Entrepreneurial Proverbs

I gave a talk at ETech on Monday called “Entrepreneuring for Geeks.” I’ve given this general talk a few times now — how can the more technically minded among us move into making companies of our own? I really enjoy the talks because I really enjoy entrepreneurs; at least, I enjoy the ones who are really excited about making something fantastic through their efforts. “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to change the world?” Right.

I started out this year’s talk with a set of “proverbs” I’ve collected or thought up over the years. I liked the format of a Go book I recently read, called (not surprisingly!) “Proverbs,” and decided to adopt it for the talk. These are basically little nuggets of wisdom for bite-sized nutrition. Enjoy.

Starting

  • It’s good to be king — being an entrepreneur is the best job I’ve had. Every day your job is new and different; you constantly have to push yourself in new directions. You no longer have to say, “Well, I’m just an engineer, but…” — you have a great excuse to take an interest in everything. Working in an environment you shaped to your own beliefs about how a company should be run is incredible (and humbling!). And of course there are sometimes financial rewards, although it’s still a great job regardless.
  • Losing sucks — shutting down a company is unbelievably difficult. It affects your home life, your health, your job prospects, your financial stability. Professional investors are grown-ups, but it’s still extremely disheartening to lose the money people invested based on belief in you. If your backers include friends or family, it’s extremely difficult to have to tell them the company is closing and their money is gone. Most entrepreneurs fail several times before succeeding, too, so losing is both terrible and nearly inevitable. Fight as hard as you can against it.
  • Building to flip is building to flop — this is taken from Jason Fried, and he’s right. People who start out with only one goal, to sell to a big portal, will find their options are too limited. Plan as many paths to success as possible for your company, and always have a Plan B when acquisition (or whatever path you choose first) doesn’t work.
  • Prudence becomes procrastination — it’s great to research your market and talk to potential buyers about your ideas. It’s terrible to let an excess of this become a impediment to getting started. Too much prudence edges away from research and into procrastination.
  • Momentum builds on itself — just start. Do whatever you can. Draw a user interface. Write a spec. Make something, anything, that people can see and touch and try. A prototype is worth ten thousand words. Once you start moving, you will find that people start to carry you along.
  • Jump when you are more excited than afraid — lack of fear is irrational, and too much fear is debilitating. Make the jump into your business when you have considered the fear, and come out more excited than afraid.

The Idea

  • Pay attention to the idea that won’t leave you alone — this is taken from Paul Hawken’s Growing a Business. Sometimes an idea catches hold of you and you find you can’t put it down. Pay attention to that! Just start working on it. Can’t get yourself to do anything on it? Move on. Find yourself waking up out of bed to write down new ideas about it? That’s a good one to choose.
  • If you keep your secrets from the market, the market will keep its secrets from you — entrepreneurs too often worry about keeping their brilliant secrets locked away; we should all worry much more about springing a surprise on a disinterested market (anyone remember the Segway?). To quote Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing an idea. If it’s original, you will have to ram it down their throats.”
  • Immediate yes is immediate no — does everyone immediately tell you your idea is great? Run away from it. If the idea is that obvious, the market will be filled with competitors, and you’ll find yourself scrambling. One good test: when the New York Times Magazine puts out its annual “Year in Ideas” issue, is your idea in it? Then don’t do it. You’re already too late.
  • Build what you know — this is the most basic advice of idea generation: scratch an itch you have yourself. To make a great company, stop and ensure that your need is broadly felt, and that your solution is broadly applicable — not everyone spends their life in front of a computer, remember.
  • Give people what they need, not what they say they need — interviews are tricky. People will swear up and down that they would buy a product you describe if only it were available, and then fail to do so as soon as it is. Likewise, in conversation an idea can sound terrible, but in actualization the idea can become a compelling product. You have to sherlock out the truth of the interest people express, and “yes/no” questions are usually less useful than “how much” or “how bad” questions.
  • Your ideas will get better the more you know about business — engineers hate to hear this, but you can generalize up quite far from here: the more you know about everything, the better all of your ideas will get! If you want to start a business and your strength is in development, learning about pricing, sales, marketing, finance, and yes, even HR, all of it will make your product ideas stronger and better.

