Archive for September, 2014

Back to School Reading

Posted: September 28, 2014 by Bill Cunningham in Culture, Leadership, People, Startup

bill-cunninghamNow that Fall has arrived, it’s time for everyone to go back to school. Here are some recommendations about what you need to study to enhance your entrepreneurial knowledge and skillset.

The Startup Owner’s User Manual written by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf are a must-read for every aspiring entrepreneur. This essential guide complements all of the current “Lean Startup” ideas and gives you a step by step approach to a successful startup. The reading makes sense. The work is hard. The benefits are fantastic.

Stanford University’s Entrepreneurship Corner (E-Corner) hosts a collection of podcasts and videos based on the Draper Fisher Jurvetson’s Thought Leaders Seminar. The seminar is a weekly lecture series on entrepreneurship featuring entrepreneurs, innovators and industry leaders. Stanford students earn credit for attending the series by registering for Management & Science Engineering Course 472. The series is also free and open to the public. If you don’t happen to be in Silicon Valley on Wednesday afternoons, you can get access to all the past speakers through the e-Corner website: http://ecorner.stanford.edu or subscribe to the series via iTunes.

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Yoga is Judgmental

Posted: September 21, 2014 by Micah Baldwin in Leadership, People, Startup

Micah BaldwinThe next time someone says to me “Don’t worry it gets easier,” I am going to punch them in the face. They call yoga a practice, which by definition means that not only will I not be perfect, but that I will also improve over time.

As an entrepreneur, this is a powerful concept. It’s not about perfection, but about the pursuit of perfection. Startups are our practice. We never are able to create the perfect startup, but we can improve them over time.

The most perfect you are is right now.

Being present is a concept that is often thrown around as a practice of focus on what you are doing, and worrying less about what came before or after. For me, the idea that I am doing the absolute best I can in that moment, that regardless of my previous success or perceived future success, I am accomplishing everything I can in that moment, blows me away.

Less is more (more…)

Are You Really Solving a Problem?

Posted: September 14, 2014 by Tim Metzner in Innovation, Marketing, Planning, Startup

TIM-METZNER-BWOver the last few years I’ve spent a lot of time with entrepreneurs at the very earliest stages, including many Startup Weekend events. One common pitfall that I see many teams fall into is starting with an idea for a “great product” versus a specific problem that they are trying to solve.

What’s the difference? Glad you asked.

Starting with the Solution

I understand why most people tend to start here, it’s how most of us think. The high profile successes seem to be from “inventors” who are creating things so new and different that the world doesn’t even know they need it. Quotes like Henry Ford’s classic “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse”, and iconic leaders like Steve Jobs, perpetuate the belief that this is how great companies are started.

The trouble is, most companies aren’t Apple. Sure there will always be room for highly disruptive companies that are reinventing entire industries, but this is unquestionably the exception. The reason starting with a solution is so difficult is you literally have to create demand for a product; it’s a solution searching for people with a problem to solve. (more…)

How do startup founders know when to quit, stick or pivot?

Posted: September 7, 2014 by Bill Cunningham in Leadership, Startup

bill-cunninghamYou’ve got to know when to hold ’em, Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away, And know when to run

— Kenny Rogers, The Gambler
As a counterpoint to my article on perseverance, here’s another perspective on never giving up. Jeremy Liew, a partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners in Menlo Park, CA highlights three choices entrepreneurs have when faced with tough time in their startup in a post from Quora. Here are Jeremy’s thoughts:

Jeremy-LiewPivoting is the easiest of these decisions to make. You pivot when you see some element or subset of your product that is getting way more traction than what you thought was your core use-case.

Sometimes this is because users are focusing on one element of what you do, sometimes they are asking you for a set of features that are different from what you have in mind, sometimes they hack your product to use it for something you didn’t expect, sometimes all the usage falls around a single use-case that is a “corner case” for you.

You want to see this from a lot of users, certainly the plurality, but when you do, you should pivot and gives users what they want, regardless of the product roadmap that you have in mind

Sticking should be the most difficult decision to make. I have assumed repeated failure of the core product, i.e. you’re out of ideas, it isn’t just another feature that is needed, you’ve hired who you need to fill in gaps in your team, and it still isn’t working. (more…)

Persistence and Perspiration

Posted: September 1, 2014 by Bill Cunningham in Culture, Innovation, Leadership, People, Startup, Uncategorized

bill-cunningham“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” — Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill gave a rather short commencement speech at Harrow that should inspire or dissuade every entrepreneur. Every startup goes through a Tale of Two Cities experience: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” As a founder, you come to realize that reality never follows your business plan. The worst that can happen most times never does.  The best that can happen never materializes — but often is replaced by a better result. Entrepreneurs have great imaginations without which innovation would never occur. However, when it comes to execution, you must persevere and swing for the fences. You are David facing Goliath — but you already know how that movie ends — so you keep pushing every day.

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