Jordan Fliegel

Cool hangout on private coaching and the CoachUp story. 

jfleeg:

             The Art of the Pitch
In the interest of not making this an extremely long post, let’s stick with the 10 basic rules you need to remember when giving a pitch to an investor:
Rule #1: Have a pitch deck. My good friend and advisor Greg King of KingBridge Consulting suggests you answer the following questions in it:
1. What’s the problem? 2. What is your solution, and what makes it special? 3. How big is the problem? 4. How will you make money? 5. Who will buy it, and how will you sell it to them? 6. Why are you the best team to do this? 7. What are the competitive solutions, and what makes yours the best? 8. What have you done, and what will you do?9. What are the economics? 10. How much do you need, when and what will you do with my money?
Rule #2: Don’t show your deck to everyone.
Rule #3: You are either selling a story or metrics. Never confuse the two. 
Rule #4: Don’t ask how much an investor would like to invest. Know how much you want him/her to invest. Tell him/her how much you want them to put in, and why.
Rule #5: Use small words. Keep it simple. Be excited about your idea. (Ok, that’s three points in one but who is counting anyway?)
Rule #6: Don’t sell. Instead, explain. I.e.: BAD: “CoachUp is going to dominate SEO.” GOOD: “Sports private coaching is a completely non-competitive space online. An example of that is X. We are seeing CPCs at Y. The simple reason is that there are no large competitors in the space, and most private coaches don’t have websites. But parents are searching for coaches online - 2/3 of searches actually originate online… but parents don’t find good options.”
Rule #7: Relax. Smile, and crack a few jokes.
Rule #8: Ask the investor questions about himself/herself - find out if you have anything in common. What have they invested in before? Why? Try to find out what the synergy is. Money is money. You don’t raise money for the money. You raise it to build a team. For momentum. For advice. For the network. For credibility. For the fun of having other smart people involved in your company. Think of investors as being a Godfather to your child. What qualities would you want them to have? The list should extend far beyond the size of their wallet..
Rule #9: Meet in person. Nothing good happens if it’s not face-to-face. I repeat - nothing good happens if it’s not face-to-face. Fortunately, some old practices from the old days still remain true (though I am personally very disappointed that we can no longer ride horses to work… at least not in Boston), and business still involves looking into another persons eyes, being open and honest, and giving a firm handshake. That can’t happen over the phone.
Rule #10: In the words of William Wallace (at least, as depicted by Mel Gibson in Braveheart) as he prepares to ride to the middle of the battlefield to negotiate terms with the British army, when asked my his fellow men what to do while he is out negotiating: “JUST BE YOURSELF!”

jfleeg:

             The Art of the Pitch

In the interest of not making this an extremely long post, let’s stick with the 10 basic rules you need to remember when giving a pitch to an investor:

Rule #1: Have a pitch deck. My good friend and advisor Greg King of KingBridge Consulting suggests you answer the following questions in it:

1. What’s the problem?
2. What is your solution, and what makes it special?
3. How big is the problem?
4. How will you make money?
5. Who will buy it, and how will you sell it to them?
6. Why are you the best team to do this?
7. What are the competitive solutions, and what makes yours the best?
8. What have you done, and what will you do?
9. What are the economics?
10. How much do you need, when and what will you do with my money?

Rule #2: Don’t show your deck to everyone.

Rule #3: You are either selling a story or metrics. Never confuse the two. 

Rule #4: Don’t ask how much an investor would like to invest. Know how much you want him/her to invest. Tell him/her how much you want them to put in, and why.

Rule #5: Use small words. Keep it simple. Be excited about your idea. (Ok, that’s three points in one but who is counting anyway?)

Rule #6: Don’t sell. Instead, explain. I.e.: BAD: “CoachUp is going to dominate SEO.” GOOD: “Sports private coaching is a completely non-competitive space online. An example of that is X. We are seeing CPCs at Y. The simple reason is that there are no large competitors in the space, and most private coaches don’t have websites. But parents are searching for coaches online - 2/3 of searches actually originate online… but parents don’t find good options.”

Rule #7: Relax. Smile, and crack a few jokes.

Rule #8: Ask the investor questions about himself/herself - find out if you have anything in common. What have they invested in before? Why? Try to find out what the synergy is. Money is money. You don’t raise money for the money. You raise it to build a team. For momentum. For advice. For the network. For credibility. For the fun of having other smart people involved in your company. Think of investors as being a Godfather to your child. What qualities would you want them to have? The list should extend far beyond the size of their wallet..

Rule #9: Meet in person. Nothing good happens if it’s not face-to-face. I repeat - nothing good happens if it’s not face-to-face. Fortunately, some old practices from the old days still remain true (though I am personally very disappointed that we can no longer ride horses to work… at least not in Boston), and business still involves looking into another persons eyes, being open and honest, and giving a firm handshake. That can’t happen over the phone.

Rule #10: In the words of William Wallace (at least, as depicted by Mel Gibson in Braveheart) as he prepares to ride to the middle of the battlefield to negotiate terms with the British army, when asked my his fellow men what to do while he is out negotiating: “JUST BE YOURSELF!”

July 4th Letter to My Company

 

Its July 4th, 2013, and I just sent this letter out to the CoachUp team. Felt like sharing here. I love our mission at CoachUp, and the incredible people behind it, from the athletes and parents who put in the time, resources, and effort that’s needed to reach the next level, to our incredible coaches who we serve, and our talented employees who are working hard every day to create a meaningful company, with a valuable service, that really helps people:

 

7/4/2013

CoachUp’ers,


Maybe a bit late to send this out (though I imagine most of you are still up partying) but just got back from family dinner and was reflecting on this past year and what CoachUp has become and what it means to me.

Im so proud of our company and our mission, and I really believe that all the values that we celebrate on the 4th are really core to what our company is all about — and now with our new branding, what we look like too (by no coincidence)..

Every day we are actively creating and growing a company that has real value, that really helps people, that creates thousands of jobs, stimulates the economy, helps kids of all different backgrounds, and encourages health and skill development nation-wide. Its easy to forget this in the day to day grind, but what we are creating is really cool, and its a meaningful service for thousands of people (and some day, millions of people) that deserves to exist. If you ever forget that, just spend some time reading our reviews!

Every day you guys choose to put your valuable time into creating something new, something really good out of nothing but a rough idea just a year ago. You are all so smart and talented, and could do so many things, but are choosing to put your time toward this mission, and I’m so thankful for that.

We should all be really proud of what we are building together.

Ok, enough mushyness, happy 4th! Thanks for all your hard work this week, and enjoy tomorrow off with friends & family.

Best,

J

The Craft of Sport as a Scholastic Complement

Prior to finding a private coach I felt as if I was wandering through my basketball career without any concrete direction. It all seemed very hit or miss to me. I picked up different skills here and there from participating on teams but nothing that would turn me into the basketball player I wanted to become.

This exact feeling of wandering without direction carried over to all formal learning as well. I did not have concrete direction and was not seeing much progress in my academics. Despite all the encouragement I had from parents, family and friends, my lack of direction led to a lack of interest and I just wanted to get by. However, my academic interest changed when I met my private coach.

From the beginning, my private coach Greg approached basketball and school like a craft, where if I was willing to work and learn, there would be no limits to how much I could achieve. Working one on one with a coach gave me the inspiration and direction that I was lacking. He inspired me to be the best that I could be and put the ball in my court so I was in control of my own destiny. For the first time in my life I felt like I had something I really cared about and goals that I wanted to achieve.

This new found motivation did not limit itself just to basketball. This motivation carried over to school as well and I quickly became a force to be reckoned with. My newfound love of learning helped me become aware of all the great opportunities to become a student-athlete at a university and I soon realized that I wanted to play collegiate basketball.

Quickly I began to see a more concrete path for myself that ultimately led to where I am today. After playing collegiate and professional basketball, my experiences inspired the idea of CoachUp. It is my hope that by teaching the love of a sport, I can help teach the love of learning and provide great opportunities for young athletes

Jordan Fliegel is the Founder and CEO of CoachUp, a website that connects athletes with private coaches in order to help them reach the next level in sports and life. With over 7,000 coaches in 60+ sports across the country, CoachUp is the Nation’s leading private coaching company. CoachUp’s mission is to help kids change the trajectory of their lives through sports. 

What boxing teaches the novice Startup CEO

image

(Pictured here training with my boxing coach in Boston)

I started taking boxing training a few months ago, through my company, CoachUp.  Every saturday I meet up with my private coach for an hour session, which is definitely the highlight of my week. 

For those who don’t know, there is nothing as grueling as boxing. Unlike other sports, if you are in the ring you can’t just put your hands on your knees to catch your breathe, or call time-out — you have to keep your hands up at all time, constantly moving and throwing punches. Its a lot of work, much like running a startup. 

But the similarities between boxing and starting a company go far beyond the obvious. There is a deep, profound connection that I believe should be expanded on in so far as boxing can teach us a lot about how to run an early-stage company.  Here are the main take-aways:

