Archive for March, 2010

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

March 30th, 2010

Today I read Steve Blank’s excellent post on Teaching Entrepreneurship. After sharing some insightful experience on the best manner to teach an entrepreneur how to be an entrepreneur, Steve brings up the fact that many just aren’t cut out for the lifestyle required of an entrepreneur. As I sit here developing our startup idea, this question made me ponder if I have what it takes to follow this through to its successful conclusion.

When I first got out of college, I accepted a position with a startup. It was exhilarating to experience the highs (new customers, great team members, and eventually acquisition) and depressing to experience the lows (all nighters, skipped paychecks, and an unknown future). Now that I’m a bit further along in life and have more mouths to feed than my own, I worry that I’m past the point of the roller coaster ride that is a startup. At the same time, I’m excited to consider what could be achieved with good partners, an untapped market segment, and a passion about creating something useful – I’m certainly not working late nights because its the cool thing to do. I’ll keep down this path as long as I can but I wonder what others think are the best predictors of a successful entrepreneur?

Hey! What’s the Big Idea?

March 27th, 2010

Today I had the privilege of being a judge in a business idea competition called techTitans. Students were asked to submit a 2 page summary of their idea and how they thought they could make money with it. There had been over 50 submissions and had been narrowed down to 10 who then presented their ideas to our panel.

They were bio-science, technology, and consumer products. All of them were very good and fun to learn about. When it came time to deliberate the question surfaced of how to evaluate a good idea. Not closest to market, most impactful or best presentation or even team composition but purely just the most innovative idea. Quickly it was hemmed in with the condition that it had to be somewhat feasible. After that however everyone struggled a little and fell back on the other criteria.

I used an innovative (a combination of things in a new way) vs optimization (building a better mousetrap) filter initially but that only got me so far. As I pondered further on my drive home I reflected back on both the work of Everett Rogers (who I mentioned in an earlier post) and the work of the Heath Brothers (authors of Made to Stick).

Rogers talks about several characteristics that facilitate adoption of a technology (in this case an idea):

  1. Relative Advantage-Is it better than what is out there already?
  2. Compatibility-Do I have to change my life in order to use the technology?
  3. Complexity-Is it too hard to be worth it?
  4. Trialability- Can I easily give it a test run without too many negative consequences?
  5. Observability-Can others easily observe the innovation?

Chip and Dan Heath, who also currently write for Fast Company, elaborated further by claiming sticky (or successful) ideas had the following characteristics:

  1. Simple — find the core of any idea
  2. Unexpected — grab people’s attention by surprising them
  3. Concrete — make sure an idea can be grasped and remembered later
  4. Credibility — give an idea believability
  5. Emotion — help people see the importance of an idea
  6. Stories — empower people to use an idea through narrative

I wonder how the teams would have scored if we had used any of these criteria instead?

Godzilla, the ideal entrepreneur?

March 26th, 2010

I was pointed to this article/video from Tech Crunch this past February that shares a little bit of Mike Maples’ story and philosophy. He references Thunder Lizards as the ideal kind of companies to invest in because they disrupt they way things work, require fairly minimal investment amounts, and have huge returns upon exit. When he talks to entrepreneurs he is looking for someone who has a non-consensus idea and  the right attitude: crush the competition and dominate the world. They’re not looking for just a quick exit, but rather they want to impact the world.

It caused me to pause and wonder what vision and attitude I had towards the ventures I’m involved in. Do I want to be a Thunder Lizard or am I content with just a little rampage? Even though I want to bootstrap am I willing to take on some investors to grow more quickly before Tokyo can prepare for my attack? Are you a Thunder Lizard?

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