Monday, February 17, 2020

Remembering Kobe, the Entrepreneur

Last month, we lost Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others in a tragic helicopter crash in California.

We all know Bryant as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and since his passing I have learned more about how he was perhaps an even greater father figure for his daughters. But here we want to recognize Bryant for the entrepreneurism that he diligently pursued with the same “mamba” mentality that earned him many achievements on the hardcourt.

First of all, I could spend paragraphs here analyzing how Bryant’s book, The Mamba Mentality: How I Play, can be turned into fuel for entrepreneurs. If you have not yet read it, do so. For now, given the limited lines I have available, I’ll present you with some of his philosophy.

Bryant explained once that the difference between basketball and entrepreneurship is that in entrepreneurship there is no competitor “directly in front of you;” instead, as an entrepreneur, the challenge is to be constantly creative in a way that impacts the market you are trying to dominate. “But even more so,” he said, “when you play basketball you’ve got to take time off, in order to avoid injury. In business and creativity there is no off switch. Your brain is constantly working.” I think every entrepreneur can attest that the brain is always ticking. (But the picture of Bryant shooting hoops in his pajamas with a cast on one hand makes me wonder whether he ever actually rested, on the court or otherwise!)

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Entrepreneurial Tips for 2020

With February here, we are now firmly into the year 2020. At this point, you may finally be readjusted to working a full five-day week (good for you!) and fully back in the swing of things. Even so, if your dream of launching your own business has not dissipated in the new year, we have a few high-level tips for you on how to take the leap from employee to entrepreneur. 

Develop your skillset. As an entrepreneur, you will likely need skills you might not have acquired yet. Right now, you may be excellent at your job. If you are a high school guidance counselor, for example, your skills likely include an ability to work with youths, create and implement a plan with actionable school-to-career steps, develop a guidance curriculum, coordinate with social services agencies and parents, and maintain records. So you are adept at performing a handful of tasks within specific boundaries, but you haven’t ever had to run an entire organization from top to bottom. You likely don’t have experience in forming an entity (we can help!), hiring practices, payroll, bill collection, or managing human resources. As an entrepreneur, especially as a new entrepreneur, you will likely be responsible for all of that and more.

Prepare to keep learning. Running a business will require continuous learning as technology, consumer trends, market standards, and customer or client demands change. Daunting though it may be, you don’t have to go it alone. Early and continuing success can be fueled by online, and sometimes free, business courses and seminars. 

For example: 

  • LinkedIn Learning offers a range of courses relevant to entrepreneurs and business leaders, including “Learning Data Analytics,” “Time Management Fundamentals,” “Strategic Thinking,” and “Project Management Foundations.”
  • Women Who Code has a list of ways to start learning how to code right now for free, which include iTunes U, Kids Ruby, Mozilla’s Developer Network, Google’s Code University, P2PU, and Net Tuts+.
  • Coursera offers hundreds of free courses, including Business Foundations, Business Analytics, and Excel Skills for Business, among many, many others.

Your area community also may have support groups for entrepreneurs or business-minded people. Unless you have worked long enough in a large operation and been privy to the inner-workings of building and growing a business, you will most likely have a steep learning curve to overcome. Take advantage of the tools and resources available to you to make your transition from employee to entrepreneur smoother. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls and the Fight for Privacy on the Internet

by Leeja Miller and Amanda McAllister


 Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls is part memoir, part call to arms by Carrie Goldberg, a victim’s rights lawyer whose Brooklyn law firm, C.A. Goldberg, has seen staggering growth since its founding in 2014. This is due largely to Goldberg’s larger-than-life personality and her fierce and compassionate work representing victims of cybercrime, a notoriously difficult area of law for victims to find any sort of recourse. Nobody’s Victim recounts some of the most grisly cases Goldberg has faced during her career, including her own, as a means to highlight the egregious shortcomings of our legal system’s ability to provide justice to victims of cybercrime. 

Through Goldberg’s tales of hard-fought battles, many of which were lost, the book highlights the feeling of empowerment her clients can find in legal representation, as well as the statutory, technological, and societal obstacles standing in the way of meaningful remedies. Those obstacles include the notorious Communications Decency Act § 230 (“CDA 230”), tort law’s inability to accommodate rapidly-changing tech and the abuse that comes with it, and schools, workplaces, and law enforcement that are woefully undertrained to deal with cyber and sexual abuse. Without well-trained institutions, adequate resources, and well-written laws to hold criminals accountable, victims are left to fend for themselves in a civil law landscape that shields tech companies from liability and provides little recourse against judgment-proof defendants. Despite the bleak picture she paints, Goldberg encourages us all to join the fight, and this book is a testament to the uphill battle yet to unfold.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year! It’s now January — that time of year when many people are fully committed to their New Year’s resolutions of eating healthy, working out and saving more. But New Year’s resolutions don’t need to be limited to our personal lives. Right now — the beginning of a new year and decade — is a great time to create meaningful New Year’s resolutions for your business as well.

