Entrepreneurs share a summer cocktail of startup advice



South Florida entrepreneurs shared war stories, mixed in some introspection and served up sound advice last week at a pair of gatherings — Startup Grind and Tech Cocktail.

• When looking for your initial funding, think outside the box: Dan Cane, CEO of Modernizing Medicine, said his first investors were also his customers, in this case about 30 physicians who became evangelist investors. He used a convertible note as a bridge to the Series A. SBA loans and business plan competitions can also be sources of capital, he said.

• Partnerships can be key to your success: Lori Anne Wardi, cofounder of vice president of .CO Internet/Neustar, reflected on how the company of about 15 could compete with a Goliath like .com. How? Leveraging partnerships with entities such as Tech Cocktail, Startup America, 500 Startups and others. “Partnerships are incredible force multipliers for any small company,” she said, but build authentic relationships — don’t do partnerships that are merely checklists. “Keep finding ways to help one another.”

• Don’t start your business looking for an exit: “Our exit wasn’t planned. The timing in the market was really appropriate so we couldn’t help but explore it further. ... It was strategic,” said Wardi, speaking about .CO’s recent sale to Neustar. “You will never have the same passion for building the business and building it authentically if you are starting by looking to get out.”

• It’s about the revenue: The difference between an entrepreneur and a successful entrepreneur is revenue and lack of it is why most startups fail, Cane said. Get your first paying customers any way you can, as long as they are in your target market so you don’t lose focus.

Cane was featured as part of Startup Grind, a monthly event that packed the Venture Hive. Wardi took part in Tech Cocktail’s event at The Stage. It was hosted by Tech Cocktail’s founder Frank Gruber, who was also launching his new book Startup Mixology. Also participating was were Matt Haggman, Miami program director for the Knight Foundation; Hugh MacLeod., the creative force behind GapingVoid; and special guests record producer Jermaine Dupri, also the founder of social media platform Global14, and Cocoa the llama. You read that right.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

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