What’s more motivating for you — learning how to fish or the fish itself? (Image Source: http://thelakemurraynews.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Fishing.jpg)
I was talking to an intellectual yesterday about an idea of his. He’s an entrepreneur in the marketing realm, and wants to get a technology idea off the ground. He’s also an author and PhD with a wide breadth of exciting experiences; hence the “intellectual”.
So we were talking about his idea, and it’s in the realm of politics. I know diddly squat about politics. I’m sitting there and understanding what he’s proposing conceptually, and at the end, he asked me to get back to him if I’m interested in taking on the project in some capacity, but also, if I’m not passionate about it or the subject at all, then no worries.
That little bit made me think about if I need to know or “care” about politics, or if there was another drive that would motivate me to take this on. It made me think of what I’m passionate about, what challenges I find rewarding, and to some extent, what am I scared of – the domain of an idea or building the idea.
Throughout our talk, I was leaning on my experience building startups in thinking about the venture as it relates to marketing, user experience, and largely, the technical mechanics of it. It’s not technically difficult to be honest, but I don’t know politics necessarily. So all this time, the hamster in my head is running furiously thinking about the building aspect of the idea, not really politics. That’s what drives me.
I’ve long called myself an opportunist. I mentioned in prior posts like “The Next Act for an Entrepreneur With Breadth, Not Depth – Am I A Product Manager?” that I don’t necessarily have a specific domain expertise, but look at what I’ve done, and you won’t necessarily find much commonalities in domains. Instead, you’d find the BUILDING part of my ventures as the common thread. It’s the thrill of the strategy formation, hypothesis testing, implementation, learning, and then the recycle.
Thinking about this “domain” vs. “build” concept, I suppose I can relate “build” to the “work”, “implementation”, or “delivery” of other occupations or even in the corporate job world. Or better yet, “domain” would be the “what” question and “build” would be the “how” question. For me, it doesn’t so much matter about what an occupation or idea is in. Instead, I’m interested in the “how”. What scares me when I’m building iOS apps right now, for instance, is how to mechanize an idea. How do I use the iPhone’s GPS, if I’ve never used it before?

Taking the old proverb, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. But perhaps the more relevant question is if the man even wants fish. What if he’s allergic?! So fishing, in this case, is the “HOW”. And the “fish” is actually the “WHAT”.

And of course, you have more questions that can and will motivate you as you choose a new job, a new venture, etc. including WHO, WHEN, WHERE, and my favorite… the WHY.
  • The Who question can address who you work with (want to work with your best friend?) or who you serve.
  • The When question can address if timing is right – if the market’s ready, if you’re ready, etc.
  • The WHERE question, similarly to WHEN, can address if the location’s right. 
  • The Why question is a tough one, and yet so easy… this can answer if you’re in sync with the purpose of a company. Is the company pursuing a mission you’re proud of and feel strongly about?

But with the Intellectual, the questions that raced into my mind that concerned me the most were that of the domain (the WHAT) and how mechanizing the idea would work (the HOW). At least with this opportunity, I wouldn’t be able to tell if BM would or would not be someone WHO I would want to work with. I will have to consider the WHEN question before I get back to him given my bandwidth now and in the foreseeable future. And as for the WHY, this opportunity would allow me to learn a lot from a brilliant, well-connected individual that would perhaps be a great stepping stone for something later I could be even more passionate about.
Of course, for me, I have to be wary of that the building process only lasts for so long before the product reaches maturity and stability. And thus, the challenge dissipates, but perhaps, the challenge actually transforms into another type of build… like building a company, or building new innovative ideas… but in a better case, the WHAT becomes just as appealing as the HOW.

