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Dr. Fred M. Haney Sample Speaking Topics

IMG_8667 - Version 2The following are examples of speaking topics for Fred M. Haney: 

Why Your Startup Needs to Hire an Experienced CEO NOW! 

If you’re starting a new company and your vision is to create a blockbuster success like Yahoo, Google, or Facebook, you should probably hire an experienced CEO.  There are some very successful “founder-led” companies, but they are the exception.  Most venture capital firms will want your CEO to have previous success in a related industry.  It is a popular misconception that founders can be taught how to be successful CEOs.  Most good CEOs needed 10-20 years to earn their stripes, and that process cannot be compressed into a few months.

What Does it Mean to “Attract Capital” to your Startup Company?

Too many startup company founders make the mistake of cobbling together a business plan and spending months approaching investors, only to discover that they don’t have what investors want.  Believe it or not, the best companies “attract” capital like a magnet.  Investors know a good deal when they see one.  So instead of spending lots of time writing a business plan, spend your time creating a company that will attract capital.  Here’s how.

Startup Companies:  The Secret(s) to Success

First you need a clear and realistic vision for your product.  What is it’s real value?  Why will they buy it?  Why will it be better than the competition?  Then you need a “survival” strategy that defines how far you can take the company without capital — i.e., a “no capital” approach.  The farther you can take your company without raising capital, the greater the value and the lesser the risk you will present to investors. 

What is “Company Building?”

“Company-Building” can be thought of as different from entrepreneur-ship or “Building a Business.”   What’s the difference and why is it important?  Many successful businesses are managed by a small number of entrepreneurial people.  Not all businesses require the building of a company.  But if your vision is to raise venture capital and build a “blockbuster” company, you will need a management team with extensive “company-building” skills.  These skills involve creating and managing  a multi-level organization, a team of  C-level executives, and strategies for raising capital and sustaining a competitive position in your markets.  Most executives with the necessary “company-building” skills, obtained their talents from 10-20 years of hands-on management experience.

Lessons from both sides of the table:  A Venture Capitalist Turns Entrepreneur

Having been a venture capitalist and angel investor for thirty years, I have a pretty good idea what investors are looking for in a startup company.  When I am on the “company” side of the table, I try to create companies that meet the needs of investors.  The trick is to build  a strategy, a management team, and an operating plan that will show investors how they can make an attractive investment return within their risk tolerance.  Most entrepreneurs  are not able to think like investors, and they end up making the same mistakes.   Think like an investor and avoid the common errors.

IMG_8670 - Version 2Top Ten Mistakes Companies Make When Presenting to Venture Capitalists and How to Avoid Them

Venture capitalists see hundreds of business plane, and every year they hear dozens of business plan presentations.  Venture Capitalists’ dirty little secret is that a business plan presentation contains many “subliminal” clues that belie the sophistication and experience of a company’s management team.  The most common error is, “We only need 1% of the market. To be successful.” This “clue” and others can be fatal mistakes.  Why?  And how can a company avoid this mistake?

Top Ten Strategic Killers of Startup Companies and How to Avoid Them

Why do so many startup companies fail?  Founders often assume that “business is intuitive and easy.”  Nothing could be farther from the truth. Startup businesses are fragile.  Sometimes a single miscalculation can be fatal.  Common errors?  Not raising enough capital.  Over-spending.  Hiring errors.  Errors in corporate structure.  A poorly written shareholders’ agreement.  Over-estimating market demand.  Under-estimating competition.  Taking advice from people with limited company- building experience.    Failures to consult a CPA or lawyer on critical issues.  What’s the best way to survive these “potholes?”

The Karma model of career paths.

Haney Karma Career Model.  Experience sticks to you in unexpected ways.  Don’t over-think your career.  Do things you are good at and enjoy; and keep learning.  Learn from my journey from  mathematician and computer scientist to spinout expert and biotech entrepreneur — without ever “jumping tracks.”

The Many Hats a Venture Capitalist Wears

Fred uses about a dozen props (hats) to illustrate that a venture capitalist plays many roles, including financier, executive, demolition expert, bull fighter, soothsayer, technologist, networker, detective, fireman, cowboy, vulture, and magician.

