July 03, 2018

Interviewing via video conference

IMG_7256
 
I want to share some thoughts I’ve had over the past month as Chris and I have interviewed candidates for our next Techstars Adelaide accelerator program.  We talked to many great founders about some really interesting ideas, but we also saw a lot of things that could have been improved in the interview process.  Here is a list of things to consider if you have to do an interview or even a sales call via video.
 
Let’s start with the basics - you need a high-speed internet connection.  If you don’t have it at home or in your workspace, take the time to find a place with reliable internet, otherwise, we are going to see frozen video and we will have trouble hearing you.  This is really important.  If we can’t hear you, or you can’t hear us, nothing else matters.
 
Think about the room you are in and what we will see from our side.  The best teams called in from a lab or a workshop.  Calling in from a coworking space or even your home office is OK, but not if we are getting distracted by lots of people walking around behind you.  If you are at home, please find someone to mind the dogs and family.  We love dogs and family, but if either of us is distracted by them, you aren’t going to come off as well as you could.
 
Make sure you look at your camera lens at least some of the time. That is the only time we really feel like you are talking to us directly.  The worst look is for you to be constantly looking over your laptop screen, scanning everyone who comes into your coworking space, making it look like we are really the distraction in the room.
 
If you must call in from your mobile phone, don’t walk around while you talk.  We appreciate that you are busy, and some of our best calls came from founders who were outside or in their cars, but don’t pace around while you talk.  We nearly got dizzy from one call, and again, look at your camera occasionally.
 
You should also be looking at our video occasionally for signs that we want to interrupt or perhaps that we’ve even stopped listening.  We don't do that very often, but if you just keep talking without a break it makes it hard for us to get through all of our questions.  It’s tough to break in if you don’t pause occasionally, and you need to see if we have follow-up questions or if perhaps you aren’t even answering the right question.
 
If you are working on hardware, show it to us.  Then it’s OK to get up and walk around.  One of our best calls was with a founder building a new type of sensor.  When we asked if the sensor could be used with aircraft, he stood up, panned the camera around and showed us the aircraft fuselage he and his team built in the workshop for testing!  We were very surprised, and very impressed.  Even a 3D printed model will help us understand what you want to build, just don’t try to pass it off as the real deal if it is just a model.  On the other hand, another founder showed us what we thought was a model, and it was only later that we realised it was actually a working version of the product so it goes both ways.
 
Be ready to talk as soon as your time arrives, and don’t wait until then to find out that you need to download and test a video conference client.  We understand technical problems happen, and we have backup plans.  Things happen, and we get it, but try to be on time and be prepared, and if you can’t, then let us know as soon as you realise you won’t be on time.  If we think the call isn’t important to you, it won’t be important to us.
 
Now for some bonus tips for applying to an accelerator, incubator or any other startup program.
 
If you are a startup, we get that you are early stage, but please get a domain and an email address.  At the very least put a signature in your email with your name and company name.  I receive lots of emails and it slows me down and doesn’t give a good impression if I have to figure out who Joeblow3432@gmail.com is before I can answer.  I also appreciate it if the subject line is something like “News and pitch deck from Mycompany” rather than a reply to one of my own mass emails like “Re: congratulations on making it to the top 80”.  You want to stand out from the top 80 and it begins right here.
 
If you have to fill out an application, do a good job, please.  Unanswered questions or answered questions that didn’t show much thought will hurt you.  If we ask, “Why are you applying?” don’t answer “Because we need the money.”  Also don’t run on and on with all the details about your company in the first answer.  It’s a balance.
 
Be sure and update your LinkedIn profile with your new company unless you really are in stealth mode. Telling me you are working full time on the business and then having it not show up when I start looking around doesn’t feel right.
 
Don’t claim to be bigger or better than you really are.  If you make a claim, we just might see if we can verify it.  I only work with people I trust.
 
If the application process allows you to upload a photo of yourself, strongly consider doing it.  We’re not profiling you but it does help us keep everyone straight in our minds as we talk to many founders.  At least put up an avatar so we can remember you.
 
