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Life, Careers & Entrepreneurship

Posted by Admin Admin on Thursday, March 16, 2017, In : Careers 
It is interesting to me how age and perspective that comes with it shapes my view of Life, Careers and Entrepreneurship. Please share your feedback with me on the few slides and diagrams that I hope are helpful to friends who may read this post.  

In my twenties I had a narrow view of each when it would have benefited me most to have had a broad view. My first job in the furniture business I worked in was really not about furniture, but about learning about the scope and complexity of operatin...
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Dr. King's Lessons in Leadership

Posted by Admin Admin on Wednesday, January 21, 2015, In : Leadership 

While I was in graduate school for my MBA, I read for the first time Dr. Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail from April 16, 1963. This letter may seem like unusual reading for MBA students and mostly dedicated capitalists, as Dr. King's letter addressed themes of leadership and social justice.

After reading the view of local clergy, Dr. King wrote his letter in the Birmingham Jail on scraps of paper and completed it on a legal pad provided by his defense attorneys. It is interes...


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Top 7 - Not to Be Missed Topics from 2014

Posted by John Fees on Wednesday, January 21, 2015, In : Higher Education 

2014 was filled with many experiences, events and articles have stayed with me and continue to make me think about challenges facing the U.S. education system. Here is a summary of major topics and themes that are worth more thought.

During a Young Presidents' Organization luncheon prior to the annual ASU GSV Summit on Education Innovation, I listened to Jeff Selingo (author of College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students) lead a panel on the challenges facing...


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Trends in Alumni Affinity Marketing & Beyond

Posted by John Fees on Wednesday, January 21, 2015, In : Affinity Marketing 

Most of my career has been involved with affinity marketing. Often the focus has been between affinity - what consumers care about, non-profits / universities and financial institutions such as banks, student lenders and insurance companies.

As a result, it is interesting for me to read, the annual CFPB report to Congress on college credit card agreements. The world of alumni collegiate marketing has changed and there may be implications for other affinity markets as well.

  • The number of higher ...

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Back to College - Changing Mindsets

Posted by Admin Admin on Tuesday, August 21, 2012, In : Trends & Society 
Seasons are important milestones in our lives.   Back to school is one of those seasons that I find useful to consider how things in the world are changing.  It is easy to consider that the grad students who taught classes 20 years ago are now being replaced by online courses taught by professors.  Is it better or worse - probably hard to tell. 

What is different is the mindset and insights of the students who arrive in any class.

A brief article in Inside Higher Ed by

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Useful tips and insights for angel investing by Dave Balter

Posted by Admin Admin on Saturday, July 14, 2012, In : Entrepreneurship 

My friend and fellow entrepreneur- Dave Balter wrote the following post that I highly recommend to anyone considering an angel investment.  I was an angel investor in BzzAgent which is Dave Balter’s first company.  Dave and I have also co-invested in TheBump and continue to consider early stage ventures.  I have great respect for Dave’s entrepreneurial insight and instincts. So I highly recommend the article he wrote below.

The article appeared on Dharmesh Shahs websi...


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Thoughts on Networked Businesses

Posted by Admin Admin on Wednesday, May 2, 2012, In : Entrepreneurship 
I have had some experience in trying to build networked businesses.  I have learned many lessons the hard way.   Growing quickly sounds better to investors than to the sponsors and revenue sources who you will depend upon to build your business.  As a result, though VC's tend to love these types of networked businesses - the VC math of generating a high internal rate of return on their investments is not perfectly aligned with the go-it-slow / measured approach of major sponsors. 

I view thes...
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Communications & Leadership - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Posted by John Fees on Sunday, January 15, 2012, In : Leadership 
(Just above this post is a PDF of the Letter from the Birmingham Jail by Dr. Martin Luther King.)

While attending Harvard Business School, I saw many examples of courageous leadership.   Entrepreneurs need courage.  Politicians need courage.  What is interesting to me is that leadership is fundamentally defined by having the courage to express your views - despite opposition, despite fear, despite overwhelming odds.   It is courage that defines leadership. 

One of the best illustrations of exp...
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Life, Careers and Entrepreneurship

Posted by Admin Admin on Saturday, November 5, 2011, In : Careers 
Recently I was asked to give a presentation to a class at Arizona State University.   As a result, it gave me an opportunity to think about the fundamentals to building a life, career and entrepreneurship.   There is nothing ground breaking here, but my aim was to share a framework for thinking about modern life and careers and to illustrate this framework from my own experiences. 

There are many topics that surround this framework - the importance of family, of mentors, of networks.  I will ...
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True Grit

Posted by Admin Admin on Tuesday, November 1, 2011, In : Careers 
There are several excellent articles and videos on the importance of Grit to high achieving people.   This relates as much to new ventures, entrepreneurship as it does parents.

