Thursday, November 19, 2015

How To Make Your Startup A Success

Choosing to make a career out of your idea for a startup is a huge decision that should not be taken lightly. Startup success requires a unique idea, extensive dedication, and the business skills to make it happen. In fact, becoming the head of a new, growing company might call for more career skills than any other job out there.

Running with Creative Ideas
Creative ideas can strike anywhere. In fact, many students find start up success while they are still taking classes. Some famous examples include Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, and Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. Coming up with the basic idea for a new company may be the easiest aspect of kick starting your career, however, developing the model to actually get things up and running might be the most difficult.


Once the idea is in place, the hard work begins. Much like becoming widely successful in most aspects of life, developing a company takes a lot of brainstorming and finding answers to tough questions. How will your business offer unique services that people want? How will you, as the leader, make financial ends meet and create a complete business plan that is ready to be executed?

Planning the Next Move
After some of the more difficult planning and financial questions are out of the way, it is time to move forward with making everything happen and implementing the business plan. As work gets under way, it is time to start thinking about business branding and building a name for your company. This is how customers will find you and eventually rate you, so it is imperative to get it right early on and handle your social engagements like a pro.

As information and clients begin rolling it, it might be worth considering tools such as business analytics to get the most out your data and gain a competitive advantage in your market. Upwards of 54 percent of business professionals say that their companies need to be more analytics driven. Getting ahead of the game early on can help build a solid customer base, manage a tight budget, and help make future predictions about the market.

Hiring the Right People
Finally, as the company grows it will be important to make sure that you are taking the time to hire the right people. Finding a group of employees that meet the needs of the company, are enthusiastic about the direction, and work well together can be a tough combination, but it can be detrimental if the wrong individuals are brought on. As your business grows and you’ve officially settled into a career as a company CEO, the people you place in your company and delegate tasks to will continue to be of monumental importance.

Opening a new business and gaining success is never easy. Coming up with the winning combination of creative ideas, business planning, and employees takes a significant amount of career skills. But with the right amount of determination and business know-how you will be well on your way to success in your new career as company CEO.  

4 Interview Questions Venture Capital Firms Ask

Venture capital interviews aren’t tricky. Generally, there are no brainteasers or case questions. A VC interview is a chance for venture capitalists to get a sense of you, the same way they do when meeting with entrepreneurs. That’s how venture capitalists make investment decisions—by gut instinct. Hiring is no different. As a result, the interviews are often very personal in nature. The venture capitalist wants to know if he/she can bear to work closely with you and depend on you for million dollar decisions. Remember that VC offices are typically small, and “fit” is extremely important. Pay attention to your meetings with analysts and associates when interviewing. They are often just as important, if not more so, than the partners.

Corporate VC interviews vary a great deal, depending on the company. While a few corporations may have completely separate funds for doing deals, most are structured as groups, divisions, or subsidiaries of the parent company. The interviews for these groups are therefore likely to be similar to most corporate interviews. Be prepared to answer questions about company strategy, investments that should be considered, or new directions and paths to be taken. You should therefore do enough research to understand the corporation’s lines of business, current strategic direction, and challenges that it faces (now or in the near future). A question that has been asked might sound something like, “If our company decided to sell off one or more of our business lines, which line would you choose?”
Questions in VC interviews typically fall into three categories: questions about your personality/fit, questions about your expertise, and questions about the VC process. Below are four questions about the VC process.

1. How would you value an investment?

The idea is to get the best deal possible and still have the entrepreneur take your money and give you a seat on the board. Saying that you would use several methods and then triangulate on a number wouldn’t be unreasonable. That number would serve as an anchor around which you would begin discussions with the entrepreneurs. Begin by putting an upper boundary on the valuation by estimating the maximum potential exit valuation for a company and then backing into a number by calculating the maximum price the firm could pay and still get its desired return (after subsequent round dilution). That desired return is typically 40 percent per year, or 10 times the invested capital over a reasonable period, such as five years.

The Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) method can only be used on later stage companies with significant profit history and relatively predictable growth plans. Price earnings multiples from comparable public companies do not work well either, since most early-stage startups have no earnings (and may have little to no revenue). A third and more common way venture capitalists hone in on valuation is to look at comparable private equity investments made by other venture capitalists at similar firms. This leads toward the following if/then decision: If the startup in X field/industry has Y dollars of current revenue with a product in Z stage of development, then it will be valued within a specific, predetermined (by the market), dollar range.


