UVEF's monthly lunch meeting is coming up this Thursday, October 12th. They have decided to have a panel on business incubators, and I'm excited to be one of the panelists. I hope to see you there:
TOPIC 1. Marty Fahncke, an outstanding direct-response marketer, finally convinced me to join with him as he launches www.learnfrompaulallen.com. I guess he really couldn't have done it without me. Our first conference call, where I will answer questions from listeners about internet marketing and other entrepreneurial topics, will be held on Thursday, September 7th at 1 pm MST. This is a free conference call, so register now for one of the limited spaces.
Yes, this is an advertisement. It's an invitation for you to bring your startup company to the new Provo Labs Academy, where you will learn dozens of important internet marketing tactics that can help you find more success for your business. In September, a new office building will open in Provo with space for dozens of small startup companies. It is adjacent to BYU on Ninth East, across from the Creamery on Ninth. If you like the BYU Dairy chocolate milk (best tasting in the world) you will love moving your small business into our new space.
So in the past 7 months, Provo Labs has started or invested in 11 companies. It's been a bit wild. So for the next 6 months at least, we are going to stop investing and incubating new ideas and focus 100% of our energies on helping our current portfolio with revenue growth, with the goal of getting each company to cash flow positive without any additional investment from Provo Labs.
I recently wrote an article for Connect Magazine about business incubators and Provo Labs in particular. It explains what we are trying to do at Provo Labs and why we think it will work. One thing we have learned already since December is that our internal team needs to focus on one major project at a time and get it to completion, rather than having 5-10 simultaneous projects that are "on the brink" of completion but aren't generating any value for customers.
This post may only be interesting to the few die-hard believers in business incubators. During the bubble, everyone wanted to jump in and start an incubator. But most failed, and failed quickly. So here I am in 2006 running an internet business incubator. Our plan is to use our small staff to test different ideas, see what sticks, and then to invest seed capital (from $20,000-250,000) in the ideas that seem to be the most promising.
I've been thinking a lot about goal setting recently. As a Christian, I have always liked that Ezra Taft Benson (Secretary of Agriculture under Eisenhower and later, President of the Mormon Church) explained that all of us should follow the example of Jesus Christ in making progress in four areas of life. The single biblical verse that describes Jesus' life from age 12 to 30 says: "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man." (Luke 2:52)
Provo Labs is now funded. Our small incubator team intends to launch between 12-20 internet startup companies in the next 2-3 years. We have an office at Canyon Park now (in Orem) but as per our name, we'll be moving to Provo early next year. Our m/o is to generate great ideas, build working prototypes (or live web sites) quickly and by using the best internet marketing techniques, bring enough visitors to each web site that we can prove each concept. If a business idea passes the initial market test, then we will provide enough seed capital to build a team and fund a go-to-market strategy. Our goal is to reach positive cash flow from Provo Labs initial investment. But some startups will need more than just seed capital. If necessary, we'll use FundingUniverse.com to help us find angel capital, or in some cases we might seek venture capital.