Good Ways to Build Entrepreneurial Working Vibe

culture at work

Photo credit: Amy Xie

This Thursday night in downtown, Manhattan, WeWork Labs and Turnstone co-hosted a #smalltalk panel session about “Culture at Work”, which addressed several good options to help entrepreneurs provide a more spontaneous working interface for employees to have fun at work.

“We want to be a place that everyone wants to work for,” says Alex Miller, one of the panelists of the event and also the Vice President of Operations for Stack Exchange, a global network of Q&A websites where experts can meet and get answers to their questions.

Hiring employees who share the similarities and common interests to let them be a team is the first idea to establish an enjoyable culture at work.

By being asked about how to define whether a candidate could be a potential employee, as a panelist, Magda Kozak, Human Resources from Pivotal Labs, indicates “what kind of culture of your company determines whom you’d like to hire”.

Discussing how to improve the internal communication for startups, Erik Martin, the third speaker of the event, currently works as a General Manager in Reddit, thinks “transparency is the key with employees when you’re communicating with them.”

Panelists all shared the audience with their experiences, such as setting up Ping-Pong tables in the office, taking employees out for lunch or training sessions, providing beneficial healthcare coverage, etc.

“Everyone in Stack Exchange uses Google Hangouts,” says Alex Miller. But he also suggested “people couldn’t always do business over the computer, sometimes you have to bring them together.”

It is ideal that everyone in your team actively expect to go out with each other for happy-hours, but it is also based on respecting employee’s personal life.

“We do not get involved with people’s lives outside the office,” says Alex Miller.

“It’s fine that they don’t hang out. They don’t have to be friends as long as they get along with each other and they work well together,” says Erik Martin.

For companies that have offices in multiple locations in different cities or countries, Magda Kozak advises to identify culture by analyzing the demographics for employees and investigate what kind of lifestyle they prefer.

“Employees who work in our L.A. office are more family-oriented while those in New York office are more into after-work-hang-out. So we understand people in L.A. want to leave work earlier or take a couple days off working from home.”

Co-founder of WeWork Lab, Jesse Middleton (left), with  event attendees

Co-founder of WeWork Lab, Jesse Middleton (left), with event attendees. Photo credit: Amy Xie

Unlike corporations, startups are relatively small businesses with a group of enthusiasts who are younger and looking forward to taking challenges. They normally work long hours with each other for team projects. Under the stressful workload, it is especially necessary for entrepreneurs to create a friendly and energetic working atmosphere that allow these risk-takers with ideas to be engaged and connected closely.

“You are not going to build a successful company only on culture but there is a chance that you’ll fail if you don’t have people working well together,” says Jesse Middleton, co-founder of WeWork Labs.



Know-how and Networking: Insight from a General Assembly Course

As New York City continues to attract a competitive stream of innovators, investors and techies, all hoping to slice a piece of the big apple startup pie, it can seem a daunting and difficult task for novices to gain steady ground.

Thankfully for New York startup newbies, the city provides almost as many resources for those looking to start up as startups themselves.

Startup courses and workshops abound in the city, covering topics that range from growing an idea and honing your skills to securing financing and managing a staff.  And these educational offerings are not just for listening to lectures, they also provide an exceptional opportunity for networking with the like-minded.

Hosted Friday, September 13, 2013 by General Assembly (GA) in Manhattan and presented by Liz Vollman, Classes and Workshops Producer at GA, “Introduction to the New York Startup Community” provided a thorough and interactive discussion of how to maneuver in the city’s entrepreneurial environment whether you are looking to find an idea to develop or already have one.

Vollman kicked off the course with wise words from well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur and New York native, Steve Blank, “‘A startup is not a smaller version of a large company.  It’s a temporary organization designed to search for a scalable business model.’”  The statement exhibits the essential elements of planning, evolution and individualization as they relate to building a brand, a business—a startup.

While startups, even those sharing the same industry, may be as unique and different as fingerprints, they share the same revolutionary spirit.  Vollman spoke to the importance, particularly in New York, of past startups possessing the ability to “pave the way” for present and future endeavors.  This support, she continued, is a large reason the city promotes and is “very healthy” for startups.

Those within the startup community also assist each other through offering extensive opportunities for productive socializing (group or one-on-one) where experiences are shared and contacts are networked.  Vollman listed “mentors” as one of the groups that “defines an ecosystem.”

