Entrepreneur Shares Business Insight

By Jeff LaFave Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.

At some point in every entrepreneur's journey, they will have to answer some vital questions:

Where will the money come from? What experience do they need to succeed?

Friday's slate of presenters at the Combine, Bloomington's conference for entrepreneurship and innovation, brought insights from experts and new media celebrities alike. It was a crash-course for local thinkers -- and a preventive one at that, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that roughly half of all small businesses close within five years.

"We live in a post-scarcity world where pretty much everything that needs to be built is already here," said Tara Hunt, a social media strategist and longtime entrepreneur."And nobody wants to tell you your plan sucks. You need to build something people love, and that's very hard."

Hunt presented a seminar called "The 5 Lies that will Kill your Startup Dreams," gathered from her decade of trials in the new business world in both the United States and Canada.

"There are hundreds and thousands of apps and startups that don't go anywhere," she said.

And after spending two days in Bloomington, Hunt also localized her advice to Monroe County's growing entrepreneur scene, which she said stands to differ itself from more prominent tech regions in California or New York.

"I think you have an advantage here in Bloomington, as well as Indiana, to do things for the right reasons," she said. "You're not caught up in a larger group."

Tony Conrad, CEO of the social identity website About.Me, flew in from Japan for the event to be its keynote speaker. He earned a degree in telecommunications from Indiana University in 1984.

The North Manchester, Indiana, native -- and self-proclaimed breaded tenderloin enthusiast -- is considered a leading investor of Silicon Valley. But he says his odd jobs as a farmhand, working as a pharmacy janitor, even trying out life as a yogurt merchandiser in France, helped frame his focus on specialty, experience and niche.

"It's important to think about what you need to acquire, then orienting your situation to acquire these things," he said to the crowd of more than 200 attendees at the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center.

Tyler Henke, co-founder of "Cowork," a local shared workspace at 406 S. Walnut St., says Bloomington's business climate is ripening to new concepts, even if they are still alien to a majority of the Monroe County workforce.

"We are really impressed by the number of people who work for the state from a distance," he said. "We've seen people grow from their desk jobs into something larger."

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