Article Object ( [inc_foreignid] => [inc_title] => Venture Capital: 5 Secrets About How Raising Money Really Works [inc_headline_prefix] => [inc_headline] => 5 Best-Kept Secrets About Venture Capital [inc_homepage_headline] => 5 Best-Kept Secrets About Venture Capital [inc_homepage_headline_ab_test] => 5 Best-Kept Secrets About Venture Capital [inc_lander_headline] => [inc_sharing_headline] => 5 Best-Kept Secrets About Venture Capital [inc_twitter_headline] => 5 Best-Kept Secrets About Venture Capital [inc_column_name_override] => [inc_reference_name] => [inc_custom_byline] => [inc_typid] => 1 [inc_autid] => 3181 [inc_deck] => The most important things you need to know about how venture capital works--demystified. [inc_homepage_deck] => The most important things you need to know about how venture capital works--demystified. [inc_lander_deck] => [inc_sharing_deck] => [inc_image_caption_override] => [inc_show_feature_imageflag] => TRUE [inc_pubdate] => 2014-05-02 11:30:46 [inc_promo_date] => 2014-05-02 11:30:46 [inc_custom_pubdate] => [inc_meta_keywords] => [inc_custom_additional_description] => [inc_filelocation] => jason-lemkin/5-best-kept-secrets-about-venture-capital.html [inc_override_url] => [inc_custom_header] => [inc_custom_css] => [inc_custom_javascript] => [inc_display_videos_as_playlistflag] => FALSE [inc_autoplay_videoflag] => TRUE [inc_display_video_at_bottomflag] => FALSE [inc_hide_video_prerollflag] => FALSE [inc_clean_text] =>

After 10 years as a successful entrepreneur, I've recently become a venture capitalist. There's a lot of mystique and confusion around VCs. It turns out, now having been on both sides of the table, most entrepreneurs don't understand how VCs actually work and think.

Once you do, the odds can tilt more to your side. Or at least, you'll find it easier and experience less confusion and friction if you try to raise funding, or work in a venture capital-backed company.

Here are my top 5 secrets I've learned about venture capital:

1. VCs, as individuals, aren't that diversified and don't do very many deals.

It may seem to you like VCs should be taking lots of risk. They do take risk--but it's pretty measured risk. The reason is that while VC firms, as entities, are somewhat diversified, the average VC partner isn't. The average VC partner only invests in one to two new deals a year. So their deals really need to work. It's one reason why it's harder to get VCs to take a risk on you than you might think, and why you need to have 100 percent of your ducks in a row when you pitch.

2. VCs, even as individuals, may end up owning more than you in the aggregate.

VCs often try to own 20 percent of each company they invest in. What can be confusing is what that means to them as individuals. If the firm purchases 20 percent of each company, the VC firm itself doesn't get to keep all of that. They have their own investors. Instead, the VC firm keeps 20 percent of the gains. Twenty percent of twenty percent equals 4 percent effective ownership in your company. That's not a huge amount, but VCs each get to make, say, eight investments per VC fund. That's 32 percent effective ownership of one composite company. That's probably more than you'll end up with.

3. VCs have their own investors and have to make them happy, too.

VCs have investors, too--their Limited Partners, or LPs. The very top VCs don't have to wine-and-dine their LPs. They just pick up checks. But most VCs have to sell up just like you do. In fact, they have to do more of it in some ways, because they probably have to keep 15 to 20 core LPs happy, vs. a founder who just has one to four VCs in his or her company. VCs are very driven to make their own LPs happy, so they can themselves get funded the next time, too.

4. Valuation increases really matter to most VCs, so they want you to go raise a big round.

VCs only make profits on an exit--an IPO or a sale of a portfolio company. But they make money on management fees too, and to get them, they need to raise multiple venture funds. They need to raise another fund. When they go to raise another fund, some and probably even most of their track record is still going to be illiquid, in companies that haven't yet gone public or been acquired.

Those illiquid companies will be valued based on their most recent valuations. If you as a founder raise another round at 2x-3x the price of last one, VCs can tell their own investors, the LPs, how strong the return on this investment has been--even if it's just paper gains. They can sell this when they raise their next venture fund. If there isn't another fund, the venture firm just becomes a zombie.

5. Small VCs align with you, but can lowball you. Big VCs don't align as well, but can pay more.

A smaller VC versus a larger VC is one of the most important decisions you'll make as a founder. The smaller the fund, the more aligned with you they are. But because they can't write the large checks, they need someone else to. And small VCs also need to buy a lot for a small amount. If they can only invest $2 million to $3 million and want to own 15 to 20 percent, that pretty much puts a cap on small VC valuation potential. By contrast, big VCs can write a big check. In fact, they need to. But the return has to be huge to impact the fund. Fire the CEO, fire the founders, dilute you--they don't care. But they'll give you more money to go big. Both have pros and cons. Pick the one that best matches how you want to grow.

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[end] => [escape] => ) [2] => Array ( [start] => /* [end] => */ [escape] => ) ) [server_capabilities_checked] => 1 [start_transaction] => 1 [varchar_max_length] => 65532 [db_index] => 1 [dsn] => Array ( [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [username] => inccom [password] => b4Fjf2jaFLfc [protocol] => tcp [hostspec] => MYDB [port] => [socket] => [database] => [mode] => ) [connected_dsn] => Array ( [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [username] => inccom [password] => b4Fjf2jaFLfc [protocol] => tcp [hostspec] => MYDB [port] => [socket] => [database] => [mode] => ) [connection] => Resource id #8 [opened_persistent] => [database_name] => sitecontent [connected_database_name] => sitecontent [connected_server_info] => 5.5.38-35.2-log [supported] => Array ( [sequences] => emulated [indexes] => 1 [affected_rows] => 1 [summary_functions] => 1 [order_by_text] => 1 [transactions] => 1 [savepoints] => 1 [current_id] => emulated [limit_queries] => 1 [LOBs] => 1 [replace] => 1 [sub_selects] => 1 [triggers] => 1 [auto_increment] => 1 [primary_key] => 1 [result_introspection] => 1 [prepared_statements] => 1 [identifier_quoting] => 1 [pattern_escaping] => 1 [new_link] => 1 ) [options] => Array ( [ssl] => [field_case] => 0 [disable_query] => [result_class] => MDB2_Result_%s [buffered_result_class] => MDB2_BufferedResult_%s [result_wrap_class] => [result_buffering] => 1 [fetch_class] => stdClass [persistent] => [debug] => 0 [debug_handler] => MDB2_defaultDebugOutput [debug_expanded_output] => [default_text_field_length] => 4096 [lob_buffer_length] => 8192 [log_line_break] => [idxname_format] => %s_idx [seqname_format] => %s_seq [savepoint_format] => MDB2_SAVEPOINT_%s [statement_format] => MDB2_STATEMENT_%1$s_%2$s [seqcol_name] => sequence [quote_identifier] => [use_transactions] => 1 [decimal_places] => 2 [portability] => 127 [modules] => Array ( [ex] => Extended [dt] => Datatype [mg] => Manager [rv] => Reverse [na] => Native [fc] => Function ) [emulate_prepared] => [datatype_map] => Array ( ) [datatype_map_callback] => Array ( ) [nativetype_map_callback] => Array ( ) [lob_allow_url_include] => [bindname_format] => (?:\d+)|(?:[a-zA-Z][a-zA-Z0-9_]*) [max_identifiers_length] => 64 [default_fk_action_onupdate] => RESTRICT [default_fk_action_ondelete] => RESTRICT [DBA_username] => [DBA_password] => [default_table_type] => ) [wildcards] => Array ( [0] => % [1] => _ ) [as_keyword] => AS [warnings] => Array ( ) [debug_output] => [in_transaction] => [nested_transaction_counter] => [has_transaction_error] => [offset] => 0 [limit] => 0 [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [last_query] => SELECT * FROM article_image INNER JOIN image ON article_image.imgid = image.id WHERE article_image.incid = '69278' ORDER BY article_image.sortorder [fetchmode] => 1 [modules] => Array ( ) [destructor_registered] => 1 [_debug] => [_default_error_mode] => [_default_error_options] => [_default_error_handler] => [_error_class] => PEAR_Error [_expected_errors] => Array ( ) ) [time_created] => 2015-01-29 12:54:15 [time_updated] => 2015-01-29 12:54:53 [id] => 49127 [sortorder] => [tbl] => image [fields] => [application_path] => /public_web_sites/www.inc.com/reflex/ [core_application_url] => http://www.inc.com/ [error] => Array ( [0] => Problem initializing. A method for "incid" does not exist. [1] => Problem initializing. A method for "imgid" does not exist. ) [sort] => ) ) ) Article Object ( [inc_foreignid] => [inc_title] => Turning the 'Bulletproof' Coffee Craze Into a Big Brand [inc_headline_prefix] => [inc_headline] => Turning the 'Bulletproof' Coffee Craze Into a Big Brand [inc_homepage_headline] => 'Bulletproof' Coffee Creator Sets His Sights on the Mainstream [inc_homepage_headline_ab_test] => [inc_lander_headline] => [inc_sharing_headline] => [inc_twitter_headline] => [inc_column_name_override] => [inc_reference_name] => [inc_custom_byline] => [inc_typid] => 1 [inc_autid] => [inc_deck] => [inc_homepage_deck] => [inc_lander_deck] => [inc_sharing_deck] => [inc_image_caption_override] => [inc_show_feature_imageflag] => [inc_pubdate] => 2015-01-29 06:00:00 [inc_promo_date] => [inc_custom_pubdate] => [inc_meta_keywords] => [inc_custom_additional_description] => [inc_filelocation] => jill-krasny/dave-asprey-bulletproof-coffee-cafe.html [inc_override_url] => [inc_custom_header] => [inc_custom_css] => [inc_custom_javascript] => [inc_display_videos_as_playlistflag] => [inc_autoplay_videoflag] => [inc_display_video_at_bottomflag] => [inc_hide_video_prerollflag] => [inc_clean_text] => [inc_code_only_text] => [inc_notepad] => [inc_toolbar_text] => [inc_read_more_override] => [inc_show_read_moreflag] => [inc_custom_sidebar_head] => [inc_sidebar_adcodeflag] => [inc_custom_sidebar] => [inc_custom_footer] => [inc_full_width_footerflag] => [inc_show_pinboardflag] => [inc_staid] => 7 [inc_premiumflag] => [inc_newsworthyflag] => FALSE [inc_standoutflag] => FALSE [inc_evergreen_contentflag] => [inc_homepage_riverflag] => [inc_comment_alert] => [inc_copyeditedflag] => TRUE [inc_activeflag] => TRUE [inc_hide_bucket_imageflag] => [inc_hide_article_sidebarflag] => [inc_hide_commentsflag] => [inc_show_social_linksflag] => [inc_prtid] => [inc_canonical_url] => [inc_serid] => [inc_registration_requiredflag] => [inc_use_narrow_navflag] => [inc_no_cacheflag] => [inc_eopid] => [inc_tracking_pixel_url] => [inc_custom_adzone] => [inc_imu_style_image_overrideref] => [inc_imu_style_image_override_ab_testref] => [inc_tile_tracking_pixel_url] => [inc_alchemyupdatetime] => [owner_admid] => [inc_f1temp] => [inc_alchemyentityxml] => [inc_alchemykeywordxml] => [dbObj] => MDB2_Driver_mysql Object ( [string_quoting] => Array ( [start] => ' [end] => ' [escape] => \ [escape_pattern] => \ ) [identifier_quoting] => Array ( [start] => ` [end] => ` [escape] => ` ) [sql_comments] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [start] => -- [end] => [escape] => ) [1] => Array ( [start] => # [end] => [escape] => ) [2] => Array ( [start] => /* [end] => */ [escape] => ) ) [server_capabilities_checked] => 1 [start_transaction] => 1 [varchar_max_length] => 65532 [db_index] => 1 [dsn] => Array ( [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [username] => inccom [password] => b4Fjf2jaFLfc [protocol] => tcp [hostspec] => MYDB [port] => [socket] => [database] => [mode] => ) [connected_dsn] => Array ( [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [username] => inccom [password] => b4Fjf2jaFLfc [protocol] => tcp [hostspec] => MYDB [port] => [socket] => [database] => [mode] => ) [connection] => Resource id #8 [opened_persistent] => [database_name] => sitecontent [connected_database_name] => sitecontent [connected_server_info] => 5.5.38-35.2-log [supported] => Array ( [sequences] => emulated [indexes] => 1 [affected_rows] => 1 [summary_functions] => 1 [order_by_text] => 1 [transactions] => 1 [savepoints] => 1 [current_id] => emulated [limit_queries] => 1 [LOBs] => 1 [replace] => 1 [sub_selects] => 1 [triggers] => 1 [auto_increment] => 1 [primary_key] => 1 [result_introspection] => 1 [prepared_statements] => 1 [identifier_quoting] => 1 [pattern_escaping] => 1 [new_link] => 1 ) [options] => Array ( [ssl] => [field_case] => 0 [disable_query] => [result_class] => MDB2_Result_%s [buffered_result_class] => MDB2_BufferedResult_%s [result_wrap_class] => [result_buffering] => 1 [fetch_class] => stdClass [persistent] => [debug] => 0 [debug_handler] => MDB2_defaultDebugOutput [debug_expanded_output] => [default_text_field_length] => 4096 [lob_buffer_length] => 8192 [log_line_break] => [idxname_format] => %s_idx [seqname_format] => %s_seq [savepoint_format] => MDB2_SAVEPOINT_%s [statement_format] => MDB2_STATEMENT_%1$s_%2$s [seqcol_name] => sequence [quote_identifier] => [use_transactions] => 1 [decimal_places] => 2 [portability] => 127 [modules] => Array ( [ex] => Extended [dt] => Datatype [mg] => Manager [rv] => Reverse [na] => Native [fc] => Function ) [emulate_prepared] => [datatype_map] => Array ( ) [datatype_map_callback] => Array ( ) [nativetype_map_callback] => Array ( ) [lob_allow_url_include] => [bindname_format] => (?:\d+)|(?:[a-zA-Z][a-zA-Z0-9_]*) [max_identifiers_length] => 64 [default_fk_action_onupdate] => RESTRICT [default_fk_action_ondelete] => RESTRICT [DBA_username] => [DBA_password] => [default_table_type] => ) [wildcards] => Array ( [0] => % [1] => _ ) [as_keyword] => AS [warnings] => Array ( ) [debug_output] => [in_transaction] => [nested_transaction_counter] => [has_transaction_error] => [offset] => 0 [limit] => 0 [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [last_query] => SELECT * FROM article_image INNER JOIN image ON article_image.imgid = image.id WHERE article_image.incid = '68856' ORDER BY article_image.sortorder [fetchmode] => 1 [modules] => Array ( ) [destructor_registered] => 1 [_debug] => [_default_error_mode] => [_default_error_options] => [_default_error_handler] => [_error_class] => PEAR_Error [_expected_errors] => Array ( ) ) [time_created] => [time_updated] => [id] => 68856 [sortorder] => [tbl] => article [fields] => [application_path] => /public_web_sites/www.inc.com/reflex/ [core_application_url] => http://www.inc.com/ [rubric] => [sort] => 1 [largeformat] => FALSE [baseurl] => http://www.inc.com/ [timestamp] => 6:00AM ET [homepage_headline] => 'Bulletproof' Coffee Creator Sets His Sights on the Mainstream [homepage_headline2] => 'Bulletproof' Coffee Creator Sets His Sights on the Mainstream [homepage_deck] => [lightfeatureimage] => FALSE [imagelist_primary] => Array ( [49038] => Image Object ( [img_foreignkey] => [img_reference_name] => coffee beans [img_caption] => [img_alt_text] => coffee beans [img_custom_credit] => [img_custom_meta_data] => [img_phoid] => 872 [img_ityid] => 1 [img_bucketref] => [img_bucket_dimx] => [img_bucket_dimy] => [img_f1imageref] => [img_panoramicref] => coffee-beans.jpg [img_pan_dimx] => 970 [img_pan_dimy] => 450 [img_light_imageflag] => FALSE [img_tile_override_imageref] => [img_skyscraperref] => [img_sky_dimx] => [img_sky_dimy] => [img_super_panoramicref] => [img_gallery_imageref] => [img_full_screen_ref] => [img_custom_cropref] => [img_full_text] => [img_tags] => coffee beans [img_notes] => amelafjr76971 [img_gettyflag] => TRUE [dbObj] => MDB2_Driver_mysql Object ( [string_quoting] => Array ( [start] => ' [end] => ' [escape] => \ [escape_pattern] => \ ) [identifier_quoting] => Array ( [start] => ` [end] => ` [escape] => ` ) [sql_comments] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [start] => -- [end] => [escape] => ) [1] => Array ( [start] => # [end] => [escape] => ) [2] => Array ( [start] => /* [end] => */ [escape] => ) ) [server_capabilities_checked] => 1 [start_transaction] => 1 [varchar_max_length] => 65532 [db_index] => 1 [dsn] => Array ( [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [username] => inccom [password] => b4Fjf2jaFLfc [protocol] => tcp [hostspec] => MYDB [port] => [socket] => [database] => [mode] => ) [connected_dsn] => Array ( [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [username] => inccom [password] => b4Fjf2jaFLfc [protocol] => tcp [hostspec] => MYDB [port] => [socket] => [database] => [mode] => ) [connection] => Resource id #8 [opened_persistent] => [database_name] => sitecontent [connected_database_name] => sitecontent [connected_server_info] => 5.5.38-35.2-log [supported] => Array ( [sequences] => emulated [indexes] => 1 [affected_rows] => 1 [summary_functions] => 1 [order_by_text] => 1 [transactions] => 1 [savepoints] => 1 [current_id] => emulated [limit_queries] => 1 [LOBs] => 1 [replace] => 1 [sub_selects] => 1 [triggers] => 1 [auto_increment] => 1 [primary_key] => 1 [result_introspection] => 1 [prepared_statements] => 1 [identifier_quoting] => 1 [pattern_escaping] => 1 [new_link] => 1 ) [options] => Array ( [ssl] => [field_case] => 0 [disable_query] => [result_class] => MDB2_Result_%s [buffered_result_class] => MDB2_BufferedResult_%s [result_wrap_class] => [result_buffering] => 1 [fetch_class] => stdClass [persistent] => [debug] => 0 [debug_handler] => MDB2_defaultDebugOutput [debug_expanded_output] => [default_text_field_length] => 4096 [lob_buffer_length] => 8192 [log_line_break] => [idxname_format] => %s_idx [seqname_format] => %s_seq [savepoint_format] => MDB2_SAVEPOINT_%s [statement_format] => MDB2_STATEMENT_%1$s_%2$s [seqcol_name] => sequence [quote_identifier] => [use_transactions] => 1 [decimal_places] => 2 [portability] => 127 [modules] => Array ( [ex] => Extended [dt] => Datatype [mg] => Manager [rv] => Reverse [na] => Native [fc] => Function ) [emulate_prepared] => [datatype_map] => Array ( ) [datatype_map_callback] => Array ( ) [nativetype_map_callback] => Array ( ) [lob_allow_url_include] => [bindname_format] => (?:\d+)|(?:[a-zA-Z][a-zA-Z0-9_]*) [max_identifiers_length] => 64 [default_fk_action_onupdate] => RESTRICT [default_fk_action_ondelete] => RESTRICT [DBA_username] => [DBA_password] => [default_table_type] => ) [wildcards] => Array ( [0] => % [1] => _ ) [as_keyword] => AS [warnings] => Array ( ) [debug_output] => [in_transaction] => [nested_transaction_counter] => [has_transaction_error] => [offset] => 0 [limit] => 0 [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [last_query] => SELECT * FROM article_image INNER JOIN image ON article_image.imgid = image.id WHERE article_image.incid = '68856' ORDER BY article_image.sortorder [fetchmode] => 1 [modules] => Array ( ) [destructor_registered] => 1 [_debug] => [_default_error_mode] => [_default_error_options] => [_default_error_handler] => [_error_class] => PEAR_Error [_expected_errors] => Array ( ) ) [time_created] => 2015-01-28 17:49:05 [time_updated] => 2015-01-28 17:49:46 [id] => 49038 [sortorder] => [tbl] => image [fields] => [application_path] => /public_web_sites/www.inc.com/reflex/ [core_application_url] => http://www.inc.com/ [error] => Array ( [0] => Problem initializing. A method for "incid" does not exist. [1] => Problem initializing. A method for "imgid" does not exist. ) [sort] => ) ) ) Article Object ( [inc_foreignid] => [inc_title] => 7 Critical Mistakes to Avoid in Business Negotiations [inc_headline_prefix] => [inc_headline] => 7 Critical Mistakes to Avoid in Business Negotiations [inc_homepage_headline] => [inc_homepage_headline_ab_test] => [inc_lander_headline] => [inc_sharing_headline] => [inc_twitter_headline] => [inc_column_name_override] => [inc_reference_name] => [inc_custom_byline] => [inc_typid] => 1 [inc_autid] => [inc_deck] => [inc_homepage_deck] => [inc_lander_deck] => [inc_sharing_deck] => [inc_image_caption_override] => [inc_show_feature_imageflag] => [inc_pubdate] => 2015-01-28 12:30:00 [inc_promo_date] => [inc_custom_pubdate] => [inc_meta_keywords] => [inc_custom_additional_description] => [inc_filelocation] => jayson-demers/7-critical-mistakes-to-avoid-in-business-negotiations.html [inc_override_url] => [inc_custom_header] => [inc_custom_css] => [inc_custom_javascript] => [inc_display_videos_as_playlistflag] => [inc_autoplay_videoflag] => [inc_display_video_at_bottomflag] => [inc_hide_video_prerollflag] => [inc_clean_text] => [inc_code_only_text] => [inc_notepad] => [inc_toolbar_text] => [inc_read_more_override] => [inc_show_read_moreflag] => [inc_custom_sidebar_head] => [inc_sidebar_adcodeflag] => [inc_custom_sidebar] => [inc_custom_footer] => [inc_full_width_footerflag] => [inc_show_pinboardflag] => [inc_staid] => 7 [inc_premiumflag] => [inc_newsworthyflag] => FALSE [inc_standoutflag] => [inc_evergreen_contentflag] => [inc_homepage_riverflag] => [inc_comment_alert] => [inc_copyeditedflag] => TRUE [inc_activeflag] => TRUE [inc_hide_bucket_imageflag] => [inc_hide_article_sidebarflag] => [inc_hide_commentsflag] => [inc_show_social_linksflag] => [inc_prtid] => [inc_canonical_url] => [inc_serid] => [inc_registration_requiredflag] => [inc_use_narrow_navflag] => [inc_no_cacheflag] => [inc_eopid] => [inc_tracking_pixel_url] => [inc_custom_adzone] => [inc_imu_style_image_overrideref] => [inc_imu_style_image_override_ab_testref] => [inc_tile_tracking_pixel_url] => [inc_alchemyupdatetime] => [owner_admid] => [inc_f1temp] => [inc_alchemyentityxml] => [inc_alchemykeywordxml] => [dbObj] => MDB2_Driver_mysql Object ( [string_quoting] => Array ( [start] => ' [end] => ' [escape] => \ [escape_pattern] => \ ) [identifier_quoting] => Array ( [start] => ` [end] => ` [escape] => ` ) [sql_comments] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [start] => -- [end] => [escape] => ) [1] => Array ( [start] => # [end] => [escape] => ) [2] => Array ( [start] => /* [end] => */ [escape] => ) ) [server_capabilities_checked] => 1 [start_transaction] => 1 [varchar_max_length] => 65532 [db_index] => 1 [dsn] => Array ( [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [username] => inccom [password] => b4Fjf2jaFLfc [protocol] => tcp [hostspec] => MYDB [port] => [socket] => [database] => [mode] => ) [connected_dsn] => Array ( [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [username] => inccom [password] => b4Fjf2jaFLfc [protocol] => tcp [hostspec] => MYDB [port] => [socket] => [database] => [mode] => ) [connection] => Resource id #8 [opened_persistent] => [database_name] => sitecontent [connected_database_name] => sitecontent [connected_server_info] => 5.5.38-35.2-log [supported] => Array ( [sequences] => emulated [indexes] => 1 [affected_rows] => 1 [summary_functions] => 1 [order_by_text] => 1 [transactions] => 1 [savepoints] => 1 [current_id] => emulated [limit_queries] => 1 [LOBs] => 1 [replace] => 1 [sub_selects] => 1 [triggers] => 1 [auto_increment] => 1 [primary_key] => 1 [result_introspection] => 1 [prepared_statements] => 1 [identifier_quoting] => 1 [pattern_escaping] => 1 [new_link] => 1 ) [options] => Array ( [ssl] => [field_case] => 0 [disable_query] => [result_class] => MDB2_Result_%s [buffered_result_class] => MDB2_BufferedResult_%s [result_wrap_class] => [result_buffering] => 1 [fetch_class] => stdClass [persistent] => [debug] => 0 [debug_handler] => MDB2_defaultDebugOutput [debug_expanded_output] => [default_text_field_length] => 4096 [lob_buffer_length] => 8192 [log_line_break] => [idxname_format] => %s_idx [seqname_format] => %s_seq [savepoint_format] => MDB2_SAVEPOINT_%s [statement_format] => MDB2_STATEMENT_%1$s_%2$s [seqcol_name] => sequence [quote_identifier] => [use_transactions] => 1 [decimal_places] => 2 [portability] => 127 [modules] => Array ( [ex] => Extended [dt] => Datatype [mg] => Manager [rv] => Reverse [na] => Native [fc] => Function ) [emulate_prepared] => [datatype_map] => Array ( ) [datatype_map_callback] => Array ( ) [nativetype_map_callback] => Array ( ) [lob_allow_url_include] => [bindname_format] => (?:\d+)|(?:[a-zA-Z][a-zA-Z0-9_]*) [max_identifiers_length] => 64 [default_fk_action_onupdate] => RESTRICT [default_fk_action_ondelete] => RESTRICT [DBA_username] => [DBA_password] => [default_table_type] => ) [wildcards] => Array ( [0] => % [1] => _ ) [as_keyword] => AS [warnings] => Array ( ) [debug_output] => [in_transaction] => [nested_transaction_counter] => [has_transaction_error] => [offset] => 0 [limit] => 0 [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [last_query] => SELECT * FROM article_image INNER JOIN image ON article_image.imgid = image.id WHERE article_image.incid = '69195' ORDER BY article_image.sortorder [fetchmode] => 1 [modules] => Array ( ) [destructor_registered] => 1 [_debug] => [_default_error_mode] => [_default_error_options] => [_default_error_handler] => [_error_class] => PEAR_Error [_expected_errors] => Array ( ) ) [time_created] => [time_updated] => [id] => 69195 [sortorder] => [tbl] => article [fields] => [application_path] => /public_web_sites/www.inc.com/reflex/ [core_application_url] => http://www.inc.com/ [rubric] => [sort] => 2 [largeformat] => FALSE [baseurl] => http://www.inc.com/ [timestamp] => [homepage_headline] => 7 Critical Mistakes to Avoid in Business Negotiations [homepage_headline2] => 7 Critical Mistakes to Avoid in Business Negotiations [homepage_deck] => [lightfeatureimage] => FALSE [imagelist_primary] => Array ( [48922] => Image Object ( [img_foreignkey] => 176558909 [img_reference_name] => getty_176558909_97064797045000.jpg [img_caption] => [img_alt_text] => Businesswoman Discussing With Colleague In Office [img_custom_credit] => [img_custom_meta_data] => [img_phoid] => 872 [img_ityid] => 5 [img_bucketref] => [img_bucket_dimx] => [img_bucket_dimy] => [img_f1imageref] => [img_panoramicref] => getty_176558909_97064797045000.jpg [img_pan_dimx] => 970 [img_pan_dimy] => 450 [img_light_imageflag] => TRUE [img_tile_override_imageref] => [img_skyscraperref] => [img_sky_dimx] => [img_sky_dimy] => [img_super_panoramicref] => [img_gallery_imageref] => [img_full_screen_ref] => [img_custom_cropref] => [img_full_text] => [img_tags] => [img_notes] => [img_gettyflag] => TRUE [dbObj] => MDB2_Driver_mysql Object ( [string_quoting] => Array ( [start] => ' [end] => ' [escape] => \ [escape_pattern] => \ ) [identifier_quoting] => Array ( [start] => ` [end] => ` [escape] => ` ) [sql_comments] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [start] => -- [end] => [escape] => ) [1] => Array ( [start] => # [end] => [escape] => ) [2] => Array ( [start] => /* [end] => */ [escape] => ) ) [server_capabilities_checked] => 1 [start_transaction] => 1 [varchar_max_length] => 65532 [db_index] => 1 [dsn] => Array ( [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [username] => inccom [password] => b4Fjf2jaFLfc [protocol] => tcp [hostspec] => MYDB [port] => [socket] => [database] => [mode] => ) [connected_dsn] => Array ( [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [username] => inccom [password] => b4Fjf2jaFLfc [protocol] => tcp [hostspec] => MYDB [port] => [socket] => [database] => [mode] => ) [connection] => Resource id #8 [opened_persistent] => [database_name] => sitecontent [connected_database_name] => sitecontent [connected_server_info] => 5.5.38-35.2-log [supported] => Array ( [sequences] => emulated [indexes] => 1 [affected_rows] => 1 [summary_functions] => 1 [order_by_text] => 1 [transactions] => 1 [savepoints] => 1 [current_id] => emulated [limit_queries] => 1 [LOBs] => 1 [replace] => 1 [sub_selects] => 1 [triggers] => 1 [auto_increment] => 1 [primary_key] => 1 [result_introspection] => 1 [prepared_statements] => 1 [identifier_quoting] => 1 [pattern_escaping] => 1 [new_link] => 1 ) [options] => Array ( [ssl] => [field_case] => 0 [disable_query] => [result_class] => MDB2_Result_%s [buffered_result_class] => MDB2_BufferedResult_%s [result_wrap_class] => [result_buffering] => 1 [fetch_class] => stdClass [persistent] => [debug] => 0 [debug_handler] => MDB2_defaultDebugOutput [debug_expanded_output] => [default_text_field_length] => 4096 [lob_buffer_length] => 8192 [log_line_break] => [idxname_format] => %s_idx [seqname_format] => %s_seq [savepoint_format] => MDB2_SAVEPOINT_%s [statement_format] => MDB2_STATEMENT_%1$s_%2$s [seqcol_name] => sequence [quote_identifier] => [use_transactions] => 1 [decimal_places] => 2 [portability] => 127 [modules] => Array ( [ex] => Extended [dt] => Datatype [mg] => Manager [rv] => Reverse [na] => Native [fc] => Function ) [emulate_prepared] => [datatype_map] => Array ( ) [datatype_map_callback] => Array ( ) [nativetype_map_callback] => Array ( ) [lob_allow_url_include] => [bindname_format] => (?:\d+)|(?:[a-zA-Z][a-zA-Z0-9_]*) [max_identifiers_length] => 64 [default_fk_action_onupdate] => RESTRICT [default_fk_action_ondelete] => RESTRICT [DBA_username] => [DBA_password] => [default_table_type] => ) [wildcards] => Array ( [0] => % [1] => _ ) [as_keyword] => AS [warnings] => Array ( ) [debug_output] => [in_transaction] => [nested_transaction_counter] => [has_transaction_error] => [offset] => 0 [limit] => 0 [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [last_query] => SELECT * FROM article_image INNER JOIN image ON article_image.imgid = image.id WHERE article_image.incid = '69195' ORDER BY article_image.sortorder [fetchmode] => 1 [modules] => Array ( ) [destructor_registered] => 1 [_debug] => [_default_error_mode] => [_default_error_options] => [_default_error_handler] => [_error_class] => PEAR_Error [_expected_errors] => Array ( ) ) [time_created] => 2015-01-28 12:22:45 [time_updated] => 2015-01-28 12:22:45 [id] => 48922 [sortorder] => [tbl] => image [fields] => [application_path] => /public_web_sites/www.inc.com/reflex/ [core_application_url] => http://www.inc.com/ [error] => Array ( [0] => Problem initializing. A method for "incid" does not exist. [1] => Problem initializing. 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After 10 years as a successful entrepreneur, I've recently become a venture capitalist. There's a lot of mystique and confusion around VCs. It turns out, now having been on both sides of the table, most entrepreneurs don't understand how VCs actually work and think.

