Month: October 2013

“Entrepreneurship is NOT predictable.” – Rob Wiltbank

There are some great resources available now for Entrepreneurs:

  • “The Startup Owner’s Manual” by Steve Blank
  • “Business Model Generation” by Alex Osterwalder
  • “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries

…and many others.

They all are based on one fundamental premise – All Startups are outliers.  They are a  new creation when they are formed.  Traditional business frameworks and management tools are all based on having data, which means having history.  If a Startup is brand new, with a brand new product, in perhaps a brand new market, how can it be predictable?

It is impossible for anyone to predict the success or failure of a new innovation.  That must mean the potential for success is infinite.  But so is the potential for failure.  Every time Apple releases a new product, there are those who predict their demise along with those who fInd miracles.  So what?

None of this matters to the entrepreneur.  It only matters to the hopeless masses standing on the sideline trying to gain attention by predicting the success of an outlier.

Go make meaning!

Rob WIltbank spoke at the 2013 SSTI Conference in Portland


“Entrepreneurship is NOT egalitarian” – Rob Wiltbank

The best technologies don’t always win.  Sometimes, ideas get stolen.  There are no rules of fairness and getting the government involved with entrepreneurship will only kill innovation.

Rules define boundaries and they constrain creativity.  They focus attention toward the mainstream and their purpose is to create efficiency and yet they consume resources without adding value.  The moment a rule is created, there has to be a measuring system and an infrastructure to evaluate and enforce the rule.

The Federal Government killed the potential of Startups to exit via IPO’s because they wanted to make sure we never have another Enron.

There will be plenty of barriers.  That’s why we have pivots.  Stay focused on the customer.

Rob Wiltbank spoke at the 2013 SSTI Conference in Portland

“Entrepreneurship is NOT normally distributed” – Rob Wiltbank

The statistics on venture investment suggest that 2% or less of startups are “successful”.  But that’s for those actually looking for equity based funding.  The coming of crowd funding is changing that and it’s true that most startups get traction by bootstrapping.

But the fundamental nature of entrepreneurship seems to defy analysis.  Entrepreneurs find a problem in need of a solution and are able to provide that solution to someone who is willing to pay for it.

We have a guy who teaches gun safety.  People come to his classes and have to load their guns by holding them under their arms or in worse places.  So he invented a folding table specifically designed for that purpose.  He had a few made and now others are asking for them.  It’s not the next Apple and he likely will not show up in an HBR article.

But he IS an entrepreneur!

Rob Wiltbank spoke at the 2013 SSTI Conference in Portland

“Collaboration and planning are the opposite of speed” – Rob Wiltbank

Collaboration builds consensus and that’s a good thing.  But it’s not a substitute for decision making and it’s expensive in the most precious resource – time.

The CEO’s job is to decide and move forward.   Wasted time is gone forever.

Get good feedback from customers and the team but as soon as you see a direction, go!  If you hit a snag, that;s what pivots are for.

Rob Wiltbank spoke at the 2013 SSTI Conference in Portland


“‘Ease of Use’ isn’t everything, it’s the ONLY thing.” – Lee Martin

Once you get past your early adopters, the main stream market is looking for solutions to their problems.  The value proposition has to be very clear and the basic functionality must be obvious.

This means that you souldn’t try to solve all problems, just the most important.  The balance between benefits and ease of use can be tricky but generally, it’s best to err toward ease of use.  A focus on the Minimally Viable Product provide a framework to achieve this balance.

“Chaos happens at 15 and 45” – John Morris

As your startup grows, transitions will be necessary.  Two early milestones will occur when you have around 15 employees and then again around 45 employees.

At 15, the CEO has reached her capacity to keep a handle on everything and everyone.  At that point, division of responsibility has to occur and the level of trust has to go up.

45 employees brings about the introduction of middle management.  Management Processes take over as the CEO’s primary tool rather than central control of the decisions.

In each transition stage, be prepared to turn over control and decision making to your team.

“Entrepreneur, Fire Thyself” – Kerrie MacPherson

This is a great article on the Harvard Business Review Blog.

Entrepreneurs who are control freaks will run into trouble.  Your job is to work yourself out of a job… in order to find the next one.  It doesn’t mean you lose control, it means you learn to share it.

Of course you have to find the right people…

Here’s the link:


“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford

The most valuable slide in a company pitch is the traction slide.  It shows that people want what you have because you have sold it.

A lot of startups try to raise money before they get traction.  It’s tough to do.  Nobody wants to invest in “what if?”

If you can’t create a traction slide because you don’t have any, figure out how to get it.  At least talk to 100 customers and document what would solve their pain.