09 March 2006

Quoting "Entrepreneurial Proverbs"

From the O'Reilly Radar comes this absolutely killer post by Marc Hedlund on becoming an entrepreneur. Aimed at techies, it has wisdom galore. For the full commentary, check out the original post, as The Jenius has edited some of it.

It's good to be king -- being an entrepreneur is the best job I've had. Every day your job is new and different; you constantly have to push yourself in new directions...

Losing sucks -- shutting down a company is unbelievably difficult... Most entrepreneurs fail several times before succeeding, too, so losing is both terrible and nearly inevitable. Fight as hard as you can against it.

Building to flip is building to flop... Plan as many paths to success as possible for your company, and always have a Plan B when acquisition (or whatever path you choose first) doesn't work.

Prudence becomes procrastination -- it's great to research your market and talk to potential buyers about your ideas. It's terrible to let an excess of this become a impediment to getting started. Too much prudence edges away from research and into procrastination.

Momentum builds on itself -- just start. Do whatever you can... Once you start moving, you will find that people start to carry you along.

Jump when you are more excited than afraid -- lack of fear is irrational, and too much fear is debilitating. Make the jump into your business when you have considered the fear, and come out more excited than afraid.

The Idea
Pay attention to the idea that won't leave you alone...

If you keep your secrets from the market, the market will keep its secrets from you... To quote Howard Aiken: "Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats."

Immediate yes is immediate no -- does everyone immediately tell you your idea is great? Run away from it. If the idea is that obvious, the market will be filled with competitors, and you'll find yourself scrambling...

Build what you know -- this is the most basic advice of idea generation: scratch an itch you have yourself...

Give people what they need, not what they say they need...

Your ideas will get better the more you know about business -- engineers hate to hear this, but you can generalize up quite far from here: the more you know about everything, the better all of your ideas will get!...

Three is fine; two, divine -- having too many co-founders makes decisions hard to reach; if you're on your own, you have to bear all of the stress and worry about the success of the company. In my judgment, three people can do well together, but having two founders is best.

Work only with people you like and believe in... Working with people you like is so much more fun, and often more productive, than fighting against someone who may be smart and talented but just isn't a great fit for you.

Work with people who like and believe in you, just naturally... Find the people that naturally want to work with you, and nudge them into the roles where you need them. You'll have more fun and get more done.

Great things are made by people who share a passion, not by those who have been talked into one...

Cool ideas are useless without great needs -- this is the classic engineers' entrepreneurial mistake... Better to start with the need, and then see how what you know can produce a better answer to that need. (Marketers tend to have the opposite problem: real, pressing needs with completely unworkable solutions.)

Build the simplest thing possible... Make the simplest possible product that makes a significant dent in that need, and you'll do far better than you would addressing two or three needs at once. Simplicity leads to clarity in everything you do.

Solve problems, not potential problems -- you can waste a lot of money implementing solutions for problems you don't have yet, and may never have. Work on the biggest, most pressing problems today, and put aside everything else.

Test everything with real people...

Start with nothing, and have nothing for as long as possible -- small budgets give big focus...

The best investor pitches are plainspoken and entertaining (not in that order)...

Never let on that you're keeping a secret -- telling an investor "I don't want to talk about that" is terrible. It's the natural converse of being plainspoken... Respond to the idea behind the question, without giving away more than you feel comfortable discussing. Learn to steer the conversation in the way you want it to go. And then give up more information as you become more comfortable with the potential investor.

No means maybe and yes means maybe -- you should never take a "no" from someone you want to work with... Conversely, though, the only money in the bank is actual money actually in the bank...

For investors, the product is nothing... The product matters far less to most investors than the reactions of customers, the properties of the market, and the credibility of the team. Obsess about the product on your own time; present your business in all of its parts.

The best way to get investment is not to need it. -- if you have a running business with real customers and you're paying all your bills, you are much more likely to get a funding round than if you need the round in order to survive or succeed. The pitch that goes, "We could accelerate our growth with more money" is much more compelling than, "I need your money or our doors will close."

Do yourself a big favor: go read the whole thing now.

The Jenius Has Quoted.

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