The year of the quad-core phone begins with the Tegra 3-powered LG Optimus 4X HD

LG has announced the first, official quad-core smartphone. Named the Optimus 4X HD, it uses Nvidia's Tegra 3 chip and will take center stage during Mobile World Congress next week.
If 2011 was the year of mobile phones with big screens and dual-core processors, 2012 will be all about the quad-core processor and despite devices using such a chip failing to appear during CES 2012, they’ll be making a big splash at Mobile World Congress.
The rumors have been spreading for months, beginning with last year’s announcement of theTegra 3 and Qualcomm’s APG8064, then continuing with talk of various tablets and phones such as the HTC Edge/Endeavor, the Samsung Galaxy S III and the LG X3.
Being first out of the gate with a quad-core device is important for the marketeers, who just love the opportunity to liberally sprinkle press releases with the phrase “world’s first,” and once again it’s LG who gets that honor.
Seeing as the Korean company gave us the “world’s first” dual-core smartphone, the Optimus 2X, it seems fitting that this year we’ve got the Optimus 4X HD – the first official quad-core smartphone.

Tegra 3

It’s not just any quad-core chip either, but Nvidia’s impressive Tegra 3, as seen in another “world’s first,” the Asus Eee Pad Transformer 2 tablet. Rated at 1.5Ghz, the 4X HD’s chip is slightly more powerful too, plus the phone has 1GB of RAM to keep things running smoothly.
Ever since the Tegra 3′s announcement, Nvidia has tried to explain its clever architecture, where the four cores are supported by a fifth core which will take care of the more mundane tasks, and therefore putting less strain on the battery.
It has now come up with a more “unique and descriptive” name to help customers understand why their new quad-core phone really has five cores. Nvidia’s calling the system 4-PLUS-1, and has added the graph you see below to its explanatory whitepaper on the technology.
Nvidia Tegra 3 4-PLUS-1

Optimus 4X HD

While the Tegra 3 chip may be stealing the headlines, the rest of the Optimus 4X’s features are similarly high-end. As you may have guessed from the use of HD in its name, the phone’s 4.7-inch LCD screen has a resolution of 1280 x 720, so the sharpness should still be there despite its size.
Google Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is the operating system of choice, to which LG has added its own user interface over the top. Other features include 16GB of internal memory, DLNA connectivity and a hefty 2150mAh battery, and yet LG has squeezed all this into a chassis which measures 8.9mm.
On the rear of the phone is an 8-megapixel camera with LED flash, while around the front is a 1.3-megapixel video call lens, however as yet there’s no mention of either an NFC chip (often mentioned in leaks of the LG X3, which appears to be the 4X HD’s codename) or a 4G LTE variant.

Launch date

More information on the Optimus 4X HD will be provided during Mobile World Congress next week, and LG says the phone will be released in Europe between March and June, but it has yet to confirm an international or North American launch.
LG has made the most of this past week, making sure its new phones don’t get lost in the MWC crowd by “pre-announcing” them. Will it pay off, or will the inevitable influx of other quad-core phones over-shadow the admittedly great-looking Optimus 4X HD anyway?

Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse: The world’s fastest convertible gets more power

