what we do
You are here:
Learn from Rob
Learn from Rob
Here is a sample from Smartups chapter "Do the Dogs like the Dog Food." These are a few questions to determine whether the customers like the product. I will help you get a score of "10" on these test items. These are but a few of the test items (see Smartups).
- Idea -- Is it sufficiently developed to have customers? That’s a 10. If it’s still in the dream stage, it’s a 1.
- Customers -- Is the idea aimed at paying customers? Rate their potential from 1 to 10.
- Money -- Is it clear how the business makes money now (not ten years from now)? If it's a very clear, easy-to-explain model, give it a 10.
- Value -- Is the value proposition extremely clear? Does it save a measurable amount of money? Then it's a 10.
What can I mentor you on?
Each team that comes to the ranch has different requirements and needs. Most teams require what I call a "Sunflower" analysis. This is where we understand the core competencies, the driving forces and then the market/applications beside the product they designed that leverage the core competencies. Professor David BenDaniel of Cornell University in his introduction to my “Smartups” book said what Rob and EA do pretty well. I am including it below.
"In 1989 Rob Ryan founded Ascend Communications with three engineers. Rob served as CEO of Ascend, taking it public Friday the .thirteenth, May 1994, at $13.00 per share. Under Rob’s leadership, Ascend had become the leading manufacturer of Point of Presence boxes (POPS) for Internet providers. Rob describes Ascend’s business as “selling the picks and shovels for the Internet gold rush."
In 1995, the last year Rob served as CEO of Ascend, the stock was acknowledged as the best performer of the year on all of Wall Street, returning a whopping 721%. If you had invested In Ascend two months after the IPO, you would have gained 3,223% one-and-three-quarters years later.
Rob Ryan's current focus is his Entrepreneur America Mentors LLC facility at Roaring Lion Ranch in Hamilton, Montana. Entrepreneur America is an incubator for high technology start-ups. In this Rocky Mountain setting, Rob mentors promising entrepreneurs, assisting with focusing product ideas, writing business plans, and sharpening presentations.
In its first four years, eighteen companies have been founded and mentored by Entrepreneur America, three of which have already achieved billion dollar valuations. With that record, it is no wonder that the chance to work with Rob is sought by hundreds of young technical entrepreneurs.
What is not well known about Rob Ryan is that, early in the history of Ascend Communications, his venture capital backers were ready to “pull the plug.” The original product developed by Ascend had insufficient market, and, in a very high-risk maneuver, Rob convinced his coworkers to change direction and develop an entirely new product. That product proved to be the basis of Ascend’s spectacular growth. Rob credits what they learned from this early crisis as instrumental to their later business success. As a result, he has devoted himself to teaching this and the many other business lessons he learned the hard way, at Entrepreneur America and as a frequent lecturer at Cornell University, his alma mater. He now gives a highly regarded class in venture start-ups at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management in which the content of this book is discussed.
Also not widely known, except to those that have been close to him at Ascend and at Entrepreneur America, is the key role of his wife, Terry, in advising him on business matters. Their collaboration is rather exceptional in the world of entrepreneurship, which frequently sees terrible strains on marriages.
The reader will find the style of the book highly personal and intuitive. Each of the many instructive comments is based on the actual experiences of Rob Ryan and others. The overall effect is to give insight and instruction about the creative management skills necessary for a successful highgrowth business. In its creativity, his book can be compared to David Ogilvy’s classic Confessions of an Advertising Man.
Rob Ryan starts his exposition by analyzing the distinct types of teams that have approached him for training at Entrepreneur America. He puts them in seven “Wanna-Be” categories and insightfully describes the strengths and weaknesses of each, leading to discussion of entrepreneurial core values and what it takes to be ready to talk to possible investors.
Demonstrating an understanding of the market is a prerequisite for establishing the viability of a start-up to potential investors. Rob has a unique checklist for doing this. Furthermore, he provides some sharp advice on getting feedback from potential customers-finding out "whether the dogs actually like the dog food."
Rob then addresses the establishment of the start-up's core competency, the potential for development of a cohesive family of products. He employs a “Sunflower Model” and I, personally, have seen this model stimulate a high level of product creativity in start-up teams.
This, in turn, leads to a discussion of four basic attributes of proposed products: value, differentiation, scaling, and stickiness. The former two are associated with market penetration and the latter two with growth potential. Rob shows how these attributes can be demonstrated.
Next, Rob gives us a very lucid exposition of the art of presentations to investors. Using his own presentations for financing Ascend Communications as an example, he shows, slide by slide, how to build the case for investment. He then discusses the realistic management of the campaign to nail down the investment.
Finally, in the last chapters of this remarkable book, Rob describes the management and organization of a company designed for rapid market penetration, competitive superiority, and high growth. Incidentally, these lessons are applicable not only to start-ups but to new product divisions of larger companies as well.
Throughout the book, Rob includes the exercises he uses at Roaring Lion Ranch to reinforce the important lessons of each chapter.
Rob has tried to spread the word, from his university lectures and his hands-on advice at Entrepreneur America, to as many high-tech entrepreneurs as will listen. They are well advised to listen carefully.
-- Smartups - book by Rob Ryan - Foreword by Professor David J. BenDaniel
Am I effective?
Below are three quotes from some of my entrepreneurs. NetCracker was sold for over 300 million in 2009. RightNow went public in 2006 and at one time had a market cap close to 1 billion and PatientKeeper is a leader today in the medical space.
"When I first met Rob he told me that he is right in 98 percent of cases. Over a year of close interaction with him, I’ve had many opportunities to test that statement, and now I know that it was precisely accurate. Working with Rob allowed us to gain the executive experience and maturity that our entrepreneurial management team needed so much."
-- Andrew Feinberg, CEO, NetCracker
"Rob isn’t just a savvy businessman; he’s an entrepreneur. The alpha-entrepreneur. Rob’s mentorship has helped guide [PatientKeeper] from a prefinanced venture to a formidable company that has reshaped the e-health landscape."
-- Stephen S. Hau, founder, PatientKeeper
"Rob Ryan has a passion for business and a love for entrepreneurs. His gut entrepreneurial instincts are right on and he communicates them in a persuasive, in-your-face manner. Our interactions with Rob have always resulted in higher expectations and a practical plan to achieve them."
-- Greg Gianforte, CEO, RightNow Tech