People

  • Three is fine; two, divine — having too many co-founders makes decisions hard to reach; if you’re on your own, you have to bear all of the stress and worry about the success of the company. In my judgment, three people can do well together, but having two founders is best.
  • Work only with people you like and believe in — I once heard Eric Schmidt say something along the lines of, “The older I get, the more I think all that matters is working with people you like.” If you’re smart and talented, you’re probably going to like a lot of smart and talented people. Working with people you like is so much more fun, and often more productive, than fighting against someone who may be smart and talented but just isn’t a great fit for you.
  • Work with people who like and believe in you, just naturally — maybe you are very persuasive, and can talk people into working with you against their better instincts. Especially for co-founders and early employees, don’t try that hard. Find the people that naturally want to work with you, and nudge them into the roles where you need them. You’ll have more fun and get more done.
  • Great things are made by people who share a passion, not by those who have been talked into one — a corollary of the last; you can spark a passion in someone, but you can’t do it without some fuel to catch. Better to wait, and find the person who is already inclined to believe in your cause. You may talk someone into co-founding a company with you, but will they stick with it through ups and downs if they had to be persuaded that hard?

Product

  • Cool ideas are useless without great needs — this is the classic engineers’ entrepreneurial mistake (or at least I’d like to think so, since I’ve made it). Techies love tech, and a new technology can produce a lot of companies that don’t really meet a need. Better to start with the need, and then see how what you know can produce a better answer to that need. (Marketers tend to have the opposite problem: real, pressing needs with completely unworkable solutions.)
  • Build the simplest thing possible — engineers have the hardest time with this, with not overdesigning for the need they’re addressing. Make the simplest possible product that makes a significant dent in that need, and you’ll do far better than you would addressing two or three needs at once. Simplicity leads to clarity in everything you do.
  • Solve problems, not potential problems — you can waste a lot of money implementing solutions for problems you don’t have yet, and may never have. Work on the biggest, most pressing problems today, and put aside everything else.
  • Test everything with real people — it’s unbelievable how helpful this is. Go find civilians, real people who use computers because they have to and not because they love to. Find them in Starbucks, or at the library, or in a college computer lab. Give them $20 for 20 minutes, and you’ll be paid back a hundred times over.

Money

  • Start with nothing, and have nothing for as long as possible — small budgets give big focus (probably another line I’m stealing from Jason Fried: it sounds like something he’d say…) Don’t go out and raise a ton of money right away. Instead, give yourself just enough to get going, and use the limits that imposes to motivate yourself.
  • The best investor pitches are plainspoken and entertaining (not in that order) — think about what this implies. A plainspoken pitch is the surface of a very solid business. If you have to fudge and lie to get investors interested, why is that? If you’re running a great business, it is not hard at all to lure investors into it; the worse your business, the bigger (and more odious) your fundraising task is. Entertaining implies a fun person to work with, and VCs like working with people they like as much as the rest of us do. If you don’t bring the funny, bring the person who brings the funny.
  • Never let on that you’re keeping a secret — telling an investor “I don’t want to talk about that” is terrible. It’s the natural converse of being plainspoken. It’s good to be aware, though, that some potential investors will listen to you and then share your information with your direct comptitors, and not always because they’re invested in those comptetitors. Knowing that, you have to keep some secrets — but be as diplomatic about that as possible. Respond to the idea behind the question, without giving away more than you feel comfortable discussing. Learn to steer the conversation in the way you want it to go. And then give up more information as you become more comfortable with the potential investor.
  • No means maybe and yes means maybe — you should never take a “no” from someone you want to work with. Accept the no, ask for feedback, and then just keep sending them updates on how much butt you’re kicking in the market. During one company, three of the five term sheets I collected came from VC firms that told me “no” originally. Conversely, though, the only money in the bank is actual money actually in the bank. Everything else is just a possibility, and you have to treat it as such. Don’t stop fundraising until you have a firm commitment for the funding you need, and don’t accept halfway promises like, “We’ll fund you if another firm comes in.” Keep on driving until the wire transfer is complete.
  • For investors, the product is nothing — the classic engineer’s VC pitch has ten slides about the product and two about the academic achievements of the founders. That’s a terrible pitch. One slide should be about the product, while the rest cover the market, competitors, financials, funding history, and the relevant experience of the team. The product matters far less to most investors than the reactions of customers, the properties of the market, and the credibility of the team. Obsess about the product on your own time; present your business in all of its parts.
  • The best way to get investment is not to need it* — if you have a running business with real customers and you’re paying all your bills, you are much more likely to get a funding round than if you need the round in order to survive or succeed. The pitch that goes, “We could accelerate our growth with more money” is much more compelling than, “I need your money or our doors will close.”

I’m sure other people have their own rules of thumb; what are yours?

