Archive for category Entrepreneurs
Serial entreprenuers, those individuals who have successfully started multiple companies, have mastered managing the unknown. To take control of the future, we have advocated that we follow their lead and take the same approach they do:
– Begin by taking a small (smart) step forward. It may not be the right direction, but we’ll never know unless we try. That’s why I want to be part of this new experiment in treating diabetes.
– Evaluate what you have learned from taking that step. This is one of the things I like about the study so far. They are actively seeking feedback.
– Build that learning into what you do next. They are. I suggested that it would be helpful to chart the changes to my day-to-day blood sugar readings to see if I could spot patterns and they did so.
– Take another small step and see what you learn. In my case, changes to my exercise patterns have much less impact on my sugar levels than how much I eat. What I eat seems to matter less than the amount.
–Build that learning into what you do next. This is where I am now. My next step is eat five small meals a day instead of three semi-big ones.
1. Assuming you know what the customer wants
First and deadliest of all is a founder’s unwavering belief that he or she understands who the customers will be, what they need, and how to sell it to them. Any dispassionate observer would recognize that on Day One, a start-up has no customers, and unless the founder is a true domain expert, he or she can only guess about the customer, problem, and business model. On Day One, a start-up is a faith-based initiative built on guesses.
To succeed, founders need to turn these guesses into facts as soon as possible by getting out of the building, asking customers if the hypotheses are correct, and quickly changing those that are wrong.
2. The “I know what features to build” flaw
The second flawed assumption is implicitly driven by the first. Founders, presuming they know their customers, assume they know all the features customers need.
These founders specify, design, and build a fully featured product using classic product development methods without ever leaving their building. Yet without direct and continuous customer contact, it’s unknown whether the features will hold any appeal to customers.
3. Focusing on the launch date
Traditionally, engineering, sales, and marketing have all focused on the immovable launch date. Marketing tries to pick an “event” (trade show, conference, blog, etc.) where they can “launch” the product. Executives look at that date and the calendar, working backward to ignite fireworks on the day the product is launched. Neither management nor investors tolerate “wrong turns” that result in delays.
Shark Tank–the prime-time feeding frenzy where successful entrepreneurs fight over promising startups, and ruthlessly chew up the unprepared–is stirring up much buzz in its third season. To date, the Sharks have invested more than $6.2 million of their own money in a number of companies. With billionaire Mark Cuban, real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary (aka Mr. Wonderful), and other business magnates sitting in as the Sharks, the show offers a glimpse of pitching sessions gone totally right–or deliciously wrong.
An example: When three ice cream makers first lined up in front of the Sharks to pitch their product, they generated some friendly conversation. After all, the concept of morphing together beer and America’s favorite frozen treat is bound to appeal to our inner glutton. However, when the investors started asking the entrepreneurs tough questions about their finances, the men from The Brewer’s Cow had a minor meltdown. Whether the Connecticut-based founders were the victims of calculated editing or simply unprepared, their presentation lacked a certain professionalism. The final verdict? A flurry of “I’m outs” from the Sharks.
Yes, the episodes are entertaining. But more than that, they provide a wealth of knowledge about what venture capitalists want to hear before they invest in your company–and what will turn them off. Here’s are 7 lessons from the Sharks about learning what it takes to make it as an entrepreneur.
1. Know your numbers.
An entrepreneur receives lots of contradictory advice from really smart, experienced people. For example, you’ve probably been told to be both persistent and flexible; to have a clear vision you pursue relentlessly, and yet also to change your vision as the market changes. Simple, right?
This same tension pervades career advice. Some will tell you to think about where you want to be in ten years, work backwards, and construct a long-term career plan for realizing your ambitions. Others tell you that firm plans are like a straitjacket; they will blind you to unexpected breakout opportunities. It’s better, they say, to stay nimble and opportunistic.