The Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center celebrated its two-year anniversary today, marking the occasion by inviting ex-Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki to ring the bell remotely. The center also hosted the fourth graduating class of its “Milestone Makers” program, which pairs founders with coaches and business mentors over a period of three months.
The San Francisco-based center claims to have built a community of more than 7,500 entrepreneurs, who have either participated in the “Milestone Makers” program or attended classes and lectures over the past two years. According to their statistics, the community is made up of 49 percent women and 61 percent minority entrepreneurs.
For each “Milestone Makers” batch, the center receives about 150 applications and selects between 10 to 12 founders to partake in the 12-week program. Although the Nasdaq center doesn’t take any equity, it does expect its graduates to come back to teach future classes. Today’s graduates included Bottlefly, which generates personalized food and wine recommendations using artificial intelligence and flavor chemistry; JigTalk, a dating app that unveils its users piece-by-piece; and Startwise, a crowdfunding platform where people can invest in revenue sharing deals with business owners.
The center draws cheering crowds to its events by inviting celebrity guests to ring the bell remotely. Earlier this year, actress and entrepreneur Sarah Michelle Gellar joined the first graduating class to talk about her all-organic baking mix brand, Foodstirs. Today, it was Kawasaki who gave his blessing.
“May we someday all see your symbols on Nasdaq,” he told the small, select gathering. His advice to young entrepreneurs is to “Get to the next curve,” drawing on a concrete example about ice. First there were frozen ponds, followed by ice factories, and finally refrigerators — each a new curve of its own. Tech-wise, Uber and Lyft both hit the curve beyond taxis; Airbnb looked beyond hotels.
Backstage, Kawasaki told me that his message to aspiring founders is simple. “There are only two things a startup has to do,” he said. “Make something and sell it. If you do these things well, everything else falls into place.” The chief evangelist of Canva certainly has experience on which to base his advice. He was one of the early Apple employees who was responsible for marketing the Macintosh computer line in the ’80s.
“It was really hard establishing a new standard,” he said. “My job was to evangelize people to write Macintosh software and create Macintosh hardware. I had to sell to engineers.” A good example for the Nasdaq center’s graduates.