  1. People who start boxing for the first time think that throwing a punch is all about winding up, lunging forward, and extending as far as possible with a lead punch. They punch “hard,” and tire quickly. Experienced boxers know that true power comes from driving “down and in” — from standing tall, pivoting their back foot, driving their back knee toward the ground, rotating from the core, wasting no extra motion, and from this core, turning their arm into a whip that stings their opponent effortlessly, without tiring their arm or over-extending their base — therefore preserving their balance. Similarly, novice startup founders tend to “reach” way too far in several ways, most commonly with trying too many customer acquisition channels, building too much functionality, and trying to raise too much $ too early-on — 90% of which is non-critical, hence why 90% of startups fail. 
  2. The best boxers set up their next punch by transforming the energy and torque expanded in throwing the previous punch, into the next punch — i,e., throwing a right (punch #”2”) torques your body perfectly to pull it back and counter with a left hook (punch #”3”). Similarly, if you are running a company successfully, and are trying to identify who your customer really is,  what you want to do is “jab” at them — making a series of small (low-money) bets on a few marketing channels to verify assumptions about whether or not your customer is also there — eerily similar to how good boxers throw repeated “light” jabs to see how their opponent weaves and dodges, in order to “feel them out” and line up a stronger hook or upper-cut. 
  3. Novice boxers clench their fists the entire time they are in the ring — expanding energy. The best boxers, know that you must keep your fists relaxed and open, not only while moving around the ring (to be relaxed and conserve energy) but also when throwing a punch.. what you want to do is start your punch with your fist open, then turn your fist mid-punch and close it just milliseconds before impact — this approach generates the most power while conserving the most energy. Similarly, startup founders need to remain “open” to pivots, alternative truths about customer segmentation, marketing channels, pricing sensitivity, etc. — in order to be able to extend a longer runway in which the founder can more quickly learn, evaluate previous hypothesis, and adopt accordingly. 
  4. Good boxers are tough. They put it all on the line, risking health and financial payouts. They train hard, are confident, and don’t underestimate their opponents. They accept regular coaching, listen to the advice, and make it work for them, given their style, improvising on the fly to avoid getting knocked out. When they get beat, they recover quickly and train harder. They enjoy the training process as much as the actual fight. Successful startup founders need to behave the same way. 


I could go on and on with other analogies. But take it from me — if you are a startup founder, learn how to box. Its a great workout. It will help relieve your stress. And who knows, maybe it will teach you a thing or two about how to run your company better.

 



Jordan, Hello my name is Jon Hale I am a retired US Army SGM. 23 Years of Service starting with the 2nd Ranger Bn. in 1980 and finishing with the SOF Unit at Ft. Bragg in 2002. I came across your site and will be following what you do in the future with interest. V/R Jon M. Hale
Anonymous

Jon - thanks for reaching out, for your interest in CoachUp, and for your dedicated service to our country! 

(Photographed here with General McChrystal and General Vines)
Lessons In Leadership
Last month, I was very fortunate to receive an invitation to attend an executive leadership training program with the McChrystal Group (http://mcchrystalgroup.com) in Old Alexandria, just outside Washington D.C. I found myself emerged in an intensive 3-day course with executives from many major US corporations, all many years my senior. The program was led by several retired US and British 3, 4 and 5-star Generals (including General McChrystal himself) and some elite navy seal team commanders. It was a cool bunch!
The topic: how to take the leadership skills honed by the US special forces during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and apply them in practice in your organization.  Our days started with 6:00am runs/workouts Navy-Seal-style, followed by intensive lectures and group break-down sessions. I loved every minute of it.
The McChrystal Group developed a program called “Cross-Lead” which is built on the principle that hierarchy in corporate structures is devastating, and that corporations need to develop “smart autonomy,” in order to give ownership and decision-making ability to lower-ranking members of the team. Because those at the bottom of the totem-pole (the people “on the ground”) generally have the most information, and the best understanding of the problem, it can beneficial for organizations to have them make quick decisions. For instance - in the US special forces - the old way of doing things was to have troops identify the location of enemy forces and then wait for orders to be passed down through multiple layers of command, giving the green light to move against the target. The problem is that often, by the time a decision could be made, the opportunity to strike may have come and gone.  According to Cross-Lead, it’s far better for those closest to the information at hand to make the best decision possible in that instant, without needing confirmation from “above.” This system of “Smart-Autonomy” empowers junior officers to take ownership of the problem, which tends to result in a more accurate and ultimately successful outcome.
I was really inspired by the McChrystal Group and the Cross-Lead system.  Upon returning from the program, I made three immediate changes at CoachUp:
1. The “huddle” - partly inspired by the McChrystal Group experience, and partly inspired by my experience as a basketball player, I instilled a team-“huddle” every morning at 9:30. This is NOT a meeting. Meetings are generally a waste of time, and as such, have a negative connotation. To the contrary, a “huddle” is a quick bringing-together-of-the-minds to create a sense of “shared purpose and consciousness.” During the huddle, every team member gets no more than 1 minute to say the top 3 things that he or she is going to get done that day. Not 4. Not 5. THREE! This allows everyone to see the big picture of what is going on in the company and what everyone is working on. It reduces the chances that two people will overlap on a project and duplicate effort. It allows people to see avenues for collaboration. It goes a long way in encouraging people to remain focused on their most important tasks. And it unifies the team around the most important objectives. Its the same idea behind basketball teams huddling together before a free throw or during a timeout, or navy seal teams huddling together before an offensive movement.
2. Quick Decisions: I believe that every decision, no matter how large, needs to be made within 5 minutes. Seriously. Here’s why:
a. Your initial gut reaction is almost always correct.
b. People’s input is valuable, but only before other people influence their views.
c. Ultimately it doesn’t matter. What matters most is that everyone is on the same page; that everyone believes that his or her input was considered; and that if the decision turns out to be wrong, the team can learn from it and make another decision quickly enough to right the course.
d. If the decision is right - it’s to my team’s credit. If the decision is wrong it’s my fault and we huddle together again and come up with a new decision.
3. “Smart Autonomy” - whenever someone at CoachUp comes to me with a question, I ask them first what they think we should do. I then pull in one or two other relevant people to give input in under 5 minutes.  I try to gauge what the general consensus is. Unless the plan of attack sounds off by greater than a 2/3 probability, I will ok the decision enthusiastically and encourage the original person who came to me with the question to proceed with their plan. I support the direction 100%. If it fails it’s my fault, because I signed off on it. If it succeeds, I give my team full credit.
I found these three practices to be invaluable to our work at CoachUp. I encourage anyone reading this to think about how they might take a similar approach to foster a sense of “shared consciousness and purpose,” and develop “smart-autonomy” at their company. You won’t regret it!