The newest version of the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport makes 1200 hp.
Bugatti only makes one car, but it’s quite a machine. In top-spec SS form, the Veyron is the fastest production car in the world. Every Veyron is powered by an 8.0-liter, 16-cylinder engine with four turbochargers, making 1,001 hp in the (discontinued) standard Veyron, coupled to all-wheel-drive. There is even a convertible.
As a drop-top version of the world’s fastest car, the Veyron Grand Sport was pretty extreme already. Nonetheless, Bugatti has decided to give it a little more power; enter the Grand Sport Vitesse.
“Vitesse” means speed in Bugatti’s native French, so the company tweaked the convertible’s W16, giving it a total of 1,200 horsepower, with 1,106 pound feet of torque. To make this extra power, Bugatti says the turbochargers and intercoolers were enlarged. The chassis was also reinforced to handle all that torque.
The Vitesse borrows some pieces from the record-breaking SS, including its more aerodynamic front fascia and tuned suspension. Is Bugatti trying to build a convertible SS, so buyers can set world speed records while drying their hair?
Bugatti would not reveal the Vitesse’s top speed, but it will probably be higher than the current Grand Sport. That car is limited to 217 mph, making it the world’s fastest production convertible. With an extra 200 hp, there is no reason why Bugatti wouldn’t raise that limit. The SS’ record stands at 268 mph, but that would be difficult to reach with an open roof; the convertible just isn’t as aerodynamic as the coupe. That’s why Lockheed does not make a convertible F-22.
Bugattis are all about extreme numbers, especially when it comes to sticker price. A normal Grand Sport costs about $2.2 million; an SS costs roughly $3.3 million. Since the Vitesse is a step up from a normal Grand Sport, but not quite as fast as an SS, it stands to reason that its price will be somewhere between those numbers.
The Veyron has been around since 2005, but it never ceases to amaze. It shows what can happen when all of a company’s resources (especially those of the mighty Volkswagen group) are committed to a single objective. As a world record holder, it’s not a good idea to be complacent, so Bugatti has continued to incrementally improve the Veyron to keep it on top. The Grand Sport Vitesse might seem like a marketing ploy, a special edition to attract customers high on exclusivity. However, in the Veyron’s rarefied world, even incremental improvements count as forward progress. It’s not like anyone else has built a convertible as fast as this before.
The Vitesse will make its public debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March, with production set to begin shortly after that.

Thinksound ms01 in-ear headphone Review

The Thinksound ms01 in-ear headphones manage to deliver genuinely powerful bass and studio-like sound while retaining an earth-friendly image.
My interest in New Hampshire-based Thinksound was piqued about a year and a half ago when a pair of its TS02 headphones landed here at Digital Trends HQ. Though the company had launched in December 2009 and had already produced a couple of headphone models (the Rain and Thunder, both of which we reviewed) the TS02 were my first exposure to the brand and, likewise, to a line of headphones with eco-friendly, sustainable practices at the center of their design.
I am unapologetically enthusiastic about green products in general, and even more so when they tie into to my passion for consumer electronics. With that said, I don’t care how “green” a product is unless it performs well and looks good doing it. Thankfully, the ts02 turned out to be a great-sounding and attractive set of canal-phones that earned high praise and a Digital Trends Editor’s Choice award.
It stands to reason that Thinksound’s products would sound good. The company was founded by two gentlemen with plenty of experience both in high-end consumer audio and recording engineering. So, as you might imagine, I was particularly interested to learn that the company was introducing a new “Monitor Series” product line designed to satisfy the likes of picky studio musicians and recording engineers. When the ms01 landed on my desk for review, I wasted no time digging in.
In this Thinksound ms01 headphone review, we take a look at what makes the ms01 special, and how well Thinksound did tackling the daunting task of designing an in-ear monitor that can produce studio-quality sound.

Out of the box

The best thing about the ms01 packaging is that there isn’t a whole lot of it. The small box the ms01 come in features very little plastic and is entirely recyclable. Inside the box we found the ms01, four sizes of silicone ear tips in a small zippered bag, two “active lifestyle” ear hooks and a cotton storage pouch with untreated cotton drawstrings. The only additional accessory we might like to see here would be an airline adapter.

Features and design

The most standout feature of the ms01 (or any other Thinksound earphone, for that matter) is the use of sustainable wood in the earphone’s housing. According to Aaron Fournier, Thinksound president, CEO and engineer, the wood used comes from pear trees, a preferred material for its low defect rate and renewability. The wood stain is described as “chocolate”, but the set we received was a little lighter in color than the ts02 we reviewed. The use of wood in place of metal has its environmental benefits but Thinksound points to its audible benefits as well, claiming the wood provides for a natural and warm sound.
The wood is accented by a gunmetal-colored metallic section that houses the earphones’ 8mm drivers, which carry a rated frequency response of 18Hz to 20kHz.
The ‘phone’s cable is PVC-free, Kevlar-reinforced and terminated with a gold-plated 3.5mm plug. We measured the cord length at 55 inches, which may seem like an odd number but we found it to be the perfect length.
Adding to Thinksound’s green appeal, the company will provide a 15 percent discount coupon for a Thinksound purchase if you submit a set of earphones for recycling (25 percent for recycled Thinksound earphones). Any set of headphones, working or not, is eligible.