What are your thoughts about what excites you about your job or a new opportunity – is it the domain or the build? How do you consider the other questions (who, when, why) as you evaluate options?
So last month’s installment of Finance of Startups, I covered “par value” after encountering the term in Etsy’s S-1. In it, recall that par value is the price at which a security is issued and redeemed at. Well, par value really leads into a much longer conversation around a particular security called Bonds.
In gist, Bonds are similar to loans or “IOUs” (read: debt) whereby you, as an investor, lends money to a company, government, other institution with the promise of paying you back with interest. So in this case, par value is the amount the bond is issued at, and multiplied against the number of bonds issued, equivalent to the money lent.
To understand bonds, we’ve got to explore a few concepts of bonds including:
  • Maturity date
  • Coupon rate
  • Premium vs. Discount

I’m happy for you, and Imma let you finish, but first… let’s recap par value

So “par value” actually arose from recently looking at Etsy’s Form S-1 as they’re seeking an IPO.
So I’m going to dive into par value, especially in relation to bonds. Yes, the S-1 is for stock issuance (equity financing), but to give you a better picture (and for myself), I’ll paint this in the light of bonds (debt financing). Then, I’ll circle back around to par value for stocks. Also, yes, I’m about to get a little technical!
Par value (also known as par, nominal value, and face value) refers to the original price a security is issued at (and redeemed). Par value is more typically referred to in bonds where bonds are issued at and redeemed after its maturity period at par – typically $1,000 or $100.

Now, let’s talk about your Maturity

The maturity date (period), in the case of bonds, is the date at which the bond expires (bond is redeemed at the par value at this point). Oftentimes, bonds have a maturity period of 30 years.
There. That was simple. Next!

Coupon rate and payments

Going hand-in-hand with par value is the concept of the coupon rate which is similar to a fixed dividend and is a percentage of the par value – payments referred to as coupon payments. As a bond is bought and sold, traded, its coupon payment is exactly the same for the life of the bond till it hits maturity no matter the actual price of the bond at the time of the transaction – because the coupon payment is based on the par value (original issue!). Okay, here are a couple examples:
Example 1. 
Bond AA is issued with a 30-year maturity, coupon rate of 8% and par value = $1,000
Year 0
Bond is bought at $1,000
Year 1
Coupon payment is issued at $80
Year 2
Coupon payment is issued at $80
Year 3
Bond is sold and bought at $1,100
Year 4
(New buyer) Coupon payment is issued at $80
Year 5
Coupon payment is issued at $80
Year 30
Bond is redeemed for $1,000
Example 2.
Bond BB is issued with a 30-year maturity, coupon rate of 4% and par value = $100
Year 0
Bond is bought at $100
Year 1
Coupon payment is issued at $4
Year 2
Coupon payment is issued at $4
Year 3
Bond is sold and bought at $98
Year 4
(New buyer) Coupon payment is issued at $4
Year 5
Coupon payment is issued at $4
Year 30
Bond is redeemed for $100
Make sense so far? Okay, so if you’re looking at the above, you might be savvy and ask why bonds would trade above or below par – depends on the economy’s interest rates! Depending the interest rate of the company, due to the fixed returns of bonds, financiers may opt to invest in bonds or choose an alternative security that pays higher.

Are you trading at a Premium or a Discount?

If the coupon rate is 8% and interest rate is 5%, bonds may trade above par value (called a “premium”) because the bond yields a greater return. This is what happened in Year 3 for Bond AA example above.
If the coupon rate is 4% and the interest rate is 5%, bonds may trade below par value (called a “discount”) – Bond BB in the examples above. Make sense?

Recall again…

“So all this talk about bonds, but Etsy and other companies are issuing stock with some par value. What gives?”
Well, companies will typically attach a very, very small par value (like Etsy’s S-1 shows above) to a stock or no par value at all. This enables Etsy to limit or avoid altogether liability should a stock drop. For example, if Company Not Great issued stock with a par value of $10, and its stock started trading at $5, then it would technically be liable to the shareholder at $5 per stock!

