How can we?

I was recently asked about the growing momentum in Buffalo, NY, specifically as it relates to the startup community.  I commented that for the first time in a long time the voices asking “how can we?” are louder than the voices saying “we can’t.” In my experience that’s an entrepreneurial battlecry, and one that often follows closely after the voices saying “we can’t.” It’s just one of those things that separates entrepreneurs from the rest of society.

Earlier today I received a link to the video below. I watched it and glowed with optimism. Not surprising were the volume of comments that panned the idea.  Frankly, I’m certain that along the way the team who created this project was given the same criticisms.  I’m thankful for teams and people like those in the video.  I’m thankful for entrepreneurs (especially those who validate).  I’m thankful that the world is still full of people who press on, who ask the simple and powerful question “How can we?”



Let’s call it Pre-Signaling

I have a few quiet respites in my day (when I’m lucky) and tend to fill those with reading my favorite blogs from the likes of Fred Wilson, Brad Feld, David Cohen and a few others.  I enjoy the different styles and approaches each has to sharing their personal views on entrepreneurs and tech in general.  The thing that always leaves me smiling is when these authors and VCs start talking about the “gotta haves” in the universe.  I love that VCs are slow-pitching ideas for entrepreneurs to execute!  Hopefully entrepreneurs really let that sink in – that ideas are just multipliers of execution!

I wonder how powerful this kind of “pre-signaling” is in the entrepreneurial community.  It would be interesting to see the genesis of ideas that entrepreneurs are actively executing to understand what moved the needle from idea to execution (or from nothing to idea).

Execution wins, so if you have the team and you can execute, does it make sense to play in this playground where VCs say “would love to have it” and you get the chance to deliver?  If investors (some investors) wait for signaling, do entrepreneurs wait for pre-signaling?

Connections, not capital, the ultimate early-stage accelerator

I’m a fan of Steve Blank and his Lean Launchpad methods, which are the genesis of the very popular book (and movement) The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Both provide a framework for early and continuous validation to accelerate the decision to persevere or pivot.  Both also agree on a fundamental tenet of resources needed early in a startup’s life, and it’s not money, it’s a network.

It’s great to see an experienced entrepreneur seek out advisors and connectors who buy into what she’s doing.  The “why” is an emotional hook and when you find people who can get behind that, there’s no end to the advice, open doors, and other resources that can follow.  Good entrepreneurs understand that the investment of time from a strong network can catapult an early-stage company or idea much farther, much faster than a check.

Advisors and connectors act like multipliers; they will improve the reach and efficacy of your validation, learning and sales efforts.  They can help transform your team and your vision when it’s needed.  They bring the experience and outside perspective that can be so important for day-to-day gut checks.  They are so much more than a dollar figure.  They are worth more and they can do more for you early in your journey than money.

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Multiply your time and chances for success by seeking great advisors, mentors, and other connectors early and often! Eventually, they’ll even help you attract the capital you think you need early on.

Buffalo needs more ___________ to thrive.

I really enjoyed speaking last night at Startup Grind Buffalo, which was part of a larger event called Startup Scramble and also part of 43North Week.  The week culminates tomorrow with awarding $5 million to a handful of startups competing in 43North’s business plan competition.  All award recipients are committed to operating their businesses here in Buffalo, NY for at least the next 12 months, which is great for our growing entrepreneurial scene.

Last night I was asked what Buffalo needs in order to thrive and the answer was easy; more startups and entrepreneurs.  Silicon Valley Bank’s 2013 Startup Outlook report noted that 91% of software technology startups would hire additional staff this year.  As I said to the audience last night, we’re the engine that drives economic development and the momentum has never been greater here in Buffalo and upstate New York.  The cumulative effects of entrepreneurship are transformative, and our regional efforts to strengthen the ecosystem are starting to pay off.

This morning our local business paper published a story about the upcoming 43North award ceremony where VC and long-time Buffalo evangelist Jordan Levy says of the competition that brought in entries from 90+ countries around the world, “Success will breed more success, and that’s the objective here.”

So we’re riding pretty high these days in Buffalo.

When is it good enough?

I don’t have that answer, and you don’t either. I like educated guesses and informed opinions, but those come in second place to insights gathered from your users. These days, we’re all about validated learning by getting the most basic solutions to the market as fast as possible – the MVP model.

Joel G (Buffer CEO) and his team at Buffer get it. He built and tested MVP variants instead of creating the “perfect” solution right out of the gates. Check out his journey here:

I found this fantastic “wall art” at a local technology incubator here in Buffalo, NY called Z80 Labs. Investor Chris Sacca ( drew it during a visit a few years back. I’ll take the free advice from someone who knows a thing or two about bringing tech to market.

Ship it!
Advice from @sacca

So, is it ready? Yes, it is! And once you change it, it will be again.