Part 2 - Building a Business - Getting Buy-in

Part 2 - Building a Business - Getting Buy-in

At the end of Part 1 I indicated that this article would be focusing on how to land a business partner/investor for your great idea. I’m going to use myself as a case study but understand that every investor will have different motivations for wanting to spend their time in a new venture.

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Like any good business, it usually begins with something drawn on the back of an envelope. That spark of an idea that seems to ignite the very ether with potential and every time you think about it your heart skips a beat.

What am I looking for? In one word, passion. I’m sitting at the bar at NamesCon and you’ve come to me with your idea (I’m not going to steal it) and during your story telling about how you came up with the idea I’m looking for how much you want it. Are you going to crawl across broken glass, traverse a desert or swing across a chasm to see your idea flourish?

So many potential entrepreneurs pitch their ideas in such a boring manner that causes me to look for someone else to share a drink with. If your unexcited when your baby is about to be born, then what are you going to be like in six months when you’ve been up all night because it’s been crying? Get animated and make the story interesting!

For example, it could be like….I was having a shower the other day and it suddenly hit me. People having been trying to do “X” for so long and if I just did “Y” I could solve all of their problems. It was like a shining light from heaven! I couldn’t get out of the shower fast enough to write it all down. Have you ever had one of those moments where a whole lot of things just seem to click into place?

At this point I’m thinking this is a cool story and an interesting person that’s causing me to reflect on the times I've had my own epiphanies! Very importantly I instantly know how this new business is going to solve a problem for the target market.

At this point in our discussion, you pull out of your pocket a sheet of wrinkled paper and say, “Here’s the idea when I first came up with it while dripping wet from the shower.” I take a look at it an instantly notice that some of the writing is a little blurry from where the ink mixed with the water from your dripping hand.

I now know you’re either crazy or so passionate you don’t want to let your idea out of your sight! Let’s face it, most entrepreneurs are a little nuts as we have this inner burning desire to break new ground and build things where others have said it would be impossible.

If I believe you’re passionate then I’m next going to weigh up whether you’ve done anything since the idea first came to you. In other words, are you capable of getting the big boulder moving up the hill.

I’ve had so many people tell me that they can’t start because they need a whole pile of cash. As soon as I hear this then my mind has exited the conversation. What they’ve just proved is they can’t do anything unless someone else helps them. What am I? Your nanny?

Get a prototype together. I don’t care if it’s been made out of bits of string, lego or a picture on a power point slide. Sell me the dream! Get your phone out and show me what your wrinkled-up piece of paper is all about. I want to see you’ve begun thinking about the problems and how to overcome them.

Get off your backside and begin researching everything you need to make your dream come true. When you think you’ve done everything you can then look again. So many people are dreamers and very few are doers. I’ve even had some people try to convince me that they haven’t taken the idea forward because they were waiting for an investment so they could be paid to develop it further……now I know their nuts!

What you need to appreciate is that I'm time poor because I have no shortage of ideas to develop and projects already on the go. When you’re trying to attract me to your business what you’re saying is your business is so incredible that the returns will far surpass anything else that I’m currently working on

I know this is a really tough to understand, any successful entrepeneur will be in a very similar position to me. Remember the axiom.....if you want something done give it to a busy person. People with lots of time on their hands won't ever get around to what you asked them to do....a busy person knows how to manage their time.

If I end up making the decision to get involved with your venture then I can guarantee that I will put everything I can to get behind it. I have a lot of resources and I want anything I'm involved in to be successful.

In the next article I’m going to go through what you need to do for me after I’m convinced you are passionate and willing to do whatever it will take to get your business going.

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Saturday Musings – Disposable Relationships

Saturday Musings – Disposable Relationships

We live in a social age where friends are quantified by Facebook and their “closeness to us” by the number of likes received. So are personal relationships really important anymore or are they something we should put on and take off like an old coat?

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When I talk to the current generation that have grown up with social media as part of the way they manage their relationships it’s clear to me that something has changed. I’ve noticed that committing yourself to an event (eg. a birthday party) is something you leave to the last minute as there may be a better offer in your news feed. Or worse yet, commit yourself and then just don’t bother to go.

I know of a teenager that had a birthday party and only two thirds of the people turned up that said they would. Of the two thirds, about half a dozen cared enough to bring a birthday present. Sadly, birthday parties are now less about celebrating someone’s birthday and more about running an event that attracts your social peers.