Conclusion

Okay, that was technical. Does that make sense?
  • Par value for stocks à very little, or none to limit liability. For bonds, par value is the “face value” (or nominal value) of the bond that it is issued or redeemed at maturity.
  • The par value works with a coupon rate to determine fixed annual payments.
  • And depending on the economic interest rates, the bond may be traded at a premium or a discount (because you could get better returns either through the coupon payments or via other investments).

As always, feel free to email or tweet at me @TheDLu if you’ve got more questions, or if you want me to do some financial research for you for next month’s Finance for Startups.

I don’t have a thought-provoking post today, but instead, I’m going to share a few pictures I took of the door to the men’s bathroom at Atlanta Tech Village back in January. Why? Because in the spirit of entrepreneurship, 1) I think these pictures are great representations of user experience not matching its intended design and 2) lean startup methodology for a short-term resolution.
So the first picture here is of the door leading to the bathroom on the first floor. Looks pretty simple and straight forward, right? Except, it’s not.

You see, design-wise, this simple entrance and exit would normally mean you turn this little doodad:
Yes, a door knob. Except, when you go to turn it, it doesn’t turn. So, it’s pretty common to see people walk up to the door, attempt to turn it, find it “locked”, and either wait for someone inside to open (thinking someone’s inside), or leave altogether.
Upon closer inspection, the door jam is stuffed with paper. Instead, this door is meant to be pushed [from the outside]. See, this door knob is really arbitrary, and actually, it’s misleading. Here’s an example where design and engineering aren’t matching.
What this door should have is a simple “push” plate/ handle like you would find in any other push/ pull door. Yeah, like this one:
Or something like this:
You get the point.
Anyways, leave it for someone to implement a really simple solution in a rather lean startup way…
I don’t have a picture of the door since January, but I’ll update this post after Friday when I stop by ATV to see what’s changed. Last I remember, it hasn’t quite changed. Instead, I’ve just gotten used to ignoring the door knob and pushed through.

[EDIT] Here’s a picture of the door today (as of April 24, 2015)…

They implemented a push plate — there you go…
So the point here is really very simple: design simply and ensure user experience matches the design you intended. Sure in this example, users can get upset or worse have a kindergarten accident (hopefully not likely). But in today’s technology world, we as entrepreneurs, designers, and builders sometimes do not get second chances before users dump our app or SaaS in favor of a simpler, accurate, and engaging user experience.
Also, sometimes the most effective solution is really a lean startup-like solution in the short-term. In this case, a simple note taped to the door notifying the user to “Push” is sufficient for now. Most people will overlook the tackiness of this approach before you can actually replace the whole door knob in favor of one of the “Push” handles later.
Characters from CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother”
Barney Stinson from CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother” makes introductions look easy. And in actuality, you’d think introductions and referrals should be extremely simple, but unfortunately, they can be utterly complicated. I’ve always valued relationships believing that success can be attributed to the people who put us in position to “win”. In the professional world, leveraging relationships is “networking”, and the greatest networkers are less about who they connect with as much as who they connect to who.
I’m going with the assumption that by reading this you already understand the opportunities networking and connecting affords. But a few examples anyways:
  • Connecting to others can open doors to the right customers you’ve had your eyes on for months.
  • Connecting to the organizer and chairperson of a tradeshow may get you introduced and in-the-know of everyone else attending the tradeshow. They are, after all, the common point.
  • Connecting with your old college buddy’s company’s Vice President can land you your dream job.

For so many reasons, I love introducing the good people I know with other good people. However, it can be tricky business, especially when others don’t value relationships quite like I do. So here are some simple thoughts on introductions and networking:

  1. It’s your reputation and your relationship. The people you introduce together are representatives of you vis-à-vis the people you associate with. Be cognizant of this. If you’re one of the people being introduced by someone, be considerate of the person making the connection.
  2. Are all parties equally interested in meeting? Not everyone is interested or “have the time” for new connections. What you’ll find when making connections is that there really needs to be hooks/ motivations for both parties to be connected together. As the person making an introduction, you should be clear why you want to make the introduction (explicit motivation).
  3. Ensure both parties are able to and committed to connect. I remember an instance where a new connection (“requestor”) wanted an introduction to a staff member (“requestee”) at my grad school. I sent a quick intro email, and within an hour, the requestee sent an email to the requestor excited to connect. The requestor, though, went silent. No response for weeks citing “really busy”. *Palm, meet forehead.* After that debacle, before I make an introduction, I now explicitly ask both the requestor and requestee separately if they’re interested in connecting with the other and if they can be responsive within two days.
  4. Help spark the introduction. If you’re making the introduction, you’re the catalyst. Remember those parties back in the day when the shy boy is too shy to talk to the shy girl? Try to nudge-start the conversation. This isn’t necessary for all introductions, but sometimes, it’s appropriate to ask one person to introduce him/ herself – I like the requestor to start the conversation.
  5. Know how, why, when to ask for introductions. If you’re ever looking for an introduction to someone, nail down the purpose, share it with the mutual connection, and get feedback if that works. Again, it’s her connection so asking for her feedback ensures she’s comfortable and she’s more bought into connecting.
  6. Warm is always better than cold. Some entrepreneurs have a “me against the world” mentality and don’t want to leverage relationships for introductions. Perhaps they like the challenge of thinking they can build something great on their own. However, anyone in sales will tell you warm trumps cold any day of the week. Use your connections.
  7. Thanks.People are taking the time out of their days to either set you up to meet that person you’ve been longing to meet, or you’re meeting someone who could change the trajectory of your company. Thank everyone involved for making the introduction individually.  
(image source: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Czi-rTRRhsE/UwYNolZvcJI/AAAAAAAAFyw/WNss2XELITw/s1600/have_you_met_ted_2013-08-01_23-44-40.gif)
Introductions shouldn’t be hard, but I’ve been burned plenty of times to know that introductions can be tricky. I’ve also met some great people benefiting personally and professionally through introductions so it’s clear the power of relationships. At the end of the day, I’m more cautious of making introductions, and it’s shown to create better introductions for both sides.

As all relationships showcase and to the first point above, connections and introductions are about trust – trust in individuals representing themselves and you accurately and appropriately.

What are some of your tips for making introductions both what to do and what not to do? What traits does a person have that you’d have no problems making introductions for?
Alicia Carr and The Purple Pocketbook
At 51.5 years old, you wouldn’t expect Alicia Carr to be an avid iOS programmer — I chuckled when she included the “half”. She’s a mother to three children and an energetic grandmother to seven grandchildren. She looks way too young to have so many grandchildren. Even as she’s busy running around taking care of everyone, in her waking hours, she’s buried in her MacBook coding away iOS apps.
Alicia sparked up a conversation with me at Starbucks yesterday out of the blue. She saw my Windows PC pulled up with my MacBook right next to it. It was obvious the moment she asked me, “What do you do?” that she was up to something of her own, and it wouldn’t take much time for her to spill the beans on her current passion and idea — The Purple Pocketbook.
The Purple Pocketbook can be found in the Apple App Store and on the Google Play Store
Over the course of the next 30 minutes, Alicia shared more of her story, her aspirations, her family, and her goals of the Purple Pocketbook, and given her passions in app development, I was intrigued to learn more about the Purple Pocketbook.
In 2005, Alicia lost her best friend to domestic violence. She put on a brave, stoic face telling me about how her friend was murdered in a front yard. Three gunshots. She was also a witness to her mother’s abuse, and her aunt was even on the brink of death after being stabbed multiple times by her then boyfriend. Then, there are countless friends and, yes, even daughters and other family members of hers who endured domestic abuse. To say Alicia has an intimate understanding of domestic violence and its ramifications would be an understatement, and that’s what set Alicia on her way to helping others understand and deal with domestic violence.
Alicia first became a Certified Empowerment and Relationship Life Coach in 2009 to help others. However, Alicia knew to help the masses, there would be a better way… building The Purple Pocketbook would be that way – the app empowering users to recognize domestic abuse and seek help safely.

