Treasures at Your Local Business Library

I have often felt that librarians are among the most underrated and underappreciated professionals in the U.S. The reference librarians that I have known over the years are among the most intelligent people I’ve met. They don’t know everything, but they usually know where to find anything–and fast!

I started a masters program in Library Science at BYU about 15 years ago, but it was short lived because my first company started taking off and needed me full time. But over the years I have spent hundreds of hours in the business and government reference section of the BYU Library. I have found many hidden treasures there. I have been richly blessed by my time in libraries.

For example, it was a librarian who first told me about Ancestry, the publishing company in Salt Lake City, which she said published 2 of the top 5 genealogy books of all time. Discovering Ancestry led to our purchase of that company a year or so later and the rest is dot com history. Many of the early databases we added to Ancestry.com were scanned from or discovered in the BYU Family History Library.

All of the content in our original CD Sourcebook of American History (which sold tens of thousands of copies) came from the BYU Library. Much of our original LDS Collectors Library content was discovered in the library.

I have gotten more new business and marketing ideas by perusing Directories In Print than any other single source. I now own the 23rd edition so I can browse it any time that I want.

Today I spent a couple of hours with two excellent series, the International Directory of Company Histories, in 68 volumes, and the Business Plans Handbook, which has 8 volumes filled with actual business plans that have been used in fundraising.

I decided that I will require every entrepreneur who asks me for free help to look through the index of the International Directory of Company Histories to find other companies in their space, to see what they can learn from the history of other companies, particularly the keys to their success.

Today I read about the founding of Altiris, a local company. I didn’t know that it was a spin of from KeyLabs, and that the former director of Novell’s SuperLabs was one of KeyLabs’ founders. I’ve know about Altiris for years, but I gained a much better understanding of the company today by reading the brief history. I bet MyFamily.com will be written about within another year or two. New volumes come out every year.

Personally, I think I’ll read every one of the several thousand company histories in the next year or two, trying to identify the key reasons why these companies became large and successful.

Sometimes it was product uniqueness, sometimes it was timing, or sales or marketing strategy. Sometimes it was luck.

I read about one Australian wine exporter who floundered for 10 years and nearly died until they qualified for a government marketing subsidy and then came up with a very obnoxious brand name (which I won’t repeat here). Now they are doing tens of millions in revenue. I read about a Canadian insurance company that succeeded for 75 years in large part because they didn’t require up front payments for policies–they had generous billing practices and therefore wrote a lot of insurance.

My goal someday is to create a Taxonomy of Business Success Tactics and to create some kind of Decision Tree software that will help entrepreneurs. If you are facing a particular challenge, I’d like to be able to retrieve a dozen or more historical examples of decisions other business people made when facing similar challenges. My system will mostly pull up full-text narrative; I’m not going to attempt to create computer generated decision paths. I think decisions must be left to your intuition–but your intuition could be informed by history.

Whether or not I ever built something that could really be useful to other entrepreneurs, I don’t know. I may just end up with a full-text knowledge base similar to my Taxonomy of Internet Marketing Tactics knowledge base that has over 200 ways to increase site traffic and conversion rate. I’ve benefitted a great deal by having this knowledge base at my finger tips for years. I just wish I could polish it up and make it available to others.

What MyFamily.com Might Have Been

From its conception till now I have firmly believed that the MyFamily.com opportunity is 10 times bigger than the Ancestry.com opportunity.

Both ideas are very important to me, for many reasons. They both fit into our company mission of Connecting and Strengthening Families–MyFamily.com connected living people to their loved ones using the internet free of charge, and Ancestry.com made it easier than ever before to locate your ancestors with a powerful search engine and billions of online genealogy records. It was easier than ever before to construct (Ancestry.com) and then share on MyFamily.com your family tree.

But after the bubble burst, and as the company sought to discard all the ballast it could to survive and get profitable there was a violent reaction against the free private family web sites at nearly all levels of the company–from the investors and board of directors to the senior management and many company managers.

Several of us fought to keep the MyFamily.com service alive, and we barely averted actually getting the plug pulled on all the existing family web sites, but we did have to switch from a free model to a paid model–$29 per year for a family to have 100 MB of storage space for photos, family trees, etc.