Performance

To test the ms01 we used an iPhone 4S, Dell laptop computer, NuForce Icon uDAC-2, HeadRoom Micro DAC and HeadRoom Micro Amp. Before auditioning, we broke the ms01 in for about 40 hours.
We liked the ms01’s bass response immediately. Unlike so many of the in-ear headphones we’ve listened to recently that advertise “powerful bass” only to deliver disproportionately loud low-end across a huge cut of the frequency range, there’s nothing forced or artificial about the ms01. These earphones managed to dig deep, yet stay fast and musical as they rendered excellent tonality. They reproduced exactly what was on the recording (for better or worse) and nothing else; so far, so good on the promise to deliver studio-accurate sound.
Midrange response was equally pleasing. Keb’ Mo’s “Henry” from the Slow Down album framed the ms01’s midrange character perfectly. Mo’s voice is naturally rich — an earphone with beefed-up lower midrange response will overly fatten things up — but the ms01’s rendering of Mo’s vocal was as balanced and natural as we could care for. Considering the bass player is placed front and center in the mix, such accurate midrange production is even more impressive. We also have to comment again on the ms01’s outstanding tonality. With the ms01, certain complex chords came off with an almost palpable resonance. There was no guessing at chord quality because each individual note could be heard both on its own and as part of the greater whole. In less musician-y terms: We were just really moved by the ms01’s tonal accuracy and you can’t fake that.
ms01 gearThe ms01’s high-frequency response presented us with some real challenges, however. If you’ve ever heard a musician checking a microphone you may have noticed they repeated the ‘S’ sound repeatedly. This is to help make sure that the there’s some clarity around this really important consonant sound. If buried, lyrics can come across mushy and unintelligible, so it is important to get that section of the high frequencies dialed in just right. Too much of a good thing, however, can be detrimental. The last thing you want is for those highly sibilant “s”, and “ch” sounds to be pushed so hard they shoot into your eardrum like a hot needle.
While we won’t go so far as to say the ms01 shot hot needles at us, we do have to say they were way too hot in that critical part of the treble area for our liking, and we found that the effect rippled out beyond vocal sounds. Tight snare drums hits had a bit too much snap, cymbals came across unnaturally harsh and even brass instruments were a bit too spicy at times.
Interestingly, this characteristic did present its benefits in certain listening scenarios. For instance, when listening to an isolated bass guitar track from a recording still in progress, we felt the ms01’s response was extremely revealing. It was almost as if we had our ears placed just feet away from the bass amp. Yet, when other tracks were mixed in and the song was listened to as a whole, we lost some of that intimate appeal to some distractingly hot cymbal crashes and snare drum snaps.

Conclusion

There’s a whole lot to love about the Thinksound ms01. Not only are they a brilliantly eco-conscious product, they are a carefully-voiced earphone that shines as an example of the sort of quality that can (and should) be had in a world inundated by uninspired, off-the-shelf products backed with celebrity endorsements and flashy packaging in lieu of sound engineering experience.
For those seeking deep, accurate bass and open, transparent midrange, it’s hard to do much better in an earphone than the Thinksound ms01. In that regard, the ms01 justify their billing as a studio monitor. Our reservations with the treble response are due cause for concern, though. Granted: Sound appreciation is a deeply personal and subjective issue. Even with that considered, we still think that the ms01 are going to be too bright for many discerning listeners and, for that reason, can’t justify offering them Digital Trends’ Editor’s Choice award.

Highs:

  • Terrifically deep and well-balanced bass
  • Transparent midrange, clear vocals
  • Comfortable fit, great cord length
  • Environmentally-friendly build and packaging

Lows:

  • Harsh treble response
  • No airline adapter

TwelveSouth HoverBar lets you mount your iPad 2 almost anywhere

The HoverBar from TwelveSouth easily integrates your iPad 2 into an Apple workstation or mounts quickly to kitchen cabinets.
If having your shiny iPad 2 sitting next to your big, beautiful Mac display isn’t enough for you, TwelveSouth has a pretty smart way to give your desktop setup, provided you have an iPad 2, a little extra something special. The HoverBar ($80) uses an extra-strong flexible arm, a silicone-lined clamp, and a secure attachment to your ipad 2 to let you mount your device for display almost anywhere. The company seems to particularly like showcasing the HoverBar as a natural extension of the Apple desktop setup, but there are plenty of other uses for it, too. Clamp the HoverBar onto your kitchen cabinets for an easy way to display a weather app and look up recipes, or attach it to a table for a nice floating touchscreen to check your apps and emails. 
The strong and flexible arm that holds the iPad 2 up can move in any direction to fit your needs. It works with a ball tip on the iPad clip that allows users to tilt and move the device easily. The silicone lining of the sturdy metal clamp ensures that the HoverBar won’t damage any surface that you attach it to. We definitely like the idea of using this as an extension of a desktop setup or as a handy kitchen display, and we particularly like that it looks simple enough to remove your iPad when you want to take it on the go and slip it back into the HoverBar when you return. 

It’s official—Medal of Honor: Warfighter has been confirmed

After months of speculation, EA and Danger Close have confirmed that the follow-up to their 2010 Medal of Honor will be called Medal of Honor: Warfighter, and is tentatively scheduled for an October release.
If you purchased a copy of EA and DICE’sBattlefield 3 last October, then you shouldn’t be too surprised to hear that a sequel to the 2010 Medal of Honor is on the way. Inside the packaging of Battlefield 3 was a promotional image that featured a devilishly grinning face, as well as the Medal of Honor url, but nothing else.
The sequel was actually confirmed over a year ago after the 2010 version sold over 5 million copies in its first 2 months alone, but we really haven’t heard too much beyond that. Then earlier this week, invites went out for an event on March 6 at GDC, featuring an unnamed game to be published by EA, to be developed by Danger Close and DICE, the same team that brought us the last MoH game. It wasn’t officially confirmed, but it seemed like a logic conclusion.
Then sure enough, earlier today EA confirmed what we suspected, and even gave the game a subtitle. So from henceforth, the new game shall be known as Medal of Honor: Warfighter.
The phrase “Warfighter” really doesn’t give us much to go on. It is a fairly common term in some circles, used as a nickname for soldiers. The image suggests that the game will remain in the current day setting rather than returning to the sereies’ World War II roots, but beyond that we in the dark.
EA has yet to confirm a release date, but October seems like a logical date for at least two reasons: first, the last Medal of Honor was released on October 12, 2010, but the second, and possibly far more important, is that EA can now compete directly with Activision’s annual Call of Duty releases.
If this current trend continues (which is still a big if, and totally based on guesswork), then EA could conceivably release a new Medal of Honor on even years, and a new Battlefield on the odd years. That would put Danger Close’s Medal of Honor series head-to-head with Treyarch’s Call of Duty titles, while DICE’s Battlefield would go up against Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty. While the Medal of Honor and the Battlefield franchises are different in many ways, they also share many similarities, and will (presumably) use the same engine—DICE’s Frostbite 2.0. If EA also sticks with the October release window, that would give it a few weeks advantage over Activision’s traditional November release. So maybe we can expect Battlefield 4, or Battlefield: Bad Company 3 next October?
That is all just speculation for now though, and beyond the title, we really don’t know much aboutMedal of Honor: Warfighter. Hopefully, that will change on March 6, when the game is unveiled at GDC.

