Start Me Up

Posted: January 15, 2012 by Bill Cunningham in Innovation, Planning, Social Media, Startup

In 1995 Bill Gates personally asked Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones what it cost to license their 1981 hit, “Start Me Up” to launch Windows 95. Jagger suggested a ridiculous number, but Gates agreed to it on the spot – and a historic marketing campaign was born. Like Bill Gates, entrepreneurs need to start it up – take action – go on the offensive. Thousands of great ideas never see the light of day because no effort or action happened to turn it into reality.

Why Ideas Never See the Light of Day

Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of hard work, fear that someone will steal the idea and on and on. Fear prevents us from giving up the day job and take the risk. So how do you overcome this fear? Break it up into small bites – don’t try to eat the elephant all at once.

Experience a Startup

As you read this, the NKU Startup Weekend journeys into day three, where companies get designed and launched. Like the InOneWeekend events in 2008-2010, startup weekends give participants the chance to experience a start in fast-forward. While the participants believe they will create the next Google by Sunday night, they may not realize how much experience they build by going through the startup process. Take advantage of these events that give hands-on experience with other entrepreneurs. You’ll receive more benefits by doing than by reading a book, watching a podcast or attending a presentation (although these are good, too.)

Try It on a Small Scale

If your idea is to take over the snack food aisle with your new vegan tortilla chips, then you might want to try small batches with boutique distribution before you approach Wal-Mart and Kroger. Do it after hours and on weekends so that you don’t have to have a hockey stick growth in revenue to support yourself. Keep your overhead low and try to get customers as quickly as possible. The customers will tell you whether you have a winner or not – and if you do, then growing the company becomes less complicated.

Go Work for a Startup

Learn on someone else’s nickel! Of course, few positions exist where all you do is learn – you are expected to contribute. While you are contributing, you will learn the ‘rest of the story’ behind starting companies. You will learn agility and learn to pivot. You experience the excitement of how to make payroll, and convincing customers to part with a dollar.

Get on the Bus

On March 6, 2012 program will send buses to 12 tribes that will carry 24 strangers at 60 miles an hour for 48 hours from start to Austin, TX to attend South by SouthWest (SxSW). The bus will hold 8 hackers, 8 hustlers and 8 artisans (designers) to create multiple companies and the best ideas will compete at SxSW to present to investors. How does the Cincinnati tribe ‘get on the bus?’ Here’s how from the website: “We will use the tribes with the most interest to validate demand which will influence our assessment as to whether we should invest in bringing them into the competition.” To find out more, go to and click on the link to vote for Cincinnati. As of last week, Cincinnati was in first place ahead of Mexico City and Tampa Bay.

Bill Cunningham is the CEO of and shop foreman at the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association.

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