Starting a Startup with Rob Nicholson

Rob was awesome this week. If you weren’t able to attend you missed out on a highly energetic talk and simulation of what it’s like to start a business from virtually nothing!

To be your own boss, it helps to know a little bit about how you get to that point. Rob took us on a little role-play adventure, explaining the process of assigning your company a certain status (LLC or C Corporation etc.) and the ins and outs of hiring a lawyer for help with that. He also explained the difference between Venture Capitalists (investors with a lot of cash), Bankers (bureaucrats from whom you borrow money, to be paid back at a later date), and Angel Investors (financiers who might ask for a stake in your company or just expect a return on their investment).

“Now, now,” he cautioned, “not everyone might support you in your venture.” Chad the Dad certainly had his doubts about his daughter’s ambitions  to start her company. However, if it’s something you’re passionate about, there’s [almost] always a way to make your dreams and plans come to fruition. Most importantly though, you should never be afraid of asking for help. Hard work, a dedicated team, and innovation tend to be rewarded with success of some sort.

Make sure to follow Rob on Twitter! @rjncarpediem

It’s Not About Being A Woman (Or A Man)

Startup Culture Has Gotten Too Focused on Gender

There’s a lot of talk about the gender disparity in tech startups these days. Everyone can cite a study or two about how few female CEO’s there are, how little they get invested, so on and so forth. Everyone and their sister writes an article about “How we need more women in tech” and “we need more women in startups.”

The thing is, nobody is on the other side of this argument. Nobody needs to be convinced of this. Nobody is saying “bah! there are enough ladies around.” By writing an article about how we need that, you’re merely soliciting agreement and nods from your fellow coworkers. 

Congratulations, you brave, brave soul. 

In reality, I agree; there’s definitely a problem somewhere. The startup gap seems much wider than what the gap would naturally be (based on life choices, e.t.c.). But standing around writing soulful blog articles isn’t the solution.

We’re not going to fix this problem if we continue to focus on the gender of it all. The answer is not to obsessively focus on women in entrepreneurship just because they’re women, to the exclusion of more qualified men. The answer is not to create communities of women in tech that are characterized only by what’s between their legs; where we all get together and sit around and talk about what it’s like to have lady parts under our pants at work.

These communities can be important in limited doses, but too much of it and you have a whole group of people who are focusing on the negative in their life and belatedly sighing about how hard they have it — instead of actually getting up, going out, and doing stuff. 

I wasn’t even aware I faced any struggles as a woman with a tech startup career until I was invited to speak at one of these events — and that’s exactly what I said. “Perhaps it’s because of my generation, or my age, but I’ve never faced any extra difficulty or prejudice because I am a woman with a tech startup…

…if anything, I’ve been disproportionately rewarded for it. Many scholarships, awards, competitions, and other opportunities were afforded me that were not afforded my male peers.”

When we focus on gender with these gender-based career rewards, we’re saying that the equality of the outcome — ’having an equal amount of men and women in entrepreneurship’— is more important than equality of opportunity. In other words, we think that a 50/50 split is more important than rewarding the best and most motivated people.

I don’t know about you, but I want the people who worked hardest for something to get the reward — even if that person is a white, upper class male in San Francisco. 

“But Megan, that won’t fix the problem! If we get rid of those things, there will be less women!”

You’re right. That alone clearly wouldn’t fix the problem at all. But what is currently being proposed is a painkiller, treating the symptoms and not the disease.

When I go to the doctor for a broken arm I don’t want him to treat me with a lot of painkillers, I want him to fix my arm.

So how do we fix this? Why aren’t there more women in tech and startups – why are they turning away?

We have to ask women why they did or didn’t choose the startup life. Then, we sift through those answers. Some women will say “it’s not what I wanted for myself,” and we have to accept their personal choices. What we’re looking for is people who said “I wanted to, but — ” and then find out what stopped them.

This doesn’t occur in late high school or early college, where most of the earliest female-startup efforts are being targeted. Entrepreneurs seem to know by that age that that’s what they want to do at some point in life.

Any entrepreneur knows that being an entrepreneurial sort of person is partially a question of personality, so we have to discover why these personalities are being turned away so early in life – in early high school or even before.

The answer is not to make entrepreneurship disproportionately easier for women who are already there, but to get more women interested in the first place. Women-based awards, competitions, e.t.c. only reward women already decided on entrepreneurship, not women who were chased away before they even had a chance.

In the recent past I have seen some groups like this start; CoolTechGirls being one of them. They are few and far between but much appreciated.

I can be found on Twitter and my personal website, among other places.


