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A New York ‘startup school’ eschews everything Silicon Valley ever taught us – Strategy – Pulselive.co.ke

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  • Many people wonder how to start a business successfully. According to Brian Scordato, the founder of Tacklebox Accelerator, the first thing to do is keep your day job.
  • Tacklebox is a six-week program geared toward founders with full-time jobs. Scordato helps those founders bring their business concepts to fruition, slowly and steadily.
  • Tacklebox doesn’t take equity; instead it charges founders $2,500.
  • Scordato and Tacklebox alums and mentors say even if you go through the program and realize you don’t want to pursue your business idea any longer, that’s still a positive outcome.
  • Tacklebox has a broad definition of success, and Scordato thinks it’s OK that not every company will be a billion-dollar business.

The first thing to know as a founder in Tacklebox Accelerator is that you will not “move fast and break things.”

That mantra, once touted by Facebook and other tech companies, is antithetical to the Tacklebox approach to entrepreneurship. At the first of each session’s six workshops, Tacklebox founder Brian Scordato says as much to the founders seated before him.

Instead, Tacklebox is about making slow and steady progress. Case in point: Scordato advises the founders not to quit their day job until they’re (almost) certain their business is viable.

Launched in 2015, Tacklebox is a six-week program during which Scordato guides about eight founders, many of whom still have full-time jobs, in bringing their business ideas to fruition. Tacklebox isn’t an accelerator in the traditional sense: Founders don’t give up equity in their companies; instead, they pay $2,500 to attend what can seem like “startup school.”

The goal, Scordato said, is to show founders that successful entrepreneurship is, above all, “practice-able and teachable and learnable.”

Entrepreneurs who keep their day jobs may be more successful in the long run

Admittedly, the slow-and-steady strategy isn’t the sexiest. A story about an entrepreneur who up and quit her day job to pursue her startup dreams is generally much more compelling than an entrepreneur who waited it out until the time was just right.

But Scordato makes a persuasive case for caution. “You’re always proving that this is worth your time,” he told me.

“A lot of our founders have really, really good jobs and they’ve busted their asses to create a little bit of savings,” he said. “Most of our founders don’t come in and say, ‘I hate my job; I want to leave.’ It’s more like, ‘I really, really like my job. It’s helped me gain this certain insight and I want to start a company based on that. But I want to make sure that it’s worth leaving this awesome job for it.'”

What’s more, he said, having a full-time job means you necessarily have limited time to work on your business. So you have to prioritize, and do only the tasks that are most important. “It’s interesting how it works when you force yourself into the confines to really focus on the 80/20 stuff,” Scordato said, referring to the idea that 20% of your efforts often produce 80% of your results.

Scordato’s observations are backed by some research and anecdotal evidence.

In his 2016 book, “Originals,” Wharton professor Adam Grant wrote that, contrary to popular belief, the most successful entrepreneurs don’t quit their day job to start a company. One University of Wisconsin study found that entrepreneurs who kept their day jobs were 33% less likely to fail than those who don’t.

Grant cites the example of Bill Gates, who was testing his idea for Microsoft on the side before he took a leave of absence from Harvard to go all in.

Similarly, Kathryn Minshew, cofounder and CEO of The Muse, didn’t quit her job at McKinsey until she was confident in the strength of her business. And the founders of jewelry company Aurate told Business Insider that starting a business on the side, while they were employed at Marc Jacobs and Goldman Sachs, made them better entrepreneurs.

“Some people think about founders and think about startups as 23-year-olds starting something, and it’s actually a good idea for them to do it even if it fails. It’s a cool life experience,” Scordato said. “That’s for the most part not my founders. My founders have enormous opportunity cost for starting these things.”

Scordato also looks specifically for founders who have developed domain expertise over the course of their career. “You should have been subconsciously preparing to build this company for a long time, in a way such that your skill sets and knowledge bases have already distanced you from any competition,” he said.

Indeed, an MIT study found the average age of a successful startup founder is 45. The study authors found that work experience explains much of the age advantage. They write in the Harvard Business Review,”Relative to founders with no relevant experience, those with at least three years of prior work experience in the same narrow industry as their startup were 85% more likely to launch a highly successful startup.”

If a founder goes through Tacklebox and decides not to pursue their business idea, that’s still considered a success


Tacklebox founder Brian Scordato.play

Tacklebox founder Brian Scordato.

(Hollis Johnson/Business Insider)

The most recent cohort of Tacklebox businesses included a dating app, a startup to make travel more comfortable, and a career-management platform.

I sat in on two of the workshops and listened to a recording of a third. At the first workshop, Scordato told the founders that sometimes, people get to the end of the program and realize they don’t want to launch their startup. “That’s OK, too,” he said.

