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3 Things the Tour de France Can Teach Us About Start-Ups

Posted on July 10, 2006
Filed Under VC, General Thoughts, Technology, Business | Leave a Comment

While watching the Tour the other day I starting noticing things that transfer from cycling to the world of start-ups. There were three things that really left out to me so I thought I would share them with you. Hey, any way to talk cycling and business, right? Enjoy!

1. The team makes the difference.

Team DiscoveryWhy was Lance Armstrong able to win for seven straight year while his rivals struggled to keep up? The answer, his team. Sure, Lance was more fit than his rivals most of those years, trained hard and had some natural gifts geared toward cycling but it was his team that kept him out of trouble and led him to the finish time after time while other teams could not do the same for their stars. Another point to his credit, Lance was smart enough to realize the importance of a team in his bid to win the Tour. By all accounts he looked for cyclists that could help lead him to victory and helped with recruiting great members to the team. He also coached, mentored and trained his men and made sure they all believed in the overall mission: a Tour de France win for him.

Just as teams are important in cycling they are important in start-ups. The people make the company and start-up founders need to remember this as they begin the hiring process. Some entrepreneurs may be tempted to rapidly staff up if they are going through a growth spurt but people are a long term commitment that can really harm a company if not chosen wisely. The founders would be better served by waiting a little longer and shouldering more work in order to find the right candidate that believes in the mission, is willing to work hard and fits the culture. Hiring the wrong candidate can slowly kill an organization from the inside.

2. Even the mighty can fall.

Lance 2003 FallIn cycling everyone can and will fall at some point in time. In 2003, Lance took a terrible spill while climbing a mountain. A fan had inadvertently caught Lance’s handlebars in a bag strap (yup, wasn’t even his fault). Lance had only a small margin over Jan Ullrich at the time so this was a very grave situation. What did Lance do? He got up, got back on the bike and kept pushing all the while keeping a cool head. Keeping cool allowed him to remember the basics, concentrate on climbing and he eventually won the Tour. Getting frustrated and mad at the spectator who got in the way would only have hindered his bid for a 5th Tour victory.

In a start-up there will be inevitable ups and downs as the business progresses forward. It is how a company deals with the down turns that really show its true colors. Like Lance, companies need to keep their cool so they can tweak the business strategy to meet new market demands. Sometimes a company may even have a great product but may not know how to make any money with it. Take Google for example. Back in the early 00s Google was proving to be a top force in the search space. People loved their product but they hadn’t really figured out how to make money with it yet! So, they remained calm and eventually figured out the AdSense contextual ad network which was actually a borrowed idea from on of Bill Gross’ IdeaLab creations called GoTo.com/Overture. As they say, the rest is history.

3. Passion is priceless.

Lance Wins 7As one of my old Tour t-shirts says: The Tour is “3,360 kilometers de enfer, et de passion.” Or for you English speakers in the audience: The Tour is over 2,000 miles of hell and of passion. The Tour de France is a “sufferfest” in every sense of the word. Riders are constantly battling to suppress immense pain while continuing to push their bodies to the limit day after day. What gets them through is their passion for the sport. They love it and they wouldn’t trade it for the world. Lance lived and breathed cycling and it showed at the end of seven straight Julys. His passion also inspired his team to fight for him day in and day out which allowed for his success.

Start-up companies, the good ones anyway, are built on passion as well. Honestly, why would anyone leave a nice safe cushy job for a start-up? Well, some may say the sense of adventure and the want to create something along with other reasons (stock options and money) but what it really comes down to is passion for an idea. The idea grips the entrepreneur (and his/her future employees) and consumes him or her until there is nothing left to do but go for it. The great thing about passion is that it keeps people going during the inevitable rough patches, unites people to focus on a common goal and creates a business that stands for something and that will hopefully change the world for the better. Randy Komisar captured the idea of passion very well in his book The Monk and the Riddle. Basically, the book shows that there is no business without passion. Entrepreneurs need to be excited and passionate about their ideas because, if they aren’t, others won’t be either.

I hope all of you will take these Tour lessons back to your ideas and businesses and that they will serve you well. I also urge you all to check out the Tour on OLN as cycling is a fantastic sport. Yes, I know Lance is not in the Tour anyone but there are still some great cyclists in there like Floyd Landis that I’m sure will put on quite a show in the upcoming mountain stages!


New Show Premier: Lost Worlds

Posted on July 9, 2006
Filed Under General Thoughts, Archeology, History | Leave a Comment

History ChannelI am very excited about a new History Channel show premiering tomorrow (Monday July 10th) at 9 EST/8 CST. It is called Lost Worlds and the premise of the show is that they will recreate ancient sites using the latest computer graphics technology. This should prove to be a very interesting show.

For the premier the show will take a look at sites linked with the Knights Templar most recently made famous by Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. I am especially excited for this as I, along with many others, have been swept up with the themes of the Da Vinci Code. I have been reading a great book called Secrets of the Code in which Dan Burstein edits together all of the important scholarly writings and thoughts on the themes of the Da Vinci Code. It is an incredible read and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to know the “facts” behind the Da Vinci Code.