How a Craftsman Turned His Handiwork into a Cutting-Edge Business

It's a good thing no one discouraged Quintin Middleton from playing with knives as a kid. "I had a wild imagination," he says. "I would make a sword from cardboard while I was watching Conan movies. I would make anything into a sword."
It paid off. Middleton now runs his 1-year-old, one-employee company--Middleton Made Knives--out of a 12-by-16-foot shop in his backyard. But the business is more than a mere hobby for 26-year-old bladesmith Middleton. He plans to expand his Saint Stephen, S.C.-based company to include a factory that will produce his high-quality culinary knives on a larger scale.
"I would like to see more American-made knives," he says. "Most are made overseas." Middleton will continue the path he took to the industry, teaching others the craft of knife-making through an apprentice program. "Each knife will still go by me," he says. "I test each knife, and I will continue to."
The American Bladesmith Society (ABS) awards three levels in knife craftsmanship: apprenticeship, which Middleton has completed; journeyman smith; and master smith. There are just 180 master smiths in the world, including Middleton's mentor, Jason Knight. Of those 180, Knight estimates just 10 do so for their full-time income (as he does, and as Middleton will when he reaches that status).
Middleton has the "passion of an artist," Knight says, but that's not his sharpest quality. "Quintin knows more about marketing than most people who have gone to college for it."
Middleton started out determined to make culinary knives (rather than the Bowie knives Knight makes, or hunting or other blades), but he is not a chef. So he sought the feedback of Craig Deihl, executive chef at Cypress in Charleston, S.C. Deihl agreed to test and critique the Middleton Made blades.
Middleton Made Knives"There are not a lot of people making knives like this," Deihl says. "He sources out unique materials to make the knives, like carbon and wood. They look great and perform well."
Several chefs working in the Cypress kitchen have purchased Middleton knives, and Deihl is impressed with the personalized attention they have received. While some may worry that quality will suffer as Middleton expands the business, Deihl thinks the opposite will be true.
"I am a firm believer that the larger you get, the level of quality goes down," he says. "But in this case, he needs to produce more knives to get better."
Initially the majority of Middleton Made Knives' sales came from Middleton's one-on-one relationships, like those at Cypress, and through online sales. But the company quickly found that chefs were hungry for a non-mass-produced knife that stood up to their high-usage demands. Last year Tin Dizdarevic, a foodie working as Middleton's de facto marketing manager, started to get the word out: "I sent out invites on Facebook to 700 to 800 people in the industry. Within 48 hours, 400 became fans." The majority are chefs, although some are home cooks who crave high-end equipment. Each will wait six to eight weeks and pay $300 to $400 for a custom knife.
Middleton Knives routinely sell out at Whisk, a shop in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. Assistant manager Kari Johnson says the store fields many calls from people who have seen the knives online, adding, "We are selling them as fast as he is making them."

From Cancer Patient to a Multimillion-Dollar Beacon of Hope

Businesses often start with a "light-bulb" moment, but Lee Rhodes' Madrona, Wash.-based Glassybaby kicked off with a flicker instead.
In 1998, Rhodes was raising three young children while battling a rare form of lung cancer. Exhausted, afraid and enduring her third round of chemotherapy, she found immediate comfort in the light of the votive candleholder her husband brought home from his glass-blowing class.
Rhodes was inspired to create--and start selling--a line of votives. Over the next three years, she worked with various artists to perfect her designs before selling them out of her garage. She also gave the pieces as gifts to friends and acquaintances battling cancer. 
American Cancer Society Stats
1,596,670: Number of new cancer cases expected in 2011, not including certain skin and noninvasive cancers

1,500: Approximate number of people per day expected to die of cancer in 2011
After her divorce in 2001, Rhodes--now in good health--dove into Glassybaby. By 2003, the demand for Glassybaby votives exceeded the space of her home business, so Rhodes opened a glass-blowing studio in a former dairy processing plant in Green Lake, Wash. Glassybaby remained there until 2007, when Rhodes bought her current studio in Madrona.
By the end of 2011, production will reach more than 500 Glassybaby products per day. But even as she worked to build the business, Rhodes didn't forget the people she met during her own days fighting cancer, some who had trouble affording basic necessities and even transportation to their treatment sessions because of their illness."Most people don't understand that it's sometimes the difference between having something to eat or paying for the bus ride," she says. "How can you get well when you have to make those choices?"
Rhodes decided to help light the way through financial support. To date, Glassybaby has donated more than $600,000 to charities that help cancer patients meet their day-to-day needs, including the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Gilda's Club New York City, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Camp Korey, a member of the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps for sick children, founded by Paul Newman.
The company's success also caught the eye of another entrepreneur: Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos approached Rhodes in 2008 about the possibility of purchasing a portion of Glassybaby. At first Rhodes declined. But after meeting with Bezos, she was so impressed with him that she agreed to sell him 20 percent of the company. She says Bezos has been a "phenomenal sounding board" who has helped her develop ideas to expand the business and compete with the floral industry via same-day delivery service.
However, unlike Amazon.com, Glassybaby has added only one product to its line--a drinking glass version of its votive holder. Rhodes sees no other line extensions in the company's immediate future.
"When you feel you just can't go on, and you take a few moments to light a Glassybaby and calm yourself and your kids down, it's a daily ritual that really works," she says. "I don't know how I would add a plate or vase to that."

