Approaching Entrepreneurship Like 3-D Chess Master After Startup Loft at EIJ13

Steve Blank wisdomBeing humbled can make a person hungrier. That’s what happened to me.

On Aug. 23 and 24, I attended the UNITY New U Startup Loft at the Excellence in Journalism (EIJ) 2013 Convention in Anaheim. The two-day boot camp helped deepen my knowledge of running a startup. The intensive training seminar covered marketing, presentation, market research, competitive analysis, networking, raising development capital, branding and how to pitch to investors.

The speakers included a diverse group of experts and industry leaders in entrepreneurship, journalism and startups.

Doug Mitchell, @nextgenradio, co-project director, The New U: News Entrepreneurs Working Through Unity

Alli Joseph, @allijoseph, co-project director, The New U: News Entrepreneurs Working Through Unity

Kaizar Campwala, @tsar, director of business development, Stitcher.com, San Franciscao

William Crowder, @williamcrowder, managing director, DreamIt Ventures, Philadelphia

Sumaya Kazi, @sumaya,founder/CEO, Sumazi.com, San Francisco

Harry Lin, @SuluPrime, consumer Internet executive/stratup advisor, Pasadena, Calif.

Dr. Cynthia Liu, @K12NN,founder/CEO, K12NewsNetwork, Pasadena, Calif.

I thank all of them for giving their time and imparting invaluable knowledge.

As one of four media-focused startup companies chosen to participate in the program, I knew I had a lot of work to do to launch Moblish. After over 16 hours of learning from mentors, I realize I have even more work to do than I thought.

That was the biggest takeaway from the Loft: Only the strong survive as entrepreneurs. The key to success is bringing structure to an inherently unstructured environment.

Risk is part of the equation. So is ambiguity. “Startups are a 3-D game of chess you play in space, and you don’t know who your competitors are,” Kazi explained, capturing the essence of entrepreneurship.

If a person isn’t ready for a Sisphyean challenge, he or she might as well go back to the safe confines of the cubicle culture.

I accomplished a lot in the Loft with the help of the mentors.

We came up with a tagline for Moblish. Report the news – anywhere, any time.

We clarified the brand promise. Easy. Efficient. Accessible.

We came up with a logo, discussed team building and learned what makes a good presentation deck.

We closed the Loft by pitching our companies and products to the judges/mentors/teachers. I volunteered to go first.

It wasn’t exactly Alec Baldwin’s “Glenngary Glen Ross” speech.

I presented some decent information, but the delivery reminded me of the time when I was pitching on a baseball field in high school, couldn’t find the strike zone with a seeing eye dog, and nobody was left in the bullpen to relieve me. Excruciating is a nice way of putting it. After stumbling and stammering my way through 12 minutes of sales pitch, I took my medicine from the judges. I knew the pitch was not good, and the constructive criticism confirmed my thoughts.

Sure, I was disappointed in my performance, but I know I can do better. And I know I will do better.

Forget ABC. Always be closing. From now on, it’s ABP for me. Always be pitching.

The next step of the UNITY New U Startup Loft is to create a video that incorporates everything I have learned. On the line is $20,000 in seed grant funding from the Ford Foundation. Three other entrepreneurs/companies from EIJ13 are in the running.

They are Javed Ali for Illume, Alex Duran for Fusion Magazine and Alberto Roca for Minority Postdoc.

We are competing against four companies from the National Association of Black Journalists and an undetermined number from the Online News Association in October.

Not everyone is built to be an entrepreneur.

I am.

Now is the time to start proving my worth.

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