20 Days of Ideas — Day 15

In the dot com days it was called “gray hair”. As in “they just brought the gray hair in to be CEO or Chairperson, and the founder is assuming the CTO/President/Evangelist role”. Actually, in those days sometimes the founder was forced out all together. And that wasn’t fair. And of course, the dot com bubble exploded. So the model got chucked.

Starting with the social/local/mobile era a new model emerged. Keep the founders and let them take the helm all the way. …


20 Ideas in 20 Days — Day 14

(Hint: It’s not adding more product features.)

You’ve got a working product, a solid group of early adopters and you’ve raised a little money. But you just can’t get the traction to get to the next level of growth or funding. Does this sound familiar? If so you’re not alone.

This is a recurring theme among early stage startups. And usually the impulse reaction is to try to “fix” the product. So the startup uses whatever runway they have left to improve onboarding or add this or that “must have” feature. Sometimes it works. A lot of times it…


20 Ideas in 20 Days — Day 13

Interested in ditching your commute, working from home or keeping your job but moving to a city where you can actually afford to buy a house? As the CFO/COO of my last startup, I realized that having remote workers (work-from-home and work from where ever) can actually create a pretty compelling competitive advantage. Here’s how:

1. Less expensive labor.

Companies built to operate with a workforce in multiple locations can take advantage of hiring people in locations where it’s cheaper to live and therefore lower average salaries. …


20 Ideas in 20 Days — Day 12

“If you want to write code you have to be good at math.”

Do you believe that statement? A lot of people do.

But it’s not true. Most coding requires a working understanding of the concepts taught in Algebra 1. Not trig. Not calculus. Algebra.

So why does that belief exist and persist?

It’s mostly historical. Our stereotype of the computer nerd is associated with the pre dot.com era use of computers to process large amounts of data and solve hard computational problems in areas like aerodynamics and game theory. And the…


20 Ideas in 20 Days — Day 11

Today, admission to most 4-year universities requires 2–3 years of a foreign language in high school. And then more at the college level to graduate.

This is completely outdated.

To best prepare our students for career success, both high-school and college students should be able to make an interest-based choice between foreign language and computer language to fulfill the requirements.

A working knowledge of a computer language is a practically a prerequisite for career preparation today regardless of your major or job choice. It doesn’t matter if you major in business, or…


I’ve written 10 new idea posts so far in my 20 Ideas in 20 Days project and I thought I’d take a quick minute to reflect on how it’s going.

  1. This is harder than I thought. I thought I was a veritable font of ideas worth sharing. And when I brainstormed the 20 topics before I first posted, I figured those would be a starting point and I’d think of more as the project continued. …

20 Days of Ideas — Day 10

How did you decide where you applied to college? Location? Available majors? Recommendations from family and friends? The rankings? Those postcards and emails from schools based on your scores?

If you’re like me, it wasn’t a very scientifically selected group. I ended up loving where I went to school, but looking back I don’t think it was the best match for me. I think there are other schools, including some that admitted me, that could have better helped me further my interests and education.

If you’re an elite student you might narrow your…


20 Days of Ideas — Day 9

“What traits do you think you need to be a successful entrepreneur?”

I was asked this question in an interview by a university student for a class project. I’m sure she expected me to give the standard litany —uncompromising vision, tenacity, strong (perhaps even aggressive) leadership skills, fearlessness, competitive, risk-loving and grit.

But I reject that list. There’s no research behind it. This is actually a male-biased stereotype that’s being used for pattern recognition by investors when they evaluate founders and CEOs.

And this is a key reason why women get less than 3 percent of the venture capital.

Is this the list that you…


20 Ideas in 20 Days — Day 8

Big corporations are eager to infuse innovation and entrepreneurial thinking into their cultures. Startups are often desperate for specific skill sets but unable to afford experience.

A Startup Fellowship Program

Both problems could be solved by creating a startup fellowship program. Here’s how it would work. Let’s say the corporate venture arm has 6–10 companies in it’s portfolio. These companies deliver a wish list of the skills and expertise they believe will help them rapidly move forward.

The company launches a selective, funded program where experienced employees, interested in working at startups/learning…


20 Ideas in 20 days — Day 7

I was standing in line the other day, and the group in front of me was discussing Uber. Not about the current management and culture issues, but about how drivers had purposely gotten lost, over-charged by taking the long way around etc. Then someone in the group asked, “has anybody ever tried Lyft?”

This is Uber’s brand at this moment because it’s what their customers are saying. Customers don’t trust them, and the damage is real.

There’s a trend among startups to insist they don’t need old-school brand marketing. That data-driven, growth-hacking…

Laura Zavelson

Startups | Accelerators | Advocate for Women Entrepreneurs

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