VVM’s Next Chapter

In 2011 Scott Foster, Steve Willis, and I co-founded Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) as a nights&weekends hobby. A few years later it transitioned from a hobby to a real organization with a staff and ambition to change the face of the Western New England economy.

It was a crazy ambition. And crazy ambition requires crazy ideas :). Our unique approach to mentoring, selecting startups, and our family and sanity-friendly programming allowed us to attract great minds that so many entrepreneurship programs miss.

VVM helped hundreds of entrepreneurs follow their dreams. From cookie truck franchises to software changing how social work is done, to bacteria that can crawl into and kill tumor cells, and so so much more. These crazy, beautiful, passionate entrepreneurs muster all their courage to do what most of us are far too sane to try! Their products are touching the lives of people the world over, winning national awards, gaining national press… Along the way they have increased startup activity in this area by at least 10x. 10x more revenue from startups. 10x more investment into startups. 10x more jobs… they are approaching a thousand jobs!

A year ago I asked the amazing Liz Roberts to take over as VVM’s leader. She professionalized and systematized the ragged startup Steve, Scott, and I put together in 2011 and shepherded Team VVM to heights I could never have dared hope we would achieve. Specifically: world-class leaders of the entrepreneurial community and the Obama White House have recognized VVM’s results as extraordinary.

It has been the greatest joy of my professional life to work alongside Team VVM and the thousands of volunteer mentors that make up our community. Today is my last day as a full-time employee at VVM. I will remain an active and proud member of the community, but it is time to go. My startup baby has grown up.

Leaving is bittersweet, but it is beautiful. I could not ask for a more amazing staff and board to lead VVM to its next chapter.

I look forward to seeing y’all at a Mentorship Night, and to see where VVM goes next.

-Paul

Advertisements

2016 #VVMAccelerator applications are open, help spread the word :)

Happy day! I could use your help to make sure that awesome startups have the opportunity to benefit from the VVM Accelerator 2016 (applications open until 2015)! If appropriate, can you forward the below information to the relevant portion of your network? THANK YOU!

————————————————————————

Content ready to Tweet or post to Facebook

————————————————————————

2016 #VVMAccelerator applications are open until 11/15! Apply now www.vvmaccelerator.com @VVMentors #accelerator #WesternMA

————————————————————————

Content ready to forward via email or post on your blog

————————————————————————

The VVM Accelerator 2016 is accepting applications until November 15, 2015. 

 
In summary, here’s what’s in it for participants:

  • Four months of free intense training and lovingly critical support .
  • Access to subject matter experts, investors, and highly competitive and collaborative peers.
  • Free office space from January through May.
  • The chance to pitch your business to a cadre of deep-pocketed funders
  • Eligibility to win up to $50,000(equity-free!) to develop your business.
  • A network that will benefit them long after completing the program.

Learn more and apply now at www.vvmaccelerator.com.


Thank you for taking part in the region’s entrepreneurial renaissance!


Sincerely,

-Paul Silva

Has @WalkOffTheEarth just released the Startup Anthem?

The band (AKA musical startup) Walk off the Earth recently released “Rule The World,” and I have to wonder, is this not an awesome Startup Anthem? 🙂  All kidding aside, startups are not generally the topic of pop music.

Check out the Lyrics, listen for yourself, and let me know what you think.

Lyrics:

Don’t cloud my vision
I’m telling you not today
Cause I’m seeing straight

Made my decision
I made it through the shades of grey
Made it my own way
I materialize the feeling
To carry on to carry on
I know some will say I’m dreaming
But I carry on I carry on

Chorus:

They say no way-o
I say I rule the world
Ain’t afraid of the walls I’mma break them down
They say the same-o
I’m feelin’ high as a bird
Ain’t afraid of the ground I’mma stand up
I say yeah, yeah, yeah, they say no, no, no
They say slow, slow, slow
I say go, go, go
They say no way-o
I say I rule the world
I say I rule the world

I chased illusion
Then I watched it fade to black
Throwing me off track

Found revolution
Found it in a simple fact
I ain’t coming back
I materialize the feeling
To carry on to carry on
I know some will say I’m dreaming
But I carry on I carry on

[Chorus]

I say I rule the world

[Chorus]

I say I rule the world
I say I rule the world
I say I rule the world

Backed @WonderCrewToys, making a difference for boys

Short version: I just backed Wonder Crew Toys, and I invite you to join me.  This is a product that matters from a mom who cares. I think you should too :).

