Celebrating America’s greatest active entrepreneurs

Gary Hoover, who is arguably America’s foremost student of business history and entrepreneurship (he has 57,000 books in his personal library!), asked this fascinating question:

“Who is the greatest active American entrepreneur?”


Spoiler alert.

Gary selected someone who still runs the company he founded 46 years ago. This company has revenues of $50 billion, has 335,000 employees, and is listed on Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work.

You should read Gary’s article on Hooversworld.com to see all the reasons why he chose Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx, founded in 1971.

I’m glad Gary’s criteria included things besides “market capitalization,” because there’s much more to being a great entrepreneur than the bottom line, and how rich he or she becomes.

Other great entrepreneurs (but no longer alive or running the company they founded) that Gary mentions include Henry Ford, Walt Disney, George EastmanSteve Jobs, Sam Walton, and Bill Gates.

Up and comers include Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Larry Page.

With the rise of more socially conscious entrepreneurs, the recent comments of Pope Francis, and given my years at Gallup where we studied employee engagement, well-being, and human development worldwide, I’d like to pose a slightly different question:

Of all active entrepreneurs and business leaders in the US
who do you think cares most about and invests the most in developing their employees?

I’m eager to compile a list of “good business leaders” who care more about people than anything else.

I wonder what makes them tick. I’m curious how they choose to invest in their people. What does all of that look like?

Please put your nominations in the comments below.

I will do research on all of the nominees, and write future blog posts about “good business leaders.”

I’m really excited to get started.

If you can’t think of any business leaders who deeply care about and generously invest in their employees–instead of exploiting them–then we’re kind of in trouble. 😉

Please try to think of at least one nominee, national, or local.


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StrengthsFinder and early stage investing

I visited the other day with the FIRST INVESTOR IN ANCESTRY.COM. He is an amazing man, a retired entrepreneur, a mentor to hundreds of entrepreneurs, and a very successful investor.

He was not only the first investor in Ancestry.com (which is worth billions), but also in 1-800-CONTACTS (probably worth $500M) and in Omniture, which sold to Adobe for $1.8 billion.

His top 5 includes Futuristic, Activator, Maximizer and Significance.

I told him his Futuristic/Activator explains why he was the first investor in so many great companies!! (His Maximizer and Significance surely played a role too!)

I think this is a sweet combination of strengths for an angel investor or venture capitalist. Many investors are followers. Only a few have what it takes to be the first money in.

Do you know any other investors or entrepreneurs who have a set of strengths that explains why they are pioneers, first to act, etc?

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Honoring My Mom and Yours

My wonderful mom recently celebrated a special birthday with her twin sister. These are two special ladies, with 17 kids and more than 60 grandkids between them.

wanda and wanee 80th

There is nothing my mom loves more than a phone call from one of her kids–except a long visit from one of us.

She has lived her entire life putting her family above everything else as her most important priority.

She was a grade school teacher before meeting my dad. And from what I hear, she was the favorite teacher of a lot of her students.

That doesn’t surprise me at all. She is intelligent, a gifted teacher, an avid reader, a wonderful conversationalist. She has LEARNER and INPUT–two strengths that I share with her.

But my mom does something that few people can do. She makes everyone in her presence feel like they are the most special person around. She puts her heart and soul into loving everyone in her life.

Her CONNECTEDNESS, EMPATHY, and INDIVIDUALIZATION work beautifully together to help every person feel like they are part of her family, she loves them, and she is interested in every detail of their life.

Growing up, most of my friends called her Mom and always loved to be at our house, whether for her home-made bread, or for her attention and interest in them.

Mom–you are one-of-a-kind. No one else in the world has your unique combination of strengths. By using all your strengths to serve your family, friends, and neighbors, you have been a huge blessing to us all.

I love you forever, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day.

P.S. Since there is nothing my mom loves more than a phone call or visit from someone she loves–and I’m sure your mom might feel the same–I’d like to offer you a FREE STRENGTHSFINDER 2.0 assessment code which you can give to your mom TODAY.

