CSUF Startup Featured in OC Register

In this edition of the CSUF Entrepreneurship Insider Director John Bradley Jackson highlights the progress that a startup two of our students founded a year ago has made and how the first step to becoming an entrepreneur is telling people about your idea (A great place to do that for current university and high school students is at the Titan Fast Pitch competition on October 21!).

Last week, the OC Register featured a startup founded by two of our recent graduates. The startup, Wecademi, was founded by Brent Maxinoski ’17 and Cayman Elkin ’17 in our CSUF Entrepreneurship classes. Their mission is to help students pass the most difficult classes they will take. To learn more about these two I urge you to read the OC Register article and watch the interview that we did with them over the summer.
These are still early days for Wecademi and I expect there are many chapters yet to be written about this business. But their journey is underway and I am hopeful that it will have a good ending for Brent and Cayman.
Entrepreneurship is interesting because there is no obvious path to for an entrepreneur to follow. Every entrepreneur has to figure things out as they go but, as we teach in class and the CSUF Startup Incubator, there is a process for figuring out that path.
But entrepreneurs must still take that first uncertain step into the unknown and a good first step to take is to tell people about your idea. For current university and high school students that first step can be the Titan Fast Pitch competition that we are hosting on October 21. Or that first step could be simply talking to people you already know and trust. Whatever the case, I have found that openly discussing your ideas give them nourishment and help them grow.
If you have an idea for a business I would welcome the opportunity to discuss it with you.
Sincerely,

John Bradley Jackson
Director and Professor
CSUF Center for Entrepreneurship, CSUF Consulting,
& CSUF Startup Incubator

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Forecasting for Entrepreneurs – How to Develop Assumptions

Joel Schwarzbart gave a great talk on forecasting for the CSUF Startup Incubator

Joel Schwarzbart gave a great talk on forecasting for the CSUF Startup Incubator

Joel Schwarzbart describes himself as half a CFO. What does that mean? Well, basically it means that Joel is a consultant who does many (if not most) of the financial activities that a full time CFO normally does but he does them for multiple clients.

Earlier this week, Joel gave a talk at the CSUF Startup Incubator in Placentia (by the way, we  bring in experts all the time to give talks and to have office hours, you can see all of our planned events by going to our Eventbrite page) about how to do forecasting if you are an entrepreneur working on a startup. While he talked at great length on a number of subjects that are important for forecasting there was one thing that I want to focus on here: Assumptions.

The accuracy of your forecast, which is the combination of all of your projections for your business, is in large part determined by the accuracy of your assumptions. Some things you have to assume:

  • How much you will spend on marketing efforts
  • The costs of the raw materials that go into making your products
  • Variable employee costs
  • Conversion rates on your ads
  • Your effective tax rates
  • Travel expenses
  • How many new customers you will bring online
  • And the list goes on and on and on….

Many of the entrepreneurs and students I work with do not give nearly enough consideration to their financial assumptions and yet it is from these assumptions that all forecasts come from. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to develop your financial assumptions and here are some of them:

Company Financial History

If your company has been around for a couple of years you will have to assume less than you would if your business is a startup. Simply use your actual history and financial statements to inform your assumptions. You will still have to take into consideration some other data points that I will cover presently.

Industry Norms

For our students, I always recommend them to look up the industry norm financial ratios in the library. In our library there is a database of financial ratios that is broken up by industry and by company size (there might be a huge difference in quick ratio for a small company versus a large company after all). With these kinds of industry and company-size financial ratios you can compare them to the financial ratios that you have developed for your pro forma (forecasted) financial documents; if the financial ratios you have aren’t even close to the industry norms then you might have an issue.

Besides financial ratios, there are many other kinds of industry norms that you can find out if you look hard enough or ask the right people about (industry magazines are usually a good source for this kind of information as are people who currently work in a given industry). For example, if you are opening a restaurant it would be a good idea to figure out your turnover rate (how many times a table is used over a period of time by a party).

Other Secondary Data

Besides industry norms, there are a lot of good sources of secondary data, which are nothing more than other sources of relevant information. For example, knowing the general strength of the economy is a good thing to know; knowing the strength of the economy for your area of operations is even better. Maybe the weather plays a part in the success of your business or maybe new regulations will play a more significant role in your business. There are many different fields to look into for secondary data.