This Forbes article gives some great examples of New Year’s resolutions that will set your business up for success. To summarize:

  1. Get more balance in your life. Your health — physical and mental — is important to the success of your business. Make an effort to invest in your health by delegating more and spreading the workload. 
  2. Revisit your business plan. Every business should have a business plan. If you don’t, or yours is out of date, spend some time putting one together. Consider your short-term, medium-term and long-term goals and be specific about the necessary steps to get there.
  3.  Protect yourself against cyber attackers. Cyber attacks can happen to all businesses, no matter what size. Review your current cyber security and establish safeguards to protect your business. 
  4. Find out how to make your customers even happier. Invest in your existing customers. Research shows that it is 25 times more expensive to win a new customer than it is to obtain new business from existing customers. 
  5. Prioritize productivity. How can you improve your business’s productivity? Consider updating out-of-date processes or investing in new technology.
  6. Give your business a financial health check. Take a hard look at your financials. How can your business improve? Make an effort to identify and resolve potential issues. As an example, find ways to collect on your accounts receivable faster.
  7. Be prepared to invest for the future. Make an effort to invest in your business. Failure to do so could limit future opportunities for growth. 

The start of 2020 is a great time to set New Year’s resolutions for your personal life and your business. And whatever specific resolutions you choose to set, make sure they are specific, measurable and achievable. This will help ensure you don’t give up on these resolutions in February. You want these resolutions to set you and your business up for prosperity in 2020!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Will 2020 See a Comprehensive Federal Privacy Law?

I just finished presenting my second webinar on the new California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which becomes effective January 1, 2020.  Not a lot of time left to get ready.

Businesses are frantically performing data mapping to find out what personal information they collect on California residents and for what purposes, revising their website privacy policies, implementing data security safeguards, reviewing vendor agreements, creating new procedures to respond to consumer requests for access to or deletion of data, purchasing cybersecurity insurance, and other activities necessary to comply with the CCPA.

Many are fearful of the lawsuits likely to follow as a result of the CCPA’s private right of action and provision for statutory damages of up to $750 per incident in the event of a data breach. If records of 50,000 California residents are involved in a data breach, and the business failed to have reasonable data security in place to protect against the breach, a potential claim under the CCPA could exceed $37.5 million. What’s more, under the CCPA, a plaintiff’s lawyer does not need to show any actual harm to an individual caused by such a data breach.  

This private right of action — and potential class action lawsuits enabled by this right — are scary.  

Similar to the CCPA, the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) — that regulates the collection, capture, and storage of biometric identifiers such as fingerprints, voiceprints, and retina/iris scans — also provides for a private right of action. Under the BIPA, a person can recover liquidated damages of up to $5,000 or actual damages, whichever amount is greater, for an intentional or reckless violation of the BIPA. In 2019 alone, there have already been over 160 class actions filed asserting BIPA violations. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is another privacy related law with a private right of action that has led to an explosion of private lawsuits and multi-million dollar settlements. 

With statutory damages, private rights of action, and no need to allege or prove any actual injury or harm, BIPA, TCPA, and now the CCPA are open invitations to plaintiffs’ lawyers looking for potentially lucrative class actions.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Steven Hyden, Twilight of the Gods: A Journey to the End of Classic Rock (Dey Street Books, 2018)

Occasionally we have moments of clarity, times when something in our environment reaches out and whacks us in the head and we wonder why we didn’t notice it before because it was so obvious.

I had one such moment of clarity some time ago as I went about running errands on a typical Saturday morning. A stop at Walgreen’s to pick up a prescription: I briefly tune into the background music — hey, that’s Queen — and for a moment I’m transported back to 1976. Off to the grocery store, where Styx greets me. A quick stop into a fast food restaurant. You guessed it: my dining experience is accompanied by tunes from the 1970s and 1980s.

It’s been this way for a long time. It’s like I’m moving through life in a bubble in which music that was popular during my young adulthood is continually cycling. This didn’t happen with my parents’ music, as good as some of it is in retrospect. No, this must have something to do with demographics, the economic power of my bulging boomer generation. Play our music, and we’ll more readily open our wallets. For younger folks, it’s enough to fuel an “OK Boomer” response. But, if you’re an entrepreneur with potential customers in the Boomer generation, you may want to think about incorporating some classic 70’s rock into your marketing (just don’t do it without consulting a knowledgeable IP lawyer before you do). 

Let’s face it: without the memories, some of this stuff just isn’t that great, as Steven Hyden observes in his Twilight of the Gods. In a nutshell, Wikipedia informs us, this new elevator music comprises “commercially successful songs by white male acts from the Anglosphere, expressing values of Romanticism, self-aggrandizement, and politically undemanding ideologies.” Yup, that’s pretty much it. And I suspect it will be with us until my generation’s buying power dwindles away.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Congratulations to the Participants in the Minnesota Cup!

I was at the Minnesota Cup Final awards ceremony Monday evening. Having been at this event for just about all of its 15-year existence (we’ve been a sponsor of the Cup almost since inception), it’s always great to see all the energy and enthusiasm generated around all of the finalists.

In case you weren’t paying attention, or have been too busy with all the other Twin Cities Startup Week activities in the last week, the overall winner was Abilitech Medical, a company developing wearable devices to assist people dealing with neuromuscular conditions that restrict upper limbs. Abilitech had a super successful night, not only winning the $50,000 grand prize (in addition to the $30,000 it had won as winner of the LifeScience/Health IT division), but another $25,000 from the Carlson Family Foundation as the top woman-led team in the competition this year!

Resonant Cavity, makers of the Voloco app that lets you do voice processing to add automatic tuning, harmony, vocoding, and other tricks to your track, won second place and added $25,000 to its winnings as High Tech division winner. For the record, my younger daughter thought the Voloco app was pretty cool when she downloaded it after I had mentioned to her that I met one of the founders at a Minnesota Cup semi-finalist event we hosted.