I may be showing my age here, but I wouldn’t dream of turning up to a friend’s birthday without bringing a gift. It seems this courtesy has deserted the current generation in their self-absorbed focus on me, myself and I.

Many gen Y’s don’t have a party in fear that their “friends” will opt to go to something else and leave them looking like a social pariah. It’s a sad fact that a person’s word to do or attend an event is secondary to their desire for self-gratification.

It’s any wonder that Jane Austen movies like “Pride and Prejudice” are still hits. The character of Mr Darcy has become a figment of a girl’s imagination as they look around at his antithesis being displayed by the behaviour of the current generation of males who are more concerned with themselves rather than the “fair maidens”.

Friendships are transitory and survive as long as they are needed. The goal here is to have lots of acquaintances (ie. friends on Facebook or Snapchat) so your social calendar is full of meaningless parties where no one actually gets to know anyone else in a deeper sort of way.

Here’s what I see is the problem with all of this. It’s through deep friendships that we truly learn about ourselves and the good and bad aspects of our character. If you hop from one person to another I can guarantee that no one will take the time or effort to have any sort of serious conversation with you. It will be all froth and bubble that’s aimed at fulfilling the most superficial of desires.

I’m not against having a good time but there’s something so much more satisfying about having time with a friend you’ve known for many years. You can sit in silence together just enjoying each other’s company, laugh about some funny story from the past or lend an empathetic ear when one of you is going through a difficult time. The current generation looks on someone openly sharing as an opportunity for a tweet to increase their own social standing….so much for confidentiality.

Close friendships are often the training ground for close relationships. If you don’t know how to have a close friendship, then how are you going to survive a lifelong commitment to a relationship with a partner? Or how about committing yourself to children? The potential end result is fractured families with devastated children. Society does it’s best to cope but governmental child agencies and family courts are bursting at the seams as the demand for their services escalates. This is despite the huge sums of money invested.

There are so many basic interpersonal skills that have been lost. I was looking at a group of six friends at a coffee shop the other day. While one person was speaking, the other five were typing away on their phones. Why bother getting together?

Many young guys no longer have any idea how to ask a girl out let alone how to have a pleasant conversation because everything is typed with emojis. LOL and ROFL have now become words as raucous and hilarious have been dropped from the vernacular. It sometimes makes me wonder whether George Orwell’s 1984 Newspeak was just a little delayed with expressions such as “double good” to mean something is twice as good as good!

There was a great scene in the move “The Intern” when Anne Hathaway’s character (company CEO) commented to Robert De Niro (Ben - who is an older intern):

“How, in one generation, have men gone from guys like jack Nicholson and Harrison Ford to... take Ben, here. A dying breed. You know? Look and learn, boys. Because if you ask me, this is what cool is.”

So who was Ben? He was a courteous, hardworking and chivalrous older man that showed love and respect to those around him. He was more concerned with serving than being served. He ended up being promoted and appreciated by everyone in the company.

The other day I attended a friend’s daughter’s wedding and the minister insightfully spoke about the different between a marriage contract and a marriage covenant. Sadly, in many respects the contract reflects many of society’s current attitudes….it’s all about my rights, what I get and receive from my marriage. In contrast a covenant is all about giving, not getting, and has nothing to do with rights.

For those of you that are thinking that you’ve escaped what allures the Gen X, Y and even Zers then think again. When you look at President Trumps behaviour of late he is more interested in the content of his next tweet than keeping confidential private discussions with world leaders. If I was the Prime Minister of Australia, then I would insist on an NDA being signed prior to my next discussion.

So is social media bad and is the current generation completely “off the planet”? Like many tools (including money) social media is not bad but needs to be treated as a tool to encourage and foster relationships around the world. It is not a substitute for relationships. A quick IM is nice but don’t expect your relationship with someone to grow solely on the back of such activity.

I’m fifty-one years old and I’m well aware there is a generation gap between myself and the following generations. What I find revealing is that when you talk one-on-one to a young person they relate many of the same concerns that I have. They long for meaningful friendships and a person who will really listen to their cares and concerns.

So where to from here? I think society is in for a number of social shocks over the coming years. When I talk to parents, many of them are struggling to relate to their teenage children and this often places stresses on all the family relationships.

In my own family, the meal table has become a phone free zone….in fact, for a long time we had a sign which said exactly that. Each night we chat (verbally and face to face) with one another, listening and laughing at the days events without constant text interruptions. It’s now become a time that we all look forward to (the fact that Roselyn is a great cook helps!) and a breath of fresh air is breathed into the almost lost art of conversation.

Have a great week!

Greenberg & Lieberman

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Part 1 - Building a Business - Moving From the Idea

Part 1 - Building a Business - Moving From the Idea

So you’re having a shower (where all truly great ideas come from) and it suddenly hits you like a blinding light from heaven…..the most incredibly brilliant business idea to build out a domain you’ve ever had! There’s just one problem, what’s next?

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So many great ideas remain just that, a great idea and nothing more. Just today I was approached by a domainer to purchase a domain name and as a part of their pitch they told me that it would be fantastic as a particularly type of business. Based upon this “idea” they believed the price of the domain was justifiably inflated.

My immediate thought was to ponder, if it was such a great idea why didn’t they build the domain into a business themselves? Let’s face it, they were trying to price the domain based upon all the work that I would do to create a profitable business. That just doesn’t work for me….

A domain has value but don’t fall into the mistake of pricing in, not just the value of your domain but also the value of a mythical business that the buyer would have to create on it. Many domain owners make this mistake and wonder why they don’t sell any of their inventory.

Let’s put the pricing discussion aside for now as it’s the subject of another blog series. So how do you move from an idea to a profitable business?

For the past 34 years (time does fly!) I’ve been identifying opportunities, developing, selling and building businesses….most of them online or back in the days of bulletin board systems. A solid grounding in my MBA (Master of Business Administration) tempered with experience has helped me to quickly analyse opportunities to ascertain whether they are real or not.

I get pitched ideas all the time but I hate to say it most ideas are a complete distraction from what I could be doing. Every now and then something comes along which is worth further investigation but it’s rare to find the diamond in the rough.

I’ll be completely open and honest so I do apologise if I’m a little blunt. Most successful entrepreneurs DO NOT have a shortage of opportunities. They are in a deal stream that allows them to pick and choose which one to put their effort and possibly finances into. When you pitch your idea to get a successful business person involved then you need to be aware that it has to be really compelling.

Likewise, be careful whom you pitch to. Some people are sharks and will devour you with preference shares and equity ratchets, while others are fair and reasonable. The question you need to ask is what does the potential investor bring to the party…..and it had better not just be money.

As an example, let me share with you how my company, ParkLogic was founded. I will cut a long story short in an effort to focus on the pertinent points I'm raising.

I’d just sold a large domain portfolio which allowed me to enjoy six months touring the USA with my family, get my pilot’s license and do some other really cool stuff. I wasn’t in a hurry to leap into a business for business sake but I was very interested in learning how to improve myself personally. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I wanted to spend some time working on “self-actualisation”…..the top tip of the triangle.

This sounds introspective but it was an important personal goal that focused my attention on why I would found my next business. I did a personal “check up” and concluded that I had a lot of strengths but like most people I also had a lot of weaknesses. Rather than going out solo I decided that it would be in my best interest to find a partner that complimented my skill set. This would allow me to learn how to improve my weaknesses and ideally improve myself.

As I said, I wasn’t in a hurry so I thought about a lot of people I knew and settled on one individual who has been my current business partner and co-founder of ParkLogic for the past ten years. He has an incredible amount of experience and our skills almost perfectly complement one another. Also, high on my list of potential partners was the fact that he is highly ethical.

So how did I get him onboard? I pitched the opportunities in the domain industry and essentially gave him half the business. From my perspective, ParkLogic was worth zero at the beginning and since I wanted to get a partner involved whom I could learn from I decided to make the offer compelling.

So what’s it been like over the years? Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s been fantastic and the one percent has been either one of us learning a great deal from one another. I’ve learned an incredible amount and my co-founder has as well. ParkLogic has grown dramatically and has gone from strength to strength where we’re now optimising domain traffic for people all over the world.

So many people get hung up on equity and how much they are giving away but they really haven’t sorted out why they are getting into business in the first place. They try and drive crazy deals or pitch to anyone that happens to have some money. In my opinion, this is a highly questionable strategy.

Remember, if you really want a partner, don’t rush, and get the right one. Go after them and make your pitch really compelling! Right now, your equity is essentially worthless but with the right partner it could be worth a LOT more. Think about yourself and what you want BEFORE you launch your business.

