SCORE

Mike is very heavily involved in the technology side of investing and entrepreneurship, aka blockchain, crypto, artificial intelligence, etc. One of the companies he is currently advising is Erudit.ai, which hopes to empower great managers to become even greater leaders by providing reliable, real-time analysis of teams and departments. 

For this entrepreneur series interview, I asked Mike for his top 3 pieces of advice for startups here in Utah, and he generously shared those below:

Use Free Resources

"I talk to a lot of these entrepreneurs, and they have a skewed perception about what entrepreneurship is. The truth is, it’s extremely hard. It’s emotionally, spiritually and physically exhausting. True entrepreneurship is a huge risk. Your time, your energy, other people’s money and resources. It’s a big thing; and it’s much more mentally taxing than most people realize."

For that reason, he always recommends people leverage free resources. He said, "One of those I like in Utah is GrowUtah.com - which is a great resource because you have a directory of events happening around startups in Utah. Of course, there’s SCORE, which is a tremendous free resource for Utah startups."

There's also SBDC; embedded in the universities in Utah, and they offer free resources which can give you a foundation to start from. 

You can also apply to free accelerator programs; although there is a time commitment for these. Mike said, "I recommend those because they give you free AWS credits, Oracle credits, and run your technology for free. I've got a startup that's still running off of free AWS credits."

Lean and Mean

If you don’t have a lot of funds and can stay away from hiring people too soon while avoiding giving up too much equity, I always advise startups to go this route. If you're networking via accelerators or other startup ecosystems, you're meeting the possible team members that could help you build a new version of your original idea. "There's another site called EquityDirectory.com - I think it's a really cool idea. It's basically a platform that allows developers or whatever skills you have; I'm willing to work for free in exchange for equity. You have to be smart about divvy up your equity, but building a team willing to work for free can be extremely powerful. It's really about protecting your equity as much as possible," Mike concluded.

For example, FishKiss was trying to raise some money to do some expansion and office repairs. But they were seeking investment in return for equity for such a small amount of money ($4000), and they had great cash flow. Mike noted, "Instead of trying to give up equity, there's a solution called debt financing, which I advised them to do. Just by getting some credit, they didn't have to give up any control of their business."

Learn How to Sell

All too often, when I talk to entrepreneurs, there are certain skills I find that they don't normally put much emphasis on. One of these is learning how to sell. It's important for everyone. You need to learn how to sell your own product. Finding someone else to sell your business for you can often result in spending too much money too soon or giving away too much equity.

Even when you're working in a large organization, everybody has to be a salesperson. Especially as founders and entrepreneurs, you have to understand the art of persuasion, some human psychology, and to tell a story to sell the product. If you don't understand sales techniques and how to interact with people, you're never going to succeed if you can't sell your idea.

You have to break out of your comfort zone and learn how to tell stories and sell people. "I've met several people who joined ToastMasters, which helped them refine their ability to get up in front of people and learn how to give speeches and presentations," Mike told me. When you're compelled to stretch yourself like that, it helps everyone learn how to sell yourself and raise money, get financing, and help polish you as a professional. 

Conclusion

Mike is a battle proven and experienced leader with over 20 plus years of diverse and matured capabilities. One of his greatest strengths is leveraging and managing human and technical resources to not only achieve targets at a high level, but to do it with passion and compassion. 

If you enjoyed this article, share it! And if you have suggestions on who should be interviewed next, connect with Adam.

About the Author(s)

Adam Torkildson

Adam is a long-time resident of American Fork, UT. He serves in several local service organizations and advises several startups that he's invested in or founded.

Owner, Tork Media
Utah Entrepreneurship Series with Mike Sites