You Be The Shark – BUzz Lab Kick-Off Event

“You Be the Shark” – a pitch competition organized by BUzz Lab on September 15th marked an exciting beginning to a promising semester this Fall. Attended by more than a hundred graduate and undergraduate students, alumni and faculty members, the event comprised of a one-minute pitch competition, a five-minute pitch competition and a networking hour over some hors d’oeuvres and drinks.
Professor Ian Mashiter started the event by introducing five innovative and promising startups to share about their business ideas in a one-minute pitch competition. The lineup included –
  • Company Wide
  • Movez
  • Printz
  • Earlier Care
  • Rase
Earlier Care won the competition by an astounding number of votes and an opportunity to represent Boston University at the Beantown Throwndown competition to be held on October 13, 2017.
Next on the agenda was the five-minutes pitch competition that comprised of each team giving a 5 minutes presentation followed by a 5 minutes round of Q&A from the audience.
An audience poll would decide on the winning team that would walk away with a USD5,000 prize money to support the startup. The lineup for this competition included –
  • Reggora
  • Involved
  • Company Wide
  • Rase
  • Movez
It was a close one and finally Company Wide claimed this victory!
Many thanks to all the start-up teams for their wonderful and inspiring performances!
Congratulations to the winning teams and everyone who attended in making this event a huge success!

2017 Cannabis Start-up Competition

BUVA Demo Day

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:

Announcing the Winners of PEMBA Case Competition 2017

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- Working with MassChallenge 

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.

What Entrepreneur Behavior Drives You Nuts?

Source: Seraf

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.

Click here to watch the video.

BUzz Lab Sponsorship: Nantucket Conference 2017

BUzz Lab Sponsorship: Nantucket Conference 2017
Every year, the BUzz Lab sponsors one BU student, or recent alum’s, conference fee for the Nantucket Conference.The Nantucket Conference is held every year in June and is a great networking opportunity for everyone from young entrepreneurs to CEO’s. The conference is designed to bring together a small group of creative and forward-thinking entrepreneurs, investors, technologists, and executives, and provide them with unique opportunities for exchanging ideas and networking in a relaxing, informal environment.
The Nantuket Conference attracts a wide variety of attendees, from journalists to venture capitalists and is part of a trio of conferences organized by Future Forward Events, LLC, together with, Future Forward: The New England Technology Summit and Convergence: The Life Sciences Leaders Forum.Nantucket gathers industry leading speakers from organizations like Google Ventures, Oracle and MIT for close encounters and interactive talksPast Speakers include:

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: if you have a business idea you are working on and are interested in applying for the BUzz Lab conference fee sponsorship.

Growing the company

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.

Top 21 Early Stage Investing Articles of 2016

Source: Seraf  Articles Selected by Seraf co-founders: Hambleton Lord and Christopher Mirabile.

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 LinkedInTwitterFacebook 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.

  1. Hiring, the Single Most Important Skill as a Founder by Moritz Plassnig
  2. A longtime VC on the virtues of not swinging for the fences by Connie Loizos
  3. Flying cars are closer than you think by Marc Andreessen
  4. Before You Grow by Sam Altman
  5. How to avoid the Series A crunch by Brock Benefiel
  6. Venture Capital is About Human Capital by Mark Suster
  7. It’s what you ask, not what you know by Dave Berkus
  8. The rise of the rest’: Why startup hubs outside Silicon Valley are built to last by Dino Vendetti
  9. MailChimp and the Un-Silicon Valley Way to Make It as a Start-Up by Farhad Manjoo
  10. Lessons scaling from 10 to 20 people by Joseph Walla
  11. Active vs Passive Investing by Fred Wilson
  12. Radical Candor — The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss by First Round Review
  13. Drew Houston of Dropbox: Figure Out the Things You Don’t Know by Adam Bryant
  14. There are Only 3 Pricing Strategies for Your Startup by Tom Tunguz
  15. How To Beat Michael Jordan At Sports by Brad Feld
  16. ‘Give Away Your Legos’ and Other Commandments for Scaling Startups by First Round Review
  17. Thoughts on building weatherproof companies by Lars Dalgaard
  18. How To Recoup Difficult Angel Investments by Marianne Hudson
  19. Onboard your Board by Fred Wilson
  20. Startups are Risk Bundles by Leo Polovets
  21. The Case Against Startups Raising As Much Money As Humanly Possible by Craig Shapiro and Morgan Housel

Hiring, the Single Most Important Skill as a Founder

Authour:Moritz Plassnig Source: Techstars Blog

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 gameInstagram 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.