From the category archives:

Life Hacks

7 DO’s and 5 DONT’s for Entrepreneurs (LA VC Revisited)

by Ryan on June 14, 2011

to do list photo

Ever since my post on Los Angeles venture capital, I’ve been getting a lot of email and phone inquiries from local entrepreneurs seeking advice.  It’s not surprising because the post presently shows up #3 on Google when you search “los angeles venture capital” and the 100+ re-tweets and 20+ FB likes certainly helped solidify this position.

Typically the entrepreneurs that reach out want to meet in person and ask for advice.  I try to disclaim everything in that I OFFER OPINIONS, NOT ADVICE.  I’ve been compiling these opinions and figured I’d jot down the cliff note version here.  Without further adieu, here are some strong opinions on various topics that have come up in my recent correspondences with local entrepreneurs.

7 DO’s:

1. Choose a freaking huge market.  Don’t play around in a small market.  If you can’t quantify the size of your market, that means it’s too small, especially for VC.  Go big.

2. Quit your day job – sooner rather than later.  If you want to build a business, it takes 110% commitment.   You’re never going to get anywhere if you relegate your dream to a side project for nights and weekends.  Quit now, not later or you’re only proving that you’re not as committed as you should be.

3. Learn to use an RSS reader.  If you’re in tech but don’t use RSS, I fear for you.

4. Have founder vesting.  There’s nothing worse than founders not having 4 year founder vesting in place, with or without outside investors.

5. Tell anyone and everyone about your idea.  Ideas are a dime a dozen, execution is everything and you’ll learn far more than you could ever possibly lose by sharing your ideas with all.

6. Fire people as fast as possible. The second you think things are not working out.  Fire away.  You’ll never regret firing, you’ll only regret having not done it sooner.  Everyone is replaceable.

7. Read Mark Suster’s blog.  Pretty much every single question I get asked has an answer on BSOTT – “Both Sides of The Table”.  The answer is already out there.  Do your friggin homework.

5 DONT’s

1. Don’t raise money from non-millionaries.  Raise from deep pocketed institutions and corporations.

2. Regardless of what the lawyers tell you, do not form an LLC.  Lawyers love LLC’s.  You know why?  Because lawyers are not entrepreneurs.

3. Don’t have a 50 / 50 co-founder (or 33 / 33 / 33 for that matter).  One of you needs to be in charge and be in control and if you’re the leader…the real entrepreneurial one bringing this thing to life, then it should be you.  Founder shares must have vesting (i.e. be restricted) and be subject to a buy-sell agreement (aka pre-nup).

4. Don’t get caught up in all the press and attention your competition gets.  It’s truly meaningless and in no way indicative of financial success.

5. Don’t raise a round of convertible debt (exception:  if the terms are so Y-combinator style crazy in your favor that you’d be a dumb-ass not to take the cash).  If someone wants to invest, they should set a price and take an equity stake.  If you want a loan, you’d be asking for one or you’d go to a bank / credit card company.

Now each of these points could be a blog post of their own backed up with experiences and circumstances to help you understand why I’ve formed these opinions.  Maybe I’ll get around to doing a deep dive on each item but for now, the cliff notes will have to do.

Now it’s time to get back to what matters most – executing.

Related articles:

p.s. I use stock photos from Photoxpress.

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Three Killer Businesses That I Want(ed) To Start

by Ryan on November 23, 2010

Good Business Photo

I’m a big advocate of telling anyone and everyone my ideas. I believe strongly that the entrepreneur who’s afraid to share his / her idea, ultimately goes no where. Seriously, when was the last time you met someone successful that had a good business idea but was unwilling to share it?

Following in the tradition to share my business ideas and seek feedback, I’m going to throw out 3 business ideas (admittedly somewhat “half-baked”) that I’ve thought of over the past fews years but been too busy to execute on because I’m busy with my stock music and sound effects business, AudioMicro. If you would be so kind as to leave your opinion on each of the 3 ideas in the comments, I would greatly appreciate it. Without further adue, here are the 3 ideas…

1. Celebrity Groupon – once a week, a celebrity goes up for auction. Fans each buy “tickets” (say for example, $100 each) and only when the total tickets sold reaches a milestone (e.g. 5,000 tickets or $500k) the celebrity agrees to attend a private event / party for the 5,000 “celebrity groupon” ticket holders. 50% of the proceeds go to us (i.e. Celebrity Groupon), 25% goes to a charity of the celeb’s choice, and 25% goes into the celebrity’s own pocket.  If the milestone to unlock the groupon is not met, the “fans” are simply refunded their money.  Out of our 50% rake, we pay for the costs of putting on the event – venue, security, etc.  Annual revenues of this company could easily reach $2M per month or $24M per year within year one.  The biggest issue I can see with this idea is that the celebrity may be unwilling to share how much they charge for a personal appearance.  To work around this, I suppose that we could always disguise the total number of actual tickets sold / needed to unlock the Groupon.  This model would also work well in attracting rock bands and other musicians to play private concerts.  Fans would have to pay for their own travel and accommodations to attend the actual “celebrity groupon” event.  We could ultimately even up-sell merchandise, hotel, and other travel arrangements to the fans.