(Photographed here with General McChrystal and General Vines)

Lessons In Leadership

Last month, I was very fortunate to receive an invitation to attend an executive leadership training program with the McChrystal Group (http://mcchrystalgroup.com) in Old Alexandria, just outside Washington D.C. I found myself emerged in an intensive 3-day course with executives from many major US corporations, all many years my senior. The program was led by several retired US and British 3, 4 and 5-star Generals (including General McChrystal himself) and some elite navy seal team commanders. It was a cool bunch!


The topic: how to take the leadership skills honed by the US special forces during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and apply them in practice in your organization.  Our days started with 6:00am runs/workouts Navy-Seal-style, followed by intensive lectures and group break-down sessions. I loved every minute of it.

The McChrystal Group developed a program called “Cross-Lead” which is built on the principle that hierarchy in corporate structures is devastating, and that corporations need to develop “smart autonomy,” in order to give ownership and decision-making ability to lower-ranking members of the team. Because those at the bottom of the totem-pole (the people “on the ground”) generally have the most information, and the best understanding of the problem, it can beneficial for organizations to have them make quick decisions.

For instance - in the US special forces - the old way of doing things was to have troops identify the location of enemy forces and then wait for orders to be passed down through multiple layers of command, giving the green light to move against the target. The problem is that often, by the time a decision could be made, the opportunity to strike may have come and gone.  According to Cross-Lead, it’s far better for those closest to the information at hand to make the best decision possible in that instant, without needing confirmation from “above.” This system of “Smart-Autonomy” empowers junior officers to take ownership of the problem, which tends to result in a more accurate and ultimately successful outcome.

I was really inspired by the McChrystal Group and the Cross-Lead system.  Upon returning from the program, I made three immediate changes at CoachUp:

1. The “huddle” - partly inspired by the McChrystal Group experience, and partly inspired by my experience as a basketball player, I instilled a team-“huddle” every morning at 9:30. This is NOT a meeting. Meetings are generally a waste of time, and as such, have a negative connotation. To the contrary, a “huddle” is a quick bringing-together-of-the-minds to create a sense of “shared purpose and consciousness.” During the huddle, every team member gets no more than 1 minute to say the top 3 things that he or she is going to get done that day. Not 4. Not 5. THREE! This allows everyone to see the big picture of what is going on in the company and what everyone is working on. It reduces the chances that two people will overlap on a project and duplicate effort. It allows people to see avenues for collaboration. It goes a long way in encouraging people to remain focused on their most important tasks. And it unifies the team around the most important objectives. Its the same idea behind basketball teams huddling together before a free throw or during a timeout, or navy seal teams huddling together before an offensive movement.

2. Quick Decisions: I believe that every decision, no matter how large, needs to be made within 5 minutes. Seriously. Here’s why:

a. Your initial gut reaction is almost always correct.

b. People’s input is valuable, but only before other people influence their views.

c. Ultimately it doesn’t matter. What matters most is that everyone is on the same page; that everyone believes that his or her input was considered; and that if the decision turns out to be wrong, the team can learn from it and make another decision quickly enough to right the course.

d. If the decision is right - it’s to my team’s credit. If the decision is wrong it’s my fault and we huddle together again and come up with a new decision.

3. “Smart Autonomy” - whenever someone at CoachUp comes to me with a question, I ask them first what they think we should do. I then pull in one or two other relevant people to give input in under 5 minutes.  I try to gauge what the general consensus is. Unless the plan of attack sounds off by greater than a 2/3 probability, I will ok the decision enthusiastically and encourage the original person who came to me with the question to proceed with their plan. I support the direction 100%. If it fails it’s my fault, because I signed off on it. If it succeeds, I give my team full credit.