Alas, since 2001, the MyFamily.com service has been online but from a resources standpoint it has been entirely neglected. No one has been developing new features or improving the existing ones for several years. The business unit was folded into the genealogy business. There were no dedicated developers. I left the company in February 2002 in large part because all the company’s resources were going into genealogy content, a business that I love, but also a business with limited potential. While 7% of adult Americans are “highly involved” in genealogy, 95% feel it is “very important” or “important” to keep in touch with living family members. There were so many innovative things that we could have done with the MyFamily.com service, but we had literally zero support from anyone.

Five months after our Series E round we turned cash flow positive, but there was still no support for investing in this amazingly viral and powerful concept of providing a free web site to every family and extended family in the world.

Now, after years of neglect, I hear there is some renewed interest in growing MyFamily.com. But during the heads down years, look what has happened in areas where MyFamily.com could have played a role:

  • Voice. Skype has emerged in the last year with 39 million users. (MyFamily partnered with Lipstream in November 1999 to offer free voice chat services to families.)
  • Photos. Snapfish is registering 500,000 users per month, for a total of 13 million users of its online photo printing services. Flickr had 3.5 million photos by February 2005, with 82% of them being public. (By February 2001 MyFamily.com hosted more than 10 million photos, but only those submitted to our “online photo contests” were public–but those were attracting hundreds of thousands of “votes” from adoring fans.)
  • Gift Giving. Online retail sales hit $23 billion last year, with annual growth of 25-30%. (MyFamily had a excellent gift-recommendation engine designed but never built. We applied for a patent many years ago on “pitch-in purchasing” which would allow family members to use the Web to pitch in on a gift for a family member.)
  • Social Networking. Social networking sites continue to draw in millions of users, because they enable people to connect with others. They also continue to attract venture capital. Accel invested $13 million today in thefacebook.com, a one year old social networking site for college students. (MyFamily.com could easily have facilitated networking through families, which are the most permanent of all social networks.)

I am not saying that we could have been leaders in any of the areas I have listed or in any of the other areas we seriously explored, such as family reunion travel planning, family health tracking services, or genealogy genomics (a la De Code genetics), but I am saying that the company opted not to even consider playing in these other spaces.

And to me, that is the saddest part of the otherwise very happy MyFamily.com story.

As Whittier said, “For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.”

Ecommerce success story – selling log beds

Six years ago my brother moved to Montana so that he could manufacture and sell log beds. His company is called Montana Log Outfitters.

He built a factory on 10 acres and started selling beds on Yahoo Store
and eBay. Today he sells hundreds of log beds per month. Not bad for a
high school dropout–albeit one who has always had a knack for making
and selling things.

The internet has enabled him to have a great life style. His customers number nearly 10,000.

Now he is expanding his business through overseas manufacturing
arrangements and he is going to be doing a lot more internet marketing
and email marketing. Check out his very affordable log bed selection and get free shipping.

(Updated 11-2014)

Utah: A Pocket of Prosperity in the Coming Decades

vSpring held today the kick off event for the 2005 v100 (most promising entrepreneurs) at the Larry H. Miller Innovation Center.

Greg Warnock, vSpring partner who came up with the idea for this group
gave a great address about enterpreneurship — the requirements and the
rewards. Interestingly enough, all five vSpring managing directors came
from entrepreneurial backgrounds.

Governor Huntsman gave an excellent address as well, reiterating his support for entrepreneurship and economic development.

I read yesterday that Inaugural Address of Michael Young, the new
president of the University of Utah. In his very bullish-on-Utah
speech, he asked what other state has a governor that speaks fluent
Mandarin? I would add, and what other governor has seen at such close
range (watching his father) a small family business turn into a
multi-billion dollar empire (Huntsman Chemical)?

Governor Huntsman understands the changing world landscape (having
served in many foreign policy positions in government) and
entrepreneurship first hand. He has a tremendous grasp of where
technology is going and the impact of China and India on future
economic development. I am confident that Utah is poised to play a
significant role in innovation in the coming years. Our venture capital
coffers are filling up, we’re activating more angel investors (FundingUtah.com) and angel investor groups (Top of Utah Angels), and there are more opportunities for mentoring than ever before (Junto Partners).

