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

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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!

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

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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!

Proposal for a new way of voting for legislators/officers

Problem: Normal voting gives each person one vote, regardless of how much passion the person has for the issue.  One can imagine situations where a minority of people REALLY want something and a majority KINDA-SORTA-BARELY does not want the thing.  But with simple majority voting, that information is not captured.  Quadratic Voting is liked by economists because it theoretically addresses this problems and other problems with our normal way of voting.  Systems like these look great on paper but… it turns out that central to their design is people literally buying votes with money…  Buying votes.  Yah.  Not really something most citizens can get behind.  This is a problem for governance, both in government and in corporate governance.

Possible solution: Issue each voter 100 Vote Vouchers, a voucher entitles a voter to cast a vote.  At each election/referendum/motion (I’ll use election from here on out to mean any of these) each voter may cast as many, or as few, votes as they like in favor of their candidate.  At the conclusion of the election two things happen: the candidate with the most votes wins AND all of the vote vouchers are distributed EVENLY to everyone who voted.

Example:

  • Implement this system with the US Senate.
  • Vote comes up for a bill to outlaw immigrants from Mars.
    • 55 senators think competition with Martians would be bad, but not all that likely, so they cast 1 yea vote each for a total of 55 yea votes.
    • 43 senators are pro-immigration, but again feel this isn’t all that likely so they only cast 1 nay vote each for a total of 43 nays.
    • 1 senator (Alice) thinks this is a pretty bad idea and casts 2 nay votes.
    • 1 senator (Bob) thinks this is the height of foolishness and wants to be darn sure this bill does not pass, she casts the maximum 100 votes against the bill, bringing the total number of nays to 145.
    • The final vote is 55 yea, 145 nay, so the bill does not become law.  Note that the majority of senators were in favor of the bill, but the majority of votes were against.
    • A total of 200 votes were cast.  So 200 new vouchers are created and distributed EVENLY to all senators, so every senator gets 20 vouchers.
    • Bob now finds himself with only 20 votes available to spend when other senators have over 100 each.  This puts him at a severe disadvantage in future votes.
  • New situation.  Assume 100 senators with 100 votes each.  A bill comes to the floor, his one to outlaw BitCoin.
    • This bill is contentious.  52 senators spend all the votes they have on yea, meanwhile 47 senators spend all the votes they have on nay.  Meanwhile, the last senator to vote is the crafty Alice.  She watched her colleges argue and determined that her side (yea) is going to win without her vote.  So she decides to not vote.
    • The bill passes with 5,200 yea (52 senators spending 100 yea each) vs 4700 nay (47 senators spending 100 nay each).
    • A total of 9,900 votes were cast.  99 votes are redistributed to each senator.
    • So all the senators OTHER than Alice have 99 votes left to their name, which is pretty much what they had before so they probably aren’t bothered.  However, Alice now has 199 votes, giving her the maximum hitting power of TWO senators.  This gives her a lot of negotiating leverage in future bills that come up.  If she continues to correctly anticipate when her participation will not impact a vote that everyone else is passionate about, she will consistently grow her total vote voucher count while the rest of the senators watch their voucher count drop, further increasing her power.

You’re Invited! Lean Launchpad: Pioneer Valley Graduation & Demo Day

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If you’ve been following this blog you know that the Lean Launchpad is the #1 entrepreneurship curriculum in the country.  It has proven it can dramatically increase startups’ odds of success by accelerating their ability to find a repeatable, scalable business model before they run out of ramen noodles (or spousal patience :)).  

WE INVITE YOU TO COME SEE FOR YOURSELF.

The latest cohort of Western Massachusetts teams to complete the Lean Launchpad curriculum is graduating on 4/28 @ 5pm and giving their final presentations.  No spin-ridden investor pitches will be shown this night.  Instead the audience will hear how the companies developed their ideas, field tested them with real customers, changed (often radically) their businesses, and did the whole process over and over again until they got it right or ran out of time.  You’ll see how they learn and how they adapt.  You’ll also see how the Lean Launchpad curriculum is so different.  

And after the presentations… then there will be wine :).

You must RSVP to attend as space (and wine!) is limited.  We would love to have you join us.

Click to RSVP via Eventbrite

Click to RSVP via Eventbrite