All you have to do is BE ONE OF THE FIRST 10 PEOPLE to fill out a simple form, promise to gift the code to your mom, and then read her Strengths Theme Insights Report aloud together with her, and express appreciation for how she has used her strengths to bless your life. Then email me about your experience. Then I’ll call my mom and share your experience with her. Win-win-win. 🙂

Here is the form: http://goo.gl/forms/eEGvhg1DPa

Once you fill it out, if you are one of the first 10 people to do so, I’ll send you a StrengthsFinder 2.0 code for free which you can share with your mom – TODAY!

P.P.S. It’s 3:00 ET and there are still 3 codes left.


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Gallup, Meet Utah. Utah, Meet Gallup.

Gallup has been conducting polls throughout the United States for decades. And Gallup knows Utah well because Utah — or its largest metro areas — is often highly ranked for things like frequent church attendance, daily learning, optimism, charitable donations, well-being and more. Utah also ranks very low for things like the smoking rate and its presidential approval ratings.

Utah is a pretty, great state, if you ask me. Even The Economist is impressed, calling Utah “young, tolerant and surprising.”

But in April of this year, Gallup got to know Utah a little bit better with a personal visit. I led some of my Gallup executive friends — who have worked in Gallup’s Omaha office for many years — on a tour of some of Utah’s most exciting high-tech companies. I won’t be surprised to see Gallup using some “made in Utah” technology in the coming months or years.

Now, Utah is about to get to know Gallup better.

Gallup is holding its first strengths training course for leaders, managers and coaches at Zermatt Resort from June 8-12. More on that follows.

But first, some background.

When I joined Gallup as a senior executive in 2012, all my friends from Utah and Silicon Valley were shocked that I was leaving behind 22 years of entrepreneurship, including seven startups, to join a large company. But interesting to me, they all misunderstood what Gallup does — as I had until a month earlier. When I told my friends and family I was moving to D.C. to work for Gallup, 98% said, “The polling company?” The other 2% (or one person, because my sample was about 50) said, “The survey company?”

Not one of my friends realized that Gallup has been doing management consulting for some of the world’s best-run companies for decades — and had been publishing best-selling books on management, leadership, sales and education for years. Only after I joined Gallup did I realize that the company has been using its unparalleled worldwide polling reach to collect data from more than 160 countries around the world — and from tens of millions of employees and millions of managers — to discover insights that Gallup provides to leaders in education, business and government and in faith communities.

In addition — and this is the most important part of Gallup to me — Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., the father of Gallup CEO and Chairman Jim Clifton, dedicated a lifetime of research to the emerging field of strengths-based psychology. Under his leadership, Gallup built an online talent assessment, the Clifton StrengthsFinder. Every copy of Now, Discover Your Strengths (published in 2001, with nearly 2 million copies sold) had a link to that online assessment. In 2007, the book StrengthsFinder 2.0, by Tom Rath, Don Clifton’s grandson, was published, and the online assessment was updated and personalized. StrengthsFinder 2.0 has sold nearly 5 million copies since its publication, and it is the No. 1 best-selling book on Amazon.com since 2013.

Gallup decided to further unleash strengths on the world by provide the assessment without a book purchase. We started selling access codes on GallupStrengthsCenter.com in 2012. We also began training independent strengths coaches worldwide in 2013. Strengths coaches are professionals who can help individuals and organizations achieve transformational results using the Clifton StrengthsFinder.

Gallup recruited me to help lead the strengths movement. My previous experience with Ancestry.com and FamilyLink gave me nearly 15 years of experience with tools and marketing techniques that allow companies to scale to tens of millions of customers.

My role at Gallup is worldwide Strengths Evangelist. Our team has launched the StrengthsFinder iPhone and Android app (a free download), so more of our almost 12 million customers can remember their top five strengths. We’ve launched a product that lets people upgrade to see beyond their top five strengths to see all 34 of their Clifton StrengthsFinder themes. We have translated GallupStrengthsCenter.com and our coaching curriculum into nine languages, with more coming every year.

