Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship and the Possibility of Real Failure

In 2007 Vini­cius Vacanti quit his highly-paid job in fin­ance to take on life as an entre­pren­eur. In a short post describ­ing his reas­ons for doing so, Vacanti says that most of us haven’t faced the pos­sib­il­ity of real fail­ure, and entre­pren­eur­ship is a way to test your lim­its by attempt­ing to cre­ate some­thing of real value:

A scary idea star­ted creep­ing into my thoughts: what if I could build some­thing? Wouldn’t I always won­der? Wouldn’t I regret it? Wouldn’t it eat away at me over the years?

And, that’s when I real­ized that I didn’t actu­ally know if I was good enough because I hadn’t really failed in life (at least not pro­fes­sion­ally). Most people don’t really fail. We tend to take the job that we think we’ll suc­ceed in. We are hes­it­ant to reach. And, if we do reach and suc­ceed, then we don’t reach again.

The only way to know how good you might be at some­thing is to fail try­ing it.

And, that’s when I decided it was time to test my lim­its. It was time to really reach. It was time to quit my safe job and walk straight into almost cer­tain star­tup fail­ure.

There’s noth­ing mind-blow­ing here, admit­tedly – I just love how Vacanti phrased this.

WordPerfect Business Advice

In 1980, as a $5‑an-hour part-time office manager, W. E. Peterson joined the small com­pany that would go on to become Word­Per­fect Cor­por­a­tion. Then, twelve years later, after help­ing grow the com­pany to half a bil­lion dol­lars in annu­al sales and becom­ing the Exec­ut­ive Vice Pres­id­ent, Peterson was forced out of the com­pany and set out to chron­icle the rise and fall of Word­Per­fect in his book, Almost Per­fect.

You can read Almost Per­fect online like I did after hear­ing about it from Jeff Atwood two years ago. Why am I post­ing this now? Now that the book has a Kindle ver­sion I’m re-read­ing it and liked this para­graph of busi­ness advice from the after­word:

If you read [Almost Per­fect] hop­ing to learn more about run­ning a busi­ness, then I hope you noted the parts about teach­ing cor­rect prin­ciples and allow­ing employ­ees to gov­ern them­selves. In spite of the prob­lems I had under­stand­ing and imple­ment­ing this philo­sophy, I am con­vinced it is the best way to run a busi­ness. In today’s com­pet­it­ive envir­on­ment, busi­nesses can no longer afford the over­head of one super­visor for every five or six employ­ees. As organ­iz­a­tions flat­ten and super­vi­sion decreases, employ­ees will make more decisions on their own and gov­ern them­selves much more than they have in the past. If a com­pany is to func­tion effect­ively, its employ­ees must have a good under­stand­ing of what is expec­ted of them. Very small organ­iz­a­tions may be able to find suc­cess without defin­ing and teach­ing cor­rect prin­ciples, but any busi­ness with more than 25 or 30 people must get organ­ized.

Preventable Startup Mistakes (That Caused the Downfall of Seven Startups)

Veri­fi­able, Wesabe, Storytlr, TwitApps, Vox, Swiv­el and EventVue: All com­pan­ies or products that no longer exist after pre­vent­able prob­lems caused their down­fall.

37signals col­lects their stor­ies so that we don’t repeat the same mis­takes, present­ing a set of brief post-mortems on failed star­tups.

The recur­ring issues seem to be: solv­ing prob­lems that the world isn’t ask­ing for, not hav­ing a feas­ible rev­en­ue mod­el (spe­cific­ally, the dif­fi­culty in mov­ing from a free to a paid ser­vice), the com­plex­ity in scal­ing an idea from a pro­to­type to a func­tion­al product, fail­ing to artic­u­late clearly the bene­fits the product will bring and fail­ing to focus on the most import­ant product/feature.

In addi­tion, there’s the issue Wesabe encountered: com­pet­ent com­pet­i­tion in the form of Mint:

Mint focused on mak­ing the user do almost no work at all, by auto­mat­ic­ally edit­ing and cat­egor­iz­ing their data, redu­cing the num­ber of fields in their signup form, and giv­ing them imme­di­ate grat­i­fic­a­tion as soon as they pos­sibly could; we com­pletely sucked at all of that… I was focused on try­ing to make the usab­il­ity of edit­ing data as easy and func­tion­al as it could be; Mint was focused on mak­ing it so you nev­er had to do that at all. Their approach com­pletely kicked our approach’s ass.

You’ll hear a lot about why com­pany A won and com­pany B lost in any mar­ket, and in my exper­i­ence, a lot of the the­or­ies thrown about — even or espe­cially by the par­ti­cipants — are utter crap. A domain name does­n’t win you a mar­ket; launch­ing second or fifth or tenth does­n’t lose you a mar­ket. You can­’t blame your com­pet­it­ors or your board or the lack of or excess of invest­ment. Focus on what really mat­ters: mak­ing users happy with your product as quickly as you can, and help­ing them as much as you can after that. If you do those bet­ter than any­one else out there you’ll win.

via @zambonini

Focus Points for Entrepreneurs

When someone asked for advice on How to become a mil­lion­aire in 3 years on Hack­er News, seri­al entre­pren­eur Jason Bap­tiste took the task ser­i­ously provid­ing thirty-sev­en things to focus on when start­ing a com­pany, includ­ing:

  • Mar­ket oppor­tun­ity
  • Inequal­ity of inform­a­tion
  • Sur­round your­self with smart people
  • Your primary met­ric should­n’t be dol­lars
  • If you do focus on a dol­lar amount, focus on the first $10,000
  • Get as many dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nels as pos­sible
  • Be a mas­ter of inform­a­tion
  • Be so good they can­’t ignore you
  • Give your­self every oppor­tun­ity you can
  • Look for the access­ory eco­sys­tem
  • Make the illi­quid, liquid
  • Don’t be emo­tion­al
  • Don’t leave things up to chance
  • Raise rev­en­ue, not fund­ing
  • Don’t get com­fort­able
  • Don’t skimp on the import­ant things
  • Keep the momentum going
  • Listen to (or read the tran­scrip­tions of) every Mix­ergy inter­view you can
  • Learn how to fil­ter

Jason goes into great detail for each item on his list, start­ing his post with the cla­ri­fic­a­tion that these tips are for mak­ing a suc­cess of a busi­ness endeav­our in “a short time frame” (i.e. not spe­cific­ally for mak­ing a mil­lion dol­lars in three years).

Selling Software on a Shoestring

From the early days of devel­op­ment through to the release and refine­ment of the final product (and fur­ther), Patrick McK­en­zie has been chron­ic­ling his jour­ney as a one-man Micro ISV (Micro Inde­pend­ent Soft­ware Vendor).

McK­en­zie has recently com­piled a fant­ast­ic list of his best posts and this acts as a list of prac­tic­al advice for small com­pan­ies on top­ics such as SEO, mar­ket­ing and adjust­ing to the self-employed life­style.