Start Up Blog

The Silk Road Patron

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 3, 2013

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of the Super Awesome Micro Project. And if you’re not aware I’m about to disclose some of the secret sauce. Mainly because between now and when we launch, it is physically impossible to be copied by anyone. For two reasons – the first is that no one else has Raul, and secondly it took us way more time and money than we would ever have imagined.

In fact, what we are doing has been on line for some time for those who wanted to seek it out – the secret, has been out a while on this Ignite talk I did at a global digital event as linked below:

A Stranger From Romania.

As you can tell from this super fast talk, we are building a world first piece of technology – a technology which at this point has no commercial goal – and no other reason for existing other than awesomeness. A pressure test of what is possible when the connected world aggregate small amounts of money with large amounts of thinking.  To see what we can build using democratised digital factors of production and a teenage genius.

It was made possible by 40 people in Australia, also known as the Super Awesome Micro Project Patrons. Normal everyday people having a crack at creating part of the technology narrative. Our Modern Day Medici. The facilitators of the future.

What is it?

We are buildng a full size car, built entirely from lego, with an engine built from lego, and the engine runs on air. Actually, let me rephrase this. We have already built it. It is done. We have succeeded.

This is where the Silk Road Patron comes in:

We are at the point where we need to transfer the Super Awesome thing and the Super Awesome kid from Romania to Australia for the launch. The cost of transferring our adopted son and our fantastic plastic machine to our fair brown land rounds out to approx. $25K give or take. It is our plan to airfreight both artefacts human and construction – for time & safety reasons. The truth is, I can’t ask any of the patrons to put in any more money than they have already donated. Every single one of these people has already stretched themselves financially. I personally do not even want to talk about how much money I have put into this, other than to say it is 100+ times more than I thought it would be. This is no exageration.  And so what we need is the Silk Road Patron.

The Silk Road Patron is the internet version of a silk road trader of antiquity. Someone who is intrigued by the possibilities of exchange from lands afar. Interested in new minds, methods and techniques. Inspired by and for the benefit of a populous wider than themselves. This Silk Road Patron has nothing to prove to anyone, because they’ve already done it – they’ve crossed the globe, trekked the path and already made bank with their own spice trade. They want to give back – be the final player who connects the possibilities of the #SAMP. The Silk Road Patron is a person, not a corproation. The Silk Road Patron’s gift of participation in this arduous project, is participation itself – a personal satisfaction.

This is something wider and deeper than the #SAMP – it is in fact the search for Australia’s most generous entrepreneur.  A VC whose return on investment does not involve percentages or ROI. Their drive is ROH – return on humanity. (It is worth noting we can provide validation and proof of our achievements via private digital methods.)

And so our search for this person starts today. Please let us know if this person is someone you know, or maybe, just maybe it is you. 

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Facebook IPO repurcussions

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 20, 2012

The upcoming Facebook IPO is a very interesting scenario. Not just from a startup / social media or tech point of view but from an economic one. There are a lot of facts and figures being thrown around, but from my point of view I’m interested in just a few of them and what they mean for tech entreprepreneurs:

100 Billion Valuation: If the IPO is successful the expected valuation is 33 times their current revenue. And around 100 times their earnings. For comparison purposes Apple current has a 14 times earnings ratio while Google has 12 times. Both companies which have established and growing revenue streams. I know which companies I’d rather hold stock in.

68 Million in acquisitions: In the past year Facebook invested $68 million in purchasing other companies. They have an appetite for acquisition. And that appetite will only grow when the pressures of being public come to the fore. It means that startups who have invented ways to extract money from the Facebook platform are well placed to be bought by the mothership. If you have an idea on how to do this get moving, because the stock market pressures will ensure that startups with revenue generation via Facebook will be targeted.

The IPO will create 1000+ new millionaires: All of which will feel a sense of ‘owing the tech community’. Many of whom will feel like tech rockstars and want to start their own Angel funds. Which means there will be more startups being funded by the FB IPO gold rush. If there was ever a good time to seek money from the Valley, post FB float will be one of the good ones.

 

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The art of pitching

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 31, 2011

I had a catch up with a well known pitch doctor yesterday. He reminded me of some of the most important factors, and regular mistakes we make while pitching.

Biggest mistake: Wasting time talking about ourselves. They already know enough about us, or they wouldn’t be in the room. The right amount of time to allocate talking about ourselves is close to zero.