The bottom line is that Grit helps us understand why talent alone does not always achieve the most.   Talent is of course diverse, but the ability to persevere, to be industrious, to be diligent and to do so day after day, year after year - is what helps to define Grit.

This video is worth watching as is the story from...
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Steve Wynn's Interview and Anger Are Appropriate Even More Today than in 2010

Posted by Admin Admin on Sunday, July 31, 2011, In : Trends & Society 
The entire budget fiasco and inability for the US Government to deal with the budget debt and required compromises is another illustration of what an empire in decline may look like.

At the end of this video - Steve Wynn's quote from Alexis de Tocqueville  is perfect.   Another quote from de Tocqueville that fits today's climates - is "A democratic government is the only one in which those who vote for a tax can escape the obligation to pay it."

Watch this video and ask yourself where are the s...

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Great Discussion by Mark Suster on Valuation Considerations

Posted by Admin Admin on Monday, June 6, 2011, In : Venture Capital 
Sometimes what I try to do with these blog posts are to help compile some of the best thinking that has already been published.    I am a big believer that most new ventures are not a fit for traditional venture capital.  Most new ventures are either not venture ready or not actually a high-potential venture where venture funding makes sense.   That doesn't mean that the venture should not raise capital, only that venture funds may not be the best fit or best use of a Founders time.

This is a ...

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Thoughtful Time

Posted by Admin Admin on Saturday, April 23, 2011, In : Leadership 
Holiday weekends are great moments to reflect and think about our lives.  I am not sure where I heard the following quote, but I think it is profound as we try to make sense of the world around us. 

"we live in an era where we enjoy a wealth of information but a poverty of knowledge."

I often say that the first job of a leader is to define reality - not as they might want - but as it is.   Reality may appear different depending on your perspective, but the leaders who have the time to demon...
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Reid Hoffman's 10 Rules of Entrepreneurship -

Posted by Admin Admin on Monday, March 28, 2011, In : Entrepreneurship 
There are many good lists and ideas to consider for entrepreneurs.  The best advice I find come from serial entrepreneurs such as Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn.

What follows are some of his comments from the 2011 South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, he recited a list of 10 rules of entrepreneurship.   Hoffman, who is now a partner at venture firms Greylock Partners, cautioned that he “reserves the right” to change the list later on. But for now, here are his rul...
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What I Wish I Knew When I was 20 - by Tina Seelig

Posted by John Fees on Saturday, February 12, 2011, In : Entrepreneurship 
A friend recently suggested Tina Seelig's - What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 - and I found it to be a terrific collections of the messages I try to frequently share with young-adults and fellow entrepreneurs.   The stories that illustrate the importance of mindset to problem solving, the practical tips about how to build a career and reputation are not just good reminders but the book also contains practical advice about how to do it in life.

My 12 year old son, asked me - why are you reading ...
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MBA and Entrepreneurs - Meet at Harvard Business School

Posted by Admin Admin on Thursday, January 6, 2011, In : Entrepreneurship 
If you are curious about the value of an MBA to becoming an entrepreneur you should first consider the experience of those who participate in the Harvard Business School Business Plan Contest.  

It is an event I co-chaired as a student in 1999 and is an experience I continue to encourage others to support and be involved in.   Listen to this brief overview of the value of the HBS entrepreneurship efforts.
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Invest Southwest / Importance of Advisory Boards

Posted by Admin Admin on Monday, December 13, 2010, In : New Ventures 
I was pleased to participate in a panel at the annual Invest Southwest conference last week in Scottsdale.   The conference was outstanding and included some outstanding companies that are seeking capital.  

Although the Arizona Republic covered the conference, it did not capture the enthusiasm or economic potential of the companies that presented.   See -  http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/business/articles/2010/12/10/20101210financing-remains-tight-ariz-firms-say.html

There are many o...
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Look for work, Not a Job

Posted by Admin Admin on Thursday, November 11, 2010, In : Careers 
These days we all have friends looking for a job.   The reality is this seems like a job-less recovery.   As a result, my recommendation to friends is to look for work, not a job.

What is the difference you say?   We all have work that needs to be done, but very few companies have jobs to hire.  It is the fulfillment of Free-Agent nation.   

My suggestion to friends is to:

a) name your work - buy a URL and use it for your email.   Don't expect to get work with an AOL, Yahoo or Gmail account.

b) ...
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Twenty Somethings ?

Posted by Admin Admin on Monday, August 23, 2010, In : Trends & Society 
A great article appeared in this weekend's NY Times Magazine regarding Gen Y - twenty-somethings.

Read the entire story here or download it here.

Some insights from the article are below.  Marketers beware - serving this market will be more difficult than ever.

