Interesting Talk by Mark McGuire

A few weeks ago, I attended a talk at the UW Business School by Mark McGuire of Jellyfish.com and Alice.com fame.  He talked about his experiences starting, running and selling Name Protect and Jellyfish during an hour talk and a generous question and answer period.  As a fellow UW Poli Sci major and entrepreneur, I really enjoyed the entire talk.  It was great to see another non-business major succeed as an entrepreneur.  For me, the most interesting parts of the talk were his “Big Three Advantages” to being a startup, taken from his blog.

Mark’s three advantages are:
Speed and Agility – Big companies can’t move as fast as you
No History – Statups have no baggage and nothing to protect
A Different Kind of Employee – Start up teams can accomplish amazing things
I think he really hit the nail on the nail on the head with all three of these points.  It led me to reflect on my experience with ExchangeHut to see if we had used all of these advantages to their fullest potential.
Speed and Agility

When we first started, we were able to move more quickly than any other site.  Even when other startups entered the ticket market, we were able to move more quickly to meet our customers’ needs.  When the UW athletic department introduced the Ticket Marketplace or Facebook created a classified system, we were able to keep pushing our streamlined, agile vision for ticket sales.  Speed and agility were definitely our most important advantages.
No History

When one piece of our website did not work as well as we had planned, we quickly moved onto a new plan.  We did not have to worry about upsetting revenue or a previous customer base, precisely because we did not have any history.  This advantage over Facebook allowed us to gain market share and become the dominant player in the student ticket market, while they slowly developed classifieds.
A Different Kind of Employee
We were lucky enough to find a programming team that bought into the start up ideology.  We were able to convince our team that we had “the power to change the market” and make a big difference in how students bought and sold tickets.
After looking back at our experiences, I’m confident that Mark is right about these advantages.  I’d also like to thank him for taking the time to come talk to a bunch of college students who are interested in entrepreneurship.  It’s always fun to hear big success stories about startups, especially Madison based ones!

What do you DO all day?

What do you DO all day?
I’ve been asked this question by so many people in the last few weeks since ExchangeHut was acquired.   Its been asked with varying degrees of disdain what seems like hundreds of times in the last few months.  From professors to friends, to other entrepreneurs to people at the bars, not to mention my parents, I try to come up with something interesting and meaningful for each audience.
So, what does a college student who just sold his first business do all day?
Class
At the start of the fall semester, I was 11 credits from graduating with a degree in Poli Sci from Wisconsin.  I decided it would be worthwhile to take these 11 credits in two semesters for many reasons, which I will go into later.  As a result, I’m currently taking two classes, both on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Consulting
I try to work 1-2 hours per day consulting for other startups by doing research, coming up with marketing ideas and helping with business plans.   Its usually some of the most interesting parts of my week.
Reading
I love to read.  I always have, ever since I was in grade school.  I read the Economist cover to cover each week, along with lots of random blogs and books that I find.  I try to spend 2 hours a day reading various books, blogs and magazines.
Research
I’ve also been trying to spend at least 2 hours per day researching new business ideas.  Many days, I spend closer to 4 hours and as many as 8, but on average, its probably closer to 2.  I’ll usually try to read just about anything relating to new ideas that I get to try to get a better feel for new markets.
Working Out
I try to either ride my bike every day, whether its outside or on my trainer.  Other days, I’ll play racket ball with one of my roommates or just mess around at the SERF.  Depending on the day, I’ll try to spend at least an hour a day doing something active.
Sports and Entertainment
Since I’m still a college student and am only taking two classes, I try to make sure I enjoy the college lifestyle while I still can.  I also have student season tickets to football, basketball and hockey and go to all of the games with my friends.