Posted by: Mark Sorenson | February 25, 2011

Launch Conference 2011

So it’s been almost a year since I’ve written here and I’m sure I am still just writing to myself. Today ended the two-day Launch Conference in San Francisco, CA. My company, KarmaKey, was selected among hundreds of applicants to be on stage a the conference to demo our product. We got through the screening process and made it on stage. The experience has been amazing. I have met so many awesome people and some really killer entrepreneurs. You can watch our demo presentation here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHpagXQN3zw

Since the presentation, it’s been nothing but networking, finding partnerships and closing deals. This is the fun part of being an entrepreneur. For the past 10 months, it’s been nothing but hard work, little to no pay, and hard lessons learned. This conference has been a chance to see our hard work pay off with the social proof and PR buzz we got. Thanks to Jason Calacanis for organizing Launch. We all loved it.

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | April 16, 2010

Smartphone Survey

Okay, so this post is to promote our own primary research we are doing as we prepare to launch our phone app. Please take the time to fill out this survey. Just follow the link and it will begin. It will only take you about 2 minutes. Thanks so much and please comment with any feedback.

Start Survey

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | April 10, 2010

Web Start-up Group

BYU hasWeb Start-up Group a great support group for emerging web-based start-ups. The Web Start-up Group meets once a month and is a great place for anyone who is remotely interested in web tech. The meeting showcases different early-stage start-ups. Each month 2-5 different groups will give a five-minute fast pitch of their idea. The audience is then given time to ask questions and give feedback for the group to use. There are a lot of serious programmers in attendance every month so there is always some great discussion going on and valuable feedback given.

The Web Start-up Group was started by Matt Smith, a PhD student in the computer science department at BYU. Matt will finish his PhD in December with his dissertation on “Social Capital in Online Communities.” This is a very interesting field of study that is very new and Matt always has interesting insight to share with the group.

FoodmoveApril’s meeting was held this last Thursday. One of the groups who presented was foodmove.com. Foodmove is a food delivery service. It allows people to set up a delivery location and order food from certain restaurants. The idea is to order as a large group and get discounts depending on the number of people who order with you. This service is being beta tested on the BYU and UVU campuses. So, if you are on campus but don’t want to eat the food served on campus, you can log into Foodmove’s website and order lunch from Costa Vida, or Quiznos. If anyone else on campus wants to order from the same restaurant as you, you may all get a discount.

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | April 3, 2010

The Founding Team

I attend the Friday BoomStartup meetings. John Richards, founder and co-managing partner of BoomStartup,  is usually the one who conducts these meetings. We have a chance to discuss entrepreneurship and ask questions to these seasoned entrepreneurs. We talk about what it takes to be successful as an entrepreneur and it’s agreed that there is one thing that contributes more to an entrepreneur’s success more than any other thing; the founding team.

Every angel investor will agree that solo entrepreneurs are at a huge disadvantage and generally have a small chance of being successful. With years of investing in start-ups, most investors will tell you that a start-up that has 2-4 members on the founding team has a much better chance of survival. Why is this?

If you have any experience at all working within a team, you know that it is much easier on everyone to complete a project than if you were to work on it by yourself. I have been feeling frustrated and exposed as I try to take my business ideas and build companies around them all by myself. I know I have some real strengths, but I am also aware of the many weaknesses and skills that I don’t possess that will be required in a business. For months I have been looking for a computer programmer to partner with me. With that person on board, I would surely be successful. The problem, though, is that most programmers are not going to be excited to team up with you if it is just you. They want to be careful not to put their time and effort into something that is going to fail.

Two weeks ago I joined forces with Jared McQuarrie and Matt Bills. Both of these guys have similar ideas to mine for starting a company and they both have a lot to offer that the rest of us don’t. I have been amazed at how much we can get done as a team. There is so much more excitement and we all push each other to stay focused and on task. It’s wonderful.

So if you are thinking about starting a company, do yourself a favor and find someone else who will partner with you. Maybe even two other people. That way you can experience the kind of synergy that I have been experiencing for the past few weeks.

