Writings by a younger, less handsome man who shares my name

Right now, I’m fighting a solo battle with the Angel Venture Fair (AVF) over their lame decision to use Eventbrite instead of TicketLeap. Until now, this disagreement has lived on the on the AVF’s Facebook page.

I’m really irritated.

The Angel Venture Fair is put on by the Private Investors Forum, which in turn has members who invested in TicketLeap (Robin Hood and the MAG Fund participated in a recent round). The AVF is dissing a local company for reasons that don’t make any sense to me. This is after a recent discussion among Philly Startup Leaders (PSL) members over what many entrepreneurs (and Jason Calacanis) think is ridiculous pricing — $1,000 to present at the fair and $250 just to apply.

It’s also amusing that the AVF says that they aren’t really looking for PSL stage companies. In a phone call with Valerie Gaydos, who runs the AVF, she said that they are looking for companies with around $500k in revenue.

This is amusing for two reasons:
1. PSL has a bunch of companies with $500k+ revenue
2. How lame is our angel community to be that far upstream?

I’ve literally had angels in Boston and DC laugh at me when I told them what kind of deals our “angels” look at. And this is on top of what the real Philly angels are saying, who don’t need the AVF to source deals and think this whole affair is downright silly.

I’m tired of sitting this one out. I hope some of you are too.

This is the final post in a five-part series on missioneurs, a new community of startup and social entrepreneurs.

The premise is that startup entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs need each other. Alone, too many of their great ideas are struggling and failing. Together, they can fill in each other’s blind spots, build stronger companies and make greater change.[Missioneurship image]

A new post in this series will be published every day this week. Blog subscribers will receive them one day early by email or RSS.

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In this series, I’ve been talking a lot about bringing startup and social entrepreneurs together. Now it’s time to do it.

We’ve talked about how our startups and non-profits are dying needless deaths. Our startups are masters of execution. Our non-profits are masters of mission. Each is focusing on one at the expense of the other.

Alone they are struggling. Together, they can become unstoppable mission-driven entrepreneurs (or missioneurs for short).

They run their companies like causes and their causes like companies. They know exactly why they exist, and they execute like hell.

They each have almost everything they need to change the world. Everything except each other.

That’s why we so desperately need to bring them together. Read more…

This is the fourth post in a five-part series on missioneurs, a new community of startup and social entrepreneurs.

The premise is that startup entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs need each other. Alone, too many of their great ideas are struggling and failing. Together, they can fill in each other’s blind spots, build stronger companies and make greater change.[Missioneurship image]

A new post in this series will be published every day this week. Blog subscribers will receive them one day early by email or RSS.

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Entrepreneurs become unstoppable when they see the world through both eyes. That is, when they become more than a startup entrepreneur and more than a social entrepreneur.

This is the premise of missioneurship.

Earlier in this series, we talked about the social entrepreneur’s obsession with mission at the expense of execution. We also talked about the startup entrepreneur’s obsession with execution at the expense of mission.

The results are often fatal. We lose startups and social causes that don’t have to die.

That is, unless we do something about it. Read more…

This is the third post in a five-part series on missioneurs, a new community of startup and social entrepreneurs.

The premise is that startup entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs need each other. Alone, too many of their great ideas are struggling and failing. Together, they can fill in each other’s blind spots, build stronger companies and make greater change.[Missioneurship image]

A new post in this series will be published every day this week. Blog subscribers will receive them one day early by email or RSS.

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Yesterday, we discussed the startup entrepreneur’s obsession with execution at the expense of ideas and the crippling effect this has on their marketing, sales and HR.

Now let’s talk about social entrepreneurs, who have the opposite problem:

Social entrepreneurs are obsessed with mission at the expense of execution.

This is a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing because their mission can be a very faithful guide. It defines what services they provide, how they make decisions, how they communicate to donors and constituents and how they build their teams. Read more…

This is the second post in a five-part series on missioneurs, a new community of startup and social entrepreneurs.

The premise is that startup entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs need each other. Alone, too many of their great ideas are struggling and failing. Together, they can fill in each other’s blind spots, build stronger companies and make greater change.[Missioneurship image]

A new post in this series will be published every day this week. Blog subscribers will receive them one day early by email or RSS.