So, how do you build your network when you’re looking to get started?  There are many ways to “get involved in the community” as discussed by Vollman, including to “sign up for newsletters, attend meetups, happy hours, and demo days, participate in hackathons and Startup Weekends, and blog about your experiences, adventures, and learnings.”

Those starting up in New York need networking and they need know-how.  Blending the two in a vast array of informational gatherings brings hosts, instructors and students together to interactively expand their realm of possibilities.  GA and Vollman provide such opportunities on a regular basis, many which are free of charge and open to the public.  Further details on GA can be found at

The startup ecosystem may drive NYC’s future economic growth

Concentrated in a narrow band running through the heart of midtown and downtown Manhattan, a robust new industry has been developing in the wake of the financial crisis.

Colloquially dubbed the “Silicon Alley,” an ecosystem of about 1000 (mostly) tech startups has been gobbling up capital that, prior to 2007, was largely locked up in the financial industry, according to an article by angel investor and tech entrepreneur Paul Grossinger.

To illustrate the scale of this reallocation of resources, consider that the volume of venture capital investment in this city has grown an astonishing 160 percent in the past decade, vastly outpacing the Silicon Valley’s 30 percent growth and positioning New York as the second largest site of venture investment in the country. In 2011 alone, investors injected $3.1billion into the city’s economy.

While the Great Recession continues to leave most of the city’s economy reeling (the unemployment rate is around 8.4 percent), the startup scene has been a rapid generator of jobs. Between 2005 and 2010, this ecosystem has helped boost IT jobs by 30 percent, to around 90,000. For perspective, this rate is ten times that of the broader New York City labor market.

Another window into job growth in this field is the app economy. Nationwide, apps have created 450,000 jobs since 2007. About 10 percent of those jobs have been located here in New York City. Importantly, jobs in apps or IT pay well. An entry-level software programmer, for example, can make as much as $75,000 annually.

Luckily, New Yorkers need not be tech savvy to find roles in this new economy. The digital products of the startup industry are designed to serve a wide variety of industries, creating demand for staff with expertise in fields including social media, e-commerce, digital advertising, education, healthcare and finance.

Despite the industry’s success, New York startups are shackled by a number of fundamental problems, according to a report by the Office of the Manhattan Borough President. The first, and perhaps least unsurprising, is a general talent shortage among technical roles.  Another problem common among major cities is an excess of bureaucratic red tape ill equipped to the needs of nimble startup firms.

A bit more unsettling is that Manhattan is hamstrung by “appallingly slow, spotty internet access,” according to the report.  The fourth challenge is that the city’s infrastructure hasn’t adapted well to the gradual shifts in the city’s primary job centers (such as the growth of Brooklyn). Finally, as every New Yorker knows, “the rent is too damn high.”

The Bloomberg administration has already made moves to help alleviate some of these problems, including appointing the city’s first chief digital officer, providing financial support for tech incubators, creating the New York City Entrepreneurial Fund, and launching the Tech Apprenticeship Program at CUNY to train new talent, according to the report. Private institutions have also kicked in, with Cornell’s development a tech campus on Roosevelt Island and NYU’s creation of the Center for Urban Science and Progress.

While it’s unclear exactly how the industry will change and develop in the near future, one thing is relatively certain, said NYU entrepreneurship professor Luke Williams in a Q&A.  “The ecosystem is going to continue to grow. We have barely scratched the surface.”

Startup Studio will be tracking this development every step of the way.

Putting Your Startup to Work or Putting Yourself to Work in a Startup: General Assembly Presents Ways to Accelerate Your Career

With economic conditions uncertain, and millions of people remaining either unemployed or underemployed, it may seem difficult or even impossible to stray from the norm into the ever more volatile arena of startups. However, innovative spirits may be surprised to learn just how many directions are available in terms of developing a startup or securing work with one.

The General Assembly course, “Introduction to the New York Startup Community,” presented Friday, September 13, 2013 by Liz Vollman, Classes and Workshops Producer, not only provided an interactive discussion of resources for those just getting started, but also a forum for tools to put your startup to work or yourself to work in a startup.

