Steve Jobs and Bill Gates image via Facebook.com
Every entrepreneur should spend plenty of time thinking about competitors, and how they relate to your business, but you need to be very careful what you say out loud about them to your team, your investors, and your customers. What you say speaks volumes about how you think about your startup, how smart you are, and your personal integrity.
I’ve spent hours talking to startup founders, and heard a thousand startup pitches, and I always listen carefully to what is said (or not said) about competitors. Everyone has a view on competitors, so you will likely get some off-the-cuff questions on this subject as well. Here are some common pitfalls or traps to avoid: Read more
Larry Ellison Photo by Oracle PR
You don’t have to be likeable to everyone to be a great entrepreneur, just to the people who count. Of course, we can all point to apparent exceptions, like Ted Turner or Larry Ellison, who are sometimes seen as lions, downright predators, or even jerks. Yet I’m told that even these guys are considered quite likable by an intimate group of business and personal associates.
So likability is an elusive quality. It doesn’t mean always being perky and bright and constantly being happy. What makes each of us likable is distinct to us, and to some degree it’s in the mind of the beholder. But the basic drivers of likability are the same for most of us, and Michelle Tillis Lederman, in her book “The 11 Laws of Likability” has summarized these nicely: Read more
Apple NYC image via The Washington Post
A startup begins with a great idea, but all too often, that’s where it ends. Ideas have to be implemented well to get the desired results. Good implementation requires a plan, and a good plan and good operational decisions come from good people. That’s why investors invest in entrepreneurs, rather than ideas.
People and operational excellence have to converge in every business, large or small. Microsoft found this out when their market capitalization, once at $560B, had fallen in 2010 to $219B, allowing them to be passed by Apple, who grew from $15.6B during that period. Apple is now at $570B, with Microsoft at $240B. Both had access to the same technology, people, and market. Read more
Ryan Blair book image via Amazon
It’s a well-accepted axiom in the investor community that entrepreneurs learn more from their failures than their successes. Thus a well-explained startup failure often can actually improve your odds of funding in the next go-round. Yet, there is no doubt that the best strategy is to learn from someone else’s mistakes, so you can enjoy the millions that someone else lost in learning.
Certainly there are innumerable possible mistakes to be made, but there is a thread of common ones that I see across the range of all startups. Ryan Blair, a serial entrepreneur who admits to his share of million dollar mistakes, as well as some multi-million dollar successes, sums these up nicely in his book “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain:” Read more
Image via Facebook.com
Every time I hear about a new startup that is in stealth mode, I wonder what problem they are hiding from whom. Of course they pretend that they are trying to avoid alerting competitors prior to launch, but too often it becomes an excuse to move slowly in a world that’s all about getting to market fast.
I believe stealth makes sense for large companies who can be sued for “pre-announcing” a new product to stall the market or kill a competitor. It also makes legal sense to never disclose the details of your patent application, before the product is ready to ship. But otherwise, startup companies should seek out publicity and the open sharing of information, from day one. Read more
David Cohen image via Kathleen Lavine, Denver Business Journal
Business incubators for sharing services were all the rage back in the days of the dot-com bubble (700 for profit, many more non-profit). About that time the bubble burst, causing more than 80% of them to disappear. Now they are coming back, and the best even provide networking, technical leadership, and seed funding, as well as investors waving money at graduates.
Incubators I hear mentioned most often include YCombinator, led by Paul Graham in Silicon Valley, and TechStars, located in Boston, Boulder, New York City, and Seattle. TechStars has several excellent mentors on staff, led by founder and CEO David Cohen. Both provide excellent networking to investors, and on-site technical leadership, which I believe sets them apart. Read more
Most entrepreneurs think that risk is just an “occupational hazard” that can be minimized or eliminated by a smart businessman. That way of thinking is simplistic and wrong. In reality, some risks are good and should be embraced for growth and a competitive edge, while others are bad and should be avoided completely.
Traditional risk management focuses only on bad risks, and seeks to contain losses. But if you want growth and sustainability, you need to create smart risks, which means intentionally taking a risk to grow your business or gain competitive advantage. Read more