We’re building tools for coaches, managers and leaders. We have a YouTube channel that features interviews with strengths coaches and strengths experts every week. We’ve launched the Gallup Certified Coaches Directory to help individuals, small and large businesses, schools, non-profits and faith groups find a strengths coach to work with executives, managers, teams or companies.

Some Fortune 500 companies have trained hundreds of strengths performance coaches so an entire company can become fully versed in the language of strengths and how to use it. I’ve spoken with CEOs of multi-billion dollar companies — or divisions of companies — who swear by the Clifton StrengthsFinder and say it transformed their company culture. In fact, 94% of the Fortune 500 use StrengthsFinder to some degree. My growth-hacking team in Washington, D.C. — yes, Gallup has growth hackers — is helping us find more and more pockets of strengths users in all these large companies to invite them to use our advanced tools and training to get positive results.

My colleagues in learning and development at Gallup offer strengths-based courses in more than 20 cities around the world, and Gallup offers a path to certification for individuals who want to help organizations take a strengths-based approach.

But the Clifton StrengthsFinder isn’t just for the workplace. It’s for schools, faith groups and families. We’re publishing a book soon called Strengths-Based Parenting. Our partnership with Naviance provides a tool called Strengths Explorer — a simple talent assessment — to kids in many school districts throughout the U.S.

StrengthsFinder has helped my family — and me — understand better ourselves and each other.

My nephew took the Clifton StrengthsFinder in late 2012. He was selling insurance at the time—and miserable every day at work. Within a couple of months, he changed his career path in part because of the confirming insights he got from the assessment. He didn’t want a career in business or sales; he wanted to be a counselor—to help people. And his natural talents — which StrengthsFinder highlighted and many of us who knew him had already observed — will allow him to help many people in his career as a counselor and therapist. He’ll finish an advanced degree in marriage and family counseling later this year.

StrengthsFinder has given me incredible insights about each of my children, and about my wife, Christy, that I couldn’t have gotten in any other way.

StrengthsFinder can also offer hope to the hopeless.

My first trip as a Gallup employee was to Ft. Worth, Texas, where some of the best and most caring people I’ve ever met in my life were using the Clifton StrengthsFinder to help hundreds of ex-offenders rediscover what is right with them. They were also learning how to talk about their natural talents in a job interview and how to apply their talents in a work setting. In this program, strengths coaches work with employers to place ex-offenders in a job that matches their talents. My friends in Texas should be CNN Heroes, because their strengths-based approach has changed a lot of lives. People who had been in prison — or homeless — and had lost all self-belief and feelings of worth have used a research-based, validated, scientific instrument to discover their strengths. Nearly 80% of these individuals have been hired and have kept their job, and the program has had a recidivism rate of less than 5% — well below the national average.

Someday, I hope to run another tech company. I think I have one more left in me. But in the past two and a half years at Gallup, my ability to see the best in people — and to appreciate the great diversity of talents that different people have — has forever changed me.

When I stood in the Salt Palace back in 2000 to receive the Ernst & Young Utah Entrepreneur of the Year award with two of my business partners, I had to give a speech. I thought of several people to thank for helping me along the way. But for some reason I also said, “I want to thank God for whoever invented glasses and contact lenses,” because I have such poor vision that without corrective lenses, I might never have been an entrepreneur at all.

Today, as I travel to dozens of states and countries — including and especially my home state of Utah — I often think to myself and sometimes say publicly, “I want to thank God for Don Clifton for giving me a new lens with which to see every person I ever meet. I’m thankful to see them through the lens of talent and strengths — to look for what is right with them, and not for what is wrong with them.” It has changed my life.

So now, dear friends in Utah, I want to introduce you to Gallup.

Gallup is one of the most important companies in the world. We combine 80 years of polling expertise with decades of studying strengths, talent, selection and the workplace with a mission to provide advice and insights to the world’s leaders in business, government, education and faith.

