100 Things I learned at the HTC

[This is a Guest Post by Kumar - I edited it slightly for some factual corrections and of course to make myself look better - Marc]

In the summer of 2009 from June-August I worked at the Houston Technology Center as an intern. I saw new technologies, worked with a talented staff, and most importantly learned quite a bit.

100 Things I learned at the Houston Technology Center – by H. Kumar Thangudu (@hkmr)

  1. Be a self-starter
  2. The Nine Box Matrix. It’s what GE adopted from Mckinsey with which Jack Welch set up a system to fire the lowest 10% of managers based on performance every year.
  3. Startups donʼt have money. Bootstrapping and frugality are the way of the entrepreneur and should be encouraged.
  4. You will experience actual elevator pitches at the HTC. Be prepared. I must have seen 30-40 by the time I left.
  5. Know how to deliver an elevator pitch.
  6. Attend toastmasters as many times as possible.
  7. Go Local. Some procurements whether acquiring a lawyer, an investment banker, angels, VCʼs, customers, partners, part times, freelancers, and full times are better made with proximity. #SLGT – Support Local Growth Together
  8. Interact with your customer. Customer Development is key. @rjurney @sgblank. Great on paper, better understood through experience at HTC.
  9. Be vertical.
  10. Execution is everything.
  11. Tangibles are better than talk. I compare this to horoscopes, as people weʼd much rather edit our horoscope than tell people how we feel or are acting on a certain day. Having something down on paper is better than coming to a meeting empty handed.
  12. Prepare to edit material, not create it. Red-inking an idea thatʼs down on paper, is easier than an analysis paralysis in which ideas are simply brainstormed and discussed.
  13. Open Source is a beautiful thing.
  14. WordPress is great.
  15. Creating community is less important than bringing it together. It exists, be the glue, not the wheel re-inventor.
  16. Introductions & Collaboration are vital.
  17. Never stop networking.
  18. Be coachable.
  19. Know what it is you want as an entrepreneur.
  20. Your goals should match the business opportunity.
  21. Archive is pronounced (ark- Iʼve) not (arch- Iʼve).
  22. KISS : Keep it Simple Stupid : Everyone should understand the value proposition of your company
  23. Technology Companies scale up quickly. Scalability is key.
  24. Coffee Groundz is the epitome of Rise of the Creative Class. My favorite coffee shop is in Houston. (I donʼt even drink coffee).
  25. Embrace community, they will help you.
  26. Give and expect nothing in return. – Thanks @jrcohen
  27. If working with Marc Nathan, be prepared to keep up. Itʼs extremely fast paced.
  28. Story-telling is one of the biggest parts of a company. Semantics are a lifeline of functionality, story telling, and the market’s understanding of your company
  29. There are some knowledge roadblocks that money can solve, for everything else thereʼs Tom Kraft. I learned quite a bit from interacting with Tom, who is HTC’s Director of Client Services.
  30. Know the differences of incorporating as a C-corp, GMBH, UG, LLC, Sole Proprietorship, etc.
  31. Leave advertising and branding to the pros. Place emphasis on your specialized talents.
  32. Know multiple business models before coming in. Brokerage, Infomediary, Advertising, Merchant, Direct Manufacturing, Affiliate, Community, Subscription, Utility. Thereʼs more, but if you can keep several in mind consciously, it helps.
  33. Know your market.
  34. Know basic startup vernacular: Series A, B, C, D, equity, burn rate, financials, pro forma, EDITDA
  35. Google, Twitter, Apple, and Microsoft…..these are 1 in 6 billion. Dream big, but be realistic. Marc Nathanism: “Markets are certainly large, but clearly unobtainable.”
  36. Landmines that first time entrepreneurs step on when talking to a potential investor or advisor. I must have heard these three rules at least 50 times – each time with a different entrepreneur. (Directly from @marc1919):
    1. Never say you will capture X% of market.
    2. Never say you are the CEO who is going to carry the venture to an IPO.
    3. Never say your numbers are conservative.
  37. Small businesses make up 99% of all business in America, they are the Fortune 5 million. (I’m not sure where the term is referenced from, but I heard it retold by Marc.)
  38. Sin Stocks. An interesting industry in itself.
  39. People who are expected to see innovations, ideas, and business concepts on a regular basis will not sign NDAʼs or confidentiality agreements. Non-Competes are ugly.
  40. Labeling new companies in terms of existing business models helps shape the business plan. Strong Pattern Recognition skills demonstrate a seasoned investor/advisor.
  41. Marc Nathanism: “No such thing as a typical startup, but there are commonalities”
  42. I worked with an extraordinarily dedicated and talented staff.
  43. Rubber Vulcanization occurs when sulfur reacts with rubber to create a rubber that cures and is more robust.
  44. Business ideas are fine, but Market Opportunities are much more important.
  45. Anything you can think of has been thought of. (Reconfirmed by Beatles song on Delta Airlines flight). Marc Nathanism: “There’s nothing new under the sun, so what are you doing differently for your market?”
  46. Marc  Nathanism: “No one retires to Houston; people come here to work.”
  47. 70% + of all new jobs in the US were created in Texas. (Forgot the source.)
  48. Marc Nathanism: “Your deals will never love you back.”
  49. Technologists are the most valuable to the economy.
  50. Disruptive technologies create jobs.
  51. Understand Intellectual Property. Know the difference between copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, flash of genius, etc….. I advise reading The Business of Intellectual Property by Ed Carreras from beginning to end.
  52. The Tipping Point. Go grab a copy and read it. Marc is the ultimate Connector, Tom is a Maven