Ask if you can send more information outside of the application.  We are happy to learn more about your company and while we may not answer every single email and we don’t want you spamming us, it does help us get to know you and your product.
 
In our process, we ask for a video of your team, and while we don’t expect great production values, we do hope you will let everyone at least say hello and show some of your team’s character.  Have a bit of fun with it.  We are trying to get a feel for who you are and if we would like to work with you.
 
Remember you are not out of the running until the program starts without you.  Keep showing you are interested and ready to participate right up until the end, because things happen and you might get your chance to join when someone else drops out or doesn’t get through due diligence.  And speaking of due diligence, if there is anything negative that might show up you want to come clean about it before due diligence.  If you wait for us to find it, it won’t be as good as if you take us aside and explain a youthful mistake or a failure you have learned from.
 
Last year I encouraged a company to apply to our program just for the experience of applying because we ask good questions and I thought it would be good practice for them.  It turns out they did great and got into the program and are now doing fantastic.  I hope this helps you get into your program!

July 3, 2018 in Entrepreneurship | Permalink

February 26, 2018

GigCity and beyond: Adelaide’s high speed, startup revolution

GigCity and beyond: Adelaide’s high speed, startup revolution

Terry Gold, Techstars Adelaide

 

While Silicon Valley was known as the only place where startup dreams were made, gone are the days when being based in the Bay Area - or even the United States - is necessary to become a successful tech company. Now, location is no longer number one. Getting a startup up and running is more about having a great team, a unique idea, the right contacts, and a high-speed internet connection.

Adelaide is lucky to be a place where you can find all of those things. It’s undergoing a transformation. In the last six months alone, the South Australian government has announced that it plans on creating a digital gaming development fund, has established a giant lithium-ion battery in partnership with Elon Musk, and this week announced that its GigCity project has had 16 new innovation precincts added to it - one of which I’m excited to say is Techstars Adelaide.

GigCity makes Adelaide one of the most connected cities in the Southern Hemisphere. The first of its kind outside the United States, the $7.6 million fibre network is connecting key innovation hubs to internet speeds 100 times faster than the national average. Where the Federal Government’s National Broadband Network has encountered challenges and changes to its speed and delivery, GigCIty is already enabling South Australian businesses to develop new ideas, products and services and bring them to the world through the fibre optic Australian Broadband Research and Education Network (SABRENet).

Just before I moved to Adelaide in 2016, I was living in Longmont, Colorado. The city was in the midst of a gigabit fibre network install for businesses and homes. The network was Fibre to the Premises, and cost $US49 per month for a Gigabit for downloads and uploads. On my first visit to Adelaide, I was shocked to see download speeds of just 1.6 megabits per second.

But, even as a massive consumer of data, I gladly made the move to Adelaide, because I believed that the city had the potential to be a regional startup capital. It’s Australia’s leading smart city, recognised for its enviable infrastructure projects and technology, and is also home to the nation’s first Internet of Things innovation hub – Adelaide Smart City Studio. And it’s a beautiful city with friendly people!

The week I arrived here, the city announced its intentions to become the first GigCity in Australia. Initially connected to 14 innovation sites including Tonsley, TechInSA, and Hub Adelaide, applications opened late last year to join these great spaces in the second round of sign-ups. I was so excited to be told last week that Techstars Adelaide’s application had been accepted and that we’d be joining 15 other connection points in the next stage of the rollout.

So what does it mean for Techstars Adelaide? As a global network, having a smooth internet connection is vital for what we do. Our last accelerator attracted applications from startups in 49 countries. These startups wanted to come to Adelaide to take their products to the next level. They need to be plugged into the world, and that means fast internet. Being able to match upload and downloads speeds at a global level is going to be of huge benefit to us and the people we work with. It makes Adelaide an even better place to base your startup.

It’s a necessity for our future Australian companies of to succeed, and if they don’t get it here, they will go somewhere else.  Australia needs to keep investing in the future, and the Gig City project is a great first step towards that. Having fast internet is not about streaming Netflix movies, it’s about enabling new technology businesses and keeping them from having to move elsewhere to get the infrastructure they need.  Adelaide and South Australia have made a vital step forward to making this an even better place to live and create new businesses.

