Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Crowdfunding Consultant

So how does a system architect/LSS Black Belt end up being a crowdfunding consultant?  By being curious about what is going on in the online world, following some very successful campaigns, reading about what works, and being at the right place at the right time. Crowdfunding appeals to me because it combines people, process, strategy, and technology to accomplish a goal.  And a campaign is a project with clear goals and a defined beginning and end.

When Patrick and I met after our introduction at the AFA tech transfer meetup in August, he told me about the different investment opportunities he had on his list.  As he described a few of them, it became clear to me that the were great candidates for crowdfunding, so I shared with him what I knew at the time about how crowdfunding works.  After a handful of weeks of meeting together with the Advanced Link Consulting (ALC) team and building a level of trust, he asked me if I would take the lead on our crowdfunding efforts.

We have three clients so far:

  • New Colonies Media: We are doing two campaigns for them, one for a game app and another for a DVD series.  They both have the goal of celebrating the good things about America and reinforcing the values and practices that help build this country in the first place.  Just this week we created a Facebook page for the DVD series, Rediscover America.  My Facebook friends have already received an invitation to "Like" the page.  The game app Facebook page will be coming soon.  The crowdfunding campaigns are scheduled to launch on Indiegogo on January 20.
  • Operation Stand Tall for TBI: They are raising funds for a new and very promising treatment for traumatic brain injury.  Eight soldiers have gotten their lives back due to the treatment. To make the treatment widely available requires approval from the FDA, which requires two more phases of study and up to $4M.  I will be inviting my friends to "Like" the Facebook page soon.
  • Bizargan: This is a live auction web site.  They get overstock products for a fraction of retail and offer them for auction every day from 8pm to 11pm PT.  They are raising funds to expand the hours of the live auction and eventually run it 24/7.  This one is just getting started, so it may be a handful of weeks before we start letting people know that the crowdfunding campaign is coming.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Major progress!

Apologies, to you my dear readers, for the long silence.  Much has happened since my last update in June (!!!?).

In August I attended a meetup that featured a new technology transfer program with the Air Force Academy.  As I finished talking with one of the Colonels, a guy came up to the colonel, gave him a big hug and warmly greeted him.  The colonel responded positively -- which was a surprise given the usual more reserved military decorum.  I thought, "This guy is the consummate networker.  I don't think I could ever be that good at it."  Then I thought, "Maybe I don't need to be.  I should introduce myself to him."  A few minutes later, I did just that.  We talked about what we believe in, our skill sets, and where we wanted to go.  He was looking for someone who was good at defining processes and putting people, process, and technology together to make a business run well.  It became very obvious we should meet and talk more.  We did and the rest is history.

My new partner's name is Patrick.  Along with two other guys, Tom and Chris, we formed a new partnership called Advanced Link Consulting.  We link investors to people with ventures that need funding.  We don't sell securities or serve as brokers. We provide expertise in how to go about the fundraising process and how to 'sell' your business to investors and we help investors sort through the many potential to find the best opportunities for a return on their investment.

My role in the partnership is twofold: 1) helping ALC get organized, our processes defined, and our technology in place and 2) working with clients to plan, organize, and execute crowdfunding campaigns.  I will tell you more about the latter in future posts.

In the meantime, I have also completed certification with my company as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.  I really enjoy leading the Structured Improvement Activity events and seeing the great ideas that come forth when you put a group of people together and guide them through the LSS process.  I hope to keep that work as part of my ongoing consulting business.

I've also taken a number of steps to get Dream Walker Solutions set up and ready to go.  Dream Walker Solutions is now incorporated as an LLC in the state of Colorado.  It is an easy process to file the Articles of Organization and pay your $50 filing fee at the Secretary of State's web site: www.sos.state.co.us.  They recommend but do not require the more complicated Operating Agreement, which lays out exactly how you want to organize and run your LLC.  I will, therefore, be drafting one for Dream Walker Solutions and working with a lawyer to get it done right.  More to come on that as well.

You may be wondering how Dream Walker Solutions and Advanced Link Consulting will relate to each other.  When we file the Articles of Organization for ALC, I anticipate that DWS will be one of the members of the LLC.  That is, DWS will own a portion of ALC instead of me.  When I do consulting for ALC consultants, it will be a service of Dream Walker Solutions, LLC, in partnership with ALC.  The goal is to keep my personal life and my business life as legally separate as I can.

I also got my bank account and a means to receive payments set up for DWS.  I deposited enough money in the bank account so that the startup period will be comfortably capitalized, but not so much that I drained my savings. 

For accounting and collecting payments, I'm using the online version of Intuit QuickBooks.  The accounting application costs $12 a month.  The payment tools are free to set up (including a credit card reader for my iPhone/iPad), with a per transaction fee.  I don't think I'll use the credit card much, but will likely send invoices to clients through the service, so that I can easily track all of the inputs and outputs of money through one application/service.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Update on the Plan

I am making good progress on the plan laid out in Charting a Course.  

We paid off our mortgage on April 1.  We are officially debt free and it is a great feeling to know that we have the freedom to choose.  My standard joke at work is "It's the relationship with the mortgage company that keeps you coming back."  Well, that relationship is over for good.