Biggest Opportunity: Leave some questions unanswered. (counter intuitive I know) This creates the opportunity for real conversation. When we converse, we see how each party thinks. It also enables us to determine if we have the right chemistry to work together.

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I don’t…

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 19, 2010

I don’t have a rich Father

I wasn’t left a sum of money from my Grandma

I didn’t go to Harvard

I don’t live in Silicon valley

I wasn’t funded at Techcrunch 50 or Y combinator

I’m not technical genius

I can’t code the latest killer app

I guess I’ll just have to build my startup the old fashioned way. Work my ass off, invent my own revenue, build a team and improve what I have to offer as I learn from the mistakes I’m bound to make. If you’re still around in 10 years, look me up.

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Borderless Venture Capital

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on January 25, 2010

This is the third of my crowd sourced blog entry ideas as suggested by Aida_Lee. Aida wanted to get my thoughts on the following: In today’s cheap, quick and global market, what do you see as the blueprint for a border-less venture capital to work?

There is no doubt Venture Capital has been a bit of closed shop historically. And although we’ve seen some opening up of business funding in the USA with vehicles such as the techcrunch 50 and Paul Graham’s Y Combinator, other markets such as Australia are lagging behind quite significantly. My views are the opinion of someone who has raised venture and angel funding before for new ventures.

In my view a thing things need to happen for the traditional structure of Venture Capital to change:

  1. A startup community must evolve in a tight geographic region – this often facilitates events such as those mentioned above in Silicon Valley.
  2. Disruptive technology must become available which breaks down traditional access barriers to outsiders.

Number 1 has happened in only a few locations, namely S Valley, but number 2 has happened all over the world and this is where I see the major changes. The thing that new internet technology has done is brought entrepreneurial communities together. Now we can find each other without having to live near each other. But the funny thing about raising funds for what is considered risky investments, is that it isn’t nearly as much about the idea or revenue potential. It’s about the ability to the team raising to sell themselves. And all real selling requires lots of face time. It’s hard to do this on line, or across borders. So I think that large capital raising wont change a great deal in the future. But, I do see an important  capital raising revolution coming:

Crowd funding.

It’s been done already in a few markets, and some entrepreneurs and start ups have already used this technique to raise money for their venture. The idea has been well documented, but a true revolution, such as social networking  has yet to happen. The main thing holding it back has been government regulation from the likes of the SEC and ASIC in Australia. What I think the next iteration will be, is a web based business which takes micro payments / investments (a little bit like Kiva) from a large number of punters (for lack of a better word) to fund the new business. Method of which would be like an on-line float for startups. The investors who then would become digital evangelists for the new company. There would be a synchronized  ‘investment beta’

The key service of such a site would be to overcome the legal vagaries for all participants and be able to take investments in multiple currencies from multiple markets. There is no doubt this would leverage the quickly building on line entrepreneurial communities. It would also have an important impact the venture capital industry structure the same way digital freelancing websites like elance have respectively.

I’d be interested if there are any sites already doing pure crowd sourcing, and to hear what your thoughts are.

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Startup School – 1 seat left

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 2, 2009

I’m very excited that Startup School Melbourne is this weekend. We still have a single seat left which is currently being warmed by this guy….

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But we’d love to replace him with you. And if you need any more convincing then I’m pretty sure I’ll have done the job once you finish reading this blog entry.

Firstly – here’s a list of topics we’ll be covering in detail:

  • Idea Generating
  • Creativity in business. Creative thinking
  • Raising Capital
  • Art of Pitching
  • Legal tips, shortcuts and administration
  • Successful outsourcing (digital & production)
  • Building an international work force
  • Cash flow for startups & budgeting
  • Simplified project management
  • Personal & business branding
  • Selling like a guru
  • Generating PR and media
  • Building a Team

All of which is fully documented in a take home working manual so you’ll leave knowing exactly what to do and how to do it. Like I have.

We are also being joined by Yvonne Adele – Globally renowned Creativity and ideas guru!

You can’t learn this stuff in school, books or at University. And I should know as I teach Marketing at Melbourne University. You also get me as an on going mentor as a Startup School graduate with unlimited help in your start up. Which is incredible value give what most consultants (with less real experience) charge by the hour.

We are holding the event in the groovy boutique Lindrum Hotel. Where the space is great and the food and espresso is awesome. I tested it.

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All of which is included in the price. You’ll be one of 10 people in an intimate learning environment. Not in a room full of people.

If that’s not enough , Startup School comes with a money back guarantee to blow your mind. I can say this because I know the 2 days will.

No, it’s not priceless – it’s priced at $998.