I think Utah has a great destiny in business innovation and
entrepreneurship. In fact, while Charlie Munger (Warren Buffett’s
partner) thinks Western Civilization is “at or near its apex” (quote
from the 2005 Annual Shareholder Meeting), I think there will be
“pockets of prosperity” even amidst a general decline. (Read the full text of my notes
from that meeting to see what how greed and gambling and an unheard of
emphasis on financial management leads Munger to believe that we will
soon decline.) I believe that Utah will be one of the foremost pockets
of prosperity.

Utah has a good education system, the highest birth rate and longevity
rates in the nation, a very entrepreneurial population (the most Inc.
500 companies per capita for 2 years in a row), a highly rated health
care system, a tremendous awareness of world cultures and languages
with the majority of higher education students speaking a second
language, and many other virtues including a healthy focus on family
life which bode well for our state.

Our state has the Rebel Billionaire winner, Shawn Nelson, founder of
LoveSac. We have Warren Buffett investing more heavily here (he already
owns R.C. Willey and today a huge deal was announced that included Utah Power). Ken Jennings shows the world how brilliant Utahns can be with his $2 million plus winnings on Jeopardy.

Okay, so I’m looking for proof anywhere I can find it that Utah has a
bright economic future. But the demographic and business trends
actually do seem to support this notion. Utah is a great state, but the
best years are definitely ahead of us.

Here are the vSpring 100 winners for this year. I’ve bolded the ones I know best.