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Yesterday, we discussed the epidemic of startups and non-profits dying needlessly – and why it’s time to do something about it.

Now let’s talk about the startup half of the epidemic, beginning with the single biggest reason why so many promising startups end up in the deadpool: the obsession with execution at the expense of ideas.

Ted Leonsis, former Vice Chairman of AOL, said it best in a speech at the 2007 Wharton Entrepreneurship Conference.

“Ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s all about execution.”

The same advice could just as easily have come from dozens of the most respected thinkers on startup entrepreneurship. Read more…

This is the first post in a five-part series on missioneurs, a new community of startup and social entrepreneurs.

The premise is that startup entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs need each other. Alone, too many of their great ideas are struggling and failing. Together, they can fill in each other’s blind spots, build stronger companies and make greater change.[Missioneurship image]

A new post in this series will be published every day this week. Blog subscribers will receive them one day early by email or RSS.

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Great startups and non-profits are dying needlessly, and it’s time for those of us who care to do something about it.

The obituaries look so familiar that they start to run together.

Here lies Anthillz, a tech startup that failed for lack of traction, inability to attract investors and too much time and money spent building the right tech team.

Here lies Great Intentions, a (barely) fictitious non-profit that died the non-profit version of this same death. It lost its foundation funding, laid off most of its staff, sought help in vain from its indifferent board – most of whom missed that board meeting, just like the ones before it – and forced its founders to look for other work because they couldn’t afford to pay themselves a salary, not even the peanuts they were making before.

If you’re a startup or social entrepreneur, one of these two stories should sound familiar. You probably hear versions of them again and again. Read more…

[Image of reluctant valentine]
If you’re anything like me, Valentine’s Day is not exactly your favorite day of the year. The pressure is on, Romeo. Juliette is watching you like a hawk to see just how much you really care. And your brother, Lonelio, is feeling even worse. After all, he’s going home alone tonight.

I felt the heat when I was a 19 year-old college student. I was dating a wonderful, low-maintenance woman who nonetheless expected a good show from young Blake. And I put on a damn good show, if I do say so myself.

But I sure was reluctant to do it. I wrote all about it in my college newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, in an article called “A Reluctant Valentine” (see below). I laughed when I read it again today, and I’d thought I’d share it with all of you reluctant lovers and Valentines out there. Read more…

Great cities have a soul. They have a set of dominant values and priorities that shape conversations, influence ambitions and attract like-minded people to live and work there.

[Image of man with megaphone]
New York’s soul is, without a doubt, capitalism. It’s flavored by a countercurrent of artistic and creative ambition, but it’s capitalism’s influence that you feel everywhere.

L.A.’s soul is entertainment, with all the vanity, opportunism and dazzling innovation that comes with it. Las Vegas, its neighbor to the east, is built around indulgence, with simple vices made digestible and nonthreatening for everyone from fraternity brothers to their grandparents.

Philly’s soul is harder to capture. I have some thoughts on it but they are still too murky to share.

Last weekend, with all this in mind, I went to Washington DC to get to know the soul of its startup scene. Startups there are immersed in a city of advocacy, where idealists flock to make change and cynics flock to take advantage of things as they are.

So what does this climate of advocacy mean for startups and innovators in Washington DC?

The short answer is, I don’t know. I spent just one short weekend there, which is long enough to notice a few things but not long enough to be confident in any of them.

So why write at all? Read more…

Saying no imageWhat would happen if you gave up the one thing in your life that’s most important to you?

Think about it for a minute. Imagine ending your marriage. Leaving your job. Closing your business. Abandoning your labor of love.

Would the next chapter in your life be better or worse than this one?

It’s a terrifying question. So terrifying that most of the time, we’ll do anything to avoid it.

It’s also one of the most powerful predictors of our future.

Because when we believe that whatever we have now is as good as it gets, we draw the boundaries of our future. Nothing better can happen to us when we don’t believe there’s anything better out there – when we accept what we have and tell ourselves to be grateful for it.

Great negotiators understand this. They know that what makes for strength at the negotiating table has nothing to do with the money in our wallets, the strength of our resume, our influence over others or our family name. Read more…