Details:

“Wonder Crew is adventure through friendship! Our Crewmates combine the adventure of an action figure, with the emotional connection of a favorite stuffed animal.”

She is an alum of the Valley Venture Mentors Mentorship Program and in the inaugural cohort of the VVM Accelerator and let me tell you… wow. She is driven by her own experience as a mom. She is informed by her experiences as a psychotherapist. She has interviewed dozens of moms and kids to make sure she understands what they need. She is aided by a community of startups and mentors committed to helping her succeed.

A few short months ago she was a concept on a napkin. Now she had prototypes, relationships with major players in the industry and is ready to touch the lives of boys around the country. Please join me in helping her achieve this awesome mission!

Flavors of Capital Video Series

Access to capital is critical for startups. Below are all of the lecture videos from my course on the flavors of capital.

  1. Flavors of Capital Series
    1. Introduction to the Flavors of Capital

    2. Bootstrapping
    3. Crowdfunding
    4. Friends & Family

    5. Small grants & competitions
    6. Large Grants
    7. Debt

    8. Equity

Customer Archetypes, some rules & samples

We all know that, most of the time when communicating, storytelling is better than dry facts & figures.   And, stories backed up by facts and figures are better still!   Steve Blank‘s Lean Launchpad popularized the idea of using “customer archetypes” to convert dry demographic descriptions of customers into living, breathing people the audience can understand.

Archetypes should follow a few simple rules:

  • Customers are always humans and never entities.  Entities (companies, nonprofits, government agencies, etc) do not make decisions, specific human(s) who work/volunteer there make decisions.  That means you have to care about what will get that person promoted or fired.
  • Archetypes are 1-person samples (real or fictitious) of the “typical” customer.   If your typical customer is a 60 year-old Japanese grandmother, make sure your archetype is a 60-year-old Japanese Grandma!
  • Archetypes are narratives, not recitations of demographic/photographic data.
  • Only describe details that are relevant for your venture’s value proposition.  If your solution doesn’t address their need for beer, don’t talk about how they love to drink :).

Example 1:

Boring demographic version:  English-speaking visually impaired people with internet access at home.

Archetype:

Jane Rook is a retired army nurse who was blinded during her service in the Vietnam war.  She lives on a small, fixed income provided by her government disability payments.  She uses her home computer to email, Facebook, and Skype her children, grandchildren, and friends.  She loves to play cards with her friends from church.  However, as her blindness prevents her from driving transportation is very difficult to arrange.  Add the social embarrassment she often feels when playing with brailled cards or when accidentally knocking over things at a new person’s home and she often stays home, alone and isolated.

Example 2

Boring demographic version:  18-24 year-old college students with annual incomes of $20-40,000 per year from middle & upper class families.

Archetype:

Blair Smith is a senior psychology major at UMass with a full course load working to maintain her B average while working 20 hours a week as a waitress, and frantically looking for a “real” job for when she graduates in a few months.  She has what feels like a mountain of student debt to worry about, as well as a dorm room overflowing with four years of acquired junk.  She has no storage space close by and couldn’t afford to pay for it even if it were available.

Example 3

Boring demographic version:  25-45 year old married women, with children, with average annual household incomes of >$50,000.

Archetype:

Liu Whan is pregnant with her and her husband Juan’s first child and has realized that their one bedroom apartment isn’t going to cut it.  They would like to find a home in which to raise their family.  Liu is a tenure-track junior professor of psychology at the local woman’s college and Juan is a firefighter.  They have just relocated to the area and have little knowledge of it and no family or friends nearby to lean on for advice.

If you have any archetypes you would enjoy sharing, please post a comment.  Thanks!