But most of all — for those of you reading this today — we can introduce you to a philosophy, a system and tools that will enable you and everyone you work with to take a strengths-based approach to leadership, management, employee engagement, education and even parenting.

Such a new approach is badly needed.

Much of what people experience in the workplace is negative and stressful. Yes, workplaces need to be focused on outcomes and on performance. But we’ve found that the best workplaces help people apply their natural talents to perform at the highest level — they don’t use a “crack the whip” approach.

Our studies on workplace engagement show a serious problem in the U.S. workplace. Nearly 70% of U.S. employees — including perhaps your own employees — are not engaged at work. About 20% of them are actively disengaged.

We recently reported as part of a major study of American managers that half of all Americans have left a job because of their manager.

Most managers didn’t plan to become managers. They were promoted because they performed well in previous roles — not because they had the talent to manage.

With everything Gallup knows about talent, selection, managers and employee engagement, here’s one of the most interesting statements we’ve ever made:

“A strengths-based approach to management is the single best means of improving the employee-manager relationship that Gallup has observed over the years of working with organizations to improve employee engagement.” (Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship, pg. 358)

Companies like Facebook have adopted a strengths-based approach to management:

“At Facebook, we try to be a strengths-based organization, which means we try to make jobs fit around people rather than make people fit around jobs. We focus on what people’s natural strengths are and spend our management time trying to find ways for them to use those strengths every day.”

Employee engagement skyrockets when leaders and managers take a strengths-based approach, and in turn, productivity and profitability increase.

It turns out that letting people play to their strengths is good business.

In 1992 Don Clifton wrote in his first book Soar With Your Strengths, “We welcome you to join us on this marvelous journey we know can change the world . . . to a world built on the strengths of each of its inhabitants.”

I love imagining such a world.

A step towards that goal is to build your workplace on the strengths of all your employees.

Imagine if Utah’s already-great government, business and education leaders decided to take a strengths-based approach in every organization — an approach that celebrates the diversity of talents that people contribute and aims to help each person use their strengths every day.

So Utah, meet Gallup.

I’d like to invite you to learn about the Clifton StrengthsFinder and strengths-based coaching for individuals, managers and teams at Zermatt Resort on June 8-12. Two of our finest instructors will share with you our best training — developed over decades of studying human talent. They’ll share tools, exercises and activities that will help you effectively introduce a strengths-based approach in your company.

Dennis Webb, one of the founders of Franklin Institute — the day planner company — has invited Gallup to offer this training course at Zermatt Resort, a property which he and his associates now own and manage. Dennis will participate during the week, as he plans to offer strengths training in many of the seminars and workshops that will be presented at the Zermatt Utah Learning Center.

This Is The Place

Gallup’s June 8-12 training at Zermatt Resort would be the perfect venue for you — or another executive in your organization who has responsibility for creating a great workplace for your people — to learn how to help your people discover and use their strengths every day.

Need a bit more information to decide? Here are a few more links:

I encourage you to take a few minutes to consider learning more about our Utah course and the strengths movement. I hope to see you in June!


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Best. Kickstarter. Ever. (for Entrepreneurs)

I really really like this new Kickstarter campaign. I can’t wait to see how much money it raises.

And I can’t wait to read the book.

If your name is Eric Ries and you created the Lean Startup movement–and you have friends like Fred Wilson and Brad Feld promoting it–your Kickstarter project to write the follow-on book is going to get fully funded. That’s not even a question. The only question is how many unexpected multiples of the goal will you bring in. A steady flow of new pledges has been coming in to help Eric write a new book, The Leader’s Guide, and launch an online community for project backers.

It’s at $83,894 as I post this. But ever time I go back to check more pledges have come in.

If you are an entrepreneur, I suggest you go to Kickstarter right now and pledge $21 — so that you can participate in the beta community around this new book.