 

February 26, 2018 in Australia, Entrepreneurship | Permalink

June 30, 2017

Why high-speed internet matters to the startup community

Gigabit_tram

In another post, I wrote about Brad Feld’s Boulder Thesis and how it relates to Adelaide.  In that post, I said that “Now you can start a tech company anywhere with a decent internet connection . . .”


I moved to Adelaide just over a year ago, and the first week I was here I was happy to see that Adelaide had declared it would become the first “Gig City” in Australia.  I moved here from Longmont, Colorado which was completing the installation of their gigabit fibre network to businesses and homes.  (Longmont is just up the road from Boulder and Denver).  As I was locking up the house to go the airport, the installer walked up the driveway to say they were ready to install my connection.  It was going to be fibre to the house, with 1 Gigabit speeds up and down, and it was going to cost $49 (US) per month.  I gladly gave that up for the chance to live in Adelaide.


Many people I’ve talked to either don’t know what it means to have a high-speed internet connection, or they just don’t think it’s needed.  The rest are pretty frustrated with the general state of the internet here and can’t wait for Adelaide to get the gigabit network going for all who need it.


Let’s start with how fast a gigabit really is.  I love this video because it graphically shows the difference between what many people in Australia and the US have and what’s possible with a gigabit network.


Usually though, when I’m talking to people about internet speeds I don’t have access to YouTube, so I’ve come up with an analogy.


I only have access to ADSL2+ at my home and I get about 2Mbs per second.  That’s 2 Million bits per second - sounds pretty fast right?  In Longmont, I was going to get 1,000 Million bits per second, so my speed here is 2% of what you can get in Longmont for about half the price.


I recently flew to Melbourne, and that took about two hours gate to gate.  If my plane had flown at 2% of that speed, it would have taken me 500 hours or almost three weeks to get to Melbourne!   It’s ironic that one of the local internet providers here is selling what they call high-speed internet with an image of a guy wearing an astronaut helmet in a lawn chair with balloons tied to it.  He’s no more going to space than they are selling actual high-speed internet connections.  (Google "limitless data plans have landed" if you want to see the image yourself - oh, and the gigabit in Longmont is for unlimited data as well.)


Some would say you don’t need a gigabit or even a fraction of that.  I know that plenty of people said that the aeroplane was a waste of time and money in the early days of flight and that the car was good enough and before that, the horse was good enough.  I’m sure some thought the expense of running power lines all over Australia and the USA was a waste of time and money because candles were “good enough.”


I am certain that one day we’ll feel the same way about the investments being made in the internet infrastructure.  High-speed internet isn’t just about being able to watch Netflix at home or reducing the time for a Facebook page to load.  The companies of the future and many of the present require actual high-speed internet.  If they don’t get it here, they will go somewhere else.  The US and Australia need to keep investing in the future, and that means gigabit and beyond.  I’m proud that Longmont did it, and that Adelaide is doing it now.

June 30, 2017 in Australia, Entrepreneur Essays, Entrepreneurship | Permalink

March 08, 2017

Wow, I'm the Managing Director for the new Techstars Adelaide

File 9-3-17, 12 27 47 am

Adelaide Oval and the River Torrens Karra wirra-parri

 

I'm going to keep this short because it's after midnight here in Adelaide, Australia and it's been a busy but fun day. By the time you read this it will have been announced that I am now the Managing Director of Techstars Adelaide.  I can hardly believe it myself, and there will be a blogpost on the techstars.com website soon about how this came to be.

I'll then come back here in the next day or two and fill in the details and add links to this post.  This will be the first Techstars accelerator in Australia and the Asia Pacific region and I'm feeling incredibly lucky to have this opportunity in this wonderful city.

More to come . . .

Terry

(Thank you Jana)

March 8, 2017 in Australia, Entrepreneurship | Permalink

January 05, 2017

Help me help you

A former salesperson from Gold Systems emailed me recently to comment on an article I had written and to say that he was starting his own company.  David Colliver is his name and his new company is Colliver Technology Group. He's helping companies get a handle on their sales support technology.

