Equity, tokens and working for free

Ten years ago I used to get offered equity to work for free, now I get offered tokens in upcoming ICO’s. I used to say yes to many equity offers if:

(A) I liked the project

(B) I liked the people

As you can imagine most of these projects never went anywhere. I’ve now got many 1% shares in imaginary companies that no longer exist. I’d hazard to guess many ICOs are also going to end up as Imaginary Cash Only.  So should you accept such an offer from some cool people? Well, it really depends on why you’re doing the work. If it’s for experience, then why not? Think of it as part of your ‘free education’ in industry XYZ. Many of the most valuable things I’ve done in my career started out in the free zone.

My approach today however, is a little different. Here’s how a decide whether or not to work for non cash payment:

If I wouldn’t invest my own money in that startup or activity, then I wont accept non-cash payments. Why – because they are essentially the same thing. We are handing over money to the project or company.

Another thing worth considering is why the person on the other side of the equation would give away equity for labour. If they truly believe in their project, why are they so eager to give up equity? It’s certainly worth asking them that question.

In my experience smart entrepreneurs ask for money, not free labour. Especially when money follows good ideas, strong teams, and that managing free labour adds friction and complexity to the project or startup itself.

Your work is worth more than you think, Steve. 

You don't need an investor

Venture Capitalist

Yesterday I got an email from Sam Birmingham from Pollenizer, and it’s message was so compelling, I had to share it here:

It is something we hear all too often… “I was wondering if you could help me find an investor?”

You don’t need an investor. You need customers.

You don’t need an investor. You need to prove that you are developing a sustainable business model.

You don’t need an investor. You need to focus on learning as much as you can with the finite resources at your disposal.

Sometimes having limited time / money / people can be an advantage. Do the best you can with what you’ve got. Stop making and start answering the most important question in entrepreneurship – what comes next? 

For more startup goodness be sure to check out the Pollenizer blog. 

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

A pharmaceutical mashup – Vitamints

Sometimes a startup just make sense. Logical in hindsight to the point where it feels like we should have done it.

Vitamints is one such startup. It is what it says – Vitamins which are also mints.

This Australian startup has taken some really clever insights to form the basis of the product format and it goes a little deeper than vitamins that taste nice. They found that houses were graveyards for half used vitamin bottles (I know mine is!!). The basic idea was to get vitamins out of the kitchen cupboard and into peoples pockets, like gum. So why not package it like gum? Why not make it taste nice? Why not distribute it in more convenient locations?

They did.

And aside from the fact that mints in convenience stores are almost the fastest growing impulse purchase, Vitamints taps beautifully into the mobile society we now live in. Your vitamins now live in your pocket people. Sounds a bit like a classic web mashup business, but in an old tired category. Once again industry incumbents need to take a lesson from an innovative new business – maybe that’s why I like it so much.

I can’t wait to read about them getting bought out by a multinational pharmaceutical company in 10 years time.

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Entrepreneurship is in our DNA

We are all born entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is inextricably linked to human behaviour. To explore, to understand, to invent and to embrace take risk. Risk which results in a better situation for us and our stakeholders. Knowing that we will fail, and even learning to endure, no less enjoy that as part of it. Civilisation and evolution of humans is due to our entrepreneurial nature. It’s why we live in houses, drive cars, have climate control and everything we enjoy today. It’s part of our genetic code. It’s what differentiates us from all other creatures.

The word Entrepreneur

en⋅tre⋅pre⋅neur

Noun: A person who organises and manages any enterprises, esp a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.

The word origin is from 1875-80 coming from the French word ‘Entrepren’ – meaning to undertake. To do something. Also the word Enterprise. Is about entering and taking. Enter / prendere.

To be entrepreneurs is it about doing. Not over replanning or talking. It’s about action. Learning on the job. The most insightful ideas and poignant moments I have had in my life haven’t been while writing or typing, but when I’ve been acting.

Our code must be acted upon. Go act out your code.

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