Adam Edmunds – Silent Whistle, www.silentwhistle.com
President & CEOAmy Lewis – Mediconnect.net, www.mediconnect.net
CEOAmy Paul – Bard Access Systems, www.bardaccess.com – Group Vice PresidentBen Peterson –
MingleMatch , www.minglematch.com – PresidentBjorn Espenes – Infopia ,
www.infopia.com – President
& CEOBlake Moderzitski – UV Partners, www.uven.com – General PartnerBrad Christensen – Novell,
www.novell.com – Director of
Product ManagementBrad Pelo – NextPage, www.nextpage.com – Chairman of the BoardBrad Walters –
MaxStream , www.maxstream.net – CEO & PresidentW. Brett Graham –
Ingenix, www.ingenix.com
VP of Strategic PlanningBrett Walker – VitalSmarts, www.vitalsmarts.com – Chief
Marketing OfficerBruce Law – Sprout Marketing, www.sproutmarketing.com
– President and FounderBryan Sparks – Solera Networks, www.soleranetworks.com
Chairman, CTOCarl Ledbetter – UV Partners, www.uven.com – PartnerCraig Christensen – Altiris, www.altiris.com – Vice
President & General CounselCraig Miller – Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter Day Saints, www.lds.org
Director of Member NeedsCurt Allen – Agilix Labs , www.agilix.com – President &
CEOCydni R. Tetro – NextPage, www.nextpage.com – Vice President Product and Corporate
MarketingDallin M. Anderson – Montigen Pharmaceuticals, www.montigen.com – Chief
Executive OfficerDaren Thayne – MyFamily.com , www.myfamily.com – CTO &
SVP of DevelopmentDarin D. Gilson – Banyan Ventures, www.banyanventures.com
Managing DirectorDavid Bateman – Property Solutions, www.propertysolutions.com – FounderDr. David L. Bean –
Attensity Corp., www.attensity.com – CTO and Co-founderDr. David J. Bearss
– Montigen Pharmaceuticals, www.montigen.com – Founder & Chief Scientific
OfficerDavid McGinn – Agilix Labs, www.agilix.com – CFO/ COODavid Rowe – Trend Micro, www.trendmicro.com
Executive VP of Global MarketingDon Cash – Omniture, www.omniture.com – VP of Mid
Market SalesDrew Major – Move Networks, www.movenetworks.com
FounderDwain Kinghorn – Altiris, www.altiris.com – Chief Technology OfficerEliot Jacobsen –
0 to 60 Ventures, – PresidentEric Jacobsen – Dolphin II, www.dolphintwo.com
Managing DirectorEric Smith – Control4, www.control4.com – CTOFred Lampropoulos – Merit Medical
Systems, www.meritmedical.com – Founder, Chairman, President, &
CEOGary Kennedy – Double Eagle Ventures, – FounderGary L. Crocker –
AnzenBio & Crocker Ventures, www.anzenbio.com – Chairman & CEO/ President and Managing
PartnerGary Williams – Brigham Young University, www.byu.edu – Associate
Director-Center for EntrepreneurshipGlen Mella – Control4, www.control4.com – Chief
Marketing OfficerDr. Glenn D. Prestwich – University of Utah and Sentrx
Surgical, www.utah.edu
Presidential Professor & CSOGreg Butterfield – Altiris , www.altiris.com – President
& CEOGreg Jones – Visual Influence, www.visualinfluence.com
– President & COOGreg Peterson – GH Peterson Holdings, www.ghpeterson.com
Managing PartnerGreg Whisenant – Wasatch Solutions , www.wasatchsolutions.com – General ManagerDr. Gregory
Critchfield – Myriad Genetics Labs, www.myriad.com – PresidentIan Stiles – Agilix Labs, www.agilix.com – Software
ArchitectJames L. Sorenson Jr. – Sorenson Media, www.sorenson.com
CEOJames Clark – Neoteris, www.neoteris.com – CEOJan Newman – Altiris, www.altiris.com – VP of
Business DevelopmentJay Verkler – Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day
Saints, www.lds.org – Director,
Family & Church HistoryJD Gardner – vSpring Capital, www.vspring.com – Venture PartnerJeff Kearl – LogoWorks, www.logoworks.com – Chief
Marketing OfficerJim Perry – Perrypoint Ventures, – CTOJohn Dunn –
Banyan Ventures, www.banyanventures.com – Founding PartnerJohn E. Richards
– BYU Center for Entrepreneurship, www.byu.edu – Assoc Teaching ProfessorJon Hansen –
MSTAR.NET & Chicago Venture Partners, www.mstar.net – CEOJosh Coates – Berkeley Data Systems, www.berkeleydata.net
President / CTOJosh James – Omniture, www.omniture.com – CEO/Co-FounderJoshua J. Steimle – MWI,
www.mwi.com – CEOKent L
Thomas – CFO Solutions, www.cfosolutionsllc.com – Founder & Managing
MemberKimberly Jones – Verite, www.verite.com – CEOLarry Rigby – ZARS , www.zars.com – President &
CEOLee Gibbons – LDS Audio, www.ldsaudio.com – CTOMark Calkins – Agilix Labs, www.agilix.com – VP Platform
MarketingMatt Asay – Novell, www.novell.com – Dircetor, Linux Business OfficeMatt
Mosman – Levanta , www.levanta.com – CEOMichael Hall – Senforce, www.senforce.com – President
& CEOMichael Proper – DirectPointe, www.directpointe.com
President & CEOMike Dutton – Dolphin II, www.dolphintwo.com
PartnerMike Tippets – Helius, www.helius.com – SVP Engineering & StrategyNathan S.
Hatch – Helius , www.helius.com – Senior Vice President Marketing &
Corporate DevelopmentNicole Toomey Davis – Enclavix, www.enclavix.com – President
& CEOPatrick Burke – Myriad Genetics, www.myriad.comindex.htm
– Business Development ManagerDr. Patrick M. Byrne – Overstock.com, www.overstock.com – Chairman
& PresidentPaul Allen – Infobase Ventures, www.infobaseventures.com – CEOPeter D. Meldrum – Myriad
Genetics , www.myriad.com
President & CEOPhillip J. Windley – Brigham Young University, www.windley.com – Associate
ProfessorDr. Ragula Bhaskar – FatPipe, www.fatpipeinc.com – CEORalph Yarro – Canopy Group, www.canopy.com – President &
CEORebecca Olpin Krull – Starbridge Systems, www.starbridgesystems.com – Director of SalesRichard D.
Hanks – Mindshare Technologies, www.mindsharetech.net – Chairman and PresidentRob Jeppsen
– Primary Intelligence, www.primary-intel.com – Chief Strategy OfficerRodney Tiede
– Broadcast International, www.broadcastinternational.com – President & CEORon
Heinz – Helius, www.helius.com – President & CEORon Lindorf –
Humanvoice, www.humanvoice.com – ChairmanScott C. Lemon – Agilix Labs,
www.agilix.com – Technical
EvangelistSeth B. Johnson – Redi2 Technologies, www.redi2.comcontact.html – Chief Executive OfficerSheryl
G. Hohle – BioCatalogia , www.biocatalogia.com – PresidentSpence Hoole – Diversified
Insurance Brokers, www.diversifiedinsurance.com – PartnerStephen W. Gibson –
The Academy for Creating Enterprise, www.creatingenterprise.com – Co-Director &
FounderTerry Dickson – Avinti , www.avinti.com – CEO & FounderThomas Ngo – NextPage,
www.nextpage.com
CTOTim Stay – Marketing Ally, – FounderTodd Shepherd – Studeo, www.studeo.com
Co-Founder/PartnerTom Creighton – Epixtech, www.epixtech.com – Chief
ArchitectTom Stockham – MyFamily.com, www.myfamily.com – President & CEOTy D. Mattingly –
Raser Technologies, www.rasertech.com – Independent Corporate Development
ConsultantW. Tim Miller – Echelon Biosciences , echelon-inc.com –
PresidentWeston Swenson – Forum Systems, www.forumsys.com – President & CEOWeston Whitman –
Harvard Business School, www.hbs.edu – MBA Candidate 2005Will West – Control4, www.control4.com – President
& CEOWilliam Marble – Calixus, www.calixus.com – Board Member

