The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Goes Lean

We tend to associate the government with words like bureaucracy rather than lean innovation. But smart people within government agencies are working to change the culture and embrace new ways of doing things. The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) is a great example.NGA

The NGA, an organization within the U.S. Department of Defense, delivers geospatial intelligence (satellite imagery video, and other sensor data) to policymakers, warfighters, intelligence professionals and first responders.

A team from their Enterprise Innovation Office has joined us at NYU as observers at our 5-day Lean LaunchPad class, while another team is in Silicon Valley with the Hacking for Defense team learning how to turn their hard problems into partnerships with commercial companies that lead to deployed solutions.


The Innovation Insurgency
Over the last year the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) has become part of the “Innovation Insurgency” inside the U.S. Department of Defense by adopting Lean Methodology inside their agency.

In July the NGA hosted the inaugural 2016 Intelligence Community Innovation Conference with attendees from across the Department of Defense and public sector. At the conference Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Paul Selva said, “Implementing innovation [in the government and large organizations] is like a turning battleship, you may have an upset crew with cooks having to clean up spilled food and sailors falling out of beds but that ship can turn with effort. The end result is often that change can happen but it is going to come at the cost of disruption and difficulty.”

The good news for the country is that the leadership of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency has decided to turn the ship now.

To connect to innovation centers outside the agency, their research group has set up “NGA Outpost Valley” (NOV), an innovation outpost in Silicon Valley. The NOV is building an ecosystem of innovative companies around NGA’s hard problems to rapidly deploy solutions to solve them.

To promote innovation inside the NGA, they’ve staffed an Enterprise Innovation Office (EIO) to coach, educate and advise the entire agency, from core leadership to the operational edges, with methods and concepts of validated learning through rapid experimentation and customer development.

The NGA has adopted Lean Innovation methods to make this happen. The process starts by collecting agency-wide ideas and/or customer problems, collecting a group insight, and sorts which problems are important enough to pursue. The innovation process uses the Value Proposition canvas, customer development and the Mission Model Canvas to validate hypotheses and deliver minimum viable products. This process allows the agency to rapidly deliver projects at speed.

NGA Lean Innovation

To help start this innovation program the NGA’s Enterprise Innovation Office has had their innovation teams go through the already established Innovation-Corps classes at the National Security Agency (NSA), and they’re about to stand up their own Innovation-Corps curriculum inside the NGA. (The Innovation-Corps (I-Corps for short) Program is the Lean Innovation class I developed at Stanford and teach there and at Berkeley, Columbia and NYU. It was first adopted by the National Science Foundation and is now offered at 54 universities, and starting last year taught in all research agencies and the DOD.)

This past week a team from the NGA’s Enterprise Innovation Office observed the 5-day Lean LaunchPad class I’m teaching at NYU.  Their goal is to integrate these techniques into their own Lean innovation processes. From their comments and critiques of the students, they’re more then ready to teach it themselves.

At the same time the NGA Outpost Valley team was in Silicon Valley going through a Hacking for Defense workshop (we call a “sprint.”) Their goal was to translate one of their problems into a language that commercial companies in the valley could understand and solve, then to figure out how to get the product built and deployedLike other parts of the Department of Defense (the Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Agency (JIDA) and the Defense Innovation unit Experimental (DIUX),)  NGA’s Outpost Valley team is using a Hacking for Defense sprint to build a scalable process for recruiting industry and other partners to get solutions to real problems deployed at speed.

Putting lean principles into NGA’s acquisition practices
As part of the Department of Defense, the NGA acquires technology and information systems through the traditional DOD’s acquisition system – which has been described as the antitheses of rapid customer discovery and agile practices. The current acquisition system seldom validates whether a promised capability actually works until after the government is locked into a multiyear contract, and fixing those problems later often means cost overruns, late delivery, and under performance.  And as any startup will tell you, the traditional government acquisition processes create disincentives for startups to participate in the DOD Market. Few startups know where and how to find opportunities to sell to the DOD, they seldom have the resources or expertise to navigate DOD bureaucratic procurement requirements, and the 12 plus months it takes the government to enter into a contract makes it cost prohibitive for startups.

NGA researchA year ago Sue Gordon, the deputy director of the NGA, sent out an agency-wide memo that said in part, “…we must build speed and flexibility (agility) into our acquisition processes to respond to those evolutions. It is our job to acquire the technologies, data and services that NGA and the NSG need to execute our mission in the most effective, efficient and timely manner possible …”

In addition to NGA’s internal Lean Innovation process and innovation outpost in Silicon Valley, they are starting to use open innovation and crowdsourcing to attract commercial developers to tackle geospatial intelligence problems.

This week the NGA posted its first major open Challenge  – The NGA Disparate Data Challenge– on Challenge.gov, the U.S. government’s open innovation and crowdsourcing competition. Government agencies like the NGA can use the site to post challenges and award prizes to citizens who  find the best solutions. Putting a challenge on a crowdsourcing platform is a groundbreaking activity for the agency and opens the possibility for a number of benefits. 

  • Presenting a problem instead of a set of requirements to startups leaves the window open to uncover unknown solutions and insights
  • Setting up the challenge in two stages hopefully gets startups to participate while learning about the NGA and its technical needs
  • Asking for working solutions offers the potential for minimal viable acquisition to quickly validate who can solve the problem prior to committing large sums of taxpayer funds
  • Finding solutions at speed by shrinking the timeline for determining the viability of a solution without the need for executing any large scale contract.

The NGA Disparate Data Challenge has two stages.

  • Stage 1: teams have to demonstrate access and retrieval to analyze NGA provided datasets. (This data is a proxy for the difficulties associated with accessing and using NGA’s real classified data.)  Up to 15 teams who can do this can win $10,000.  And the winners get to go Stage 2.
  • Stage 2: the teams demo their solutions and other features they’ve added against a new data set live to an NGA panel of judges, in hackathon style competition. First place will take an additional $25,000; second $15,000; and third $10,000 with an opportunity to be part of a competitive pool for a future pilot contract with NGA.

NGA’s challenge is its first attempt to attract startups that otherwise would not do business with the agency. It’s likely that the prize amounts ($10-$25K) may be off by at least one order of magnitude to get a startup to take their eye off the commercial market. Curating a crowd and persuading them to work together because the work meets their value proposition is hard work that takes incubation not just prizes. However, this is a learning opportunity and a great beginning for the Department of Defense.

Challenges in Embracing Innovation in Government Agencies
Innovation in large organizations are fraught with challenges including; building an innovation pipeline without screwing up current product development, educating senior leadership and (at times intransigent) middle management about the difference between innovation and execution, encouraging hands-on customer development, establishing links between department and functional silos that don’t talk to each other (and often competing for resources), turning innovative prototypes and minimum viable products into deliverable products to customers, etc.

Government agencies have all these challenges and more. Government agencies have more stringent policies and procedures, federally regulated oversight and compliance rules, and line-item budgets for access to funding. In secure locations, IT security can hinder the simplest process while a lack of access to a physical collaboration space and access to data, all set up additional barriers to innovation.

The NGA has embraced promising moves to bring lean methods to the way they innovate internally and acquire technology. But what we’ve seen in other agencies in the Department of Defense is that unless the innovation process is run by, coached and scaled by innovators who have been in the DOD and understand these rules (and have the clearances), using off-the-shelf commercial lean innovation techniques in government agencies is likely to create demos for senior management but few fully deployed products. (The National Security Agency has pioneered getting this process right with the I-Corps@NSA.)

Lessons Learned

  • Lean Innovation teams are starting up at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA)
    • NGA has an Innovation Outpost in Silicon Valley working on it’s first hacking for Defense Sprint 
    • NGA is experimenting with open innovation with its first problem on Challenge.gov
  • The goal of Lean in government agencies should mean deployment not demos
    • In order to successfully deliver products with speed and urgency, this requires coaches and instructors who have been the customer: warfighters, analysts, operators, etc.
    • It will take innovation built from the inside as well as acquisition from the outside to make it happen

Entrepreneurs are Everywhere Show No. 40: Stan Gloss and Matt Armstead

A lot of people, especially in the Midwest, will spend their time thinking too small. They’re a creature of their habit and habitat, in looking at potential investors and market opportunities.

If you see a need or problem and you think you can solve it, you don’t want that destiny to belong to someone else.

You have to disprove the naysayers. You sometimes get a chip on your shoulder and say, “You know what? I’ll show you.

 Thinking big, destiny and naysayers — three things in the life of a startup founder.

Why founders need to be their own boss and how they capitalize on business opportunities were the focus of the guests on today’s Entrepreneurs are Everywhere radio show.

The show follows the journeys of founders who share what it takes to build a startup – from restaurants to rocket scientists, to online gifts to online groceries and more. The program examines the DNA of entrepreneurs: what makes them tick, how they came up with their ideas; and explores the habits that make them successful, and the highs and lows that pushed them forward.

Stan Gloss

Stan Gloss

Joining me in the Stanford University studio were

  • Stan Gloss, co-founder of BioTeam, consultants that design computer systems for life sciences companies
  • Matt Armstead, a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Lumos Innovation, which helps Ohio-area founders launch their startup ideas
Matt Armstead

Matt Armstead

Listen to my full interviews with Stan and Matt by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here.

(And download any of the past shows here.)

Clips from their interviews are below.

Stan Gloss co-founded BioTeam following his tenure in business development with AVAKI Corporation, a pioneer in global grid software solutions. Previously, at Blackstone Computing, a computing and IT consulting company for scientists, Gloss led the sales initiative that launched the company in the life sciences market. Prior to working at Blackstone, Gloss was a department chairman and faculty member at Quinnipiac University. 

Leaving the corporate world to do a startup was a leap of faith Stan welcomed:

The previous jobs that I had in big corporations were almost like being in school again. There’s all that structure and all these things that really didn’t play to my strengths.

By being an entrepreneur I have the freedom to build things and do things that play to my strengths.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Stan was an account manager at Blackstone Computing when the company was reorganized under a new CEO. Though they’d never done a startup before, Stan and some of his co-workers saw an opportunity in the leadership change. Together, they started down a new path:

Eventually we saw the writing on the wall with the new company and four of us decided to go off on our own and continue doing the consulting piece of what we did. 

We were already entrepreneurial. We just took a leap of faith and said, “We can get all the clients that we had in the consulting company, and we can go out and get more of them together. Look at how good we did here. Let’s just go do that.”

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Starting the company was a little scary, but it helped that Stan was surrounded by domain experts and recognized his personal strengths, he says:

Everything was new every day. I didn’t even know that area, so I used to sit at meetings and not understand the science. I really didn’t understand high-performance computing either.  

But I knew how to make meetings productive, I knew how to facilitate meetings, and I was smart enough to put our domain expert in the room with the domain expert from the customer.

I used to sit there and just let them talk — and then collect the order at the end.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Stan adds that being dyslexic gives him an edge as a founder because from an early age he had to develop skills that turn out to be critical when building a startup:

Every day in school was a day of fear, uncertainty and doubt. You never knew if you were going to get called to the board, you were going to have to stand up and read, all of these things that are very challenging for kids like me with dyslexia. School became was just day-in and day-out hard to do.

You learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. You learn to outwork everybody.

You also learn to negotiate. You say, “Hey listen, you’re good at math. I’m good at English. I’ll do your homework if you do mine.” Or you negotiate with the teacher.

And you face people telling you, “No, you’re not going to go to college, no you’re not going to be doing this, no you’re not going to be doing that.” You have to disprove the naysayers. You sometimes get a little chip on your shoulder and say, “You know what? I’ll show you.”

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Having now done several startups, Matt has learned to keep his eye on a singular aim: The goal is to get customers, not to raise money:

There are a lot of people that are just chasing dollars, trying to get a VC to fund them, and they’ll give up 40 percent of their company in the first round just to get some major amount of money.

I learned that you can actually do things very inexpensively. You can bootstrap it. You can build a Minimum Viable Product. You can learn from your customers.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

He learned, too, that building a company outside a major startup ecosystem like Silicon Valley doesn’t have to limit a founder’s horizons:

A lot of people, especially in the Midwest, will spend their time thinking too small. They’re a creature of their habit and habitat, in looking at potential investors and market opportunities.

They have to think outside of their own back yard, get really active and make trips out to San Francisco or to New York to build some very important relationships.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Matt’s advice for other entrepreneurs included this recommendation about finding co-founders:

I’ve talked to a lot of startup and entrepreneurs that need to find a technical co-founder. They’re just looking for the first person that can code, the first person that fits that capability that they’re looking for.

That’s a mistake. You really have to date a little bit. You have to build a relationship with a prospective co-founder. These are the people you’re working 24/7 with.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Listen to my full interviews with Stan and Matt by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here. (And download any of the past shows here.)

Next on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere: Chris Schroeder, Internet/media CEO, venture investor and author of “Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East” and Andy Cunningham, founder and CEO of Cunningham Collective.

Tune in Thursday at 1 pm PT, 4 pm ET on Sirius XM Channel 111.

Want to be a guest on the show? Entrepreneurship stretches from Main Street to Silicon Valley, from startups to big companies. Send an email to terri@kandsranch.com describing your entrepreneurial journey.

Entrepreneurs are Everywhere Show No. 39: Jeremy Johnson and Michael Eidsaune

The existence of a problem doesn’t mean there’s a solution to that problem. Wanting to create impact is great. But to do it, you need to actually have a sustainable business model.

I don’t recommend anyone become an entrepreneur. It’s too hard. It’s too painful. Starting a business is too risky. There are better ways to make a living. Yet I can’t imagine doing anything else.

One mistake was trying to build out too much tech too quickly. We thought that the tech was going to be the solution, that if we added more features, it would solve the problem. We were wrong.

Identifying a problem doesn’t mean you’ve automatically created a business.

And building a startup is not for the faint of heart.

The tools and temperament needed to get from startup idea to startup success were the focus of the guests on today’s Entrepreneurs are Everywhere radio show.

The show follows the journeys of founders who share what it takes to build a startup – from restaurants to rocket scientists, to online gifts to online groceries and more. The program examines the DNA of entrepreneurs: what makes them tick, how they came up with their ideas; and explores the habits that make them successful, and the highs and lows that pushed them forward.

Jeremy Johnson

Jeremy Johnson

Joining me in the Stanford University studio were

  • Jeremy Johnson, founder of Andela, which embeds talented software engineers on the African continent into top engineering organizations worldwide
  • Michael Eidsaune, co-founder of Carely, a software platform that facilitates communication among families caring for sick or elderly relatives
Michael Eidsaune

Michael Eidsaune

Listen to my full interviews with Jeremy and Michael by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here.

(And download any of the past shows here.)

Clips from their interviews are below.


Jeremy Johnson is an education innovator. Prior to founding Andela, he co-founded 2U, an education technology startup that went public in 2014. 
Outside of Andela, Jeremy serves on the board of the Young Entrepreneur Council and the education non-profit PENCIL and co-authored a book Education & Skills 2.0: New Targets & Innovative Approaches.

Before founding 2U, Jeremy developed Zinch, intended to be a virtual guidance counselor to help low-income students navigate the college application process. He explains why it didn’t get off the ground:

It was a great idea, but a terrible company. 

It turns out the existence of a problem doesn’t mean there’s a scalable or profitable way to solve that problem — or at least at the time.

The goal was to help low-income students better understand the college application process.

For the past 30 years great colleges have approached recruitment by creating a list of names from the PSATs and then sending out glossy brochures. Often they don’t think about it through the lens of what is the best way to spend or allocate resources to try to get better students. So while Zinch was trying to create an offering that would support low-income students that wasn’t where the majority of college recruitment dollars were being spent. So it was tough. We couldn’t charge the low-income students we were looking to help enough to keep the business going.

In the end we learned that wanting to create impact is great. But to be able to do it, you need to actually have a model that sustains it.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

The effort was a good learning experience, he says:

The beauty of trying things when you’re 21 and have no idea what you’re doing is that you get the chance to make a lot of mistakes really quickly and learn from them.

One mistake we made was trying to build out too much tech too quickly and thinking that the tech was going to be the solution, that if we added more features, it would solve the problem. We were wrong.

We thought, ‘Why don’t we think through all of the different potential users that might use a system and how they might want to interact with it?’

We tried to boil the ocean in the most literal sense.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Prior to founding Carely, Michael Eidsaune earned his MBA in finance and spent several years in investment management, eventually earning his level 1 CFA certification. He also worked for a time as a contract negotiator for the US Air Force.

The idea for Carely was sparked by personal family experience. Michael started the company with his father-in-law, working on it part-time, while he worked with the Air Force.

Since its founding four years ago, Carely has seen ups and downs. Michael’s vision and passion have gotten him through it:

I don’t recommend anyone do this. It’s too hard. It’s too painful. Starting a business is too risky. There are better ways to make a living that are much safer.

And yet, while I would never recommend anybody do this, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here 

An experienced team made all the difference to 2U finding success, Jeremy said:

We had a phenomenal early group of people that were brought together to try to address the problem.

You might look at it and say, “In some ways, that team is overkill for an early-stage company. These people are overqualified for what they’re doing.”

But it turns out that when you’re growing really quickly, having folks who have been through it a couple times before is really useful in the early days, even to make sure that you’re able to really grow effectively while maintaining culture. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Andela selects and trains world-class tech talent from Africa and matches them with U.S. companies. Here’s how Jeremy came up with the idea for Andela, and why he decided to create the company even though he was still working on 2U at the time:

A good friend invited me to Nairobi to give a talk for the MasterCard foundation on the state of online education around the world. That kicked off this long conversation about how you might try to leverage this evolution of education technology to create scalable impact in places where tuition couldn’t be the driver of growth.

At the same time, I’d gotten to know a young Nigerian serial entrepreneur who had become sort of a friend and mentee, and was building something similar to 2U but focused on Africa. Through those two experiences I became more and more familiar with the continent. As I was thinking through the notion of what would become Andela, my initial thinking was, “We’ve just gone public. We’ve got a lot of work to do. This is not something I can spend time on. I could potentially fund it and put the team together, but I’m busy.”

At the same time I thought, “This should exist in the world.” We put a small team together, funded it initially, put a pilot together. We were looking for four students for the program, four developers in training, and we ended up getting 700 applicants in a week.

We got that down to six finalists. I went to Nigeria to meet that first cohort, interview them and try to pick four from the six. I realized after half a day of interviews that each one of them would’ve run circles around my classmates at Princeton. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Jeremy dropped out of Princeton to become an entrepreneur. Here’s what he says about founders going to college:

You’re never going to convince someone to work with you because you have a degree.

You’re never going to come up with a different strategy for how you approach the world. You’re never going to raise funding or bring in different teams by virtue of your degree.

A college degree is great if you’re looking to get hired. But if your goal is to be an entrepreneur then it’s a little bit different and folks care a little less about it. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Carely was built to foster communication among family members with sick or elderly relatives in a nursing home, assisted living residence or hospice care.  

At first Michael and his co-founder thought they’d be selling to individual users, but after talking with service providers, they realized there was a bigger opportunity:

I took our prototype – a PowerPoint presentation — out and sat down with several CEOs of a hospice organization, a nursing home, home-care company and said, “Hey, this is something we think we would use as a family. Tell me why it won’t work.”  

In doing that, we learned that the problem was more applicable than just our family — that lots of people were dealing with this idea of miscommunication and frustration wrapped around care giving.

We realized that there was a value proposition there for the actual industry. The providers of care actually liked the product and would pay for it because when a family’s not doing a good job communicating with each other around their loved one, it’s often the facility or the care provider that has to step in and play middleman to those conversations.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

A pivotal meeting with nurses at Hospice of Dayton in Ohio helped them figure out what features to build:

It was a bit like leading sheep to wolves, and became one of our biggest learning moments.

The reality is nurses don’t have a lot of extra free time to learn a new system and to try something new. They wanted something that would help improve the lives of their clients’ families. They loved that part of the company. But they didn’t want to have to learn a new system and learn a new task and add something to their to-do list at the end of the day.

So we just said, “OK, if you guys don’t want that piece of it, we’ll leave it out.”

At this time, we hadn’t even built the product yet. We hadn’t invested any money into development, so we just didn’t develop that piece.

If we’d built the product first, however, we would have wasted months and thousands of dollars.

This is a perfect example of why it’s important to talk to customers. For the first six months we spent only a couple of hundred bucks.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Somewhere along the line, however, Michael and his co-founder stopped listening to customers. Here’s what happened:

We got the product out; we got paying customers.

We thought we figured it out. We assumed we had product-market fit and all we had to do was keep selling.

The problem was had the wrong business model at the time. Our revenue model was wrong.

We were charging a really high up-front annual fee to these providers and the end result of that was a pretty long sales cycle. It involved lots of face-to-face selling and it wasn’t enabling us to scale the product very quickly.

It took about 2 months to realize we needed a new pricing strategy, from, an average $5,000 to $10,000 a year per provider to about a $99 a month provider fee.

We tested the new strategy with several customers in the pipeline and it took our sales cycle from about 60 days to 1 week. Plus, it enabled us to scale much more quickly with much less effort.

But by then we were so far along our original path. My co-founder didn’t quite agree with the change of direction because it was going to involve us taking on some outside capitol.

I made the tough decision to go against what he wanted to do and it led to us kind of breaking up the company at the time.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Listen to my full interviews with Jeremy and Michael by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here (And download any of the past shows here.)

Next on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere: Stan Gloss, co-founder of BioTeam; and Matt Armstead, co-founder of Lumos Innovation.

Tune in Thursday at 1 pm PT, 4 pm ET on Sirius XM Channel 111.

Want to be a guest on the show? Entrepreneurship stretches from Main Street to Silicon Valley, from startups to big companies. Send an email to terri@kandsranch.com describing your entrepreneurial journey.

Entrepreneurs are Everywhere Show No. 38: Ryan Smith and Lane Merrifield

If you don’t value your product neither will your customers. No one used it when we gave it away for free. Freemium was a going out of business strategy.

When a reporter asked, “Your kids must think you’re the coolest dad in the world,” I couldn’t answer the question, because I realized that I hadn’t seen my kids in three weeks.

I learned that making a complicated thing look easy is extremely hard.

People appreciate things more when they pay for them. And no amount of business success is enough if you don’t have time with your family.

Values – who and what founders and customers hold dear – were the focus on today’s Entrepreneurs are Everywhere radio show.

The show follows the journeys of founders who share what it takes to build a startup – from restaurants to rocket scientists, to online gifts to online groceries and more. The program examines the DNA of entrepreneurs: what makes them tick, how they came up with their ideas; and explores the habits that make them successful, and the highs and lows that pushed them forward.

Ryan Smith

Ryan Smith

Joining me in the Stanford University studio were

Lane Merrifield

Lane Merrifield

Listen to my full interviews with Ryan and Lane by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here.

(And download any of the past shows here.)

Clips from their interviews are below.

Ryan Smith co-founded Qualtrics in 2002 with his father in the family basement. Their goal was to make sophisticated research simple. As CEO, Ryan has grown Qualtrics to one of the fastest-growing technology companies in the world.

In the early days of building Qualtrics, Ryan tried giving the product away to entice customers to use it. Their reactions surprised him:

There’s something about people appreciating something they have to pay for.

Our pricing model was something like $5,000 a school. For the big schools we tried to give it away, but in every school we gave it away to, no one ever used it.

I remember that at Wharton I gave it to them free, went back a year later and there were only, like, five people using it. We had to charge them to get them to use it. Now there’s thousands of users across campus. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Lane Merrifield is a co-founder and CEO of FreshGrade, a learning collaboration and portfolio tool focused on enhancing teachers’ lives and making students’ learning visible. Lane’s first startup was Club Penguin, the largest online virtual world for kids, which was acquired by The Walt Disney Company in 2007 for $350M.  Lane served as Executive Vice President at Disney for five years before returning to his entrepreneurial roots to become an angel investor and launch FreshGrade. 

Lane also founded Wheelhouse, a Canadian organization that supports other entrepreneurs through mentorship, access to early stage capital, and connections to global business networks and executive expertise. 

Lane explained that and his co-founders, Lance Priebe and Dave Krysko, built Club Penguin to give their kids a safe place to play online. It quickly became a hit, but that success had a dark side, Lane says:

It totally consumed my life.

I was sitting in a press interview in Australia talking about Club Penguin, and the reporter asked, “Your kids must think you’re the coolest dad in the world.” I gave her some pat answer –“Well, they like to play it once in a while, but to them I’m just dad” — but I almost couldn’t answer the question, because I realized in that moment that I hadn’t seen my kids in about three weeks.

Ironically, this thing that I built for them now had me traveling around the world and being a pretty crappy dad.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Finding early customers for Qualtrics was difficult, Ryan says. It was a challenge to convince companies to think past the traditional method of hiring consultants or researchers to test user experience:

At first I tried to call business and enterprises. But in the corporate world in 2002, no one was ready for it.

I specifically remember calling one airline, and they said, “Hey look, if our customers aren’t happy, they’ll just call us.” Now today that mindset seems silly.

In the meantime, we had this case study that said academics were really ready for us. So we started in the academic market — because they would actually buy. I remember selling Angela Lee at the Kellogg School of Business, and Angela referred it to someone at Wharton, who referred it to someone at Columbia and Duke, and the rest is history. 

Ironically, though, academics are horrible customers. They have a laundry list of features they want that are more than you can listen to in an hour. They’re hard to service and support because they want to talk to someone as smart as them, which is almost impossible, and they have no money. No MBA business model would ever come out with, “Hey we’re going to go target the academics.”

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Still, academics made up Qualtrics’ core market for five years. Over time, students at those institutions took the product with them into their corporate jobs, growing Qualtrics’ customer base.

While it looked to the world like Ryan and his team planned to grow that way, nothing could be further from the truth.

Everyone comes up now — the VCs, the market – and they say, “Hey wow, that was a beautiful business model. You guys were geniuses.”

I kind of start laughing because no one ever thought we were geniuses; it was desperation. Typically that’s when innovation comes out. You innovate when you’re desperate.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

One important lesson Ryan learned was how difficult it is to make a complicated thing seem seamless:

Everything my dad wanted to build was way too complex for anyone to understand. So we had this built-in test where we’d see if I could figure it out, because if I could figure it out, then others could. 

I learned that making a complicated thing look easy is extremely hard.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Club Penguin launched with modest expectations. Lane and his team built a virtual world to give their kids a safe place to socialize online, thinking others might like it, too. They were in for a big surprise:

Our hope was just to be able to find enough people out there that we could keep it sustainable. We bootstrapped it. We took out lines of credit on our homes; we maxed out credit cards. There were no investors.

We hired a few people part-time, we contracted a lot of work, we’d pay as often as we could, and we started a subscription business, which back in the day was insanity. It was freemium, but the term freemium didn’t exist yet. It was try and then buy.

Through some of these mini-games that my co-founder, Lance, had created, we had a small audience initially. But when we rolled out the virtual world, it grew from a few thousand kids to 30,000 or 40,000 within about a month.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Built before Facebook existed, the company was at the cutting edge for scale, which attracted potential investors, but also presented some interesting challenges:

We had some great VCs come out of the woodwork, and we said, “Listen, have you dealt with infrastructure problems like this before? We have hundreds of thousands of concurrent users logging into servers that are meant to be having long, 2-, 3-, 4-minute sessions, and we’re having millisecond sessions, and our servers can’t handle that?”  

We brought in experts from IBM, we worked with the biggest service providers in the world, and some of the largest data centers. They all had no idea what to do with us, because they were used to a database and the web, and the web sessions last for minutes at a time. At this point in time, we had hundreds of thousands of users. We were basically hacking these servers to do what we needed them to do.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Like most founders, Lane and Ryan are glad to pay their success forward.

Today, in addition to running FreshGrade, Lane mentors other founders. He tells them this:

Know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Don’t focus on the what, don’t tell me about the market opportunity, don’t tell me, “I’m Uber for this” or “I’m Slack for that.”

I don’t care about that. Tell me why are you building what you’re building.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

He said that because the Club Penguin team was clear about their “why,” they embraced being acquired by Disney in 2007:

Our goals weren’t about an exit. I didn’t even know what the term “exit” meant. For us, it was about taking Club Penguin to the next level.  

By the time we were acquired we had millions of users, we had a massive demand for consumer products, massive demand internationally. We needed to translate the game into other languages. We didn’t have any of the infrastructure to do that.

Disney gave us more resources to make our vision happen.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Ryan counsels other founders to never give up. Qualtrics has 8500 customers today, but back in his father’s basement in 2002, things weren’t so rosy. This memory helped him keep things in perspective along the way:

I remember thinking, “We’re in the basement, no one knows about us. We need to go to a trade show and get some exposure.” I called this trade show company that was putting on this great marketing event in New York City.

I borrowed my brother’s trade show booth and flew to New York. We took the train from the airport, because we couldn’t afford a taxi, and I sat on the train with this trade show booth in a bag between my legs. I remember specifically hauling that thing up the stairway and coming out of the subway station pretty close to Wall Street.

Fast-forward ten years. We were hosting a Qualtrics Live event for our customers in New York City in a hotel in the same neighborhood where the trade show had been. We now had 250 New York customers there; the room was full. Coming out of the hotel walking around the street, I was looking for somewhere to eat, and I passed that subway station. I could almost picture myself as a young kid hauling that trade show booth up the stairs.

It was kind of surreal, a message like, “Don’t give up. Trust your ideas.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to rely on that memory and the lessons I learned from hauling that trade show booth up the stairs.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Listen to my full interviews with Ryan and Lane by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here. (And download any of the past shows here.)

Next on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere: Jeremy Johnson, founder of Andela; and Michael Eidsaune, co-founder of Carely.

Tune in Thursday at 1 pm PT, 4 pm ET on Sirius XM Channel 111.

Want to be a guest on the show? Entrepreneurship stretches from Main Street to Silicon Valley, from startups to big companies. Send an email to terri@kandsranch.com describing your entrepreneurial journey.

Entrepreneurs are Everywhere Show No. 37: Michael Ingle and Graeme Gordon

I simply wasn’t happy in corporate America. I was a square peg in a round hole and needed to be someplace where I could think creatively.

You are 100% responsible for your own decisions, your career, your failures, your success. You can’t rely on anybody else.  


