Ask 3 mentors' opinions. Get 5 different answers.

I sat in an on a mentoring session with a company today. A relatively straightforward question was asked. Three mentors were present. You’d think the extreme case is that the startup would get three pieces of different advice. Nope. It was even more: two of the mentors even managed to contradict themselves mid-session. So, five different opinions. This phenomenon is called a number of names. Techstars calls it “Mentor Whiplash.” Founders get opposing viewpoints from source after source. Weak founders bounce back and forth without ever picking a course.…

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How to Do Great Billboards

One of my companies is Codeup and it is a coding bootcamp. So, it's a B2C business and it uses the one conventional advertising medium that hasn't been destroyed by the internet: billboards. Making good billboards for startups is hard. You're targeting some driver flying by at 80mph listening to talk radio, sometimes on the phone and often distracted by kids in the back seat. I think Codeup has nailed their billboards. Let's dissect what each of these is doing right. Fewer than 7 words and all are in a…

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The Biggest Founder Mistake Is Pricing Too Low

Founders' #1 mistake is pricing their product too low. Having been in the Coding Bootcamp space, the closing of once high-flying Dev Bootcamp is fascinating: https://www.axios.com/early-coding-school-dev-bootcamp-is-shutting-down-2458334754.html Dev Bootcamp was charging a comprehensive 4-month program for $10,000. Knowing the economics of bootcamps, that was just too low to ever be profitable. You have so many costs and that's not nearly enough to cover them. Why didn't they raise their prices? It's a mystery to me. Marc Andreesen famously had this to say about startup pricing:…

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The Power of Context

Alan Kay is one of the thinkers from the early days of Xerox PARC. If you’re a user of modern tech, things like the graphical user interface on computers and the mouse where first conceived of there. Alan has a concept he talks about called the Power of Context: Looking back on these experiences, I’m struck that my lifelong processes of loving ideas and reacting to them didn’t bear really interesting fruit until I encountered “The ARPA Dream” in grad school at the University of Utah. A…

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The Art of Learning / Entity vs Learning Intelligence

One of my pet theories is that 95% of business books are just one good idea expanded into 300 pages. The book, The Art of Learning, is just the opposite. Josh Waitzman (the kid who was featured in Searching for Bobby Fischer) packs the book full of insight that I had to set it down every few pages. One of Josh's points is talking about the two types of intellingence theories adopted by each of us: Entity Intelligence people believe their intelligence comes innately. You'll hear them say things like,…

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