Once you do, the odds can tilt more to your side. Or at least, you'll find it easier and experience less confusion and friction if you try to raise funding, or work in a venture capital-backed company.

Here are my top 5 secrets I've learned about venture capital:

1. VCs, as individuals, aren't that diversified and don't do very many deals.

It may seem to you like VCs should be taking lots of risk. They do take risk--but it's pretty measured risk. The reason is that while VC firms, as entities, are somewhat diversified, the average VC partner isn't. The average VC partner only invests in one to two new deals a year. So their deals really need to work. It's one reason why it's harder to get VCs to take a risk on you than you might think, and why you need to have 100 percent of your ducks in a row when you pitch.

2. VCs, even as individuals, may end up owning more than you in the aggregate.

VCs often try to own 20 percent of each company they invest in. What can be confusing is what that means to them as individuals. If the firm purchases 20 percent of each company, the VC firm itself doesn't get to keep all of that. They have their own investors. Instead, the VC firm keeps 20 percent of the gains. Twenty percent of twenty percent equals 4 percent effective ownership in your company. That's not a huge amount, but VCs each get to make, say, eight investments per VC fund. That's 32 percent effective ownership of one composite company. That's probably more than you'll end up with.

3. VCs have their own investors and have to make them happy, too.

VCs have investors, too--their Limited Partners, or LPs. The very top VCs don't have to wine-and-dine their LPs. They just pick up checks. But most VCs have to sell up just like you do. In fact, they have to do more of it in some ways, because they probably have to keep 15 to 20 core LPs happy, vs. a founder who just has one to four VCs in his or her company. VCs are very driven to make their own LPs happy, so they can themselves get funded the next time, too.

4. Valuation increases really matter to most VCs, so they want you to go raise a big round.

VCs only make profits on an exit--an IPO or a sale of a portfolio company. But they make money on management fees too, and to get them, they need to raise multiple venture funds. They need to raise another fund. When they go to raise another fund, some and probably even most of their track record is still going to be illiquid, in companies that haven't yet gone public or been acquired.

Those illiquid companies will be valued based on their most recent valuations. If you as a founder raise another round at 2x-3x the price of last one, VCs can tell their own investors, the LPs, how strong the return on this investment has been--even if it's just paper gains. They can sell this when they raise their next venture fund. If there isn't another fund, the venture firm just becomes a zombie.

5. Small VCs align with you, but can lowball you. Big VCs don't align as well, but can pay more.

A smaller VC versus a larger VC is one of the most important decisions you'll make as a founder. The smaller the fund, the more aligned with you they are. But because they can't write the large checks, they need someone else to. And small VCs also need to buy a lot for a small amount. If they can only invest $2 million to $3 million and want to own 15 to 20 percent, that pretty much puts a cap on small VC valuation potential. By contrast, big VCs can write a big check. In fact, they need to. But the return has to be huge to impact the fund. Fire the CEO, fire the founders, dilute you--they don't care. But they'll give you more money to go big. Both have pros and cons. Pick the one that best matches how you want to grow.

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With the advent of text messages, emails, and other technology-based forms of communication, the way in which we--and our employees--read has more to do with both individual and business success than ever before. Do you read every word and pay close attention to the details and nuances, or do you fly through the information in front of you for the main idea? See what your reading style says about your chances for success.

Speed Reader. You blow through emails and pride yourself on your rapid response time--no one is faster than you. Sure, but have you ever gone back and double-checked to make sure you have not let any of the email's specific points fall through the cracks? Rapid readers may get through information quickly, but they often miss important details in their "read with speed" technique. The real estate agent representing the sellers of a property a friend of mine was buying surely thought she did well by her clients when she drove their property into a bidding war, but her rapid response style of reading cost her clients $25,000 when she did not carefully read the offer contained in my friend's agent's email and transmitted the wrong figure to them.

Skimmer. Your eyes skip a word here and there, so your email exchanges have some back and forth, but you eventually get done what needs doing. Chances are, your contacts and colleagues view you like they would a C student. You frustrate them with your hit or miss attitude, so you are not likely to inspire enough confidence to win a new deal or get a raise or promotion. Contacts will end up bypassing you when possible and relegate you to the pile of last resorts. When I recently reached out to our health insurance broker, she did the opposite of what I asked in my email, and ended up costing herself (and me!) a lot of time and hassle that could have been avoided if she had read my request as it was written in the initial email. In the process, she made sure that when it comes time to renew our policy, I will go directly to the health insurance company itself and cut her out.

Scrutinizer. Read, reflect, respond. You take the time to read an email in its entirety and then send one succinct reply. It takes a bit longer than you would like sometimes, but being thorough minimizes the clutter in your inbox, helps you stay organized, and ultimately shows the person on the other side of the communication that he can trust you with his business. A prospective customer recently sent me a list of questions about our products, and I carefully answered each point with a clear explanation and concise technical information about our products. A week later, the customer placed a large order and told me that he had chosen our company because, unlike our competitors, I was the only person who had addressed every concern he had raised, so he felt comfortable giving us his business.

Don't let your reading strategy sink your chances at success. If you want colleagues, contacts, and customers to feel they are in good hands with you, slow down, stop scanning, and start reading like your life depends on it--because professionally speaking, it does.

 

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In February, Dave Asprey will cut the ribbon on his first-ever Bulletproof café. After nearly five years, it seems like a logical step for a guy whose butter-infused coffee inspired a cult following. Read on for the story of how Asprey went from experimenting with "biohacking" his own body to building a thriving business. (And check out more stories in our Built From Passion series.)

Where the Idea Came From 

At 20, Dave Asprey was depressed, overweight, and eating to cope with his emotions, which veered from clear and decisive to stricken with fear. After buying disability insurance, "because I got to the point where I wouldn't hire myself," he told Inc. last summer, the former project manager and software entrepreneur became obsessed with his health, from the quality and duration of his sleep to the fat content of foods he consumed. 

The more he studied himself, the more he realized he wasn't after a quick pick-me-up but the feeling of being on, all the time. At a friend's suggestion, he began taking so-called smart drugs--a broad term for compounds that heighten cognition--and he says then his hazy world came into focus. After shedding 50 pounds in three months, "I fired my doctor and started taking smart drugs without supervision," he said. He went on to lose 50 more. 

Asprey, who is 41 and lives in the Bay Area, spent 15 years and more than $300,000 to "hack" his biology. He claims he upgraded his brain by more than 20 IQ points and lowered his biological age while learning to sleep more efficiently. He says that learning to do these seemingly impossible things has turned him into a better entrepreneur, husband, and father. This premise became the foundation for Bulletproof Executive, the self-funded performance-coaching company Asprey started in 2010. 

Experimenting with smart drugs eventually led Asprey to toy with that most quotidian of energy boosters--coffee. In 2009, he first posted a recipe for Bulletproof coffee, the coffee and butter beverage that he now says was key to his transformation. By 2012 he began selling Bulletproof-branded low-mold coffee beans online. (Toxins from mold are "performance-robbing," he told the Times.) Soon he added supplements like Brain Octane (his own medium-chain triglyceride oil, an easily digestible fat). Since the Food and Drug Administration doesn't review supplements, Asprey continues to roll out his own; the latest, called Unfair Advantage, is intended to grow mitochondria--i.e., cells in the muscles and brain--in order to slow down the process of aging. 

How the Business Took Off 

As word got around, Bulletproof coffee gained a cult following. It became popular among tech types in Silicon Valley, New York City, and Seattle, and won over celebrities such as music producer Rick Rubin, who introduced the drink to British singer Ed Sheeran, and Dr. Frank Lipman, an integrative doctor who treats Gwyneth Paltrow. The 450-calorie drink is ideal for "mind clarity and a bit of pep," Lipman told the Times.

Making the coffee is simple: You start with some low-mold coffee beans; add at least two tablespoons of unsalted butter (grassfed, which is higher in omega-3s and vitamins); and dump in one to two tablespoons of MCT oil. Put the whole thing in a blender and mix until smooth. Your energy levels will go through the roof, Asprey says, and your hunger will fly out the window. 

Now, nearly five years after its launch, Bulletproof Executive is a 20-person company endorsing the biohacking lifestyle (the company declined to provide revenue numbers). Last year, the website drew some six million unique visitors, and 11 million people have downloaded Asprey's health podcast on iTunes. His book, The Bulletproof Diet: Lose up to a Pound a Day, Reclaim Energy and Focus, Upgrade Your Life, was published in January. The Bulletproof shop and cafés are up next. 

After running a "quantitative analysis" to see where Bulletproof coffee was most popular, Asprey settled on Los Angeles for his first standalone café, which he says will be anything but a regular coffee shop. Noting he has "several of the early people from the Starbucks team" on board, the focus will be on getting customers to try the coffee. "The idea is that people still say, 'Butter in coffee?' and there's a disbelief that it can taste as good as it does or make you feel the way it does," he says. Clearly, he wants to convert them. 

"It's an experience; it's more than just coffee," Asprey continues. "We're building the whole store to have the Bulletproof principles in mind as we go through the day." This means lighting that's compatible with circadian rhythms, a Whole Body Vibration platform (like astronauts use to strengthen muscles on missions), and a small seating area where furniture and flooring "connect to the earth."

"It's the indoor equivalent of being outdoors in the park with bare feet," Asprey says proudly. "Studies have shown there are reductions in inflammation and stress when people are able to discharge and walk around." 

The coffee shop is the biggest sign Asprey thinks this is more than a fad. When asked why, he offers this anecdote: "Last night, I did a book signing in New York City, and a guy in the front row said, 'I've been drinking Bulletproof coffee every day for a year and a half. I've lost 50 pounds and started two companies.' Feeling this way isn't a fad," he says bluntly. "Once you do this, it's priceless to have your brain work all day and not have food cravings all day."

But how do you grow a business nontechie types may view skeptically? To hear Asprey tell it, you sell what the coffee does for you instead of the coffee (though that should taste great, too). "I care about the person coming in even more," Asprey says, contrasting his approach to other roasters like Stumptown Coffee, "not the estate or where the beans are grown." 

This year, Asprey plans to open two or three shops, gather data on their performance, and then "go substantially faster after we know what's there." The first store will be funded internally, and over time he'll expand the roast profiles of the coffee, in addition to brewing methods. "We want something that tastes creamy and delicious," he says of the drinks, whose prices will compare to Starbucks'. "We're still working on the menu and testing things." 

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Whether you're negotiating the price of a massive contract, or a salary raise that comes with a new position, negotiating skills are essential in the business world. If you're unable to negotiate fairly, logically, and persuasively, you could jeopardize your career, or at least miss out on significant opportunities as a result.

When trying to argue persuasively, participants sometimes rely on logical fallacies, or illogical arguments that seem rational at first glance, to prove their points. It's critical to avoid the emergence of such fallacies, as they can immediately weaken your argument. Likewise, it's important to observe the other party's arguments carefully, and point out any fallacies that may form the crux of his/her argument.

The key to most successful negotiations is planning, and you can avoid the pitfalls of logical fallacies by brainstorming about what possible fallacies could come up during negotiations. Preparation allows you to chart a course for your position, plan for possible rebuttals, consider possible alternatives and compromises, and determine the consequences of the negotiation's outcome. Seeing ahead this far should give you the opportunity to analyze your own argument for any potential weaknesses, and look for potential weak points in the other party's argumentative course.

As you prepare for the negotiation, keep the following dangerous logical fallacies in the back of your mind.

1. Straw man argument.

A straw man argument is an instance of one party misquoting or deliberately inventing a false version of another party's argument in an effort to make their own argument seem more appealing. For example, let's say your potential client claims that they can't engage in your services because they don't have enough available funds. You distort that argument by saying, "You say you don't think our services are worth the money, but I can prove objectively that we'll increase your ROI."

This is a straw man argument, because the argument you're trying to counter is not the same argument they initially presented. While the two arguments (real and distorted) are somewhat similar, you aren't actually addressing the point at hand. This could weaken your position or make the other party frustrated.

2. Appeal to consequences.

This type of fallacy is usually a sophisticated form of appealing to emotion, but sometimes it just cuts an important argumentative corner. Appealing to consequences is a way of asserting that an idea is true by arguing that the consequences of the idea's not being true are undesirable. A traditional example of this is arguing that free will has to exist because if it didn't life would have no point.

You may find yourself stumbling into this type of logical fallacy in a business negotiation. For example, if you're trying to negotiate an increased rate to your customer, you could say, "We are responsible for keeping your sales up. If we weren't, we wouldn't be in business." You can make the claim that you are responsible for their increased sales, but you need to back that argument up with objective data--not a hypothetical argument of what would happen if you weren't.

3. Ad hominem.

Ad hominem is a type of fallacy that involves attacking another person's character rather than his/her argument. You see this type of fallacy often in the political circuit; rather than diving into the logistics of the issue at hand, one candidate will accuse the other of being a liar.

While you wouldn't dare make such an obvious attack in the business world, this logical fallacy does have a tendency to pop up from time to time during negotiations. Let's say you're a candidate for a promotion, and the opposing candidate has argued that he is better educated than you. It's a logical fallacy if you try and refute this argument by saying something like "he probably didn't study as hard as I did." Instead, opt to argue that your experience means more than education, or find some other way to overcome the argument without undercutting the opposing party's character.

4. Slippery slope.

You see the slippery slope fallacy all the time during political debates. One person argues against the proposition of a new law or regulation simply because there's a chance that it could lead to more significant laws or regulations in the future.

Put this into a business perspective. Let's say you want your employee to take on a new responsibility, and he/she is resistant. It's a logical fallacy if he/she resists because he/she is afraid that by saying yes to this new responsibility, it will open the door to many new unwanted responsibilities. It's not logical because the argument is for only one additional responsibility, and the future is entirely hypothetical.

5. Correlation equals causation.

This argument is an especially tempting trap to fall into. Correlation is an observation that one action was taken and one result was obtained. It doesn't necessarily prove that the action was what caused the result; arguing that it did is a logical fallacy.

For example, if you're negotiating for a pay raise, it's illogical to argue that an increase in productivity was due solely to your own efforts. Let's say you're in marketing and your company's social media following increased since the time of your last evaluation. You can't tie your performance to those increased metrics unless you have a causal link. Otherwise, they could easily be attributed to a new company announcement, or an outlier in your data.

6. False dilemma.

The false dilemma fallacy starts with an assumption that there are only two possible answers to a solution, and those possibilities are at extreme ends of the spectrum. For example, if a co-worker is arguing against one of your plans for a given project and you argue, "You're either on board with this, or you're trying to sabotage the project," you've immediately created a false dilemma. The world is seldom black and white, and in this particular example, it's entirely possible that the co-worker is interested in the idea but is only trying to raise some possible concerns. Don't assume there are only two options for any scenario.

7. Red herring.

In detective stories, a red herring is a clue intended to lead the audience to one conclusion while the correct conclusion is different. In the context of negotiation, a red herring is a way of manipulating an argument instead of trying to address it. For example, if you and your boss are negotiating a pay raise and the subject of company budget comes up, it's a red herring if you keep changing the argument to the strength of your performance. You may have more leverage with performance than with budgetary concerns, but if you aren't addressing the budgetary argument, you're approaching the argument illogically.

Logical fallacies are a kind of poison that can infect an otherwise valid, valuable argument and render it completely useless. If you can spot and identify any in the other party's persuasive argument, you'll have the upper hand in crushing their argument totally. Likewise, you'll have to pay attention and keep them from encroaching on your own persuasive words. Doing so will put you in a better position, and strengthen your arguments.

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For as long as I can remember, the saying, "you just got lucky" or "that person is so lucky" has always made me cringe. I've never believed in luck--let me explain why.