I found these three practices to be invaluable to our work at CoachUp. I encourage anyone reading this to think about how they might take a similar approach to foster a sense of “shared consciousness and purpose,” and develop “smart-autonomy” at their company. You won’t regret it!

The Art of Making an Email-Intro
(Photo above of Ziad Sultan - Founder of Marginize -and Tony Navarro -Founder of StreamCal - meeting for the first time after I email-introduced them)
I find myself making quite a few email introductions (as an “E-commerce” entrepreneur I  prefer to call them “E-troductions”) these days. Generally, these “E-troductions” involve at least one entrepreneur.  I’ve “E-tro’d”  some of my investors to other entrepreneurs, I’ve “E-tro’d” lawyers to entrepreneurs, potential hires to other entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs to other entrepreneurs, etc. As it turns out, one of the main things you do as an “entrepreneur” is meet people, and if you are a nice entrepreneur, you help your fellow kind to do the same. But I realized that the channel by which such a gracious, and frequent act, is properly conducted is neither taught in school, nor given proper consideration by industry insiders. So I figure I’ll share my thoughts on the subject:
The thing about entrepreneurs is that they tend to be very busy, as is anyone worth introducing them to. This fact explains why “E-tro’s”  have turned into a minimalistic art form.  I’ve started to pay attention to all the various ways that Boston’s finest demonstrate their innate understanding of the “E-tro.”
But before I get to examples from celebrities of the local startup community, here’s how I do it:
[KEY: *X= First name of person being “E-tro’d” of whom my relationship is less established than it is with Person **Y. Classic example is that X is an entrepreneur looking for an intro to Y, who is a potential investor]
"X - meet Y. Y is the [insert founder, lawyer, angel, CFO, whatever} at [name of company] who is awesome.
Y - X  [insert first name of founder} at [name of startup] who is [insert “my good friend”, “working on exciting project,” “in your space,” etc. - the #1 reason you think Y would want to take this meeting] who you should definitely connect with. 
I’ll sign off here and let you guys take it forward.”***
***NOTE - this is a hint to move me to Bcc so that I don’t get swamped by the subsequent scheduling/rescheduling email chain; also note that I say “you guys” so that either party feels free to make the first follow-up email.. generally which should be person X, since he/she is more eager to make the acquaintance of person Y than visa versa.”
Also note that I wrote in paragraph 2 ” who you should connect with” instead of “who you should meet.” Subtle difference but very important - often times the busier of the two (generally person Y) will not want to meet in person but instead take a “brief phone call” with X. By saying “connect” I leave the door open for this possibility for Y. You NEVER want to put an important person in the position of being constrained by a meeting that you set up, which may or may not be of real interest to them! On that subject, if you think that Y may not be interested in the person you are “E-troing” to him/her, best practice dictates that you should reach out to Y first to offer the “E-tro” to gauge interest before executing it.
Here are other real-life examples of “E-tro’s” from Boston’s finest:
Mike Troiano (Principal, www.holland-mark.com)
Jordan meet [X}. [X} meet Jordan Fliegel of the still stealthy CoachUp.
You guys have a love of digital media, social marketing, selling, startups, and coaching in common. Think a chat over coffee might be productive.

I leave it to you -

Mike

*Note that Mike went above and beyond by suggesting a chat over coffee - this is because he knew that X wanted to meet me, and had run it by me before making the intro. I accepted the invitation and expressed interest in meeting in person. Had this not occurred, Mike would not have made such a strong suggestion, due to not wanting to force me into a meeting I might not have otherwise taken.



Jeff Bussgang (Partner, www.flybridge.com)

Jordan, I met a [position] who is [working at Z company doing P, which is of interest to me in some way]. I thought you two might enjoy connecting as he’s very plugged into [my industry, or something of benefit to me]. I’ll leave it to the two of you to connect directly. Best,Jeff
*My summary - well done by Jeff. Short, sweet and left me free to opt for a phone call as he wrote “connect” instead of “meet.” 
Sheila Marcelo (Founder/CEO of www.Care.com):
Y, I look forward to your visit.   I wanted to introduce you to Jordan Fliegel – he is Founder/CEO of CoachUp.  He is building marketplace for professional sports coaching…  I thought you would enjoy meeting a fellow entrepreneur when you are in town.  There may be ways the two of you could work together. Cheers,Sheila
*Note that Y happens to be coming to town for other purposes, and that Sheila wanted to keep the spirit of the meeting light and friendly, as she did not know whether or not Y would be able to make the meeting, as he is an important and busy dude. This approach gives Y the ability to gracefully back out of the meeting if Ys schedule does not leave room for our meeting.
Jeremy Levine (Founder, www.StarStreet.com)
(*note that this E-tro is the real-life intro that led to my current attorney!)
Hey guys, want to make sure you two connect. [Y}- Jordan is [my brief description] and he’s now starting a company (coachup.com), that I think has serious potential. J - Out of all the startup lawyers I’ve met, [Y]  was {awesome because of blah blah] He’s got some really cool experiences/connections in the sports world and certainly seems to know what he’s doing on the legal side. You guys are both Boston/Cambridge based, so it would be great if you guys can find a time to get together. Hope this is helpful!