There are many areas of interest, expertise and development when it comes to startups, and Vollman noted a few of these differing industries as retail, fashion, finance and film, among others. She continued in stating the underlying similarity to be technology and its use, which she described as, “entrepreneurs trying to figure out how to move these industries forward.”

For those that have advanced an idea from their selected industry or industries into the beginning stages of work or operation, there exists support—while you may be a visionary, you are not alone!

One such resource available throughout NYC, according to Vollman is co-working space. These spaces are available with numerous organizations throughout the city, and most provide office space, technology, and opportunities to present what you’re working on and network for financing. In terms of selecting a co-working space, Vollman said, “Try it on; see if you like the community.” She continued in providing information for a number of these spaces, a few to include, WeWork (, Green Desk ( and GA themselves (

Accelerators and incubators, as next mentioned by Vollman, take their support of startups steps further. Many, though not all, actually provide investment in addition to advanced resources of getting a startup to the next level at a much faster pace. She listed TechStars ( as a top New York organization of this kind, along with NYC Seed ( and DreamIt Ventures (, though emphasized the competitive nature of securing this kind of support.

If you’re not quite ready to put everything you’ve got into building a startup of your own or if you’re looking for a job, perhaps even a career change, you may be more of a match for startup employment than you think. According to Vollman, startups are not simply looking for techies and engineers, and one common misconception as noted in the presentation is that “only developers get a good job at startups.” While these types of positions are obviously important to most startups, there is just more to it than that.

Sales, marketing, social media and particularly, customer service, as explained by Vollman, are all areas that startups aim to hire qualified applicants for. She continued in giving the example of Zappos, a startup that boasts top notch customer service and stands apart based on this. Startups, just like any other business, want to attract and retain employees that help create value for their organization.

If you are interested in exploring employment opportunities with New York startups, several resources given by Vollman include, rapportive (, The Muse ( and (

A first step in deciding whether the NYC startup work realm is right for you may be to further explore the available support; and of course, if you need more time—take it. Jumping into building a startup or transitioning into a non-traditional workspace may take a leap of faith, but if you utilize the resources available to you, you may just land on your feet and take off.

Further information on GA can be found at

Starting-up without a visa: the immigrant-owned startups scene in the U.S.


This year’s TechCrunch Disrupt SF was wrapped up with Layer winning the Disrupt Cup.

At this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt SF, Layer, a communication platform that help build messaging into applications, won the startup battlefield and took home the Disrupt Cup.

Layer’s founder, Tomaž Štolfa, is originally from Slovenia. After running Slovenian skype rival for years, he started his new venture in San Francisco. He’s far from the only startup founder on the TechCrunch battlefield that decides to begin a business in a place away from his home country. Among the 6 finalists for the competition, Regalii, a startup that aims to help immigrants send money home more easily, has a founder that’s a native to Dominican Republic. In fact, almost all founding members of Regalii are from Latin America, and their targeted consumers, too.

The appearance of immigrants in tech startups seems more than usual. According to a report by the Partnership for a New American Economy published in August last year, immigrants were responsible for 28 percent of U.S. businesses founded in 2011 while they only comprise 12.9 percent of the total population. In New York, immigrants are starting 42 percent of the new ventures while making up 22.2 percent of the population.

The entrepreneurial spirit that immigrants present not only gives themselves jobs but also creates jobs for Americans. The study also found that 1 in every 10 people employed at a privately-owned U.S. company works at an immigrant-owned firm. A study by Kauffman Foundation pointed out that, in 2012, immigrant-founded companies employed 560,000 workers and generated 63 billion dollars in sales.


Mark Zuckerberg speaks about immigration reform at this year’s Disrupt SF.

The immigrants-centered startup scene has called for reform for immigration law that will help keep the most talented foreign founders in the country. Engine Advocacy, a company that works with lawmakers to ensure a startup-friendly public policy had launched a campaign to push the immigration reform bill early this year. Mark Zuckerberg also formed a group named to advocate for a “startup visa” for foreign-born talents. He spoke out publicly about his support for a comprehensive immigration reform last week in a TechCrunch Disrupt interview, stating that his support for immigration goes even beyond the scale of highly skilled workers.A new round of “Startup Visa Act” was launched in January this year, which proposed that foreign-born entrepreneurs can be issued a new class of visa as long as they secured $100,000 investments and hired a certain amount of employees. The bill also suggests a larger quota for H1-B visas, which is very competitive and can only be issued to highly skilled workers. The proposed bill was passed by the U.S. Senate on June 27 but still uncertainties still remain as the decisions of the House will come at least several weeks from now.

