This is a recap of the Silicon Valley Code Camp panel of startup founders who explored what’s really involved in getting a technology startup off the ground in the “Working for Equity Startup CEO Panel.”
Working For Equity CEO Panel Members
- Tim Bonnemann: founder and CEO of Intellitics, Inc., a digital engagement startup based in San José, CA. Intellitics helps organizations apply technology to support, enhance and extend public participation and civic engagement processes. A native German, he’s been based in Silicon Valley since 2005.
- Rudy Hofmeister, PhD.: founder and CEO of H2Optx Inc., a food safety testing startup based in San Jose, CA. H2Optx Inc. develops spectroscopy hardware, biological assays, and mobile software to provide real-time testing solutions for food and drug processing applications that improve safety and decrease costs for consumers.
- Hope Hutman: founder of Projekt Media an immersive theater design studio. Projekt Media uses proprietary and everyday technology to introduce themes and ideas from the stage play as well as enable reciprocal social relationships between characters and audiences. We strive to expand the story world, deepen the audience experience in the theater and engage real community.
- Anne Kallus: founder of GearListed.com, a gear site where athletes recommend the best products in hiking, biking, and more. Anne is a former Product Marketing Director (Yahoo!) with an MBA from Duke. Before becoming an entrepreneur full time, she spent time as a Peace Corps volunteer, a adventure travel guide and a startup junkie.
- Sean Murphy of SKMurphy, Inc. moderated.
We handed out feedback cards to the 45 attendees and got a 40% response rate (18 returned). We asked them to rate the following on 5 point scale (the ratings all ranged from 3 “ok” to 5 “excellent”) with the average scores as follows
- Importance of Topic 4.3
- Content 4.1
- Quality of Speakers 4.2
We set out to foster a highly interactive discussion with the audience and after 30 minutes of presentation we spent the last 45 minutes in an active Q&A session. The five suggestions or observations that I found very useful from the panel:
- Anne Kallus suggested putting your 60 day business plan on a 3×5 index card as a way of maintaining focus. Her notes are on slide 30, she suggested that you outline the one problem you are trying to solve, who your customer is, and what success looks like in 30 and 60 days. This is so good I think I will use it as an exercise at the Bootstrapper Breakfasts.
- Rudy Hofmeister stressed the importance of a good job description (see slide 16) as the key to qualifying, interviewing, and recruiting the right people for you team. Rudy is a serial entrepreneur who helped Finisar scale from a few dozen employees to more than 3,000 and C8 Media grow from a small team to more than 200. He mentioned that he maintained a spreadsheet of all of his hiring decisions and he revisited his past mistakes and success periodically to refine his approach.
- Anne Kallus observed that determination can often trump current skill set for early team members, observing that her experiences in the Peace Corps and as an Adventure Guide did more to prepare her for the entrepreneurial roller coaster than any of her MBA courses.
- Tim Bonnemann talked about his experiences creating the Web Monday events in Silicon Valley and Germany and how orchestrating volunteer labor and cultivating community energy was good preparation for keeping his team together and on track. It also allowed him to build an extended group of colleagues he could call on for help and advice.
- Hope Hutman talked about increasing community involvement and engagement in theatre. Too often lately “community building” is synonymous with aggregating an audience for broadcast messaging and advertising. Her focus is to foster interaction among community members and deeper engagement with the plays’ substance. See for example slide 23 “what makes your life a living hell?” as a preparation question for a play based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead.