Category Archives: guest blogs

The Power of Belief by Debbie Ruston

BELIEF is necessary to succeed in all aspects of life.  No matter what we are engaging in, without belief we will not have the desired result we are looking for.

Selling a product or service – The most effective sales people are those that absolutely believe in what they are offering.  Energy is transmitted throughout the dialogue a sales person has with a client.  Two sales people can be saying the same words, even following a pre written script….those that actually believe in and are excited about what they are offering will always outperform those that are just selling to make a living.

Relationships – Everyone has experienced a relationship that didn’t work out.    If someone is in a relationship with a person that does not have common goals, beliefs, values, etc., the chance of the relationship lasting dwindles as the belief in spending a lifetime together just doesn’t seem possible.  On the other hand, when you are in sync with someone, believing you will have a long term relationship is just automatic, you don’t even have to think about it.  It is effortless and just flows.

Losing weight/getting in shape – This is an area of life so many struggle with.  We hear phrases such as “it’s in my genes”, or “I’ve tried, but I can’t lose weight”, etc.   If one does not believe they are capable of being in shape, they will find every excuse in the book to support that belief.  On the other hand, those that believe they can reach their desired weight, will make decisions and take actions that support their goal.  These people make sure they grocery shop responsibly and don’t buy food that would temp them.  These people think about what they are cooking, eating, they make conscious decisions to exercise regularly and don’t buy their own excuses.  They believe they are capable of reaching their ideal weight and then make decisions that support this.

Sports – People engage in sports everyday, and then some don’t.  What is the difference?  Some fully enjoy the sport they choose and regardless of how proficient they are, or how busy they may be, they believe it will bring them joy so  they want to spend time engaging in it.  On the other hand, someone that has no interest in sports, will have no belief in their ability to spend time participating in something they don’t have interest in.

Cooking – Would you invite someone over for a big fancy dinner?  If you wouldn’t you might believe you are not a good cook and are not capable of putting on a fine dinner for others.  Those that throw dinner parties don’t have to think about it…they just believe they will put on a great dinner.

If you are engaging in something and not experiencing the result you desire, ask yourself where your belief is?  Do you actually believe in what you are doing?  If not,  it may be time to course correct, and either learn what it takes to be more proficient, or take a new direction.  Getting authentic with yourself in this way removes a lot of underlying challenges such as stress, unhappiness, feeling inadequate, etc.  Build your belief, and you build your results….

I believe in taking an active stand for true human potential.

I have been a successful entrepreneur, since 1986 and have spent my career helping people discover their limitations and overcome them, which has been extremely rewarding…now taking it to a whole new level by putting this knowledge into the hands of students that are stuck in the “underemployment” of today’s changed economy. Such a high percentage of young people cannot find work despite their degree and massive student debts….the missing link is to teach them to take control in their lives to combine their strengths, passions, degrees, and all the available options in technology to build their own businesses as self reliant entrepreneurs. One of the greatest gifts we can give people is to teach them to be self reliant….I am happy to play a role in that teaching…

Debbie Ruston

The Success Educator

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Corporate Training Solutions

Educators/Higher Ed Professionals

Concerned Parents – Leadership Curriculum for Students

1-800-576-2917 or


Three Tips for Successful Networking at an Event

That guy at a networking eventFor many people, the word “networking” brings up images of this guy (left). It’s no wonder so many of us have negative connotations about networking. After all, no one wants to be ‘that guy’.

The good news is that collecting business cards and spamming people (both written and verbally) with why you’re so great is not actually networking. In fact, if you try to network like this, you’ll quickly find that not only does it not work, it’ll have the opposite effect and turn people away.

So then what is networking? In its simplest sense, I like to define it as actively looking for ways you can provide value to others with similar interests.

Why network?

  1. It’s the #1 way to identify and secure business & career opportunities.
  2. The strength of weak ties: the more “weak” ties in your network the wider the variety of opportunities you’ll be exposed to. This topic could be its own blog post. If you’re interested in more check out Reid Hoffman’s post or the original research paper.
  3. Your network goes with you throughout your career.

Making your networking productive is as simple as following these…

Three tips for successful networking:

  1. Know your objective.
  2. Proactively engage…then listen.
  3. Follow-thru

1. Know Your Objective

“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter’.”

Without focusing your networking efforts, you’ll end up very busy, but frustrated at a perceived lack of progress. If you’re going to spend time attending events, you should spend a little time beforehand understanding why. What is it you need? Are you looking for business clients? Job leads? Potential employees? Advice?

These (and more) are all valid reasons for networking. But decide before the event which objectives you’re targeting. Going in blind and ‘seeing what happens’ leaves you open to missing what you really needed. Objectives don’t have to take a lot of time. For example, something as simple as “speak to at least 2 people I can follow-up with regarding career advice” is enough. Remember, you don’t need to meet everyone at an event to make it a ‘success’ – simply meeting your personal objectives makes it a success for you.

