This blogpost was written by Barb Darrow on gigaon, which is a webposting site I’ve not seen before. The post was centered around a talk by Clarence Wooten, at the inaugural MIT Sloan High Tech Conference, by one who’s done his share of startups. I thought the comments were good, aside from the missing market research caveat, which we could outline, or you could just take our course on the subject. Here are Clarence’s comments:
1. Paycheck is an addiction. Entreprenturs have to break that addiction to build an asset that will pay off long-term, not in a weekly paycheck.
2. Beware of naysayers. Because 99% of this country works for the 1%, they have risk-averse mentalities. Don’t listen to them.
3. Just do it. Be like Nike. There is no roadmap (I guess Clarence didn’t take our course on how to get things open and find funds). If you don’t do it, it won’t get done. Work lean. Corporate people are used to resources — HR departments, assistants, etc., but entrepreneurs do it on their own.
4. Fail fast, fail cheap. You will fail a lot, because you’ll need to try a lot of things. So do that on the cheap. Clarence’s first product failed, but they distilled that app into its bare essence, and it caught fire as Instagram.
5. Partner pitfalls. It’s scary to be out there alone. You want someone to share the ups and downs. Often one partner will work harder than the other, but share the same upside. Share the downside as well, and don’t necessrily split equity equally. Set up reverse vesting: when you issue founder’s stock, make sure it vests in case someone leaves they don’t leave with all the equity, just what with what has vested.
6. Be naive. Unlearn what you learned in Corporate America about hierarchy. Being naive means being ballsy. Facebook turned down a $1 billon offer from Google, and people though Zuckerberg was crazy. He wasn’t, but he may have been naive. That paid off pretty well.
7. Challenge your comfort zone. I knew I had to put myself out there speaking in public, and I wasn’t comfortable with it, but I did it.
8. Business is a team sport. Would you rather own 100% of a $1 million a year business, or 20% of a $100-million a year business? Everyone needs equity. You need as much brainpower as possible.
9. Image matters. People judge you when you talk about your company, and you have one chance to make a first impression. If you’re not a design person, don’t do your own logo. Crowdsource if you need to.
10. Shadown of a leader. You determine what your company culture looks like. Build it as a place you want to work every day. People watch you.
11. Investors want their money back. This is important. Investors back you. Your integrity is on the line. So know your exit strategy. I’ve nevery lost an investor’s money, and I carry that chip with me every day.
12. Cash and customers. Lessons 1 through 11 you can learn on your own, but for #12, it helps if you have some education and understanding of finance and marketing (that’s what we’re here for).
You can also check out the audio version of Wooten’s speech by Googling it.