How College Sports Photos Became a Multimillion-Dollar Business

As an All-American basketball player for Duke University in the late 1980s and early '90s, Sue Harnett knew how to take great shots. Today, as president of a 16-person photo reproduction company in Durham, N.C., she's still a shot doctor of sorts.
Her company, Replay Photos, builds and manages online photo stores for college athletic departments and professional sports teams. Replay also has exclusive licensing rights to the GigaPixel FanCam, which augments traditional online storefronts with social media applications that allow fans to find and tag themselves in high-definition crowd shots.
"Everyone loves capturing the 'big game' or the 'big event' into something they can have forever," Harnett says. "For us, it's all about sharing those moments."
The idea for Replay came into focus in 2002. Harnett was working as a healthcare administrator and volunteering for Duke's athletic department in her spare time. The athletic director asked her to come up with new ways to identify revenue sources. After wandering through the archives, it hit her: all the old sports photos had to be worth something.
With personal savings and help from her two original partners, Harnett spent months compiling images into a database for an online photo store. She hired a programmer (who became the company's lead developer) to build an e-commerce engine that could run the site. And in 2005, she tanked her healthcare job to work on Replay full time.The company's early goals were modest and only focused on Duke's photos (Harnett paid the school a licensing fee for any she sold). Over the next few years, as she pulled in funding from angel investors, Harnett added staff, enhanced the model and replicated it for other schools.
Now fans can purchase everything from framed prints to giant decals to mugs and T-shirts emblazoned with memorable images from their big day or night out.
Then there's FanCam. In early 2011, Replay inked an exclusive five-year license with South Africa-based FanTech to sell its FanCam images in the U.S. The technology takes 360-degree, 5-billion-pixel images of crowds at sporting events. (Replay also put the FanCam to work last summer for several shows during U2's 360° Tour.) Fans who attend the events can zoom around and in on the image to find themselves in the crowd. Then they can purchase the picture or tag themselves in versions of the image posted on Facebook or Twitter.
Harnett declines to share financials, but describes her company as a "multimillion-dollar business," noting that revenue has climbed 25 to 30 percent year over year.
To support these claims, she cites the firm's client list--at last check, it included all of the franchises in the NFL and NBA, more than 140 colleges and universities and ESPN's traveling College GameDay program, which was expected to use FanCam weekly on location this fall.
The photo sales are found money for Replay customers. "We weren't selling these kinds of things previously, so every dollar we earn through them is a bonus," says Michelle Andres, vice president of digital media for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. "The more we win, the more we expect those revenues to climb."
In the coming months, Replay's client list will expand to sports such as soccer and running. Harnett says Replay is also experimenting with ways to leverage FanCam images for charity; when fans tag themselves in one of the images, a sponsor could donate a certain amount of money to a nonprofit organization.
Clearly, the shot doc has her eye on the scoreboard--and she plans to lead all the way.

How to Become Your Own Boss

Vincent Porpiglia is no stranger to sleepless nights. After graduating from college during a recession with few job prospects, he was tossing and turning one night when he came up with the idea for Dream Water, a natural liquid remedy for insomnia that he eventually developed and perfected. With partner David Lekach, a former investment banker and fellow insomniac, Porpiglia launched Dream Products in 2009 and began selling Dream Water in Duane Reade drugstores across New York City. Today, Dream Water is sold in 15,000 stores nationwide, including Walmart and Walgreens. While the private company doesn't release its revenue figures, Dream Products is on track for 350 percent growth over 2010 revenue, which was in the low seven figures.