It will be the best investment in your entrepreneurship education you’ve ever made. it will make and save you thousands. This event is a one off, there is no next chance. If you want to chat about it – call me on the phone number in the right hand side bar of this blog.

Click here to book now.

(Seats still available for Sydney 21st & 22nd of November)

See you on the weekend, Steve.

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2 schools of business valuation

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 10, 2009

A favourite game of entrepreneurs, especially in the technology industry is discussing whether companies are worth the price they are bought out for. $1.5 billion  for Youtube ………. Sales prices with infinite price earnings multiples (because there are no earnings, or they are loss making). Versus a company being sold for a few times it’s annual earnings with a long period of earnings history.

A more relevant discussion would be which school of business valuation was used during the transaction, and there are two:

1. Sale price representing believed potential

2. Sale price representing return on investment reality

Which is more valid? Well it depends on which side of the equation you are residing. I’d say when selling, we should be aiming for potential. When buying we should go with reality. When buying a business the simplest question to ask ourselves is this:

On current earnings, how many years will it take me to get back my original investment.

web media poster

There’s no doubt certain industries are more likely to sell using the potential valuation method. Burgeoning industries like the internet, IPO’s and even railways 200 years ago are good examples. To get away with selling on ‘potential’ the industry needs to be growing, the future unknown and your company well known. If your startup ever gets enough traction to sell to an incumbent, then take what you can get – sell on potential.

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Business Plan Template

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 28, 2009

It’s well documented that I’m not a big fan of business plans. Mainly because we live in a world of flux. But if you must use one – which I’ll call a 1 page mud map – then here’s a template. I’ve used this and I’d recommend it for ‘real entrepreneurs’ – that is non VC seeking bootstrappers.

What is it?
Describe your business or service in a single sentence. If you can’t do this, you don’t know what you’re doing.

Who is it for?
The audience who need or want this thing you’re about to create. Define them in whatever terms you please, demographically, socially, behaviourally, geographically. Just be succinct and tight in your clustering.

Why do they need it?
How is it better than the current substitute options?

How will they find us?
Where will we gain distribution? Maybe we’ll leverage a strong retail chain. A singular high traffic location. If web based strong SEO / brand awareness will be required. Maybe we already have an audience who we’ll bring a product to. This should be the most detailed part of the plan. It should include brand awareness activities and promotions. It still should only be a round 1 paragraph long.

Cost to build Version 1.0
Just estimate it – then double your estimate. Now this is the bare bones version, the absolute minimum required for launch. Outsource every element of production were possible, unless you are the major factor of production. Keep the cost low. It enhances speed, and reduces fear of failure and inertia.

Revenue Stream
There is no such thing as ‘Free’ – just a delayed revenue model. Ideas include: Sell item for price, Percentage of sales, memberships, premiums, selling advertising among others. Your plan is not finished unless you can answer this in a way your mum can understand.

Next Steps
These steps are related to launching the product. We stop typing and start prototyping. Here’s where we have 3-5 bullet points on how to get to version 1.0 The quickest possible route to being live in market. The steps to when you can out there and start selling & promoting.

That’s it. In fact you final plan should be as short as that we see above. Print it, put it up in your office and get to work.

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How to get investors interested

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 5, 2009

While watching the BBC television show the Dragons Den, quite often the ‘Dragons’ laugh at a business concept they are presented with and think it is ridiculous.

dragons den

Here’s the one thing that makes them eat their words every time:

Sales figures. Revenue, Customers, Repeat orders.

It’s only then they change their view from ‘not interested‘, to ‘I’m listening‘.

If you ever want to get investors interested, go see them once you’ve got sales. When you have revenue coming in it puts the kibosh on negative opinions. In addition,  it increases value of your business and reduces the percentage you’d have to give away for a cash investment.

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Business Pitch

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on May 13, 2009

The other day I was involved in pitching my business rentoid.com – I wanted to stay true to my beliefs and present a largely visual presentation to what I expected was an ‘info hungry’ crowd. The type who don’t mind a page full of words and numbers. My rule was no more than 6 words per slide. Some had only 2.

I think the format is pretty useful, so I thought I’d share it. Basically in each chart just change the word ‘rentoid’ and insert ‘your business’ and I think it would be just fine. It was for a pitching competition (I know they seem to be the trend of the day) and we made it to the final after a few stages so I guess it’s a method which has worked. It’s only 5 slides. I think talking to pictures works because it makes people listen, not read, and it shows you know your business.

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