(If you didn’t know, Purple is the color associated with domestic violence and used to raise awareness much like pink is known for breast cancer.)
Alicia’s actually a tech-savvy woman having learned HTML back in 1995 before dabbling in JAVA and SQL. But it was years before Alicia really got into full-blown programming, and learned how to code for Apple’s iOS ecosystem. This was actually a funny story…
Back in 2011, Alicia recalls standing in line at the Apple store waiting to get her hands on the iPad. Being the ever extrovert and curious woman, she noticed a 16-year-old boy waiting to pick up the iPad himself. She was astounded his parents just gave him the cash to buy it, but when she asked the boy about the money, the boy told her that it was actually his money. He was actually a millionaire [self-proclaimed, anyways]. He built an app years prior and it had done very well. You can imagine what Alicia said next… “I want to do what you do!” 
She had always wanted to build and program, and given the quality of resources available to domestic violence victims, Alicia knew she could provide a better tool vis-a-vis an app teaching users what to look out for, laws and aids available to victims, local shelters, and the like.
In September 2013, Alicia started her iOS path with a 3-month online course. 
With the single course under her iOS belt, Alicia took on building the first version of the Purple Pocketbook in January 2014. It was all her own, and a challenge she was thrilled to undertake. 
She finished the app in March, but had to go through several refinements before Apple finally accepted Purple Pocketbook into its App Store on May 2, 2014. Alicia recalls this fondly and breathes deeply as if it was today. She remembered how much she wanted to just pack it all up after failed submissions, but her friends and family continually pushed her and supported her, willing her across the finish line.
The Purple Pocketbook includes the key points to educate users for the prevention of domestic violence and where/ how to seek help if in a domestic abuse situation
So today, it’s been a year since she “first finished” Purple Pocketbook. She’s focused the app on Georgia users as curating additional content including state laws and shelters requires extensive time researching. She hopes to one day go national, though. She’s got a little traction, but as most entrepreneurs will say, building an app is one thing, but the real challenge is getting users. For now, Alicia’s learning new areas she had never experienced including marketing and promoting the app — she’s continually reaching out to shelters across Georgia, reaching out to bloggers, tweeting, and the like. However, she’s still struggling with marketing.
We talked about a few routes including blogging. For Alicia and what she’s trying to accomplish, blogging and driving inbound traffic is important. Tweeting and Facebook posts are fine, and should be done. However, especially in domestic abuse, victims are not going to Twitter or Facebook for help. They’re likely going to Google for help, so adding content to her site and her app will help drive traffic and get her exposure.
Additionally, we talked about the opportunities for success stories, shelters, and the like to help guest write thereby helping her overcome her self-professed FEAR of writing. 
As with any entrepreneurial endeavor, there’s a host of things to do to market and “sell” the app, but it’s important to focus on the key points. However, she’s on a good path, and can focus more attention on marketing and getting users. Relying on others to help promote is much like outsourcing coding. For her, it makes more sense to continue to keep things “in-house” and find ways to market. 
Since she’s started coding, Alicia has also been attending several startup events and is an active member of Women Who Code. Perhaps her passions helping others, coding, and teaching will be an opportunity for her in the future to teach victims of domestic violence how to code as part of a recovery tool.
Alicia’s story is very inspiring as she’s working against the currents. She mentions how others constantly ask her why she’s learning how to program at a later age. She also mentions the difficulty in obtaining a full-time job in iOS development being a black woman; so instead, she takes on contract roles. For Alicia, she’s found a revitalizing formula in self-challenging and self-empowerment while striving for her greater purpose with coding and The Purple Pocketbook.
Would you like to get in touch with Alicia? You can email her at purplepocketbook@gmail.com or follow her @purplpocketbook. You can download The Purple Pocketbook on the Apple App Storehere or on Google’s Play Store.