams are generally a group of amazing individuals mixed together in the right way. The glue between the outstanding senior engineer and the young up and coming designer, the magic that makes sales work well with product is having the right culture.
Culture is not about free food, nice X-mas parties or other perks. It’s about shared values and beliefs, the common ground of every discussion and the bigger reason why you are all working on the same idea.
Great culture makes you win, great culture will help tremendously to survive tough times. Having a great culture will simply make you feel that it’s easy to build a successful company.
The importance of culture heavily impacts your hiring. Every single person you bring on in the early days changes your culture, in a good or bad way. Figuring out if somebody is a culture fit, if somebody is the right person for your team instead of finding the best person is crucial. Although culture is defined by your team, by every single individual, you still have to work hard on it and you won’t get it automatically by hiring right.
Your job as a leader is to facilitate discussions, offer a vision and set the guard rails. Nothing defines culture more than actions and your team can’t take any actions if you don’t provide the guidance they need.
Cultural fit is really important for every new hire but it’s only working if your culture is great. That won’t be the case all the time. You will face times where your culture starts getting sideways, where you can’t be as proud of your company as you wish you could be. Especially in those moments it’s important that you critically challenge the status quo. What’s great, what’s broken? If your culture is broken and you’re blindly hiring with an emphasis of culture fit, your culture will actually get worse. You can’t use your culture as a safeguard if it’s broken.
As much as great people, a great culture attract more great people and can result in a better culture, as much as it can go into the opposite direction. Be aware of your own bias.
Hiring is a Skill and It Should Be Your Most Important One
Hiring is not magic, it’s not luck, it’s a skill. Some people are better with it from their first job on, others not. Maybe you are but if not, you can learn it and even if you do great right now you should still work hard every day to improve. The faster you figure out if somebody fits into your team, the faster you can evaluate the skills of an applicant, the better it’s for you and your company. Even more important in today’s hiring market, the better you are in convincing people to join your team, in selling your vision, the better people will eventually work for you. Again, it gets easier over time to more great people are working for you.
It’s important to understand that it’s not just about you interviewing a candidate. You have to design a hiring process that involves your team, that gives the candidate a lot of opportunity to evaluate you as well. Every growing company faced the same challenge and you can learn a lot from the best practises of the industry, from companies that did a great job with hiring and also from companies who failed. Luckily, now more than ever, startups are willing to share their journey starting with small insights and some tactical advice as far as being completely transparent like Buffer. Take the opportunity and learn from those companies and their failures and successes.
Don’t forget that you are always hiring. It doesn’t matter if you are doing a job interview in your office or if you are at a friends party. You are always leaving an impression, if you want or not. Maybe you aren’t looking for anybody right now but you surely will in the future. Or at your next job or company.
Making sure that you always have a big pool of great people to work with will set you up for success — and since it’s all about the people, it will make the difference between being successful or not. Always be hiring.
Author: Ergeta Muca
“The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.” — Alan Alda
Pretend you are sitting in a room full of artists, designers, photographers, scientists and entrepreneurs. Then ask them who’s the most creative among them. Who will raise their hand first? The artist, the scientist, the entrepreneur? The artist will say they’re the most creative because they’re able to, “bring a visual to life”. The scientist will claim to be creative because they turn, “complicated things into usable ones”. The entrepreneur will say they’re creative because they, “turn ideas into valuable and tangible businesses”. Who is right? What if, they’re all right?
When I heard about the Art & Ideas Symposium that was happening on campus, I thought: finally something that merges what I love the most, art and business! But I still had some questions. How would they find the sweet spot? How can you bring together people who might be biased towards either side? But I decided to give it a shot, so I attended.
And I was amazed. The Symposium was all about passion, social movement and collaborative innovation. Surrounded by people of different backgrounds: artists, professors, business people, community outreachers, all mixed together at the tables, listening to keynote speakers and discussing .
The Symposium was comprised of a great variety of speakers, including CEOs, founders, artists and more. They all shared their stories and explained what had made them lead the companies they’re part of now. They addressed inspirational and provocative questions and gave the audience a lot to think about.
