The answers to all a startup's challenges are out there. By setting up the right mechanisms for gathering feedback, the road to success can be a less bumpy ride.
Distributers don't need massive amounts of square feet to stock digital products. Retailers don't need brick-and-mortar stores to sell them. The entire supply chain for these select items has been permanently dematerialized. The marketplace has been blown to bits.
As a serial investor who has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for startups, I know that the business plans coming out of incubators tend to be vetted and more thoroughly validated. The incubator's input into your business plan will make you look far more polished and experienced - even if you have never run a business before.
Founding a successful startup is no different than forming a rock band.
There is no better feeling than doing well while you are doing good. If you really want to meet the nicest, most caring people in your field, get involved with charity work. The thankless hours that go into planning charity dinners, running a carnival, and gathering donations for silent auctions are noticed and appreciated.
Every time a twenty-something CEO turns down a multibillion-dollar offer for a company that has little or no revenues, it hits a raw nerve in me. Unlike most professionals, I am not shocked by the seemingly bizarre behavior of those founders who pursue their vision beyond all rational thought or monetary reward.
From the very first inkling of a concept, founders need to gather a target group of five to ten potential users to begin the feedback loop. We all think we know how the market will react to new ideas, but actual users live with the pros and cons of the existing market conditions every day. They are the market experts.
With less and less television being watched live, consumers are enjoying the freedom to record at home or in the cloud, watch locally or on the go, and binge watch entire series that they never had the time to enjoy.
For all founders, going public is a momentous milestone that has to be experienced to be fully understood. It is the culmination of years of hard work and personal sacrifice.
Some incubators, like Y Combinator and TechStars, were started by successful entrepreneurs wishing to help the next generation learn from their experiences. Other programs, such as Viterbi Startup Garage and Austin Technology Incubator, were created by universities to help young entrepreneurs bridge the knowledge gap from student to funded company.
As good and as smart as you may be, no one knows everything. I truly wish I was as smart as I thought I was when I started my first company.
Never expect that your startup can cover every aspect of the market. The key is knowing what segment will respond to your unique offering. Who your product appeals to is just as important as the product itself.
Whether you stay private or go public, after all is said and done, a CEO's job is to create lasting shareholder value.
As every entrepreneur and investor sifts through year-end data to predict the next trend or opportunity for financial success, there is a much easier way to accurately predict the future: hang out with those who are creating it.
Most companies overlook the most basic of all training functions: the onboarding of new employees into their corporate culture.
When Thomas and John Knoll launched Photoshop 1.0 in 1990, the software couldn't even handle color images. But their offerings got the startup noticed by Apple and Adobe, both of whom became key to the fledgling company's later success.
Targeted marketing delivers a lower customer acquisition cost and gets you to profitable growth faster. The goal is to quickly identify the costs associated with acquiring your most profitable segment of customers and the incremental value - if any - of going beyond your core.
Historically, more media has been consumed sitting in front of the television than any other device. Controlling this screen has been the goal of major technology, consumer electronic, and telecommunications companies.
The strength of brand loyalty begins with how your product makes people feel.
A successful entrepreneur is one who recognizes her blind spots. You may be the world's best engineer, but you probably have never run a 10-person sales force. You may be a brilliant marketer, but how do you structure a cap table?
By maintaining an active feedback system at every stage of a startup, founders can reduce their burn rate, increase their virality coefficient, and retain key hires.
Many first-time founders fail to understand the difference between the potential of the Total Addressable Market (TAM) and the very finite subsection they can hope to capture. No company ever captures the entire market they pioneer. Innovation doesn't happen in a vacuum, and others will jump in from the moment you've identified the potential.
Zuckerberg rejected $2 billion for Facebook and has successfully created a company worth nearly $200 billion.
Your innovation can create new winners and losers; or at the very least, make existing companies look fresh and innovative by partnering with you. Everyone wants to align with market makers.
Microsoft first entered the living room with Ultimate TV way back in 2000 - a year before Apple's first iPod was announced. Ultimate TV offered consumers a DVR and supporting online services, including 14 days of programming and the ability to record 35 hours of programming. Microsoft's reach was then thwarted when Echostar acquired DIRECTV.
The secret to fundraising comes down to three magic words: before, more, and strategic.
YouTube began as a failed video-dating site. Twitter was a failed music service. In each case, the founders continued to try new concepts when their big ideas failed. They often worked around the clock to try to overcome their failure before all their capital was spent. Speed to fail gives a startup more runway to pivot and ultimately succeed.
Too many startups get in the habit of continually raising more and more money, which has the deleterious effect of both pushing out profitability and limiting your exit options. The less rounds of capital you need to raise, the more of your company you get to own.
In my experience, there are only two valid reasons to take a company public: access to growth capital and investor fatigue.
Betting all your funds on the belief that you know what consumers want and are willing to pay for is like jumping into a river to test its depth - you'll need a lot of luck to stay afloat. To have a truly successful product launch, the conversations with your customers must start long before you write your first line of code.
The greatest challenge to most innovation centers around the world is many nations' punitive attitudes towards failure. In most of the world, if your first business fails, no one will work with you again. But, trial and error is the genesis of innovation.
New ideas for innovation grow out of the minds of each new generation. Having an institution of higher learning that can help young people put those ideas into action is critical.
Venture-backed startups with billion dollar market caps are called 'unicorns' because they are supposed to be rare mythical creatures that few entrepreneurs will ever ride.
The very first thing I tell every intern on the first day is that their internship exists solely on their resume. As far as I am concerned, they are a full-time member of my team. For all the negative stereotypes about millennials, you would be astounded by how hard they work when they believe their contribution matters.
Whether by design or circumstance, every startup will eventually get disrupted.
I tell people: walk around for one month and write down three problems in your life every day. At first it's easy - you got stuck in traffic, you missed your alarm - but by the end of the month you're looking really hard to get your 90 problems. The most common things on your list are now billion-dollar businesses.
You don't need to be an engineer or a tech person to benefit from technology. You can hire them.
Too many investors overvalue companies in the near term while undervaluing them in the long term.
The Industrial Revolution was about making physical things. Many of the manufactured goods that were once tangible objects have now been reduced to bits and bytes of data.
As great as you believe your new product or company is, the world got along just fine without you. The greatest competition every startup faces is convincing consumers that there is a better solution to the problems that vex them.
Some of the most lasting contacts and friendships that I have developed began by just grabbing a drink or breaking bread with a stranger at an industry event.
To thrive, all businesses must focus on the art of self-disruption. Rather than wait for the competition to steal your business, every founder and employee needs to be willing to cannibalize their existing revenue streams in order to create new ones. All disruption starts with introspection.
Social media and personalization are providing both brand advertisers and end-users with hyper-targeted choices and opportunities for double-digit growth.
What most entrepreneurs don't understand is that it isn't the economy that bursts a bubble, but investor psychology.
To truly launch a great product, you need partners. Channel and marketing partners share in your success and share in the costs of reaching your target audience.
Cable and satellite businesses are competing against fixed-line telephone companies and wireless companies.
For those that fear being taken advantage of by people working from home or on flexible schedules, I can say my experience is quite the opposite. Employees are so appreciative of these accommodations that they outperform their coworkers and are less likely to be poached by the competition.
Founders need sizable egos to believe that what they are creating is good enough to change the world. What makes for great co-founders is having those egos focused on complementary, not competing, skills.
Television programming is the number one topic on Twitter, and dozens of start-ups in the social space are linking second-screen experiences. People no longer need to sit on the same couch to enjoy a show together.