(Yes, industry norms are a kind of secondary data but I think they’re important enough to have been covered separately.)

Observed Data

Now that I think of it, this might be the best kind of data that there is. If you directly observe something then that’s data that others do not have. For example, I remember reading about a startup a number of years back that was making some pretty good money taking pictures of department displays. Why? Competitors and companies that make items that go into department stores really wanted to know what was popular at that moment.

I have counseled students to get a head count on how many people went into a restaurant. Municipalities put out those strips on the road to get a count of how many vehicles pass by. Doing A/B (or multivariate) testing is another awesome source of observable data. Your company’s history is a form of observed data and, please, keep good metrics on your business; that will help you immensely.

So What?

I’m sure that there are other broad sources of data that I missed but I think you get the picture about assumptions. They are important because, like food, if you put good stuff in you will get good results and vice versa. And you need to have quality forecasts for your business so that you:

  • Make sure you have positive cash flow
  • Can plan to produce the right amount of product
  • Know where to spend money to get a good ROI on marketing
  • etc.

Forecasting is a fundamental part of any business and we were lucky to have Joel give a great talk on forecasts. But forecasting is just a part of growing a business. There are a lot of things to consider and to do it right you should have mentors to help guide you. You can find them on your own or you can work with mentors that you can find at CSUF Consulting or the CSUF Startup Incubator.

CSUF Consulting is great for clients that already have a business who are looking to improve in some fundamental way (i.e. marketing, operations, leadership, etc.). Each client is paired with a student team and a mentor who, as part of their classes, work with clients over the course of a semester to develop a comprehensive strategic plan that directly addresses some of the toughest issues or most promising opportunities that their client has.

The CSUF Startup Incubator, on the other hand, is built off of decades of entrepreneurial experience to help entrepreneurs go from concept to launch. At the beginning of a six month residency, entrepreneurs at the CSUF Startup Incubator sit down with Incubator staff and their dedicated startup coach to develop a startup plan that will position the entrepreneur for success. From that point on the team gets to work implementing that plan with the help of the entire CSUF Entrepreneurship community, which includes more than 500 subject matter experts who can be called upon to help. Oh, and residents at the CSUF Startup Incubator also get one of our CSUF Consulting teams attached to their startup to help them develop their startup plan by focusing their efforts on a critical part of the entrepreneur’s startup.

Give us a call today if you are interested in working with us, our number is (657) 278-3930. And to learn more about how to become a successful entrepreneur make sure to check out our Knowledge @ CSUF Entrepreneurship series where we have published posts and videos on topics that are important to entrepreneurs.


#CSUF

For more details on CSUF Entrepreneurship:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/

For more details on how we help people become entrepreneurs:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/Incubator

For more details on how CSUF Consulting can help businesses thrive:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/Consulting

Attend one of our events for entrepreneurs or sign up for a free mentoring session:
http://bit.ly/CSUFEntrepreneurEvents

Knowledge @ CSUF Entrepreneurship video series:
http://bit.ly/CSUF_Knowledge

CSUF Startup Incubator Residents Wecademi Featured in OC Register

WebcademiBrent Maxinoski ’17 and Cayman Elkin ’17 have an important mission: to help university students pass the most difficult courses. Started in a CSUF Entrepreneurship classroom, Wecademi is their answer and earlier this week the OC Register ran a feature story on them.

They have continued to work on their startup with the help of the CSUF Startup Incubator staff and coaches. At the Incubator, Brent and Cayman have worked with Incubator staff and their startup coach, Buzz Walker, to figure out the best way to launch their business, including assistance with:

  • Marketing efforts
  • Business development
  • Creating a business plan
  • And in many other ways

Here is a sample from the OC Register story but you should definitely read the whole thing:

Some students are inspired by their favorite class. Recent Cal State Fullerton grad Brent Maxinoski was inspired by his least favorite.

In fact, he disliked accounting so much – and struggled with it – that he and classmate Cayman Elkin have founded a company so fellow students don’t find themselves in the same spot.

Their company, Wecademi, is extending the gig economy into the classroom with a platform that connects struggling students with tutors who have taken the same class, perhaps even from the same instructor, and excelled in it. They describe it as Airbnb for college tutoring.

In the process, they hope to help Cal State Fullerton students save a little money, succeed in their chosen major and graduate on time.

“I realized that peers themselves within a campus are a very underused resource for education,” said Maxinoski, the startup’s CEO.

