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Entrepreneurship, Good Ideas, Business Risks and My Little Pony: Meet UpStart Instructor Nicholas Langlie

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Dr. Nicholas Langlie, known to many as Nick, is the creator and lead instructor for UpStart Entrepreneur Bootcamp offered by Virginia’s Growth Alliance (VGA). The second bootcamp is scheduled to start mid-May and is open to any aspiring business owners living in the VGA region, which includes Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Greensville, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Lunenburg, and Prince Edward counties, and the City of Emporia.

For more information, visit http://www.thinkbiggervga/grow

Nick is currently the Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (DIE) at Longwood University. He still chuckles about the acronym.

What’s the biggest thing you hope students learn during UpStart?

I want students to figure out great ideas that people are willing to pay for. And, if they can’t do that, to encourage them to not move forward with whatever idea they have. Because, business ideas

need to solve some problem AND people have to be willing to pay for it; otherwise, it’s just a hobby.

You have to be brave; you have to take risks with your ideas. It’s not as simple as just putting $10,000 towards an idea that might not work. Don’t do that.

Find something that will work. Keep at it until you do. I dislike the guy, Mark Cuban, but as he says, ‘You only have to be right once.’ So try a thousand different things. If just one of them takes off, that’s all people care about or remember.

How many ideas do you have a day, Nick?

Hmmm. 40 or 50. Somedays it’s more. Somedays it’s less. But, I can’t turn it off. I try to funnel my ideas through different frameworks.

It’s 9 a.m. What’s one good idea you’ve already had today?

I had a couple this morning. I had this idea to crowdfund to hire the woman who did the art for My Little Pony (Bonnie D. Zacherle) to draw my graphic novel. So, use a crowdfunding site to browbeat her into working with me. That was one idea. I was running this morning and thinking about that.

If you were a superhero, who would be?

I grew up loving superheroes. I have at least 6,000 comic books and view them as a great motivator to be self-driven. Batman is my favorite hero because he is a human trying to do extraordinary things. I aspire to be as focused and driven as him.

Who would be your arch-nemesis? How would you fight him or her?  

The villain for any entrepreneur is within. I define evil as inaction. Nietzsche suggested that we should all be “a wheel rolling out of its own center.” Most of us are more like a rusted wheel in a junkyard: a flaking remnant of inaction, with a glimmer of so much potential left idle.

The greatest villain of any entrepreneur is not taking risks and not taking LOTS of them.

I am not suggesting you should blindly invest your retirement funds in an idea, as if it were the flip of a coin. No. No. No. What I am talking about is being brave enough to test your assumptions and adapting them until you find something people want, need, and are willing to pay for. At that wonderful point, you must act.

This is where so many fail.  Brain researchers will tell you that we are all hard-wired for fight, flight, or flee. If you subscribe to that, you have to learn mechanisms to take calculated risks. You have to take the leap when you have something people love and are willing to pay for.

Some people think entrepreneurs are just crazy; that is not true when it comes to taking risks.  A great entrepreneur takes lots of risks in the idea phase, but when it comes to financial risks, they bet on successfully solving for a demonstrated problem or need that people will pay for. If that isn’t there, don’t waste your money. Regardless, you must act on your ideas and test them on real people.

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Jeff, Executive Director of VGA, grew up in a rural county in West Virginia and his family still lives on the farm that has been in their family since 1841. Jeff's passion is rural economic development, and his economic development experience has always been in smaller, rural communities. He was a primary and driving force behind www.mountainmade.com, a national pilot project with the Robert C Byrd National Technology Transfer Center that showcased the internet as a rural economic development tool.

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