Everything that happens in life can be traced back to some amount of effort. Or, in many cases, it's a boatload of effort.

When someone hits the game-winning 3-pointer in basketball, it's not luck that makes the shot go in. It's the 500 3-pointers that athlete has shot every day for months or years. It's the muscle memory that athlete has developed over thousands of painstaking hours. There's not some miracle wisp of wind (luck) that floats the ball into the hoop.

When someone's business starts to take off, people immediately jump on the luck bandwagon. (In this scenario, luck is the exact same thing as overnight success.) Even if a company goes viral at launch, there's still an immense amount of planning, preparation, coordination, and previous successes (and failures) behind the scenes. It's not luck. It's organization and execution.

Look at any best-selling author ever. Not one of them sat down and wrote a book in a week. Got it published the next week. And then sat back and watched as it became a New York Times bestseller. Yet people call authors like Seth Godin, J.K. Rowling, and many others "lucky." Seth and J.K. (we're on a first-name basis because we're author buddies) both got rejected by publishers countless times. Heck, Seth Godin got rejected a staggering 900 times by publishers. 900! And he's lucky? Hell no, he's not. He's a hard-working author who got what he earned from persistence and effort.

I could go on and on and on with examples. Maybe the only people who truly could be deemed lucky are lottery winners. However, the majority of lottery winners (a high majority) have played for years and invested thousands of dollars to win. Many lottery winners have strategies, systems, and complex buying patterns. Sure, there are a few people who've bought a single ticket and won the lottery, but that's unbelievably rare.

Luck has this amazing ability to show up after all the hard work has been put in, and oftentimes, after someone has lost hope that their effort will pay off. I believe that the only time so-called luck shows up is after you've gone far enough in whatever you're working on that you deserve recognition on some level.

That's exactly what luck is to me: recognition of hard work.

For me, this came on November 3, 2012, when I launched BuyMyLastName and asked the world to bid on my last name. In the first 24 hours the bidding hit more than $30,000. A lot of people called that luck. LUCK? I'd been working 14-16 hours every day for the previous four years with IWearYourShirt to build a following and a community that gained attention in the media. Luck didn't have anything to do with it. About 5,000 hours of effort and the balls to put a crazy idea out into the world--that's what made the difference.

The illusion of luck can consume you if you're not careful. If you buy into it, you'll end up sitting idly on the sidelines, while the dedicated, hustling, hard-working people pass you by on their road to success. It's like Coleman Cox said in 1922:

"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have."

Don't sit around waiting for the luck train to show up. Luck is for leprechauns and cereals with marshmallows in them. For the rest of us, it's just hard work, patience, and persistence that will get us to our dreams.

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We're not big on setting resolutions only in January at Pluralsight. We believe it's important to strive for excellence year-round, rather than just once a year. That said, there's value in using the year's starter months to reassess your current skill sets and identify areas for improvement, growth, and learning.

Technology is one area that no one in any industry can afford to grow complacent about--tech is changing so quickly that skills you mastered last year may already be outdated. In such a quickly evolving industry, information decays at a rate of 30 percent a year, according to Research in Labor Economics, rendering nearly a third of last year's tech-related knowledge irrelevant.

But don't panic--there's a solution. Staying up-to-date with emergent technologies and trends--as well as the skills needed to master them--will help you offset the lightning-fast pace of skills disruption and keep you ahead of the curve. Continuous learning is the key to maintaining an ongoing competitive advantage, both for individuals and organizations.

On that note, here are the top six tech skills that Pluralsight has identified as not just "nice-to-know," but "need to know," in 2015:

1. Coding.

As I've written recently, coding is the number-one skill in demand today worldwide. Although coding and computer science are still marginalized in the K-12 education system, it's clear that the ability to code has become as important as other basic forms of literacy like reading and math. Fortunately, no matter what your age or current comfort level with technology, there are ways to pick up intro coding skills--and many of them are free. Start with Code School, which provides interactive learn-to-code challenges along with entertaining video instruction, or Hour of Code, which offers a free one-hour coding tutorial that's available in over 30 languages.

2. Big data.

According to Forbes, big data will continue to grow in 2015, due in part to the rise of the Internet of Things, which has the power to embed technology in practically anything. As ever-larger volumes of data are created, it's vital to know how to collect and analyze that data--particularly when it's related to customer preferences and business processes. No matter what industry you're in, you'll miss out on key marketing and decision-making opportunities by ignoring big data. You can brush up on big data concepts, technologies, and vendors with these courses.

3. Cloud computing.

TechRadar reported this month that 2015 will be the year that the cloud becomes the "new normal." The reason, writes Mark Barrenechea, CEO of OpenText, is that costs can be slashed as much as 90 percent through digitization of information-intensive processes. Barrenechea predicts that by year-end, we'll see "a world of hybrid deployments in which some information and applications reside in the cloud and the remainder resides on-premise." Learning to utilize the cloud's flexible power can improve everything from your data security to your collaboration ability. Learn cloud-computing basics with this hour-long online course, which you can view in full with a free trial from Pluralsight, or try this free intro course on the topic from ALISON.

4. Mobile.

As Six Dimensions states, "If you don't have a mobile strategy, you don't have a future strategy." This has never been truer than in 2015, the year in which The Guardian predicts an increasing number of companies will learn how to mobilize their revenue-generating processes, like making purchases and depositing checks. This is also the year that we'll hit critical mass with the fusion of mobile and cloud computing, according to Forbes. That means many more centrally coordinated apps will be usable on multiple devices. Here's a list of beginner-level courses related to mobile technology from Pluralsight, as well as options for mobile apps courses from Lynda.com.

5. Data visualization.

Data keeps multiplying, which means whatever message you hope to communicate online must find increasingly creative ways to break through the noise. That's where data visualization comes in, which involves using a visual representation of the data to discover new information and breakthroughs. Creative Bloq notes that this technique can reveal details that poring through dry data can't. Fortunately, you don't have to be a web designer or developer to create compelling infographics. Here's a list of 10 free tools you can use to visually enhance your data.

6. UX design skills.

User experience (UX) designers consider the end user's ease of use, efficiency, and general experience of interfacing with a system (such as a website or application). Smashing Magazine notes that while user experience has long been important, it has become more so recently in relation to the diverse ways that users can now access websites, including mobile and apps. "The more complex the system, the more involved will the planning and architecture have to be for it," writes Jacob Gube. But it's not just professional designers who can benefit from understanding UX design--anyone can. Check out this animated video from UXmastery on "How to Get Started in UX Design."

These six tech trends are reshaping the way businesses in every industry function internally and connect with their customers. Get smart in these areas, and you won't have to worry about being left behind--at least not this year.

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After 10 years as a successful entrepreneur, I've recently become a venture capitalist. There's a lot of mystique and confusion around VCs. It turns out, now having been on both sides of the table, most entrepreneurs don't understand how VCs actually work and think.

Once you do, the odds can tilt more to your side. Or at least, you'll find it easier and experience less confusion and friction if you try to raise funding, or work in a venture capital-backed company.

Here are my top 5 secrets I've learned about venture capital:

1. VCs, as individuals, aren't that diversified and don't do very many deals.

It may seem to you like VCs should be taking lots of risk. They do take risk--but it's pretty measured risk. The reason is that while VC firms, as entities, are somewhat diversified, the average VC partner isn't. The average VC partner only invests in one to two new deals a year. So their deals really need to work. It's one reason why it's harder to get VCs to take a risk on you than you might think, and why you need to have 100 percent of your ducks in a row when you pitch.

2. VCs, even as individuals, may end up owning more than you in the aggregate.

VCs often try to own 20 percent of each company they invest in. What can be confusing is what that means to them as individuals. If the firm purchases 20 percent of each company, the VC firm itself doesn't get to keep all of that. They have their own investors. Instead, the VC firm keeps 20 percent of the gains. Twenty percent of twenty percent equals 4 percent effective ownership in your company. That's not a huge amount, but VCs each get to make, say, eight investments per VC fund. That's 32 percent effective ownership of one composite company. That's probably more than you'll end up with.

3. VCs have their own investors and have to make them happy, too.

VCs have investors, too--their Limited Partners, or LPs. The very top VCs don't have to wine-and-dine their LPs. They just pick up checks. But most VCs have to sell up just like you do. In fact, they have to do more of it in some ways, because they probably have to keep 15 to 20 core LPs happy, vs. a founder who just has one to four VCs in his or her company. VCs are very driven to make their own LPs happy, so they can themselves get funded the next time, too.

4. Valuation increases really matter to most VCs, so they want you to go raise a big round.

VCs only make profits on an exit--an IPO or a sale of a portfolio company. But they make money on management fees too, and to get them, they need to raise multiple venture funds. They need to raise another fund. When they go to raise another fund, some and probably even most of their track record is still going to be illiquid, in companies that haven't yet gone public or been acquired.

Those illiquid companies will be valued based on their most recent valuations. If you as a founder raise another round at 2x-3x the price of last one, VCs can tell their own investors, the LPs, how strong the return on this investment has been--even if it's just paper gains. They can sell this when they raise their next venture fund. If there isn't another fund, the venture firm just becomes a zombie.

5. Small VCs align with you, but can lowball you. Big VCs don't align as well, but can pay more.

A smaller VC versus a larger VC is one of the most important decisions you'll make as a founder. The smaller the fund, the more aligned with you they are. But because they can't write the large checks, they need someone else to. And small VCs also need to buy a lot for a small amount. If they can only invest $2 million to $3 million and want to own 15 to 20 percent, that pretty much puts a cap on small VC valuation potential. By contrast, big VCs can write a big check. In fact, they need to. But the return has to be huge to impact the fund. Fire the CEO, fire the founders, dilute you--they don't care. But they'll give you more money to go big. Both have pros and cons. Pick the one that best matches how you want to grow.

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With the advent of text messages, emails, and other technology-based forms of communication, the way in which we--and our employees--read has more to do with both individual and business success than ever before. Do you read every word and pay close attention to the details and nuances, or do you fly through the information in front of you for the main idea? See what your reading style says about your chances for success.

Speed Reader. You blow through emails and pride yourself on your rapid response time--no one is faster than you. Sure, but have you ever gone back and double-checked to make sure you have not let any of the email's specific points fall through the cracks? Rapid readers may get through information quickly, but they often miss important details in their "read with speed" technique. The real estate agent representing the sellers of a property a friend of mine was buying surely thought she did well by her clients when she drove their property into a bidding war, but her rapid response style of reading cost her clients $25,000 when she did not carefully read the offer contained in my friend's agent's email and transmitted the wrong figure to them.

Skimmer. Your eyes skip a word here and there, so your email exchanges have some back and forth, but you eventually get done what needs doing. Chances are, your contacts and colleagues view you like they would a C student. You frustrate them with your hit or miss attitude, so you are not likely to inspire enough confidence to win a new deal or get a raise or promotion. Contacts will end up bypassing you when possible and relegate you to the pile of last resorts. When I recently reached out to our health insurance broker, she did the opposite of what I asked in my email, and ended up costing herself (and me!) a lot of time and hassle that could have been avoided if she had read my request as it was written in the initial email. In the process, she made sure that when it comes time to renew our policy, I will go directly to the health insurance company itself and cut her out.

Scrutinizer. Read, reflect, respond. You take the time to read an email in its entirety and then send one succinct reply. It takes a bit longer than you would like sometimes, but being thorough minimizes the clutter in your inbox, helps you stay organized, and ultimately shows the person on the other side of the communication that he can trust you with his business. A prospective customer recently sent me a list of questions about our products, and I carefully answered each point with a clear explanation and concise technical information about our products. A week later, the customer placed a large order and told me that he had chosen our company because, unlike our competitors, I was the only person who had addressed every concern he had raised, so he felt comfortable giving us his business.

Don't let your reading strategy sink your chances at success. If you want colleagues, contacts, and customers to feel they are in good hands with you, slow down, stop scanning, and start reading like your life depends on it--because professionally speaking, it does.

 

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In February, Dave Asprey will cut the ribbon on his first-ever Bulletproof café. After nearly five years, it seems like a logical step for a guy whose butter-infused coffee inspired a cult following. Read on for the story of how Asprey went from experimenting with "biohacking" his own body to building a thriving business. (And check out more stories in our Built From Passion series.)