In the next article, I’m going to use myself as a case study and propose how you may get me involved in your new or existing venture. What do I look for and what do I bring to the table? Hopefully you will be able to use these thoughts to attract someone to your business.

Greenberg and Lieberman

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2017 - The Year of Innovation

2017 - The Year of Innovation

If I was to describe this year in one word it would have to be “innovation”. For a long time, the domain industry has been doing the “same old same old” with a tweak here and a tweak there but I believe this year is going to see some massive changes.

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For the last fifteen years, the domain industry has been caught in a malaise where landing pages look the same, domain market places are basically the identical to what they were and development has migrated up the content management systems version numbers. All a bit of a yawn.

While I was at NamesCon I perceived a growing sense of frustration and tension building in the air from people who wanted more for their domains. It was almost palpable. When there is a growing demand from the market then I’m a firm believer that innovative companies and individuals will seek to fulfil it.

I took a few days’ vacation immediately after NamesCon and one of the things I love to do is read. I picked up Elon Musk’s biography (Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity and Paypal fame) and was stunned by the similarities between the markets he has entered and the domain industry.

For example, with Tesla the incumbent automotive industry was a lumbering giant that was incredibly slow to adopt anything innovative. Musk steps and from nothing builds the world’s first high performance all electric production car. With next to nothing he’s built Tesla into a powerhouse of innovation that is leaving the other car companies in the dust.

The same could be said for SpaceX. Through innovation he has transformed the space industry and has the audacious goal to colonise Mars…..which brings me to my next point for the domain industry.

It’s not enough to be innovative or even meet pent up demand with innovative solutions. What is keeping me awake at night (other than jetlag) is why we are doing what we are doing? Is it just to make money or is there some vaster, bigger more all-encompassing goal? What is it that we actually do and how does this translate into an inspirational vision?

At an individual level, many of us have been so caught up with analysing statistics, trying to get the next sale or build out a website that we’ve forgotten why we are doing what we are doing? From an industry perspective, the concept of an inspirational vision seems even more far-fetched.

So why will this year be different? I’ve come to the conclusion that it has to be…..because if it’s not then many of us will die of boredom. We entered the industry as entrepreneurs and have become managers….even if we are very successful at what we do we have this gnawing internal desire to still shoot for the stars!

In the companies I’m involved in I’m looking at these big questions and then aligning innovative ideas and people behind them. My job is then to remove as many of the blockages as possible from their path so that dreams can become reality. It's going to be a really tough task but one that I hope will start to bring positive change to the industry.

Have a great weekend!

Greenberg and Lieberman

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NamesCon Wrap-up

NamesCon Wrap-up

I’m writing this while I sit in a coffee shop at McCarran Airport in Vegas with my family. After the last few days at NamesCon the coffee I’m sipping feels so good and in my near stupor I find myself pondering why it doesn’t come in syringes.

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Like many of you, I found NamesCon a trial of endurance with four days of back to back 30 minute meetings followed by a brief respite with my pillow each night. And this is why it was such a great event.

I’ve never conducted so much business, secured so many agreements and made so many new contacts. NamesCon was where 1400 plus Internet entrepreneurs gathered together from all over the world to do business and not just have a talk fest.

It was great having my family with me on this trip and I want to thank everyone for making them feel so welcome. They loved NamesCon because they didn’t feel like outsiders thanks to your smiles and warm conversation. Sarah and Elise, also had a chance to see their Dad in action in meetings and at a couple of presentations…..which was pretty cool!

I personally believe that you only need 30 people at a conference because that’s about the limit to the numbers of people you can have meetings with. The challenge for the conference organisers is to make it the right 30 people. NamesCon was a bit of a problem.

There weren’t 30 people but easily over 100 that I thought that it would be great to connect with. The result….massive overload of opportunities. In military parlance, it was a target rich environment. This is exactly why NamesCon will continue to grow and expand under the new owners.

I would like to thank all those people that took time out of their own busy schedules to meet with me. For those of you that I didn’t get a chance to catch-up with I really do apologise…..leave a message here so we can connect on skype.

For all of my friends in the industry that I’ve made over the last 16 years….I’m really sorry that we didn’t get time to catch-up. I feel like many of us kept on passing each other in the long hallway (boy was it long!) as we sped to our next appointment.

So what’s next? For me, it’s an afternoon of sleep and a couple of days at Disneyland with my family….my flights just been called so I’d better go!

Take care and safe travels.

Lieberman and Greenberg

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