What I Learned About Entrepreneurship From Watching the World Series of Poker

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I can’t play poker, but I do enjoy watching it on TV. We’re in the middle of the 2009 World Series of Poker, an event that draws thousands of professional and amateur players to Las Vegas every year. The grand finale is the Main Event, a massive Texas Hold ’Em tournament with thousands of players and millions of dollars for the winner.
Tournament poker used to be the province of professionals. But starting a few years ago, a huge wave of amateurs has invaded the game. As a result, of the thousands of entrants into the Main Event, only a few hundred are real pros.
To my surprise, I’ve actually learned a lot about entrepreneurship from watching the World Series of Poker. But it shouldn’t be too surprising. Both rely on acting strategically under conditions of extreme uncertainty. And, in both, small changes in your odds of winning can have a big impact on the final outcome. In fact, I now routinely use the Main Event to help entrepreneurs cope with a frustrating paradox.
Why are some terrible entrepreneurs so successful? Read More about What I Learned About Entrepreneurship From Watching the World Series of Poker

YouTube Launches Insight Tools for Audience Understanding

YouTube (s GOOG) announced this afternoon a trio of new tools for its YouTube Insight to help video uploaders get a better sense of how and where their audience is coming from. The new features are:
Discovery over time — combines two previous features to illustrate how viewers found your video over time in order to figure out how search, related video embeds or other YouTube features drive plays.
Mobile views — (fitting since I’m writing this from the GigaOM Mobilize 09 conference) YouTube says it gets “tens of millions” of plays every day from mobile devices, so Insight now shows you views of your videos that come from mobile phones or platforms that use their APIs.
Views from subscribers — allows you to dive deep into views from the home page subscriptions module, the subscriptions page and subscription emails that are sent to users. These particular stats are only through September 2009.
Earlier today, YouTube rolled out a new feature that recommends other YouTube users you may know.

Dear YouTube, Chris Brown Says He’s Sorry

[show=chrisbrown size=large]Musical artists are increasingly flocking to YouTube as a way of engaging with their fans on a new level — everyone from John Mayer to Diddy seems to have a channel. Unlike them, R&B crooner Chris Brown, a site member since 2006, has never really done much with his. But despite the fact that it exists primarily as a storage facility for Brown’s music videos, the channel still has a large following — having received close to 8 million views, it’s currently the #62 most subscribed of all time.

And it was Brown’s weapon of choice yesterday when he made his first public apology for last February’s assault of his then-girlfriend Rihanna, which was major tabloid fodder even before photos of Rihanna’s face, post-attack, made it online. The 2-minute statement features six different variations on the word “sorry,” including “regret,” “what I did was inexcusable,” and “I am very sad and very ashamed of what I have done.” It’d be almost believable if he weren’t reading off a teleprompter.

I don’t know what’s worse for Brown: The fact that the YouTube comments on this video are either stupid or unforgiving, or the fact that on the same day he released this statement, Beastie Boys MC Adam Yauch also used the medium to publicly apologize to Beastie Boys fans…because they’ve canceled their upcoming tour so that Yauch can undergo cancer treatment. Not exactly who you want to be compared to on the day you say you’re sorry for punching your girlfriend. Read More about Dear YouTube, Chris Brown Says He’s Sorry

A Love Letter to Internet James Franco

[show=jamesfranco size=large]I write today to profess a forbidden love. It has burned in me too long, and must be released…

I’ve got a thing for Internet James Franco.

Let me be clear about this. I have no actual interest in the talented and reliable co-star of Milk, Freaks and Geeks, and the Spider-man films, who is now pursuing a master’s degree at Columbia University. For, with the exception of Pineapple Express, James Franco has never shown much range in his film work, sticking mostly to roles that fit within his James Dean-esque image. James Dean was pretty, sure, but he spent a lot of time crying.

