Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Next Chapter.

The last 23 months have been some of the most fulfilling months of my life. I joined Acumen Brands on January 10th, 2011. That day was one of the most exciting days I can remember. I was asked to join a small team and try and figure out the future of eretail / ecommerce. CEO, John James painted a picture of a vision that only a crazy person would jump at. Not only were his goals bigger than imaginable, but the road to get there was going to take an intense amount of work, focus and dedication. I can say today, that I am proud to have been one of those crazy people and that we surpassed those original goals and set ones that are now much bigger.

While the past two years have been everything a 26 year old could dream of early in his career, I have the strong urge to build and run my own company. From the day John hired me, we knew that these crossroads would come up at some point. John would agree, I spent more time with Acumen Brands than we ever imagined when I accepted the job. When you love something and dedicate yourself to acheiving a goal, it is extremely hard to leave before the job is done. I am confident that I am leaving Acumen having accomplished more goals than I had originally set out to do when joining.

Over the past two years, I have met and worked alongside some of the most talented people I ever imagined. I have also worked with some of the most amazing partners a company could ask for. I have been challenged unlike ever before, but learned more than any education could ever enable. I have seen opportunities and realizied strategies, that just two years ago, I probably could not have comprehended. I am excited to take the next step, using everything I have learned, the opportunites I have experienced and the people who have made such a great impact on my life and career.

Tomorrow, I will announce my new company, BLKBOXLabs. I have partnered with Joey Nelson, who most recently founded MobileFWD, but was also part of the early team who built Rockfish Interactive. I can’t say that I have ever been more excited for the future.

Thank you John James, Terry Turpin and Acumen Brands for the past 2 years.

Unauthentic Startup Advice

It is important for you to identify startup advice that is authentic from that which is unauthentic. Unfortunately, there is more unauthentic advice out there than is acceptable. Even worse, it puts a young, fragile Arkansas startup community at risk.

Unauthentic Startup Advice
This advice is dangerous, especially for the startup newbie. This advice most often times comes from those who are paid by a ‘higher power’ to “help.” Unfortunately, to be paid, a mission has to be accomplished, dollars have to be created, which requires the “help” to be tied to a motive. Usually that motive isn’t directly tied to you getting to MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or hitting a sales goal or whatever goal you are trying to reach. Due to this, suggestions and ‘advice’ may be given that doesn’t directly correlate with what might be best or most productive for your startup development.

This also means that because the relationship is unauthentic, that the person giving advice doesn’t have a genuine interest invested into you. Because of this, you may find that when you are in a slump, or things are not going particularly well, or more bluntly, you no longer fit within their agenda/motive, that their time/advice will be non existent.

Many people provide value through mentorship and through advising regularly because of the fulfillment it gives them. I am one who meets with people multiple hours weekly in order to provide as much value as possible. Believe me when I say it: I provide Authentic Advice. I have nothing to gain other than the fulfillment of knowing I did as much as possible to help you succeed either through my knowledge, skillset, perspective, network or overall support. Your success doesn’t get me a raise at work. If it did, you could imagine I would find more time to have more time to help. This is not the case though, nor would I put myself in that position.

Not all funded advice is unauthentic. I don’t want to be misunderstood. I am only saying to be careful. Be careful what advice you take from anyone. Have enough discipline to trust your gut and to do what you think is right.

At the end of the day, not everyone is out to see you succeed for the pure fact to see you succeed. Many have motives. Many have agendas. You have to be aware of that so that when dealing with these people, you are comfortable and prepared.

An Arkansas Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

Recently, multiple conversations have led down a path to the same question:

“Do you think that the success of NWAEA, G60, or The Iceberg, etc. could translate and become successful in other parts of the state?”

I quickly challenge and ask the question differently:

“How about: How do you think the early successes in creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Northwest Arkansas, although very much in its infancy, will play a role in the creation of a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem that represents the entire State of Arkansas?”

At first you might think that I am crazy. The ENTIRE State of Arkansas!? Yes, the entire State of Arkansas. I strongly believe that our generation has the opportunity to change the traditional mindset of regional isolation in this state. Little Rock vs Northwest Arkansas, can and should be no more. And what about North Eastern Arkansas or Southern Arkansas? They have entrepreneurs, too.

See, this is not about a pitch contest, a lecture series, or a coworking space; this is about something much larger. Currently, we have the opportunity to connect an entrepreneurial community, as well as a series of economies, across the entire State of Arkansas. I believe that what is taking shape in Northwest Arkansas is just part of that process.

While many are trying to figure out how to launch the next coworking space in Arkansas, or hold the next pitch event, I challenge you to look at the big picture. I challenge you to see the value in a state where entrepreneurs are empowered and regions connected. I challenge you to see a state where the entrepreneurship community of NWA is that of Little Rock as well as Jonesboro and they are viewed as one. I challenge you to look past the isolation of regions and instead see a community of entrepreneurs that encompasses an entire state. I challenge you to see not NWA or LR as a catalyst of entrepreneurship but Arkansas as a catalyst for entrepreneurship.

All of the things that are taking place in Northwest Arkansas around entrepreneurship are happening because of a community. A community that has been built one entrepreneur at a time over the course of a few years. A community that is built on authentic goals and transparent motives. A community that is as much about support and resource for others as it is about success.

I believe that while there are early successes within the NWA entrepreneurial ecosystem, that this is just a step in creating an Arkansas entrepreneurial ecosystem. I believe that, if we, as a statewide community of entrepreneurs look instead at the big picture, instead of merely at the singularities, we will find that the opportunity to do something revolutionary for the State of Arkansas will be within arms reach.

I believe that Arkansas having a reputation for being a great place to be an entrepreneur is much stronger than instead singularly holding that reputation by Northwest Arkansas or Little Rock. I believe that the mindsets of traditional isolation are of yesterday and that the reality of a state-wide Arkansas Entrepreneurship Ecosystem is tomorrow. Today, we have just began.