And if you want a chance to change your life forever–seriously consider one of the $5,000 pledges. I would suggest the Day With Brad Feld. He knows as much as building startup ecosystems outside of Silicon Valley as anyone alive, and a chance to spend significant time with him (outside of his normal office-hours in Boulder) and to meet some of his portfolio companies would be a never-to-be-forgotten experience. If done right, the online attention you could get in your own investor community and among your potential customers leading up to and surrounding your day in Boulder could more than pay for this trip. Issue a press release about it. (Use the “Unconvential PR” tactic covered nicely in the new book, “Traction“).

In fact, if you are an enterprising entrepreneur somewhere in the U.S. or Canada, maybe not part of the Silicon Valley scene and not close to Boulder, why don’t you launch your own crowdsourcing campaign to raise the $5,000 (plus travel) you need to make the trip to Boulder, and promise to bring back something special to each of your donors? That would be pretty meta. Maybe ask Brad a question for each of them. Or get him to sign a bunch of books (I would suggest “Startup Communities“) and come home and distribute them to all the “economic development” people and big-time angel investors in your community. Maybe Meerkat part of the day–and let your pledges ask him a question themselves.

A second $5,000 pledge that would amazing is the Andreesen Horowitz experience. Just think about it, people have paid millions to have lunch with Warren Buffett. If you could pay $5k for a chance to spend some time with Marc Andreesen, arguably the most influential internet-technologist-turned-venture-investor in the history of the world, why wouldn’t you find a way to do it?

I met Marc at a fairly small Jupiter Communications internet technology conference in Northern California back in 2000 or 2001 (when I was still at Ancestry.com) and heard him in person make one of his few predictions that will never come true–he said (jokingly) that humans will evolve smaller thumbs so we can type faster on our Blackberries. I’ve learned a ton of things from him since.

Meeting someone in person somehow permanently changes your relationship to or awareness of that other person, and somehow compounds the learning potential you will get from them in your lifetime. At least that what it seems like to me. Somehow meeting someone, talking to them, shaking their hand, exchanging business cards, seems to make their opinion and voice louder for the rest of your life. I feel the same way about Bill Gurley who I heard speak in person in the 90s. And Esther Dyson. And Mark Zuckerberg (May ’07) and Vint Cerf (2012) and BJ Fogg, and on and one. I could make a list of dozens people who have been influential in my life where this seems to be the case.

So first, pledge $21. Then figure out how to be one of the $5,000 pledges and milk this for all its worth.

In this era of attention scarcity, I bet you could make your pledge pay off big time.

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3 Websites for Early Stage Tech Investors

Peter Thiel reminded the TechCrunch audience this week how unique and impactful Silicon Valley is. He predicted it will continue to lead the world in innovation and disruption for at least the next two decades. He said he’d be “long on Silicon Valley” and “short on New York.” New York is developing a fantastic startup culture; but data shows that no one is close to Silicon Valley in attracting the best talent, churning out the best startups and attracting the most funding year after year.

Besides being the home of Y Combinator, the world’s most successful startup accelerator, there are many other websites and tools that originated in Silicon Valley/San Francisco which continue to make this the epicenter of entrepreneurship and venture capital in the world. Here are three really important ones, two of which got significant airtime at TechCrunch this year:

Crunchbase – What has been funded

Angelist – What is being funded

Product Hunt – What will get funded next

Crunchbase now has 2 million monthly users. They announced that 1,000 “Crunchbase Venture Partners” which include VC funds, accelerators, and incubators have agreed to keep their portfolio companies up-to-date on Crunchbase. It has the potential to be the broadest database of deal flow tracking as well as the most accurate. Spot checking it today I found several errors. But it is still the first source I check when looking up a tech company I haven’t heard of. Crunchbase then Wikipedia.

Angelist is now providing about $10 million per month in trackable funding. It has introduced a syndication model allowing groups of angels to pool capital into a “popup venture fund” that can provide significant funding comparable to a Series A round. The two largest deals so far have been close to $1 million, but it appears that Angelist has significant momentum and deal sizes will grow.

Product Hunt is a new San Francisco-based company which just raised close to $1 million in August. It provides an early warning radar system to identify on a daily basis new products that are being spotted which have potential.


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Announced: $23 million venture fund in Provo, Utah

This may not seem like a big deal to some of you. Silicon Valley has many billion dollar venture funds, after all. But for startups in Utah, this is huge news.

A $23 million fund focused on seed investments of $100k to $1 million can provided a needed boost to dozens of companies. If even a single startup funded by Peak Ventures follows the path of billion-dollar Utah companies such as Omniture, Vivint, Ancestry, InsideSales, or Qualtrics, the ripple effects will boost the economy and entrepreneurship for years to come.

Most large venture funds focus on later stage investments–not in the seed round. In fact, only 1.5% of the $13 billion in US venture funding last quarter was reported to be seed stage funding.

From the Q2 2014 MoneyTree Report:

“Seed stage investments rose 46 percent in dollars and 20 percent in deals with $189 million invested into 55 deals in the second quarter.”

In that context, a new $23 million fund in one of the hottest startup areas of the country is a really big deal.

One of the best venture funds in the country is First Round Capital with offices in Pennsylvania and San Francisco. They too focus on being the first money into new companies. They are now on their 5th fund and have invested in hundreds of companies, including some well-known companies like Mint, Warby Parker, and Uber, as well as one of my new favorites, Lob.

Huge congrats to Jeff Burningham, Sid Krommenhoek, and the other Peak Capital partners for getting this fund organized and announced yesterday!

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Startup Grind 2014

I attended the 2014 Startup Grind event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California earlier this month.

Derek Andersen has started quite a movement here. It was the highest energy startup event I’ve attended in years–and the cast of speakers was spectacular. I particularly enjoyed listening to George Zachary, Reid Hoffman (founder LinkedIn, venture investor with Greylock), Ben Horowitz (Andreesen Horowitz), MC Hammer, Scott Cook (Intuit), Jessica Livingston (Y Combinator), Dave McClure (500 Startups), Mark Suster (Upfront Ventures), Danae Ringelmann (co-founder IndieGoGo), Elizabeth Gore (Resident Entrepreneur at the United Nations Foundation–reports to Ted Turner!).

I missed a bunch of talks that I wanted to hear, partly because Derek made me say a word about StrengthsFinder 2.0 (the product I champion for Gallup) on the first evening, and I was literally swarmed for the next 3 days. I could hardly move from one conference session to another without an entrepreneur or ten eagerly asking me about StrengthsFinder. But that’s also what made the conference incredibly fun and energizing for me–engaging with dozens of entrepreneurs, from many countries, who are all looking for tools, tactics, and advice that will help them emerge from their startup grind with a successful business.

Thankfully I can catch the interviews I missed on the Startup Grind YouTube channel.

What I love most about Startup Grind is its values and the kind of people it attracts as a result. Derek credited George Zachary for helping him grasp the importance early on of establishing and communicating the values of the Startup Grind community.

The name itself connotes that startups are hard work and success often takes time. There are more comfortable things to do than “eating glass and staring into the abyss of death” which is how Elon Musk has apparently described entrepreneurship.

Startup Grind is not for get-rich-quick schemers, but for those who want to make their mark on the world through building a new company, “however long and hard the road.”

These Startup Grind values were plastered everywhere:

1. It feels better to give than to receive
2. Give more than you take
3. Make friends not contacts
4. Never give up

Another awesome part of the Startup Grind culture–and I experienced this first hand when I spoke at a Washington DC event last year–is that when introducing a speaker, the audience gives a huge standing ovation right up front. Everyone feels good, fired up. And the speakers get that sincere thanks right up front, for volunteering their time.

And then often, at the end of a Startup Grind interview, the guest is given a fun gift–such as an artifact connected to their favorite superhero. When I was interviewed, I explained why my favorite superhero was “Bill and Ted” (I know that’s a stretch), because their music “put an end to war and poverty.  It align[ed] the planets and br[ought] them into universal harmony allowing meaningful contact with all forms of life from extraterrestrial beings to common household pets, and . . . it’s excellent for dancing.” What superheroes have ever had a better outcome than that!