Self-motivation, drive and creativity are key entrepreneurial traits that can’t be discounted or ignored, say the guests on today’s Entrepreneurs are Everywhere radio show.

The show follows the journeys of founders who share what it takes to build a startup – from restaurants to rocket scientists, to online gifts to online groceries and more. The program examines the DNA of entrepreneurs: what makes them tick, how they came up with their ideas; and explores the habits that make them successful, and the highs and lows that pushed them forward.

Michael Ingle

Michael Ingle

Joining me in the Stanford University studio were

Graeme Gordon

Graeme Gordon

Listen to my full interviews with Michael and Graeme by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here.

(And download any of the past shows here.)

Clips from their interviews are below.

Michael Ingle ran away from home at age 14 with $140 and a dream of bettering himself. In the years since, he’s been driven to succeed. Before founding Clean Sleep, he worked for Boeing as a teenager, did mechanical drafting and design for a combustion engineering company, ran a beach volleyball bar with friends and founded Quick Set Concrete.

He says that being on his own from a young age provided a critical learning experience:

I didn’t really have a childhood, but I don’t regret anything. Every step along the way has put me where I’m at today and has driven me as an entrepreneur. I realized how important relationships are, and how important hard work is.

It taught me that in the end, you are 100% responsible for your own decisions, your career, your failures, your success. You can’t rely on anybody else.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Graeme Gordon founder of Sneak Guard had 20 years of manufacturing and retail marketing experience working for companies like Ashley Furniture and Mattress Giant. Over the years, he dabbled in startup ideas, but frequently returned to the safe haven of a steady paycheck.

Working in corporate America, he gained enormous experience that serves him today, he says, but his heart wasn’t in working for others. Instead, he yearned to channel his creative energies.

When you’re hooked to getting a paycheck for over 20 years with the great benefits, stepping away from that is difficult, but I simply wasn’t happy in corporate America.

I didn’t fit. I was a square peg in a round hole. I’m entrepreneurial and creative. I needed to be someplace where I could think creatively.  

I’m definitely a happier person now, doing my startup.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Partner disagreements and a lack of planning killed Michael’s beach volleyball bar venture, but he doesn’t consider it a failure:

It cost me about $80,000, but the way I look at that is it was tuition money. It cost me what it cost me to learn what I learned, and I used that, and moved into the next deal, Quick Set Concrete.

There was a bit of serendipity around that opportunity, he says:

I didn’t really know a lot about construction, but a friend of mine said, “Well, I can run the crews and do the work if you can get the business,” so I said, “OK, let’s just figure it out.” With $24, I started the company: $3.99 to print your own business cards, and 20 bucks to register with the comptroller.

It’s still around, and we’ve evolved into adding dirt work and masonry to our scope.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Both Michael and Graeme started their companies after identifying a personal need. Michael came up with the idea for Clean Sleep in one sleepless night after falling asleep on his bare mattress.

SneakGuard was developed after Graeme’s 4-year-old daughter managed to open a prescription medicine child safety cap. The experience pushed him, once and for all, out of his corporate comfort zone. Here’s what he did:

I quit my job, went out and raised some capital from angels, strictly on a drawing, basically, and a concept.

I went out and talked to customers, friends. I did all these focus groups. I actually built prototypes, sat down with people and asked them, “What do you think of this? Would you buy it? How much would you buy it for? How much space can it take up, because it’s going to go in your refrigerator, if you want it to?”

I did a lot of groundwork before I moved forward.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here 

The customer feedback he received led him to a market he hadn’t considered:

I learned SneakGuard was a good product for cannabis, because once you take the air out of the container, it’ll make it the cannabis last longer. Also, there are some real problems with edibles like cookies and gummies.

There have been liability cases where parents have actually been charged with criminal charges for kids getting hold of dad’s pot cookies, so it’s a big part of our market.  

But it’s an interesting challenge to approach. Safety doesn’t pay attention to borders. Cannabis is legal in some states, and it’s not legal in others. Even though we’re selling a container and not cannabis, it’s a difficult pitch to retail America, because they don’t want to have anything to do with it. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Initially, things were going well for the company Graeme originally named SnoopGuard. He quickly received orders and amassed an inventory of containers.

His launch was short-circuited by a lawyer, though:

We got a cease and desist letter from a very well-known celebrity whose name had the word Snoop in it.  

Although the U.S. Patent Office gave me the registered mark that I owned for SnoopGuard, that was a pivot point for me because we had already produced product that had the name on it.

Lack of time and money kept me from fighting it. It really tore my heart out, but I decided I’d have to make a really quick recovery, or potentially not recover.

I changed the name to SneakGuard, then had to change the product, throw away a lot of original product and move on.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Although a February appearance on the reality TV show SharkTank brought Clean Sleep some brand recognition, Michael is struggling to find a scalable business model.

Until I got the machine to work, I hadn’t even thought about the business plan. I just knew that this was a huge problem, that everyone has a mattress.

Then I realized, “Okay, this is a perfect franchise model.” That’s how we starting writing our projections.

I spent every dollar I had to go to the best franchise attorneys, and got the franchise disclosure documents done, and agreements, and everything else. I thought a franchise model was the ticket.

But through a lot of trial and tribulation, we’re still growing the company into the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. So now we’ve decided to push franchising off until we can figure out how to scale the business.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Because Clean Sleep is creating a new market, Michael recognizes he must educate consumers who don’t know about his product or understand why they should clean their mattress. Looking back he wishes he’d spent more time and money on sales and marketing to do that, because things have been tough financially:

I’ve spent a lot of money on this company.

To this day, I don’t know how I’ve managed. I’ve got everything except my underwear in this thing. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Listen to my full interviews with Michael and Graeme by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here. (And download any of the past shows here.)

Next on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere: Ryan Smith, co-founder of Qualtrics; and Lane Merrifield, founder of Fresh Grade.

Tune in Thursday at 1 pm PT, 4 pm ET on Sirius XM Channel 111.

Want to be a guest on the show? Entrepreneurship stretches from Main Street to Silicon Valley, from startups to big companies. Send an email to terri@kandsranch.com describing your entrepreneurial journey.