2. When you evaluate a business plan, what’s the most critical element you look for?
The answer is management—the brains behind the operation. A good company is a three-legged stool. One leg is management, a second is market opportunity, and the third is the product or technology. Top management is a must, since a solid team can always deal with and change the business model if necessary. A business or market opportunity must also exist, since at the end of the day, somebody has to sell something to make this all worthwhile. With a seasoned team and viable market, any faulty product or technology can be fixed. That said, too many plans are written around technologies that are more feature than stand-alone product.

3. Would you want to invest in companies geographically near or far from our offices?
You want to invest near the VC offices to make monitoring and supporting the company easier. You would try to increase returns by giving each invested company more attention and thus an increased chance of succeeding. Early stage investments especially need assistance, and some venture firms turn away any entrepreneur with an office that is more than five miles away from the general partnership’s headquarters. On the other hand, it’s worthwhile to search for lower valuations on good companies in faraway regions underserved by competing venture capital firms.

4. What investment areas do you find interesting?
Do some research on a niche within the investment landscape of the firm. It will take hours of reading in the library or on the Internet, but should give you a differentiated interview and show you are truly interested in venture capital. The venture capitalist may disagree with you, but as long as you have good reasons for your opinion, and can show them you can disagree confidently and constructively, you score big.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Student Profile: Jason McClaren- Helping Our Heroes

Interview with AMU Alumnus, Jason McClarenJason-student-profile

The following profile is the fourth in a series of student profiles of our students and alumni at the university.
Job title: Manager, Safety and Emergency Management, Brazosport Regional Health System
Degree earned: M.A, Emergency and Disaster Management, 2014, and B.S., Fire Science Management, 2011, American Military University
What led you to choose a master’s in emergency and disaster management?
My goal as a child was to do 20 years in the Air Force, retire, and teach JROTC, but after seven years as an Air Force firefighter that was cut short due to a death in my family. The death required me to relocate to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where there were no positions available in my career field at any of the nearby bases. At that point, I had a choice to start at the bottom of a municipal fire department and work my way back up the ladder or pursue my education. I chose the latter, getting my bachelor’s degree in fire science. While working on that, new career opportunities were opening up. I discovered the field of emergency management, and it fit great with my personality and my ideas on how I wanted to be involved with emergency response for the future of my career.
Tell us about your new role.

My position as an emergency manager and safety officer at a hospital is similar to that of a city or other agency emergency manager. I direct the response to disasters and oversee crisis management in the hospital system. As you can imagine, the role has a great deal of responsibility. Any kind of natural disaster or emergency situation could occur, such as a hurricane, a flood, a hazardous material spill, or even a hostage situation.

To ensure we are ready for these types of scenarios, I am always learning and keeping up on new developments in the industry. This requires me to attend workshops, conferences, and networking throughout the community. Emergency management is a team effort, and we usually rely on assistance from other agencies if an incident gets too large. I often meet with local public safety officials, schools, and local industry emergency response teams for collaboration.
One of my favorite things is implementing emergency preparedness training for the hospital staff and local community in order to disseminate information for what to do during an emergency. We often attend community events and display our 15-bed mobile medical unit, similar to a modern-day M.A.S.H. facility.

Has education always been a priority?

I honestly have to say no. Being in the military made it rough to take any kind of college courses, especially since I worked 24 hours on and 24 off. So I couldn’t attend courses at a traditional campus on a normal Monday – Friday college schedule. There was a lot of red tape and guidelines on how many courses you could take at a time. Then there was being a firefighter; you are always learning and required to participate in continuing education. I was also a hazardous materials instructor, so my time was constantly stretched thin. I thought I had several years until I had to get my degree, and at that time I needed to focus on getting more fire certifications to further my military career.
After I had separated, I visited a friend of mine who was in school to be an Air Force navigator. I saw an AMU diploma on the wall of his house and started asking how he went about getting through school and active duty. After we talked, I got home and started to research the university, and I compared it to other schools with similar programs. Once I got started, I thoroughly enjoyed it and was planning to stop after my bachelor’s.

Just before I finished my bachelor’s, I started working at a brick-and-mortar university in Dallas. My supervisor there was a big advocate of furthering your education and gave me great opportunities to work on my education while holding a full-time job, so there was no excuse not to work on my master’s. Before I left there, he urged me to start working on my Juris Doctorate, but now that I am in a 24/7 position my wife may kill me if I try to do a doctorate program. Just kidding…not really.