*Update: Added this one after a prompt from James in the comments.

Update 2: There are tons of great comments below, but I particularly like the one from Jason Monberg. Don’t miss it. I think his suggestions are right on.

  • http://www.indiebillboard.com Noah Winecoff

    I am definitely going to print this out and put it on my wall. Great post, thank you!

  • http://www.twod.co.uk/ Jamie Huskisson

    Best article i’ve read on advice for potential Entrepreneurs in a long time. Very well written a brilliant structure to the article

  • http://www.lifthere.com Gianni D'Alerta

    Incredible article! Not just the proverbs… but your insite on each is what made this even greater.

    Being a one-man-band, my theories about business where just that, theories, but your thoughts have given me proof that I am on the right track.

    Thanks.

  • http://onstartups.com Dharmesh Shah

    Great post!

    I wrote an article this week on what I think makes for great software entrepreneurs. Lot of similar thinking (just said in different ways).

    http://onstartups.com

  • http://www.masterwebdesign.net Dallas Pool

    I would like to add one…

    *You are your own worst boss:* Don’t venture out to start a company because you can “Set your own hours and like your boss.” You will be your own worst boss. You will implement mandatory unpaid overtime, get rid of sick days, weekends, and days off, and force yourself to work harder for yourself than you would ever work for anyone else.

    But, when it works, and the business is successful, that is a great, great reward.

  • james hoskins

    How about adding this to money. Keep VC’s away from your business for as long as possible. When you do finally approach them, you will have far more to bargain with and they will walk away with less of your stuff.

  • http://radar.oreilly.com/marc/ Marc Hedlund

    Great additions, Dallas and james!

    James, one of the things I say in my talks is, “The trick to getting VC funding is not to need it.” If you have a running business with real customers and you’re paying all your bills, you are much more likely to get a funding round than if you need the round in order to survive or succeed. The pitch that goes, “We could accelerate our growth with more money” is much more compelling than, “I need your money or our doors will close.” So, I definitely agree with your advice.

  • http://jooto.com/blog/ Alex Bunardzic

    A nice complementary addition to your post is Dharmesh Shah’s excellent article:

    http://onstartups.com/Home/tabid/3339/ctl/ArticleView/mid/4112/articleId/487/Seeking-Stellar-Software-Entrepreneurs.aspx

    Alex

  • http://positivesharing.com Alexander Kjerulf

    Excellent list!

    I’ve been there myself a couple of times now, and there’s just one piece of advice I think is missing:
    Make it fun!

    Many people go into business expecting it to be a long, hard struggle that pays off in the end. If that’s your expectation, that’s almost certainly what you’re going to get – although the pay-off is of course iffy.

    It’s perfectly possible to have fun while running a start-up, and you and everyone around you will probably do a much better job.

  • http://www.comagz.com Nir Ben-Dor

    I’m an entrepreneur who used to be a geek a few years ago.

    This article matches almost percisely what I would have written from my own experience. Every word is carved in stone.

    I would add- get ready to change your product continuously. Don’t fall in love with your product. Fall in love with learning and getting feedback.

    Excellent post

  • http://www.BungalowSoftware.com MrAnalogy

    Great article. I’ve owned a shrinkwrap ISV software company for 11 years. I agree with all of it. And trust me: that’s a rarity ;-)

  • http://www.guk6kk.blogspot.com Guk

    Nice one man!

  • http://www.theimajination.com Yorkali

    Sweet, sweet post. Beautiful structure, concise and quite entertaining. It’s not often one finds such a nicely shrink wrapped gem of a post. It’s like I read a book in 15 minutes, no really!

    thank you.
    Yorkali

  • http://www.Anderstand.com Raj Anand

    Excellent Article. Something which really opened my Geeky eyes, were the last 2 paragraphs:

    * For investors, the product is nothing

    * The best way to get investment is not to need it

    Thanks for the post.

  • http://chrisyeh.blogspot.com Chris Yeh

    Do what you love, and pray that the money follows.

    Actually, a better way is to take the two sets, [Things I Love To Do] and [Things That Might Make Money] and focus on the intersection!

  • Jason T Powell

    These articles are great, really like the examples to prove your points.

    Thanks

  • http://www.osilla.com Ryan

    Excellent post!

    this would make a great podcast ;)

  • http://www,podtech.net John Furrier

    Nice Job! Kudos for a great post.

