Story Time

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Story Time

"Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted." 

-Kurt Vonnegut, one of eight rules he calls Creative Writing 101 in the introduction of Bagombo Snuff Box. 

Good ideas can capture the attention of almost any audience. This is a pleasant advantage enjoyed by thoughtful entrepreneurs who find ideas easy to come by. 

Here in the Get Started Workspace, we typically encounter early-stage, first-time entrepreneurs with months or yearsworth of ideas around a core concept that's driving their ambition to start a new venture. An original thought may start as a simple “wouldn’t it be nice if…” or “I wish there were a better way to…” statement.

Creative minds take quick action to develop solutions to these problems. You begin talking to friends, family and coworkers as willing (or reluctantly willing) sounding boards over coffee, lunch or drinks. The original idea multiplies into tens or hundreds of small ideas. Some relate to the product, but many others depict a brand, marketing strategy, business philosophy or business model. In your mind, you become perfectly fluent in the concept and build a comprehensive picture of the company in all its future glory.

But what good is this vision if it lives only in your mind? Will you get frustrated by a newcomer’s perspective who has only briefly considered the solution in which you’re absolutely fluent? Will you find it impossible to tolerate the simpletons across the table who “just aren’t getting it”?

Maybe they really don't get it. Or maybe you're simply failing to convey the opportunity in a way they can readily understand. You’d be silly not to consider this risk, because rational people buy what they understand. Investors invest in what they understand. Employees want to work for companies they understand.

For new entrepreneurs, the real challenges arrive the moment you decide to get started with building a company around an innovative concept.

With this single decision, you lose a distinctive personal freedom described by writer David Foster Wallace as: the freedom to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. In other words, you must get out of your own head. You must open the doors of your castle and invite people to join your startup kingdom so that you may together conquer the evil forces plaguing defenseless customers.

They will not join you willingly at first. You must convince people by telling them a story they can believe, which is no easy task. Turning the vision of your idea, product and company into a compelling story is a skill that takes discipline and tenacity to acquire.

Just know you don't have to be a genius to tell an effective story. The greatest American storyteller, Mark Twain, said it best: "My books are like water; those of the great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water."

Need help? This is our sweet spot.  We work with Get Started member companies to build their stories every day.  Apply to Get Started or give us a call to learn more.

 

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Get Started Featured in Silicon Prairie News

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Get Started Featured in Silicon Prairie News

Archer Foundation's New Program Offers KC Startups Support, Resources

By Megan Bannister (@meganebannister)
 
Reposted from Silicon Prairie News

Thanks to a new immersion program, Kansas City entrepreneurs are finding even more ways to "get started" when it comes to building their startups. 

Run by the Archer Foundation—a nonprofit based in Leawood, Kan., and geared toward expanding and strengthening businesses in the greater Kansas City area—Get Started is a program that helps guide early-stage companies and, in many cases, first-time entrepreneurs. 

The program, which began Oct. 1, was designed for Kansas City tech-focused startups still working through the ideation stage of their business and those still developing their product. 

"One thing I think is unique is that we not only focus on the specifics problems that entrepreneurs have, but the program is like having this steady flow of support, just when the company needs it," said Jeff Glasco (right), vice president of entrepreneurial services at the Archer Foundation. "People come into our workspace and start building their company, and as they grow and things come up, they can use our team's support and resources to solve that problem as soon as possible."

Archer Technologies founder Jon Darbyshire began the nonprofit after selling his company to EMC in 2010. Glasco says Darbyshire wanted to give back to the Kansas City business community. While the Archer Foundation has worked with local startups like FrontFlip, this will be the first time the group opens its doors to the community. 

"We’ve really been working in almost a pilot mode with a handful of companies here in Kansas City," Glasco said. "This is our first public-facing program that we’re opening to the market."

Two Kansas City companies—VolunteerMark and LittleHootz—have already signed on and Glasco says a number of others have expressed interest.

"I think it's really easy to just get side-tracked because there's so many things you have to do but you don't necessarily know what those things are when you haven't done it before," said Lacey Ellis, CEO of LittleHootz. 

LittleHootz was named the winner at Startup Weekend Kansas City in April and recently has been accepted to Kansas City's Digital Sandbox. Ellis says Glasco and the team at the Foundation were instrumental in helping LittleHootz hone its pitch for the proof-of-concept funding and mentoring center.

VolunteerMark CEO Andrew Stanley says time with the Archer Foundation team has helped his company take a close look at its core values, mission and value proposition. He added that as an early-stage company, the one-on-one help the program offers has been invaluable.

"You can read articles on the Internet, but it's really different when you can talk to somebody and have it apply to you directly," Stanley said. 

Startups interested in applying to the Get Started program may apply online

 

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Just In Time

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Just In Time

Think back to your old high school days. As a student barely maintaining consciousness through algebra class, how many times did you think, “When am I ever going to use this?” Little did you know at the time, the answer was probably “a lot.”

It’s really a question of timing—how quickly you put information and skills to work. In college, I labored through four semesters of German, only to find myself dumbfounded by the language when I visited Germany two years later.

At Get Started, we see the “use it or lose it” challenge all the time. Entrepreneurs gain valuable insights from classes, books, blogs, advisors and fellow business owners. But if they’re not ready to put their knowledge to work quickly, it can slip away in a swarm of competing information and priorities.

That’s why we take a “just in time” approach to our entrepreneurial program. Just In Time (JIT) is a manufacturing technique used to slim down inventory needed to produce products. The days of holding $10M in raw materials in inventory at a significant carrying cost are gone. Instead, manufacturers are optimizing their supply chain to synchronize materials to arrive precisely when they are needed.

At Get Started, we see a great many parallels for entrepreneurs. Knowledge and skills “held in inventory” can quickly go to waste if not put to use. So we work one-on-one with company founders to provide the guidance, support and connections they need exactly when they need them. And we urge entrepreneurs to take immediate action.  

For example, our Financial Model workshop helps entrepreneurs:

  • Understand the main variables of their financial model
  • Document revenue streams and expenses known at that point in time
  • List key assumptions that they will monitor and revise in the future
  • Learn how to present their financial model to various audiences

However, before entrepreneurs go through this workshop, we work with them to ensure that they have the inputs needed to build a meaningful financial model. For example, do they understand their target customers, the specific problem they will solve, the required capabilities and how they will monetize their offering? Have they defined a product strategy that will get them to their minimum viable product and beyond? Do they know their capital requirements to build and support the MVP?

With the answers to these questions in hand, entrepreneurs are ready to learn about and build a world-class financial model. The Get Started program equips them with the knowledge, templates and samples they need to get the job done—just in time. 

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Let’s Get Started

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Let’s Get Started

It’s opening day at the Get Started workspace. Whiteboards are filling up with plans and priorities. Keyboards are clattering with productivity. Tech startups are building their products and creating value for their customers. And this is just the beginning.

At the Archer Foundation, we believe the best way to start a business is to roll up your sleeves and immerse yourself in the experience. For entrepreneurs who have never run their own company before, it’s something like learning a new language. Sure, you could bury your head in a textbook. But the best way to really learn is by jumping in and surrounding yourself with those who are fluent.

That’s where Get Started fits in. We offer an immersion program for entrepreneurs who are building technology-centric companies in Kansas City. Get Started brings together collaborative workspace, focused education and meaningful support to help you move your business forward.

We’re here to help you build a real company, not just a product. We’re here to help you engage with customers and generate revenue. Above all, we’re here to help you build a business that stands the test of time.

It’s about hard work, relentless focus and a commitment to bringing your vision to life. If you’re up for it, we’re ready. Let’s Get Started.

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