Where the Idea Came From 

At 20, Dave Asprey was depressed, overweight, and eating to cope with his emotions, which veered from clear and decisive to stricken with fear. After buying disability insurance, "because I got to the point where I wouldn't hire myself," he told Inc. last summer, the former project manager and software entrepreneur became obsessed with his health, from the quality and duration of his sleep to the fat content of foods he consumed. 

The more he studied himself, the more he realized he wasn't after a quick pick-me-up but the feeling of being on, all the time. At a friend's suggestion, he began taking so-called smart drugs--a broad term for compounds that heighten cognition--and he says then his hazy world came into focus. After shedding 50 pounds in three months, "I fired my doctor and started taking smart drugs without supervision," he said. He went on to lose 50 more. 

Asprey, who is 41 and lives in the Bay Area, spent 15 years and more than $300,000 to "hack" his biology. He claims he upgraded his brain by more than 20 IQ points and lowered his biological age while learning to sleep more efficiently. He says that learning to do these seemingly impossible things has turned him into a better entrepreneur, husband, and father. This premise became the foundation for Bulletproof Executive, the self-funded performance-coaching company Asprey started in 2010. 

Experimenting with smart drugs eventually led Asprey to toy with that most quotidian of energy boosters--coffee. In 2009, he first posted a recipe for Bulletproof coffee, the coffee and butter beverage that he now says was key to his transformation. By 2012 he began selling Bulletproof-branded low-mold coffee beans online. (Toxins from mold are "performance-robbing," he told the Times.) Soon he added supplements like Brain Octane (his own medium-chain triglyceride oil, an easily digestible fat). Since the Food and Drug Administration doesn't review supplements, Asprey continues to roll out his own; the latest, called Unfair Advantage, is intended to grow mitochondria--i.e., cells in the muscles and brain--in order to slow down the process of aging. 

How the Business Took Off 

As word got around, Bulletproof coffee gained a cult following. It became popular among tech types in Silicon Valley, New York City, and Seattle, and won over celebrities such as music producer Rick Rubin, who introduced the drink to British singer Ed Sheeran, and Dr. Frank Lipman, an integrative doctor who treats Gwyneth Paltrow. The 450-calorie drink is ideal for "mind clarity and a bit of pep," Lipman told the Times.

Making the coffee is simple: You start with some low-mold coffee beans; add at least two tablespoons of unsalted butter (grassfed, which is higher in omega-3s and vitamins); and dump in one to two tablespoons of MCT oil. Put the whole thing in a blender and mix until smooth. Your energy levels will go through the roof, Asprey says, and your hunger will fly out the window. 

Now, nearly five years after its launch, Bulletproof Executive is a 20-person company endorsing the biohacking lifestyle (the company declined to provide revenue numbers). Last year, the website drew some six million unique visitors, and 11 million people have downloaded Asprey's health podcast on iTunes. His book, The Bulletproof Diet: Lose up to a Pound a Day, Reclaim Energy and Focus, Upgrade Your Life, was published in January. The Bulletproof shop and cafés are up next. 

After running a "quantitative analysis" to see where Bulletproof coffee was most popular, Asprey settled on Los Angeles for his first standalone café, which he says will be anything but a regular coffee shop. Noting he has "several of the early people from the Starbucks team" on board, the focus will be on getting customers to try the coffee. "The idea is that people still say, 'Butter in coffee?' and there's a disbelief that it can taste as good as it does or make you feel the way it does," he says. Clearly, he wants to convert them. 

"It's an experience; it's more than just coffee," Asprey continues. "We're building the whole store to have the Bulletproof principles in mind as we go through the day." This means lighting that's compatible with circadian rhythms, a Whole Body Vibration platform (like astronauts use to strengthen muscles on missions), and a small seating area where furniture and flooring "connect to the earth."

"It's the indoor equivalent of being outdoors in the park with bare feet," Asprey says proudly. "Studies have shown there are reductions in inflammation and stress when people are able to discharge and walk around." 

The coffee shop is the biggest sign Asprey thinks this is more than a fad. When asked why, he offers this anecdote: "Last night, I did a book signing in New York City, and a guy in the front row said, 'I've been drinking Bulletproof coffee every day for a year and a half. I've lost 50 pounds and started two companies.' Feeling this way isn't a fad," he says bluntly. "Once you do this, it's priceless to have your brain work all day and not have food cravings all day."

But how do you grow a business nontechie types may view skeptically? To hear Asprey tell it, you sell what the coffee does for you instead of the coffee (though that should taste great, too). "I care about the person coming in even more," Asprey says, contrasting his approach to other roasters like Stumptown Coffee, "not the estate or where the beans are grown." 

This year, Asprey plans to open two or three shops, gather data on their performance, and then "go substantially faster after we know what's there." The first store will be funded internally, and over time he'll expand the roast profiles of the coffee, in addition to brewing methods. "We want something that tastes creamy and delicious," he says of the drinks, whose prices will compare to Starbucks'. "We're still working on the menu and testing things." 

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Whether you're negotiating the price of a massive contract, or a salary raise that comes with a new position, negotiating skills are essential in the business world. If you're unable to negotiate fairly, logically, and persuasively, you could jeopardize your career, or at least miss out on significant opportunities as a result.

When trying to argue persuasively, participants sometimes rely on logical fallacies, or illogical arguments that seem rational at first glance, to prove their points. It's critical to avoid the emergence of such fallacies, as they can immediately weaken your argument. Likewise, it's important to observe the other party's arguments carefully, and point out any fallacies that may form the crux of his/her argument.

The key to most successful negotiations is planning, and you can avoid the pitfalls of logical fallacies by brainstorming about what possible fallacies could come up during negotiations. Preparation allows you to chart a course for your position, plan for possible rebuttals, consider possible alternatives and compromises, and determine the consequences of the negotiation's outcome. Seeing ahead this far should give you the opportunity to analyze your own argument for any potential weaknesses, and look for potential weak points in the other party's argumentative course.

As you prepare for the negotiation, keep the following dangerous logical fallacies in the back of your mind.

1. Straw man argument.

A straw man argument is an instance of one party misquoting or deliberately inventing a false version of another party's argument in an effort to make their own argument seem more appealing. For example, let's say your potential client claims that they can't engage in your services because they don't have enough available funds. You distort that argument by saying, "You say you don't think our services are worth the money, but I can prove objectively that we'll increase your ROI."

This is a straw man argument, because the argument you're trying to counter is not the same argument they initially presented. While the two arguments (real and distorted) are somewhat similar, you aren't actually addressing the point at hand. This could weaken your position or make the other party frustrated.

2. Appeal to consequences.

This type of fallacy is usually a sophisticated form of appealing to emotion, but sometimes it just cuts an important argumentative corner. Appealing to consequences is a way of asserting that an idea is true by arguing that the consequences of the idea's not being true are undesirable. A traditional example of this is arguing that free will has to exist because if it didn't life would have no point.

You may find yourself stumbling into this type of logical fallacy in a business negotiation. For example, if you're trying to negotiate an increased rate to your customer, you could say, "We are responsible for keeping your sales up. If we weren't, we wouldn't be in business." You can make the claim that you are responsible for their increased sales, but you need to back that argument up with objective data--not a hypothetical argument of what would happen if you weren't.

3. Ad hominem.

Ad hominem is a type of fallacy that involves attacking another person's character rather than his/her argument. You see this type of fallacy often in the political circuit; rather than diving into the logistics of the issue at hand, one candidate will accuse the other of being a liar.

While you wouldn't dare make such an obvious attack in the business world, this logical fallacy does have a tendency to pop up from time to time during negotiations. Let's say you're a candidate for a promotion, and the opposing candidate has argued that he is better educated than you. It's a logical fallacy if you try and refute this argument by saying something like "he probably didn't study as hard as I did." Instead, opt to argue that your experience means more than education, or find some other way to overcome the argument without undercutting the opposing party's character.

4. Slippery slope.

You see the slippery slope fallacy all the time during political debates. One person argues against the proposition of a new law or regulation simply because there's a chance that it could lead to more significant laws or regulations in the future.

Put this into a business perspective. Let's say you want your employee to take on a new responsibility, and he/she is resistant. It's a logical fallacy if he/she resists because he/she is afraid that by saying yes to this new responsibility, it will open the door to many new unwanted responsibilities. It's not logical because the argument is for only one additional responsibility, and the future is entirely hypothetical.

5. Correlation equals causation.

This argument is an especially tempting trap to fall into. Correlation is an observation that one action was taken and one result was obtained. It doesn't necessarily prove that the action was what caused the result; arguing that it did is a logical fallacy.

For example, if you're negotiating for a pay raise, it's illogical to argue that an increase in productivity was due solely to your own efforts. Let's say you're in marketing and your company's social media following increased since the time of your last evaluation. You can't tie your performance to those increased metrics unless you have a causal link. Otherwise, they could easily be attributed to a new company announcement, or an outlier in your data.

6. False dilemma.

The false dilemma fallacy starts with an assumption that there are only two possible answers to a solution, and those possibilities are at extreme ends of the spectrum. For example, if a co-worker is arguing against one of your plans for a given project and you argue, "You're either on board with this, or you're trying to sabotage the project," you've immediately created a false dilemma. The world is seldom black and white, and in this particular example, it's entirely possible that the co-worker is interested in the idea but is only trying to raise some possible concerns. Don't assume there are only two options for any scenario.

7. Red herring.

In detective stories, a red herring is a clue intended to lead the audience to one conclusion while the correct conclusion is different. In the context of negotiation, a red herring is a way of manipulating an argument instead of trying to address it. For example, if you and your boss are negotiating a pay raise and the subject of company budget comes up, it's a red herring if you keep changing the argument to the strength of your performance. You may have more leverage with performance than with budgetary concerns, but if you aren't addressing the budgetary argument, you're approaching the argument illogically.

Logical fallacies are a kind of poison that can infect an otherwise valid, valuable argument and render it completely useless. If you can spot and identify any in the other party's persuasive argument, you'll have the upper hand in crushing their argument totally. Likewise, you'll have to pay attention and keep them from encroaching on your own persuasive words. Doing so will put you in a better position, and strengthen your arguments.

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For as long as I can remember, the saying, "you just got lucky" or "that person is so lucky" has always made me cringe. I've never believed in luck--let me explain why.

Everything that happens in life can be traced back to some amount of effort. Or, in many cases, it's a boatload of effort.

When someone hits the game-winning 3-pointer in basketball, it's not luck that makes the shot go in. It's the 500 3-pointers that athlete has shot every day for months or years. It's the muscle memory that athlete has developed over thousands of painstaking hours. There's not some miracle wisp of wind (luck) that floats the ball into the hoop.

When someone's business starts to take off, people immediately jump on the luck bandwagon. (In this scenario, luck is the exact same thing as overnight success.) Even if a company goes viral at launch, there's still an immense amount of planning, preparation, coordination, and previous successes (and failures) behind the scenes. It's not luck. It's organization and execution.

Look at any best-selling author ever. Not one of them sat down and wrote a book in a week. Got it published the next week. And then sat back and watched as it became a New York Times bestseller. Yet people call authors like Seth Godin, J.K. Rowling, and many others "lucky." Seth and J.K. (we're on a first-name basis because we're author buddies) both got rejected by publishers countless times. Heck, Seth Godin got rejected a staggering 900 times by publishers. 900! And he's lucky? Hell no, he's not. He's a hard-working author who got what he earned from persistence and effort.

I could go on and on and on with examples. Maybe the only people who truly could be deemed lucky are lottery winners. However, the majority of lottery winners (a high majority) have played for years and invested thousands of dollars to win. Many lottery winners have strategies, systems, and complex buying patterns. Sure, there are a few people who've bought a single ticket and won the lottery, but that's unbelievably rare.

Luck has this amazing ability to show up after all the hard work has been put in, and oftentimes, after someone has lost hope that their effort will pay off. I believe that the only time so-called luck shows up is after you've gone far enough in whatever you're working on that you deserve recognition on some level.