  • http://www.willpate.org Will Pate

    Nicely done. This theme could make for a great small business book for geeks if you somehow could find a publisher ;-)

  • http://www.plmedia.ca Chris Spencer

    Ditto on all of the above! A truely great piece.

  • Rodolfo

    Heard from (I think) Guy Kawasaki: “Sales solve all”

  • http://www.danlockton.co.uk Dan Lockton

    Very enlightening & clearly written. I’m just starting out as an entrepreneur after coming from a tech background and these are some great points to consider. Already I can see that I’ve fallen into the “ten slides about the product and two about the academic achievements of the founders” trap!
    Thanks.

  • http://tailrank.com Kevin Burton

    How about this one (and its pessimistic so I’m sorry).

    Know when to declare failure and move on.

    Many entrepreneurr become so excited about the product and technology that they’re working on that they keep pushing forward even though the company is failing.

    If you place a frog in hot water he’ll jump out. If you place the same frog in cold water and put the burner on high he’ll stay there and boil to death.

    Set milestones and know when you’ve failed so you can move on to the next idea. Make these traffic milestones,revenue milestones and give yourself time to deliver them but don’t go to far.

    Kevin

  • http://www.accession.co.uk Dmitri

    Spend every dollar like it’s your last. Need I say more?

  • Peter

    Successful marketing comptetence should not be judged on one’s ability to sell a better mousetrap, but rather one’s ability to sell the dead mice.

    MacD.,1973

  • http://jooto.com/blog/ Alex Bunardzic

    Immediate yes is immediate no — does everyone immediately tell you your idea is great? Run away from it. If the idea is that obvious, the market will be filled with competitors, and you’ll find yourself scrambling. One good test: when the New York Times Magazine puts out its annual “Year in Ideas” issue, is your idea in it? Then don’t do it. You’re already too late.

    The above paints the situation with too broad a brush. There are so many exceptions to the sitation described above, that I’d have a problem agreeing with the point.

    The flip side of it is actually much more important: don’t go into uncharted waters. If you’re planing to cover the territory where the competition is virtually non-existent, that’s a sure fire sign that you’re potentially entering troubled waters. Educating the markets, creating new markets, is an excruciatingly expensive business proposition. Only behemoths like Microsoft, Sun, IBM, Oracle and such have the clout and the financial backing to attempt such a venture.

    It is much safer to enter the market where there’s lots of established competition, and then outdo the competition by doing something that offers extra quality. It doesn’t have to be big, as long as it gets recognized as quality.

    When Apple started working on their iPod, the market was already saturated with mp3 players. So Apple didn’t have to create that market from scratch. All they had to do is ride the wave and take advantage of the poorly designed products that already existed on the market. It was thus easy for them to deliver the death blow by offering a superior design.

  • jason monberg

    Extending the idea “Know when to declare failure and move on.” from Kevin Burton’s post above… In my circle we like to say “Fail Fast” and apply it at all levels. The faster one can figure out if an idea is good or bad, the faster they can determine whether to discard that idea or fuel it. Failure is a good thing! This is true of a product feature, a marketing program, or an entire company. For the engineers or ex-engineers in the audience it is just like testing a coding solution to a technical problem. You won’t know until you try but you want to invest as little of your time as possible in order to get to the “know” point.

    This is also related to the notion above of “Prudence is Procrastination”. Not making a decision is making a decision; a decision to do nothing or leave things status quo. Great decisions are rarely based on a flash of insight; they are based on many small data points. Get those data points by testing your ideas, by failing fast, so you can find the ideas that work and make better decisions.

    Two points on raising money:
    Know exactly why you want to raise money. There are times when it feels like raising that big round of money is what it is all about. Well maybe there was one time, the height of that amusement park ride called the dot com era, but I think fundraising has created this sort of sexy aura around itself as if it is the end game. Investment capital is a tool, not a resume builder. A lot of dot com’ers, myself wholeheartedly included, learned this the hard way. By 2000 nobody cared whether you had raised enough money to build a small city, they cared only about the return, as they should. Never raise money for the sake of raising money. The points above on fundraising push on this and are outstanding.

    This one is a little harder to fit into this list and may be counter to other points listed here. When you are at the point of raising funds (you’ve already gone as long as you can without), and there is real money on the table, take it… and take all of it, every last bit. Even if it is more than you were seeking, it is very hard to predict what the future holds. Runway is a good thing for a small company. This will help you avoid doing that next round of funding which will be much more dilutive than oversubscribing the current round.

