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About a year ago I left Terrafugia and launched myself solo into Boston’s entrepreneurship scene. The advice given to me by a distant mentor was “find some local entrepreneurship resources and get involved.” I started by Googling. I was amazed by how much exists in Boston. Two groups in particular have earned a lot of my attention on account of their polished and varied programming:
IEEE Boston Entrepreneur’s Network
(Visit Boston ENET.)
The format of the meeting provides “as you like it” networking time way before, before, and after a set of three carefully screened and rehearsed presentations. Way before the meeting you can pay your own way to dinner at Bertucci’s. This is how I ended up meeting two of my eventual co-founders. At the meeting location itself there’s time to mix and mingle over sodas and snacks. After the meeting you can swarm the speakers or, even better, go introduce yourself to someone who asked an interesting question in front of the group.
The presentations are moderated, well timed, complementary perspectives on a single theme. For instance, this month’s meeting was “How do you know you’re ready to start a company?” The first speaker, Greg Skloot of Attendware, talked about the difference between tinkering on a project and really knowing that you have a business. The second speaker, Joe Baz of Above the Fold, gave insights into the personal aspects of entrepreneurship. Third we had Vicki Donlan, an impressively experienced consultant able to speak to a wide variety of startup success and dysfunction. We closed with Bill Seibel, whose resume slide made you turn to the person next to you and whisper “Wow.”
Every time I go to ENET:
- I meet someone helpful to my startup.
- I’m entertained by at least one charismatic and engaging speaker.
- I find a new role model of entrepreneurial success.
The Capital Network
This is like getting a laser-focused entrepreneur’s MBA for $400. Before I joined, I knew more than the average entrepreneur about debt and equity, about investment, and about business valuation. But the rules and norms for startups are usually a little different, and often they’re quite esoteric. For instance, when you buy $50,000 worth of stock of a publicly traded company worth $5,000,000, you get 1% of the company. When you buy the same amount from a startup worth the same thing, you get 0.99%. The reason is because of this difference: buying publicly traded stock gives you existing shares; buying startup stock causes new shares to be issued. If you’re thinking about taking investor money, this consideration and others must enter into your calculations, because the dilution effect on you means your share of the company will shrink with each investment round.
Unlike ENET, TCN often has a single speaker go for the full 90 minutes. In this format, the topics are meandering overviews of narrow subjects driven partly by slides and partly by audience questions. It’s a real good chance to ask about your specific startup. For instance, at the “founder issues” talk given by Paul Sweeney at Foley Hoag, we had a good audience-driven discussion about setting the strike price of stock options given to employees. (See my previous article here.) They also experiment with panels and roundtable discussions, which are helpful for giving diverse perspectives or more time in smaller groups.
Every time I go to a TCN lunch:
- I get delicious, healthy food.
- I can ask detailed questions of a knowledgeable speaker.
- I meet someone new starting an exciting business.
If you’re in Boston, you get access to lots of good Internet resources just the same as anyone else anywhere in the world. But these two groups are fun and, if you’re really going to do this for the first time, absolutely essential.
If you have rental property in Massachusetts, here’s a quick way you can check the health and currency of your rental forms. You should have:
- A primary agreement (be it a “lease” or a “tenancy-at-will”), that specifies
- Which space is being rented
- To whom
- How much
- Who pays for utilities (you can’t charge for water unless you have separate meters!)
- Who fixes stuff
- Whether subletting is allowed (I recommend not)
- And if you like your agreement, comment below to tell others where to get a copy
- A summary of everything attached to the primary agreement (all of the “addenda”), which includes everything below:
- An addendum with your custom terms
- Do you keep keys to the apartment? If so, under which conditions may you enter?
- Is parking allowed?
- Are pets allowed? Remember, you can’t charge pet fees or take a pet security deposit.
- Is smoking allowed? Yes, you can prohibit smoking on your property.
- Who replaces smoke detector batteries?
- Are judgments for legal expenses capped?
- Who pays for lock-outs?
- No smoking addendum
- You shouldn’t be held responsible for health effects if someone smokes on your no-smoking property.
- Insect infestation addendum
- Landlords must pay for extermination, but tenants must comply with extermination procedures.
- CORI authorization
- Otherwise you can’t check criminal history.
- Mold addendum
- Tenants must keep the place free of moisture and report any problems immediately.
- Move-out and cleaning fees
- This is required if you think you might withhold from a security deposit.
- Lead disclosure forms and copy of lead report
- You can’t have kids under six years old living in an apartment with lead paint unless the hazards have been brought under interim control or eliminated.
- Bank signature form (w9 signature card, not just w9) for security deposit account
- Security deposits must be held under the tenant’s social security number.
- Utility companies sheet
- As a courtesy, tell your tenants where to go to start gas and electric service.
- Bedbug notice
- Warn your tenants against picking up used mattresses or other furniture off the street.
- Trash sheet, including number for bulk item removal
- Help your property stay clean by encouraging tenants to take advantage of free recycling and affordable bulk waste pick-up, if your city has these programs.
- Tell them which day is their trash day and where to put their trash.
- A condition of move-in
- You need this if you ever have to show a judge or other third party that the apartment was in good shape when the tenants moved in.
- Fuel assistance form
- Many, many tenants qualify for fuel assistance. If they get on fuel assistance, a world of benefits may open up to you, including new refrigerators, insulation, and furnaces. Plus, any money you can save your tenant increases the affordability of your property.
Did I miss anything? Add your comments below!
So this young businessman named Nick remixes a Disney movie with their permission, and US Border Protection decides that the US wants none of that. So they deport him, and they put his name into the computer so that he won’t be able to get back in for ten years. I’ll let you hear the deportee tell it his way:
The truth is, if I could vote on which would-be immigrants to let into the US, I wouldn’t be voting against remixers. Nor would I vote against scientists, entrepreneurs, or any other ambitious person. Just think if Andrew Carnegie’s father had been deported! That’s why bills like the Startup Visa are important steps for the US.
To end on a positive note, check out one of this deportee’s “crimes”: