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NOTE: Effective January 1, 2017, I will no longer post new articles since I am now fully retired.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Don't Go It Alone

More and more cities across the United States are recognizing how important it is to support new startups for growing the local economy. We now live in a great entrepreneurial age where people recognize they must control their own destiny and solve the world’s pressing problems. Unfortunately, many people seeking to start a business are not tapping into the wealth of resources available throughout the United States.

“Nearly four out of five small business owners admit that they have not taken full advantage of national and community resources dedicated to helping small businesses develop and grow.” – Survey Conducted by Fifth Third Bank

Let me start with one simple example which is SCORE – Service Corp of Retired Executives. Each month, I spend about four to five days a month as a mentor in the Washington D.C. office of SCORE. SCORE consists of 11,000 retired business executives who mentor those wanting to start a business. You have access to experts in marketing, product development, design, business planning and finance. You have access to workshops, webinars and templates to guide you through the entire process. For people in remote locations, you can request email mentoring or video mentoring in lieu of face-to-face mentoring.   

Another great resource are the incubator and accelerator groups. These groups usually provide technical support and workshops in areas such as Minimal Viable Product or UX Design. Here in Washington D.C. you have 1776, Startup Grind and General Assembly. Go to any major city in the United States and you will find some collaborative group that directly supports startups.  

This collaborative approach to helping startups can even get reinforced by the offices you rent. Almost every major city has some form of co-work environment for sharing ideas and growing together – OfficePort in Kansas City and Chicago, IgnitedSpaces in Los Angeles, NextSpace or WeWork here in Washington D.C. where I work.

Another real source for startups is the every growing world on online equity financing. This includes the growth of crowdfunding platforms and the more liberal regulations on how startups can issue stock. Take for example Kickstarter (a crowdfunding platform) which has raised over $ 1.5 billion for over 50,000 startup projects. For highly innovative and cool products that can be demonstrated using a video, the startup project can be extremely significant. A good example is the Pebble Time Watch which raised over $ 20 million on Kickstarter to compete directly with the Apple Watch. Online sources of equity funding are becoming the new norm for how startups get funded. Crowdfunding is exploding – from $ 2.7 billion in 2012 with a projection of $ 100 billion by 2025. Crowdfunding will surpass all forms of venture capital according to the World Bank.    

“In my opinion, we are now at the knee of an exponential growth curve in equity-based crowdfunding that will empower millions of entrepreneurs globally to start new businesses, create new jobs, and to solve some of the world's toughest challenges with backing from the crowd.”  Peter H. Diamandis, Co-Founder and Chairman of Singularity University

All of this startup funding has not gone un-noticed in Washington D.C. and with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC has approved rules (Regulation A+, under Title IV of the JOBS Act) allowing private companies to raise up to $ 50 million from non-accredited investors (people not considered to be wealthy per Rule 501 of Regulation D). You can go public on a small scale without all the formality of an initial public offering through a stock exchange.

We are truly in an entrepreneurial age where people now recognize that our problems must get solved by ourselves and not the big institutions that have dominated our lives in the past. This world of abundance is readily available for those willing to take the risk of becoming part of our future solutions. There is no reason for anyone to go it alone in today’s world – start thinking about your own potential and start tapping into all the resources that are now readily available.  

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