  • Peter Durkson

    I’ve found it impossible to find anyone to invest in the “concept” stage of my innovative baby boomers website idea. It seems that one has to have a working site with “traction” to merit any risk capital support. Has anyone out there solved this problem? duroy@earthlink.net

  • http://mparise.wordpress.com Mario Parise

    I would add that you need to passionately care about your customers/clients. Not just about your idea (which is crucial), or how this helps you (which is crucial), but what you can do to make sure your product/service totally rocks your clients away. They should love you. And to do that you need to love them.

  • http://targetedpixels.com Marcel

    Building to flip is building to flop – very true… AND sometimes it’s not easy to flip if your working on a “new” technology.

  • http://www.nutritionalcenter.com/ Filipe

    >> Has anyone out there solved this problem?

    That’s not a problem, it’s smart (on the investors’ part). The solution on your end is to go to friends and family for investment first. If you feel less comfortable losing your family’s money than you do investors’ money, then you don’t have a lot of confidence in your business idea.

  • http://www.futurefactory.comreggie.html Ed Michael Reggie

    Your entreprenuerial proverbs are excellent.

    In your People section, I would stress “Stick to your unique abilities.” In the folklore, many stories abound about the entrepreneur who swept the floors himself/herself every night. But a truly successful venture contains a core group of passionate people with complementary skills who spend the vast majority of their time in their respective unique ability areas.

    Success is most exceptionally achieved when the team is hitting on all cylinders; the programmer is writing great code all day long, the marketing person is employing his/her talents all day and night in promoting the products and the company. Same goes with finance, operations, customer service, etc.

    It is human nature to clutter one’s day with activities that are outside the unique ability zone. Success is dependant on having a high energy team of great players, each member having the discipline to stay focused on his/her specific role in the enterprise.

  • http://www.sportslizard.com/blog/2006/03/entrepreneurial-proverbs.html SportsLizard

    Wow, those are awesome. I definitely printed those out! Thanks!

    I couldn’t figure out how to ping this blog, but if anyone’s interested, I commented more in my blog so just click the link to my site.

  • nowwashyourhand

    kieran (above), what’s the purpose of your george carlin paragraphs? you must really like him. i like him too.

  • James Bartlett

    In my many years of business experience in government, the private sector and now as a college professor of business my least favorite saying is, “That’s the way it has always been done.” I participated in the computer revolution and introduced them into every business with which I was involved. The increase in productivity and reduction of overhead costs was astronomical. To answer those who tried to use the “That’s the way,” argument to keep from being required to enter the computer age I had a saying of my own, “If doesn’t involve the use of papyrus or clay tablets, don’t tell me that is the way it has always been done.”

  • James Barnes

    I agree with Alex that there is a virtue in not being the first to market with a new product – let everyone else make the mistakes first.

    The best and funniest way I have heard this described – in an investor meeting – is the following:

    An old bull and his son are standing at the top of a hill watching a herd of cattle. The younger bulls in the herd are searching out the cows.

    The bull’s son is geting impatient: ‘Dad – can we go down there and f___ a cow?’

    ‘Not yet son, just wait.’

    They wait and watch. Some of the younger bulls are getting lucky.

    ‘Dad – we’re missing out, can we go down and f___ a cow?’

    ‘No, son, we’re okay.’

    Time passes, some of the younger bulls have scored and are now resting, others are still vainly trying it on.

    ‘OK son,’ Says the old Bull. ‘Let’s go down there and f___ ‘em all!’

    If your new product is hardware, it helps if you are a really old Bull, an established player. In software and services I believe you can take a sizeable share of an existing market at anytim if you genuinely have a new and different approach and can make use of a product or service simpler for the consumer.

    Very often this is just matter of a simpler GUI because the current GUI standard has been designed by engineers – for engineers.

    MMS anyone lately?

    This is a great list of ‘proverbs.’

  • http://www.antiventurecapital.com Peter

    The 3 Stages of an Entrepreneurial Idea by Kathy Sierra:

    Stage 1: Fantastic idea

    Stage 2: Fear

    Stage 3: Actual (mediocre) product

    Oh boy, is this true! I have been working myself into convulsions over the past two months struggling with the urge to tone down a new site to make it comfortable for the “masses”.

    Then I read this fantastic blog http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/01/death_by_riskav.html and reminded myself that I’m not after the masses. So I’ll stick with the original concept.

    Read this blog.

    Print it out.

    Put it somewhere where you will see it 100X a day.

