November 5, 2013

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Industry Outlook: Technology Entrepreneurs

November 5, 2013

LUMAN: The other issue is the pollution. I’ve actually had that come up. It’s the great outdoors, but you can’t go outdoors.

That’s part of it. The school’s part of it. But also just the level of executive skill. This is back to your closed environment. An executive who’s worked in this business environment for the last 20 years doesn’t have the exposure, skills and knowledge of somebody who’s worked around the world and brought those other things. So bringing talent from elsewhere, you get that exposure.

But the lifestyle piece—that’s the killer. Half my executive team lives outside the state. They won’t move here.

SKONNARD: A lot of these perception issues are really deep issues that are hard to solve, that take a lot of time. But I’m going to beat this horse until it’s dead. The No. 1 thing we could do to change perception: require all elementary schools to teach computer programming. You do that and we’re going to be on the map. It’s all about perception. Even if our schools are still getting threes and fours for a while, if everyone started saying, “Hey, Utah’s one of the only states in the country that teaches computer programming in elementary school,” that would have a big impact on the future of our state.

Can the investors here give some advice to technology entrepreneurs?

KUNZ: What I would tell the entrepreneur is go create something of value. Because today, especially in the tech world, it is so easy to go create something of value. As investors, we get pitched all the time about the next great idea. But the first question is: Have you created anything of value?

That very, very simple focus really filters out people that want to go create something as an entrepreneur. And therefore, that trait and that thought process is a whole lot easier to get funded because you can actually see what they’ve created.

You say, “Create something of value.” Give me two or three bullet points of what that means.

KUNZ: Write software. You can go online and learn programming over a weekend, enough to create a small prototype of a software. Take that to whatever solution that you’ve created and then bring that and find a prospect or customer that will pay for what you’ve created. It’s that simple.

Create something that you can go sell or get customers to say, “If you did A, B and C, then I would pay for that.” That’s a value proposition back to that target audience.

We’ve seen all these startup weekends, where people create in 54 hours companies and products that are actually generating revenue two to three weeks after that.

PETERSON: The key is generating revenue. When I look back, we started with like $30,000. It wasn’t anything at all. And I was invested. I was a third of that. Back at the time when I started, that was a big chunk.

But before we could go get some more money, we had to prove our concept and that it would create revenue. Once the revenue started coming in, then it was much more easier to grow. Seeing that business created more confidence within the investors and attracted people.

The people who are successful create revenue early on with their product rather than just coming up with an idea and then trying to get money. Those ones that try and have their idea perfected before they go out and sell it are the ones who struggle.


GREEN: It boils down to the right team. You’ve got to have the right leadership team that knows how to operationalize and advance the ball. You’ve got to set your contracts up right or early. If you spend your time on doing bad deals, it’s a waste of time and money. You need people that have been there and done that and can advance the ball quickly.

WARNOCK: The advice I give to entrepreneurs is sell, design, build. Do whatever you need to do to get into a sales conversation to make sure that you have value and someone willing to pay for it. Then start building it with interaction with your customer—make sure you keep going on the right track in designing it. Then build it. Do the final product at the end, once you’ve figured how you’re creating value, not up front because you had an idea—and then you realized, well, if I just would have made it blue, everybody would have bought it. But I made it pink. So now I’m out of luck.

The key is also to fail fast. If you’re not generating revenue—at least for internet companies—if you’re not able to get these sales going in a couple months, then move on to the next idea. Don’t fall in love with it before you know it’s going to work.

SLOVIK: A lot of entrepreneurs are really young, and I would say to them, “Get a job.” I’m not being facetious. There’s a few good things that happen. One is that a lot of these companies have become successful because they know how to execute and they’ve executed. It’s not just about the idea, it’s being able to execute on that idea.

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