[Photos via Flickr/Chijs and /jdlasica]

‘RuMAD’: innovation in mobile application technology

R U MAD? This was the question asked to me by a student at the information counter of Rutgers University, when I inquired about the startup tech event which was held at the Rutgers Piscataway Campus last Friday. I was a bit startled and a lot confused at this question. But later realized ‘RuMAD’  is an acronym for “Rutgers Mobile App Development.” And it is pretty cool, isn’t it?

RuMAD is a tech club that holds events and meet-ups for students who are passionate about mobile application development. The club was founded about two years back by Rutgers University students David Zafrani, Chris Dilks, Kyle Byrne, Justina Sigle and Nate Kott. The club hosts weekly events, calls eminent speakers to enlighten the students, and conducts student demos.

The event on Friday started with the introduction of the speaker guests Mike Swift- founder of HackerLeague and former Evangelist at SendGrid. The speaker was followed by a presentation by Peter Sullivan- an entrepreneur and former CEO of Tripl. He was followed by  a formal presentation by George Matthews, Project Manager at Microsoft.

Peter Sullivan gave a brief presentation on the startup business. He stressed various factors that one has to consider while starting a business. He started off by letting the enthusiastic students know the importance of a correct product. The product that the engineers should design and market has to be exclusive but simple. According to Pete Sullivan, understanding the psychology of people is equally important for  running a successful business “this is the hardest part,” exclaimed Pete Sullivan. Sullivan continued with explaining the importance of promotion of a product. Later on he also talked on the investor pitch. He advised the students looking for a start up venture to convince an investor by giving a formal demo/presentation of the product. After the presentation, Pete showed us a demo of an app for buying lottery tickets on iPhone. This app is called  “Jackpocket app,”  developed by Pete Sullivan himself, and it uses the iOS platform.

Pete’s presentation was followed by a speaker who has an illustrious career as a Project Manager at Microsoft. He shared his experiences with the students. He spoke about the trends in innovations and shared some keynotes on work ethics with the students.

The presentation was followed by student demos.  One such demo which stood out was of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. A group of three students gave a demo of using the RFID technology and the convenience in using the technology when the RFID chips are installed in the phone. With the use of this technology, according to the group we could unlock our computer without having to type the password. This could be done by scanning an identity badge  on the phone and thus protects one’s privacy. Also there was another feature that the group highlighted. It was that of eliminating the long checkout lines at the shopping center. This can be achieved by scanning the item through the phone and boom! You are done. The group has a YouTube video on the RFID adapter technology that can be watched for more details.

The event was concluded by allowing the students to have an informal chat with the speakers. The RuMAD club is particularly significant as it sharpens the programming skills of tech savvy students and along with it , exposes them to the marketing strategies.

[Photo by Purva Chitnis]

It is Skills That Get You a Job

As a popular columnist Regina Brett says,  “No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up for life.“ Mentally showing up can provide the energy shot that is needed to prevent one from drowning in the sadness on a gloomy day. Not only should we face our lives with a positive attitude like this, we should also carry this spirit with us into job searching. A high energy and positive attitude is great, but these days the job market is tough.  Positive vibes just aren’t enough to seal the deal. To nail a job interview, you need to be skilled in areas that employees value, and that’s where education comes into play.

People today don’t just go to school and sit in class to get educated. There are many other ways to get informed and gain knowledge. Online courses are all over the website and they are getting more popular than ever. is a web-based search tool that provides those looking for online courses a simple way to find resources that meet their needs. This NYC-based company was started a little over a year ago in August 2013. I was fortunate enough to meet Brad Zomick, co-founder and Chief Content Officer, and learn more about the business and his story as an entrepreneur.

Here is what Brad wants to share with us.

  • Where did you get the inspiration to start a business like this?

In the past few years the job market has changed a lot. We went through the financial crisis and all of a sudden it became really difficult for talented people to find jobs. At the same time, there was a lot of great learning materials available online, especially in 2012, that was when the online courses boomed. People pay for online course because they want to pay for job skills, but they don’t know where to find them, they are all over the place and disorganized. So essentially we are a kind of bridge to narrow this skill gap and help people to get a job by finding online courses to educate themselves so they can advance their careers.