Finding Your Mojo With Brian Reed

We had a great time this week with Brian Reed, founder of Mojo Tago, a local food truck company that just recently opened its first brick and mortar location in Powell. Brian’s path wasn’t a straight one, he dealt with several hardships including the loss of one of his dear friend and cofounder. For a while he was feeling like he lost his Mojo and this inspired Mojo Tago, the thrill of this Mexican food truck helped him to find new meaning and pick himself back up from such a tragic loss. Throughout his story there were many twists and turns he encountered before reaching the level of success he has today. Some key lessons from his talk are:

• Having a single focus is really key, if it’s something you have a passion to do, unexpected things will happen out of no where, people will support you if they feel your passion
• Find health in the business on a smaller manageable level before you find growth
• It’s important to know when it’s time to change, when it’s time to adapt
• Strive for that unique edge, what gets you up in the morning and keeps the business alive
• As for the path to finding your own mojo, there’s no clear path, it seems to come in a myriad of ways, just explore your interests and try to follow the signs that you receive

We can’t thank Brian enough for coming out during such a busy time for his business!


IdeaBox 2015, Ohio State’s Entrepreneurship Fair

The first step before beginning any new venture is to receive feedback. The stone cold truth, what you need to hear from the people you need to hear it from. Hearing the opinions of your peers: good, bad, and indifferent is an essential mechanism in determining if your idea is worth pursuing. Instead of our twice yearly IdeaPitch competition, the BBC decided to focus on knocking IdeaBox out of the park this Spring. Think of IdeaBox as a science fair for startup ideas, a place where like-minded individuals gather to talk business, life, and enjoy themselves. On April 2nd, 2015 in the Ohio Union the BBC hosted its largest IdeaBox contest to date. With more than 25 entries and over $1,000 in prizes at stake, this was no ordinary science fair.


We were blown away as an organization with the quality and effort put into the business concepts. Almost all entrants had some sort of minimum viable product already built, some had patents, and others were already selling product. Many of the ideas and concepts that were presented have not been discussed at BBC meetings or related events, this was not only encouraging but refreshing. Approximately 75 people attended this year’s event, making for a lively evening of all things entrepreneurship.


All attendees to this year’s IdeaBox event had the option to become “investors” in the competitor’s ideas for their chance at a share of the prizes. We believe that this added a unique element to the event, audience participation. We hope if you were able to attend that you enjoyed this quirky twist.


This year’s event would not have been possible without the generous contributions from our many sponsors. First off, thank you NCT Ventures for being the event’s official sponsor. NCT, a local venture capital firm, is helping to make Columbus the start-up hub of the Midwest. Also a huge thank you goes out to Columbus State Community College’s Small Business Development Center, FlashNotes, Metcalf & Associates, Start-Up Weekend Columbus and Fundable. Giving away prizes would not have been possible without these companies and their leaders.


We would also like to thank our judges for taking time out of their Wednesday evenings to be with us. Calvin Cooper of NCT Ventures, Rich Langdale of NCT Ventures, Ariana Ulloa-Olavariettta of Columbus State, Michael Bowers of Columbus State, Dan Rockwell of Big Kitty Labs, David Sherry of Death to Stock Photography, and Damon Caiozza of Fundable were all generous enough to take on the intimidating task of judging this event. Again, IdeaBox would not have been possible without them.


The Business Builders Club would like to extend our congratulations to the 3 grand prize winners of $500, $250, and $100 respectively. In 1st place, Titan Mixer Bottle, an innovative solution to all of the common problems that protein shaker bottle users have. In 2nd place came Tokeables, a festival accessories company. And in 3rd place we had SolveIt, a crazy cool app that can decode your hand writing of math problems and solve those subsequent problems for you. Thank you to all who competed, it takes a lot of guts to get in front of people and talk about something you are passionate about, especially when you have to do it almost 100 separate times.


IdeaBox this year was a huge success and something that the BBC sees growing in the future. Thank you to all who supported this event and made the effort of attending. Personally, as event organizer, I had a blast being able to meet judges, participants, and attendees alike. IdeaBox was nothing but a fulfilling experience. We look forward to seeing you all next year! #BBCMafia


Lessons of a Startup Tale with Danielle Walton

This week we had a splendid time hearing from Danielle Walton, founder of BringShare and Adept Marketing. Her experience is extensive, 3 years as a consultant at Deloitte, 2 years as Marketing Project Manager at Lifestyle Communities, and over 8 years in startups, one bootstrapped, and one with venture capital, she learned a lesson from every obstacle and mistake along the way. Here are some of the learnings she had to share:

• If you want to be successful you have to be willing to work harder than everyone else

• You can’t let things get you down, learn how you can get better from each mistake, be optimistic

• Balance vision and reality, there is a point where you can take positivity too far

• Don’t underestimate the value of experience

• Get a job,work for a startup, don’t experience the pain of failure and mistake first-hand, learn through someone else’s pain

• Don’t feel like you have to rush it, the dumbest thing we’ve ever done is quit our job to startup the company with no money

We are very grateful to have Danielle, such a well seasoned marketing mind and entrepreneur, come share her insights with us.