Here is what the History Channel has to say about the show tomorrow:

They defended the Holy Land through bloodshed and prayer. Founded in the 12th century, these Christian warrior monks reigned supreme for nearly 200 years before suffering a spectacular fall from grace. Tried for heresy, they were disbanded and their Grand Master burned at the stake. We’ll search behind the legend for their lost world. We recreate the city they knew as Tortosa–now hidden among modern homes in the Syrian city of Tartus. We reveal secrets of their headquarters at Temple Mount in Jerusalem, with magnificent underground vaults that could stable 1,000 horses. And we visit the circular church in London built to resemble the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the site of the Templar’s mysterious initiation rites. We bring to life the hilltop fortress that Lawrence of Arabia called “the finest castle in the world”, and return to the Mediterranean island where the Knights Templars made their last stand against Moslem enemies

Looking forward to hearing comments from anyone who watches the show or wants to discuss the Da Vinci Code.


TECH cocktail Gets TechCrunched

Posted on July 9, 2006
Filed Under VC, FeedBurner, Technology, Chicago, Business, TECH cocktail | 1 Comment

TechCrunchSweet! TECH cocktail makes TechCrunch today.  Mike has been a supporter of this event from day 1 so a thank you is definitely in order.  The TechCrunch post is another great step forward for the Chicago/midwest tech community.  Again, mission accomplished!


TECH Cocktail 1 - Mission Accomplished!

Posted on July 7, 2006
Filed Under VC, FeedBurner, Technology, Chicago, Business, TECH cocktail | 4 Comments

WOW and thank you! That’s all I need to say really but I will nonetheless give you a full post. TECH cocktail 1 went off without a hitch (ok, maybe there was a hitch with giveaways but, hey, everyone still got the free stuff!). The best of the best of Chicago/Midwest tech all took part and it was a great evening. When Frank and I first set off to do this event we were thinking it would be great to have 100 people show up. That would be HUGE we thought. Well, 225+ people later here we are.

The Crowd at Tech CocktailThe best thing about all of this was how the community really put this event on. Yes, Frank and I organized it, but without the support of the community via blogging, talking the event up and sponsoring us to help pay the bills there would have been no TECH cocktail. So, a big thank you is in order for everyone who came out and showed the world what the Chicago tech scene is all about.

I also want to take a minute and thank our main sponsor, midphase. Yes, it takes a good amount of money to do this type of an event and thanks to these guys we didn’t have to wipe our bank accounts out. Not only did they help with cash flow, they also gave out over 20 free yearly hosting packages! Thanks again guys.

Last but not least I certainly want to thank all of the people who sponsored with free schwag as that is very important. Admit it, you love schwag and it’s great to take something home from an event.

Stormhoek - for the wine and the Hugh MacLeod signed and numbered prints
State - for the space and the staff
RipItDigital - for the gift certificates for the raffle
Apple - for the 2 iPod nanos for the raffle
SkinnyCorp - for the great extra tasty schwag
Apartments.com - for the koozies
FeedBurner - for the schwag and support
Chicagoist - for the schwag

Frank and I at Tech CocktailAlso, thank you to Frank, my co-organizer, Frank’s family and significant other (they really did a heck of a lot of work) and all my friends and family for their support and for putting up with me in general. This was a community event in every sense of the word and that is what it was meant to be. Mission Accomplished!

Side note: Make sure to tag all pics, posts, etc. with techcocktail1 and check out the pictures here! Also, for more info please see the official post event post on TECHcocktail.com and Frank’s post on SomewhatFrank.com. Lastly, please send success stories either Frank or I as we’d love to hear them.


Tech Cocktail Reminder

Posted on July 5, 2006
Filed Under VC, General Thoughts, Technology, Chicago, Business | Leave a Comment

Just wanted to post the obligatory reminder for Tech Cocktail tomorrow (July 6th). It should be a lot of fun. We now have over 200 responses thanks to a late surge from Rick Klau, David Dalka and Robert Scoble’s blog posts. Thanks for your support guys!

Tech CocktailIf you still aren’t convinced I should mention that we will be giving away some hosting packages from our gracious lead sponsor midphase, a couple iPod nanos, a couple gift certs from RipItDigital, some great shwag from ExtraTasty (courtesy of the guys from threadless), some goodies from Stormhoek and some other stuff I am probably forgetting. Oh, and you’ll get to rub elbows with a veritable who’s who of Chicago area tech and enjoy some great Stormhoek wine. Not too shabby.

If you haven’t RSVPed yet please do so by commenting on this post. Looking forward to seeing you all at the event!


Movie Review: Munich

Posted on July 4, 2006
Filed Under Movie Reviews | 5 Comments

I received Munich from netflix a couple days ago. I was very excited to watch it as a trusted friend said I should. I am glad I did. This was probably one of Spielberg’s best serious films but you probably won’t feel this way right after viewing it. The movie has a number of slow points which I had heard caused people to leave when it originally ran in theaters. I didn’t think the slow points in the film warranted giving up on it all together but I think a number of scenes could be cut and the film would not suffer.

MunichThe film was not designed to amaze right off the bat which is another reason why people may have left the theater in the middle or turned off their DVD player. This is a film that grows in your mind over the weeks and months that follow. You begin to think about some powerful questions like: How should we deal with terrorists? What is the best way to eliminate them? Does eliminating them just breed sympathy and cause more people to be recruited into the terrorists’ ranks? How much collateral damage can be considered OK?

The film is also a very intriguing character study as we watch Avner (Eric Bana) go from family man to trained assasin and then fall into a state of severe paranoia which affects his home life. You begin to wonder if his killing of all the terrorists that planned Munich was worth it. His life will never be the same and the terrorist cells continue to grow as the top men who were killed are simply replaced as more people die in acts or retalliation.

I definitely recommend this film. Please go out and watch it then send along your comments. I’d love to get the discussion going. (Side Note: I need a rating system. Maybe 1 - 5 dollar signs? Love some feedback on this.)


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