I recently got together with Aaron Shechet and an early stage startup to discuss the direction the company might want to take. It was a great conversation and I thought it would be a good idea to do some visible networking with Aaron to get to know him better.
Tell me a bit about your background.
I grew up in Los Angeles and went to undergrad at UC Santa Barbara, graduating in 2003 with Honors in Economics. I then went to Pepperdine University School of Law and graduated in 2006 with a Certificate from the Geoffrey H. Palmer Center for Entrepreneurship and the Law, of which I served as an Executive Board Member and am currently a Fellow.
I have always been entrepreneurial and business focused. While at UC Santa Barbara, I started a café which served over 1100 dorm residents. At Pepperdine, I co-founded the Journal of Business, Entrepreneurship & the Law -- only the fourth scholarly journal in the history of the Pepperdine School of Law.
Both of those undertakings were done despite being told repeatedly that they could not be done. Actually, being told repeatedly that they couldn’t be done was part of the motivation. I feel too many people are discouraging, and as a result, too many entrepreneurs are discouraged and give up.
While in law school, my partner, Leigh, and I had a concept for a law firm that did more than just “law.” We both have experience in business and thinking outside the box. So, we both turned down job offers to create a new kind of practice – we are true “advocates.” Not only do our business clients turn to us for lawsuits, but they also ask us to create efficient processes and develop their brands.
On more than one occasion we have been told that we’re crazy (especially at the beginning when we turned down good job offers). But as we continue to grow, there are fewer people coming after us in white suits.
I'm impressed that you got a journal created at the law school. I spent five years getting the multimedia minor at Loyola Marymount to happen. It was definitely challenging to make something like that happen in an academic environment.
What are you working on now?
We have a number of startups (or pre-startups) that we are helping get launched. We also represent a few larger companies with international issues.
Right now we have a lot of Intellectual Property and Cyberlaw work that crosses over between the two facets of our firm.
You are writing about the essentials of business. Any thoughts on my recent post Startup Metrics? And how it relates to what you are talking about in http://holocognics.blogspot.com/2009/10/defining-business.html?
The Startup Metrics post is a good example of what I call “holocognics.” That is, breaking things down to their fundamentals to thoroughly understand how something works, and being able to apply that understanding. In my case, I am breaking down “business” to its fundamentals, which begins with a definition of what, exactly, is a “business.”
Startup Metrics discusses what a Startup needs to consider before “going live.” That is, understanding your business model and the different variables that go into it. Holocognics would break it down even further and discuss why, for instance, SEO works in one industry and not another – both in the sense of why a certain business has a higher chance of succeeding in showing up higher in a search, but also why SEO in a certain business has a higher “acquisition” rate (to use the Startup Metrics term).
In other words, instead of accepting that “SEO is good,” let's explore what the point of SEO is and when it is actually “good” (that is, promoting a goal).
That's great. I am planning right not to write a post about how startups often get SEO wrong. I'll have to engage with you around it.
You and I were talking about a startup recently and where they might go for seed stage funding, what is your impression on that aspect here in Los Angeles? Are you doing much of that?
Los Angeles is a great place for startups. We occasionally get involved with very early stage startups. We are not “finders” and usually serve the role of advisor and attorney. Sometimes we draft business plans and coach the entrepreneurs on their pitch, and sometimes we even help develop a business model. Many entrepreneurs have an idea but don’t know how to monetize it. A few years ago “venture capital” was a revenue model. Today, there is still seed capital to be found, but you have to show the investors (especially very early stage investors) that you have a viable business. In other words, you have to show that there is a market out there and that the revenues that come from tapping into that market will be greater than the expenses paid for tapping into that market. It also helps if there is a reason that other people can’t compete with you, either because of some trade secret or patent.
I think visible networking and online business networking are both great ideas. The way I see it is: there are millions of people out there that I want to meet, either because they’re interesting people or because they need my service, or ideally both! Networking is about meeting people and getting to know them. It’s not about meeting someone and handing them a business card. I keep every business card I receive in a folder. Yes, a physical folder. That way when I meet someone who says “I need X,” I can say “I know exactly the person you should talk to,” and I flip through the folder and give the contact information.
I don’t expect to get any business directly through networking. That’s not the purpose and that shouldn’t be a goal (although I have gotten clients by meeting them at “networking events”). More often what happens is that someone I meet will know someone who has a legal or business (or both) problem and then refer that person to us because they know what we do.
Bringing this thought full circle: as I mentioned, there are millions of people out that I want to meet. A lot of those people I want to meet because they have interesting thoughts and perspectives. I find that other people’s thoughts on issues are invaluable.
Visible Networking and Online Business Networking represent the following concept: organize a convenient forum for people to discuss issues. By doing that online, people can get to know each other and discuss different topics at their leisure and not in a “forced” networking setting.
It provides a more active opportunity for people to get to know each other, and in more detail. Instead of a handshake and “so what do you do” the conversation evolves over time and each person's unique strengths come through.
Wow, I'm impressed that you can remember folks who hand you business cards. I tell everyone to link to me on LinkedIn because that gives me a much better chance of "remembering" them. I'm looking forward to continued conversation online.
What are some good posts that I should check out on your blog?
My blog is relatively young, so there aren’t many choices, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t read them all!
But if I had to pick (ie. answer the question) I would pick the first one defining holocognics (http://holocognics.blogspot.com/2009/10/what-is-holocognics.html) and my post from October 23 exploring the concepts of value and money (http://holocognics.blogspot.com/2009/10/value-and-money.html).
I pick the holocognics post because that’s what the blog is about, and the value and money post because I think it’s very interesting and I will have more blog posts on those subjects.
I really like the focus of your blog. I'm sure we are going to have some good conversations.
What networking events in Los Angeles or Southern California do you go to? What was the best one you’ve been to recently?
I don’t go to too many official “networking” events. I would say the most useful networking event in general is just going out to the grocery store or getting coffee and talking to the people I meet.
Thanks Aaron – great getting to know you. Look forward to connecting around the SEO topic.