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My startup, BumblePost, applied several months ago to the TechStars program in Boulder, CO. In a nutshell, TechStars is Harvard for tech startups. It’s a 3 month accelerator program that pairs companies with some of the best mentors in the world who help shape their business. Couple that with a constant state of building of your product day and night for 3 months straight. Top it off with the opportunity to pitch your business to HUNDREDS of venture capitalists from around the world at the end of the program. It’s about as perfect of a formula as you can get for a startup. We were a finalist for this year’s class (top 30 out of 700 companies that applied), but ultimately did not make the final 10. In their words, they loved our company and our team, but we are more of an e-commerce brand than a tech startup. Fair enough.

Getting rejected from TechStars, or any other startup incubator for that matter, should never be the end of the road for a company. If it is for you, reevalutate why you want to be an entrepreneur in the first place. However, we can learn a lot from programs like these and try to replicate that same experience as best we can. Being a finalist, we learned a boat-load about the process, opportunities, and program. Below is a way to build your own version of TechStars, thus giving your company the best chance to succeed.

  • Find mentors. This is hands down the best thing you can do for your company. Find people in your community that are familiar with your industry, have been there and done that, and reach out to them. You will find that most people in their shoes love giving back to young startups in their own community. One of our mentors is actually a mentor for the TechStars program, which is how we met him. He has been invaluable in helping us shape our vision. Try to meet with them at a minimum once/month. Preferably much more.
  • Create an Advisory Board. Find people that can help you with specific areas of your business. Mentors are great for overall leadership and guidance. When it comes to your advisory board find people that have technical expertise in things you are doing. For instance, one of our advisory board members is a programmer who owns 2 CRM software companies. One of the things we want to do with BumblePost is implement card sending into existing CRM softwares such as SalesForce. Who better to have on your team than a programmer who builds these CRM softwares?…
  • Get constant feedback. Reach out to local consumers and businesses in your area asking for feedback on your company. This serves 2 purposes. Number 1, as I’ve mentioned before, is that getting constant feedback is the only way you will truly see what is going to work and what won’t. Number 2 is that you are building a community of people that are supporting your company. These are your future customers. Getting them on board early and often will give you a great base of business when things are in full swing. A lot (and I mean A LOT) of the TechStars companies build their businesses off of other Boulder companies being their first customers.
  • If you want funding, position yourself for funding. I am more of the bootstrap mentality, but if your goal (or need) is to get venture capital/angel funding, then position yourself to do that – they aren’t gonna come to you. There are investor networking groups in your local area. Seek those out and start attending their events. Shake hands, network, send emails, introduce you and your brand. You will meet people with money. They might not be interested in your business, but they could know someone who would be. Make sure your company is setup well to acquire funding. This includes structuring as a C-Corp., getting on a vesting schedule, and making sure you don’t have any skeletons in your closet – including lawsuits, former partners that may have claim to your business, extreme debt, etc. VCs don’t want to partner with that crap any more than they want to marry a 5-time divorcee.
  • Know your pitch and know it well. Know your 2 sentence pitch, know your 2 minute pitch, know your pitch pitch. If you can’t articulate your company in a manner that gets others excited, how do you expect to get customers excited? Practice it all the time. Know it like the back of your hand. Have positive rebuttles to the negative inquiries you will undoubtedly receive.

If you are lucky enough to align yourself with programs like TechStars, great work and make the most of it. For the other 99% of us, it’s not an outside looking in type of deal. These programs are successful for a reason – learn what you can from them and go out and kick ass. Have the attitude that TechStars would be just as lucky to have YOU in their program as you would be to have them. Because it’s the truth – and if you believe that whole-heartedly success will come regardless.

This was originally posted on Adam Griffin’s blog, Ideas Don’t Work, and can be found here.

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Hello future Bumblers!!! Launch is almost upon us! March 1st (fingers crossed) we will be officially launching. For the month of February we are having a contest. The winner wins a FREE iPad AND gets to be the FACE of BumblePost for the next year, AKA become super famous. 🙂

Go to www.BumblePostBuzz.com and enter your email address for contest details!!!

Hugs and Kisses,

The Bumble Team

An Update!

As the weeks roll on, we are slowly but surely making our vision come to life.  Here are a few aspects that we thought we would share with you. 