So they presented me with an awesome Bill and Ted movie poster.

The Startup Grind culture is just fantastic.

Back in the 90s when I was building my first company with my best friend and business partner, it was a pretty solitary endeavor–mostly just us trying to figure things out. Not until I attended the Inc 500 awards conference in Philadelphia in 1996 did I realize that there were people (authors, advisors, mentors) out there helping entrepreneurs to succeed. But today, there are far more.

It’s like the difference between writing software code in the 80s and 90s, when you wrote every line yourself or with your team–compared to now, when there are bazillions of lines of code written by millions of coders, on github and elsewhere, some of it packaged into amazingly useful libraries. If you are a coder, you are not alone in the universe–and you don’t need to write applications from scratch. Much of what you are doing is finding and learning and stitching–building on the shoulders of others.

Same with entrepreneurship. Today, instead of figuring everything out on your own long and lonely path, there are dozens of amazing accelerators, incubators, and seed stage funds, there are Startup Weekends, business plan and business model competitions, meetups everywhere, and crowdfunding platforms like IndieGoGo which are increasingly being used by companies to validate and refine their product–not just to raise capital.

The startup failure rate is widely reported as being 80-90% or higher over a 5-year period–who knows what the actual number is?–but I remember hearing from an expert in franchising that 94% of all franchisees are still in business after 5 years. Why? I assume it is because the brand, product, processes, business model, advertising strategies, and all that have been worked out and proven to work in advance, usually in scores of markets.

Imagine a world–with all the support of Startup Grind and the other resources mentioned above–where the success rate of startups doubles or triples? The success rate of Y Combinator companies is already so high that each company accepted into the 3-month accelerator program has an automated $150,000 in startup capital waiting for it at the end of the program–not to mention all the built-in support from other Y Combinator mentors and alumni. As Steve Blank and Eric Ries spread the Lean Startup gospel worldwide, and as more accelerators and incubators build support infrastructure to help, I wonder if it will be possible to significantly increase the success rate of startups.

The most interesting facet of startup success for me right now is trying to understand how the talents of the team–and the team dynamics–can lead to failure or success.

Marc Andreesen (2007) wrote that of the major factors in a startup–market, product, and team–he thought market was the most important of the three. But Jessica Livingston of Y Combinator made it clear that her major roles as a non-technical operator at Y Combinator was to make a decision, on the basis of a 10 minute interview with applicants, whether they have what it takes. She must be very gifted at this, given the success rate, but at the same time she humbly admitted that she never knows who really will succeed and who won’t. She especially loves co-founders who went to school together, or were roommates, and who already have a strong relationship. (There’s even a father-son founding team in Y Combinator now, and I think she said a set of twins.) Because when you don’t have that kind of trust between founders, when things get tough–and they always do–things can go bad really fast.

In my role at Gallup as evangelist for StrengthsFinder 2.0, I’m planning to attend a lot of entrepreneurial and investor events this year. For years, StrengthsFinder has been a powerful tool used by thousands of large and small companies to boost productivity, revenue, and profits by making individuals and teams more engaged and more efficient. I’m very excited to see it can be, along with the newest Gallup product Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder, in helping boost the percentage of startups that survive and thrive. The economy needs a huge dose of the type of job-creating entrepreneurship that The Economist wrote about this week to create the millions of jobs that are so desperately needed today all over the world.

I personally want to thank Derek, Startup Grind, and all of its dedicated chapter leaders and volunteers for doing their part to make this happen. And to  tell everyone — I can’t wait till Startup Grind 2015!


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The view from Washington DC

This morning I flew out of Reagan National Airport. I always marvel as I look out over the nation’s capital from a plane window, thinking about the history of this place. On the 4th of July my family and I enjoyed watching the fireworks display from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, which face the Washington Monument. Today, I had a great view of the National Mall, all the way to the Capitol Building.