At the same time, the cost of education is soaring higher and higher, so we are nearing an inflection point where online education is an increasingly attractive choice. For some technical professions like programming, web design, and online marketing people don’t even have to go to college to get educated, and can make good money. Believe it or not, the average computer science major does not graduate with the programming skills required for an entry-level job. This is also the case many other fields, and people are beginning to realize this.

  • What differentiates your business from all the others out there in the market?

When we first started a little over a year ago, it was just the course providers. They all existed in a vacuum and would find a way to market to their customers. Then we came into the picture as a middle man of sorts. We collect and curate all the online courses in one place, so anyone who wants to learn something online can go to our site, and find what they need. Earlier this year we started seeing some copycats.

I don’t know much success they are having but from what I can tell what makes us different or better than them is that we have more courses and more free content. We have just developed an API (Application Programming Interface) project that will soon be put into use and we are about to announce our first major partnership on Tuesday, September 17th. I can’t say much more but make sure to follow the news that day!

  • What are the courses you offer on Are they more technology related?

I’d say about  10% of the courses are Massive Open Online Courses and OpenCourseware and the rest of it is focused on skilss. We focus on skills that’s what gets people jobs and get them ahead their career, so people would want to pay for them. The college courses, there is a massive supply of college courses but right now they are not making much money and it’s not clear that they will get people jobs. We are called so our courses are all about skills. The key is using classes to get a job and our classes help people achieve the goal.

  • How do you know taking online courses is helping people with their jobs or careers?

We are just starting a content series, where we profile people use online courses to get ahead. Our first case study used online courses to skip 101 college courses, design Facebook applications, and land internships at Microsoft and Google.  We are looking for more success stories like this.

  • What is your marketing strategy?

Our strategy is providing people who are interested in our products with useful resources. For example, people who are interested in online courses they want to read course reviews. So for the courses that are most popular, we spend time taking the whole course then we write a review and rate it base on different aspects, such as price and employment value, i.e. how likely it can get you a job.

People who want to start a career follow experts in the that field. They’ll go to Google and look for information like this. So we also do skill experts interviews, where we find experts in different fields and ask them how they got to where they are and how they acquired the skills, then we share these stories on our website with our users.

  • Can you compare taking online courses with going to class to learn?

Online course are actually harder than regular courses. People get distracted when taking online courses, your Facebook, Skype, cell phone, messengers, etc. you really need to be extra focused when taking online courses. You have to be very self-motivated to take online courses and you have to be 100% on it. A college degree means lots of things, your degree is worth something if you went to a university with big name it has most of the value within that school’s network. Outside this network what’s more important is your portfolio, there are sites teaching you how to create a portfolio, they help you proof the value of the online courses you take. Combing your resume and online portfolio to show your qualifications is where the future lies.

  • I imagine the SkilledUp team uses online course often. Are you currently taking any online courses? 

At any given point, I am actually taking a few different courses. These days many operate as a monthly subscription where you come and go as you please, learning what you want, when you need it. My personal favorite is, it’s a entrepreneurship web startup marketing site. Not only did we review this course but use it to learn how to do better business. I also just reviewed an Excel course called Filtered. Our website generates a ton of data and Excel is the tool of choice to analyze it. Thus we are drinking our own Kool-Aid.

  • What’s your background?

I am from Baldwin, New York and I graduated from Cornell University in 2002 with a Bachelor in Management and Marketing. Out of college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. So, I ended up working for a couple of technology firms in the financial services space. Over that six-year period, I was never passionate about any of those jobs and it grated on me. I was tired of helping rich people get richer and I wanted give my career an international edge. I also wanted to work in companies that the average Joe. So I took some drastic moves, left NY,  went back to school, moved to Hawaii for a year and China for three. It was in China that I realized you can teach an old dog new tricks. In a span of three years, I immersed myself in Chinese. I’ve had many different job in different fields and with many young small companies. SkilledUp suits me because I love to learn and I love entrepreneurship.