*Note also that Jeremy went farther here than he typically would have in an “E-tro” to push lawyer Y and me to get together in person, rather than just having a brief chat. The reason is that Jeremy knew I wanted to meet lawyer Y in person, and that I was a potential new client for lawyer Y, so Jeremy inferred that lawyer Y would want to take the meeting in person as well.
Ok people, hope this was helpful! Whatever you do - remember these basic principles:
1. Be overly considerate to the “more important party” in the “E-tro” - don’t ever force him/her into a corner!
2. Keep it short and sweet. No one has time to read lengthy “E-tros”
3. Offer to make “E-tros” as often as you can. What goes around, comes around. Startups are tough; you need Karma on your side!

The Art of Making an Email-Intro


(Photo above of Ziad Sultan - Founder of Marginize -and Tony Navarro -Founder of StreamCal - meeting for the first time after I email-introduced them)


I find myself making quite a few email introductions (as an “E-commerce” entrepreneur I  prefer to call them “E-troductions”) these days. Generally, these “E-troductions” involve at least one entrepreneur.  I’ve “E-tro’d”  some of my investors to other entrepreneurs, I’ve “E-tro’d” lawyers to entrepreneurs, potential hires to other entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs to other entrepreneurs, etc. As it turns out, one of the main things you do as an “entrepreneur” is meet people, and if you are a nice entrepreneur, you help your fellow kind to do the same. But I realized that the channel by which such a gracious, and frequent act, is properly conducted is neither taught in school, nor given proper consideration by industry insiders. So I figure I’ll share my thoughts on the subject:

The thing about entrepreneurs is that they tend to be very busy, as is anyone worth introducing them to. This fact explains why “E-tro’s”  have turned into a minimalistic art form.  I’ve started to pay attention to all the various ways that Boston’s finest demonstrate their innate understanding of the “E-tro.”

But before I get to examples from celebrities of the local startup community, here’s how I do it:

[KEY: *X= First name of person being “E-tro’d” of whom my relationship is less established than it is with Person **Y. Classic example is that X is an entrepreneur looking for an intro to Y, who is a potential investor]

"X - meet Y. Y is the [insert founder, lawyer, angel, CFO, whatever} at [name of company] who is awesome.

Y - X  [insert first name of founder} at [name of startup] who is [insert “my good friend”, “working on exciting project,” “in your space,” etc. - the #1 reason you think Y would want to take this meeting] who you should definitely connect with. 

I’ll sign off here and let you guys take it forward.”***

***NOTE - this is a hint to move me to Bcc so that I don’t get swamped by the subsequent scheduling/rescheduling email chain; also note that I say “you guys” so that either party feels free to make the first follow-up email.. generally which should be person X, since he/she is more eager to make the acquaintance of person Y than visa versa.”

Also note that I wrote in paragraph 2 ” who you should connect with” instead of “who you should meet.” Subtle difference but very important - often times the busier of the two (generally person Y) will not want to meet in person but instead take a “brief phone call” with X. By saying “connect” I leave the door open for this possibility for Y. You NEVER want to put an important person in the position of being constrained by a meeting that you set up, which may or may not be of real interest to them! On that subject, if you think that Y may not be interested in the person you are “E-troing” to him/her, best practice dictates that you should reach out to Y first to offer the “E-tro” to gauge interest before executing it.

Here are other real-life examples of “E-tro’s” from Boston’s finest:

Mike Troiano (Principal, www.holland-mark.com)

Jordan meet [X}. [X} meet Jordan Fliegel of the still stealthy CoachUp.

You guys have a love of digital media, social marketing, selling, startups, and coaching in common. Think a chat over coffee might be productive.
I leave it to you -
Mike

*Note that Mike went above and beyond by suggesting a chat over coffee - this is because he knew that X wanted to meet me, and had run it by me before making the intro. I accepted the invitation and expressed interest in meeting in person. Had this not occurred, Mike would not have made such a strong suggestion, due to not wanting to force me into a meeting I might not have otherwise taken.

Jeff Bussgang (Partner, www.flybridge.com)

Jordan,

I met a [position] who is [working at Z company doing P, which is of interest to me in some way]. I thought you two might enjoy connecting as he’s very plugged into [my industry, or something of benefit to me].

I’ll leave it to the two of you to connect directly.

Best,
Jeff

*My summary - well done by Jeff. Short, sweet and left me free to opt for a phone call as he wrote “connect” instead of “meet.”

