Monday, April 24, 2017

Jack Mayer, Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project (Long Trail Press, 2011)

I have been known to find—or perhaps more accurately, create—an entrepreneurial angle on some pretty esoteric topics, so much so that my co-editor has from time to time challenged me to do so with some topic out of left field.

It just so happens that the day on which this blog post comes due is Holocaust Remembrance Day (also known as Yom HaShoah). A reasonably enlightened person might wonder how an entrepreneurial lesson might be drawn from the marking of the anniversary of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

For starters, consider the definition of “entrepreneur.”  Those of us who practice corporate law have a very specific idea of what an entrepreneur is—we know one when we see one.  But our use of that word is, in fact, a very narrow interpretation.  According to, an entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Congress recently overturned online privacy rules created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would have applied to broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon who operate as internet service providers (ISPs).

The overturned rules were adopted last October under the Obama administration and had not yet gone into effect.  They would have required ISPs to obtain customer consent in advance – otherwise known as opt-in consent – before using or sharing sensitive information, including precise location, financial, and health information, social security numbers, web browsing history, app usage, and the contents of communications. The rules would have allowed ISPs to use less sensitive information (such as email addresses), unless customers specifically opted out or indicated that such use was not permitted. The ISPs would also have been required to clearly explain their privacy practices and implement best practices to maintain data security.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

30-Day Offline Shopping Challenge

I’d like to start this entry on a personal note, with a tribute to my dear uncle, Robert Mattern, who passed away on March 25 at the age of 80.

Uncle Bob was my first entrepreneurial inspiration. During my entire lifetime, he owned and ran Mattern’s Bait Shop in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and was still running his beloved shop at the time of his death.  As a child, I spent hours in the shop during every trip to Aberdeen, gently fingering the colorful lures and fancy rods on display, playing with the minnows in the tanks, and - most of all - observing Bob as he interacted with, and truly helped, his many loyal customers.  Bob’s obituary captured these relations well: “Customers sought out Mattern's expertise in fishing and hunting, his knowledge of the best fishing spots and his skill in repairing fishing reels, rods and ice augers.  Bob and [wife] Linda appreciate their customers and consider them friends.”

To me, this is the essence of the small business experience.  I love the personal touch, the joy of a bright and tidy display, the pleasant sounds of people working together, and the knowledge to be gained from an experienced shopkeeper.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Minnesota Angel Tax Credit: Time for Action!

I returned to work this morning from a spring break trip to Mexico. I certainly expected to have missed plenty of communication about governmental issues (after all, I hadn’t been following any Twitter feeds from our Commander in Chief or even watched one minute of cable news in over a week).

While I gathered there was plenty happening during my absence (including more Russian intrigue and the withdrawal of the Republican health care regulation), I was surprised to see in my inbox an email from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) about the state’s Angel Tax Credit program. The email was a call to action because the Omnibus Tax Bill introduced by House Tax Chair Greg Davids failed to include any provisions for continuing the state’s Angel Tax Credit program beyond the current calendar year. This bill is likely to be followed by similar legislation in the Senate. 

The email asks supporters to contact Roger Chamberlain, Senate Tax Chair, along with Governor Mark Dayton, today to express why this program is important for the growth of entrepreneurial businesses in Minnesota. Here is the contact information for both parties:

The Honorable Roger Chamberlain

Chair, Taxes Committee
Minnesota Senate
2303 Minnesota Senate Building
95 University Avenue West 
St. Paul, MN 55155

Governor Mark Dayton

Lt. Governor Tina Smith
Office of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor
116 Veterans Service Building 
20 W 12th Street 
St. Paul, MN 55155 

Frequent readers know that I have been highly supportive of and posting about the tax credit as far back as 2011, just after the program went into effect. I’ve even posted previous calls to action in support of the credit. The state’s program, as very effectively promoted and administered by DEED, has been a catalyst for early-stage investing in Minnesota-based technology startups. As I indicated way back in that 2011 post, in addition to helping Minnesota startups access the capital they need, the credit may help us keep that one great startup that becomes the next big engine of entrepreneurship—which would more than justify the time and expense involved in retaining the program.

Please act now to preserve this important resource for our entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sweet Facts for Maple Syrupers

I recently attended a Maple Syrup Festival. The festival included learning the history and basics of maple syruping, participating in a taste test of real maple syrup and artificial “pancake” or “table” syrup, and tasting maple sugar (which, for the record, was delicious). 

I left the festival with not only a greater understanding and appreciation for the amount of time and labor that it takes to make maple syrup, but an interest in the maple syrup industry and how maple syrup production differs among hobby maple syrupers and industrial maple syrupers. Below are some of the “sweet” facts that I found:

  1.  The Basic Process. Maple syrup production generally requires four steps: (1) find a healthy maple tree; (2) make a hole in the tree trunk; (3) place a spile in the hole to collect the sap; and (4) cook the sap over a fire to boil off the extra water. Once the water is boiled off, you are left with syrup! 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Buyer (and Seller) Beware: Crowdfunding

A few weeks ago, I spoke on a panel to entrepreneurs and potential investors about equity crowdfunding. Takeaway: Lawyers are a bunch of downers (which, I guess, is hardly news to most of you). 

First, however, let me begin by acknowledging the wonderful things about crowdfunding:

  • If you are a “regular person,” you can now invest on the internet!
  • If you have an early-stage company, you can now raise capital on the internet!

Although you may infer from my tone that I’m a skeptic (disclaimer: I may be), I don’t want to detract from the fact that crowdfunding offers another tool for both investing and raising money. And since raising capital is one of the most challenging aspects of being an entrepreneur, having another tool to do so is a good thing. If you are an investor, crowdfunding provides an avenue for directly investing in companies you want to see succeed, which is obviously empowering.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Being in the Center of the Naf Naf Triangle

Long-time readers of my posts on entreVIEW (all 4 of you…) may recall that I discovered the entrepreneurial spirit of Israel on a trip there about 18 months ago. However, they may not know (or care) that I’ve been pretty obsessed with Mediterranean food ever since that trip.* 

That’s why I was so excited when I learned (just after returning from that trip) that a new Mediterranean fast casual restaurant Naf Naf Grill, had opened in downtown Minneapolis in U.S. Bank Plaza about three blocks to the north and east of my office. A second location followed last fall in City Center (one block West) and I just read that another location is opening soon about a block and half east and south of me in the TCF Tower! I guess that essentially puts my office in the middle of the Naf Naf triangle—they’ve got me surrounded.

If you haven’t yet discovered Naf Naf, you should. It is the fresh and delicious 
“Chipotlized” version of Mediterranean food. It’s also a great entrepreneurial success story. Nine years ago, the Founders of Naf Naf, Sahar Sander and Elan Burger, started the first Naf Naf in a small shack in suburban Chicago with no air conditioning. With help from some local business people who loved the product, David Sloan and Justin Halpenny, they started to expand to new locations in Illinois. In 2015 the Company received an infusion of growth capital from Roark Capital and has expanded to dozens of locations in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.