In 2012, I learned that everything takes longer than expected. In 2013, I was frustrated, but learned about communication and web development. 2014 was a success. HappiLabs hit the one goal that all businesses aim for. Revenue! It’s taken a lot of iterations to identify the revenue-generating product, but we figured it out–the Virtual Lab Manager.
I hired one employee and a handful of scientists for microjob positions. I took 10 roundtrips to San Francisco (mostly on Virgin America), spent over $3,000 with AirBnB, became a regular visitor at QB3@953, made good friends in the Perlstein Lab, appeared on the Groks Science Show and Illinois Business This Week, shared office space at TechNexus, 1871, and EnterpriseWorks; and am raising a baby who will not sleep.
Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned over the past 12 months of being a scientist-turned-entrepreneur from Chicago:
1) Twitter was my best sales, marketing, and communication tool.
If you’re starting a new business, get a Twitter account. It’s where I found HappiLabs’ first customer (@eperlste) in 2014, several of our microjobbers, and potential investors. You can follow people to learn from their lives; find and interact with investors, colleagues, partners, customers, and potential customers; and get updates on the latest breaking news.
2) Rejection stings, but it goes away.
One of the hardest parts of being an entrepreneur includes being rejected. Over and over and over. “No. I don’t have time for you.” “No thanks.” “Not interested.” “You want me to pay you for this? Ha!” And so on. It stings, and it is a cause for breaking down and losing faith in your product. But with patience and persistence, enough people said “Yes” that the no’s didn’t affect my mental stability anymore. I became immune.
3) Having a baby made me a better entrepreneur.
Born on Nov 17, 2013, he made it very easy to focus on what’s important. Now that I have a human being to support, I have a legitimate excuse to say no to people, events, and unnecessary distractions. Say hello to @CharlieAtom.
4) Eat breakfast.
I made it a goal to eat a healthy breakfast regularly. In 2013 and prior, I didn’t and it had always been hard for me to wake up and get in the working zone. So the neuroscientist in me said, “Eat breakfast and your brain will have more nutrients to get going.” Now I always have eggs, fruits (faves = bananas, tangerines), and veggies (faves = olives, avocados, orange peppers) in my kitchen.
5) A ToDo List makes my day waaaay more productive.
Plain and simple, you’ll get more shit done. Read how I created an effective ToDo List.
If you want help or advice about starting your own business or how to be happier, please reach out. Twitter is the easiest place to find me: @letUbeU, or LinkedIn (Tom Ruginis).
2013 was frustrating. My companies didn’t grow as fast as I would have liked them to, but HappiLabs.org has progressed and we see a happy future for the scientific community. Here are 3 lessons, among many, that I learned as a Chicago entrepreneur in 2013:
People will believe in your company if they believe in you…
…Have a passion, a cause, anything that drives you. Customers and investors will follow.
Excellent communication is extremely important.
…Without communication skills, look forward to failed expectations, misunderstandings, and awkward conversations.
Starter League was a great investment…
…I learned to code the front-end of HappiLabs.org, made wonderful friends, and gained a better understanding of how the brain development and web development are very similar.
Is 2014 your year? Entrepreneur Inspiration:
Listen as I explain new scientific research that suggests it is possible to consciously change the structure and function of your brain, including the size of your “happy” region.
You can’t change your brain if you don’t know you can.
What is neuroplasticity? (via @BigThink)
Giving and kindness: Scientists Find That Giving Support Offers Health Benefits (via ScienceDaily)
Avoid unhappy environments: People who have a good peer support system at work may live longer than people who don’t (via Medical News Today)
Food that can help with cognitive function (via SF Gate)
Oxygen Helps Brain (via @ABCnews)
Everyone, we are here to protect your health and your happiness.
Scientists, we’re here to improve the quality of your research. Enjoy…
“Your market is only $11,000,000. No investor will care.”
What an annoying comment I recently overheard while an investor talked with a passionate tech entrepreneur at 1871. The ent’s facial expression quickly evolved into a hybrid of anger and frustration. Apparently, solving problems doesn’t matter much. Timing and size of ROI matters.
Then I read this Opinion/Commentary from Alan I. Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS):
Let me copy & paste the opening paragraph of the Commentary:
Hefty federal deficits in Canada and the United States pose a significant threat to fundamental, basic research as some policy-makers seem to value near-term, industry-focused science more highly. That’s short-sighted and a shame. Basic research is the seed corn for economic growth and the foundation from which we build solutions to society’s big problems.
Policy-makers and investors are in the same boat. I’ve recognized this in the growing tech/digital entrepreneur community in Chicago where investors are ubitquitous. Let’s not lose sight of what’s important. Money is nice, but let’s spend it on solutions to REAL problems. I’m scared of all the time & money that is wasted on silly apps. Can we stop investing in short-term, technological conveniences and focus on long-term, scientific-based solutions?
And by the way, if that entrepreneur can grab ~10% of the market and build a $1 million company that solves a real problem, that’s a hell of a success! #letUbeU
Becoming an entrepreneur is no easy task. You’re venturing into uncharted waters in your life. Some people’s paths will be harder and longer than others, but all paths will follow the same laws. Have you heard of Newton’s Laws of Motion (ex: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction)? Well, entrepreneurs have their own set of laws, as I see it. If you’re a entrepreneur-wanna-be, here are some thoughts to keep in mind…
3 Laws of Failure for Entrepreneurs
First Law = Failure is inevitable.
Get used to it. From Inc. Magazine: Want to Succeed? Get Used to Failure.
Second Law = For every failure, there is a lesson to be learned.
Always be improving. From TED: 8 Talks About Learning From Failure
Third Law = Failure correlates highly with success.
From Entrepreneur.com: Richard Branson on the Secret to Success –> Failure.
If you are aware of these laws, planning will be easier and you’ll have a better chance at success (and happiness). Stay strong and don’t ever give up. #letUbeU
As an entrepreneur in Chicago trying to develop 2 businesses, I travel around the city quite often. Trains & buses, bikes & cars. Sometimes a long walk, other times I pay for a cab. If you are in a similar situation, or plan to be in the future, use these apps to help you get around town efficiently, safe, and dry.
MyRadar – be your own weather forecaster and know when to prepare for wet weather. Use this app to track storm movements in the Midwest. If a storm is in Iowa, you’ll have 2-4 hours before it reaches Chicago. (left: the radar of Chicago as of 1:27pm CT 9/5/12)
Don’t get caught waiting for a bus in the rain with no umbrella.
TransitStop – With data supplied by the CTA, know when your bus or train will arrive. Time it well so you don’t spend those extra minutes at the bus stop. You can stay at home, a coffee shop, or your networking event for a few extra minutes.
As an entrepreneur, every minute counts.
Uber – When you have a late night meeting, networking event, or you’re hanging out with friends, don’t walk to the CTA or drive home while intoxicated. Uber is the quickest & easiest way to find a cab near you and notify them that you want to be picked up. For an extra fee, be picked up by a sleek, black car.
I hope this helps you on your path to happiness as an entrepreneur.