Sheila Marcelo (Founder/CEO of www.Care.com):

Y,
I look forward to your visit.  

I wanted to introduce you to Jordan Fliegel – he is Founder/CEO of CoachUp.  He is building marketplace for professional sports coaching…  I thought you would enjoy meeting a fellow entrepreneur when you are in town.  There may be ways the two of you could work together.

Cheers,
Sheila

*Note that Y happens to be coming to town for other purposes, and that Sheila wanted to keep the spirit of the meeting light and friendly, as she did not know whether or not Y would be able to make the meeting, as he is an important and busy dude. This approach gives Y the ability to gracefully back out of the meeting if Ys schedule does not leave room for our meeting.

Jeremy Levine (Founder, www.StarStreet.com)

(*note that this E-tro is the real-life intro that led to my current attorney!)

Hey guys, want to make sure you two connect.

[Y}- Jordan is [my brief description] and he’s now starting a company (coachup.com), that I think has serious potential.

J - Out of all the startup lawyers I’ve met, [Y]  was {awesome because of blah blah] He’s got some really cool experiences/connections in the sports world and certainly seems to know what he’s doing on the legal side.

You guys are both Boston/Cambridge based, so it would be great if you guys can find a time to get together.

Hope this is helpful!

*Note also that Jeremy went farther here than he typically would have in an “E-tro” to push lawyer Y and me to get together in person, rather than just having a brief chat. The reason is that Jeremy knew I wanted to meet lawyer Y in person, and that I was a potential new client for lawyer Y, so Jeremy inferred that lawyer Y would want to take the meeting in person as well.

Ok people, hope this was helpful! Whatever you do - remember these basic principles:

1. Be overly considerate to the “more important party” in the “E-tro” - don’t ever force him/her into a corner!

2. Keep it short and sweet. No one has time to read lengthy “E-tros”

3. Offer to make “E-tros” as often as you can. What goes around, comes around. Startups are tough; you need Karma on your side!

WELCOMING ENTREPRENEURSHIP AT BRANDEIS 3DS
I spent the past weekend serving as a mentor at Brandeis University’s Three Day Startup (3DS) competition (http://bit.ly/yr0uNc) in which 40 student-entrepreneurs, powered by an unhealthy amount of caffeine, and likely fresh off watching “The Social Network,” broke up into small teams and — for 2 sleepless nights — worked to launch several startups by the end of the weekend.
I really didn’t know what to expect when John Chory (Partner, Lathem & Watkins) asked if I’d be interested in serving as a mentor to the start-up teams. After all, Brandeis University (where I spent one semester of my MBA as an exchange student from Tel Aviv University) has a strong reputation in economics and finance, but is not well-known as a viable option to the nearby entrepreneur breeding grounds of Babson, Harvard and MIT.
Good friend, Charles Reed (Professor of Entrepreneurship at Brandeis) has done an incredible job over the past decade in opening students minds to entrepreneurship as an exciting, and potentially lucrative career option, and brings in top-notch entrepreneurs to give lectures in his class every year. But Professor Reed can’t do it alone, and I was glad to hear that there was enough interest from Brandeis students to bring 3DS to the International business School (IBS) campus.
I arrived at Brandeis Saturday afternoon, quite honestly not expecting much. Clearly Brandeis students are bright, but would they have “fundable” ideas? How much of a learning curve would there be? Would I be wasting my time? I figured I’d say hi to Professor Reed and some of CoachUp’s interns at Brandeis, and spend a few hours with the startup teams before gracefully sneaking out the door. But the next time I checked my watch, it was after midnight, when student-organizer Gautum Chauhan presented me with a pillow and blanket, should I want to crash on the floor with the startup teams, whose passion and enthusiasm made me consider the offer.
After sitting on the panel for each company’s practice demos well into the early hours of Sunday morning, and then returning later that evening to watch their live performance in front of  John Chory, Mass Challenge founder John Hawthorne and other leading members of the Boston startup ecosystem, I was thoroughly convinced that Brandeis has the talent and ambition to become a player in the Boston entrepreneurship scene - a mission I fully support and look forward to contributing to over the years to come.


WELCOMING ENTREPRENEURSHIP AT BRANDEIS 3DS

I spent the past weekend serving as a mentor at Brandeis University’s Three Day Startup (3DS) competition (http://bit.ly/yr0uNc) in which 40 student-entrepreneurs, powered by an unhealthy amount of caffeine, and likely fresh off watching “The Social Network,” broke up into small teams and — for 2 sleepless nights — worked to launch several startups by the end of the weekend.

I really didn’t know what to expect when John Chory (Partner, Lathem & Watkins) asked if I’d be interested in serving as a mentor to the start-up teams. After all, Brandeis University (where I spent one semester of my MBA as an exchange student from Tel Aviv University) has a strong reputation in economics and finance, but is not well-known as a viable option to the nearby entrepreneur breeding grounds of Babson, Harvard and MIT.