According to these leaders, art is about empowering communities. Liz Powers, co-founder of ArtLifting, a startup which empowers artists living with homelessness or disabilities through the celebration and sale of their artwork, shared two artist’s stories. The first artist, Scott, had hit rock bottom when he lost his job, his wife got sick and he became homeless, but he found resurrection in art. Scott was encouraged to take up art in a more serious manner, creating beautiful masterpieces and now he even holds keynote speeches. On the other hand, Eric, a disabled man empowers his wheelchair by turning it into an art medium. He puts canvas cloth underneath it, attaches the colors to its wheels and moves around as the wheelchair forms the shapes and lines he wants. Both these artists’ create very contemporary, abstract and evocative art that can be found on http://www.artlifting.com/collections/original-paintings.
A very interesting approach to art was offered by Athenahealth, which through its practices aims to connect art to business by means of design. According to Scott Mackie, Executive Director of Strategy Design, design helps solve rational and emotional user problems. He shared the thought that hospitals and healthcare spaces should be beautiful places, because “beauty heals”. He believes that beauty can heal all sorts of businesses and he put forward 3 ways in which design/art can accomplish thist:
- Design can help people engage (ex: designing manuals)
- Design should inspire and educate
- Design can infuse
Scott believes that Athenahealth’s practices so far have fully embraced the above mentioned principles. The products and services they offer focus on functional and artistic design to make people’s lives easier and better.
To Malia Lazu, EpiCenter Community’s Director, art is about addressing unconscious bias. The EpiCenter Community is an accelerator that accepts young individuals, mostly from the black people community in the city. Malia Lazu led a very heart-felt discussion, in which she emphasized the importance of artists as, “keepers of truth” and “recognizers of freedom”. Through her community she wants to empower people of different abilities to express themselves and feel part of the same environment. For this reason, EpiCenter is hosting a fashion and disability event on February 2017. This will be a high end event, which will showcase fashion pieces that cater to special body types.
Jason Talbot, co-founder of Artists for Humanity, is doing something incredible for young kids: he’s educating them through art. Artists for Humanity provides space, education and mentorship to kids from low income families. Through their programs, they teach kids about design, art and architecture and connect them to real-life projects, in which they build furniture and create paintings, which then are sold to corporations and companies. Jason is truly engaged with his community– he goes on field trips with the kids and helps them understand that education and creativity is more important than anything else. Check out Artists for Humanity here: http://afhboston.org/
Question fearlessly, innovate relentlessly: this was the motto that David Delmar, founder of Resilient Coders, brought to the Symposium. David, a BU CFA alumn, brought his idea to MassChallenge, where he ended up winning big. He had a clear idea of going “lean”, which would give his project the opportunity of building, measuring and pivoting whenever possible. He taught his users to question things, and empowers his staff to innovate.
IDEO’s design director Nick DuPey was the last speaker of the “Ignite Inspired Presentations”. A very cool individual, dressed in “startup chic”, sleeves up and showing some creative tattoos, he was all about human centered design. IDEO was given the major project of revamping the Boston.gov website, and his team worked on this by focusing on what brings human centered design together: the merging of viability, feasibility and desirability. They got rid of layers of information in the website, and made things very user friendly and visually appealing. According to DuPey, an important component of human centered design is feedback, so they made sure they received that throughout the entire process (and they still do!). Their project was very successful. Check it out yourself here: https://www.boston.gov/
Overall, the Symposium was an eye opening event that brought me back to my artistic roots and also introduced me to the plethora of applications that art can have in our lives. Being a business student, I always seek to find direct applications of things. I came away from the Symposium knowing that art will follow me no matter where I am and that brings me a lot of comfort. I learned how empowering art can be used to bring communities together and change lives. How useful art is in designing better products and services, thus leading to better customer experience. Finally, I learned how important it is to break the bubble that you’re in and always talk to people from backgrounds very different from yours. You get to learn things you never thought you would.