Interviews with Entrepreneurs

Bill Attinger, Founder & CEO of ActSeed Corporation

Please share with us how ActSeed was created.
It was late 2008 and I had just finished an assignment of “wrapping a big business around a big idea” for Interpublic Group in New York. I was a part of the founding group for its first mobile marketing team.

As I pondered my next venture and explored options of joining other startups, I started thinking about writing a book discussing the common issues that almost every new business must confront (i.e. a blueprint for implementing a good idea). Instead of writing just another business book, my epiphany came when I decided to merge this blueprint into a social media platform. Entrepreneurs who applied this process would have access to an ecosystem of resources to help implement their plan. These resources included investors, workers, educational organizations, economic development agencies and service providers.  After investing two decades of starting companies, helping others start companies, building financial models and business plans and “camping out” on Sand Hill Road, I wanted to share my experiences with as many aspiring entrepreneurs as possible.

The failure rate of early stage businesses is unacceptably high. The issue isn’t the lack of ideas but the lack of implementation. If business failure is our common enemy, then poor preparation is its henchman.   In 2008, entrepreneurs lamented the lack of funding. Granted, we were in the middle of a major credit freeze and economic contraction, however, I also sensed that it wasn’t just a capital problem.  Too many entrepreneurs had a sense of entitlement based upon the “easy money” that flowed into “half-baked” startup ideas with the intent of effortless internet riches.  Startups were no different than house-flipping; everyone expected to “get in and out” before a bust and leaving the consequences to someone else. This was unacceptable.

So, I tapped a former co-founder of my first startup, Dan Jacobson, to join me on this journey to build ActSeed.  Silicon Valley, New York (“Silicon Alley”), Boston and a few other geographic epicenters of entrepreneurship in the US receive a significant amount of attention from the media and investors. This draws a lot of talent.  I’ve lived for more than two decades of my professional life in two of these epicenters. They are certainly important to our economy and provide leadership in innovation, but there is an economic engine with enormous potential throughout the rest of the US, too.

I call this “Mainstreet Entrepreneurship”.  I found an opportunity in creating an online platform that gives any person, no matter where they live, the tools to build a lasting business of any size and a means of connecting them to the right resources around the country.

The name ActSeed is a homonym for “accede”.  For entrepreneurs who are willing to accede to a proven process for demonstrating their ability to implement a viable business idea, we can accelerate the funding and the process of market entry. By tackling “investor-readiness” issues upfront, we can assist well-prepared entrepreneurs to find angel investors and others who can contribute to the company’s survival and success.

There’s a Chinese proverb that states,

“Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember.  Involve me and I’ll understand.”

Tell = book. Show = consult. Involve = ActSeed. ActSeed doesn’t aspire to have as many members as Facebook or LinkedIn. ActSeed is not measured by population.  ActSeed is measured by results.  ActSeed is not free, but an incredibly affordable investment.  ActSeed is a synthesis of my entire career, a realization of my professional purpose and an amazing looking glass into the potential of entrepreneurship in every corner of our country.

There is no typical day in the life of an entrepreneur. Please share with us a sample of your day, start to finish.
Like a significant percentage of entrepreneurs and small business owners, I’m also a parent. When not traveling, my day almost always starts with breakfast with my wife and kids, and a mad dash to the school bus. I maintain a “living” to-do list that includes major projects, meetings and deliverables for each week. I prefer to work out of my home office as much as possible; after years of enduring gridlock on Interstate 280, I5 and a variety of NY subway lines, I shun commutes if I can.  Most days are filled with conference calls, local meetings or presentations. I don’t maintain a rigid calendar for my routine (only for calls and meetings) yet I do spend at least an hour interacting with ActSeed’s many online communities.  ActSeed is still in early growth mode and some of our best services are still in the process of being implemented.

Like breakfast, I try to focus on my family in the evening (i.e. helping with homework, cooking dinner, making sure teeth are brushed before bedtime).  Then, when the house quiets down again, I work until about midnight or 1am.  Some days you’re the hunter. Some days you’re the hunted.  Every day, you better have your gun loaded, your antennae up and a positive mental attitude to keep the journey enjoyable.

What are your ‘can’t live without’ Smartphone or desktop applications?
On my Smartphone:

  • Evernote
  • Phone camera.
  • Phone voice recorder.
  • Email, of course.
  • Synchronized calendar with a loud reminder bell.
  • My favorite app is about to be released: ActSeed for iPhone and Android will be launched in a few weeks! It will be “an Entrepreneur’s Toolkit in the palm of your hand”. A concise collection of features that will help an entrepreneur on the go.

On my desktop:

What are your tricks for time management?  

