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  • Agile Philosophy
  • Building the Business
  • Customers & Competition
  • Feasibility
  • Investors
  • Making Money
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Pitching Your Startup
  • Team
  • Technology Startups
  • What to Know Before You Go

Rule #1

Rule #1 in entrepreneurship is to have fun.  As Dale Carnegie said, “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” If you’re having fun it’s immediately…

What’s Your Why?

Without a doubt, starting a company is one of the hardest things that you’ll do in your life.  In fact, most entrepreneurs looking back say that they wouldn’t do it…

You Are Wrong

I don’t know the answer…nobody does.  Only by going through a process of learning and discovery with potential customers, industry experts, suppliers, and partners will you arrive at the right…

Heaven… and Hell

Building a successful business from scratch is nothing short of amazing.  Think about everything that needs to happen to start a business into today’s hyper-competitive world.  Entrepreneurs have to do…

You Only Get 15,000 Days

Startups are riddled with momentous, dream-crushing risk.  It’s inescapable.  It’s the unfathomable risk that forces you to commit and put everything on the line when you start a business.  Despite…

The Entrepreneurial Method

There’s only one thing you can be certain of in a startup—nothing is certain.  You don’t know the right answer, and neither does anyone else.  To be successful, you must…

Focus on Problems, Not Solutions

At the most fundamental level, new products or services succeed because they solve problems in customers’ minds.  PCs helped eliminate tedious, time-consuming paperwork.  Smartphones gave people an internet connection anywhere…

Three Requirements for Success

We always hear about the unequaled abilities of superstar entrepreneurs.  Stories like these are juicy – the public and scoop-seeking reporters alike love them.  This skewed media coverage makes it…

Dreamers Vs. Doers

Too many would-be entrepreneurs are stuck in the land of fairy tales.  Dreamers, blinded by the supposed genius of their ideas, fantasize about how marvelous life will be when they’re…

Get Out of the Building

Like all entrepreneurs, you think that you have all the answers.  No, you know that you have the answers.  You are wrong.  What you have are assumptions, not answers.  You…

Business Plans are Worthless

Your business plan is worth less than the paper (or bytes) it’s written on.  Especially in the beginning, things are so fluid that it would be too time consuming to…

Let Them Steal It

Some entrepreneurs refuse to share their ideas with others.  A wide variety of excuses are offered to justify “stealth” mode, but the undertone is almost always that the entrepreneur was…

Embarrass Yourself

If you’re not embarrassed by the first prototype you put in front of a prospective customer, then you launched too late.  Your instinct will be to postpone your launch until…

Fail Fast – And Often

People learn best through trial and error, which is a nice way of saying that people learn through failure.  Startups are no different.  Let’s say, for example, you assume that…

Contain Risk as Early as Possible

Entrepreneurs are revered by the public and press as senseless risk takers.  They’re “renegades” who gamble everything on crazy ideas and irrational, futuristic visions.  Yes, startups are soaked with risk. …

First, Decide What Not To Do

Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day.  Even the best funded startups are in a struggle against time.  Despite working nonstop, deadlines will slip and opportunities will be…

Rules? What Rules?

The journey of a startup is daunting.  Think about everything that you have to overcome, and you’ll quickly see that the odds are stacked heavily against you.  Every serial entrepreneur…

Talk to People

To create something special that people actually care about, you have to know what they want.  And that means you have to talk to potential customers.  Part of you will…

FOCUS – Follow One Course Until Successful

Being an entrepreneur is somewhat of a contradiction.  You have to be able to scan for new opportunities, and focus all on a limited number of projects at the same…

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

Many founders become so enamored with their businesses that they lose sight of the very customers they want to serve.  They seem to forget that customers have the ultimate say…

Forget About Google

Here are two truths about starting a company that might surprise you: First, you don’t have to create the next Google to be financially successful.  There are more millionaires made…

Who the Hell Are You?

When it comes to creating a thriving business, your initial idea is probably only 1% of the equation.  Make that 1% of 1%.  The other 99.99% depends on how the…

Get In Over Your Head

A big difference between large company managers and small business founders is the rate at which decisions must be made.  As an entrepreneur, you have to make rapid-fire decisions constantly. …

How’s Your Project Going?

