VIDEOS: My Advice for Entrepreneurs (it’s all here)

In the past year I've given the following talks that explain the majority of my general advice for entrepreneurs.  If you want to know what I did, and what I think you need to do to be successful... then grab some popcorn, set aside 3 hours (not all at once...), and enjoy. 10 Strategies for Startup Success 21 Golden Rules for Entrepreneurs How to Break Out of the Pack

How to Start a Business: 60+ Video Series with Jason Nazar

The most comprehensive (& free) videos on How to Start a Business.  Over 5 hours of expert content, graphics and tutorials by Jason Nazar.  Watch the full video series here.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-jp06gIjt0&list=PL7x45KHuu46kNRyey1quSft2GFoz-iJSS

eBook: How to Start a Business

The eBook compliment to the "How to Start a Business" video series; written by Jason Nazar & Rochelle Balis. Get it for free on Amazon or Itunes.

The Master Checklist of EVERYTHING You Need to Start a Business

I've spent almost 20 years starting businesses and helping hundreds of clients, colleges & friends start theirs.  I created this resource to have the single most comprehensive guide anywhere on all the different items involved in starting a business.  I wish I had this years ago...

Mandatory tasks are required under the law in order to operate a valid and compliant business.

Recommended tasks, although not strictly required under the law, are tasks that should be undertaken in order to grow and protect a new business.

Ideation & Protecting Ideas

Mandatory

Recommended

  • Vet your idea with the idea checklist.
  • Protect your ideas when sharing them with others by using an NDA.
  • Search your state’s corporation and LLC name registration database to ensure your business name has not been taken.
  • Check GoogleYellow Pages, and local directories to ensure your business name is not taken.
  • Learn how to select a good business name.

Forming Your Entity

Mandatory

Recommended

  • Going into a Partnership? Create a Partnership Agreement.
  • Check your state government’s website for other state-specific registration, taxation and employment rules.
  • Get your DBA (Doing Business As) which allows a business to operate under a fictitious name (this is required for sole proprietorships that want to operate under any name other than the name of the business owner).
  • Open your company bank account.

Identity and Branding

Recommended

Financing and Business Planning

Recommended

Operations

Mandatory

Recommended

Financial Planning & Accounting

Mandatory

Recommended

Business Mentors

Recommended

  • Speak to entrepreneurs and leaders in your industry and consider asking them to be your mentor.
  • Ask mentors to join your Board of Advisors (for the overall benefit of the company).

Building a Team

Mandatory

Recommended

Human Resources

Mandatory

Recommended

Sales

Recommended

Marketing & PR

Recommended

Insurance

Mandatory

• Common: workers' compensationunemployment and disability insurance.

• Others: propertyliability or business overhead insurance.

Recommended

  • Check any potential insurance providers here

Legal

Recommended

CHECKLIST FOR YOUR SPECIFIC BUSINESS

Service-Based Businesses

Mandatory

  • Determine the price of your services.

Recommended

  • Don’t forget to clarify the deliverable, deadline and cost in your service agreement.

Retail/Brick and Mortar Businesses

Mandatory

  • Check zoning laws.
  • Secure a lease.
  • Decide on days and hours of operation.
  • Determine staffing needs (for prime hours, slower times, closing an inventory).
  • Secure the correct permits and licenses for your city and state.
  • Set up lighting and utilities.
  • Acquire furniture, register, racks, tables and wall displays, a register, etc.
  • Get a state-specific Seller’s Permit or Resale Permit to properly collect sales tax.

Recommended

  • Choose a location with good foot traffic, size and appearance.
  • Speak with a commercial realtor to get an idea of what to look for and what to expect.
  • Establish agreements with your manufacturer, distributor or wholesale supplier.
  • Set up inventory tracking (understand a Stock Keeping Unit).
  • Set up your Yelp page.