  • Immediately add all scheduled events into your calendar (don’t plan to do it later); make sure your calendar immediately syncs between your computer and phone.
  • If you need to set aside some time to complete a deliverable or task, make it a “scheduled event” and honor it like you would a meeting with someone (which means honor it).
  • Don’t be irresponsible. Don’t be surprised or (too) annoyed when everyone around you is irresponsible. Have backup plans (alternate activities) for times that were budgeted for someone who “flakes”.
  • Don’t burn valuable business minutes playing Angry Birds during unexpected downtime.
  • Do the stuff on your to-do list. If you don’t have a list, make one.
  • Keep a pen and paper handy at all times. It’s old-school, but you will capture ideas and “to-dos” this way.
  • Keep a digital voice recorder handy, too.  If you don’t have one, you will be able to download one soon for free in ActSeed’s coming smart phone app.

What was the best advice you received when you started your career?
Attention to detail.  This was drilled into me as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley.  Even if you haven’t slept more than four hours in three days, you must avoid sloppy work and lack of preparation. If you express yourself like an amateur, don’t expect to be treated like a professional.  I’ve received lots of great advice since my Morgan Stanley days, but this was the best advice at the start of my career.

Given the current economic climate, what has been your strategy for building awareness of your business for short term and long term growth?
We have focused a lot of energy on social media as we are predominantly an online community. We built an active following on Facebook of over 11,000 fans who interact frequently.  ActSeed is a relatively new brand to the marketplace, so we have engaged the startup scene where the activity is happening in social media.  Now, we are starting to welcome more of our community into ActSeed.com.  Short term, we have a good base of followers. Long term, we invite this following to participate in the services we offer on ActSeed.com.  In addition to our social media engagement, we lead seminars and webinars in partnership with local SBDCs, community colleges and incubators.

What is your proudest achievement as an accomplished entrepreneur?
For me, at this moment, I only see achievement and accomplishment on the horizon. Nothing I have done to date professionally feels like an accomplishment compared to the goals I have established for ActSeed.  What’s interesting is that I’m not seeking achievement for me; ActSeed will only be as good as the people who comprise the ecosystem.  We have the potential to make a materially positive impact on our economy, on job creation and on entrepreneurial empowerment. My proudest achievement is in front of me and will only be a reflection of the dreams others achieve if I do my job.

How do you achieve balance in your life?
Embrace imbalance. Seriously.  Find time to exercise, but don’t expect to do it when you plan to. Same goes for eating, meditating, reading, etc.  Don’t fight the undertow; surf on top of the wave.

Your top 3 book recommendations?

  • [amazon_link id="0452011876" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Atlas Shrugged[/amazon_link] by Ayn Rand: This will likely remain my #1 book forever.
  • [amazon_link id="1402767641" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Three Feet from Gold [/amazon_link] by Sharon Lechter and Greg Reid: It’s a motivational book full of actual stories that reinforce the results of tenacity.
  • [amazon_link id="0471036269" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Six Month Fix[/amazon_link] by Gary Sutton: It’s loaded with practical guidance to avoid becoming some else’s “turnaround situation”

What are your most rewarding charitable involvements?
Working with veterans and organizations that help veterans when we lived near Camp Pendleton. Also I assist my wife with various organizations and initiatives that help children from broken homes or who have been abandoned.

Who has influenced your career the most?
I’ve never really had a particular person serve as a significant mentor.

  • Troi Hayes opened my eyes to entrepreneurship when I was 15.
  • My first economics professor, Dr. Elder, was effective enough to make me change my major from biochemisty to business.
  • Brian Kinkead at Morgan Stanley was my “drill sergeant” during my investment banking “bootcamp” years (otherwise known as being an Analyst and Associate).
  • Harry Hunt in San Francisco broadened my horizons and thinking.
  • My family gives me a perspective that helps me to be a better professional and gives me a purpose that transcends a “business-only” attitude.

None of these names are household names, but each has given me valuable direction at critical crossroads.

What is your advice for someone interested in entrepreneurship?
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.  A good idea is only the first step. Implementing the idea is where the work and the satisfaction reside.  Vision without execution is nothing. Stop talking and start doing.  If you don’t know where to start, join ActSeed and call me.

SOCIAL MEDIA FOR ACTSEED

BILL ATTINGER’S BIO
Bill Attinger is the founder and CEO of ActSeed Corporation. For over 20 years, he has been a leader and innovator in growing, financing and grooming young companies. His specialty is helping early stage companies develop a sound strategy, install the building blocks for business formation and then execute a focused plan.

During his career, Mr. Attinger has founded four companies, advised and coached dozens more, grown venture-funded companies from conceptual to operational within nine months, secured investment capital from multiple investor sources and structured more than $1 billion of publicly-offered securities as an investment banker for Morgan Stanley.

His industry experience includes wireless, high-tech, web, digital media, retail, finance and manufacturing. As a CEO, COO, Advisor or Director, he has served in a wide variety of leadership roles, including planning, budgeting, capital-raising, due diligence, forecasting, sales, product development, marketing, customer support, recruiting, governance, operations, and accountability for overall P&L performance.

ActSeed is a synthesis of Mr. Attinger’s career of working with startups, entrepreneurs and all kinds of emerging businesses. Through ActSeed’s tools, resources and community applications, he plans to help thousands of startups cross the important bridge from good idea to disciplined execution, find angel investors and reduce the unacceptably high failure rate of small businesses as a result.

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