That's exactly what luck is to me: recognition of hard work.

For me, this came on November 3, 2012, when I launched BuyMyLastName and asked the world to bid on my last name. In the first 24 hours the bidding hit more than $30,000. A lot of people called that luck. LUCK? I'd been working 14-16 hours every day for the previous four years with IWearYourShirt to build a following and a community that gained attention in the media. Luck didn't have anything to do with it. About 5,000 hours of effort and the balls to put a crazy idea out into the world--that's what made the difference.

The illusion of luck can consume you if you're not careful. If you buy into it, you'll end up sitting idly on the sidelines, while the dedicated, hustling, hard-working people pass you by on their road to success. It's like Coleman Cox said in 1922:

"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have."

Don't sit around waiting for the luck train to show up. Luck is for leprechauns and cereals with marshmallows in them. For the rest of us, it's just hard work, patience, and persistence that will get us to our dreams.

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We're not big on setting resolutions only in January at Pluralsight. We believe it's important to strive for excellence year-round, rather than just once a year. That said, there's value in using the year's starter months to reassess your current skill sets and identify areas for improvement, growth, and learning.

Technology is one area that no one in any industry can afford to grow complacent about--tech is changing so quickly that skills you mastered last year may already be outdated. In such a quickly evolving industry, information decays at a rate of 30 percent a year, according to Research in Labor Economics, rendering nearly a third of last year's tech-related knowledge irrelevant.

But don't panic--there's a solution. Staying up-to-date with emergent technologies and trends--as well as the skills needed to master them--will help you offset the lightning-fast pace of skills disruption and keep you ahead of the curve. Continuous learning is the key to maintaining an ongoing competitive advantage, both for individuals and organizations.

On that note, here are the top six tech skills that Pluralsight has identified as not just "nice-to-know," but "need to know," in 2015:

1. Coding.

As I've written recently, coding is the number-one skill in demand today worldwide. Although coding and computer science are still marginalized in the K-12 education system, it's clear that the ability to code has become as important as other basic forms of literacy like reading and math. Fortunately, no matter what your age or current comfort level with technology, there are ways to pick up intro coding skills--and many of them are free. Start with Code School, which provides interactive learn-to-code challenges along with entertaining video instruction, or Hour of Code, which offers a free one-hour coding tutorial that's available in over 30 languages.

2. Big data.

According to Forbes, big data will continue to grow in 2015, due in part to the rise of the Internet of Things, which has the power to embed technology in practically anything. As ever-larger volumes of data are created, it's vital to know how to collect and analyze that data--particularly when it's related to customer preferences and business processes. No matter what industry you're in, you'll miss out on key marketing and decision-making opportunities by ignoring big data. You can brush up on big data concepts, technologies, and vendors with these courses.

3. Cloud computing.

TechRadar reported this month that 2015 will be the year that the cloud becomes the "new normal." The reason, writes Mark Barrenechea, CEO of OpenText, is that costs can be slashed as much as 90 percent through digitization of information-intensive processes. Barrenechea predicts that by year-end, we'll see "a world of hybrid deployments in which some information and applications reside in the cloud and the remainder resides on-premise." Learning to utilize the cloud's flexible power can improve everything from your data security to your collaboration ability. Learn cloud-computing basics with this hour-long online course, which you can view in full with a free trial from Pluralsight, or try this free intro course on the topic from ALISON.

4. Mobile.

As Six Dimensions states, "If you don't have a mobile strategy, you don't have a future strategy." This has never been truer than in 2015, the year in which The Guardian predicts an increasing number of companies will learn how to mobilize their revenue-generating processes, like making purchases and depositing checks. This is also the year that we'll hit critical mass with the fusion of mobile and cloud computing, according to Forbes. That means many more centrally coordinated apps will be usable on multiple devices. Here's a list of beginner-level courses related to mobile technology from Pluralsight, as well as options for mobile apps courses from Lynda.com.

5. Data visualization.

Data keeps multiplying, which means whatever message you hope to communicate online must find increasingly creative ways to break through the noise. That's where data visualization comes in, which involves using a visual representation of the data to discover new information and breakthroughs. Creative Bloq notes that this technique can reveal details that poring through dry data can't. Fortunately, you don't have to be a web designer or developer to create compelling infographics. Here's a list of 10 free tools you can use to visually enhance your data.

6. UX design skills.

User experience (UX) designers consider the end user's ease of use, efficiency, and general experience of interfacing with a system (such as a website or application). Smashing Magazine notes that while user experience has long been important, it has become more so recently in relation to the diverse ways that users can now access websites, including mobile and apps. "The more complex the system, the more involved will the planning and architecture have to be for it," writes Jacob Gube. But it's not just professional designers who can benefit from understanding UX design--anyone can. Check out this animated video from UXmastery on "How to Get Started in UX Design."

These six tech trends are reshaping the way businesses in every industry function internally and connect with their customers. Get smart in these areas, and you won't have to worry about being left behind--at least not this year.

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When an employee has a new idea for how to do business, Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot, a marketing software firm in Boston, sometimes chooses to fire that employee from his or her day job, and appoint that person 'CEO' of a new in-house start-up. “Part of creating this environment of innovation is making the organization decentralized and flat,” Halligan told Inc. “We want to empower the edges of the organization, and we want to let the people who really understand our customers make decisions.”

“When fun is a regular part of work, employees get to know each other as real people,” Paul Spiegelman, CEO of Beryl Companies, told Inc. To that end, Spiegelman created a 'Department of Great People and Fun' and instituted 'Pajama' day and 'Dress like the 70s' day. “While these ideas are not practical for every work environment, the key is to do something fun, no matter how small, on a regular basis,” he says.

Ever think about giving your company to your employees? It’s called an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) and may be an attractive way to motivate them, since the structure allows direct profits from the company’s success. Foss Miller, founder of Sawbones Worldwide, did it—for Christmas in 2010. "So many of the employees have worked here for many, many years," he told Inc. "Providing them a great retirement when they leave—it just made more sense and felt better and better."

Eric Ryan, founder of Method, a soap and cleaning products company in San Francisco, thinks adding some “weirdness” to your corporate culture inspires employees to accomplish a lot. In the past, Ryan hasn’t hesitated to dress up as a chipmunk, blast Eye of the Tiger in the elevator, or host flash mob dance parties at his offices. “It reminds everybody that, ‘Yeah, I'm working somewhere really special’,” he told Inc.

Stanley McChrystal, the retired four-star U.S. Army general who served as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was once 'boss' to more than 150,000 service members. But that didn’t stop him from losing touch with his subordinates. The general says he sent out more than 2,000 thank-you notes to his troops each year. "I used to get thank-you notes for my thank-you notes," he said in his keynote speech at the 2011 Inc. 500|5000 Conference. "I'd find them framed in [the troops' bunk] areas."

Though it may seem counterintuitive, napping may be an excellent way to motivate your workforce. In fact, plenty of companies, both large and small, have created 'nap rooms' where employees can catch a quick snooze, even if only for 15 minutes. Zephrin Lasker, CEO of a Pontiflex, a 60-person mobile app ad shop in Brooklyn, converted a room of computer servers into a napping retreat. “I'm a huge believer in napping," Lasker tells Inc.com. "It helps people recharge, and personally, it helps me think more creatively."

Mentorship helps employees connect with other staffers and pushes them to think outside their traditional roles. At Allen & Gerritsen, a brand strategy agency in Watertown, Mass., even CEO Andrew Graff has a mentor: 22-year-old technology strategist Eric Leist. "We have a great group of diverse people here," one Allen & Gerritsen employee told Advertising Age, which first reported this. "We have wonderful work/life balance and a senior management team and HR department that always look for reasons to celebrate and provide us opportunities to smell the roses."

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A method for "incid" does not exist. [1] => Problem initializing. A method for "imgid" does not exist. ) [sort] => 0 ) ) ) Article Object ( [inc_foreignid] => 777 [inc_title] => 11 Historic Serial Entrepreneurs [inc_headline_prefix] => [inc_headline] => 11 Historic Serial Entrepreneurs [inc_homepage_headline] => [inc_homepage_headline_ab_test] => [inc_lander_headline] => [inc_sharing_headline] => [inc_twitter_headline] => [inc_column_name_override] => [inc_reference_name] => [inc_custom_byline] => [inc_typid] => 20 [inc_autid] => 16 [inc_deck] => Some of history’s greatest entrepreneurs weren’t satisfied with a single great idea. Here’s a list of some of the best-known serial entrepreneurs of all time. [inc_homepage_deck] => Like Richard Branson, some of history's greatest entrepreneurs weren’t satisfied with one great idea. 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As one of the nation’s founding fathers, Ben Franklin was also one of its first entrepreneurs. He was the inventor of successful products like bifocal glasses, the lightning rod and the Franklin stove (among others) as well as a media magnate where he published several newspapers and his popular Poor Richard’s Almanac, in which Franklin used a fictional character to share his own views on topics like politics and philosophy. Of course, Franklin also earned fame with other contributions such as creating the nation’s first free library.

While he was not as well-known as others, Lemelson, known as “Jerry,” was one of the most prolific inventors of the 20th century, with some 600 patents to his credit for products like automated warehouses, industrial robots, cordless telephones, fax machines, videocassette recorders, camcorders and the magnetic tape drive used in Sony’s Walkman tape players. Lemelson also made a name for himself–not always in a positive way–as a defender of inventor’s rights, where he actively sued organizations and companies he felt had infringed upon his patents.

Considered by most to be the greatest inventor of all time, Edison, known as “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” is credited with some 1,093 U.S. patents for a range of inventions that includes the light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera. Just as importantly, his work on the distribution of electricity led to the world’s first power plant in New York City (though his technology choice, direct current (DC), was eventually surpassed by the alternating current approach (AC) championed by rival inventor, Nikola Tesla).

Few entrepreneurs can match the track record of Henry Kaiser, who, starting in 1914 with a road-paving company, built a series of wildly successful companies in several industries that included: construction, ship building, forging steel and aluminum, car manufacturing and even healthcare, where he created Kaiser Permanente (named for a creek located near one of Kaiser’s cement companies), the first health maintenance organization, or HMO, as a way to provide health care to his thousands of employees.

Turner began building his media empire in 1963 at the age of 24 where he took over running his father’s billboard company. He soon bought a UHF TV station and launched Turner Broadcasting System, which grew popular showing reruns of old TV shows and movies as well as Atlanta Braves’ baseball games (a team Turner had bought). But it was in 1980, when Turner launched CNN, the first 24-hour news channel, that he truly made his mark on the world. More recently, Turner launched Ted’s Montana Grill, a national chain of restaurants that sell buffalo meat.

Branson, the dashing entrepreneur behind the Virgin Group, the brand behind some 400 enterprises, was just 16 when he started his first business, a magazine called Student. But it was his chain of music stores called Virgin Records, which he opened in 1972, which made Branson’s fortune. But, he didn’t stop there as he subsequently launched an airline, Virgin Atlantic Airways; a phone company, Virgin Mobile; and, most recently, Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company. Branson has also disclosed plans to work with Al Gore to create new sources of fuel via a venture called, not surprisingly, Virgin Fuels.

Widely considered to be one of the most influential people in the world, Winfrey has ridden the popularity of her self-titled daytime TV show to international fame. But Winfrey has also turned her name into a global brand, under which she has launched a magazine, a website, a satellite radio show, a television network called OWN and published five books under her company, Harpo Productions (which is Oprah spelled backwards). Through Harpo, Winfrey has also taken an active role in a variety of movie and theatre productions including Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire and Beloved, which Winfrey also starred in.

Rather than rest on his laurels as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Johnson, who retired in 1996, now spends his days honing his skills as an entrepreneur. His company, Magic Johnson Enterprises, has a reported net worth of $700 million based on the success of subsidiaries such as Magic Johnson Productions, a promotional company; Magic Johnson Theaters, a nationwide chain of movie theaters; and Magic Johnson Entertainment, a movie studio. Johnson, who sold his ownership stake in the LA Lakers, is rumored to be looking to bring a football team back to LA.