Business Ignitor Series Wrapup

I was priveleged to speak at the first Utah County Business Ignitor
series today put on by Connect Magazine, with Sponsors WSGR, 10x
Marketing, and Tucanos. I think there were 60-80 people there,
including lots of the Junto Partners from the 2005 group, and a lot of
good networking was going on.

It’s always fun to talk about changing the world through
entrepreneurship, and guaranteeing success by "approaching omniscience"
through gaining knowledge from books and from others through constant
networking and learning.

But what will make this event most memorable to me was the very
interesting and poetic introduction that Mark Bonham made of me. I
quote:

Dreaming, but not sleepy
Creative, but not slick
Gadgets, but not gimmicks.
Technology, but not trash.
Analysis, but not paralysis
CEO, but not "See ME go"
Information, but not overload
Ideas, but not without ideals
Startups, but not stirrups
Websites, but not web-frights
Infobase Ventures, but not Vulcan Ventures
Numbers, but not without people
Marketing, but not maddening
Boyish looks, but manic ideas
Blogs, but not clogs
Energy, but not anarchy
Books, but not bookish
Innovation, but not annihilation
Happy, but not giddy
prosperous, but not wealthy
forceful, but not demanding
MyFamily.com, but not to forget "my family" at home
Paul Allen . . .

Mark, don’t sue me for posting this without your permission. But please
accept my very sincere thanks for your kindness and thoughtfulness.
This is really very touching. How lucky I am to have a poetic attorney
and friend!

Raising Seed Capital

Yesterday there was a panel discussion at the annual Edison conference
(for inventors and entrepreneurs) on how to raise seed capital. It was
moderated by David Bradford, partner at Greenberg Traurig, the 8th largest law firm in the nation. David is also my partner in FundingUniverse.com.

Panelists included myself, Blake Modersitzki of UV Partners and Michael
Keene, former Chief Science Advisor to two Utah governors.