  • A Different Peter

    Marc, great article. I’ve seen a few of my past mistakes there. Do you have mp3s, (or oggs!) of your “Entrepreneuring for Geeks” talks availablefor download somewhere?

  • amit

    what happens in the event when you have it all in place – the idea, the right people, everything, except the cash….when it is indeed “i need your money to not only start building from scratch, but to also pay my phone bills”

  • http://www.najob.com najob

    use life like battery, when is light its on, when is dark its off

  • http://www.alamut.es/bizblog Ramom Nogueira

    excellent post !!!

  • http://www.recipelocker.com Mike Bradley

    Great article. I was referred here through a link in a forum and now I see why the guy posted it. Excellent, I’m bookmarking this page.

  • http://personales.ya.com/cmontero/ Carlos

    Good work Marc… I’m thinking of making a desktop wallpaper with these proverbs to keep me inspired :-)

    I especially like the four proverbs under the ‘Product’ category. Being an industrial engineer, I have seen (and made) all those errors countless times, in start-ups or in the established big players… we tend to think too much about the things we like, making our ideas grow inside our minds until they are too good compared to the real problem. Just turn a good idea into a good product, soon enough for people to actually use it; the market will tell you how to fine-tune in ways you can’t even imagine right now.

    Also, it’s great reading for our marketing friends who never understand us techies ;-)

  • John Girard

    Fantastic post. My one quibble — you probably mean “aphorism” and not “proverb”. Proverbs are pithy, memorable statements in wide circulation; aphorisms are just pithy, memorable statements :)

    Yes, I am a stickler when it comes to word choice.

  • John Livingston

    Very inspiring! I’m printing this one out.

    I’ve been talking with a successful entrepreneur about developing an idea into a business. His advice has focused on networking with people I already know to develop my idea. He suggested finding 5 “creative/idea people” and 5 “successful business people” who are willing to meet with me for lunch or breakfast on a regular basis. Spend each week updating them on where the current iteration of the idea and then spend more time listening than talking. He said the business people will provide advice on those pesky practical issues and the idea people will help to keep me energized about the idea.

    He also advised me read as much as I can on how other successful entrepreneurs operate.

  • John Livingston

    Very inspiring! I’m printing this one out.

    I’ve been talking with a successful entrepreneur about developing an idea into a business. His advice has focused on networking with people I already know to develop my idea. He suggested finding 5 “creative/idea people” and 5 “successful business people” who are willing to meet with me for lunch or breakfast on a regular basis. Spend each week updating them on where the current iteration of the idea and then spend more time listening than talking. He said the business people will provide advice on those pesky practical issues and the idea people will help to keep me energized about the idea.

    He also advised me read as much as I can on how other successful entrepreneurs operate.

  • Bill

    I have a question about revenue. Is ad-revenue enough to support an idea? Assuming I have a unique or dramatic difference from what else is out there, is ad revenue only ideas worth pursuing? Will investors back you if your only revenue model is advertising?

  • http://www.cswsolutions.com/blog Yoel Sommer

    This was a very interesting read. As a software developer and an entrepreneur that opened his own business a couple of months ago I can’t agree more with the proverbs that were posted here.
    Thanks!

  • Hilco

    Insightful article, also for a starting graphic/web designer. It’s going up on the wall!

    Regarding the ‘Fail Fast’ comment by Monberg (a good addition indeed), maybe it can be summed up as ‘An idea or product will only be a succes when it has failed sufficiently’.

  • http://www.pandoblog.com Yaron Samid

    Thanks for the inspiring read Marc.

    A must-have pin up for all aspiring entrepreneurs.

  • Krage

    I just want to add here that often aspiring entrepreneurs overate the value of “idea”.

    Many people succeed with an excellent implementation of an old idea.

  • http://www.vooed.com Brandon Hopkins

    That has to be one of the best articles I’ve read on the internet!

  • http://feedagg.com/feed.php?FeedID=208 Brad Stewart

    Awesome article. Concise and to the point. Thanks.

  • http://www.daviddlewis.com David D. Lewis

    A great kick in the behind to start my day. Thanks!

  • http://www.mercantec.com Bill Tait

    Regarding Money, remember the expression “the best time to eat hor’dourves is when the are being served.”

    Raising money is time consuming and will distract you from operating your company. Carefully consider the timing of any funding effort; you really need to be in the right place at the right time.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Jason Monberg talked about knowing why you want to raise money. That’s related to a “proverb” I’ve always used at O’Reilly: “Money is like gas in the tank. Don’t confuse your road trip with a tour of gas stations.” Not exactly an entrepreneurial proverb (except in the context of knowing why you want to raise money), but a good guideline to keeping your business on point with what really matters to you.

