Last week, Praxis hosted its Winter 2015 Opening Seminar in Austin, Texas. In addition to participating in professional development workshops and visiting start-up hubs like Capital Factory, our participants also had the chance to meet and glean insights about entrepreneurial life from various start-up founders and investors. Here are just a few of the highlights from some of this year’s speakers.
Evan Baehr, Co-Founder/Able
On raising capital:
Raising capital is more relational than anything. You have to build relationships and trust. Show you’re a good person. Sell your idea and your character.
On articulating your vision:
There’s a fine line between inspiring and not lying. Find the balance between making your vision sound extraordinary and interesting while avoiding the fallacy of being misleading or presumptuous.
On the criticism and rejection that comes with doing daring things:
If people don’t say “it’s stupid,” it’s not worth doing. If it weren’t capable of being misunderstood as stupid, somebody would have done it already. You have to believe in things that aren’t obviously true.
On when it’s the best time to make connections:
It’s best to meet investors when you don’t need their money. Help is easier to find when you aren’t desperate for it.
Nick Stork, Investor, Analyst/Baleen Capital
On the value of doing inner work:
In school, I figured out how to game the system early on. I didn’t challenge himself and I was mostly extrinsically motivated. Even though I had a lot of money, I had no idea what I wanted to do with this freedom I had. I had to come to grip with the fact that all my life I had been motivated by what other people wanted me to do. Freedom frightened me. I had to do some inner work, so I started to study how my brain works. I found out my brain was full of shit. I had a lot of biases and was intellectually dishonest in a number of ways. When I started to study, meditate, and work on myself as a person, I began to ask the right questions and that led to me finding my path.
On understanding the 3 P’s:
A company is a combination of people, processes, and products. What makes a company great? You use efficient processes to deliver great products to people who really need or love what you’re offering.
On creating value for your customers:
After buying your products or services, your customers should say “I can’t believe I got this for the price I paid.”
On the value of being driven by a sense of passion and purpose:
I invest in people who are personally invested in their mission. The right thing comes naturally for such people. The people who love what they do are the ones who are least likely to take shortcuts.
On the relationship between inner work and outer success:
15 minutes of mindfulness meditation is critical to my life. If I don’t do that, I have no shot at doing world-class work.
On books that have positively influenced his thinking:
Joel Trammel, The American CEO
On the value of maintaining a beginner’s mind:
Learning how to learn from other people is probably the biggest thing that will be predictive of your success.
On the importance of establishing a network and building a team:
There isn’t much you can accomplish in life by always being the smartest person who does everything by yourself.
On the three qualities that make a great leader:
Great leaders are people who embody what I call the three c’s: credibility, competence, and a caring attitude. When it comes to credibility, people have to believe you’re truthful and sincere in your dealings with them. They need to have reasons for thinking you’re authentic and transparent. You can be the most honest person in the world, but if people don’t perceive you as being credible, you gain no leadership benefit from it. For competence, people don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to be committed to excelling at what you do. When it comes to caring, people need to believe you care about them. Unless people believe you care, it doesn’t matter that you actually care.
On the difference between being a manager and being a leader:
Management is about making decisions regarding things you have control over. Leadership is about influencing people. Leadership is not about position, it’s about how you carry yourself. Management is often overrated. Leadership is often underrated.
On the nature of what it really means to be in charge:
Command is not the ability to give orders, it’s responsibility for the outcome of the endeavor. It’s not about having the power to tell people what to do. It’s about about having the willingness to take ownership of the results even if the results aren’t good.
On the importance of being sensitive to other people’s values and priorities:
Treating people like you want to be treated is easy. Treating people like they want to be treated is hard. Don’t just think about how you would like other people to treat you. Think about how you should treat others based on their own terms.
On the difference between creativity and technology:
99% of inventions are just creative, unconventional, or ignored uses of existing technology. Most innovations are not the result of having the best technology. The real value is how you apply or deliver the technology. Technological advantages are not a substitute for creativity and execution.
Andrew Marcus, CEO/MyTennisLessons.com
On the hardships of being an entrepreneur:
If you can’t handle stress, don’t be an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship isn’t just about the sizzle. It’s also about the hustle. It’s fun doing what you love for a living, but it takes a lot of hard work to build and maintain that lifestyle.
On the importance of being fiscally responsible:
Be frugal with your money. Make time for fun, but make sure you’re “ballin’ on a budget.” Always keep the long-term view in mind.
John Ramsey, Founder & CEO/Seedcess
On the importance of creating value:
All business is charity. You can’t succeed in business unless you’re focusing on creative value for people. Profits are just a way of measuring that fact.
The key to networking is all about showing up. There are plenty of days where I don’t feel like going to an event or talking to people, but I make myself get up and get out there. You can’t make new friends and connections if you don’t put yourself out there on a regular basis. Sometimes you’ll make mistakes and sometimes you’ll question if it was worth your time, but the only way to get good at it is to build experience by getting out there.
On staying focused even when you don’t have money:
If you lack financial resources, don’t let that stop you from creating. One of the best ways to impress investors is by demonstrating your determination to create during the hard times. There are almost always little things you can do to move your ideas forward. Don’t neglect those things just because you haven’t raised money yet.
On surrounding yourself with intelligent people:
Always hang out with people that are smarter than you. That’s one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned. When I hang out with really smart people, I not only become smarter, but they help me get things done in a way I wouldn’t have been able to do by myself.
On failure as a key to success:
Failure is how you learn. I’ve failed lots of times. I’ve lost money before. I’ve been ripped off before. I’ve embarrassed myself before. It’s not the end of the world. I’ve become a better person because of my failures. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from taking risk. Failure is one of the best ways to get good at things.
On the value of asking questions:
Ask lots of questions. If you find yourself around successful people, take advantage of the opportunity to learn something from them. Don’t let smart people or successful people get away from you without trying to learn something new.
For speaker highlights from past Opening Seminars, click here.
To learn more about the Winter 2015 Praxis participants, click here.