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Ask the Expert: How to take advantage of startup learning opportunities

You don't pay someone to do your taxes who has had no training. You wouldn’t hire someone to represent you legally who hasn’t been to law school and passed the bar. Even in taking up a sport such as tennis or golf, you might try some of it on your own, but if you want to get serious about your play you take lessons.

Why should it be any different if you want to build a startup company? Just because you can do a startup without any training, doesn’t mean you should. Yet many founders do just that.

The entrepreneurial mind is creative, and ideas, in many ways, are its lifeblood. The mind produces ideas that its owner loves. It is human nature for us to get attached to our ideas and have a strong belief others will see the same genius in them that we do.

This positive perspective drives the entrepreneur forward, often even when the response to an idea by others is not what was hoped. Our human nature discounts views that don’t agree with our own. Frequently that leads a founder to push forward believing they know best without really understanding their customer’s perspective or the idea’s viability in the marketplace.

Persistence and perseverance are important characteristics in a startup founder, but not when accompanied by an unwillingness to listen. In startup education today one of the most critical lessons is focused on feedback and listening. Fundamental to our work with first-time founders at Alpha Loft is helping them understand that seeking input from people they believe would be their customers is vital.

It also requires being very clear that those prospective customers from whom they are seeking feedback should not be family or friends. Friends and family say they will be honest and straightforward with us, but because they care about us they are unable to be totally honest if they don’t think our idea is good.

They also may not even represent the target market the founder will be focused on. Ultimately it is the market whose voice needs to be heard. This is just one small lesson for those in the startup journey. There are many, many more and in New Hampshire there are lots of startup educational resources statewide. The key for founders is to take advantage of them.

Alpha Loft

Alpha Loft’s mission is to be an education and resource provider for scalable innovation based companies in the state. Almost every Tuesday we are providing learning and networking opportunities in at least one of our three locations in Manchester, Portsmouth, and Durham. Startup Tuesday events include three varieties of learning; Startup Mornings, Launch, and Founders Series, and one pure networking event, Hoopla, where founders and others can connect and learn from one another.

All of these opportunities are open to anyone at no charge, so there are no barriers to participation. We also offer long form education programs including our six-week Startup Fundamentals program and our three-month accelerator program Accelerate New Hampshire. Finally, we also have an open door; offering office hour opportunities for startup counseling from our staff, experienced network, and knowledgeable sponsors and partners, which include prominent law, accounting, and marketing firms.

An abundance of resources

Alpha Loft is not alone in providing learning opportunities to startup founders in New Hampshire. We are one of five members of the New Hampshire Business Incubator Network, so founders can find support and resources at similar organizations in Keene, Plymouth, Conway and Hanover. In addition, the New Hampshire Small Business Development Centers are available, as are experienced business people at SCORE.

At the state level the Live Free & Start initiative brings information for startups together in one place at its website ( There you can find connections to the organizations mentioned here and others, as well as blogs/advice from experts. No New Hampshire startup founder should proceed without first stopping to explore all that is available at Live Free & Start.

Be serious

If you’re setting out to build a company you will be expending a lot of time and resources working to make it successful. Make the most of that effort by not just working on your startup, but by working on your startup education. You’ll save yourself a lot of time, money, and frustration by learning from those who’ve been down the startup path before.

Please visit with us at Alpha Loft (, get on our email list to stay informed (, and participate in our programs and events. See you soon!

Mark Kaplan , CEO of Alpha Loft, has 30 years of executive, financial, venture capital and investment industry experience.


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