That light bulb went on the night before an accounting exam.

“I just realized … I would much rather just pay some small or affordable amount to a peer who was either in the same class as me or had taken the same class as me, and done well in it, to help me understand the concepts and do well on the exam, rather than paying 75-80 bucks for a professional grad-degree-type tutor,” he said.


#CSUF

For more details on CSUF Entrepreneurship:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/

For more details on how we help people become entrepreneurs:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/Incubator

For more details on how CSUF Consulting can help businesses thrive:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/Consulting

Attend one of our events for entrepreneurs or sign up for a free mentoring session:
http://bit.ly/CSUFEntrepreneurEvents

Knowledge @ CSUF Entrepreneurship video series:
http://bit.ly/CSUF_Knowledge

Building a Strong Culture from Startup to Mature Company

Dave Kinnear giving a talk on the importance of building a culture from startup to mature company for CSUF Entrepreneurship

Dave Kinnear giving a talk on the importance of building a culture from startup to mature company for CSUF Entrepreneurship

Last week, CSUF Entrepreneurship mentor and veteran executive coach for Vistage Dave Kinnear gave a great talk on the importance of culture for any organization and how to effectively build a great culture that will grow as your business grows. According to Dave, in order to accomplish this you first need to know how culture is built and the way to do this is to understand how people develop their world view.

For Dave, it all starts with fundamental organizing principles (FOPs), which is how people interpret reality. These are foundational principles that help to determine how you view everything.

From FOPs come values. Values are more disbursed than FOPs and are how we view the world. If you think that every person has inalienable rights then that is one of your values.

Next up are beliefs/habits. Beliefs/habits are our way of systematizing how we interact with the world. Instead of using pure logic to determine how to do things beliefs/habits help us to act quickly.

Action is the penultimate link in this chain and action is the manifestation of the heuristical responses as determined by our beliefs/habits. Actions taken are not always based off of complete information but without the foundational elements from above we couldn’t act.

From actions come results, which are simply how things end up once you take action. Depending on your FOPs, the world may be an ordered system akin to a clock but the complexity of that system is immeasurably complex and your results may not always align with that viewpoint. When that happens you will understandably start to question things.

The thing about this system is that the closer you get to FOPs the less change you will be willing to make. But if your results do not align with what you expected then you will start questioning things and reassess some things. The further up the line towards FOPs you get, the harder it is to change but you will be adjusting your beliefs/habits throughout your life.

In order to build a strong company culture you need to honestly assess what your world view is and create processes in your company that align with that. If you do it right then your culture will permeate every facet of your business and will help your business grow into the kind of entity that you want. It takes work but it can be done.

At least that was my interpretation of Dave’s thesis. Dave was more eloquent in explaining this in his talk and I hope to get some clips up from his talk for our Knowledge @ CSUF Entrepreneurship series soon.

And if you would like to meet with Dave to discuss culture and how to start your business you can reserve some time at his office hours that he does for CSUF Entrepreneurship. Office hours with Dave are a good way to get started on building your innovative concept and once you are ready to get serious about launching your business you should seriously consider becoming a resident at the CSUF Startup Incubator where we help entrepreneurs go from concept to launch.

Reading posts like this and attending talks by experts like Dave are part of the formula for success but there is significantly more value with working with experts like Dave and the people at the CSUF Startup Incubator.

Here are some thought-provoking quotes that Dave highlighted during his talk that I had to include in this post:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is how Peter Drucker described culture and for Dave he sees culture as how organizations get things done.

“Values should underpin Vision, which dictates Mission, which determines Strategy, which surfaces Goals that frame Objectives, which in turn drives the Tactics that tell an organization what Resources, Infrastructure and Processes are needed to support a certainty of Execution” Mike Myatt.


#CSUF

For more details on CSUF Entrepreneurship:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/

For more details on how we help people become entrepreneurs:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/Incubator

For more details on how CSUF Consulting can help businesses thrive:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/Consulting

Attend one of our events for entrepreneurs or sign up for a free mentoring session:
http://bit.ly/CSUFEntrepreneurEvents

Knowledge @ CSUF Entrepreneurship video series:
http://bit.ly/csufknowledge

Forecasting for Entrepreneurs @ CSUF Startup Incubator

ForecastingTomorrow at the CSUF Startup Incubator Placentia office at 6pm we will be hosting an event called Forecasting for Entrepreneurs. Being able to properly do forecasts is a critical skill for entrepreneurs to posses. Cash flow is king and being able to effectively project how much you will have in the future can make the difference between your business’ success and failure.

