noraHacking The Core Tom

Hacking The Core – my new book on startup innovation

startup CEO

Here’s the intro on iBooks, Amazon and other online sites for my new book, released in April 2017.

– – – – –

Hacking The Core explains entrepreneurship in the tech startup world in a refreshing way. Pulling no punches, the author draws from 2 decades of experience as a startup CEO, strategist, M&A consultant and investor.

The book explains how to tap into the creativity and innovation that we all have hidden inside of us and how to apply it to launching and growing a startup business. It looks at all areas of a business launch to uncover areas of innovation, differentiation, design thinking.

Hacking The Core is based on principles of common sense, honesty vs. “fake it ’til you make it” and humility in success. It will show you how to lead instead of follow trends, how to create true disruption in and market segment.

There are several personal anecdotes from the author and explanations of his own motivations and mentors in his long startup business path.

Available on iTunes/iBooks

 

 

About the author

Tom Nora is an entrepreneur, startup CEO, blogger and business mentor. He has led and mentored over 2 dozen venture-backed technology companies, 5 of them as President and CEO. He has extensive experience in funding, mergers, acquisitions and IPOs.

In 2011 Tom launched The Scalable Startup in Santa Monica, California to help tech startups launch and  grow by providing mentoring, funding, community and strategy consulting. The same year Tom also started publishing the popular blog The Startup CEO.

In 2014 he decided to write a series of books on the startup world and his experiences. This was in response to the continuous requests for help he receives from early stage entrepreneurs and future entrepreneurs. Hacking The Core is the first of these books to be published, focusing on innovation and originality.

Tom is also a lifelong fine art photographer and oil painter.

Available on iTunes/iBooks

 

 

“ Amazing. Tom rocks ”  — JOHN HENRY, IBM CORP.

 

“Creativity takes courage.” Learning from Matisse

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“Creativity takes courage.” –Henri Matisse

This is one of my favorite quotes about innovation, by an innovator who is still revered 100 years later; it’s the first thing you’ll see if you go to my personal website http://tomnora.com/ . Matisse was an amazing innovator, and his innovation and originality

Innovation, Originality, Creativity – why are these things so important in the tech startup world? And what do they have to do with art or painting?

I have the opportunity to visit many secondary and tertiary startup markets in my travels, meaning not Silicon Valley or New York, and one of the things that always strikes me is the lack of originality in almost every company pitch I see or hear.

I can see that the entrepreneurs I meet are sincere, have usually put a ton of work and pride ion their invention or product. Often they have put a fair amount of personal or family capital into the venture (these days that’s usually their parents money).

The major flaws in their planning process are denial and ego fortification – they don’t do enough homework to see how many are already doing something similar because they don’t really want to know; and they highly overrate themselves as amazing entrepreneurs.  This is a bad combination for success, but I see it daily.

I get it; I know it’s more difficult than ever to build a real career and easier than ever to start a company. But the very core of creating an interesting and new business should be the concept of originality. Some originality, enough to be different, unique, without being too weird.

Real originality comes from within, because it is inspired, comes from adrenaline and emotion, not from a spreadsheet or desire to merely make money. Finding the mid point between originality and capitalism is what I define as business innovation.

There’s nothing new under the sun, so you must critically modify, hack, or turn sideways existing systems with a truly new vision. Instead of just copying or slightly modifying something you see, try to take it a few steps further.

One of the quite innovative methods Matisse and his peers used was finding inspiration from other skills they already knew, leveraging their expertise as craftsmen. Matisse was a draftsman, a printmaker and a sculptor, and you can see these influences in his paintings.

Part of the magic of great business innovations is knowing which rules to break. Matisse broke some of the rules, but kept many intact. The rules about the way business processes flow are too often just accepted, but if you can analyze them, find an achilles heel, then innovate a better answer. Get rid of the obsolete rules without breaking the good ones, and great things will happen. It’s about where to hack and where not to.

I went to a pitch fest in one of those secondary markets the other day. Most of the presentations were weak delivery, boring, been done before and uninspiring. But there was one that was pretty amazing, by an 18 year old who had become deaf at 12. He has developed an exercise system for handicapped people; you tell by his excitement and thought process that he was inspired, and created true innovation. He wasn’t polluted by how corporations work or the rules of business – he was still in high school.

Another Matisse quote is There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” Look carefully, take the extra time and find the uniqueness in any idea you want to realize – it’s there.  Find me on twitter at @tomnora

 

“Recommendation Swapping” on Linkedin

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153411951-art-addiction-typewriter-center
This has organically happened a couple of times for me – someone I’ve worked with in the past asks me to write them a recommendation and then spontaneously returns the favor. It’s a very cool gesture and it reinforces the relationship for the future.