However, since 2007, Franco has been crafting a separate persona for web distribution only, and Internet James Dean might just be the man of my dreams. Internet James Franco doesn’t cry, but he’ll teach you his secrets for how to cry on camera. Internet James Franco doesn’t appear on the covers of magazines calling him “the Next James Dean;” Internet James Franco DOES his James Dean impression for you. Internet James Franco is a good older brother. Internet James Franco wants you to meet his mom. Internet James Franco is a catch. Read More about A Love Letter to Internet James Franco

Lack of Funding Doesn’t Have to Lead to Failure: Study

[qi:110] An underfunded startup can still succeed, and having a superstar management team isn’t key to doing so, according to a study published today out of North Carolina State University. The school’s David M. Townsend collaborated with Lowell W. Busenitz of The University of Oklahoma on the research, which aimed to determine how not raising enough money affected startups. My flip response is that those companies fail, but the research proves that’s not always the case. Some startups can adapt.

The two used information from a local non-profit organization that helps early-stage companies find and raise capital. They ended up reviewing 79 companies that were funded during a 10-year period. The language of the paper is academic, but essentially this is what they found: Read More about Lack of Funding Doesn’t Have to Lead to Failure: Study

Bootstrapping Web Workers Get A Roadmap At SXSW 2009

sxsw-logo3A session called Bootstrap Your Startup at South by Southwest 2009 provided valuable insight for the many web workers who are either embarking on their own online business venture or considering doing so.
Led by Bijoy Goswami, CEO of Aviri, and Marcy Hoen, founder of Austin Art Start, the focus was on bootstrapping, or a period of self-funding that many businesses choose to follow in their early stages – and, at times, later stages for established companies, which is referred to as “rebootstrapping.” The dynamic of bootstrapping was presented as sitting between the worlds of “cookie cutter” and “funding-driven” business models (see Slide 8 of the online slide show). Cookie-cutter businesses are those that require little creativity or innovation, such as purchasing a fast food franchise, whereas funding-driven businesses take money from investors with the idea of quickly reaching profitability.
The bootstrapped model, on the other hand, allows start-up founders to have maximum flexibility and creativity while seeking out the business model that will best suit the growing company. In fact, Goswani went so far as to present an opinion that some would likely disagree with: that founders who take venture funding are not true entrepreneurs because it is not their money being used to fund the company. The implication, then, is that creativity and innovation are curtailed from the moment of taking funding forward, because the primary concern is returning the investment to financial backers as soon as possible. Goswani cracked up the room by saying in a mock lecturing tone: “At a funded company, it’s not about your journey, guy.”
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More Wisdom from the Oracle of Omaha

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Brad Feld maintains a great blog, and yesterday he linked to this terrific post called Notes From Buffett Meeting, dated Feb. 15. The notes are from a Q&A session that Buffett gave to students at the Emory’s Goizueta Business School and McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. Buffett is known for his willingness to reach out and mentor young people — including guy he’s pictured with above!

As always, Buffett’s advice is directed to investing, but his wisdom is so universal it doesn’t take much of a leap to see how it applies to entrepreneurs too. Right off the bat, for example, consider the following Buffett analogy, employed to express when it makes sense to diversify, and when it doesn’t … Read More about More Wisdom from the Oracle of Omaha

Are founders significantly richer than most people?

Harvard thinks so.

“Entrepreneurs are, on average, significantly wealthier than people who work in paid employment. Research shows that entrepreneurs comprise fewer than 9 percent of households in the United States but they hold 38 percent of household assets and 39 percent of the total net worth.”

So writes Ramana Nanda, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, in his new paper called the Cost of External Finance and Selection into Entrepreneurship, published today in HBS’s Working Knowledge. Read More about Are founders significantly richer than most people?

Founder Burnout and How to Avoid It.

Courtesy of Brad Feld’s blog, we found a terrific set of posts today on the topic of burnout, an affliction that nearly all startup founders experience at some point in their careers. While it appeals to our entrepreneurial romanticism to “burn the candle at both ends,” burnout from working too hard can be far more destructive, personally and professionally, than all that excessive working was worth in the first place. (Just ask Om.)

Writes Feld:

Burning out is a chronic problem with entrepreneurs. In the early 1990’s – for a year before and after I sold my first company – I went through a tough period where I got very depressed. I held it together and got through it, but the memory of how I felt is never far away. I was completely burned out. I’ll be forever grateful to Amy and my business partner Dave for putting up with me during this time period since they were the ones that had to deal with the brunt of my depression.

Sound familiar? Are you suffering from burnout yet? Here’s a great post that outlines The Four Stages of Burnout. They are… Read More about Founder Burnout and How to Avoid It.