The next financial goal is to accumulate enough of a nest egg to be able to meet our basic needs for six months without working (and without dipping into our retirement funds).

Meanwhile, I'm getting great experience as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.  I have led three Structured Improvement Activity (SIA) events and have another scheduled for next week.  I described the first event back in February in Another Update on the Plan.  It was a virtual event using a teleconference and Microsoft Lync Meeting.  At the end of the three day event, one of the participants had this say: "Thanks for a great event, that would have taken months in any other format."

The second event was a three-day "Voice of the Customer" SIA for the company's data center customers, with the sole intent of understanding the needs, wants, and priorities for improvements to the data centers.  Since my current job is in our company's data centers, I found it challenging to stay neutral as a good facilitator should.  Luckily, I had a master black belt working with me who could take over the facilitator role when I felt the need to step into the role of subject matter expert.  

The third event was a two day session with the company's technical operations workforce strategy team.  It was fun to watch this highly interactive team brainstorm and put together a strategy that will greatly improve the training for the company's technical employees.  

I have heard that I'm starting to get a reputation as a good black belt and people are starting to seek me out to lead their events.  I am over half way to becoming certified by the company as a LSS Black Belt.  I have a good chance of having the certification by August or September.  I'm also thinking I should take the Black Belt certification exam offered by an external standards board, so that I can point both to the experience gained while obtaining my company's certification and to the industry-wide credential.

Finally, I have business cards for Dream Walker Solutions and I'm starting to develop leads.  I'll write more on that as those leads pan out.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Grace under fire

I just read a great article on making good decisions, particularly when under pressure.  Here is the conclusion:

The five-step process for making better decisions:

  1. Maintain a feeling of control over your situation.
  2. Emotional preparation. Consider how things could be worse.
  3. Monitor your breathing.
  4. Controlled empathy.
  5. Ask "What advice would I give my best friend in this situation?"
Read more here: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-1-secret-astronauts-samurai-navy-seals-and-psychopaths-can-teach-you-about-good-decision-making-2014-5 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Entrepreneur's Manifesto

The entrepreneur is a relatively unique type of person.  Not many people will bet their fortunes on an idea or a dream.  Many who try, fail.  But many who fail keep trying until they find something that flies.  This is a person we should honor.  If it weren't for entrepreneurs, America would not have been discovered by the Europeans, the English colonies would never have formed, and the US of A would not have been founded.  John Steele Gordon points out in the latest issue of Imprimus that the Virginia Company, not the British government, started Jamestown in 1607.  The Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies were started by private companies as well. Even in theocratic New England, they survived and grew because of their entrepreneurial spirit.  By the time the 13 colonies declared their independence from the British Crown, 146 years after the first colony was founded, they were the richest place on earth per capita.  No wonder the King didn't want to give them up!

Entrepreneurs do more than sell things.  They change things, usually for the better.  They develop medicines, improve daily life, feed the hungry, free the slave, and provide hope for their family and their community.  Elon Musk and his team are figuring out how to change the cars we drive from all gas to all electric.  The Google team figured out how to put the world's information at our fingertips.  Florence Nightengale established the modern profession of nursing, saving lives for generations.  Proctor & Gamble figured out how to deliver the household supplies we need at a price we can afford.  The food supply chain, from farmers to grocers, deliver to our neighborhoods an incredible variety of flavorful, fresh, safe, and healthy (and not so healthy) food at a low cost.

Honor those who risk their lives and fortunes to make this planet a better place.  Robert Heinlein astutely pointed out that 

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

Be an entrepreneur.  Change the world.

Startup Mechanics - Trademarks, Part 3

A quick update -- to register a trademark with the USPTO, you must demonstrate that you are engaged in inter-state commerce - i.e. produce a copy of an invoice or bill of sale from a transaction with someone in another state.  The US Constitution gives the federal government juristiction over only inter-state commerce, so if all of your business is within one state, you cannot register a trademark with the federal government.  Good to know that the Constitution is still honored!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Startup Mechanics - Trademarks, Part 2

A few things I learned from the USPTO:
  1. You register a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO, http://www.uspto.gov/index.jsp).  
  2. It can take a year or more to get a trademark.
  3. You can start using TM (trademark) or SM (service mark) immediately to indicate that you consider your mark to be exclusive.  You can only use the "circle R" symbol if your trademark is registered.
  4. You have to specify your service and/or goods to which the trademark applies.  Once registered, you can narrow your goods or services (jewelry down to earrings), but you can't widen it (jewelry up to jewelry stores).  If you want to widen your goods or services, you have to re-apply and start the process over.
  5. You can also claim a trademark through "common law" rights.  That is, you don't have to register your trademark in order to claim exclusive rights to it.  I'm sure it is much easier to defend your trademark if it is registered, though.
  6. If you are not yet using the trademark in commerce, it costs you extra to file an "Intend to Use" application.
  7. You can save $100 if you file online and your goods/services can be categorized in their standard classes.
  8. You'll want to search carefully to make sure that there aren't trademarked items in your general area of commerce that sound the same as your intended trademark.  The example they gave was T.Markey and Tee Marquis sound almost the same, so they would not both get a trademark.  Whoever could prove they were first would get the trademark.