2. Proactively engage…then listen

If you feel uncomfortable at events, realize you’re far from the only one who feels that way. Getting started can be as simple as breaking the ice. Yes, I know that’s usually easier said than done, but one of the benefits of an event like MarketingCamp is that everyone is there for the same purpose. No one’s going to care or remember how a conversation was started, only that they enjoyed the conversation. So smile and say hello. Or get really fancy with “May I join you?” or “What brings you to MarketingCamp?”. And don’t hesitate to ask questions in the sessions at MarketingCamp. It’s a great way to generate follow-up conversations with the speaker or other attendees afterward.

Once you’re in the conversation, the most important thing to remember is to LISTEN. There’s no better way to find out how you can help someone than to ask questions and listen. But you have to really listen. Planning what you’re going to say next about yourself while smiling and nodding doesn’t count. Remember, networking is about actively looking for ways you can provide value to others. Make it about them and you’ll find that the opportunities to speak about yourself will come up naturally.

3. Follow-up

The most important part of networking, and unfortunately the most neglected, is to follow-up. Follow-up doesn’t need to take much time. In many cases, simply mentioning that it was nice to speak with them and offering a follow-up discussion is enough. If appropriate, let them know you’re open to assisting them in the future and to feel free to contact you. If they gave you advice, let them know what you did with that advice. If you offered to help them in some way, be sure to do so.

A final note on follow-up. Many people, myself included, use LinkedIn to maintain their network. It’s a wonderful tool when used appropriately. I don’t recommend using the generic LinkedIn invite text. Take a couple of minutes and write something personal to remind the recipient where you met, what you discussed, and why you’d like to stay connected. It’s not only a helpful reminder to the recipient, it also shows a little thought.

What are some networking tips you’ve found useful? I’d love to hear them. Let me know in the comments.



About Jonathan

Jonathan Chizick Technology Marketing Executive

Product Marketing | Consumer Technology | Mentor @ 500 Startups

Startup advisor, former engineer, and enemy of the status quo. Jonathan connects startups with customers, partners, and investors to grow their business.

Expertise providing startups guidance and hands-on assistance with business model and growth strategy, customer and business development, and all aspects of Marketing – in particular, identifying product-market fit and leveraging it into product launches and Marketing campaigns that deliver results.

Jonathan is actively involved in the Silicon Valley startup world, as a mentor at 500 Startups, and an angel investor and advisor to several startups and Venture Capital funds. He also co-founded MarketingCamp, bringing together innovative Marketing thought-leaders from across Silicon Valley for full-day, participant-driven conferences.

Previously, Jonathan launched the Alienware product line globally, pioneered viral marketing at Best Buy, co-founded WalkAbout Wireless, and designed and built cars at Ford.

Follow him on Twitter at @JCinSV. Send him startup referrals at AngelList.


Context v Content

We can understand the very root of all inherent problems by understanding the difference between content and context.

Context represents the overall field of information that gives content its meaning.

Content is the details of a particular situation.

Context is the overall field from which the details arise. Context sets the meaning for content.

Without context, content has no meaning.

A man purchased a carpet factory. He went to the local city hall and shared his ambition of completely carpeting the city so that no one would be uncomfortable walking in the city. A wise council member stood up and said why don’t you just make carpeted shoes?

A healthy mindset requires an understanding of what works within a ones context.

Here are a few questions you can use to help identify context for life.

1. What is it that gives my life meaning?

2. What do I value?

3. If you were to remove it from my life, would my life still have meaning?

4. How do I or will I share what I value with others?

With clarity of context, meaning, values and purpose become self evident. One is then able to share with the world what one is.

Known for his large sputnik like cranium and a stellar sense of humor, Jonathan’s intention is one of inspiring people to enjoy life as it is.

Growing up in the great outdoors of Colorado, Jonathan discovered a inner creative resource through exposure to beauty and unconditional love in early childhood. Jonathan’s intention is to inspire inner shifts in ones context by inviting one to examine through inquiry the beliefs and values one has integrated into an identity. This identity for many is the obstacle that seems to block ones ability to enjoy ones existence regardless of circumstances.

A typical day will find Jonathan coaching, leading all camp games, conversing on context, doing stand up comedy, building community or leading a his children into the exploration of the beauty of nature.


Bitcoin Self-Regulation

Article Link:

Article summary
Maintaining customer faith in Bitcoin is the number one priority for all Bitcoin providers, exchanges and related companies. Without a tangible asset and historical context for value, Bitcoin will collapse immediately if people lose faith in its legitimacy. All cryptocurrency providers, such at Bitcoin, must push to self regulate to protect their value. The self-regulation must happen FAST for there is a lot of interest and concern building within governments and monetary systems. Establishing standards that are easily adhered to and adopted will be critical. Providers must engage in conversations to define standards and hold each other accountable in very much the same way Truste worked with websites to define consumer privacy and data usage standards.Cryptocurrencies are at a point know where they must self regulate or BE regulated.

Eric (@ericdunstan) is a proven strategist and business leader with a focus in marketing strategy and planning, product development and partnership development. He has deep experience in the Internet, e-commerce and mobile verticals and has recently expanded into banking technology and payments. Eric brings the discipline and structure found at larger companies and is highly functional in the start up and small company environments that require him to lead teams across many functional disciplines.