Below is an example for a startup entrepreneur I just went through a short mentoring process with, Greg Weinstein. Greg will do very well with his company, I could’ve written a lot more about his attributes.

I recommend (get it?) you try this – swap a recommendation with close present or past colleagues; it will enhance both of your social business circles and create new connections.

It’s hard to derive extra value on linkedin, rise above the fray – this will help you do it.

#networking #linkedin #social_marketing

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Gregory A Weinstein has recommended you on LinkedIn

Gregory A Weinstein
Gregory A Weinstein Founder and CEO, One Fulfilling Life
To: Tom Nora
Date: August 22, 2013
Gregory A Weinstein has recommended your work as Founder, Marketing, Community Development at Startup Workshops.

Dear Tom,
I’ve written this recommendation of your work to share with other LinkedIn users.

Details of the Recommendation: “During the early and critical stages of the conception and start up of One Fulfilling Life, Tom provided us with thoughtful, wise and nurturing insight and guidance. He was our “Board of Directors” and the fit seemed very natural and intuitive.

It was an awesome opportunity and I relish the experience. His guidance saved us a lot of time and money and more importantly kept our momentum moving forward in the face of what could have been crippling obstacles. If your a tech start up and especially if this is your first business venture Tom’s your man. Catch him if you can!!!!!

Thanks Tom”
Service Category: Business Consultant
Year first hired: 2013
Top Qualities: Expert, Praxis High Integrity Systems

Recent Interview for Workbridge

Angel Investor, Business Development, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, Launch, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora, venture

After a recent speech I gave for startups, I was interviewed by Jennifer DesRosiers (love that name!) about tech startups. Here are my answers…

When did you first discover your love of technology?

>> When I was a 11 my brother built a homemade crystal radio. It was fascinating to see him assemble these inert parts and then hear sound come out. From then on I was hooked on technology and electronics.

What is your favorite part of your job?

>> The unknown factor, the challenge to create the future and make something grow from nothing.

What sparked the idea for NeoRay?

>> The original idea for me came from seeing people use their cellphones to buy from vending machines in Japan. Simultaneously Alessio watched his father create a PayPal competitor and he wanted to make something more futuristic for mobile payments; he then saw a WIRED article “Kill The Password!”. We compared notes and decided the timing was right for mobile payments without passwords leveraging advances in biometrics..

What in your opinion is the next big thing in technology?

>> The 15 Minute Website and Personal Website “Portfolios” – soon anyone will be able to build multiple personal sites with full e-commerce, payment systems, community, social networking, SEO, and big data analytics with no coding and very easy manipulation. Currently there is a barrier to this – you must know some coding to optimize this and it’s difficult to manage multiple sites. People and companies will have a portfolio of websites and not even think about it.. Most of the tools already exist but need a lot of refinement; it will take another 2-5 years.

What excites/interests you most about tech startups and what makes them successful?

>> The Scalability challenge. Much of my career has been dedicated to trying to create the alchemy of continuously growing a company. The progress of E-Commerce, HTML5, CSS3, PHP and Javascript have made it so any startup idea, tech or non-tech, can become reality with very little money or work. The difficult step has shifted from launch to revenues, scalability, growth.
This is exciting because it allows so many people to give it a try which equals more great ideas coming to light, but still requires a great idea and great execution to have larger success and growth. Pretty soon the most important people at startups will shift back from developers to those that can create and sustain growth.

CASH IS KING — C-A-S-H — Friction Cost Reduction — Accountants, Attorneys and Consultants

Angel Investor, Business Development, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, Hawaii, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Uncategorized, venture

Most startup entrepreneurs focus on one thing throughout the lifecycle of their company: bringing in CASH. C-A-S-H. Cash through investments, revenues, borrowing from F&F, VCs, convertible notes, deal terms, angels, etc. All of these things are magical words to early stagers. I attend and host many meetups and conferences for startups, and consult to several startups, and every founder is inevitably talking about Cash. Cash on Hand, The next Round, we just need $XXX,XXX. Cash, Cash, Cash.

A different way to improve your cash situation is the indirect one – reduce Friction Costs in your ecosystem with peripheral influencers.

In Silicon Valley, Boston, Boulder and a few other places, the growth of the startup world has vastly been enhanced over the past 10 to 30 years by professionals who are not VCs or developers or entrepreneurs – they’re the Accountants, Attorneys, Consultants, Professors, Marketing firms and others who have tremendous influence over VCs, Angels and prospective customers. They are trusted, fairly impartial, focused, big picture and practical. They’re also critical to the processes of business.

