I continually talk about how starting a new company can be one of the
smartest things you can do in the current recession. Especially if you
are part of the growing legions of the unemployed for 14 weeks or more,
it is going to be a difficult 2010 for many people, and many of the
jobs that have been lost are simply not going to come back.
Before anyone should talk about starting a company and how great it
is to be your own boss, some realities need to be addressed.
Nevertheless, we also need to talk about the background of the person
writing about how great it is to be an entrepreneur to make sure that
they know what they are talking about when discussing starting a new
company. This is not the time to give bad advice, however many can give
reasonably balanced advice, which I plan on giving, balanced advice. As
I kick off this series on Entrepreneurialism here is my background in
I have started five companies in the last 12 years, of all those
companies two have been successful by just about any measure you can
think of. They are profitable, they employee people at a living wage,
and they filled a market niche. I am currently on my second successful
company. Yet, three of the companies I started failed and failed badly
– there were many lessons learned in that experience about me, what I
can and cannot reasonably do, and why sometimes “try before you buy” is
not always the best marketing plan a new startup can have in the
My current business is doing well, by any measure you can use, as
shown in the graph below. While it is not stellar (1000% growth or
better), 300% Year over Year growth is not a bad thing.
I am a member of multiple Entrepreneurial networks, and have been
for years. Many of the lessons I have learned from successful startups
and unsuccessful startups are both my own lessons learned, as well as
learning from the Entrepreneurial networks that dot a large chunk of
the world. There are many networks from Boston to Seattle, including
Utah. There are also networks in Europe as well as Asia that can be
used to help answer questions, provide feedback, and in some cases,
provide beta testers for your product or service. Above all, these
people will be honest with you about what you are doing, provide
support where appropriate and give you that dose of reality when you
need it. Many of the people I know, have discussed starting your own
company with, or have otherwise interacted with enough to know that
they are truly helpful.
I have a strong conviction that given what is happening now in
industry, we are just at the beginning of as large a dislocation of
talent, skills, and education as we had in the early days of the
industrial revolution. When the world moved from Agrarian based to
Industrial based work, from piecework to mass manufactured products
there was a mass dislocation of people who did not have the skills,
education, or opportunities to move from the old business model to the
new. As much as the industrial revolution happened on the global scale,
the computer/knowledge revolution is also happening on a global scale.
To have this work for you, you have to be able to compete not just with
Joe and Jane next door, but Mohammed in the Middle East, and Kalpana in
India, as well as Pedro in Mexico and Qi in China.
I know that if you are not thinking globally your company is going
to have a hard time growing. There is only so much that the local
population (your town, your city, your state) can provide you to
support company growth. This includes language support for technology
products, as well as an awareness and understanding of culture and how
it plays into a population’s decision making process. This also
includes national leaders and political systems that can change the
economic environment seemingly overnight for your company.
I know that starting your own company is not for everyone. Starting
your own company can be like jumping out of an airplane without a
parachute, there is no safety net outside of what society or culture
provides the individual. In the USA, it is state benefits for the
unemployed as well as access to Seed, Angel and VC money if the idea is
good enough and you have been able to independently grow your business.
In Europe, it is state benefits, as well as growing and dynamic support
with VC money. In Asia, money is still tied to family in many ways, or
partners who will give money but sometimes at a very steep price (much
more so than VC money in America or Europe). I know that everywhere
money is tight, ideas are many, but few will buy the idea right now.
This makes the “startup plunge” much more interesting for people
because money is always going to be an issue.
We all know the banking industry is deeply troubled – and that
banks are not your friends. Even with the growth rate of my company – I
cannot get a business loan to save my life. However, there are small
business friendly banking products out there, they are just difficult
I believe that there is a lot of great information on the internet
on how to be a great Entrepreneur, but they are difficult to find our
use language that is difficult to penetrate for people. Technology
people generally do not speak business, and business people generally
do not speak IT. Yet in a startup they have to, some of what I plan to
write is a language primer to help bridge the gap between the languages
so that working your startup will be easier. In a startup knowing many
skills is mandatory, not just a “desired skill”.
I know that startups rely on connections and in my series; I plan
to connect people to each other. You will see three main types of
personality in the Entrepreneurial business, people who are starting
companies, people who are connectors, and people who are members of
support groups and interact occasionally. The first two are the most
important, but it is also good to listen to the support groups when you
have a question.
I know that innovation is not dead, but that undirected innovation
goes nowhere. Innovation is wonderful but if it is not acted upon, it
remains uncreated and formless. An entrepreneur is busy creating his or
her own world putting form around the formless. It is the act of
creation that sets the entrepreneur apart from everyone else, and in
our hearts when we create even during a day job, we tend to be more
productive and expressive.
I know that many people will tell you that you are going to fail.
Your detractors will far outweigh your supporters by a huge margin.
When I started my latest company almost everyone thought I was insane,
but two years later, those same people are wondering what I am going to
do next to keep the growth rate at 300% Y/Y (Year over Year). Even
Google had people who would not invest or support the brand new search
company. Detractors are normal, but sometimes it is hard to rise above
the noise and keep on with your company. We all have good days and bad
days; even my company had them last year.
I know that there is a huge untapped potential in the world, with
the economy looking like it is going to shuffle along for at least the
next three to five years, it is time to tap that potential.
Those are my credentials, and that is why I am starting this new
series. While starting your own company is not for everyone, for some
it is something that they have wanted to do but did not know how to
make the plunge. In this series I plan to be a connector – helping
people find the right information the right people and the right
sources to start their own companies and “change the world”.
(Cross-posted @ IT Toolbox)