Eric is accomplished at developing and launching integrated marketing plans targeting both the B2B and B2C audiences. He is also valued for his ability in building strategic partnerships to achieve marketing and product objectives. Eric is also skilled at developing product strategies and roadmaps for mobile, tablet and web products for e-commerce, personal finance and consumer credit applications.

Eric has a BA in Psychology from UCLA and an MBA (Marketing Concentration) from Santa Clara University.

Feedback is welcome @ericdunstan

Crowdfunding for Startups – Using Convertible Z-coupon Convertible Notes

Abhishek Singh graciously submitted a guest blog to answer a question I had about ideal crowdfunding scenarios.  Please enjoy, study, and inquire via Twitter @gl_citizen and I would appreciate being copied @charlesjo .


Crowdfunding for Startups – Using Convertible Z-coupon Convertible Notes


It isn’t necessary to give away equity in a start-up when you’re raising your seed round. Often startups can raise a round of $1m+ off zero coupon convertible notes. Effectively, debt instruments like bonds, except issued by a start up company with no revenue.


In the case of Fortune 500 companies that issue bonds, those bonds are rated by S&P or Moody’s, based on the ability of the company to fund the interest rate or ‘coupon’ as its called, from its existing and forecast cash flows. So, for example, LVS is the ticker for Las Vegas Sands, and gambling tends to be a recession/downturn proof business. You can expect bonds issued by LVS to be rated relatively well due to their strong expected cash flow.


In a startup, when buying a zero coupon convertible, investors don’t buy the ability of a company to repay the note, they buy the right to convert their note to equity at a discount in the startup once its hit certain milestones (e.g. functioning site/app built). In other words, you’re getting a discount on the price of buying in to the equity upside in exchange for being one of first to buy in to the vision of the founders


For example, what does it mean if an angel investor invests $100k into a startup in exchange for a zero coupon convertible, with:

  • a 3 year term;
  • a revenue or Series A or buyout trigger; and
  • conversion at 20% discount to pre-money valuation


For our example, lets assume a Series A round values a company at $20m and value per share is $1 (there will be a new shares issued to get total issued to 20m and complete the round).


In the case of a Series A round, the angel investor has the right to convert their $100k note in to shares at a 20% discount to pre-money valuation i.e. $0.80 per share. In other words, the no of shares they get would be $100k/0.80=125,000 shares, instead of $100k/1=100,000 shares which the Series A investor gets paying $1 per share.


It would be the same process if the startup went revenue positive or hit a revenue milestone (depending on how the issuing contract is worded) and for a buyout.


In case of a Series A or buyout, the angel investor has the option of ‘selling in to the round’, i.e. converting and selling their shares to the series A investor or buyer (in buyout), getting a 20% return on their investment. They can of course choose to hold their newly converted common equity, and come along for the startup ride, in the hope that the upside will get bigger and they can sell in to subsequent rounds of financing.


If the startup does unfortunately close without raising a Series A or getting bought after the 3-year term of the note, the company would be on the hook for returning the principle. You can choose to make it a straight obligation to repay principle or add a low coupon.


In theory, this technique could be used for crowdfunding pursuant to the JOBS Act. Cooley LLP has a great summary here, but the simple is:

  • you can only crowdfund up to $1m in a year;
  • investors with a net worth (essentially assets minus liabilities) of less than $100k can only invest upto 10% of their annual income or net worth; and
  • you do have some heavy regulatory requirements to follow if you crowdfund from sub-$100k networth investors.


Some practical points:

  • With tightly worded documents, you can raise multiple rounds of seed funding using this technique, worth considering if you need an additional bridge between seed and Series A
  • Given regulatory burdens and annual limits, practical to consider limiting number of sub-$100k net worth investors. Though that’s locking out many of the folks who want to access small, high growth companies. This is an obvious point lawmakers should revisit, but for now it is what it is.
  • Be mindful that you’ll have to increase the number of shares in Series A to issue to the note holders who convert, and be transparent about that dilution with any potential Series A investors
  • You can give each zero coupon note holder a right to buy the others out. This is useful when your convert trigger is a revenue milestone, since it gives investors a possible exit post conversion in the absence of a Series A or buyout.


For the obvious reasons – the information above isn’t intended to & does not constitute legal advice. You should get customized advice for your specific situation. The views expressed are my own. That said, happy to take general questions and help where I can.



Abhishek Singh (@gl_citizen) is an entrepreneur and lawyer. He presently divides his time between managing the legal function for Southeast Asia for a US Fortune 50 company, and working with start-ups in Asia. Abhishek was previously a technology media and telecoms (TMT) lawyer, having advised a number of blue chips and start-ups in the TMT space in Asia on matters ranging from market entry to attempting, and defending against, hostile takeovers. Abhishek has also been an advisor to the Government of Afghanistan on TMT policy, and has authored chapters on present and suggested future directions for TMT policy in Asia in the UN supported publication Digital Review of Asia-Pacific. Abhishek graduated from the University of Sydney, Australia, with degrees in Economics/Econometrics and Law. He presently lives in Singapore.