"The 20s are a black box, and there is a lot of churning in there. One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven ...
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What Motivates Us?

Posted by Admin Admin on Wednesday, August 4, 2010, In : Entrepreneurship 
A couple of great messages to consider and think about for leaders of all types and all types of organizations.

What Motivates Us - Daniel Pink and his new book Drive - is great and offers useful insights for entrepreneurs and leaders.  

Watch - http://youtu.be/u6XAPnuFjJc

A second article worth reading is from David Brooks in the NYTimes - which is a summary of  two ways of thinking about life, one that emphasizes the individual and one that emphasizes circumstances.

Read - http://nyti.ms/b9IX...
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GradGuard - Some thing for Every Student at Every College

Posted by Admin Admin on Wednesday, July 21, 2010, In : New Ventures 
You may already be aware, but one of our companies is NGI Group which has created GradGuard.   The news release below highlights a new product that is of interest to every full-time student attending every college in the nation.  Read on for why all parents should consider insuring the cost of education.

Tuition insurance is now available to any student enrolled in an accredited higher education institution through the first-ever national group policy made available by GradGuard™, a service ...
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The moral of the story: Fail Fast

Posted by John Fees on Monday, April 26, 2010, In : Entrepreneurship 
Today's New York Times has a great article - posted below regarding a new model for starting companies.   I am not sure it is a new model or a reminder of adapting to customer focused feedback.  My view is that the real theme captured by the thinking below is to "fail fast".  Which means, most entrepreneurs have a great hypothesis for creating a business - they identify a problem, they have a solution and they choose a medium and price to deliver it at.   The challenge is not to over design t...
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Financing Higher Education & Health Care Reform?

Posted by John Fees on Monday, March 29, 2010, In : Education Reform 
Last week attached to the Health Care bill was a little noticed or discussed reformation of the nations student lending business.    I won't debate the merits of either financing option (federal or private), but the public remains distracted by the main topic which is the rapidly increasing cost to attend college.

Just this weekend, the Boston Globe wrote about "the number of schools in the region...

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Best Year Yet?

Posted by John Fees on Monday, January 18, 2010, In : Entrepreneurship 
I am keenly interested in innovations in how society approaches learning.  Outstanding content is always the starting point for great learning.   With content as the base assumption there are many  considerations for how which mediums to convey this content to students.   The written word is still very powerful and I believe an integral part of many of the most effective approaches.  Three companies that I have invested in approach learning in different ways.   Flypaper enables content to be ...
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New Business - the engine for jobs and recovery

Posted by John Fees on Friday, November 6, 2009, In : Entrepreneurship 
This is a useful insight by the Koffaman Foundation regarding the real source of new employment. For anyone worried about a jobless economic recovery, we should take the focus off of just small business and look to how our nation supports innovation. Today's WSJ article by Carl Schramm, Robert Litan and Dane Strangler correctly points out the facts behind job growth. "The conventional wisdom is that such businesses account for half of the labor force and are therefore the engine of future...
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No matter what type of leader you are - find the people with the Eggs and move them out of your organization

Posted by John Fees on Thursday, October 22, 2009, In : Entrepreneurship 
This article by David Koretz posted on MediaPost, struck me as something that would benefit my entrepreneurial friends, so I am passing it along not as a (tweet) but as something that will help make us think about our own companies and the organizations we are involved in building.

Organizations require different types of people at different stages.  Although my business life is mostly spent in the first category, I am thankful to have always had a good team surrounding me that were strong 2s ...
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Future of Market Capitalism

Posted by John Fees on Tuesday, July 14, 2009,

This is a useful summary regarding the challenges facing capitalism. The timing of the Catholic Church suggesting a moral framework for market capitalism couldn't be better.  

In my view the recent failures of capitalism are not as much a failure of markets as a failure of morality.  The first place I start in evaluating companies and their potential is to understand the values behind the entrepreneurs.  If the only goal is money, then the purpose of the company will not likely endure or bene...


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To Blog or Not to Blog

Posted by John Fees on Monday, May 4, 2009,
I am not sure if that is really the question or not, however, the purpose of this blog site is to bring readers attention to various articles or perspectives that I find useful when considering private equity investments. 

More of my views can be seen thru my actual operating company - www.nextgenins.com and www.slipstreamlabs.com

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About Me


John Fees John Fees is an entrepreneur, strategic marketing executive and business leader in the fields of affinity, collegiate and partnership marketing. During the course of his career, John has founded and led successful companies specializing in strategic marketing and media, affinity, partnership marketing and financial services. Currently, he serves as the co-founder & managing director of NGI Group. NGI Group is a large shareholder in portfolio companies including GradGuard, MassDrive & MyLifeProtected.