If you want to make money rain from the sky, nurture these people with sincerity over long periods of time, not just when you need them. They decrease the friction in doing business by connecting the right people, finding the quickest path between 2 points, making warm vs. cold introductions and telling entrepreneurs when “it ain’t gonna happen”.

So find some of these people and get to know them – here are 10 things you can do:

1. buy them a cup of coffee

2. be real with them, when you don’t need anything.

3. Help them out with something they’re working on.

4. Read What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis.

 

5. Join my meetup group; you’ll find many of them there and can connect no matter where you live:  meetup.com/Startup-Workshops/

6. Invite them to speak at an event you’re hosting.

7. Contact me and I’ll help you find and meet the right people.

8. Create something very cool, nothing gets attention like that.

9. Be a connector. Connect 2 people without any self interest; I do this almost daily.

10. Become an authority on the flow of cash in startups, a very valuable skill.

Tom Nora

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LinkedIn Recommendations and Endorsements

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Yesterday I was checking my LinkedIn and ran across an old colleague/friends bio – Teo Yatman. It made me decide to spontaneously write an unsolicited recommendation for him (see below). I’ve only written recommendations on request in the past so this felt really fun, and a little strange to do.

I think the LinkedIn one-click endorsements are awesome, one of the best social media tools in a long time – they are so easy to do and eventually you crowd-vote someones list of skills, so it’s pretty accurate in most cases.

But the recommendations are still valuable – I recommend (no pun intended) that you try this – write a spontaneous recommendation for someone you’re linked to from your past. It will surprise them and cause good will.

Here’s the exchange between Teo and me…
LINKEDIN RECOMMENDATIONS
Tom Nora has recommended your work as Silicon Valley Sales and Sales Management at Mentor Graphics.

Dear Teo,
I’ve written this recommendation of your work to share with other LinkedIn users.

Details of the Recommendation: “Teo and I worked together for a brief time in Silicon Valley in 1987-88 and I’ve told this story many times over the past 20+ years:

I was managing a few account managers at Mentor Graphics, a fast growing high flyer in the EDA/CAE industry, we were #1 against several tough competitors – Daisy, Valid, the brand new Cadence, etc.

The problem was that in Silicon Valley we were losing to local favorites. In the middle of all this, Teo was amazing to watch – he exceeded his quotas every month and could predict almost to the dollar how much he would sell every month. Nobody else, including me, could even come close, or would want to make that commitment. He would get in his car and drive away then come back with a p.o. time after time. I still don’t know how he did it.

I learned a lot watching his positive disposition and his confidence – he always had a big smile. I haven’t seen Teo in over 20 years, but I’ve thought of him often when I lose confidence about closing a deal – “What would Teo do?” And usually it works! Thanks, Teo.”

Response from TEO:
Hi Tom!
Thanks so much for an awesome recommendation! I was surprised and amazed when I saw this. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you in any way. I honestly enjoyed working with you back in the day. Hope you and your family are doing well. Do you live in SoCal? If I head down that way I’d love to connect with you – maybe a lunch in honor of the good ole days!
Heartfelt thanks!
Teo
@tomnora
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What does it feel like to be the CEO of a start-up? 3 FULL TIME JOBS.

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Being the CEO of a startup is crazy, fun, very hard work, inclusive, humbling and of course can be quite rewarding. Weekends are meaningless. There is a continuous decision stream where each decision informs the next. Your mind is thinking 24 hours a day, even when you sleep.

When you’re the CEO of a startup, a real startup with product and some cash in the bank and/or revenue, there are 3 FULL TIME JOBS.

1. Raising Money – you are constantly doing this, preparing for this and thinking about this, whether it’s pre-seed, seed funding, debt, revenue, partnerships, IPO or other.

2. Managing and Properly Growing The Business – this includes several things, depending on the size of the enterprise: managing employees, administration, hiring, firing, leases, expenses, unhappy employees, fixing other problems, etc.

This piece is what often kills an otherwise great business, which justifys the case for less is more when it comes to employees and infrastructure.

3. Selling – The CEO of a startup must ABS, always be selling. You start every day working this, just like #1 above, they’re closely related. Using the CEO to close sales no matter what size the business is, is vital to success.

This piece emphasizes the importance of having an awesome, mature VP of Sales, if you can afford it; it takes a lot of pressure off and frees up the time of the CEO.

Overall, it can be the most exhilarating experience you’ve ever had, especially when things work. And it’s more accessible to most people than ever before. But it’s not for everyone – you must decide what your #1 goal is. If it’s to create a successful long term business, being the CEO should be something you’re willing to give up if it threatens goal #1. If your #1 goal is to try it out to see how it feels, then by all means do it, get professional help, and make the most of it. Contact me if you’re dead serious and I can help you. The Startup CEO by Tom Nora

Median CEO Compensation: $363K (private) vs. $9.6M (S&P500)

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The median private company CEO compensation package totaled $362,900 in 2011 — just 3.8% of the $9.6 million median compensation package given to S&P 500 CEOs.