I was skeptical: Who spends six weeks and $2,500, only to realize that, oops, their business idea stinks? But the Tacklebox alums I spoke to said they’d rather spend some time and money to realize their business idea isn’t workable than quit their jobs and blow a huge amount of cash, only to reach the same conclusion a year down the line.

Shawn Cheng, a partner at the venture production studio ConsenSys Labs, has been a mentor to Scordato and to Tacklebox founders; he told me that the biggest value of the program is learning “how to learn,” or learning “how to walk away.”

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Most startup accelerators take an “all or nothing” approach, Cheng said, in that you either build a company or waste everyone’s time; Tacklebox is geared toward founders thinking that “they have an idea and they want to be testing it, and they want to be talking to more people about it, but they’re not quite sure how they should validate it in order to put everything else in their lives on hold to pursue it.”

Sam Alston, the founder of Big Lives, which identifies up-and-coming fashion designers, was in the eighth cohort of Tacklebox, in 2017. She credits the program with giving her the confidence to leave her job, as a client development director at Louis Vuitton.

Alston said she frequently recommends Tacklebox to aspiring entrepreneurs, noting that Scordato is transparent about the fact that “the skills that you gain should allow you to then test any business idea” — not just the one you’re currently working on. “It’s really selling a framework rather than consulting on a specific business.”

Scordato also told me that a handful of founders have gone through Tacklebox with one business idea, realized they didn’t like it, and waited another year or so before going through Tacklebox again with a better one.

It’s a program Scordato might have benefited from earlier in his career. In the past 11 years, he’s launched three startups, aside from Tacklebox: a recruiting platform for college basketball, a dating app, and a social-networking app. None of them are still in operation.

Scordato’s real talent seems to be spotting other entrepreneurs with potential, and giving them the guidance and mentorship they need to develop their nascent businesses. He also brings in a series of outside experts, including successful founders and investors like Cheng. Each cohort of founders gets a chance to pitch their businesses to a group of investors, less to convince them to sign on and more to get feedback about how well they articulate their business’ mission and goals.

Unicorns aren’t the only startups welcome at Tacklebox


Lauren Elliot, founder of Candlelit, discusses her business ideas at a Tacklebox workshop.play

Lauren Elliot, founder of Candlelit, discusses her business ideas at a Tacklebox workshop.

(Hollis Johnson/Business Insider)

Tacklebox has fed a few startups into Y Combinator, such as The Lobby, which gives job candidates a chance to chat with employees at top finance firms. While its founder Deepak Chhugani was in Tacklebox, he and Scordato devised a plan to get him into Y Combinator. Tacklebox also introduced Chuugani to Angela Lee, founder of the venture capital firm 37Angels and chief innovation officer at Columbia Business School, who wound up investing in The Lobby later on.

Chuugani is glad he went through Tacklebox before Y Combinator. He told me that, in Y Combinator, after three months, if you don’t think your idea is viable, it’s a much more high-stakes situation. “You’re forced to find any idea that might work,” he said, “because now you’ve raised money from the accelerator.” He added, “YC changed my life,” but “you should be a little bit prepared to know what you’re getting yourself into if you’re going to raise money.”

Despite Chhugani’s success, Scordato said that the majority of Tacklebox startups aren’t suited to Y Combinator. The Lobby “has the potential to be a very high-growth, very huge exit sort of company,” but it’s an exception.

Some founders go onto more niche accelerators, like New York Fashion Tech Lab — but for about half of Tacklebox startups, Scordato said, “maybe they need a little bit of money to build the initial tech platform, or they need to hire someone to do that, but it’s not going to be a big challenge. They can start operating and become profitable quickly.”

Lee, the 37Angels founder, said Scordato and Tacklebox are more open-minded about success than most other startup accelerators. That is to say, getting into the uber-selective Y Combinator isn’t the only measure of success.

Lee mentioned the concept of “lifestyle startups,” a term that’s emerged in the last decade to describe a business that doesn’t need venture capital and won’t necessarily be worth $1 billion, ever. Lee said the term is often perceived negatively; but lifestyle startups, she said, are welcomed at Tacklebox. A lifestyle startup can still bring in $10 million a year, she said — and “since when did making $10 million a year become a failure?”

“We LOVE those,” Scordato wrote in an email, referring to lifestyle startups. “What we really stress is that companies that could be great lifestyle businesses and probably won’t be unicorns shouldn’t try to become unicorns. They should build sound, revenue-generating businesses that can build great products at a high margin for a (relatively) small group of customers.”

In an irony that’s not lost on its founder, Tacklebox itself is one such startup. “I love that Tacklebox is practicing what it’s preaching,” Cheng said. He mentioned that Tacklebox has already gone through several iterations, holding workshops on weekends, mornings, and evenings, and offering higher and lower price points.

“It’s got to be scary for Brian,” Cheng added, “but I commend him for that and for not being afraid of trying new things and experimenting.”



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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