How do you use what you learned from your program in your current position?  
As I stated earlier, in my current position you must be very knowledgeable in the field of emergency management and must always maintain a thorough knowledge of federal, state, and local emergency- related regulations. In addition, I must be able to gather information needed to write emergency preparedness plans and to be able to carry out those plans. This involves ordering evacuations and opening shelters, as well as ensuring that special needs programs are carried out.
Much of the communication, collaboration, and instructional materials require in-depth writing and analysis. I also conduct surveys to address emergency needs and develop mitigation techniques. All of these tasks are things that I perfected and mastered during the course of my studies.
Of course, I knew how to research regulations and write emergency plans as a career firefighter. In this position, I have to do that but also be able to draft reports that can be 40-50 pages long and will be reviewed by the CEO, hospital board, and/or city and county officials. It is imperative that these documents read well and have statistics to verify my data.

Was Heroes in Action created while you were attending classes at AMU?

Yes! Heroes in Action was founded on September 11, 2013 and registered in March of 2014. I didn’t finish my master’s until May of 2014. Heroes in Action is an all-volunteer nonprofit that engages in community projects and events for the benefit of police officers, firefighters, and veterans.

Have you seen a lot of positive growth in this area since its inception?

We have seen a good deal of growth, even though we are a 100 percent volunteer organization. We have held a 5K run and a stair-climb fitness event to raise funds for other police, firefighter/EMS, and veteran organizations.
We have also received our first donation to fund a future Science, Technology, Engineering and Math scholarship for applicants who are related to one of those public safety or military stakeholders. Our goal is to have an Operations Manager in each state by 2025 and hold one of our events in each state. More information can be found at

How would you advise someone to give back to their community?

I would say find something you enjoy doing and work with an organization that does that. Don’t volunteer at Habitat for Humanity if you don’t enjoy sweating and getting dirty. I enjoy emergency management and event planning is not much different than emergency management.
The difference in an event and an emergency is that one is planned and one isn’t. We use many of the same planning processes and situational elements in both. The short version is that most nonprofit organizations run like small businesses (or large business depending on the organization). They can use your skills somewhere. If they balk at that, then you may want to look at another organization. I look at it this way: If you wouldn’t enjoy doing it while being paid, why would you enjoy doing it as a volunteer?

Volunteering is also a good opportunity to use and develop skills while attending school. You can usually set your own hours, and you normally do the same job a paid staff member would do. I volunteered with the Texas Department of Emergency Management during my graduate studies to help with my thesis research!

What was your favorite thing about online education?

There are many reasons, but I always go back to the flexibility. As mentioned earlier, it would have been nearly impossible to attend a brick-and-mortar institution on my schedule and with my location in the Dallas area. There were few schools that offered fire science programs, and the only school with an emergency management program was an hour and a half each way from my house. Attending a two- or three-day class every week would have been brutal. I also appreciated the ability to hold a course. I had an issue pop up in my personal life that required me to hold all my classes for two months. Luckily, that was an option at AMU, and I didn’t have to drop the courses and start over.

What do you like to do in your free time?  

In my free time, I like to go to the beach, play with my dogs, a Weimaraner and Shepherd Chow. I enjoy fishing and volunteering with my church audio/video broadcast team.

Online education isn’t a one size fits all, but it’s a great opportunity for those looking to increase their knowledge in current areas of expertise, or to look at new avenues for growth. Our student profile series will give a face and personality to our dedicated online learners at the university. Interested in learning more about your online education options? Explore our schools and programs at AMU.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