Entrepreneurs are Everywhere Show No. 36: Jim Semick and Peter Arvai

Given all that I’ve seen in my career I don’t sweat the small stuff.

We didn’t talk about product; we didn’t talk about organization or raising money. We talked about our values, we talked about our hopes and dreams for the world, and that helped us realize why we were doing this project together.

Startups aren’t only for twentysomethings. And a founding team needs more than a complementary skill set.

Experience and vision were the focus of today’s Entrepreneurs are Everywhere radio show

The show follows the journeys of founders who share what it takes to build a startup – from restaurants to rocket scientists, to online gifts to online groceries and more. The program examines the DNA of entrepreneurs: what makes them tick, how they came up with their ideas; and explores the habits that make them successful, and the highs and lows that pushed them forward.

Jim Semick

Jim Semick

Joining me in the Stanford University studio were

Peter Arvai

Peter Arvai

Listen to my full interviews with Jim and Peter by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here.

(And download any of the past shows here.)

Clips from their interviews are below.

Peter Arvai – cofounder of Prezi dreamed of being a particle physicist but working in a startup changed his career path.

In Sweden, he founded omvard.se a company that aggregates data on treatment outcomes for hospital patients. Soon after, he developed the world’s first mobile newsreader so people could follow TED Talks from their mobile devices.  

Prezi’s founding team is a classic startup mix of hacker, hustler and designer. However, Peter says the company’s success is also driven by the co-founders’ shared values and vision:

For us, it was about really getting clear about why we were doing what we were doing. When the three of us met in a café in Budapest we didn’t talk about product, we didn’t talk about organization or raising money. We talked about our values, we talked about our hopes and dreams for the world, and that helped us realize why we were doing this project together.

No matter how much you know your co-founders, you need to have more than understanding of them. You need an element of love, because you will have conflicts, you will have issues and then you need to have the foundation to work those through.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Prior to founding ProductPlan, Jim Semick was part of the founding team at AppFolio, helping validate and launch its first products. Before AppFolio, Jim created the product requirements for GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting which was acquired by Citrix.

Jim lectures at University of California Santa Barbara and elsewhere on the process of discovering successful business models.

Having started ProductPlan in midlife, Jim found that his age and the knowledge he’s acquired have given him an edge:

I think that my experience with validation and launching other products has helped me immensely. So does my experience as a writer and instructor. I’m able to communicate effectively and that has contributed to ProductPlan’s success.

Given all that I’ve seen in my career I don’t sweat the small stuff.

Plus, having a family motivates me to make this successful.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Peter says they launched Prezi in the middle of the 2008 crash, with the audacious goal of taking on Apple, Microsoft and Google. To say it was an uphill battle at first would be an understatement. However they got early signs that they might be on to something:

Most people thought we were very wrong. Again, remember, everyone was losing their job, no one was willing to invest and so we had to bootstrap Prezi in the beginning.

We went a full year without raising any serious money.

We launched Prezi at a startup competition. Unfortunately we came in second place, but within five minutes of introducing Prezi, the moderator asked the audience, “How many of you would be willing to pay for this?” and half of the audience members raised their hand.  

That was the first time we knew that we were onto something really meaningful.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Peter and his co-founders were committed to making Prezi a global company. In doing so, they applied lessons Peter learned from working previously at Mobispine, a mobile communications company that developed the first mobile newsreader so people could watch TED talks from their smartphones:

At Mobispine we fell into the trap of thinking too local.  When we shipped, Mobispine worked perfectly in the Stockholm subway. But then I went to other places in the world and it didn’t work. We didn’t understand what would work in the rest of the world. 

One of the key things that I took away from the experience was that if you want to build a global company, you really have to understand the specific conditions in each of the places that you are going to. You have to think globally from day one. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Although Jim enjoyed bringing new products to market while working for others, starting ProductPlan allowed him fulfill the dream of being be master of his own fate:

I’ve always wanted to create a product that lived beyond me.

In my last job, when I was doing customer discovery, even though I was very invested and very passionate about the products, it was really for the organization, for someone else’s company. It wasn’t for myself.

This time, at ProductPlan it was for myself. That actually makes a real difference. I get so much more satisfaction out of this.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Jim offered this advice for entrepreneurs doing customer discovery:

People want to be nice; people want you be successful. And it’s human nature to want to hear good stuff about what you’ve built.  But believing it all will put you out of business. 

You need to ask polite, but challenging questions to confirm that you’re not hearing these false positives.

If someone tells you: “I love the idea,” ask, “Why do you love the idea?” That takes you down a path, because so many entrepreneurs take that answer at face value and they run with it and say, “Everyone says they love the product,” which may or may not be the truth. 

If someone says, “I love the idea,” you need to ask them whether they’d give you the money they have in the wallet _right now_.  If they won’t they really didn’t love it that much!

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Listen to my full interviews with Jim and Peter by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here. (And download any of the past shows here.)

Next on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere: Michael Ingle, founder of Clean Sleep; and Graeme Gordon, founder of Sneak Guard.

Tune in Thursday at 1 pm PT, 4 pm ET on Sirius XM Channel 111. 

Want to be a guest on the show? Entrepreneurship stretches from Main Street to Silicon Valley, from startups to big companies. Send an email to terri@kandsranch.com describing your entrepreneurial journey.

Entrepreneurs are Everywhere Show No. 35: Jessica Mah and Peggy Burke

At 19 I thought that I would be able to work really hard on my startup, and then in a year we’d have break out success. We’d raise this money, users would just grow like crazy, and we’d have a huge company, and I’d be able to retire before I turned 25.  … Just like in the movies.

What happened?

Well, I’m 25 and that’s still not the case.


Getting funding and press attention doesn’t automatically equal success. And world-class entrepreneurs never quit.

How founders cope with startup challenges was the focus of today’s Entrepreneurs are Everywhere radio show.

The show follows the journeys of founders who share what it takes to build a startup – from restaurants to rocket scientists, to online gifts to online groceries and more. The program examines the DNA of entrepreneurs: what makes them tick, how they came up with their ideas; and explores the habits that make them successful, and the highs and lows that pushed them forward.

Jessica Mah

Jessica Mah

Joining me in the Stanford University studio were

Peggy Burke

Peggy Burke

Listen to my full interviews with Jessica and Peggy by downloading it from SoundCloud here and here.