Recap of the 1st Ever Emerging Entrepreneur Competition

Mark Zuckerburg was 19 when he started Facebook. 17 year old Nick D’Aloisio sold his app Summly to Yahoo! for $30 million in 2013. Brian Wong, at age 19, founded a gaming rewards program called Kiip which earned over $15.4 million in funding and a spot on the DOW Jones FASTech50.

These few examples go to show that when it comes to startups, age is no boundary. These tech-savvy teens have proved that in the 21st century the pups are perfectly capable of playing with the big dogs. Little did we know, Ohio is home to many teens who share the same vision.

At the beginning of the year, the BBC decided we would set out to spark interest and support for Ohio’s youth entrepreneurs. We decided to host the 1st annual Emerging Entrepreneur Competition to take place March 29th in the Ohio Union. We invited high school entrepreneurs from all over Ohio to pitch their products and ideas to a panel of judges for feedback, advice, and the chance to grab a $500 grand prize.

After each entry came in, we were more and more thrilled at how many high-schoolers wanted to come out to OSU and pitch their projects. Students with improved 3D printers, digital liquor control devices, and online live personal training platforms greatly exceeding our expectations. On paper these ideas seemed great, but once we saw the full presentations, we were blown away. Some of these students had spent years developing their products, establishing LLCs, patents pending, and working prototypes. Who knew there was so much talent and ingenuity right here in our own backyard?

Taking home the grand prize was Carson Fox from Saint Francis DeSales for his company Head Hoodies which produces stylish head protectors for lacrosse sticks. The 2nd place prize was given to Matthew Boles, creator of a microwaveable, totable oatmeal. In 3rd place, Sammie Sommerkamp who designed the WorkoutWonder, an easy, simple to use piece of equipment which helps strengthen and tone core muscles.

Overall, the judges and the BBC were more than impressed with the great ideas and products that were presented. At such a young age, these students sure were able to bring their wow-factor! Congratulations to all presenters. We are greatly looking forward to see what the future has in store for you.

We at the BBC would like to thank all judges, participants, and spectators for helping to make a very successful Emerging Entrepreneur Competition.

See you next year!


Judges for the Event:

David Comisford

Doug Myers

Brooke Paul

Dan Rockwell

Greg Ruf

Cherylyn Rushton

Guest Speaker:

Steve Gacka


Leadership Welcome

2014-2015 Leadership Applications

Deadline: Sunday, April 5th at Midnight

It’s that time again! The Business Builders Club will be transitioning leadership very soon and we encourage you to apply to join the team. Here is a rundown of the positions we think are suitable:

  • President: You ensure that everyone has the right tools to get the job done. The captain of the ship.
  • Vice President: You help create the vision for the future and are chief get-things-done’er.
  • VP of Marketing: You make the world know what the BBC is!
  • VP of Communications: You write about the BBC and share it with our community.
  • VP of Company Relations: You are the point of contact for companies in the community to reach the BBC.
  • VP of Events: You make sure the BBC does what it can do best; run awesome events!
  • VP of Membership: You are in charge of selling membership and are the number one promoter for the BBC.
  • VP of Operations: You make sure the details are not forgotten.
  • VP of Finance: You make sure we don’t run out of money.
  • VP of Technology: You are the techy guru for the club.
  • VP of Design: You make sure that we look pretty.
  • VP of Alumni Relations: You make sure that our older, graduated friends stay in love with BBC.

To apply, simply download this form and return it (typed) to along with a copy of your resume. Leadership Application_2015

Deadline: Sunday, April 5th at Midnight – but we appreciate timeliness


An Oath to Startups

In case you missed it, we had Mark Stansbury of Stansbury Law give us an hour of his very valuable time to answer all our legal questions about startups. Some of the key takeaways were:

• Have the important talks/arguments with co-founders sooner rather than later
• So no one walks away with a chunk of the company in the first few months, the industry standard is becoming 6 years for equity vested which means equity is released to owners over time
• The biggest mistake startups made is not getting professional advice early on, in particular, legalzoom is good for basic agreements but can lead to problems down the line
• If you don’t have a lot of money, do accounting and legal on your own, even if you are audited you’ll probably be okay because the IRS knows you don’t have a lot of money
• The biggest trouble companies get into is not paying withholding tax, always pay any sales or withholding tax, even if lights go out and business goes down, if you don’t pay that the IRS will come after you and won’t settle
• Make sure you’re not signing bad terms when you take capital, be wary of money from the government, there are often strings attached that are not conducive to business
• RocketLawyer is a good resource for cheap legal help, competitor of Legal Zoom
• Brad Feld is a good resource, follow his blog

We are tremendously grateful for Mark’s time taking the stand and all his great advice! If you would like to contact him, he can be reached at He has offered to give a free hour of basic advice to help move you in the right direction if you need it!