Like Porpiglia and Lekach, scores of people dream of leaving behind the limitations of the corporate world to become entrepreneurs. But starting a business can be daunting, and many never get beyond the dreaming stage. Want to start making actual progress on the path to entrepreneurship? Here are six steps to get you moving in the right direction.
Getting there wasn't easy. "We had to leave the security of existing jobs and throw ourselves 100 percent into Dream Water," Lekach says. "We started with a vision that we wanted to accomplish, then we set goals that would make that vision successful. Then we worked toward meeting those goals. We had to eat, live, breathe and dream about Dream Water every single day."
1. Check your passion.
It's not enough to simply want success. Entrepreneurs who make it are also passionate about their businesses. "Make sure you are not chasing money, but you are chasing a passion," says Michael Hall, managing partner of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based marketing agency MediumFour. "The passion has to be something instilled in you, because you will experience many ups and downs with business. If it comes to just being about money, you have a better chance of giving up when things get rocky."
"If you're just in it for the money or the glory, it's too much work and you'll give up much sooner."
--David Lekach, Dream Products
Hall says the best way to determine whether you're passionate about your potential business is "if you get that tingly feeling, or that 'I could do this every day' feeling, when you are working on a project or an idea."
Porpiglia and Lekach are both passionate about Dream Water because they have dealt firsthand with sleep problems, and their research shows that 70 million Americans share the inability to rest well at night. That experience and knowledge energizes them to get their product out where it can help others. The first time he tried Dream Water, Lekach says he fell asleep by 9:30 or 10 p.m., something he hadn't done since he was 15. "I knew this was a fit for me because I was excited every morning to get up and work on it," he says. "To be successful, you have to have an unwavering commitment to what you're doing. If you're just in it for the money or the glory, it's too much work and you'll give up much sooner."
2. Make a financial plan.
One of the most important ways to prepare for leaving your job and launching your own business is to make a detailed plan for your finances during the startup phase. Rohit Arora, CEO of Biz2Credit, which helps startups secure financing, recommends having enough savings to get you through at least nine to 12 months before getting your business started.
David Lekach and Vincent Porpiglia"The first year is very important, when all the money earned in the business should be reinvested without the owner needing to draw out any money as salary," Arora says. He recommends waiting about 18 months after launching before expecting a regular salary check. During the first 18 months, you can reimburse yourself for operating expenses, but don't expect to draw a salary consistently. Otherwise, less money will be reinvested in the business, lowering your long-term prospects for growth.
In addition to planning and saving for your own livelihood during the startup phase, plan ahead for how you will fund the business. Arora recommends seeking loans for a retail business in which product development does not take very long, and seeking investors for a business that requires a large upfront investment or a new technology for which you expect to have a patent. "In either option, bootstrapping for the first year is key to have a better chance of raising investment or loans," he says. "This also makes the business more sustainable over a longer period." For help finding potential funding options, check out websites like TakeCommand.org, which offers a funding database with more than 5,000 resources for entrepreneurs.
However you plan to fund the business, keep costs under control and be careful not to underestimate how much money you'll need to get started. "You don't want to have to apply for a second round of funding until after you have proven that your company is viable and has a prospect of growth," Arora says. "If you go back for money before having results, it makes it look like you have either not planned well enough or have squandered the money. In either case, lenders will be unlikely to give you more money."
3. Get a partner.
While Porpiglia developed Dream Water in 2007, the company never really got off the ground until Lekach joined the effort two years later, bringing an additional set of skills to the table. And once partners Adam Platzner, chief brand officer, and Joseph Lekach, vice president of business development, came aboard, things really got cooking.
Working alone can paralyze many would-be entrepreneurs, so consider getting a partner or two to share the workload and the risk. "No one is good at everything," says Matt Spradley, who has launched three successful technology startups and is currently CEO of image-based electronic signature provider Vignature. "Even if you are a jack of all trades, there isn't enough time for one person to do everything that is required in a startup. It can also be really lonely when you're starting out. It's you against the world. You don't have the protection of the corporation. Having someone in it with you really helps with that burden."
Rather than partnering with someone who's just like you, look for someone who complements your skills. For instance, "if you are a techie, find a business partner," Spradley says. But because situations (and people) can change, sign a partnership agreement upfront that spells out a vesting schedule and how a potential separation would be handled.
