Week Nine Readings: Your Thoughts

The business plan in the appendix of the Briggs book is in a different format than the one you will eventually write, but it offers you some good things to think about in developing a media related business. What did you find most interesting or surprising about it?

How could you apply at least one of the insights into how Google operates from the Jarvis book to your startup?

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12 thoughts on “Week Nine Readings: Your Thoughts

  1. I am sure that we have mentioned this before, but as I was reading I came across this statement, “Like any good writing, a pitch should show not tell.” In previous pitches as well as the one I am currently working on, it is easy to explain your pitch to others and expect them to automatically envision it as you do. However, telling people over and over again your ideas only gets you to a certain point. You have to eventually build for people to really buy in.

    This is funny to me because last night during our breakout session, our team was actually contemplating this same issue. How much technology/product do we need to show? It is surprising to me that more experienced creators such as Mike Oren with Pegasus News makes the same mistakes and has the same issues. “Early on we spent more time pitching to investors than building and were frustrated at not having a product to show.” In other words, reading this somewhat evened out the playing fields in my mind. I tend to think, “I am young. There are way more experienced entrepenuers with more resources.” However, this made me realize that we are all just creative people with new ideas, making mistakes and correcting them to make our ideas happen.

    In the section beginning on page 161 in “What Would Google Do?” I discovered, “Make mistakes well.” We tend to think that making mistakes makes us weak. “Corrections do not blemish credibility.” I am very guilty of feeling just the opposite. For example, if I am painting and mess up on one stroke, I am inclined to throw it away and start all over because it is not perfect. This advice definitely carries over into building a start-up. If I am not willing to be wrong, I am not willing to innovate.

    Nothing about building a start-up is perfect and I realize that and I finally feel that now I am actually accepting that. There are so many quotes in this section that jump out at me. “Judge us by our product, not our process.” It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get somewhere or how many bumps you encountered on the way. At the end of the day, you got there.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Good, Shelby. In many ways, young people are the perfect entrepreneurs, even though it doesn’t always feel that way – you are often better positioned to take a few risks. In general, even outside of entrepreneurship, being able to occasionally take well-thought-out risks is a good skill to have.

  2. Kimberly Exford says:

    I think for me, the most interesting or unexpected piece of information in the business plan found in the Briggs book came towards the middle- the section on leadership. I had never really given much thought to providing potential investors with a brief bio and the qualifications of each member of the team that would be working on a project. However, after reading Briggs’ intro regarding this matter, it makes perfect sense. He states, “This section is always very important to investors- do you have a team that can pull of an ambitious plan?”

    I mean, let’s stop and think about this for a moment. If we were all investors, about to give money to people for an idea, wouldn’t you want to know that these were the right people for the job not just some lunatics with too much time on their hands? The section that follows discussing the strategic advisors and investors lends itself to the same importance as the leadership section.

    In Jarvis’ book, I found the Advertising section starting on page 145 particularly interesting. More specifically, one thing that stood out to me was the mention of being sure that you have a good product. I mean, it seems obvious, however, I am inclined to believe that people feel good advertising might make up for a crappy or mediocre product. Tobaccowala says “make absolutely certain that you have a good product or service.” This is so true. Don’t rely on the advertising to do the “dirty” work, instead, focus your energy initially on developing an awesome product. For future startups, this bit of advice is key. I feel like he is telling us to keep our eyes focused on the product, and let the advertising be an assistant in getting your product out there, not the primary means.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Good points. It is often said, and it makes sense, that investors invest in people as much if not more than they do ideas.

  3. Lori Shull says:

    When I was reading the business plan, I was struck by how responsive it was but, more importantly, how much of what was included in the plan was either not relevant but put in there to satisfy investors who asked unrelated questions or was a plan so far off in the future that the team was unprepared to take action on it anytime soon.

    The responsiveness part is probably common sense – it saves the team from having to answer the same questions over again and helps to show the investors (who may or may not really understand the industry) that the team knows what it’s doing and has thought everything through.

    For lack of a better term, I’ll call the second part (forgive me) creative bullshit. I understand that your business has to be viable in the long-term and simply saying, ‘Trust me, we have a future’ to an investor isn’t an option. But it was incredible how many different ways Orren and his team came up with to expand and make money. Just coming up with one or two to make it through the first year or two is hard enough, let alone what they came up with about spreading into other markets and all the rest.

    I agree with Kim that I thought the advertising section was the most interesting. My favorite part was Jarvis’ suggestion that advertising needs to change from ‘give me your money’ to ‘hey, we both like this kind of thing, now watch me give it money to help keep it going. don’t you like me too?’ That, combined with the idea of handing over control of your brand to customers (scary thought!) is really incredible. I think it is a great idea, but since I work in a PR/marketing office at a university with not the most enthusiastic of students, it is intimidating and a tall order. Especially in a large organization, there is so much apathy toward change that opening up a brand like Jarvis recommends is no easy feat.

  4. Carrie Brown says:

    Good points. What I liked most about the business plan was the notations from Orren reflecting on what was good and bad about it, looking back.

  5. adoughty88 says:

    How many startups become so invested in their service or product that they become too close to it and almost irresponsibly obsessed, thus blinding their willingness to re-evaluate various messages and clouding their reality or expectations? While there are a large amount of heartwarmingly motivational startup stories, there also remains a large amount of companies that misfired along the way. Some of those that misfired became too infatuated with the awe-inspiring intricacies of their innovative idea instead of focusing on the facts and keeping their message simple and enticing.

    I loved that the Pegasus business plan keeps things moving, but leaves the reader’s juices flowing. They don’t waste potential investors’ time with too many details in each section. For example, in section one it addresses the issue of user accuracy by discussing the 130 DFW neighborhoods. We don’t need to know what neighborhoods these are, the exact logic behind their identification, etc. It’s a very important aspect that must be included and adds a commendable level of credibility but they don’t explode our heads with too many details.

    Responsible simplicity can be one of the most powerful selling points even if your product or service boasts cool features that are far from simple.

    The section titled “Don’t Fear Failure” on pages 198-199 is spectacular. I believe that everyone knows they will incur a gigantic fail at some point in their professional lives, whether it’s a startup-related or not, but I don’t believe most people can handle it. As a result, prospective entrepreneurs elect not to take that leap. Taking that leap with someone else is significantly easier and oftentimes smarter.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Yeah, accepting that sometimes you will fail when you take a risk, but that you can learn from it quickly is a key part of being a successful entrepreneur.

  6. adoughty88 says:

    I answered the second part incorrectly by pulling from the Briggs book and not Jarvis.

    The section titled ‘PR and lawyers: Hopeless” on pages 222-225 was very interesting. I believe the world of startup public relations can be very intimidating, especially for those with a fantastic idea/company/business model but without significant PR experience. Just as I mentioned in my last reply about fear of failure, there is a certain level of fear as to how one should attack PR during the infancy of their startup. The second paragraph that touches on transparency, consistency, collaboration, etc. very accurately reflects this daunting world because many people want to make the right choice for the right outcomes but must be very careful in how they present their message.

  7. Nicholas Beshiri says:

    After reading the business plan the first thing that struck me was the amount of detail and thought that was put into creating it. There were several things included in the plan that I had not even thought about so far in developing the plans for our AlertMe app. Reading the business plan brought up even more questions that my group is going to eventually answer, such as compiling an assets section of the plan or sitting down and developing a thorough breakdown of revenue and financials. I also found the section at the end of the business plan that outlined the accomplishments of Pegasus News so far as well as the attention they have received from various media outlets to be a great addition. Including this section could go a long way in attracting prospective investors to the company.

    One of the sections that I found the most interesting started on page 153 and discussed “a business based on openness”. I think I found this section the most interesting because it can be applied to both the app we are developing in class and my job as a teacher. Jarvis gives examples of how well different businesses would run if they were based on multiple layers of data that was open to the public. Customers would be given ample opportunity to change a business just based on the opinions of the products they purchase. Jarvis gave the example of a restaurant menu with the data on how many times a dish has been ordered in the past month. A dish that has been ordered several times would give the customer an indicator that it was a good choice and things not ordered could be taken off of the menu by the chef. I can apply these same principles to the assignments I give to my students. I can look at an assignment’s worth by looking at how well the students did on the assignment and their opinion of whether or not it helped them in passing that unit’s test. Moving further I could apply it to separate questions on tests and how students answered each question as a group. If the majority of them got it wrong, I could either throw the question out or go back over that question’s content in more detail. Using the data available to you and being open with it can help mold your business into something that the consumer truly wants.

    • Carrie Brown says:

      Good. Pegasus was, in the end, successful, too, so that also makes it a good model, even though Orren also writes about some of the mistakes they made along the way.

  8. Cheryl Hayes says:

    The purpose of Pegasus News, its customers and its value proposition are well defined in the business plan no doubt. However, I think the most interesting section of the business plan is the financial section. It can be expected for a new company in the startup phase to operate in the negative for the first one to two years. Pegasus News launched at the end of 2006. Revenue climbed approximately 13% in two years alone. This is due to launching Pegasus News in a new market, Austin. That is amazing revenue growth as a result of launching their product in a new market. The more markets Pegasus News entered, revenue continued to climb so that by end of 2010, its net income was greater than its operating income. Takeaway, the more markets a startup introduces its product, the more financial growth the startup can possible realize.

    The inspiring words on page 121 where Jarvis states “is to see things differently, to understand the fundamental changes of the Google age, to ask hard questions, to grasp new opportunities, to rethink, reimagine, and reinvent.” This is of utmost importance to all new startups. Although not all new startups will go in this direction, but the ones that do will be more likely to grow and stay in the game far longer than those that do not follow Google’s direction. I think the business plan for Pegasus News clearly demonstrates that the founders were rethinking, reimagining and reinventing news to offer a great product of value to its many markets. Pegasus News bottom line from 2007 -2010 of proof that it is important and it works.

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