Below are the details for this event and if you plan on attending please make sure to register on our Eventbrite page.

As a CFO for tech startups Joel Schwarzbart knows a thing or two about forecasting. And that’s a good thing because any business, whether they are the newest startup or a NYSE stalwart needs to know how to forecast.

But how are you supposed to do forecasting for you business when you are brand new? Joel will discuss the strategies that he uses to develop a robust forecasting model for his clients and how you can use the same principles that he uses to create a good forecasting model for your startup or small business.

Pizza and soft drinks will be served at this event.

We hope to see you there!

[Please park on Bradford Ave. Our building is located next to the fire department and there is a large for lease sign in the front yard. We are located in the back of the building.]


#CSUF

For more details on CSUF Entrepreneurship:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/

For more details on how we help people become entrepreneurs:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/Incubator

For more details on how CSUF Consulting can help businesses thrive:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/Consulting

Attend one of our events for entrepreneurs or sign up for a free mentoring session:
http://bit.ly/CSUFEntrepreneurEvents

Knowledge @ CSUF Entrepreneurship video series:
http://bit.ly/csufknowledge

How to make a Great Titan Fast Pitch

Sixty seconds is not a lot of time but as you will find out in this edition of the CSUF Entrepreneurship Insider there is a tried and true formula that will help you make your best pitch possible.

The Titan Fast Pitch competition is less than a month away (October 21) and I encourage every university and high school student that I meet to join this competition as a competitor and I hope you will do the same. Being able to inspire someone with an idea in sixty seconds, which is how long competitors in the Titan Fast Pitch have to make their pitches, is a crucial skill that every entrepreneur needs to develop.

In a post we published earlier today titled Start with Why – How to make a Great Pitch, we discuss the importance of inspiring people with why you do what you do. For the Center for Entrepreneurship, we believe that entrepreneurs create the future. That is the “why” for us.

As you’ll read in our article, effective leaders follow that up with “how” and “what”. From our point of view entrepreneurs are the engine for growth in our global economy because they create products and services that are new and demonstrably improve the lives of people in the community. We educate and coach people so that they can be the best entrepreneurs that they can be.

And that is the heart of making a good sixty second pitch. Why, how, and what; it’s that simple.

If you are a student or know of one that you think has an entrepreneurial spirit please tell them about the Titan Fast Pitch competition. Even if you aren’t a student, we hope to see you at the competition cheering on the next generation of entrepreneurs!

Sincerely,

John Bradley Jackson
Director and Professor
CSUF Center for Entrepreneurship, CSUF Consulting,
& CSUF Startup Incubator

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Start with Why – How to make a Great Pitch

Sixty seconds is not a long time to tell someone about your concept but that is what we challenge students to do at the Titan Fast Pitch competition on October 21. Why?

The “why” is the answer. Entrepreneurs have a mission and being able to inspire people with the “why” of their mission makes the difference between a successful entrepreneur and a transformational one.

Simon Sinek gave a TED Talk a few years back called Start with Why. It’s a powerful talk that explains how great leaders, from Apple to Martin Luther King Jr., led movements that changed the world. And while we don’t expect competitors at the Titan Fast Pitch to change the world right away, being able to passionately explain to people why you are doing something will put you on that path.

There is more to giving a great pitch than simply explaining why you do what you do. You have to succinctly go from why to how you will do what you say you will do and what the result will be. An example of how to do this that Simon gives is apple. He explains Apple this way:

Everything we do we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers.

In other words, in Simon’s words, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

And that’s what you have to do at the Titan Fast Pitch if you want to win. Make sure to register as a competitor or as an attendee to support the CSUF Entrepreneurship community.


#CSUF

For more details on CSUF Entrepreneurship:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/

For more details on how we help people become entrepreneurs:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/Incubator

For more details on how CSUF Consulting can help businesses thrive:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/Consulting

Attend one of our events for entrepreneurs or sign up for a free mentoring session:
http://bit.ly/CSUFEntrepreneurEvents

Knowledge @ CSUF Entrepreneurship video series:
http://bit.ly/csufknowledge