President Obama full Keystone XL remarks

This morning, speaking from the Roosevelt Room, the President announced that the State Department determined that the Keystone XL Pipeline would not serve the national interest of the United States.
For years, this topic has occupied a huge portion of our country's climate discourse. And after explaining why this pipeline "would not serve the national interest of the United States," the President called attention to the broader climate challenges facing America and the global community heading into international climate negotiations in Paris this December:
"…we’ve got to come together around an ambitious framework to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can. If we want to prevent the worst effects of climate change before it’s too late, the time to act is now. Not later. Not someday. Right here, right now."
Here's the full text of his remarks -- they're worth a read.
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Several years ago, the State Department began a review process for the proposed construction of a pipeline that would carry Canadian crude oil through our heartland to ports in the Gulf of Mexico and out into the world market.
This morning, Secretary Kerry informed me that, after extensive public outreach and consultation with other Cabinet agencies, the State Department has decided that the Keystone XL Pipeline would not serve the national interest of the United States. I agree with that decision.
This morning, I also had the opportunity to speak with Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada. And while he expressed his disappointment, given Canada’s position on this issue, we both agreed that our close friendship on a whole range of issues, including energy and climate change, should provide the basis for even closer coordination between our countries going forward. And in the coming weeks, senior members of my team will be engaging with theirs in order to help deepen that cooperation.
Now, for years, the Keystone Pipeline has occupied what I, frankly, consider an overinflated role in our political discourse. It became a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter. And all of this obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others.
To illustrate this, let me briefly comment on some of the reasons why the State Department rejected this pipeline.
First: The pipeline would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy. So if Congress is serious about wanting to create jobs, this was not the way to do it. If they want to do it, what we should be doing is passing a bipartisan infrastructure plan that, in the short term, could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year as the pipeline would, and in the long run would benefit our economy and our workers for decades to come.
Our businesses created 268,000 new jobs last month. They’ve created 13.5 million new jobs over the past 68 straight months -- the longest streak on record. The unemployment rate fell to 5 percent. This Congress should pass a serious infrastructure plan, and keep those jobs coming. That would make a difference. The pipeline would not have made a serious impact on those numbers and on the American people’s prospects for the future.

Second: The pipeline would not lower gas prices for American consumers. In fact, gas prices have already been falling -- steadily. The national average gas price is down about 77 cents over a year ago. It’s down a dollar over two years ago. It’s down $1.27 over three years ago. Today, in 41 states, drivers can find at least one gas station selling gas for less than two bucks a gallon. So while our politics have been consumed by a debate over whether or not this pipeline would create jobs and lower gas prices, we’ve gone ahead and created jobs and lowered gas prices.

Third: Shipping dirtier crude oil into our country would not increase America’s energy security. What has increased America’s energy security is our strategy over the past several years to reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels from unstable parts of the world. Three years ago, I set a goal to cut our oil imports in half by 2020. Between producing more oil here at home, and using less oil throughout our economy, we met that goal last year -- five years early. In fact, for the first time in two decades, the United States of America now produces more oil than we buy from other countries.

Now, the truth is, the United States will continue to rely on oil and gas as we transition -- as we must transition -- to a clean energy economy. That transition will take some time. But it’s also going more quickly than many anticipated. Think about it. Since I took office, we’ve doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas by 2025; tripled the power we generate from the wind; multiplied the power we generate from the sun 20 times over. Our biggest and most successful businesses are going all-in on clean energy. And thanks in part to the investments we’ve made, there are already parts of America where clean power from the wind or the sun is finally cheaper than dirtier, conventional power.

The point is the old rules said we couldn’t promote economic growth and protect our environment at the same time. The old rules said we couldn’t transition to clean energy without squeezing businesses and consumers. But this is America, and we have come up with new ways and new technologies to break down the old rules, so that today, homegrown American energy is booming, energy prices are falling, and over the past decade, even as our economy has continued to grow, America has cut our total carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.

Today, the United States of America is leading on climate change with our investments in clean energy and energy efficiency. America is leading on climate change with new rules on power plants that will protect our air so that our kids can breathe. America is leading on climate change by working with other big emitters like China to encourage and announce new commitments to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. In part because of that American leadership, more than 150 nations representing nearly 90 percent of global emissions have put forward plans to cut pollution.
America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change. And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership. And that’s the biggest risk we face -- not acting.

Today, we’re continuing to lead by example. Because ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.

As long as I’m President of the United States, America is going to hold ourselves to the same high standards to which we hold the rest of the world. And three weeks from now, I look forward to joining my fellow world leaders in Paris, where we’ve got to come together around an ambitious framework to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can.

If we want to prevent the worst effects of climate change before it’s too late, the time to act is now. Not later. Not someday. Right here, right now. And I’m optimistic about what we can accomplish together. I’m optimistic because our own country proves, every day -- one step at a time -- that not only do we have the power to combat this threat, we can do it while creating new jobs, while growing our economy, while saving money, while helping consumers, and most of all, leaving our kids a cleaner, safer planet at the same time.

That’s what our own ingenuity and action can do. That's what we can accomplish. And America is prepared to show the rest of the world the way forward.
Thank you very much.

-- President Barack Obama