In preparing for the discussion I read through all my markups in Angel
Investing, the excellent book that every entrepreneur and every angel
investor should read about capital. Here are some of the facts and
quotes I wanted to share:

  • Angels fund 30-40 times more companies than VCs, but they do much smaller deals.
  • VCs fund 1-3% of the deals they look at
  • Angels fund 22% of the deals they seriously consider
  • Angels fund 84% of rounds under $250,000
  • #1 source of initial funding for startups is entrepreneur’s own savings (74%)
  • 10-15% of entrepreneurs who pitch at non-profit capital forums raise money
  • 40% of entrepreneurs who pitch at venture forum meetings get funding
  • Top two criteria for angels to invest in an entrepreneur are 1)
    enthusiasm of the entrepreneur and 2) trustworthiness of the
    entrepreneur.
  • 94% of angels consider location to be very important in their decision
  • 80% would have made more investments over the past 3 years if they had seen more good plans

I got a few of these pre-panel notes into the discussion, but I also
took notes because David asked several good questions and I learned
things from both Blake and Mike. I’ll post these later.

Tips for Recruiting Sales and CS People in Utah

Finding the right people is one of the most important keys to success.
But it is hard to do. Our circles of acquaintance are generally very
small. It is extremely easy to just hire someone you know, even if they
don’t fit the position very well, or to place an ad, get a few
applicants, do a couple of interviews and make a selection. But
choosing the wrong person can be very costly. One friend of mine spend
$23,000 in wages for a programmer whose code they ended up re-writing.
For him, spending $1,000 per month on a billboard to build a deeper
pool of applicants to draw from for future hires is a great investment.

Hiring Developers

I was in an advisory board meeting the other day where these ideas were offered (I’ve enhanced them a bit) for recruiting CS people in Utah:

  • BYU has a CS Alumni email list that goes to 1,000+ programmers. Call BYU’s CS Dept to add your job listing to this list.
  • You can go to the BYU CS Department web site to post a job opening for a student
  • Hire LAMP people (Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl/PHP) out of b-schools and C++ people out of CS departments
  • The U of U has a better CS department than BYU. BYU is better than UVSC.
  • Northface University is
    preparing individual programmers and teams of programmers to solve
    real-world needs. They stay more current on programming techniques and
    languages than other academic insitutions. This will be a great place
    to recruit from.
  • Offer a $500 bonus to anyone who helps you find the programmer you hire. This will help.
  • QA is important. You could outsource it to KeyLabs or off-shore (less expensive).

I also found that you can post a job at BYU’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

For me, judging business plan and web solutions competitions has
introduced me to dozens of students, and has led to two of the best
hiring decisions I have made in the last year.

Hiring Sales People

If you are hiring sales people, the word on the street (from one
experienced sales manager) is that UVSC students are 40-50% more
productive in door to door selling than BYU students, who tend to be
more academically focused.

There are probably a lot more ideas for recruiting developers and sales people, better than the ones I have shared here.

What are your best tactics for recruiting? Please share.

FundingArizona.com Launched

Okay, so our new web site for Arizona has only 1 registered investor
with $50,000 of available capital so far. That’s not going to change
the world. But guess what is going to happen in the next few months? I
think the number of registered investors and entrepreneurs on FundingArizona
will grow steadily. Arizona has more than twice the population of Utah
and it is also growing rapidly. Eventually, there should be more
investors and more business plans on FundingArizona.com than there are
on FundingUtah.com.

Our FundingUtah.com Alexa chart
is looking better all the time. More importantly, with 92 investors and
$72.8 million in available capital (much of it for early stage
companies), and with at least one angel group using FundingUtah.com as
their source of new deals, this web site has already surpassed our
expectations.

I started a Google Adwords campaign today for FundingArizona.com
and sent out my first email invitation to an investor. Our team will
start contacting angel groups, business schools, and entrepreneurs as
well. If you know investors or entrepreneurs in Arizona, please tell them about our free matching service.

Article on Junto in Salt Lake Tribune

An extremely innovate entrepreneurship program designed by venture capital investor Greg Warnock was covered by the Salt Lake Tribune this week. The Junto program trains scores of would-be entrepreneurs and then through a competitive selection process, chooses a handful to fund each year. This year 10 Junto members will be funded with $50,000 each in startup capital. The Junto are divided into teams of five members. They share some equity in each others’ companies and therefore are motivated to help each other succeed.I am fortunate to be on the advisory board of Firepoll, the company profiled in the Tribune article. Will Allred is a tremendously energetic entrepreneur, he loves to learn, and his company has a fantastic instant polling solution that I believe will be a bit hit. Go Will!