Since taking a job with Gallup last September, my first job in 22 years with a company where I wasn’t a founder, I’ve been taking the metro to DC almost every day. Getting the family settled took a few months, and just now am I beginning to feel really comfortable in and around DC. Lately I’ve been attending a lot of high-tech networking events, including a BigDataDC event last night in Vienna. I’ve been to two Data Scientist gatherings at George Washington University. And I’m looking forward to attending a lot more coding, venture capital, entrepreneurship, and political events in the coming months. Between Meetup and EventBrite I can find good events every week.

There were 7 speakers last night at the BigDataDC event, hosted by AddThis. (AddThis is a social sharing and analytics tool used by 14 million web sites. They process 3.5 billion transactions per day. They talked about their Hyrda tool, which they plan to open source soon.) One speaker discussed a sales and marketing tool he is building with about 10 open source and API components–and it’s exactly the same problem I’m working on for Gallup.

DC is not Silicon Valley, but it probably ranks in the top 5 communities in the U.S. for high tech innovation, and definitely in the number one or number two spot for a bunch of categories related to the military and national security, including Cybersecurity. Last night one of the speakers who has been in IT for 44 years discussed the Einstein 3 system from the Department of Homeland Security which reportedly will do deep-packet inspection of all internet communications in the United States. I’m not a fan of the surveillance state. It’s very troubling to me.

(Here’s an article about it from April: http://www.networkworld.com/news/2013/042413-dhs-deep-packet-inspection-269078.html)

When I lived in Silicon Valley in 1999-2000 I attended technology and marketing conferences and events constantly, at Stanford, in San Francisco and San Jose. I am just now starting to do the same here in DC. When building Ancestry.com and other startups, I always felt that the greatest value I added was from what I learned by networking and reading, and from new ideas and tools that I could bring in and experiment with. I loved finding more efficient ways to do things, discover best practices, and implement systems that could scale.

Because of Gallup, where I’m the evangelist for StrengthsFinder, I realize now that I’m wired to constantly learn, innovate, and strategize. That’s what gives me energy and it’s what I’m best at. My Top 6 strengths are: Learner, Input, Ideation, Intellection, Strategic and Analytical.

Gallup is a great place for me to be. It’s a mission-driven company filled with really smart people who want to have a positive impact on clients and on the world. Gallup conducts research all over the world. We talk with millions of people in 160+ countries every year. From our call centers in Nebraska and through our researchers on the ground all over the world, we have a view from Washington DC about how people are thinking and feeling about key issues everywhere that isn’t skewed because we’re inside the Beltway. Our view is informed by what people are telling us worldwide about what they’re biggest problems and opportunities are.

The advice Gallup can provide to business clients and to leaders in government, education, and faith worldwide does not come from theories or pet ideas–it comes from data and testing and research and measurement. Our scientists are brilliant, our data set is massive and unique, and our company has great leadership. I feel really honored to be a part of Gallup at this very interesting time in world history and in Gallup’s history. I hope I can make positive contributions with my entrepreneurial approach, my technology and marketing skills, and the new things I’m learning about big data and data science.

This view I now have from Washington DC is unlike any other view I’ve ever had, and I’m quite enjoying it.

(Posted from my Chromebook Pixel using GoGoInFlight, thanks to Google I/O)

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Most Effective Email Marketing Tactics–I’m printing this chart right now and putting it on my wall

Most Effective Email Marketing Tactics

I’m printing this chart right now and putting it on my wall.

If your company does email marketing you should do the same. This chart can provide a constant reminder of what works best in email marketing….and that often the most important factors are overlooked.

I’ve been a huge fan of MarketingSherpa for more than 10 years. All online marketers and entrepreneurs should become familiar with their benchmark surveys, their case studies, and events. I’ve learned a ton of great things from MarketingSherpa, which was acquired a few years back by another great company that runs MarketingExperiments.com.

Here’s a link to the full article: http://goo.gl/Ewzsr


from PaulAllenGplus’s Zipl.us Google+ Feed https://plus.google.com/117388252776312694644/posts/5b6f34oJFy1

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