Radio Talk Show.  In 2006, Fred wrote “My Doggie Says… Messages from Jamie,” a collection of color photographs and stories about his Golden Retriever Jamie’s behavioral communications.  In 2007, Fred started broadcasting the “My Doggie Says…” Radio Talk Show on KFNX, in Phoenix.  The show continued until 2012, when Fred’s Venture Management workload demanded more of his time.  He continues to record an occasional podcast on topics related to dog communication, dog intelligence, dog training, and dog rescue.  During the four years of the show, Fred interviewed many of the top dog trainers, authors of dog books, and personalities in the dog business.  Guests included authors Dean Koontz, Ted Kerasote, Garth Stein, TV personality David Frei, Numerologist Glynis McCants, President of the American Society of Dog Trainers, and President of the American Humane Society, animal psychic Val Heart.


Ideas, Strategy, and Concept

Start up companies turn dreams into reality. The most successful ones start with a truly big, or disruptive, idea; a concept that will significantly change the way something is done.

Successful startups solve a compelling problem; they come up with a way of doing something that does not presently exist. They might solve a problem that has never been solved before. Or they might come up with a better solution than existed before. But “better” can’t mean “just a little bit better.” It has to mean “enough better to compel customers to buy the product.”

The most successful start ups have a protected idea. They have an idea that cannot easily be copied by their competition. This might mean the idea is covered by patents. Sometimes it means that portions of the process are trade secrets and cannot easily be reinvented or reverse engineered. One way, or another, the company should have a sustainable “unfair competitive advantage.”

Successful startups have a product or service that customers will feel compelled to purchase. They also have effective strategies for building a management team, developing the product or service, marketing the product or service, positioning the product or service with respect to competition, sustaining their competitive advantage, and financing all of their capital needs.

The bigger and more disruptive the idea, the better the company’s chances of attracting the necessary investment capital. Investors like ideas that have the potential for supporting large companies with substantial prospects for either an initial public offering or an acquisition by a large corporation. That’s how investors make their “return on investment.”


Successful management strategies for startup companies

The most successful start up company management teams contain a workable mix of entrepreneurial vision and seasoned, successful management experience.

It’s rare that one individual combines both the entrepreneurial vision and the necessary management success. Sometimes the ideal combination is the vision of a founder and the previous success of an experienced CEO.

Build your additional management team around the tasks required to start your company. Often these are technical tasks like product development proof-of-concept or product testing. If you think you can get some early sales of your product or service you might want to recruit an experienced sales person. You can probably save a Chief Financial Officer or VP of Manufacturing for later. These are usually area where a startup need only a modest amount of help.

The excitement of a start up company and the opportunity to create wealth through stock options are often all you need to compensate your initial team. Startup companies often operate for a year or two with a management team whose only compensation is equity. Obviously, your team members expect to receive a salary sometime in the future, but that might not happen until the company is able to raise equity capital.

If you expect to raise capital from venture capitalists or angel investors you will want to build your team with people who have documented success with closely related products or services.

The most important member of your management team will be the CEO. Investors will look to the CEO as the focal point for all activities. They will expect the CEO to manage the company — to provide leadership, develop an effective plan, recruit the necessary team and manage the company’s finances.

Investors prefer to invest in CEOs who have successfully managed companies with related products or services.

We all know the stories about wildly successful entrepreneur/founders who create massive wealth. Steve Jobs. David Packer. Bill Hewlett. Gordon Moore. These are rare exceptions. Most successful startup companies are managed by CEOs with previous experience and success. Sometimes venture capitalists bring CEOs into companies. Some venture capitalist even have “executives in residence” on their staff.

Only rarely do venture capitalists invest in companies whose founder is also the CEO. Successful CEOs are usually the product of 10-20 years of management experience. Venture capitalists generally do not want their funds to be used for on-the-job CEO training

Getting the right CEO for your company is a tricky “chicken and egg” problem. It’s hard to attract a top-quality CEO if you don’t have funds, but it’s even harder to get funding without a top-quality CEO. Sometimes it takes a lot of creativity to entice a top-quality CEO who will work (temporarily) for no salary and who will be able to attract equity capital.