Before we started development our vision was a greeting card company that was so simple and easy to use, that literally you could get on the site, select a card and send in the mail in a few minutes…. All for $1 plus postage. 

We have evolved our vision (for the better!) and want to point out some key aspects we think our users can really appreciate!

–          An online calendar that not only text and/or emails you about upcoming events, but allows you to connect to your Facebook account to pull your friends birthdays and add them to your calendar. “The Hive” is the term for this online calendar. We are sticking with this bee theme.  🙂

–          Our JUMBO (8.5”x5.5’’) PostGreets (Greeting Postcards) are truly one of a kind and definitely will stick out in the mail.  They are high-quality, high-gloss cards that are sure to impress you and your recipient.

–          Upload a picture to your PostGreet! Want to send a card and add something special to it? Add a picture. There will be no additional cost for this.

–          Multiple designs to choose from! Originally we thought simple was better, but now we are fully confident in our choice to offer a wide variety of styles and designs. We want to make a statement in the greeting card industry with a new, fresh look to cards.

–          I think we have mentioned this, but these are NOT e-cards. These are cards that are fully customized by the customer with personal text and pictureWe print and mail them… all for $1 plus postage.  You really can’t beat that! 

We are excited to “bumble” with you all! An exact launch date is still TBD, but we are shooting for the end of the year and will keep you posted. Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions.

 ~Emily

A Little Taste…

Hello all! Sorry for the recent lack of blog posts. Development has really ramped up, and our brains are slightly fried. BUT, we did put up a new splash page with a few sneak peaks on what we’ve been up to on the development side. I hope you guys like it!   ~Adam

Just Say No…

While Adam believes that we should emulate drug dealers as depicted in his most recent blog post, I happen to be a big proponent of “just saying no.” Sure, the idea of drugs to the people who use them involve some sort of high or unordinary feeling but does that mean they are good for you? No, it does not. Drugs are bad. But I’m not here to tell you about all the things I would have learned in 6th grade had the D.A.R.E program accomplished something other than providing me useful intelligence on what drugs look like, how much they cost and where I can get them. I’m here to tell you why just saying no can simplify your life and make you a happy person.

If you’re anything like me, you’re guilty of what my father calls “burning the candle at both ends.” Of course if you’re anything like me, you’re probably guiltier of burning 100 candles at both ends and then even constructing some new candles out of the old wax for some more reckless burning. To date, I’ve never been a person who has had an easy time saying no. Unless we’re talking about mom needing me to finish the laundry or dad needing me to do some heavy lifting, I’m a YES guy. I’ve always been the person who finds new and exciting ways to fill his 24 hour day with 34 hours worth of activities often without a care in the world about a thing most of us refer to as sleep.  Currently I’m working 48 hours a week at the Greatest Recycled Plastic Site Furnishings Manufacturer in the entire world and somehow juggling it with starting my own event company, starting my own online greeting card company (www.BumblePost.com), and managing to send college students on spring break trips with my former full time employer. Did I mention that I volunteer as a Big for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kansas City and have a full-time girlfriend (who I love dearly)? Yeah, I’m a busy guy and I haven’t even made a dent in the list of everything I let take up my time.

In years past I would have taken this list and completed everything on it during the weekdays. Then I’d look at my calendar and realize I have all weekend to find other stuff to do. The Mikey Needleman Band has a show downtown and everyone thinks I should be there? Check! Count me in. Someone needs me to come watch them do something I don’t want to do or am not even remotely interested in? Check! I can’t wait, sign me up! Why is it so hard for me to just say no? I think we’re all guilty in one way or another of saying “yes” too often and finding ourselves trying to catch up with power naps and energy drinks. Half the stuff I say yes to I know deep down I’d honestly rather say no to. A couple months ago I implemented a technique Tim Ferris wrote about in his book, “Four Hour Workweek” and I started saying NO! I’ve filled many of my weekends with things like sitting around reading a book, lying on a raft in my pool, petting my dog and looking at clouds in the sky. And guess what? I had a blast! I sat there thinking about how happy I was to be lost in my own thoughts with no one depending on my presence at all. And while I believe that an idle mind and body can be a little dangerous, nothing feels better than saying no to something, whether you want to do it or not, and having time in your day to sit there and smile. I’d recommend trying it out this weekend. Just say no and spend your Saturday doing or not doing whatever it is YOU feel like. “NO!” It’s a simple word that can turn that frown, upside-down.