Years ago David was a sales person at my company.  I remember he heard me speak at the University of Colorado and he made it his business to get a job with us.  I liked his attitude and we hired him to be our newest sales person.  Besides being a likable person, the thing that stood out about David was how effectively he would ask for assistance.  Many sales people were too afraid to ask the CEO to help them with a deal.  I don't think I was that unapproachable unless I was starting to suspect that they couldn't sell.  I did my best to help without stepping on their toes and I always believed that if I went on a sales call, they were the leader and I was supporting them.  Dave got that and we had many enjoyable and profitable sales trips together.

The idea of "help me help you" came from me noticing that many of the salespeople (not Dave) would ask for help by sending me an email saying "Can you help me with a client?"  I would answer, "Sure, who's the client."  They would answer "Big Insurance Company."  I would respond, "Great, I would love to work with you to get the sale, what do you need me to do?"  They would answer, "Can you send an email to their VP of Whatever saying how much we want their business?  Me - "Sure, who are they"  Them - "Jayne Smith."  Me - "Ok, what's their email address?"  If it was tedious to read that, it was really tough for me and each of my responses would get slower.

Dave was different.  He would send me an email more like this:

Hey Terry, I'd like your help with a deal I'm working on with Big Insurance Company. I'm to the point where I would like to ask them for a meeting where we will go out together and try to close the sale, and I'd like you to send an email to Jayne Smith at Jayne@BigInsuranceCompany.com.  I want you to send something like this if you would please.  Feel free to put it in your own words.

    Hi Jayne,

    David Colliver who is your account representative at Gold Systems has told me that he is trying to set up a meeting at your headquarters to discuss our proposal.  I would love to join David on that trip so that I can meet you and answer any questions about how we'll take care of you as our customer.  I'm sure David has done a great job and I would like to now introduce myself and accompany him on his next visit with you at Big Insurance Company headquarters.  If that's OK, I'll ask my assistant Angela to help us coordinate schedules.

    Thank you and I look forward to meeting you!

    Regards,

    Terry Gold

(Back to Dave's voice here)  If that looks good to you Terry, just send the email, copy me and I'll work with Angela to make it happen.  I've also attached a copy of our latest proposal to this email in case you want to take a look.

Thanks!  -- Dave

Do you see the difference?  Rather than me having to drag every detail out of the salesperson over multiple emails, Dave made it extremely easy for me to help him.  He anticipated everything I would need to know, and in fact gave me more than I needed.  I could have looked in our CRM system for the contact's email and our proposal database for the document, but that would have taken me more time and might have delayed my response to Dave.  You see he was making it so easy to help him so that I just did it as soon as I read his email and gave him what he needed.  Dave was and is a nice guy but he did this to improve the odds of getting my help and making the sale.  I've always appreciated him for that, and I've told this story in many mentoring sessions.

So before you ask someone for help, take a lesson from Dave.  Anticipate what they need to know to help you, and give it to them clearly and concisely in a way that makes it easy for them to help you.

Dave, all the best with the new company!  I'm sure you will do a great job of anticipating your customer's needs and making it easy for them to buy from you.  

 

 

January 5, 2017 in Entrepreneurship | Permalink

November 03, 2016

Sidebar in UniSA Business Magazine

This month's UniSA Business magazine asked me to write a sidebar piece for an article on entrepreneurship.  I answer the question, "What three things do you need to start a business?"  You can check it out here if you want.  http://ow.ly/1W4e305m3fa  You can find the sidebar by looking at the top of the article for the "Further Reading" tab.

UniSA magazine

 

 

November 3, 2016 in Australia, Entrepreneurship | Permalink

September 20, 2016

Fail Good video with Brad Feld

This is one of many videos recorded of Brad Feld while he was visiting us at the Centre for Business Growth in Adelaide, Australia.  My Australian friends tell me that people here are much less tolerant of "failure" than in the US.  They say that you may not get to try again if something doesn't work here.  I'm not sure that's true, but it wouldn't be a healthy attitude for entrepreneurship if it was true.  I heard Brad say multiple times that he would invest in people who had "failed" as long as they were honest and learned from their experience.  We also talked quite a bit about what failure even is, or what a success is, and it's not just measured by return on investment.  That certainly is an important measure, but not the only measure.

