Figuring out what to get that special entrepreneur on your list? Here’s our annual entrepreneur’s gift guide, compiled by the folks at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Experts, professors, investors, and veteran entrepreneurs weighed in on the best things to buy your favorite budding business owner. Also included are the top wish-list items from some entrepreneurs we’ve spoken with in the past year.
“This is a quick online tool for helping founders avoid the 50-50 equity trap. Nothing too revolutionary, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” — David Kirsch and Brent Goldfarb, associate professors of management and entrepreneurship.
An old-fashioned set of blinders.
“These are typically worn by horses during races so that they don’t get distracted by the competition (other horses). Why is it on the list this year? Because there has never been more faux start-up hype than in 2013. Everything you read and hear suggests that everyone but your own start-up is ‘crushing it.’ Entrepreneurs are best to ignore everyone else and not get discouraged by over-hyped claims from the start-up ecosystem. Keep your eyes on your prize and build your own business. Let others build theirs.” — Edward Barrientos, president and chief executive of networking site Brazen Careerist, and entrepreneur-in-residence, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.
“Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work,” by Steven Pressfield (2012).
“This book is an inspiration for entrepreneurs to focus and find the motivation to take action on building their dreams with their business.” — David Aidekman, founder, the Trip Tribe, a social community for arranging global travel experiences.
A book, software and hardware.
“1. Book: ‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,’ (Patrick Lencioni, 2002), because it teaches you how to get peak performance from your team.
“2. Software: Asana, a Web/mobile app designed to improve team communication, because it keeps you, your team, and your direct reports organized.
“3. Hardware: Mophie battery pack for your iPhone, so you won’t run out of power closing deals and tethering.” — Dan Berger, chairman and chief executive, Social Tables, cloud-based software for the hospitality industry.
“While not novel technology, I hope 2014 is the year that electronic signatures become the norm. Please don’t e-mail me a document that I need to print, sign, scan and e-mail back to you. I don’t care if you use HelloSign, DocuSign or EchoSign. I want to sign documents using only my mobile phone. (And please end this nonsense of requiring documents to be submitted via fax. Government agencies, banks and insurance companies, are you listening? Modern people don’t have fax machines, and we resent visiting a Kinkos. Make it easier for small businesses to do business with you or someone else will.)” — Jason Shrensky, co-founder, UberOffices co-working office space, and entrepreneur- in-residence, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.
The SignNow app.
“This app allows you to sign docs (funding docs, sales contracts, job offers, etc.) on the run. Nothing is more of a pain than having to get to your office to print out a signature page, sign it, scan it, and e-mail it back. Why is it on the wish list this year? Because it seems like serious venture capital and angel funding is back this year! All those start-up entrepreneurs need to sign term sheets and funding docs quickly before the investors change their minds:)” — Barrientos
Gift certificate to buy a sport coat and button-down shirt, or the woman’s equivalent.
“For all those occasions with potential investors or clients for which the faded T-shirt from high school of your favorite band’s world tour will simply not be the best attire to make the right impression.” — Liz Sara, managing director, Best Marketing LLC and entrepreneur-in-residence, Dingman Center of Entrepreneurship.
Massage or gym membership.
“With all the passion, hustle, creativity and commitment comes exhaustion, stress and potential burnout. Make sure your favorite entrepreneur treats him or herself to some TLC this holiday season and finds outlets to relieve stress.” — Elana Fine, managing director, the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.
Food and spirits.
“We love giving and getting liquor. That never fails. This year we would like to see a subscription to a fun monthly food club. Bacon would work! Having deep knowledge on specialty food is always a great pre-sale meeting icebreaker.” — Hulya Aksu, publisher, chief executive of CriticMania, a text-based platform for retailers and service providers to communicate with their customers.
A 3D printer.
“This could be a pricy gift, but sometimes even entrepreneurs want to play. And what better toy to play with than a toy that lets you make toys? 3D printers start at around $600 but go up to several thousand dollars for a nice one.” — Rami Essaid, co-founder and chief executive of Distil Networks, a cybersecurity company that protects Web sites from bad bots, spam, data mining and click fraud.
Starbucks gift cards.
“Practical and I can’t get enough coffee or treats to keep me going during my busy days.” — Rochel Roland, founder and chief bath mixologist, Joyful Bath Co., maker of luxury bath salts and soaps.
A life remote control.
“Love to give and get Adam Sandler’s life remote control from the movie ‘Click’ so I can pause to catch up (if ever) and relive the best parts of work and life! There would definitely be a few fast forwards as well.” — Ilene Miller, co-founder and president, ActivityRocket.com, an aggregate Web site that helps users find the best activities, classes and camps for children.
“By far, my top wish-list item for 2014 is to carve out more downtime. The process of launching a company is intense. Even when I’m not working at my desk, my brain is still going full speed, day and night. Having time to chill — alone, with my wife, and as a family with the kids — is critical to keeping my sanity and maintaining balance and perspective. Interestingly, I’ve found that periods of downtime are often followed by creative surges. When I let my brain focus on other things, I’m better at rising above the weeds and making thoughtful connections.” — Greg Maged, founder and chief executive, Bicycle Financial, offering simplified, customized solutions for helping people figure out their finances.