8 Reality Checks That Every Startup Founder Dreads

Guy Kawasaki interview via Mashable.com

Starting a business is a lot like starting a marriage. At first, all parties are in dreamland, with a vision of changing the world, having lots of fun, and raking in the profits. But all too soon, reality sets in. Product development is stuck at that 90% mark, a key person leaves, and customers are talking but not buying.

In his book Reality Check, Guy Kawasaki summarizes some of the key issues. I’ve seen them too often, and they seem to be the same for every company (and every marriage) no matter how great the team is. I challenge any startup to show me they have avoided all of these: Read more

Angel Investors: While raising money, what tool are you currently using to manage your relationship with investors?

OK, let me state up front that I am completely biased, because I believe the best tool to manage relationships with investors just happens (amazing coincidence, isn’t it?) to be Gust, developed by the company of which I just happen to be the founder and CEO. But I’ve been asked to answer the question, and since I’m basically a Quora credit slut, I’ll go ahead and answer anyway, leaving it to the discerning reader to discount my obvious bias. Read more

6 Reasons Why Focus is Job One for Every Startup

Image via StartRankingNow on Facebook

It’s great to dream big, but your startup needs a laser focus in the beginning to get market and investor attention. Google did it with search engines, Apple did it with a personal computer, and even Wal-Mart did it through low prices. A business plan I saw a while back to combine all the good features of several popular social networks on one site does not do it.

Trying to do everything at once probably means that none of the items will be done well. Plus it’s almost impossible to craft a message that will make your offering stand out in the minds of customers. I can’t think of a company that launched to superstardom with a broad focus. Can you?

Here are the common sense reasons why a laser focus is more likely to lead to startup business success: Read more

Investors Seek Out Entrepreneurs With Resilience

Dean Kamen with Segway via Wikipedia

If you haven’t had a failure, you aren’t pushing the limits. If you are really an entrepreneur, you are a risk taker and less cautious by nature, so failures should be expected. Wear you startup failure as a badge of courage. Don’t go after failure, but embrace it when it does happen and grow from it.

People who are afraid of failing should not become entrepreneurs. They can’t overcome the psychological fears of making a mistake, and are afraid of losing money. They are better off keeping their day job. Successful entrepreneurs, on the other hand, tap into the positive power of failure. Here are three examples:

  • Steve Jobs was fired by Apple Computers in 1985, the company he helped to create. He went on to acquire Pixar, made it a success, and then came back to reinvent Apple as a very successful consumer products business.
  • Dean Kamen, the creator of the Segway Human Transporter, several successful biomedical device businesses, and holder of 440 patents, jokes that his biggest failure is “that I have too many to talk about.”
  • Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb, central power generation, and the phonograph, but failed in his effort to extract low-grade iron ore from sand. He brushed this off, and went on to many successful media and transportation businesses later in life.

Read more

How Many Key Leadership Principles Do You Practice?

Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin via EliteDaily.com

Creating and building a business is not a one-man show. It requires a team effort, or at least the ability to build trust and confidence among key players, and effectively communicate with partners, team members, investors, vendors, and customers. These actions are the hallmark of an effective leader.

Behind the actions are a set of principles and characteristics that entrepreneurial leaders, like Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin, seem to have in common. Look for these and nurture them in your own context to improve the odds of success for your own startup: Read more

Is Connecting People a Business Model? I Doubt It.

Is connecting people a business model? I don’t think so.

Connecting people is what happens when the entrepreneur gets recommended to the investor, or group of investors. It’s an introduction. In some cases it’s a door opener. And it can seem like the connection leads to investment that might not have happened otherwise.

The startup and angel investment ecosystem in this country is a web and network of connections. Some people are natural connectors. They want to help. They introduce people who should know each other. What would be called networking if it were conscious is a natural result of people trading favors and making recommendations.

Read more

Tim Berry , Founder, Palo Alto Software
May 28th, 2013

5 Ways to Make Your Startup a Choice Investment

Bob Rice as BobRice3 on Twitter

People with money to invest have choices. How do you as an entrepreneur with a new idea get to be one of those choices? Initially, you may be able to rely on friends and family to put you on the top of their list, but eventually you will probably need real professional investors (Angels and VCs). You won’t win with them without understanding their alternatives, as well as their mindset.

I like the work just published by Bob Rice in “The Alternative Answer,” which does a great job of summarizing the investment universe, starting with the “conventional” stocks, bonds, and real estate, but moving on through more esoteric alternatives, including hedge funds, private equity, real assets, managed futures, and finally venture funding. Read more