Living the Dream

When I ask other founders how things are going, I’m often given the reply, “you know, living the dream”.  Most times this comment is dripping with sarcasm as they slug through challenging times in their startup.  Founding a business isn’t easy; in fact its incredibly difficult.  However, for me, it has always been a dream.  Launching, running, and growing a success technology-based startup has been my goal for as long as I can remember.

For other non-founders, the “dream” often sounds more like a nightmare.  They don’t understand why anyone would want the sleepless nights, high anxiety, family tension, long work hours, low pay, etc — how could this ever be considered a “dream”?

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“Test Drive” Your Startup

Picture this – you wake up one morning and decide you need a new car.  You go to the first car dealership you can find, see a “shiny” car you want and with no questions asked and no research done, you buy it on the spot.  The sales person hands you the keys and you roll your new vehicle off the lot, only to find out that you hate how the car performs and immediately regret your decision.  In all your excitement, you are out thousands of dollars for a car you don’t want.  Why?  Simply because you never took it for a test drive.  Sounds crazy, right?  No one would ever do that.  However, when it comes to startups, many entrepreneurs make this same kind of mistake every day.

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8 “Epiphanies” of a Customer Development Rookie

At the heart of the Lean Startup model are the concepts of Customer Discovery and Customer Development.  They are simple concepts of forging relationships with potential customers during early-stage product development with the goal of ultimately going to market with a product that customers want to buy (what a novel concept….I know!).  This customer interview process is something Steve Blank calls “getting out of the building” — essentially, leaving your development lab and office, and getting in front of potential customers to ensure you are developing a product that solves a fundamental problem that they have.  I had never formally gone through these customer interview processes before, and honestly I had been a little skeptical initially — but not anymore.  What I’ve learned in a matter of 3 days of “getting out of the building” has been overwhelming…

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You Can’t Force Innovation

With the downturn in the market, more and more companies are jumping on the innovation “band wagon” as their quick fix strategy to survive.  For most of these companies, it’s too little, too late.  There is no magic pill that will turn your unimaginative company into an innovative genius overnight.  Innovation is about openness, creativity, and controlled chaos.  For those process-driven companies that are trying to figure out how to become creative, understand this important fact – you can’t force innovation.

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The Startup Leap of Faith

To launch a tech startup is fundamentally a leap of faith.  The odds are against you – plain and simple.  Most startups will not survive – we all know the stats.  The stakes are high and only a few will survive.  So what is it about the entrepreneurial spirit that empowers starters to risk it all? Continue reading

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Recession-Proof Startup?

The recession continues.  TImes are tough.  The markets continue dropping, unemployment rates are rising, and investments in startups are starting to dry up.  Yet many tech startups continue to thrive during these hard times…but how?
In my recent article, “Winter is Coming” – Will Your Startup Survive?, I highlighted the value and importance for founders to learn how to bootstrap.  However, bootstrapping alone won’t allow your tech startup to thrive through the coming tough(er) times.  Managing your corporate expenses is key – but meaningless if you have no revenue!  So how do you build a recession-proof tech startup?

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“Winter is Coming” – Will Your Startup Survive?

Huge early stage investment announcements seem to be a daily event.  Tech startups with little to no traction / revenue are receiving unbelievable seed and VC investments with valuations that most in the industry can’t comprehend.  But as Eric Ries highlights in his most recent article entitled “Winter is Coming“, these days of “summer” are going to come to an end.  Entrepreneurs – consider yourselves warned!  Investments in new tech startups are going to dry up, and “easy” seed funding isn’t going to be so easy to obtain.  So how can new tech startups prepare to survive for the cold “winter” ahead?  Here’s my advice…

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Is the Lean Startup Model Killing Product Innovation?

“Build it and they will come”….that’s what a lot of us techies were taught in school and used to believe. I thought that the cooler the design, the more elegant the technology, the bigger the “wow” factor, the more successful a product would become.  Not so.  The tech startup world has a lot of great inventions, fabulous technology, and amazing high-tech products that never lived up to their hype.  Times are changing, and the lean startup movement  is revolutionizing the way tech startups conceptualize, launch and grow their businesses.  Early stage customer development, market validation, and traction are the new keys to success and early stage investments…but wait!  How does innovation play into this new strategy?  Is there any value in technical product innovation any more?

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5 Reasons To Launch Your Startup In An Existing Market

Have you ever spoken with would-be entrepreneurs who are waiting on the sidelines for the “perfect” product idea to come to them that is totally unique, no competition, and will serve an entirely new market?  They purposely avoid markets with existing competition and feel the only way they can succeed in tech startup game is to launch with a novel idea that no one has ever seen before?  I think they’re crazy.  For new tech startups looking to bootstrap, generate revenue quickly, and learn a lot about the startup game, I’m a huge fan of intentionally jumping into an existing market with competing products.  Here’s why….

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Build a Great Team and Success Will Follow

It’s often said that investors invest in people not products.  The management team carries a lot of weight when startups are looking for early stage investments, but often entrepreneurs spend all their time and resources focused on building a great product with little focus on building a great team.  I’m a strong believer in the power of a great team.  If you put together a small, committed, positive team that believes in itself, it can do anything.  When it comes to building successful startups, I believe entrepreneurs should focus on building great teams first — a great product and great company will follow.

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