Esther Dyson is one of a handful of business journalists who can claim to have hopped the fence and become as successful as the entrepreneurs she used to write about. Starting her career as a fact checker at Forbes, Dyson used her keen eye to spot trends and opportunities in emerging technologies and markets to gain fame, which helped fuel the purchase of her first company, EDventure Holdings. After selling her firm in 2004, Dyson has since helped fund and guide dozens of successful start-up companies such as Flickr, del.icio.us and Meetup.

No list of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs would be complete without Evan Williams, who helped found two of the most influential companies in the Internet era: Blogger (which was eventually bought by Google) and Twitter. Williams, who grew up on a Nebraskan farm and spent his summers irrigating crops, may be an unlikely tech hero, but his foresight into how people use social media is uncanny. (For example, Williams coined the term “blogger.”) Williams recently stepped down as CEO of Twitter, which might mean that he might be working at his next great idea.

Born the ninth of the ten children in rural Mississippi, Robert Johnson climbed the ranks of the world’s most wealthy people thanks to his foresight in founding Black Entertainment Television, BET, in 1980. After selling BET to Viacom in 2003 for some $3 billion, Johnson started what he calls his “second act” by launching The RLJ Companies, an asset management and holding company that has stakes in a diverse range of industries including: financial services, real estate, hospitality, professional sports, film production, automotive and gaming. Johnson also became the first black American to own a major-league sports franchise when he teamed with superstar Michael Jordan to acquire the Charlotte Bobcats franchise in 2004.

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Joanna Shows, a business coach with business coaching firm ActionCOACH, says that she sees a solid business plan as the single most important step in laying the groundwork for future success. “The business plan is absolutely the breathing embodiment of the business,” she says, adding that a good business plan will provide space for flexibility while still setting parameters on heedless ambition. “Business is almost like a cattle field,” Shows continues. “You can roam all you want within the field, but once you hit the electric fence it is going to zap you.”

Stuart Skorman, a former rock band manager who was an early investor in Whole Foods and has since earned a reputation as a serial entrepreneur, says that he thinks anyone who plans out their business before their marketing strategy is foolish. When Skorman was launching his chain of video stores, called EmpireVideo, he planned on big success, but was strategic about who he would target. “I designed the whole company for 200 people,” Skorman says. And he doesn’t mean 200 customers; he created the company for people who could provide publicity, including editors at national publications. “Your story has to be viral,” he says.

“Plan no small plans,” says Craig Jennings, serial entrepreneur and founder of Powhattan Consulting Corp. Paul Graham, investor and founder of start-up incubator Y Combinator, offers similar advice in a 2006 essay he wrote, titled “The 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups.” Graham wrote that entrepreneurs seem to sometimes unconsciously avoid risk, stepping away from challenges in ways that are hard to recognize in ones self. “If you make anything good, you’re going to have competitors, so you may as well face that,” Graham wrote. “You can only avoid competition by avoiding good ideas.”

At some point, a company may need to change direction, and the founder has to be willing to go along with this change. “The key design work often happens after launch,” Skorman says. “Being agile and flexible means that no matter how much I love this idea I have to be flexible. It’s also a sort of opportunism.” Changing course doesn’t always mean adapting to failure. Sometimes it may be a matter of seizing a market opportunity that had not before been apparent. Tom Ehrenfeld, author of The Startup Garden: How Growing a Business Grows You, says, “Be prepared to constantly ask what exactly you are selling right now, what solution you are dealing with for your customers.”

Whether you’re pitching to investors, motivating employees, or selling your product, be sensitive to the kind of response you are getting from your audience. Skorman says he learned this lesson, that enthusiasm is not always contagious, over time. “If you had talked to me thirty years ago, I would have said it’s easy to start a company,” he says. “All you have to do is mortgage your house and be ready to work 20 hours a day.” Entrepreneurs often get carried away with their own ideas, Skorman says, to their companies’ detriment.

Shows says that her work sometimes requires that she tell business owners the very thing they don’t want to hear, like they’re targeting the wrong market, for example. She’s obligated to just “sit down with them and be very honest,” she says. “Being nice only means that nothing inside me cares enough to tell you what the reality of it is.” The ability to take that strong criticism may counteract the failure to learn, which Ehrenfeld says can bring down any start-up. “When things don’t go according to plan, throw blame out the window,” he says.

Many small business owners may be tempted to drain themselves dry when it comes to financing their business. When a founder has already sacrificed his sleep, other career opportunities, and perhaps a small portion of his sanity, it seems only natural to try to make it work by investing as much as you can. However that won’t work, says Jennings. “The purpose of the business is to work for you,” Jennings says, and a founder should be sure to provide for himself even while the company is growing. “A modest salary is critical to your well-being.”

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Sure, you have to be mentally game to boost your productivity--but your office space plays a role too. From layouts to gadgets, here are a few ideas for revamping your workspace and office to enhance your get-more-done attitude and creativity. --Laura Montini

In different wavelengths, light can act on the body like a drug, so says the latest research. So instead of chugging a cup of coffee to stave off that 3 o'clock feeling, consider turning up the blue light at the office. It's been found to suppress melatonin, a hormone that promotes drowsiness. Engineers at LED manufacturer Lighting Science have developed an app-controlled blue light, called Rhythm Downlight, which is scheduled to ship this summer, according to Popular Science.

"Hot desking" involves sitting at multiple workspaces throughout the office, none of which permanently belong to anyone. Design firm IDEO practices this system because it allows project teams to pick up and gather when and where they need. As long as employees are provided some personal storage space, they'll be willing to give up personal work space in the name of collaboration, Tom Eich, IDEO's Chief Technology Officer, told Businessweek.

Here's a little high tech to support your creative workforce as they move about the office. The TouchPico, from Singapore-based company Touch Jet, is a smartphone-sized pico projector that creates a touch user interface on walls and tables. In addition to serving as a portable whiteboard, you can use it to beam in remote workers via Skype, since the device is Android-powered. TouchPico won the Showstoppers Launch.it event at CES 2014, and the company said it plans to start selling the device -- for about $500 -- in June.

First Round Capital Partner Bill Trenchard has written that one of the most productive things a CEO can do is manage "by walking around" and asking teams how they're progressing. But rather than tower above them, pull up a seat -- or better yet a desk. This mobile desk on wheels from Opulent Items retails at $500.

There's been a lot of debate recently over whether the open office layout helps or hinders productivity. What is clear, though, is that noise is an issue in most work spaces. Studies have shown that noise interruptions during simple tasks actually provide stimulation to keep working effectively. However, interruptions during complex work cause individuals to take a longer time to re-orient. That's why experts from furniture designer Allsteel recommend that in addition to open spaces, each office has closed individual workspaces as well as closed shared workspaces.

Thermal comfort in the office might seem like the least of your worries, but hot and cold employees could be costing you. Researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that when an insurance company transitioned workers to a building with personal thermal controls, productivity increased by 2.8 percent, according to a post from design firm HOK. Not every office comes with the luxury of advanced temperature control, but having some fun gadgets around the office might to the trick. Try the USB-powered heating blanket or an air conditioned cooling cushion, for example.

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[lightfeatureimage] => FALSE [imagelist_primary] => Array ( [45862] => Image Object ( [img_foreignkey] => [img_reference_name] => inspiring pano [img_caption] => [img_alt_text] => [img_custom_credit] => [img_custom_meta_data] => [img_phoid] => [img_ityid] => 1 [img_bucketref] => [img_bucket_dimx] => [img_bucket_dimy] => [img_f1imageref] => [img_panoramicref] => most-inspiring-pano.jpg [img_pan_dimx] => 970 [img_pan_dimy] => 450 [img_light_imageflag] => FALSE [img_tile_override_imageref] => [img_skyscraperref] => [img_sky_dimx] => [img_sky_dimy] => [img_super_panoramicref] => [img_gallery_imageref] => [img_full_screen_ref] => [img_custom_cropref] => [img_full_text] => [img_tags] => [img_notes] => [img_gettyflag] => FALSE [dbObj] => MDB2_Driver_mysql Object ( [string_quoting] => Array ( [start] => ' [end] => ' [escape] => \ [escape_pattern] => \ ) [identifier_quoting] => Array ( [start] => ` [end] => ` [escape] => ` ) [sql_comments] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [start] => -- [end] => [escape] => ) [1] => Array ( [start] => # [end] => [escape] => ) [2] => Array ( [start] => /* [end] => */ [escape] => ) ) [server_capabilities_checked] => 1 [start_transaction] => 1 [varchar_max_length] => 65532 [db_index] => 1 [dsn] => Array ( [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [username] => inccom [password] => b4Fjf2jaFLfc [protocol] => tcp [hostspec] => MYDB [port] => [socket] => [database] => [mode] => ) [connected_dsn] => Array ( [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [username] => inccom [password] => b4Fjf2jaFLfc [protocol] => tcp [hostspec] => MYDB [port] => [socket] => [database] => [mode] => ) [connection] => Resource id #8 [opened_persistent] => [database_name] => sitecontent [connected_database_name] => sitecontent [connected_server_info] => 5.5.38-35.2-log [supported] => Array ( [sequences] => emulated [indexes] => 1 [affected_rows] => 1 [summary_functions] => 1 [order_by_text] => 1 [transactions] => 1 [savepoints] => 1 [current_id] => emulated [limit_queries] => 1 [LOBs] => 1 [replace] => 1 [sub_selects] => 1 [triggers] => 1 [auto_increment] => 1 [primary_key] => 1 [result_introspection] => 1 [prepared_statements] => 1 [identifier_quoting] => 1 [pattern_escaping] => 1 [new_link] => 1 ) [options] => Array ( [ssl] => [field_case] => 0 [disable_query] => [result_class] => MDB2_Result_%s [buffered_result_class] => MDB2_BufferedResult_%s [result_wrap_class] => [result_buffering] => 1 [fetch_class] => stdClass [persistent] => [debug] => 0 [debug_handler] => MDB2_defaultDebugOutput [debug_expanded_output] => [default_text_field_length] => 4096 [lob_buffer_length] => 8192 [log_line_break] => [idxname_format] => %s_idx [seqname_format] => %s_seq [savepoint_format] => MDB2_SAVEPOINT_%s [statement_format] => MDB2_STATEMENT_%1$s_%2$s [seqcol_name] => sequence [quote_identifier] => [use_transactions] => 1 [decimal_places] => 2 [portability] => 127 [modules] => Array ( [ex] => Extended [dt] => Datatype [mg] => Manager [rv] => Reverse [na] => Native [fc] => Function ) [emulate_prepared] => [datatype_map] => Array ( ) [datatype_map_callback] => Array ( ) [nativetype_map_callback] => Array ( ) [lob_allow_url_include] => [bindname_format] => (?:\d+)|(?:[a-zA-Z][a-zA-Z0-9_]*) [max_identifiers_length] => 64 [default_fk_action_onupdate] => RESTRICT [default_fk_action_ondelete] => RESTRICT [DBA_username] => [DBA_password] => [default_table_type] => ) [wildcards] => Array ( [0] => % [1] => _ ) [as_keyword] => AS [warnings] => Array ( ) [debug_output] => [in_transaction] => [nested_transaction_counter] => [has_transaction_error] => [offset] => 0 [limit] => 0 [phptype] => mysql [dbsyntax] => mysql [last_query] => SELECT * FROM article_image INNER JOIN image ON article_image.imgid = image.id WHERE article_image.incid = '66920' ORDER BY article_image.sortorder [fetchmode] => 1 [modules] => Array ( ) [destructor_registered] => 1 [_debug] => [_default_error_mode] => [_default_error_options] => [_default_error_handler] => [_error_class] => PEAR_Error [_expected_errors] => Array ( ) ) [time_created] => 2014-12-11 16:16:36 [time_updated] => 2014-12-11 16:16:59 [id] => 45862 [sortorder] => [tbl] => image [fields] => [application_path] => /public_web_sites/www.inc.com/reflex/ [core_application_url] => http://www.inc.com/ [error] => Array ( [0] => Problem initializing. A method for "incid" does not exist. [1] => Problem initializing. A method for "imgid" does not exist. ) [sort] => ) ) ) Venture Capital: 5 Secrets About How Raising Money Really Works | Inc.com