Online Businesses

Mandatory

Recommended

Don’t Take for Granted…

Don't take for granted your life, even if you think it's filled with strife Don't take for granted your health, it can't be replaced any amount of wealth Don't take for granted your friends, they may be all you have in the end Don't take for granted your kin, for they love you in spite of your sins Don't take for granted your dad, he may get mad when you're bad but his love is no fad Don't take for granted your mom, she's always there when everything goes wrong Don't take for granted your wife, she is your life Don't take for granted your husband, and he'll always honor the band on your left hand Don't take for granted your child, for nothing will bring you more smiles Don't take for granted time, it's stolen more than any crime Don't take for granted money, when it's gone it's not funny Don't take for granted a single moment,  they flash brilliant and then forever go out of print Don't take for granted your president, he's only a temporary resident Don't take for granted any person on the street, for they too have a fragile heartbeat Don't take for granted yourself in anyway, even if the message is delivered in silly wordplay

Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

These are the core questions that I ask every person that I interview. I've narrowed the list down to the top 7 questions I ask from a list of hundreds I have tried. Hope this helps. And as a bonus threw in a video for those folks looking for a job on the best way to get that interview.

The Best Restaurants in Los Angeles

I eat out almost every meal.  I'll spend time on Citysearch and Yelp trying to find good new spots to try, but my preference is still to get great recommendation from friends.  Enter Leslie Wade, who put this list together for me below in an email (including the cute commentary), and I feel compelled to share it with the world since she's not yet doing her own blogging.  I can at least take credit for adding the links :)  This list does skew to fancier places in the Westside/Hollywood area, but those are some of the best spots in LA. (*) denotes a recommendation. Others listed are in the area and definitely great spots, but may not be ideal for groups. Animal - great space...they do lots of private parties. Not much for vegetarian options though. * AOC - the food here is amazing, wine is amazing and their wine bar/bistro fare is fun for a group Bastide * Bazaar at the SLS – no matter how many times people have been, it’s always fun. Interesting (it's all molecular gastronomy), delicious food and WAY fun drinks. * BLT Steak - great steakhouse (a Wadavon favorite) with amazing food, service, and a nice group dining area. Plus those popovers always get people talking. * BOA Steakhouse on Sunset - really beautiful patio/bar area. Plus, you can’t go wrong with steakhouse fare when trying to please a large group. Bungalow Club – an LA staple for events. There’s a reason for that...people love it. Campanile – lovely inside, lovely food. Comme Ça Dominick's – low key. good for groups... food is ok, drinks are better- a more laid-back atmosphere Eva – for the foodies. Gordon Ramsay at the London - restaurant is $$$ but the roof-top pool area for drinks is really lovely for after dinner Hatfield's - if it’s about the food- this is the place. * Jar – the food here is a sure crowd-pleaser. Comfort food done up fancy in a sweet, minimalist spot. Great wine list, great cocktails. Katana – definitely fun for a group (but I know you know this spot) Koi – a weho staple. La Paella - décor is nothing special, but the food is authentic and great Lucques - inside is rustic, yet chic. For the foodies. Nobu Matsuhisa - another weho staple. Osteria Mozza – the food is great and it’s a nice space. Anyone who hasn’t been yet will have most likely been dying to try it. Great wine list. Ortolan - super French and fancy (if that’s what you’re going for) * Pali House – haven’t tried the food- but the space has a great environment. The dining patio area is really lovely and the drinks there are great * Providence – if budget isn’t an issue, Providence is the type of place to BLOW EVERYONE AWAY. Gorgeous inside, amazing food (primarily seafood). * Red O – beautiful inside, the food is decent but definitely a crowd-pleaser, plus it’s the “it” place in LA, so people would like it for the “event” of it. RH – hidden gem inside the Andaz Hotel on Sunset. Not many people know about it, so it’s a nice surprise how cute it is.                                                                                           Simon LA - (which I know YOU know!) Great patio area...plus the Junk Food platter is always a crowd-pleaser STK - lovely inside, the typical dark, moody steakhouse feel. Nice booths- not sure about a big group though. Susan Feniger's Street - food is interesting (not outstanding), but it’s definitely fun. And it’s got a nice patio for a group dining experience. * The Tar Pit – SO cute. The inside is lovely, a very 1920s vibe (http://tarpitbar.squarespace.com/pics/the-tar-pit/)...food is great, drinks are amazing. The Foundry on Melrose - popular for group events for a reason. This place is always a crowd-pleaser.                                                                                                                                     * Tres by Jose Andrés - same chef at The Bazaar... nothing here disappoints. Plus the hotel is beautiful and the drinks are amazing.                                                                     XIV – the food is fancy, lots of “foams” and “terrines” and such. But could be nice for a group event. Honorable mentions: (probably too casual, but worth a mention anyway because of the food) Amalfi Angelini Osteria Umami Burger