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | March 27, 2010

The Local Rec Center

If you are a penny-pinching student like I am then you are constantly looking for ways to save a buck. In the past, I have paid up to $50/mo for a gym membership. Some gyms have offered different things. I have had memberships at Gold’s Gym, 24 Hour Fitness, and Throwdown Elite. Each of these gyms are popular and have a lot of members. The only drawback is that they charge you quite a bit to exercise in their gym. I have recently discovered a local treasure: The Provo Recreation Center.

Believe it or not, most cities have a community recreational center. There are definitely some pros and cons for going to the local rec center.

The Cons:

  • The equipment is old and a little jenky. The weight room looks like it’s straight out of the movie “Pumping Iron” with Arnold Schwarzenegger from the 70’s.
  • The rec center opens at 7:00am and closes at around 9:00pm; a little early if you are used to working out late at night or very early in the morning.

The Pros:

  • They have a huge pool equip with diving boards, lap lanes, and wading pool.
  • They have 8 racquetball courts. Big bonus!
  • The biggest pro for using the rec center rather than a traditional gym is the membership fees. If you get a family pass (which we did with some friends) it costs you $10 per person, per quarter! That’s right per quarter. That’s a little more than $3/month. Wow!
  • There are no frustrating contracts. You can stop any time without paying some ridiculous cancellation fee.

There you have it. Those are the facts. Now you can decide if your fancy equipment is worth the money you pay to use it. I say $3/mo is a better way to go.

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | March 21, 2010

The Power of Networking

We’ve all heard it said that networking is a great habit to have as an entrepreneur. This is the best way to find key individuals who can add value to you business.

On Friday, I attended the second BoomStartUp meeting. The meeting format was unique to last weeks meeting. This meeting was designed to be an entrepreneur speed dating session. We all realized that there were many business guys who needed a tech guy, and a lot of tech guys who needed a business guy to help them create a winning team. We all sat in four large circles and took turns introducing ourselves and getting to know each others ideas and goals for starting a business. I met some interesting people, one in particular was surprisingly looking to start a company very similar to mine. His name is Jared McQuarrie, and he was looking to create a mobile advertising company that specialized in geolocation ads. We ended up talking for about two hours and both felt like it would be better if we teamed up rather than try to compete against each other.

At first, I felt a little intimidated at the thought that someone else was trying to start a company around the same idea as I was, but after a quick check-in with myself, I realized that this was more of an opportunity than a threat. Jared has a lot of marketing experience, and is well-connected. I bring people management strengths to the table and it seems that all we are lacking is a tech guy who can start writing code. Just having someone else who is just as passionate about your business idea as you are is such a relief. It gets me excited and motivated to put in the long hours and make something happen.

So I guess the moral of this post is to break out of your comfort zone and meet like-minded people who have complementary skills to yours. Open your mouth and search. You never know when you will stumble upon the perfect fit for your business.

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | March 13, 2010

BoomStartUp

Boom Start Up - EntrepreneurshipYesterday I attended the first BoomStartUp meeting. This is a brand new program designed to provide mentorship and investment capital to early stage start-ups. The founder is John Richards who happened to be my entrepreneurship professor last semester. He has assembled a team of eight investor/mentors who will be selecting eight start-up teams to participate in the four-month long program. BoomStartUp is designed to bridge a gap in the investment capital between the idea-phase start-ups and angel investment capital.

These eight seasoned entrepreneurs will act as mentors and provide resources to the teams in the program. There is supposed to be a lot of hand holding and oversight from them as they help the teams prepare to receive angel funding. The eight teams involved will get a whole lot more than just mentoring. During the four month program, each team will get free grade A office space with all the latest phone and internet amenities. They will get free legal services to help them structure their company correctly, free accounting work to help them create accurate financial projections, and free public relations work to get their name out there. This will be a huge opportunity for any new company trying to make it big.

The program will run from May through August of 2010. Once the program ends, each business will be put in front of angel investors to try and secure more funding as needed. This is the kind of thing that would get any entrepreneur excited. Although I have committed to sell pest control again this summer in San Jose, I am strongly considering submitting an application for BoomStartUp. If I get selected to participate, I will just sell pest control here in Salt Lake City.

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | March 6, 2010

Mormon Entrepreneur

Mormon EntrepeneurHere in Utah Valley we have the great privilege to live among so many successful entrepreneurs. Over the last ten years, Utah has become a little hot spot for tech start-ups. We have great companies like Symantec, Novell, Nuskin, and now Omniture who were all founded right in our back yards. As with any start-up, there has to be great entrepreneurs behind it driving towards success. These individuals have what it takes to build powerful companies. They have a lot of experience and expertise that could be learned from in helping others build their start-up.

One entrepreneur here in the valley has built his business around harnessing this wealth of knowledge and making it available to everyone. Mark Mugleston created Mormon Entrepreneur because he wanted to pick the brains of the entrepreneurs who have trudged the path that many of us are now on. Mormon Entrepreneur is an online publication where Mark posts interviews he has with key entrepreneurs here in Utah Valley. His obvious focus is to interview Mormon entrepreneurs and get their perspective on the exciting world of building a business.

I had a chance to meet Mark and asked him to explain his reasons for creating Mormon Entrepreneur. He said that for the most part his reasons were selfish and that he really just wanted an excuse to be able to ask these great business men/women all the questions he wanted. He wanted to be mentored by the best and Mormon Entrepreneur gave him a good reason to call up his idols and request an interview. The best part is that anyone can go to Mormon Entrepreneur and read the interviews posted there, and believe me, Mark asks some great questions. So here is your heads up to take a look at what Mark is doing and hopefully you will find some valuable advice that will help you on your own entrepreneur quest.

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | February 27, 2010

Should You Use an NDA?

I have come to the conclusion that most entrepreneurs give themselves a lot more credit than they deserve. They have to. How else are they going to get people to buy into their game-changing ideas? I have seen countless entrepreneurs give presentations or talk about their ideas without actually explaining what it is. They want people to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement before they will share with you their stroke of genius. While there may be some risk in divulging your “secret sauce” to just anyone, you will find that most people don’t care about your idea like you do. No one else will have the passion for your idea like you do.

Another misconception that many entrepreneurs have is that they are the only ones who have thought of their idea. Chances are there are at least 10 other people who have not only thought of the exact same thing as you, but are also trying to start a business around it.

These are signs of inexperienced entrepreneurs and you find them young as well as old. If your idea is as good as you think it is, then you should be sharing it with as many people as you can. The truth is that successful entrepreneurs excel at executing their ideas, not thinking up ideas.

If you ask any serious investor if the will sign an NDA with someone prior to them pitching their idea, they will tell you “no”. And why would they? They see so many deals from eager entrepreneurs every day. Why would they be held liable for something that they don’t care about? The wouldn’t. So if you’re trying to get funding from investors you can rest assured that your idea is relatively safe with the investors.

Posted by: Mark Sorenson | February 13, 2010

Act of Kindness

This weekend I decided to show a stranger a small act of kindness. This act happened early in the morning right after my workout. My workout partner and I finished our morning lifting and decided to go to McDonald’s to get some breakfast. Inside there were quite a few homeless-looking individuals who were probably just passing the time indoors as opposed to weathering the cold outside. I bought my meal – two hash-browns, two McGriddles, and a water – and  sat down. I selected the wallflower who looked particularly down on his luck. I also scanned to weed out anyone who looked like they had spent their last penny on crack. I choose a lonely looking man sitting by himself. I grabbed one of my McGriddles and headed his direction. He didn’t even see me approaching when I slapped the McGriddle down in front of him and said, “You look like you need some breakfast. Enjoy!” I expected him to show some kind of appreciation for what I had just given him. In my mind, I might as well have given him a job and a place to stay. I was sure my generosity would be returned with at least a little “thank you” or something, but it wasn’t. The man barely blinked when I gave him the sandwich. He let is sit there while starring at it for a while. I walked off and sat down with my buddy. I turned to see him slowly grab the sandwich and eat it without even looking up. Kinda weird.

I guess it’s not up to me to decide how someone else is going to receive an act of kindness. After all, if I am being kind only to get some sort of praise, what how giving am I really being. Not at all giving. I am only giving so that I can receive something. And that’s how I felt about this man today. I really just wanted him to eat something. I didn’t really care what his reaction was. I just wanted to do something. So the next time I try to give some act of kindness, I’m gonna remind myself that it’s for them, not me.

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