In the book ReWork, by the founders of software innovators 37 Signals, the authors do an incredible job of simplifying the reality of what it takes to start a business. Don’t look to this book for nitty gritty details on setting up an LLC, establishing a merchant account, or anything like that. It breaks down the unnecessary fluff that most startups face – where to get money, whether or not to hire people, when to launch, etc. – and turns traditional thinking upside down. It’s a breath of fresh air for those of you that have ever been involved with the headache that is a startup, and an amazing roadmap for those of you that haven’t. Below are things that we at BumblePost have taken from the book and used in our own day to day business practices. The bolded words are chapter titles from the book, and the italicized words are quotes from the book.

Ignore the Real World:

No truer words have ever been spoken for those that want to start their own business. For the most part, people don’t understand entrepreneurs and the way their minds work. “That would never work in the real world.”  Tell someone your idea, and there is a good chance they will tell you why it won’t work. Not necessarily because they don’t really think it will work, but because some evil little know-it-all inside them pokes its head out and wants to make itself seem more intelligent than the idea that you’ve poured days, weeks, or months diving into. It’s natural and I promise you will come across it a lot. “If you’re hopeful and ambitious, they’ll try to convince you your ideas are impossible.” Anything great that is ever accomplished in this world is done with many detractors along the way. What would the world look like if Martin Luther King Jr., the Wright Brothers, and Bill Gates listened to the countless number of people that told them they were never going to make it? Your idea is better than you think. You are more capable than you think. And the world doesn’t know as much as they think they know. “The real world isn’t a place, it’s an excuse. It’s a justification for not trying. It has nothing to do with you.”

Scratch Your Own Itch:

BumblePost was born out of the fact that we realized how archaic the greeting card process is. Sending a simple card takes 45 minutes of your time and 5 of your dollars, and there’s a strong chance that you get a migraine along the way. So…we created a company that lets you streamline your calendar by reminding you when important dates are coming up and allowing you to send custom, personalized cards to people for just $1 plus postage. You add your dates to your online Hive calendar, and we will print and mail any cards that you want to send for these occasions. Problem solved. This “solve your own problem” approach lets you fall in love with what you’re making. You know the problem and the value of its solution intimately.”

Start Making Something:

“We all have that one friend who says, “I had the idea for eBay. If only I had acted on it, I’d be a billionaire!”  Isn’t that the truth?! Hell, I’ve been that friend too many times. We all have brains, and we all think of ideas from time to time. But guess what? Having an idea has nothing to do with getting your tail off the couch and acting on it. “Think your idea’s that valuable? Then go try to sell it and see what you get for it.” The day “ideas” become valuable is the day I quit my day job. There is something so incredibly powerful about taking the first steps to turn your idea into a business. You want to create an avalanche? Start with a snowflake. You will be amazed at how one step leads to another which leads to another and before you know it you’ve got a business with momentum on your hands. It’s harder to slam on the brakes going 70 than it is going 10.“The most important thing is to begin. So get a camera, hit record, and start shooting.”

Quick Wins:

The BumblePost team practices this a lot. We have a 30,000 foot view of the business overall, but our day to day is more like a 5 foot view. What can we complete today? What can we complete this week? What’s going to keep the momentum going? “To keep your momentum and motivation up, get in the habit of accomplishing small victories along the way.” This keeps us motivated to always be moving forward. “If you aren’t motivated by what you’re working on, it won’t be very good.” A new card design is all of the sudden the energy we needed to work our tails off. A great conference call with our developer helps us lay out 10 things we can get done RIGHT NOW. Quick wins help you get to the big win with some sanity left. A startup from the outside looks like one grand idea where someone snapped their fingers and a business was born. A startup from the inside looks like 10,000 battles strewn together for one big win come launch.

Launch Now:

“Just because you’ve got a list of things to do doesn’t mean it’s not done.”  When we launch in late 2010, there will inevitably be 1,000 things to still get done. Does this mean we will delay launch? No. Because that list will never go away. “The founders of Crate and Barrel didn’t wait to build fancy displays when they opened their first store. They turned over the crates and barrels that the merchandise came in and stacked products on top of them.” Who knew?! What is your “crate and barrel” that you can use to bootstrap your business off the ground? If there’s one thing all successful entrepreneurs are, it’s resourceful. Use what you have, and find a way to make it work. “Stop imagining what’s going to work. Find out for real.”  The only way to figure out what will sell and what won’t, what features users love and which ones they hate, is to launch. You won’t lose customers because you don’t have a perfect product. In fact, you might make them customers for life when they see that you are listening to what they say and treating them like a real person.

