Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneur’
The Entrepreneur magazine has asked three successful entrepreneurs to describe a scenario of doing things all over again if they had a chance. Below is their response.
Sunny Bonnell, 33, co-founder of Motto Agency, a brand and design firm in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Founded in 2003, the company’s year-end sales are projected to reach about $1 million.
“As a woman business owner, I would have reached out to organizations like Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence a lot sooner than I did. They have helped me build our networks on a national level (i.e., establish partnerships with FedEx, OPEN from American Express and Dell) and given us access to mentorship, marketing opportunities and business resources.”
Anthony Mongeluzo, 28, founder of The Pro Computer Service LLC, an IT services company in Medford, N.J. He founded the company in 2002 and now has annual revenue in excess of $2 million.
“I would have treated my company like a real business and not looked upon it as a stepchild. I would have given it the same full effort every day and not wasted my energy from 9 to 5 with my employer grasping for a moment or two to sneak in a quick call to one of my clients.”
Kris Putnam-Walkerly, 40, founder of Putnam Community Investment Consulting Inc., a Cleveland-based philanthropy consulting firm for foundations and nonprofits. She founded the company in 1999 and projects 2009 revenue to approach $1 million.
“I should have conducted more regular financial analysis of the business early on to help me understand which types of services and clients were most profitable and to allow me to make more informed decisions as I grew.”
Personally, I am also still struggling with my own startup, Elegua, to have it gain sufficient traction, especially considering that I and my partner are on a bootstrapping mode till now. And we both fall into the “lesson learned” of the second entrepreneur, Anthony Mongeluzo, above. My previous initiative, OpenCoffee Club Cairo, is also sort of put on hold, as the inaugural meetup didn’t attract a threshold number of local entrepreneurs, startup enthusiasts, VCs, techies and individuals interested. This reminds me as well to give it another push, as I also got a recent feedback to renew my effort. Hence:
Persevere, persevere, persevere. Perseverance, especially in cultures/societies with corresponding 0-market knowledge of or unadapted mentality to the ideas of the business initiative in question, it is vital to persevere and however steep a climb it might seem, there is always a societal learning curve, which, once the tipping point is achieved, will become self-sustainable.
Given its complete novelty and unawareness in the MENA region and in Egypt, I think I will give it another try.
What are your experiences and lessons learned?
P.S. I know it has been a long time since my last post. My own side projects and my work prevented my “blogging creative juices” from running. I will try to be more systematic henceforth.
Dot.com bubble witnessed many young, bright and entrepreneurial spirits launch themselves into the tech gold rush only to see themselves chasing the fool’s gold. Too many entrepreneurs wound up in searching for jobs in not-so-inspiring companies and earning not-so-high a salaries. But few found courage to continue their entrepreneurial march and found new beginnings, although not necessarily with happy endings. Eric Ries of IMVU, named as one of the Best Young Entrepreneurs of Tech in 2007 by BusinessWeek, is a case in point.
Eric, like many other talented and bright young men in America, had a rather typical start at Yale: have an idea/dream, find a soulmate, work on the idea.
While pursuing a degree in computer science at Yale, Ries took cues from young techies in Silicon Valley who had no problem getting VC firms to back their software dreams. So he and a roommate started CatalystRecruiting.com, an online database of student résumés, and lined up their own slice of the VC pie. “In retrospect it was not such a good idea for investors to give money to kids who just barely knew what they were doing,” Ries says. “They were just throwing money at these companies. But when the bubble burst we had no chance.”
This first idea failed along with ideas and dreams of many others in the same dot.com lot. His next go? There.com.
Soon another lesson would begin. Ries describes There.com as a “traditional VC-model startup,” characterized by high fixed costs, a focused marketing strategy—and an underdeveloped sense of what consumers want. “They start a marketing buzz and a beautiful PR launch,” he says of the strategy too often pursued by startups, There.com included. Ries rattles off other hallmarks: blow through cash by bulking up on staff, hire a vice-president of marketing “and the burn rate keeps growing.” The trouble is, “they never tested if there would be immediate consumer adoption,” Ries says. Worse, the company couldn’t easily adapt to change, he says. “It was rigid and top-down.” Neither Ries nor Harvey lasted long.
The second time failed as well. None of the two did not seem to be a killer startup and couldn’t not wither turbulent and volatile tech market conditions. He did not digest well the errors he has made during the first two gos. One pattern he could however clearly see in both of his failures was the perceived gap between the tech strategy and business strategy, i.e. the tech-centered approach versus the customer-centered one.
For Ries, try No. 3 would be a charm. After losing their jobs at There.com, Ries and Harvey began working on their own startup, IMVU. This time, Ries says, the lessons stuck. “I knew I couldn’t just be a tech entrepreneur,” he says. “The tech strategy needs to be determined by the business strategy, not the other way around,” he says. So the company’s first meeting was all about determining culture and values. “Startups don’t fail from lack of technology,” he says. “They fail from lack of customers.”
His discipline, creativity and determination led him and his partner-in-crime Harvey into founding IMVU. This time, he knew well how to organize his startup; he had learnt it a bitter way, but he did. This time he knew well what there was to know about founding a startup, he had two failures under his belt, and he was determined to succeed.