 

Brad is being interviewed by Felicia Trewin from ANZ, who is one of our sponsors at the Centre for Business Growth.  They are great supporters of businesses and entrepreneurs!

If you would like to see more videos of Brad, check out his blog here at feld.com.  It was fun to spend a week with him here in Adelaide!  Thanks Brad!

September 20, 2016 in Blogging, Entrepreneurship | Permalink

June 15, 2016

My new job in Australia - From Longmont to Adelaide in less than three months

The story of how I ended up in Australia begins almost 20 years ago.  I was given a copy of a manuscript for a new book to be published called Leading at the Speed of Growth.  One of the authors was Dr. Jana Matthews and I knew she was a friend of Brad Feld’s and had been a leader at the Kauffman Foundation.
 
I read Leading at the Speed of Growth at a time when I was struggling as an entrepreneur.  We had grown the company, hired a lot of employees, moved into new space and I was not having fun.  Reading Jana’s book made me realise that I needed to change and grow as much as my company was changing and growing.  I decided I had to go from being the hands-on startup techie guy who liked to code, to an actual leader of a company.  Fortunately Jana lived in Boulder, and I was able to meet her and spend time talking about the concepts she had developed over the years working with high-growth companies.
 
We both still remember having breakfast together the day after the September 11th attacks.  Like everyone else we were still in shock but I felt better after that breakfast because Jana inspired me to focus on being a good leader and to be there for my employees.  After that, we got together regularly to talk about growing companies.  Often we talked about culture, core values and the challenges of growing as a CEO.  My assistant at the time sometimes suggested I get together with Jana whenever she noticed the stress of the job weighing on my shoulders - it was that obvious that Jana was helping me cope and learn.
 
Jana is often introduced as a “Global Thought Leader” and she earned that title by literally going all over the world to work with CEOs and their teams.  She traveled to Australia to work with growth companies, and soon helped found an accelerator for startups with growth potential.  I had been a mentor at the Boulder Technology Incubator and at Techstars, so Jana called me up and invited me to visit Adelaide and be a mentor to their first cohort of entrepreneurs.
 
I fell in love with Adelaide, and as Jana likes to quote, I said, “How can you miss a place you didn’t even know existed until a few week ago?”  I was fortunate to be invited back for the third cohort, and enjoyed working with Jana and being in Adelaide even more.  When I heard that Jana had become the Director of the Centre for Business Growth at the University of South Australia, I wondered if I might be so lucky as to get a third visit back to Adelaide to work with her again.
 
In October of 2014, Jana invited me to come down and be a “Visiting Growth Entrepreneur” but I was in the midst of getting Launch Longmont started and I reluctantly declined.  On March 5th, 2016 I emailed Jana to say that I was done with Launch Longmont and that Cindy and I were thinking about a trip to New Zealand.  Instead of getting vacation tips back, Jana called me a few hours later to ask me to consider coming to Australia for a year (at least!) to be the “Growth Entrepreneur in Residence” at the Centre.  I've now joined Jana, a growing group of researchers and managers, and other CEOs/mentors to help grow companies in South Australia and beyond.
 
In less than three months we went from thinking about “what’s next” to living in Adelaide, Australia.  I am so grateful to Jana for making all of this possible and I’m honoured to be working with her and the team.  When I first read Leading at the Speed of Growth, I never imagined how far it might take me!
 
 
 

June 15, 2016 in Australia, Entrepreneurship | Permalink

April 29, 2016

It's Official, I'm off to Australia!

My Work Visa was approved this week, so it's official - I'm moving to Adelaide Australia!  We've given notice on the rental house that we've been in this past year in Longmont since we sold our house in Boulder, and now it's just a matter of packing up stuff into storage and getting on the plane on May 25th.  That gives me less than a month to do a lot of organizing, donating and saying goodbye to many friends and family.  

At times it is a little overwhelming to think about, but mostly it is just exciting to consider how lucky I am.  I'm going to get paid to hang out with entrepreneurs who are growing interesting companies in a country that every single person I know has said they wished they could visit.  Adelaide, the city where I'll be living, isn't as well known as larger cities like Sydney but it is listed in the top ten most livable cities in the world and I can't wait to start exploring!