Median total compensation for private company CEOs increased only 1.9% from 2010’s $356,133.

The Board of Directors sets CEO pay in 58.5% of all private companies, but for companies with $100 million or more in annual revenue, this number increases to 73.9%.

Only 54.4% of private companies have formal long-term incentive plans for executives, but this number increases to over 68% for companies backed by private equity investors. There is high correlation between a company’s profitability and whether or not they have formal long term incentive plans for executives.

J.P. Donlon
Editor-in-Chief
Chief Executive�Magazine

 

“It’s a Feature, Not a Company” – Build a Company

Angel Investor, Business Development, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, Launch, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora, Uncategorized, venture

This is a line that was pretty common in Silicon Valley until recently. Steve Jobs even (ab)used that line on Dropbox when trying to buy them out of the market (They turned him down.)

Now that’s all changed, for the moment. The threshold for “company” status is very low, including the following list of minimum pieces at their lowest cost.

1) a url – $10     2) incorporation – $200      3) Internet – free      4) build a website – free      5) development tools – free     6) office space – free – home, starbucks, hipster coffee shop

In other word, the barriers have dropped if you’re willing to do most things yourself, which is a good thing. You still need an amazing idea , business model, some focus from a developer (critical!). You can create a single feature “disposable” company, nothing wrong with that, it’s a learning experience, fail fast, etc., it might even create some value and get acq-hired. And It’s a lot better than talking to folks for a year about an idea that never materializes.

But that’s not the way to create a company that can live and grow for years. In doing that you have to be honest with yourself, make some sacrifices and seek continuous enhancement of your entity. In the world of easy startups, everything is a startup, people drink their own koolaid too much.

Here are some great ways to maybe move into higher ground:

  1. Seek outside criticism and listen to it. Put on your flack jacket and let ’em rip you up. Be open to changes but don’t be a wimp either. You may see something nobody else does, but listen.
  2. Pay those you ask to help you – money, equity, trade services, something meaningful. Give them incentive to help you think straight. Make sure you pick the right mentors with track records. Never ask for something for nothing, you’ll get what you pay for and a bad reputation fast. Better yet, pay it forward. This is an area where strong developers actually have a lot to trade these days, but usually try to do everything themselves. Not likely to succeed.
  3. Diversify – get people difeerent than you involved as team members – different genders, races, ages, expertises. Here’s a great 3 minute talk on this by Stanford prof Kathy Eisenhardt  http://j.mp/UaVjky

So look for the opportunity to build a company, share the wealth, and seek higher ground.

follow me or DM me @tomnora

The Executive Summary; Loosen Up a bit.

Angel Investor, Business Development, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, Launch, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora

 

1. The Executive Summary

I often get inquiries about getting involved in early stage companies here and around the country.

The beginning point to discussing a startup the Executive Summary of the company, which lays out the key facts about a startup in 1-2 pages. But I’ve noticed that in L.A. it’s the exception rather than the norm, people want to meet first. Real investors don’t usually work that way.

The Executive Summary is CRITICAL to getting prospective investors excited. Without it you have little chance of getting the next step – a meeting to discuss the project and funding, more team members, more ecosystem. It’s a key qualifier as a serious player in the startup world. You hardly ever see a Silicon Valley startup without one, no matter how early stage.

The pitch deck has replaced it lately, but that takes more time to read and it’s harder to find the key info quickly. (One exception to this is the deck Hank Cho sent me; one of the best I’ve seen in a while.)

So google “Executive Summary”, look at several and put one one together. Send it to me and I’ll critique it for you. Make it less words, more impact, numbers, facts, the team.

It will also show where your holes are.

 

1. Let’s Loosen Up

The current startup scene combined with our poor economic/job situation is causing many people to panic a bit. It’s understandable, but if it transfers to your persona as a startuper, it won’t help. Many people I meet are very rigid, look a little scared but fake a smile, unable to open themselves to criticism. This doesn’t get investors excited.

Sometimes a 20-30% change or add to your business can make a major difference. Not a complete pivot, that implies 90-180 degree change, but be open to suggestions by those who’ve been there before. Maybe change your name, change your graphics(!), merge/acquire/acq-hire, drop yours for another better one.

Let go of your ego, let go of some equity.

The goal is to build long term sustainable businesses and revenue streams. Add smart people to your circle for the bigger good of the company. Loosen up, smile, have fun. But make some money for everyone involved. Be better.

@tomnora