The Challenges (& Opportunities) of Starting a Tech Company in LA

I recently hosted a panel at the Twiistup Conference about LA tech companies.   I asked the panelists (David Travers, Brian Norgard, Fouad ElNaggar, & Demian Sellfors) about the specific challenges that we face down here in Los Angeles as opposed to Silicon Valley.  I have some pretty specific thoughts on the differences between companies in the two cities, as I wrote about in my previous post A Tale of Two Tech Cities.  But I thought I'd take some more time here to expand on what I think are the challenges, and opportunities, of starting a tech company in LA. Challenge #1 - Tech Companies are Not Typically Started by Technologists. In the bay area it's quite common for the entrepreneurs starting a company to be developers or technologists who can build the first versions of their products.  That's typically not the case in Los Angeles.  Here it seems that entrepreneurs are coming out of business school, transitioning from corporate life, or hail from the entertainment industry.    Whereas in Silicon Valley, you can have a V.1 of a product up and running in a few months weeks getting thousands of users for next to no capital, in Los Angeles many folks will take over a year and spend a million dollars just to get a beta product ready. A perfect case in point is Mark Hendrickson the founder of Plancast.  He worked for me at Docstoc for a brief stint (and did an awesome job) after being a writer at TechCrunch for a few years.  When he had the idea for his company, he didn't write a long business plan or try to raise money to hire an agency to build a website for him.  He just pounded out design and code for a few weeks and got Plancast up on the web and users adopting his product right away. In Los Angeles we are at a disadvantage because the founder(s) often have no experience in building consumer web applications.  This makes it infinitely more difficult  to bring our ideas to life, to quickly iterate on the inevitable misdirections that happen early and often, and to raise capital to continue building our companies. Opportunity #1 - Tech Companies are Not Typically Started by Technologists. Entrepreneurs that start companies in LA are often focused on revenue and business models.  If you can create such a virally popular product that it reaches millions of people... yes, you can put off worrying about business models and revenue, but this isn't the case for most of us.  The fact that we're focused on building great businesses and not just great products, give us our own advantages. While we often lack the technology and product depth of our counterparts in the Bay, I would argue that entrepreneurs in LA would thrive if you dropped them into any industry.  We tend to be better at things like team building, negotiations, sales, and fundraising - which are arguably the most important skills entrepreneurs should posses. Challenge #2 - There is Not Enough Great Tech, Product and UI/UX Design Talent in LA . Simply put LA has a lack of GREAT product, UI/UX, and design talent.  I know because I've spent the last three years trying to hire these folks.  Many of the product managers/designers in LA come from the entertainment industry, which doesn't lay the foundation for how to build an addictive interactive consumer experience.  You'll often find folks that are great at big glossy designs, but who lack the depth and experience to build a seemless user experience that just feels intuitive to the person engaging with the website. Opportunity #2 - There is Less Poaching of Great Tech, Product and UI/UX Design Talent in LA . On the other hand, if you are able to build a great product team (like we have at Docstoc) then you are much less susceptible to have these folks poached away from your company.  In the bay area you have Facebook stealing employees from Google, Zynga stealing from Facebook, and some new hotshot startup ready next in line to pounce.  Loosing talent is a HUGE problem and the reason why Google will give big bonuses and cash to keep their teams in tact. Challenge #3 - There Needs to Be More Institutional Capital in Los Angeles . There simply are NOT enough venture capital firms in the Southern California.  