Brad lived in China from 2009 to early 2012. He got his MBA degree via a joint venture with University of Hawaii and Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China. While in China, Brad interned in the Commerce Section of the U.S. Embassy in Being helping U.S. companies create clean technology partnerships in China; He also carried out a similar mission working for the U.S.-China Energy Cooperation Program, and consulted with China-based 2 Internet startups and a market research firm that helped U.S. companies find a market in China. Brad speaks conversational Mandarin Chinese and is passion about learning and writing. Fortunately, those interests are aligned with SkilledUp’s mission.

He is currently enjoying his life as a New Yorker in the Big Apple once again.

“10 Years From Now I Will be in Outer Space Doing the Same Thing”

How brilliant it is to turn your passion into a career. We all dream about having a job doing what we love but most of the time it is not the case. As a music lover I’d always hoped to be in a band though I don’t play any instruments and, to be honest, I really am a horrible singer.

Though I can never become a musician, I tend to meet artistic people who have a great passion in music. Just recently I got to know someone who owns a recording business in downtown Manhattan. I am curious about what kind of magic can be triggered when artist meets entrepreneur so I went ahead to interview him in his recording studio on West 29th street.

Redford owns four of these guitars the rest comes from his team member and community friends

Redford owns four of these guitars the rest comes from his team member and community friends–photo credit: Ning Zhou

Redford Reid Studios is located on the 11th floor in one of those sky-high buildings in Manhattan. There is no sign, no poster, nothing that tells you inside this normal or even ugly looking building there is an awesome-looking recording studio.

“When people enter this door, I want them to feel like they are in a different world,“ says Adam Redford Parker, the founder of Redford Reid Studios (RRS), while closing the door behind him.

Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Redford moved to New York in 2002 to pursue his passion in music. Redford started playing guitar when he was 13 or 14. “Music reminds me I have a soul, it has healing powers,” Redford said. Redford has been in many different bands ever since 2001 and a server car accident happened last year put him in hospitalization, which made him have to quit from the band.  However, Redford’s love for music didn’t stop there. The car accident was actually a catalyst that made Redford muscled his way into recording business.

The front door with painted matrix on it

The front door with painted matrix on it–photo credit: Ning Zhou

Back in 2007 Redford started his first rehearsing business for New York City bands. Starting in 2011 Redford branched his business into preproduction field, in which he and his team members help write and record songs. When talking about his studio Redford is very proud of this piece of arts. “It’s the vibe of this place that attracts people to come here. It’s professional, youthful, relaxed, and humble,” Redford said, “the vibe and the people here is what makes us different from other recording studios.”

Redford is dedicated to helping serious and professional artists who want to maintain their own artistic integrity and make a name for themselves. “We want ambitious people who want to push the boundaries of music,“ Redford said.

The marketing strategy for RRS can be concluded in just three words: word of mouth. Although RRS throws studio parties to get people come to network it is the passing words that help Redford Reid Studios earn a good reputation and bring in the business. “Keep it simple is very important,“ Redford said.

Redford told me that he would love to have the studio as long as possible and in five or ten years “I will be in outer space recording music if sounds travels in space with the advancement of technology,” Redford said. He looks forwards to the reincarnation of his studio in five to ten years but still it will have the same business model. “Audiences may or may not change but we will still be doing the same business with same passion,“ Redford said.

The control room

The control room–photo credit: Ning Zhou

Some advice Redford gave to people in their 20s and who want to become entrepreneurs is to think about what you spend most of your free time doing, ask yourself what you really like, and be passionate about the business you are involved with.

“Remember, at the end of each mountain you climb there is always a bigger mountain. The questions won’t get smaller or easier, however, the climbing will get more and more rewarding.“ Redford said.

Legal piece of advice for start-ups

attorney 1When starting a new business everyone is apprehensive about its success. But one thing no one wants to get into is legal complications. One of the key indicators of a successful business is when it is free of any legal tangle.

Gregory Dell’aquila, organizer at the Mission 50 Workspaces Hoboken, New Jersey, who aims to aid this process, held a start-up meeting with legal expert, Dror Futter from SorinRand LLP, a New York-based corporate law firm which tends to clients in sectors such as finance and technology.

The meeting stressed on the 10 most important things an attorney should inform the individuals looking to start their own businesses. The event was attended by lawyers, bankers, entrepreneurs, financial planners and analysts.

Futter started off by explaining that individuals realize the difference between an LLC and a corporate entity. It is important to know how the firm is going to be registered, what the trademark/logo of the firm should be.