Good friend, Charles Reed (Professor of Entrepreneurship at Brandeis) has done an incredible job over the past decade in opening students minds to entrepreneurship as an exciting, and potentially lucrative career option, and brings in top-notch entrepreneurs to give lectures in his class every year. But Professor Reed can’t do it alone, and I was glad to hear that there was enough interest from Brandeis students to bring 3DS to the International business School (IBS) campus.

I arrived at Brandeis Saturday afternoon, quite honestly not expecting much. Clearly Brandeis students are bright, but would they have “fundable” ideas? How much of a learning curve would there be? Would I be wasting my time? I figured I’d say hi to Professor Reed and some of CoachUp’s interns at Brandeis, and spend a few hours with the startup teams before gracefully sneaking out the door. But the next time I checked my watch, it was after midnight, when student-organizer Gautum Chauhan presented me with a pillow and blanket, should I want to crash on the floor with the startup teams, whose passion and enthusiasm made me consider the offer.

After sitting on the panel for each company’s practice demos well into the early hours of Sunday morning, and then returning later that evening to watch their live performance in front of  John Chory, Mass Challenge founder John Hawthorne and other leading members of the Boston startup ecosystem, I was thoroughly convinced that Brandeis has the talent and ambition to become a player in the Boston entrepreneurship scene - a mission I fully support and look forward to contributing to over the years to come.

My first blog post

The funny thing about writing a blog is that you can’t just have a blog, you need to have a blog that is about something. Like anything else, the modern world values specialization, and the sad fact is that most of us (myself included) aren’t thought of as being special enough to just blog about our lives, or random topics. We have to be about something. “Oh ya, Fliegel, that guy is the guy to talk to about XXX, have you read his blog? Seriously, you should be reading his blog if you want to get the real drop on XXX.”

That may or may not be bad news. America makes it very easy to do a lot of things: eat fast food, buy a gun, justify an addiction to reality TV, watch sports 24/7, etc. Some of these things are bad, I suppose. But America does make it very easy to do some good things too: cast a vote, get a free public education, drive from state to state, and, as it happens, make yourself into an expert in anything.

After finishing business school I was fortunate enough to be hired by Zintro, an internet startup that created an online marketplace in the information-sourcing space. If you have a high-level professional question, you can go on Zintro (www.zintro.com), enter your question or problem, and badabingbadabam, receive back qualified and vetted responses from multiple experts around the world in just that thing. Working in business development at Zintro, I saw first hand how many “experts” there are out there in the world in a bunch of fields I had never even heard of before, just hanging out, waiting for someone to ask them a question.

Interacting with people who were getting paid to answer questions as experts was interesting. It made me take a hard look at myself from the perspective of someone who has money and is seeking a solution to a tough problem - would they ever need me, I wondered? What am I an expert in?


Its an interesting thought experiment: If you had to make a business out of hanging up a shingle and selling your counsel as a service, what field would you be in? Would anyone pay you to help them? Wise people have told me that the only way to make real money is to find a niche that fascinates you, and become THE expert in that narrow field. The same principle, in fact, applies to business: if you offer everything to everyone, you will get nothing in return. If you offer something specific, of value, to a targeted consumer audience, the sky (measured by the size of your niche market) is the limit. But the key is that your niche has to fascinate you, you have to love doing what you do, or you will never be the best in it, or maybe you will be, but you will die of a heart attack/depression at a young age so that won’t get you much farther. Life is far too precious to even think about doing something you don’t love, if you have any say in the matter. 

I think that finding that niche, and making yourself the expert in that niche, is a valuable life mission. Because if successful, you will provide real value to real people who really care about that problem. And as it happens, you will make a lot of money and, more importantly, find your work to be fulfilling.

I wondered if, in addition to being a basketball coach - an activity I absolutely love doing and continue to do today - I could become an expert community maker; an expert in creating community marketplaces for experts in a niche. If I learned how to do it well, I could give advice to other people building marketplaces in other industries.


The important thing about experts is that they need to be specialized, focused, and specific to a niche, just as businesses need to be focused on that “one simple thing” they do well (find out more about marketing your “one simple thing” by following Mike Troiano https://twitter.com/#!/miketrap) and the one group of target consumers they serve. Because of this objective business principle, I realized that there will always need to be specific, focused marketplaces serving the hundreds of niche markets that exist or will some day exist. As the world moves online, as globalization breaks down state loyalty, as dictators fall, perhaps the new world will be governed by the people who create online communities. Could it be that entire countries are run by online communities? That to be an American in 2072 will mean that you, above all else, are a member of the online American community? What will that world look like? And how will it influence our lives?

I hope that for my kid’s generation, in the new digital world order, we create online communities that make the world a better place. I know that my new company, CoachUp — an online marketplace connecting athletes with private coaches — will certainly pass the test with flying colors.