In the bay area there are dozens of firms that are actively making investments.  In LA there has typically been a small handful of firms actively making investments in tech, they include: Rustic CanyonGRP ParnersClearstone Venture Partners, Redpoint VenturesMission VenturesAnthem Venture PartnersGreycroftCrosscutPalomar Ventures, and Rincon Ventures.  It's a chicken and egg problem.  If there were more great companies coming out of LA then it would create more demand for high quality VC firms.  But there are also less great companies in LA, BECAUSE there is less access to sophisticated capital. Opportunity #3 - There is Plenty of Capital for Great Team/Products . Despite the above, great entrepreneurs, teams, companies in LA can always find capital.  They're the ones that rise to the cream of the crop and get the attention of the folks that are investing in LA, and they often have Bay Area or East Coast suitors who want to invest in their companies.   If you're complaining that its too hard to raise money as the founder of an LA tech company, stop bitching about a lack of funds and focus on being a bigger badass. Challenge #4 - We are Divided by Our Geography. LA is really a collection of many different cities, that depending on traffic, can be anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours away from each other.  There's Santa Monica, Westside, Hollywood, Downtown LA, the Valley, and Pasadena.  This dispersed geography prevents entrepreneurs from easily meeting up for both formal functions and the informal drinks/dinner that so often lead to great ideas and partnerships.  In San Francisco, you can walk out of your office and within a 1 mile square radius you probably have 12-24 other tech founders working alongside you. Opportunity #4 - We are Building our Own New Tech Hub - Silicon Beach I may be biased, but it really feels like downtown Santa Monica is becoming the tech hub of LA.  In fact Paige Craig has coined it Silicon Beach.  There's a fast growing group of tech companies including: DocstocDemand MediaBetterWorksGoodReadsMahaloBeachmintCampus ExplorerDECAeHarmonyGumGumSavingsShoedazzle,  Business.comFamilyFindsAfforditBestcoveryJibJabCoLoft and many more.  I still consistently work very late nights, and one of my favorite parts, is that I can email any number of other founders that are doing the same and walk out of my office and go to dinner/drinks with amazing folks in the tech space right next door to me. Challenge #5 - There Hasn't Been Enough of an Organized Tech Community From what many people have told me, in past years there simply were not many high quality tech events where someone new on the LA tech scene could break in and meet other connected folks.  That's no longer the case.... Opportunity #5 - That's No Longer the Case..... LA is now filled with high quality tech events, mixers, meetups, and a thriving community.  I've been leading the charge here with Mark Suster (read his blog BothSidesofTheTable).  In the past 2 years I've now hosted 20 Startups Uncensored Events that bring out the best CEOs and VC in LA, and at our last event we had 1000 RSPVs.  Some of the past events & videos are linked to below.  And Mark Suster has been fostering an environment to help find and grow the best and brightest new LA tech companies with LAunchpad.   Plus there are amazing LA tech events put on by DealMaker MediaDigitalLATwiistup, and many more.  To see a great list of LA tech events check out the event calendar on SocalTechNicole Jordan's Blog, and the newly revamped LaLawag. Past Startups Uncensored LA Tech Events http://www.jasonnazar.com/2011/02/15/online-subscription-businesses-startups-uncensored-20/ http://www.jasonnazar.com/2010/09/22/bootstrapping-your-business-startups-uncensored-19/ http://www.jasonnazar.com/2010/06/22/how-to-become-an-entrepreneur-superhero-startups-uncensored-18/ http://www.jasonnazar.com/2010/05/04/how-to-raise-venture-capital-startups-uncensored-17/ http://www.jasonnazar.com/2010/03/02/how-to-persuade-people-startups-uncensored-15/