Validating Your Startup Idea

Having an idea for a startup can be really exciting, and sometimes you want to dive right into producing your product and launching your company.  But before you do that, you have to make sure your idea is actually a good one, by validating the idea, or making sure people will actually want your product before producing it.  This way, you can make the decision to launch your startup knowing people will want what you’re making.

It’s easy to assume that people will want your product before you make it.  For instance, at Pufferfish Software we were sure people would want an app that helped their children learn to identify the fifty states of the USA.  We went right ahead in producing it, confident that we could just put it up on the app store and sell to our existing user base of parents and to parents on the iPad app store.  Much to our dismay, we received no sales on an app that cost, if I recall correctly, $800 to make – because foolishly, we didn’t make sure people wanted it before we made it.

Unfortunately, having a few friends say “yeah that’s cool I’d buy that” doesn’t really count as validation.  Think about it – there’s lots of stuff you say you’d buy, especially after an afternoon wasted shopping online.  But you don’t actually go buy any of those things.  The only thing that really counts as validation is a commitment to purchase.

A commitment to purchase comes in two forms – providing contact information for a future purchase, or pledging money for the purchase in the form of a pre-sale.  Since you’re not even sure you want to go ahead with your startup idea yet, you can collect the contact information of people who want to buy your product.  This is easy, free, and only requires a couple steps.

1.  Set Up a Website.

Making a simple website has become amazingly easy in the past couple of years.  Anyone can hop online, and get started for free.  For this, you want to make a website using LaunchRock.    LaunchRock is a service designed exactly for what you’re trying to do, which is build an early customer base to prove your idea is something people want.  They’re free, so if you never get that traction it didn’t cost you a thing.

2. Set up a Twitter.

This is so you can make it easy for people to share your product or idea online.  Make sure to hook this up to your LaunchRock website so people can easily share.  Twitter isn’t meant for broadcasting promotion about your product, but for having conversations with your followers.  It’s called social media, because it’s meant for socially engaging.  But whatever you do, don’t buy Twitter followers.

3. Promote!

Tell your friends about your website, first of all.  Post on your personal accounts saying you’re investigating this idea.  Secondly, get on Reddit, find the subreddits were your potential customers are, and let them know what you’re making.  If it’s tech-y, post on HackerNews.  If it’s crafty, post on Pinterest.

Wherever you post, don’t come off as a broadcaster.  Remember to be a person; ask for feedback on your idea, ask people what they want out of such a product.  This isn’t about you and your awesome company, this is about making a product for your customers that your customers want.  It’s about your customers.

If you want to get more engagement with your product, give them a little taste for free.  Take up to 10 hours producing some content for your customer base, be it writing or a free tool or a free chart or a small game or whatever you can think of, and then give it away in exchange for an email address.  This is a great way to get people on board with your product idea, because they will already know you are going to deliver on what you promise.

4. Assess

After you’ve done this for a month, assess the traction you have.  People might be interested and love your idea, or they might hate it.  They might think it has potential, but would rather you make something different.  Make sure to assess all of the interaction you got, and decide on the course of action best for you and your customers.  Because it doesn’t matter how many customers you have if you’re not making something they want.

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Our Very Own TEDx Original with Ida Abdalkhani

In February, the largest ever TEDx conference at Ohio State University assembled in the Mershon Auditorium to listen to a collection of distinguished speakers share their experience and stories in hopes of inspiring other change-makers in our community. We were fortunate to listen to a Business Builders Club alumni, Ida Abdalkhani, give the crowd a lesson in laughter yoga. As she says, laughter yoga is forcing oneself to laugh, and the silly, forced laughter becomes real laughter that gets blood flowing and endorphins released into the body. In addition to instructing the laughter yoga session, Ida shared the benefits of laughter yoga.

A huge thank you to Ida for venturing back to Columbus to bring laughter to the entire audience. Check out her talk here and #ShareTheLaughter

Of course, this couldn’t have happened without the amazing team behind TEDxOSU! Round of applause.