I'll do updates to this blog in the future about what it's like to make a move half way around the world, and about the great people and companies that I know I will encounter in the process.  If you want to get email updates, you can sign up to be notified whenever I do a new post or just check back occasionally.

Hawke_Building,_UniSA

Hawkes Building, photo courtesy UniSA.

For more on my move check out this post: http://www.terrygold.com/t/2016/03/life-after-part-2-big-news.html

 

April 29, 2016 in Australia, Entrepreneurship | Permalink

March 22, 2016

Life After, Part 2 - Big News!

A lot has happened since my last blog post, which was just over a year ago.  We closed the doors to Launch Longmont on February 29th this year.  The coworking space was a success in that we brought in some great members and had a positive impact on the community, but construction that was supposed to be started and done in three or four months never got past the demolition point.  Because of the delay we decided to shut it down.
 
And now for Part 2 . . .
 
JSbuilding
(Jeffrey Smart Building, University of South Australia - photo courtesy UniSA)
 
So you know how everyone tells you “when one door closes, another one opens?”  I am living proof.  Last week I received an offer to spend a year as the Growth Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of South Australia, in Adelaide.  UniSA is in the top 3% of QS World University Rankings, and the UniSA Business School ranks in the top 1% globally.  Wow!  There are over 36,000 students and yet the University was just founded 25 years ago.
 
Australia Map
 
After a quick trip over to observe and look for a place to live, Cindy and I will be moving there sometime at the end of May, and I’ll be starting in my new position June 1st.
 
I will miss Longmont, and I will have to resign as President of Startup Longmont.  I’m very proud of all the people who have made this organization what it is.  When I arrived in town about a year and a half ago, the Startup Longmont Meetup had just over 30 members.  Yesterday we added our 800th member, and earlier in the month we became a real 501(c)(3) non-profit.  It has been my pleasure to work with all the people of Longmont, and though I will be half a world away soon, I will always be a Startup Longmont member!
 
TGS Banner
 
I also won’t be the “Resident Entrepreneur” at the Temple Grandin School for at least the next year, but perhaps my new title can be Entrepreneur At Large or some such thing, as I do plan to stay involved.  The great staff and students have been a highlight of my past year and I am proud to remain a supporter of their work.  Although I will be 17 1/2 time zones away, I plan to occasionally occasionally call into Entrepreneur Thursday Morning Meeting.  If you are in Boulder on April 4th, check out the Meeting of The Minds, it's going to be a great event, or let me know if you would like an introduction to the great people at the Temple Grandin School.
 
My plan is to spend as much time with friends and family over the next two months while getting rid of stuff and then packing up what's left for storage.  We’re going over with two suit cases each and a big smile on our faces!  (And my mandolin of course - I'm sure I can find a bluegrass jam in Adelaide!)
 
Update March 23, 2016
 
So far I think everyone I've told about this has either said they would visit me in Australia, or they asked me to take them with me when I go.  I'm not surprised, everyone I know is fascinated by Australia and would love to visit.  The long plane ride scares most off, but it's really not that bad.  (Ask me again after I've done it twice more)
 
Some people don't grasp the size of Australia, so I found this graphic to help from the Australian Government's Geoscience webpage.
 
Australiasize
 
It is both the "smallest continental land mass, (and) it is the world's largest island."
 
This very cool map created by someone (wish I could find their name!) at The Guardian shows the population distribution of the country.  It looks like there are a lot of people on the coasts until you look at the map key.  Most of the people do live on the coasts, but even so it is not a crowded place unless you are in one of the city centers.  Check out the article and other maps here at The Guardian.
 
AustraliaPopulationMapTheGuardian
 
 Since so many of you have said you'd like to follow me down to Australia, here is a website I've found that has been helpful as I start to get my bearings.
 
 BobInOz
And here is one of Bob in Oz's maps of the Australian States, and a link to information about each one to help you decide where you want to live!
 
States-map
 
 
 

March 22, 2016 in Australia, Entrepreneurship | Permalink | Comments (2)