(And download any of the past shows here.)

Clips from their interviews are below.

Jessica Mah started InDinero in 2010 to help entrepreneurs with their accounting and tax needs after going through the same challenges with her own businesses.

Jessica has been starting her own Internet businesses and programming since middle school. She left high school at 15 to attend Simon’s Rock Early College, then studied computer science at the University of California, Berkeley.

She has been featured in the Forbes and Inc. 30 Under 30 lists, and was on the cover of Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 5000 issue in 2015.

Early on, however, it looked like InDinero would fail. Their initial product was nice-to-have, but people didn’t want to pay for it, Jessica explained:

Everything was going so well. I was able to get the money pretty easily up front, and I was able to get the press. The fairy tale was supposed to have a successful end right there.

But we were about to burn a $700,000 hole in our bank account in the next 12-months if we didn’t do something. We were depending on investor funding, but with $60,000 in revenue no one would fund it. 

I was turning 21 when I realized all this was going down the hole. I was really fricking scared.

I tried to pitch this to investors again. No one was interested.

I looked at my cash balance, and thought, this is going to blow up in flames in the next four months if I don’t do something drastic.

I talked it over with some friends that night, and decided the next morning we’d have to cut all of our costs.  

We got rid of the hot tub in our office and told everyone that they’d have to find a new job.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Jessica ran things as lean as she could for the next few months while figuring out what to do. Here’s how she discovered what her customers actually wanted:

I worked backwards from the optimal solution: What would people pay hundreds of dollars a month for, thousands of dollars a year for, that isn’t too far off from what we’re doing today?

I went to a customer’s office and I watched him use my software. He was paying us $20 a month, and he’s like, “Why the hell am I doing all this myself? Why can’t I just pay you thousands of dollars, and you’ll make this problem go away for me?”

A lightbulb hit, “Aha.”

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Peggy Burke is a 30+-year design executive with expertise in creating global brands. She and her company, 1185 Design, has developed the brands of enterprise companies like Cisco, SAP, Sun Microsystems, VeriSign, Semens, Adobe; consumer products companies like Sears, Chiquita, Apple, Stanford Hospital & Clinics; and over 350 startups.

When Peggy first arrived in Silicon Valley, she worked for Boole & Babbage, before founding her own firm. She quickly learned that running a startup was no picnic, but she was driven to succeed:

I pushed through some of the most difficult challenges. A lot of my competitors – those that were much larger, smaller, every size — just completely blew up and went away. They gave up. They had to. It was too hard.  

But I never gave up.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

She often went without sleep in the early days of building the business:

The biggest challenge was time.

I would run around all day long meeting with clients. Then I would have to come back and work all night long. I would never ever present anything that I didn’t think was “legendary.”

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Especially difficult were the days after the Internet bubble burst:

2001 was a staggering blow to technology. Everything disappeared. It went from a massive fire hose of incredible work — lots and lots and lots of money to spend on branding and events and really pushing the envelope — to a complete turnoff. It’s as if somebody pulled the plug on the entire thing.

I had 60 people at the time. I cut the company in half. That was excruciating.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Jessica learned an important lesson about hiring:

I thought, wow, it’d be great to work with friends, but it was horrible.

It wrecked our friendships. It was very hard for me to be direct and candid and strict with them. It was very conflicting, and it was hard to keep myself honest and separate the two from each other.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Looking back, she realizes she had a too-rosy view of what doing a startup would be like:

I wish I had a better appreciation for how difficult it would be to accurately forecast where I’d be 12 months or 18 months from now. I should have just kept more of an open mind for where I could have been, and thought more about the failure cases.

I thought all about the good upside, I didn’t think about the risks and the problems I might run into at all. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Today, she constantly challenges herself

Every 6 months I go through a small internal crises where I wonder, am I on the path to success? That path keeps on changing.  

For me now, I really do want to build a big company here. When we first started the business, I’m not sure if that was so crystal-clear. Now, I’m really driven by the idea of having a really big company that impacts thousands or millions of people.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Peg credits Silicon Valley’s pay-it-forward culture to giving her a leg up when she was starting out:

Peggy: When I resigned from Boole & Babbage, I had no clients at all.

I had $3,000 in the bank and I was sending my parents money, so there was no support, no safety net at all. I spent a $1,000 a month on my car and my rent and my expenses. I thought, “I can do this.”

My first client was Boole & Babbage. My boss at the time said, “We’d like to put you on a retainer.” For a $1,000 a month, they retained me.

Steve:  How did you get new clients?

Peggy: I networked. I shared an office in Palo Alto with my friend Elizabeth Horn. Elizabeth was making a film called My Dinner With Apple. Everyone you could possibly imagine related to Steve Jobs, including Andy Cunningham, came in and Elizabeth interviewed them in her office. 

I was introduced to Andy. I was introduced to David Kelly. I was introduced to all kinds of people who, to this day, are some of my best friends in the world. Elizabeth opened the doors to these introductions.

And, Pitch Johnson who was the chairman of the board at Boole & Babbage and a venture capitalist, took me around and introduced me to every venture capital firm in Silicon Valley at the time. I started working with startups and venture capitalists.

He took an interest in my business. He was incredibly generous. 

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Here’s how she stays a step ahead of her competitors:

Peggy: Every three months I sit down and I try to define what tomorrow’s agency looks like, what the agency of five years from now looks like.

I put it on a board, make a few notes. Then we’ll have retreat for the company. I take all of these notes, split them up, give them to different teams, and say, “Go brainstorm this.”

Steve: Because if you don’t do it, some competitor’s doing for you.

Peggy: Absolutely.  

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Listen to my full interviews with Jessica and Peggy by downloading it from SoundCloud here and here. (And download any of the past shows here.)

Next on Entrepreneurs are Everywhere: Jim Semick, founder of ProductPlan and Peter Arvai, co-founder of Prezi. 

Tune in Thursday at 1 pm PT, 4 pm ET on Sirius XM Channel 111. 

Want to be a guest on the show? Entrepreneurship stretches from Main Street to Silicon Valley, from startups to big companies. Send an email to terri@kandsranch.com describing your entrepreneurial journey.

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