Your Inner Critic

Entrepreneurs create stuff. We set out to change the world and most of the time, we have a reasonably good idea about what we are setting out to build. When we are just starting out, most of the stuff that we do create is not up to the standard we know it has to be. There is a gap between where our work is sub, par or average, to when it becomes something that we can be truly proud of. This gap is the gap that many people fail to cross and make the jump into the next level. This chasm separates the people who become great, from everyone else.

The secret to crossing that chasm is….a lot of hard work and not giving up. The video above is an inspiring story of someone who made it through this chasm.

Three Types of Deals VC’s Do

Charlie O’Donnell is a partner at First Round Capital and he has some awesome posts up on his blog. He also did a startup called Path 101, which is in a similar place to what we want to do with Identifii. I was reading through his blog post, The three types of deals that VCs invest in and I thought to share it with everyone. This is specially for all those who are looking to get backed by professional money early on in their ventures.

Excerpts from his blog

VCs put money into something that’s innovative, they tend to do it in an innovative sector.  So, it’s not just about the idea, but they want that idea to live in an ecosystem that is in flux or generating new and interesting approaches.

So, if you’re doing something innovative in cleantech, mobile apps, hyperlocal, or some kind of social media monetization tool, an innovative vision can get funded.  VCs are willing to make bets on visions of how certain markets will develop, even if they don’t know all the details of how the business works out.

If you are not in an area that VCs are excited about, you basically have two options.

The first, and probably best choice, is to go make some money.  VCs, specially those in the second half of their funds, will invest in baked in ROI.  Once you prove your ability to make money, then it becomes a simple matter of an associate spreadsheet.  How much do you make now and, what valuation can we get it at?  What will you make with some product improvements and a new head of sales, maybe some international expansion and, what can we sell it at, when?  Dollars in, dollars out, pure and simple.

The next choice, which isn’t really a choice, is to have done it before.  This is betting on the jockey, not the horse.



As entrepreneurs we are constantly looking for sources to help us learn from other people’s experiences. Stories about how they succeeded or failed, have tons of insights, and can greatly benefit entrepreneurs getting into business for the first time. With a proliferation of blogs in the blogosphere today, we are spoiled for choice. There are however a couple of sources that I have marked with higher importance and happens to be one of them.

Their website provides first time entrepreneurs, as well as seasoned entrepreneurs, with a wealth of information regarding the starting up process. Initially, I subscribed to their blog, but now, I have also started using their forums . This site provides entrepreneurs with a place not only to meet like minded individuals, but to also share experiences and information, a mutually beneficial exercise.

Some of my personal favorite articles from their website are:

1. The Top 20 Startup Mistakes
2. Best Way For A Startup To Earn Revenue?
3. 5 Sure-fire Ways To Know If Your Business Will Work Or Not

The website also provides you with access to legal document templates, videos, as well as a market place to find products and services related to starting up your business.

Check out their blog at

What are some of your top sources for information regarding entrepreneurship?

Inviting Guest Posts


Since I am now posting every alternate day on my blog, I thought this would be a great opportunity to open up the days when I am not writing, to bloggers and authors from within my niche, that is small businesses & entrepreneurship, and have guest writers post during those days. I look forward to returning the favor and guest posting on their respective blogs as well. This will have a positive impact by creating diverse content on both blogs as well as increasing traffic growth.

Areas I am really interested in hearing diverse points of views from bloggers and entrepreneurs are:

1. Partnerships (Experiences, Challenges, Solutions)

2. Execution (How do you get stuff done? What are some of the ways you have improved your execution capabilities?)

3. Cash Flow Management (Are you using any particular software? Specific methodologies you follow. Past experiences and challenges)

4. Marketing (What are the most effective strategies you use? Word of mouth campaigns? Marketing metrics?)

5. Motivation (What inspired you to start a business? What keeps you going everyday? What are you biggest challenges?)

If you have any material on any of these topics I would really like to hear from you. I look forward to getting your feedback and suggestions. Please email me at blog (@) usmansheikh (.) net . Thank you

Protecting your Blog’s Content


Image by Daniel Y. Go

Today while checking my blog stats through Google Analytics and Stat Press, a very useful plugin for wordpress analytics, I noticed a massive increase in my blog page views in relation to visitors. What struck me as strange was that a bot had visited nearly every blog post that I have written in the past year, each page load had lasted just under 20 seconds. It struck me as odd, and for the first time I started looking into copyright protection for all the information that I have generated on this blog over the past year. I have spent a lot of time and effort in writing the material that I have, and for some reason I had never really thought about copyright protection. When I started researching this topic I found a wealth of information online and a whole set of divergent points of view. This was fascinating in itself and as usual an entire afternoon was spent researching this topic.

Some of the things I learned was:

1. Bots: These dataminers or crawlers are prevalent throughout the blogosphere. No blog is really safe from them unless you put up some road blocks manually. I had noticed some irregular patterns on my blog from a couple of bots who were either spamming comments or just driving my page views through the roof. This was slowing down the loading time of my blog and also causing a lot of frustration on my part as far as spam comments are concerned. I installed WP-Ban plugin which allows you to block these bots from entering your website and things seem to have settled down a little bit since.