  • tpbc

    WOW , i have printed this out and hung it in the office. I really like the idea of bite size bits of information to enjoy and review. To many try to make things more complicated, but this article breaks its it down where i can get it. I have a montra that i alway like to say in relation to entrepreneurs and making money “unlimited possibilities”.

  • http://www.digipede.net John Powers

    Right on the money, Marc; it’s going on our wall here, too. Best of luck with your new venture. I look forward to hearing more about it!

  • http://gmeta.com Gordon Montgomery

    Very inspiring for those needing to be inspired ;)

    Good job!

  • http://www.diabetic-blog.info Colin the Diabetic

    Mine is “enjoy the doing”.

    If I can’t enjoy the doing, then the end result isn’t worth having.

  • http://www.thedirectmarketinglab.com Chirs In Cincinnati

    THe people ones hit close to home. We have 3 founders but one of them is ‘silent’ and is only consulted when the other 2 of us are deadlocked, more of a board of advisors member than a day to day officer.

    I also lucked out and partnered with my best friend. We argue constantly but it’s always constructive, or at the very least, funny.

  • http://allstarsnaked.net/ Ralf

    This theme could make for a great small business book for geeks if you somehow could find a publisher.

  • Anonymous

    I TS COOL

  • Bradley Mazurek

    “Be patient for growth, but impatient for profits.”
      — Clayton Christensen

    From his books ‘The Innovator’s Solution’ and ‘Seeing What’s Next’, this little gem is described in great detail. I think this proverb is at the root of many of the other proverbs listed: not needing funding, failing fast, starting with nothing.

    Christensen applies the insight to businesses looking for venture capital. One thing that causes business ventures to fail is taking the wrong kind of money. Money from VCs that demand you grow fast, and worry about profitability often fail. Rather than grow unprofitably, then try to shift your organization to being profitable, you need to find the path to profitability early, then grow.

    Nothing puts you in a better bargaining position with VC than not needing the funding because you are profitable. If you can walk away, you can negotiate from a position of significantly more power.

    It’s very simple, very logical, but followed so infrequently.

  • http://mikeabundo.com Mike Abundo

    Great advice! My partner in one business isn’t a techie, but is a market expert. In line with learning more about the business, I’ll consult her more often on the market. :)

  • http://pstarlist.com/ Summercat

    Beautiful structure, concise and quite entertaining. It’s not often one finds such a nicely shrink wrapped gem of a post. It’s like I read a book in 15 minutes, no really!

  • http://vidsxpics.com/ Kiddy

    Building to flip is building to flop – very true… AND sometimes it’s not easy to flip if your working on a “new” technology.

  • http://indianentrepreneur.typepad.com Udayan Bose

    Brilliant article.

    Thanks for this!

    Udayan

  • CKE

    Here’s a few favorites:

    Building your idea: Be sparing with things that are dear, and wasteful with things that are plentiful.

    Over time, technology & resources change, but the market may not yet have adapted. Knowing what the current situation is leads you to craft solutions that are optimal and often much better than those of your competitors.

    Success: 90% is simply showing up (Woody Allen?). Most people never get started.

  • http://geetabose.blogspot.com Geeta Bose

    Great article. Some rules that I followed…

    a) Build a safety net before taking the plunge: Make entrepreneurship a well-calculated gamble. Ensure that you have some cash in your bank to see you through for at least 6 months after you take your plunge. It takes a while for revenues to trickle in, the safety net will ensure that you are financially comfortable, enjoy the experience, and do not panic. Panic can disturb the momentum that your business needs initially.

    b) Resist Temptation: Typically most entrepreneurs have had successful careers behind them. They start on their own at a stage when they reach a good position in their jobs, good salaries, and an “almost everything you want lifestyle”. The initial days of entrepreneurship are tough – mentally and financially. At this point, you need determination and belief in yourself to resist any offers that come your way. People may offer you saying we will pay you more than your company’s annual revenue… Resist that…and better still…convert those people to clients!

    c) Best of ideas fail if you dont have the right people to execute them: A company is all about its people. So be choosy in the kind of poeple you hire! The initial set of people is very critical. They move on to become the senior most people in your organization. They carry forward the culture, ethics, and values that you believe in..so be careful.

