Business

Rockstar Entrepreneurs: Beware the Narrative

Post originally appeared on RocNext blog.

Localized small business is the antithesis of vogue; today, the rags to riches entrepreneur—the Open Source American Dream—is what’s trending. 500,000 startups are launched each month in the United States, and popular culture is actively responding.

We see ABC’s Shark Tank. We listen to startup podcasts. We read magazines (and some of us dream of making INC’s annual 30 Under 30 Coolest Entrepreneurs list).

And while the myth of the young adult entrepreneur as the dominant demographic has been busted (over 80% of new entrepreneurs in 2013 were age 35+; 67% were 45+), one cannot deny the impact young entrepreneur success stories are having on other young adults: Mark Zuckerburg, Drew Houston, Jordi Munoz.

Instead of learning guitar, writing music, and starting garage bands, millennials are now learning code, writing software, and starting garage businesses.

This is good, of course.

We want our young people innovating and raising capital. We want our young minds creatively destroying customer pain.

But the rags to riches narrative, left unchecked, can mislead some talented young business men and women down distracted paths, blinding them for many years to more immediate, local opportunities. (more…)

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Why English Majors Should Pursue Business Careers

As a full-time English major who freelance writes for businesses, I often forget that I am an anomaly. Businesses everywhere are looking for writers and clear communicators; I’m surprised, however, that all my classmates have no idea how desperately they’re needed.

Last week, I was sitting in my creative writing class, killing time before the professor showed, and I overheard a conversation between a few students. They were discussing the frightening realization that college will soon be over, and that their academic security blankets will soon be ripped away, like a determined mother fed up with a binky, et cetera, et cetera.

They talked of the real world:

“What will you do?”

“I have no idea.”

“What will you do?”

“I don’t even know where to begin.”

“What will you do?”

“Me?” I paused, searching. “I’ll be looking in marketing, probably Seattle, San Francisco. Pull from my copy editing, blogging, freelance work. I’d love to find something in digital media, though I would settle for pure technical writing. Ideal, for me,” I continued, in the zone now, “a project manager or business development position within a small to mid-range company.”

I stopped because I sensed the whole room was now listening.

“Wow,” some girl said. “Aren’t you an English major?”

This is a problem.

Private academia can often coddle its college students. English majors, especially, are trapped in this bubble: canons, anthologies, theses. We read the world’s greatest literature spanning from Beowulf to Blood Meridian; we explicate and extrapolate; we read between the lines and find messages that the average reader misses; we communicate clearly, or edit and elucidate incoherent documents into well examined ideas with organization and structure.

English majors have no idea how well their skills translate into business.

I’m an English major and a business major, so I have love for both studies. That said, if I had to pick between hiring two different candidates—all things considered—I would choose the English major. Hands down. Every time.

Let’s make some sweeping statements. 

Here’s what I’ve observed about business majors: (more…)

Rapid Recap: 2014 Digital Rochester GREAT Awards

Tonight, some Rochester tech entrepreneurs are feeling really great.

The 2014 GREAT Awards just let out, and what an honor it was to attend, to be surrounded and inspired by successful entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and rising stars. Digital Rochester, a non profit that brings “technology professionals together within the community,” hosts this swanky event every year. Here’s a succinct vision from the GREAT website:

To recognize and celebrate the Greater Rochester community’s entrepreneurial spirit in technological achievement for advancing commerce and resource conservation.

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The official program began with one of the more entertaining (if not best) opening videos I’ve ever seen for a stuffy, prima facie, awards ceremony, “The Fresh Prince to the Future of Technology.”

After some comical chatter, delicious dinner, and tasty tweets (eating and tweeting), the awards ceremony kicked off. There were eight award categories and twenty-four finalists in all.

Here’s a quick list of those who won: 

(more…)

Modern Mantras in Aged Fiction: Crichton’s Formula for Success

Hidden away in a forty year old (mainstream) fiction novel—a potboiler, a seemingly shallow tale, prime facie—lies the secret formula for life’s success. I almost couldn’t believe it when I read it. It was so simple, so perfect. See, I’ve perused business books and self-help guides, written by CEOs, millionaires and pastors; all these people with too much time on their hands, penning “how to succeed in life.” And I’ve read them, too, because that’s what leaders do. We read books and make mantras and talk about them on our blogs. But the lessons learned in business books often dissipate faster than tweets, and we’re again left with just ourselves, curious and conspiring.

But these two sentences said everything—articulated in a cold, simple language, a language that only Michael Crichton, the master of logical and academic science fiction, could accomplish.

You went out and you hunted, armed with your maps and your instruments, but in the end your preparations did not matter, or even your intuition. You needed your luck, and whatever benefits accrued to the diligent, through sheer, grinding hard work.

Take a second, and read it again. For me? And take it slow, because these are two damn-good, well-constructed sentences. Drink them like you would an overpriced glass of wine, and when you’re done, close your eyes to impress your friends. (more…)