2. Creative Commons: When I was researching data or images protection online; creative commons kept on surfacing. This is an amazing project and provides a great platform through which artists and writers can set up how they want to share their work. I would be delighted if someone would like to use some of my work on their website. The only stipulation I have is that I would like it to be attributed to me when it is used. I got myself the creative commons widget for wordpress from this website.

3. Copyright: Apart from this, I found a lot of bloggers have chosen alternative paths to copyright their assets. On one extreme you have Dosh Dosh who writes extremely well about the online world and blogging, he/she has a dedicated copyright page that can be found here. There are strict guidelines for the use of blog material and consequences of using the material without permission. On the other hand you have Leo Babauta’s blogs, his page is named ‘Uncopyright‘. He has released the copyright of his material. What I have currently done is just add a copyright line in my RSS feeds and on the front page of my blog.

To be honest I am quite confused right now on the path that needs to be taken to approach this copyright issue. Both the examples quoted above have different objectives behind their blogs. Being relatively new to the blogspace, I will have to find my own way and decide the best route to take. In the meantime I would really like to hear from bloggers in the ‘ small business and entrepreneurship niche’ as to what your take and opinions on copyright protection are and what steps you have taken to protect your content. I look forward to your comments and suggestions.

Related Links:

Protect Your Blog And Counter Copyright Thefts

Inspiring Entrepreneurial Story

“I’ve always learned on-the-job, in real time. A problem comes up; I research it, and try to solve it. You can’t study to be an entrepreneur; you have to develop those skills day in day out. “ Tom Szaky

I have memories of going to a video rental store over the weekend when I was around 6-8 years old. The video store was called Star Video and when they gave us the videos they were packed in a paper bag which had the logo of a restaurant called Barbeque Tonite on it. The restaurant was the final aim of the owners of this small video rental franchise that had a couple of locations. The owner’s son used to school with me and was a friend. Eventually they opened a small restaurant that served traditional barbeque food and very wisely paid an exceptional amount of attention to detail and quality. The place could probably hold a maximum of around 50 odd people in those early days. Fast forward to today, the restaurant has witnessed an absolutely explosive level of growth. Today it probably has a capacity of at least 500+ customers spread over 4 floors. They have a limited menu but the quality has remained evenly and exceptionally good, this has kept most of us coming back for more week after week.

Seeing the level of success of this restaurant, many have attempted to replicate it, as close to them as possible, to cash in on the spillover since there are always huge crowds waiting to get into the place. However, none of them have succeeded in coming close. Having dinner there tonight, I was once again amazed at the level of success that they enjoy and whenever I visit their restaurant it renews my faith as an entrepreneur. The owners knew from the very beginning what they wanted. The vision to be the leading provider of local barbeque food was something that each of them were passionate about and they figured out a way to raise money for the venture. Once they had managed to do that, there was no looking back.

There are two important lessons from this story. The first is, before you start whatever you want to, ask yourself “Is this something that I am truly passionate about?” If the chosen line of business is something you are passionate about, the next step is the need to articulate a vision for the business you want to run. I have made the mistake of not thinking through the second aspect with enough detail on several occasions and have paid a price for it. Without a clear vision one usually spends a lot of time going round in circles not quite knowing which direction to take. This problem is overcome when you think things through and know and visualize exactly what you want. During the course of working it out practically things will change somewhat but the fact that there is a guiding principle from the very beginning is essential for starting on the right foot.

My Big Challenge for 2009

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Toni Morrison

I have been thinking about my goals and aspirations for 2009 for the last couple of days. I have been setting goals for various aspects of my life. When I reached the category of personal goals, I began thinking on similar parallels to my goal of starting this blog in 2008. I believe starting this blog was one of the most rewarding goals that I have set to date. It has come to a point that I am motivated on a daily basis to write something and if I don’t, it feels as if I have forgotten something during the course of the day, in short I miss it! While thinking about this I began debating the idea of possibly writing a book in 2009. It would be a book about entrepreneurship and detail the major joys, hurdles and learning experiences I have had on my journey so far. The primary objective would be to assist others out there who are wanting to start a business or have started a business recently. After thinking about it in depth, I know that such a book would have been of great help to me when I was starting up a couple of years ago. I have thus decided to set myself the goal of completing the e-book version by Dec 31st 2009.

I realize there are many “How-to” books on starting a business as well as entrepreneurship in the marketplace today. My only gripe with most of them has been that they are very technical in nature and instead of always inspiring someone to take the leap, they often lead to self doubt. The objective of my book would be to provide advice on some of the biggest lessons I have learnt during my entrepreneurial journey. That would include setting visions, finding the right partners, the importance of marketing, how to manage cash flows and other very expensive lessons that I have learned over time. After reading this book I hope the reader will be able to see entrepreneurship from a 30,000 ft level as well as some of the intricacies that need to be addressed during the first year of starting up.

I would really appreciate feedback from readers of this blog about whether this is a book that would be of interest to you and what you would want to learn about, and see included in such a book. Your feedback will be critical in assisting me to choose the right focal point of the book. I look forward to hearing from you either through email at blog (at) or in the comment section below.