  • Ren Zhang

    I am a Chinese, actually in China do not have a proper word to describe Entrepreneurs that really make me difficult to learn about it. And could you please tell me what you think the measurement of a small business is a entrepreneurial or not, and please list some points that are key judgments.

    Thanks a lot

    Warmest Regards

    Zhang

  • Abe

    I can also add to the 2nd point in the article. Learn how to fail the same way as you learn how to succeed, a not-so-famous tip by a New Zealand famous person, Suzanne Paul!

  • Max

    I would say raise money continually. Capital is the lifeblood of a startup. Raise more money than you need all the time. Anticipate that your product will flop and you will have to change directions. For that you need CAPITAL!

    Another point, DON’T BE GREEDY. Give up equity, share the responsibilities and the rewards of entrepreneurship with your entire team.

  • http://silentpc.org/university/simple.php allan wallace

    On the “Prudence becomes procrastination” Zig Ziggler used to talk about the “paralysis of analysis.”

    Same problem.

    My solution is to start moving.

    The rocket’s guidance system does nothing when the rocket is on its pad. Get off your pad and start that business today.

  • http://levitra.trahaet.com/ Aron

    I can also add to the 2nd point in the article. Learn how to fail the same way as you learn how to succeed, a not-so-famous tip by a New Zealand famous person, Suzanne Paul!

  • http://www.nimbleit.squarespace.com Jeff Barson

    “If you don’t bring the funny, bring the person who brings the funny.” Now that’s a great quote.

  • jayendra

    Great,
    It wil be very helpful for every enterpreniers. As i would like go in IT business, this proverbs give me good advice in real time.

  • Valentine Dias , Goa

    Good Article i’d say ..

    the part where i choose a co-founder / employee who is passionate abt the idea and is wlling to invest his time.

    Also the part where it mentions about how to preset your idea . its not only about the product its about the market.

    Personally i feel there should be one question in our mind to sell your idea.” how is my idea gonna be beneficial for my investor.” and it definitley should be one and only one benefit “MONEY”.

    I’ve been an entrepreneur for the past 6 years ..not out of choice but out of inheritance , not exactly my passion that i;m involved in right now . therefore i’d suggest anyone gettin an idea , to be passionate but it , and it will definitely be a success, with your effort.

    Best OF lUCK!!!
    Cheers!

  • http://www.Qiu-Inc.com Sandeep Balaji

    Extremely well articulated and brutally honest..As an entrepreneur myself i can relate to most of it..

    In particular there is one phrase that helps me focus on the stuff that i am doing…It goes like this”A entrepreneur is someone who dares to dream and is foolish enough to set out to make the dream come true…”

    Cheers,
    Sandeep
    http://www.Qiu-inc.com

  • http://www.escapetheroomgames.net/ Scott

    One of my favorites of all time is:

    “Only the paranoid survive” – Andrew S. Grove

    Which reminds me to not take initial success for granted.

  • sandrine Urvois

    really like what you have written, and I think everyway of the way the same than you, I have been an entrepreunerette since I can remember, selling painted shells in France at about 5 years old.
    I agree with you about loosing often and winning sometimes and I have learn lots from your article
    sandrine

  • http://www.ownmade.com Ajeet Khurana

    Fabulous posts and as a serial entrepreneur I identify, passionately, with several of them. Having said that, I must also add that if you are an entrepreneur and seem to be going against a bunch of the maxims outlined here, no problem. Entrepreneurship is first and foremost about packing your individuality and passion into a business plan.

  • http://mv.asterisco.pt MV

    My personal favourite is “Fast; Cheap; Good: choose two”.

    But I think that the 12 principles from “Unleashing the Killer App” would be good aditions to the list.

    http://www.killer-apps.com/12principles/default.htm

    – MV

  • asif

    well, i am very happy to see your comment.

    —————————————

    asif

    Wide Circles

  • http://www.the-pokerbonuscodes.com Veronica B

    Excellent post Marc. I wish i had seen this 2 years ago. So obvious but sharp. Inspiring post. A belated TY

  • http://www.lifeuphigh.com Reginald Reglus

    Great post Marc. I would like to add that engineers need to learn how to work “on” the business and not just “in” the business. Set aside time at least twice a week to put systems in place for your business. Know how you want things run in your business so that eventually it can run without you. This is what sets you free to start other ventures.

  • http://howtomakemoneyontheinternet.info Robin

    This is perhaps one of the best collections of wise statements concerning entrepreneurialism I have yet to see… Bravo. Printing it now.

  • http://www.field_homepage.com nick_rodele