  53. When pitching to VCʼs, try turning the tables and ask them for their story. It is often very interesting and can help you re-evaluate your own ideas and business aspirations. They have “been there and done that” in some sense. In particular, Iʼm referring to an impromptu VC happy hour at the Caroline Collective in which asked a VC what he did prior to his current occupation.
  54. Powerpoint /Keynote are basic tools of the startup trade. Know how to use them beyond the built-in templates. Avoid looking at the screen while presenting and never read off the screen. The best presentations have few words. No more than three lines made up of no more than five words per slide. Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 rule is gospel.
  55. Elevator Pitching should come as easily as breathing. What does your company do in 15 seconds? If the investor doesnʼt get it, then chances are the market wonʼt get it. The investor/advisor or listener isnʼt being rude, theyʼre doing you a huge favor. Go back to the drawing board.
  56. Leave for 3 weeks and come back. (I went to Toronto & Portland and came back)
  57. The world is small especially if you work with Marc. I jumped up to Toronto and got plugged into the startup scene real quickly going to Patio Fridays and other events. Basically, I used software from Ontario’s DemoCamp 09ʼ in Mississauga. I sent an e-mail to them regarding usability, and one of them had dinner with Marc at SXSW. Very Small World.
  58. Avoid re-inventing the wheel.
  59. “Two different set of books” means thereʼs impropriety in accounting.
  60. Listen & Look.
  61. Entrepreneurs are crazy by nature.
  62. Get and update a LinkedIn account.
  63. Take the Myers-Briggs test. Iʼm an ENFJ, Marc is a an ENFP – how about you?
  64. LinkedInʼs valuation is over $1 Billion.
  65. Please have a revenue model (that’s not based solely on advertising)
  66. Get your IP together. (Intellectual Property.) Different business plans evolve around different patent strategies which all focus on one unique and very distinct value chain for every innovation. Marc Nathanism: “Don’t play checkers against chess players” meaning make sure you know what you’re getting into when it comes to IP.
  67. Electron Beam technology is useful.
  68. IT creates a breadth of jobs, not many jobs.
  69. Bring in relevant industry experts to interact with your company. How you do this, involves creativity and simplicity.
  70. Entrepreneurs generally didn’t get to where they were by listening to conventional thought or their elders. It makes for an interesting situation with regards to coaching.
  71. Technology Transfer is painful. If youʼre a student who has innovated using resources openly available to the general student population, then youʼre much better off than if youʼve had access to exclusive campus resources.
  72. The geeks, technologists, and people in garages breaking sweat are the people who drive technology.
  73. QTAGS are really cool.
  74. SATOP is a beautiful concept. I hope they come back.
  75. Technion does a great job of commercializing technology.
  76. A big rolodex is nice, but a warm acquaintance or a friend is much better.
  77. Connectors are essential to building a vibrant community.
  78. Mallieʼs Desserts taste great.
  79. In the world of startups, there is a range of formal to informal. Suit & Tie. Business casual. Jeans and a t-shirt. Houston is very much in the middle.
  80. Skills are replaceable, talent is unique.
  81. If youʼre coming to Houston for business or technology. Save yourself networking time, visit the HTC and find out how you can get involved. Be a sponsor.
  82. Googleʼs suite of tools is useful.
  83. When planning events, slot out time for room transitions and networking.
  84. Sparefoot is cool.
  85. CXO is just a word. Anyone can hold a position name, few can yield it.
  86. Brandstack is also awesome.
  87. Nepotism is sometimes destructive and has its place. Go for the best candidates. Merit is valued and respected.
  88. Think like a customer in terms of purchasing logic. This is a lot tougher to do at the level that is required for a startup company. Iʼm still learning how to do this and thereʼs a play between art & science when it comes to doing it properly.
  89. If youʼre coming to Houston connect with the following through twitter: @marc1919 @coffeegroundz @carolineco @houtechcenter @jrcohen @btruax @werkadoo
  90. Value Proposition. Really take a moment and understand what it means.
  91. If you need custom electronics fabricated then you should talk shop with Erdos Miller.
  92. GuestListApp.com is really useful.
  93. It is possible to make a cardboard computer, have a look at my friend, Brenden Macalusoʼs, itʼs called the Recompute. While doing research, Brenden created the sustainable principles of design which can be used to re-design objects with a sustainable “kick.”: http://www.sustainable-computer.com
  94. Marc Nathanism ‘Social Overhead’ a term to describe spouses, family, mortgages and any other functional roadblock to bootstrapping a startup.
  95. The first round of funding is referred to as Friends, Family, & Fools. A playful term.
  96. HTC is the place to intern. Paid or unpaid, seize the opportunity. Itʼs worth every second.
  97. Ideas are worthless, execution is everything
  98. Ideas are worthless, execution is everything
  99. Ideas are worthless, execution is everything
  100. In any given year, a typical entrepreneur comes up with 500 ideas, maybe 1 of them is worth pursuing. Knowing which one is the hard part.

I appreciate the entire HTC experience.

A special thanks to Marc Nathan for giving me a very unique opportunity to see and work with cutting edge technology companies.

I will likely be coming back to Houston as the perception of my hometown has changed. Houston is startup friendly, and itʼs the place where people come to work. I now have a desire to pursue my technology interests in Houston. You should too….

About Marc Nathan