Early on in his tenure as IMVU’s chief technology officer, Ries audited a class at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. The instructor, Steve Blank, was so impressed with Ries’ attention to strategy and understanding of business R&D, that he called Shawn Carolan, a managing director at Menlo Ventures, and advised him to invest. Carolan describes Ries as the guy who would go out and read a business strategy book the moment someone mentioned it.
Fruits of his protracted efforts, failures and unfettered passion for what he believed started showing up, the first sign being almost a lucky strike.
Menlo became a backer, as did Allegis Capital (IMVU also had angel investors). “In the consumer market you have to have humility to admit you don’t know exactly what the consumer wants, so that you can be proactive and test features and make changes,” Carolan says. “Eric has an unusual amount of humility and he is unique as a tech person in his ability to be strategic in his business.”
IMVU showed all signs of success early on. Ries started practicing a lean approach for his own startup. Lean startups are resources-, money- and energy-frugal from the very beginning, and as a result are poised better for sustainable growth and long lifetime.
Part of that strategy was taking the product to the customer for testing as early as possible and keeping site development costs low. IMVU.com had a beta version up and running within six months. By contrast, there hadn’t been a test of There.com in its first five years. To prove that the product resonates with customers, there is a small fee associated with participation, and so far, the test phase has met or exceeded the corresponding financial targets.
Additionally, Ries has helped keep expenses in check by adopting a low-cost, low-risk software development process that maximizes ways to improve the site.
IMVU turned out to be an ultimate success and so did Ries, who is not only a full-time in his own startup but serves on boards of other leading tech boxes like pbWiki, Causes and KaChing.
Now the world is facing a recession, the worst one since the Great Depression. But entrepreneurial world is not necessarily crying doom and end to new ideas and initiatives. While some do, others are more moderate by providing an advice/how-to and still others are outright optimistic for launching a startup especially during this recession.
Make your choices.
It is not easy for most entrepreneurs and businessmen to talk about their own failures. When they do, they tend to be indulgent or lenient about their past experiences and are inclined to shift some of the “blame” on environment, tendencies, people or just plain luck (lack of it). Only few speak candidly and admit their errors openly with intention of contributing to the accumulated business wisdom and in hope of providing useful information for those aspiring and resourceful entrepreneurs who are at the beginning of their paths. The first step to overcome a failure starts by admitting that we are not perfect.
Jeremy Schoemaker, the founder of ShoeMoney Media Group, is one of the entrepreneurs who had many ideas, which could potentially lead to business successes but instead turned out to be business failures.
Anyway I came up (in about 10 minutes) my top 10 worst ideas to make money that totally were a waste of time and effort (and money in some cases).
Below are some of his top 10 worst money making ideas he came up with.
10 – FireFox Forum (firefoxforum.com) – I purchased this site on digitalpoint ($800) after getting some inside information that FireFox was going to team up with Google on a per download affiliate program. Well all that happened and I think I made about 50$ the first year. FLOP
7 – Omaha-Used-Cars.com – Now here we go! This is easy. Just make a used car site and charge dealers a .25cent per car listing fee right ? ehhh none interested… FLOP
6 – SMS Text Dating textdating.com/texting.com – I was soooooooo sure this one was going to be it! The concept is simple basically you subscribe to this dating website. Make a profile then you could send a message to the person from the website to there mobile phone without having to know there phone number. I had this totally done and nobody every signed up… FLOP
5 – St. Marry’s Bar & Grill – Ok this has nothing to do with the internet. After the Hooters closed down in Lincoln I tried to re-open it then when that did not work out I thought about making a restaurant called St. Marrys where it was like a church and the waitresses dressed like catholic school girls and like the nuns would be the managers and spank the waitresses if they were bad?!? Yes I know bad idea and I never really pursued it…. I like in one of the most conservative catholic communities in the country so no way it would fly… and yes i know im going straight to hell.
3 – Ads Or Not
Simple concept. There is 5 ads on a webpage only one of them is NOT REALLY A AD! Each time you successfully spot the fake ad you get some money built up into your account. – I had issues finding advertisers who were down for this =P FLOP
1 – ShoeMoney Petroleum Company -
(I cant believe im actually telling these in public)
Ok Follow me here -
I want to purchase a Gas Station and Give away Free Gas
The catch is like the gas would come out really slow and also you would be limited as to how much you could get per week. (Like max 50 gallons a week).
How do I make money ? EASY – I would setup paintball guns around the gas station with webcams that would let people from the internet take shots at the people filling up there cars with gas. You could charge per shot or a xxxx amounts of shots per month for a set fee. PROBLEM – I talked to a city council member about this and he told me there was a “no flying ordinance” or something rule within city limits however I could maybe do it in the country…
As you see the breadth and width of ideas is not lacking in originality and ambition. Some of the ideas above would surely seem killer to me and many other entrepreneurs. However, not all, even brilliant and innovative, ideas become equally successful and growing businesses. In face of the ongoing financial crisis and shrinking funds, quite a few investors and VCs go as far as clearly outline what an idea needs to have to obtain a backing. For those who cannot reach VC/investor pockets or are simply willing to build their business without initial VC/investor funding, there is also a way. Whichever way you choose, make sure to check out the startup rules of Loic Le Meur, the founder of Seesmic, and those of Sequoia Capital, a leading VC firm, and do not be afraid to fail. Embrace your failure, learn from it, and remember the words of one of the most profound thinkers of 19th century, Friedrich Nietzsche, who mused, “What does not kill you makes you stronger.”