Month: January 2012

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Get your product into the hands of customers as soon as possible.  Engineers, by nature will tweak the design until it’s perfect.  If you wait, you could spend a lot of time and money to find out customers won’t pay for it, or worse, you’ll miss your market opportunity altogether.

If your idea solves a big problem, chance are that someone else is trying to solve it too.  Don’t let them beat you to your customers.  Release the product when it’s just good enough.  Your customers will help you with the rest.

“It’s extremely unlikely that we will starve” – John Morris

A friend tells the story of his decision to start a company.  As most people do when they have a major decision to make, he consulted a trusted advisor.  In this case it was his wife.  They listed all the reasons for and against and they discussed all the risks.  At the end they came to the realization that if it all blew up, they could always do something else.  They were not going to starve.

Risk, especially entrepreneurial risk, is relative.

” I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.” – Leo McGarry from The West Wing

“This guy’s walkin’ down a street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out. A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, “Hey you! Can you help me out?” The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole, and moves on. Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, “Father, I’m down in this hole; can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. “Hey, Joe, it’s me. Can ya help me out?” And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, “Are ya stupid? Now we’re both down here.” The friend says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out. ”

Find a mentor.  A close advisor.  A coach.  Someone whose been where you are.

Buy them a cup of coffee.

Listen to what they have to say.

“Entrepreneurship IS a real job” – Scott Case

Ted Turner once described his son as “He’s an entrepreneur.  He doesn’t have a real job.”  Yet the overwhelming driver of job growth in the US economy is small business.  America is the best place in the world to start a company.

Corporations and no longer value loyalty so the idea of  job security is a false reality.

Give yourself permission to think about being your own boss.  It’s hard and risky but it’s never boring.

“Execution eats strategy for breakfast” – Sidney Eve

We have an imagination laboratory with white boards all around and projectors and sound systems and TVs and cool furniture.  As we were building it, a colleague commented, “I’ll never get you out of here.”  Imagination and vision are warm and safe sanctuaries.  It is the realm of possibilities and unlimited potential.

I go there as often as I can.

Alas, sooner or later, somebody has to “do” something.  Potential is wasted if not channeled into something tangible.  True, the value of the plan is in the planning but it is wasted unless the plan hits the road.

Execution is the hardest part but it’s the only thing that translates into value.

“Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday” – Steve Jobs

Knowing what customers want before they do is an amazing talent.  The iPod was not the first portable music player, nor did it have the most “features”.  But it changed the world.  Few people knew what the iPad was when it hit the market.  It was a pretty expensive “electronic book reader”.  And yet it is changing the world.

Not everything Apple does is a run away hit but the batting average is off the chart.

Value proposition is about solving problems in a market at a price customers are willing to pay.  Apple has changed that formula to include the concept of customer delight.  Therein, lies the secret.

“Patronum vestra” (know your customer)

“If you’re going to hope to get elected, don’t mention The Great Pumpkin!” – Snoopy

It a world of social media that encourages personal branding, consider carefully how you choose to brand yourself.  On the one hand, the company’s core ideology comes from the core values of the leadership.  Transparency is a good thing.  On the other hand, if your personal ideology does not line up with what you promote in your company, it opens the door for problems; both inside and outside the company.

Freedom of speech is a foundation of our great country but the one thing that people often neglect is that great freedoms come with great responsibility…and consequences if those freedoms are not exercised with careful deliberation.

You ARE the company.

“Patent costs are sunk costs.” – Karina Edmonds

The value of an idea is in the ability to solve a problem in a market where people are willing to pay for it.  Bigger problems in bigger markets are more valuable.

Patents are barriers to entry.  They are validations.  They have future value and they tend to be check boxes for investors.  You need to have them but in the end, they are pieces of paper.  Expensive pieces of paper that fit nicely into a filing cabinet.  Valuing patents can be tricky and justifying value with the cost of the patent process is misguided.

Investors are not interested in covering patent cost because it does not add value to the company.  Only protection, like insurance.

The value of an idea goes up when it’s proven in a market.  That’s where the focus should be and that’s what gets funded.

“I want to surround myself with smart people who aren’t afraid to disagree with me” – President Josiah Bartlet from The West Wing

There are three fundamental things in a startup; the idea, experience (the team) and capital.  Great ideas don’t get funded without a credible team.

Don’t hire your friends.  They will tell you what you want to hear.

Don’t hire people who are just like you in personality and background.  You need diverse perspectives.

Don’t hire people just because you get along.  It IS about the business.

At the end of the day, the decisions are yours but you need to be challenged to make sure you have seen every angle.  Your team needs permission to speak freely.

And you… don’t know everything.

“It was what it was, let’s all get on with it.” – R.E.M. from Collapse Into Now

Your past successes won’t predict your future.  Nor will your failures.  Each business startup has it’s own unique circumstances. Customers are different.  Markets are different.  The economy changes.

Experience can open doors.  Previous success get’s the first meeting.  Failure teaches valuable things.

But you still have to do the hard work.  The business model has to be fundable.  The numbers still have to make sense.

So show up 45 minutes early and stay 15 minutes late.  Get on with it!