1. It’s not only IP, it’s also I&P
We all know that IP stands for Intellectual Property, which can include secret ideas, trade secrets, confidential material, inventions, special designs, copyrights, and so on.
But there is also I&P. Integrity and Passion. You need them both to succeed.
Integrity – because investors and co-founders are looking for people who keep their word, carry out what they say they will when they say they will, are straight shooters and decent people. Passion – because when you are passionate about your dream you can ignite that passion in others – investors, workers, customers and partners.
2. Help and Be Helped
In this connected world, we can tap into a major resource for assistance and advice – our social contacts. Sometimes even strangers connected through good friends. But they will only come through if they feel that you are the kind of person who helps others as well. So be the first to reach out and volunteer, provide advice and lend a hand to others. It not only makes you feel good, you will find supporters from around the globe.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. There are so many mentors eager to provide assistance and connections. Does asking for help show your vulnerability? You bet. I say go for it. Should you discuss your project? Unless your trade secrets are supercritical (for example, if you are writing a patent application), hiding your ‘hand’ in this day and age will often hold you back.
3. Hone your presentation skills.
Integrity and passion are fine skills, but you won’t make much headway if you’re not a great communicator and storyteller. Practice your oral and written skills and your ability to tell your company’s vision (in one sentence, one paragraph, and two minutes). Keep in mind that presentation tools such as powerpoint and handouts can also have a detrimental effect on riveting the attention of your audience on you and your message. Use them to add ‘punch’, not as a crutch.
Listening to others (whether in a presentation mode or direct conversation with another enterpreneur, potential customer) is also extremely important. Listen more than you talk!
4. Love thy co-founders
Many young companies with great ideas fall apart because of disagreements among the co-founders. Start-ups often involve very hard work and sleep deprivation, and all this for little or no initial remuneration. When nerves are frayed and tempers raw, co-founders can argue about everything and anything. Sometimes it is about important issues such as whether to pivot and in which direction. Voices are raised, tempers heat up.
Co-founders who have known each other for years, who love to hang out together, who can forgive each other’s shortcomings and foibles, who don’t argue about their stocks or grate on each others nerves are the ones who are much more likely to succeed. An investor once told me that if he perceives that the team pitching to him are as tight as a tank crew, he is much more likely to invest. For him, ideas are secondary to the cohesiveness of the team and the attributes of the individuals.
5. The Success Paradox
Statistically speaking less than 5% of start-ups are destined for success (some would say 1% or less). There are so many things conspiring against small companies developing new products.
Paradoxically though, you have to believe in yourself 100%. You have to believe in your team’s absolute and unequivocal success. If you don’t, then no one else will and that reduces your chances to about zero. Yes, we won’t all make it big on our first attempt. Or even our second. But eventually good things happen to the hard working, highly motivated. self-educated entrepreneurial crowd.
6. Miracle of Miracles
My friend Doron Nir says that anytime investors believe in your dream to the extent that they are willing to put the money where your mouth is, it’s a miracle.
I agree. And we all know that we shouldn’t take miracles for granted. If someone has invested in your idea, you should consider yourself very fortunate. Be very careful and stingy with the money, to make sure that it will last beyond the time frame you need to secure another investment or start selling your product or service. Nothing kills a start-up better than getting an investment and then going dry before the next one comes along.
7. Fun and Games
If your are in the game just for the money, I’d suggest you go do something else. If you are a real start up nut, you will also be in it for love, passion, the desire to change the world, mundane stuff like that. Coming up with a cool idea, building a prototype, developing a website or app, outwitting the competition, working with smart people that you care for, these are great bonuses. You don’t want to miss out on the EXPERIENCE of starting up. Be wide eyed, learn, share. But mainly, enjoy the roller coaster ride.
8. Coming up with the Idea
Personally I am not in favor of sitting around and ‘brainstorming’ about pains and needs. Thousands of youngsters are considering the same pains and needs all the time. But really good inventions can solve needs that we didn’t even know we were in need of solving.
The best way is to observe and question everything. I mean everything. From the moment you wake up till you go to bed. Ask yourself a zillion questions. Why is a metal hanger shaped the way it is? Why does my bed have four corners? Why do socks come only in pairs? Lots of questions. Be curious about everything. Challenge every dogma you can think of. Notice everything. Innovative people are always questioning everything. Is it because they are childish or childlike? Probably.
9. The Shower Moment
My friend Jeff Pulver talks about “shower moments”, those lightning bolts of great ideas and insights that hit us when we are least prepared for it. The Greeks believed it was the muses that gave humans these kinds of inspiration. So to prepare for your eureka moment, prepare not to have one. Do something routine. Swim, run, walk the dog, wash dishes, lie down and gaze at the sky. For some reason or other, the brain likes to come up with awesome ideas when you’re not ‘forcing it’ to. So let go a few minutes a day. Do something repetitive and routine. Watch great ideas start knocking you ever. Oh, and whenever you get one, write it down. Cherish it. Ponder. Sometimes that is where the secret sauce of your initiative lies.
10. Learn along the way and get your BA
There is another kind of BA that isn’t the kind you pick up going to college four years. It’s the kind of self-education that startupists undertake during the process of starting and running a new business. It’s the ability to learn whatever you need to know to succeed, with whatever resources you have on hand. And it’s priceless. I called it Being Amazing. Start being amazing now. If you are the kind of entrepreneur that learns incessantly, is not afraid of tackling hurdles, then even if you don’t succeed with your first start-up you will make it big eventually. Or join a larger team (or even big corporation that once was a start up) and help them succeed.
11. Luck be a Lady
According to my brother Dave and my friend Henry, luck is not something you wait for. It’s not something you prepare for. It’s something you chase after. Incessantly. Relentlessly. If life is a series of doors along a corridor, the trick is to knock at every door. If no one answers, you try the door knob. If it doesn’t open, you might have to kick the door down a bit. We call these people the “luck burglars“. You might be too shy to walk over to Larry and pitch your idea for the next generation search engine. Don’t be. And if you are, how about talking to ten strangers at your next networking event? Luck doesn’t happen if you don’t make it happen.