“Always pay your taxes and pay to people who you are entitled to,” he said.

The speaker also stressed the importance of data privacy especially for healthcare, insurance related firms. He also went over by explaining the difference between hiring a consultant and an employee.

When asked how successful he thinks his lectures are, Futter replied with a smile, “Inevitably after a lot of programs, I do get a phone call or two telling me what I spoke in the lecture was helpful. This is quite rewarding.”

The event was insightful for most of the individuals.

“I attended the event because I realize the importance of legal matters when starting one’s own business.  I have several questions that I need to have answered by a legal expert and was hoping to find some answers,” says Carmen Bonilla, who previously worked in insurance and financial services and is currently looking to start her own consulting business.

“Whenever I get an opportunity, I attend such events in the hope of making contacts for my business,” said an investment banker who is venturing into the world of entrepreneurship.

Photo by Purva Chitnis

Risky Ideas: a step further toward your startup dream

How many times have we just let our thoughts slip away by telling ourselves “that’s too much work” or “that’s completely insane”?

Well, no ideas are impractical, as the team of Risky Ideas would tell us. Aiming to help “everyday thinkers take the next steps towards making their ideas a reality”, Risky Ideas organizes regular workshops to let people speak out about their ideas and take a step further toward real entrepreneurship.
ImageThis Thursday, Risky Ideas had the very first meeting at NYU-Poly in Brooklyn, which attracted around 20 like-minded people from all fields.

Interested in learning what startups look like before they really take off, I visited the site with my own startup idea: to start a business that will allow people to customize their mobile phone case.

So, here’s how Risky Ideas helps you to transfer your thoughts into “the next big thing”:

1. Brainstorm for ideas:

“There is always a solution to the problem,” says Alim Williams, founder and CEO of Risky Ideas on his personal web page. He put his trust in us by throwing us four problems to solve: 1) If you have a startup, how do you make money? 2) Six people are stuck in Antarctica with supplies for four days, what do you do to survive? 3) Zombies take over NYU-poly, how do you survive 4) How would you reinvent the iphone?

After teaming up, everyone has thirty seconds to draw a picture to solve the problem. The result? Iphone got a really fancy 3D screen; Antarcticans hunted penguins for food; Zombies were attracted to the sports center by brains from the bio lab and got frozen by nitrogen from the chemistry lab. Yes, every problem, no matter how ridiculous it sounds, can have a solution in less than five minutes.

Image2. Communicate your idea:

How simple can an idea be? Two sentences? Maybe one? How about two words?

While ideas themselves are important, it’s even more crucial for startup founders to understand how to express them. Risky Ideas therefore prepared an exercise for every one of us to boil down our idea from four sentences to a one liner, which should be both attractive and clear.

Arunwabh Singa, a first-year graduate student studying executive management of technology at NYU-poly, brought his idea to the table. Inspired by his unforgettable awful experience of dealing with the landlord, he is determined to create a website that will help students move in or move out of a new house. The one liner he got was “Skip the landlord”, a short phrase that will make our lives so much easier.

3. Sell your idea and build on it with feedback:Image

Once you have your thoughts ready, talk to people and build your ideas on their suggestions. This is when I truly realized how my ideas could become concrete and what problems I would be facing. I had a vague startup thought of selling U.S. consumers cheap mobile phone cases that they themselves can customize online. The feedback I got included not only what other aspects I should think of before starting the business, but also what I should start with when presenting my idea. For example, I wouldn’t think of giving a “why” answer to my audience before one staff member of Risky Ideas told me that I should present my idea like this: “Nowadays everyone has the same mobile phone, iphone, samsung…but everyone is unique, so why not have a phone case of your own design?”

Everyone knows feedback from your consumers is extremely important, so why not try to have that before you really take the plunge to start a business?

4. Assignment

Yes we got an assignment for the workshop! Everyone gets to start a facebook page that will have to get 30 “likes” before the next event, during which we will continue to build on our ideas.

“I would like to see how my idea will develop through the next session,” says Maya Luo, a graduate student studying integrated marketing at NYU. Maya proposed an idea for a website that will help people make decisions. “The best part I like about this event is that they really did convince you that your ideas can become real.”

[Photos by Yolanda Lu]