Friday, January 13, 2012

12 Lessons Learned from 4 Award-Winning Startup Entrepreneurs

On Thursday, January 12th, 2012 the Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum (UVEF) invited four of the Top 25 Under 5 award winners from 2011 to share some of the lessons they've learned while starting, building, and growing their business. I had the privilege of working with the four entrepreneurs who came to present and facilitating the crowd forum format for their presentations and Q&A.

Each entrepreneur had about 2.5 minutes to present the basic vitals on their business, their customers, and the competitive landscape in which they operate. Then they had 45 seconds to describe the first lesson learned followed by almost three minutes of comments, questions, and dialogue with the crowd. This was repeated for the second and third lesson learned, after which the next entrepreneur would get up and follow the same format. Here is the slide show we used:

Since I was interacting with each entrepreneur as they presented, I was not able to take notes. However, during the event we asked attendees to tweet the lessons learned using the #uvef hashtag, so I am going to try and use the twitter feed to reconstruct the list of three lessons from each presenter.

Ryan Kohler, CEO of iApplicants (#14 Top 25 Under 5)
  1. Listen to your customers
  2. Build your own competitive advantage
  3. Take ownership of lead generation
Notable comments captured on Twitter during Ryan's presentation:
  • @MyZacAttack: Know who your target market is before launching a company
  • @TaleSpring: iApplicants competes with paper. C'mon! It's 2012 already! Quit accepting paper applications
  • @Caleblight: Listening is the best way of connecting with your customers.
  • @parkerboyack: don't waste your time focusing on your competition!
  • @utahguy: interesting approach to selling tech today - "it's better than paper"
  • @brandtpage: build competitive advantage & "bootstrap"
  • @Agility_Media: put your head down and go to work
  • @utahguy:  #iapplicants hires people with the patience to love the customer

Megan Brown, Founder of The Sweet Tooth Fairy (#13 Top 25 Under 5)
  1. Manage systems not people
  2. The worst decision is indecision
  3. Tell your story
Notable comments captured on Twitter during Megan's presentation:
  • @MyZacAttack: The Sweet Tooth Fairy is here at #UVEF. I'm smiling already! Megan is the owner and is living her dream
  • @KimUt: Megan Brown has a great business in the Sweet Tooth Fairy
  • @utahguy: #sweettoothfairy says women control 85% of consumer purchasing in US.
  • @Agility_Media: Its not the people that are typically the problem its the system, refine the system and the kinks usually go away
  • @MyZacAttack: Train your employees properly first and then evaluate them - with a @shelbigomez
  • @iApplicants: make a decision... Do your best, forget the rest...
  • @Hammona: Surround yourself with people who have done what you want to do.
  • @MyZacAttack: people don't buy what you do they buy why you do it. Sounds like #apple and #sweettoothfairy have something in common
  • @bryanbostrom: Sell more than a product - sell an experience. Thanks, Megan
  • @stevedalton: Great presentation by @sweettoothfairy

Alan Martin, Founder and CEO of (#4 Top 25 Under 5)
  1. Remove emotion from the decision-making process
  2. Partner well and find great talent
  3. Get a board of advisers and listen to what they say
Notable comments captured on Twitter during Alan's presentation:
  • @jeng17ut: remove emotion...true for almost every decision especially in decluttering!
  • @Agility_Media: Create partner agreements that give them a way out without damaging the equity of the company
  • @bryanbostrom:  Create partner agreements that give your partners a way out without decimating the equity of the company
  • @MyZacAttack: Know who your best partner is and seek similar companies
  • @utahguy: Accept 'NO!' as a proof of concept
  • @MyZacAttack: @alanmartin is a young entrepreneur who led his company to have over 150 employees and over $5M in revenue

Reed Quinn of KT Tape (#9 Top 25 Under 5)
  1. Sell an emotional product or service, something that reaches customers emotionally and for which they can carry a great passion
  2. Ability to scale
  3. Stick to what your're good at
Notable comments captured on Twitter during Reed's presentation:
  • @Trentewing: Cater to the consumer experience KT Tape
  • @iApplicants: don't do any marketing that doesn't generate an immediate return...
  • @bryanbostrom: Find an emotional customer

What did the attendees think of the 'Lessons Learned' crowd forum format?

As we were leaving, one accomplished entrepreneur explained he was in the process of writing a paper about the 20 things every startup and entrepreneurial company should do. "9 of the 'Lessons Learned' here today are so good I'm going to use them in my paper," he reported. Here are some additional comments on Twitter:
  • @KenSharrar: I am blown away at value-add while learning incredible business lessons in Provo @ Utah Valley Entrepreneur Forum lunch at Novell!
  • @KenSharrar: The value of 12 lessons learned at UVEF Lunch = Priceless!
  • @stevedalton: Loved today's luncheon from @UVEF. Excellent speakers, great info, and loved the format. Look forward to making it out to more events.
  • @Trentewing: Great speakers at the UVEF luncheon
If you were there, what did you think of the event? Any ideas on how we can improve the format?