Inspiration is Perishable:

“We all have ideas. Ideas are immortal. They last forever. What doesn’t last forever is inspiration. Inspiration is like fresh fruit or milk: It has an expiration date.”  No matter what it is -working out, starting a company, volunteering for a non profit- the inspiration to do so is fleeting. Jump on that train while it’s going past you or you could miss it forever. Think you can just pick up down the road and do it?  “Later, you won’t be pumped up about it anymore.”  And if you’re not pumped about it, you won’t do it. Sometimes I will work on BumblePost literally at 2 or 3 in the morning, even if I have to be up in a few hours. Why? Because I know that when I’m laying in bed and think of a marketing strategy, I’m not going to dive into that unless I get it on paper right now. I can knock out several pages of a plan in 2 hours when it might take me a week had I waited on it. “When you’re high on inspiration, you can get two weeks of work done in twenty-four hours.”  There are few things that are more heart breaking to me than seeing someone with an idea or a vision that they are fired up about it, but they won’t act on it. When inspiration is in your face, lay a fat one on its lips. Inspiration is what keeps the world moving forward. Don’t take it for granted. “If it grabs you, grab it right back and put it to work.”

*If you want to know what the heck the title of this blog post is about, I guess you’re just gonna have to read the book. 🙂  It’s a great read for any of you that want to get from idea to reality, without the fluff of traditional business ideaology. Cheers.   ~Adam

Moving sucks. There is no doubt about it. Adam and I just moved a few weeks ago and after one long day of moving, followed by days upon days of unpacking and organizing I have come to the conclusion that we have too much stuff.

Stuff as in: 5 computers,  6  large suitcases, approx. 15 old purses I keep in a drawer, textbooks left over from college, bottles of lotions and bath bubbles, shoes, shoes and more shoes, DVD’s, tons of books (and several duplicates of books), etc. , etc., etc.

Why is it human nature to collect items (that eventually collect dust)? What is even more bizarre is why do we have such a hard time letting stuff go?

I have a few theories on situations that encourage us to collect stuff we don’t need…
1) Bargains: bargains are great,  but do they lead to us buying more stuff we don’t need just because they are such a great deal?
2) Buying for the future: I sure have been guilty of buying stuff because “one day I might host a Hawaiian themed dinner party and these cute margarita glasses would be perfect!!” I mean seriously…
3) Why is free stuff so hard to pass up?!!  People get so excited over free tee-shirts. I probably gave away close to 20 of mine from the move and now am making a commitment to pass on the free-tees from now on.

Clutter causes me to feel claustrophobic and stressed out, I know I can work more efficiently and just feel better when the house is clean.  What can cleaning out the clutter do for you? I promise you won’t regret giving away your items to charity or the dumpster once they are out of sight.  Here are a few tips to cleaning out your clutter:

–    Start with 1 room at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself before starting
–    If you haven’t thought about or used something in over a year- give it away
–    Get a membership at the local library! This will save on the clutter from books and DVD’s (plus it is free and will save you $$)
–    Make the old, new again.  Do you have a piece of furniture that has been sitting in storage? If you aren’t going to give it away- paint it, refinish it, etc. Make it a “new” piece to use in your house.   There are several how-to videos online on refurnishing furniture. Put your creative juices to work.
–    Organize your clutter! For the stuff you wish to keep, buy special boxes, file cabinets, etc. Make the clutter usable again so you don’t forget it is there.
–    Keep sakes… this is a challenging one, especially if you have kids. My suggestion is to have a special drawer or box specific for this stuff. Keep your favorites, toss the others. Only allow yourself to keep what can fit inside the designated storage space.
–    My rule of thumb is this: If you buy a piece of clothing one season (ex: sweater for winter) and the entire following winter you don’t wear it. Its time to donate it.

These are just a few tips of cleaning out.  This blog is about simplifying your life. Much easier said than done, but every step you take to rid of the extra “stuff” in your life, is one step closer to a more organized, simple life.  After a day of cleaning, I can finally breathe…. sometimes getting rid of stuff feels so good.

~Emily