Credit to Mike Bracco and Norm’s for helping to formulate this idea.

2. Ad Network for Commuter Vehicles – Inspired by sitting in traffic on the 101 and staring at the backs of cars, I wondered “why not stare at an advertisement instead of a blank bumper?”. In short, the clients of this business would be large outdoor advertisers and they would place massive ad buys to places ads onto the backs of 100+ vehicles in a particular zip code all at once.  Big brands would pay us to have ads run on the backs of commuter vehicles. E.g. $200 per month per car.  The ad network (us) would take 50% and the commuter would get 50%.  We would only accept commuters with cars that are new (e.g. leased within the past 3 years) and drivers with good driving records.  The ads get “wrapped” on the cars and all commuters are screened for good driving records and proper insurance coverage.  If you’re not familiar with car wrapping, the following photo says it all:

Wrapped car Pictures, Images and Photos

The reason this business is different from just the “wrapping” business is that we would be creating a massive ad network for big brands to get their products onto the backs of thousands of commuter vehicles in a particular location all at once, rather than a one off car owner deciding to wrap his own car with an ad for his own “dog watching” business as in the image above.  Imagine driving past 50 cars (all being paid $100 per month per car) on your way to work all with Coca-Cola ads on the back?  Wouldn’t that likely compel you to purchase a Coke (versus a Pepsi) at lunch?

NOTE:  There’s actually a company in LA doing this.  They are headed by one of my favorite new LA entrepreneurs, Jeff Blake. Check them out at

3.  Lockboxes for Everyone – don’t you hate getting checks and having to drive to the bank to deposit them?  What if you could 1.  mail your checks to the bank or 2.  have the people who owe you money mail the checks directly to your bank?  The bank would then scan and deposit your check and place it into your account for you saving you the hassle of every having to go to a bank or ATM to deposit your checks.  Businesses all around America have this service already and it’s called a “Lockbox“.  The banks provide it to them for free because of the high volumes of checks they receive on a daily basis.  So what if we started a company that provided “Lockboxes for Everyday People”.  Once the business reached scales – i.e. $100M in daily deposits, we’d have a pretty serious business on our hands – better known as a bank!  Now I know that Chase and PayPal already let you take a photo of your check on an iPhone and deposit it but what about all the other banks out there are folks that don’t have an iPhone or know about the app?  Lockboxes for everyone s0lves this problem.

4.  BONUS – here’s 4 more businesses that are certainly not original ideas but that would likely succeed if executed in a new market, perhaps a small town like Nashville, where I grew up:

– A Burrito chain like Chipotle, Willy’s, or Moe’s – these places are gold mines!

– A Yogurt chain like Menchies, Pinkberry, or Red Mango

– A “choose your own” salad place in Nashville – like one of those salad stations that are everywhere in NYC, including deli’s

– An indoor digital ad display network (like those TV’s you see with constantly rotating ads)

The reason I’m sharing all of these ideas here is because I profoundly believe that ideas are a dime a dozen.  Execution is everything in the business world.  Your idea will never take shape and evolve into an executable business unless you are willing to share it with friends, mentors, colleagues, co-workers, family, investors, and most importantly, customers.  If you want to get anywhere, don’t be afraid to talk about your business and share your ideas.

So what do you think of these business ideas?  Have some business ideas of your own to share?  Please email them over to me or feel free to discuss openly in the comments below.

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How I Lost 10 Pounds in 10 Days

by Ryan on October 25, 2010

A quick little life hack here.  If you want to lose 10 pounds, all you have to do is…


I consider myself to be in pretty good shape.  I work out 4 to 5 days per week, running and lifting weights. I can bench press my own weight 10+ times. But as I get older, I’ve gained a few pounds that I really wish I could shed.  So I set out on a mission to lose 10 pounds, and keep them off for life. Around this same time, Jason Nazar, CEO of LA based Docstoc, recently tweeted about a so called “Master Cleanse”:

Trying out the Master Cleanse fast for a few days – lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup. Anyone else done this? Thoughts?less than a minute ago via web

After a litte research, it turns out that the “Master Cleanse” is a strict diet of maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice for 10+ straight days.  That seemed totally ridiculous to me.  There was absolutely no way that I was going to deprive myself of food to lose weight. There has to be a healthier way to lose a quick 10 lbs right?

So instead of trying Jason’s method, I decided to do a little experiment and simply stopped eating most foods that contain high quantities of high fructose corn syrup.

What happened?   I lost 10 pounds in just 10 days and I’ve been able to keep the weight off for close to 3 weeks now. So what foods did I stop eating? Here’s a quick list:

-bread (though I still eat pizza once every other week or so)
-pretty much all desserts (cake, ice cream, pastries, donuts, etc.)
-most crackers

There are many other foods (like salad dressing) that contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) but I’ve pretty much just stuck to the list above. So it’s not exactly like I do not eat ALL foods with HFCS, but rather just most foods with HFCS. The toughest challenge by far has been staying away from bread. During the diet, my energy level for the first week was a little low but now that I’ve been on it a few weeks, I feel great and I’ve been able to keep the weight off thus far. I’m now down to 176 pounds and I feel good about it.

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