"Share your enthusiasm. It's infectious."
--Kristi Blicharski, life coach
4. Gather market support.
Give yourself peace of mind by lining up customers for your new business before leaving the security of your job. Life and success coach Kristi Blicharski recommends creating a list of all the people who have been supportive of you and contacting each of them personally--not via mass e-mail--to share the news of your new venture. "Include anyone who has ever said they liked working with you or would like to hire you if you were out on your own," she says. "Mention that you've enjoyed working with them and ask if they or someone they know would be interested in what you have to offer."
David Lekach and Vincent PorpigliaIf there are people on your list who may be in a position to do business with you right away, "contact them with a customized offer and let them know you would like to work with them, even on a very small scale to start," Blicharski says. "Don't be afraid to be direct and ask straight up for their business. Share your enthusiasm. It's infectious."
Small-business growth consultant Gary Evans of DemGen, a team of specialized virtual entrepreneurs, recommends going beyond those in your network. "Develop a list of the top five [prospects] in five different verticals you are looking to pursue, create an introductory document and work out a script of the main talking points you want to get across," he says. "Call first and follow up with e-mail." He recommends setting specific goals such as reaching out to 25 people, getting five warm prospects, presenting two proposals and closing at least one sale.
There are other ways to get sales in the pipeline, such as aligning yourself with an individual or a group that performs similar services and joining them as an associate to "test-drive on a contract or two," Evans says. "Then you may simply join them, working independently, but not alone."
5. Devise a marketing strategy.
"The most important thing people need to know when they leave a job to start their own business is that their success will not depend on how good they are at what they do," says Dov Gordon, a small-business marketing strategist. "It will depend on how good they are at marketing and sales."
Unfortunately, when it comes to marketing and sales, entrepreneurs receive "boatloads" of bad advice from "experts" in social media, telemarketing, networking and public relations, Gordon says.
"The innocent entrepreneur invests thousands of dollars and several months with this or that method-specific expert, and usually the results are far below expectations," he says. "Marketing tactics are like plumbing, electricity or flooring. Before you hire a plumber or electrician you need an architect who designs the blueprint. Fact is, it's hard to find a good marketing architect, but the marketing plumbers are everywhere. They mean well, but they're taking entrepreneurs for a ride."
"When you focus your marketing message on the customer's problem and desired result, they notice and come over and ask for more."
--Dov Gordon, marketing strategist
Rather than getting stuck on one particular marketing tactic, take time to develop a strategic marketing plan, including regular marketing outreach, to ensure your marketing time and money is targeted toward your goals. "Good marketing enables the entrepreneur to focus her time, energy and resources on just the people who are most likely to become customers," Gordon says. "Marketing is really not about telling [people] how great your products are. Good marketing is based on a deep understanding of the problem your customer has and doesn't want, or the result they want and don't have. When you focus your marketing message on the customer's problem and desired result, they notice and come over and ask for more."
6. Listen to sound advice--and ignore poor counsel.
While you must avoid bad advice that ignores the big picture of your marketing strategy, a successful entrepreneur will heed the good advice of those who have been there before. "Just like the things your parents told you when you were a kid, lots of people, me included, don't listen to the expert advice and take the position that it doesn't apply to them. Wrong," says Benjamin Sayers, three-time entrepreneur and current CEO of VoIP solutions provider VoIP Supply. "Mistakes made in creating, building and growing a business and the challenges faced by entrepreneurs are all fairly universal. Listening to experiences from others and plucking from that what is relevant to them can be helpful to entrepreneurs."
To determine whether the advice you're hearing is worth retaining, consider the source and their experience. Whether you're talking with a SCORE counselor, board member, advisory board member, attorney or your best buddy, "qualify their expertise on the subject matter and their recent experience in the subject matter," says Susan Schreter, venture finance expert and founder of TakeCommand.org. "For example, it's common for entrepreneurs to talk to business brokers and other people who might offer to help them raise equity capital for their business. Here, the entrepreneurs who want to raise money from angel investors must ask, 'What companies have you raised angel money for during the last two years?' If the so-called advisor hasn't 'been there, done that,' move on to find someone who has."
In addition to seeking out others in your network who have been in your shoes, Sayers recommends reading top business publications and websites to learn from case studies and examples.