If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you are constantly coming up with new ideas.  You get inspired, brainstorm, bounce ideas off of your friends and family, and are always on the…

There is No Silver Bullet

There are no easy answers in the startup game.  There’s no immediate resolution or obvious solution.  There’s no single idea that, when it dawns on you, will guarantee your victory. …

It Ain’t a Problem ‘Til It’s a Problem

It’s easy to overthink and overanalyze issues with your startup when there are so many unknowns.  Projecting into the future, your plan highlights key risks and potential downsides that you…

Launch to Learn

The foundation of the agile startup is that you don’t have all of the answers, you have to get them from the market.  You’ll have hunches as to what the…

Stop Experimenting and Start Building

When you have a new idea, you have to prove it’s feasible by constructing well thought-out experiments.  You already know this.  But testing a business idea is not the same…

Resourcefulness, Not Resources

Even the best-funded startups are resource-constrained.  Entrepreneurs have to make every expenditure count.  It’s the nature of the game.  Realizing this, the best founders don’t fixate on their lack of…

Is It Feasible?

The point of a feasibility study is to determine whether or not you have a viable business.  Whether a formal report or back of the envelope estimate, feasibility is fundamental…

Ass Out of U and ME

Assumptions are elements of your proposed business that you believe to be true, but have not yet proven.  As Oscar Wilde said, “When you assume, you make an ass out…

Three Questions You Must Answer

As you study the feasibility of your new venture, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.  Fundamentally, starting and running a company is a straight-forward proposition—you have to…

Double Your Worst Case

Through the process of determining feasibility for your idea, you will explore and analyze every key aspect of the proposed business.  Sometimes overoptimistic entrepreneurs include something intangible in their final…

Five Risk Factors

Startup risks can be divided into five broad categories.  The first risk is the product risk, which addresses uncertainties with the solution itself.  Technology risk falls under this category.  Product…

Product 1.0 – A Brochure

Before you build a product, write a brochure.  There are a bunch of benefits to getting early feedback with a brochure instead of a product.  Creating a mock-up or spec…

Good Ideas, Bad Businesses

Not all good ideas translate into good businesses.  Many doomed entrepreneurs start their businesses on a whim – they see an opportunity for a one-off product that would make their…

Wrong Questions –> Wrong Answers

To determine feasibility, you have to interview a lot of people.  Interviewing, in fact, will take most of your time as you learn about how customers think and what they’d…

Vitamin, Pain Killer, or Cure?

Always think about your product or service in terms of the benefits it provides to its users.  Your solution is much more than the sum of its features.  One way…

Create Massive Value

There’s only one thing you need to know to build a successful company – you must create massive value for your customers.  People and organizations are willing to trade their…

Why Won’t It Work?

When exploring a new idea you have to play devil’s advocate constantly.  It’s too easy to fall in love with your concept and lose track of reality.  A great way…

Show Me the Money

Talking someone out of their hard-earned money is a great way to determine the feasibility of an idea. In fact, selling is the best form of entrepreneurial market research.  What…

Does It Pencil?

More than anything else, the feasibility of a business is determined by its ability to make a profit.  As obvious as that sounds, it’s easy to overlook in the fever…

Play Dumb

The importance of early interviews can’t be overstated.  Hidden in these conversations are the clues you need to piece together your startup puzzle.  These clues will either confirm that you’re…

Get a Haircut

By now you know that you need to get your product launched as quickly as possible.  It’s easy to postpone the launch, and convince yourself that a polished product will…

If You Build It, Will They Come?

A fundamental piece of any feasibility study is the customer acquisition strategy, or how you will land new customers.  You should have a great answer to the question, “How are…

Growing Pains

There are a lot of ways to get more customers.  When it comes to evaluating the feasibility of the business, you have to know exactly where this growth is going…

Buying Customers

How hard is it to reach your target market?  Do you have to search for customers or will they find you?  The average dollar amount spent to land a new…

CLV >= 2 * CAC

Now that you know the acquisition cost of new customers you can compare that to the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).  The CLV is the total amount of money that an…

The Price is Wrong

In the early days of a startup, entrepreneurs have a tendency to make pricing their products or services much more complicated than it needs to be.  Fundamentally, the price you…

Cash is More Important Than Your Mother

Cash is king.  The cash dynamics of your startup are often a make-or-break aspect of your feasibility study.  There are two sides to cash, what you take in, and what…

Think Like a VC

When exploring the feasibility of your business, pretend you are the investor.  Actually, it’s not that far from the truth – you are about to invest years of your life,…

Break It Down

When looking at the feasibility of a new idea you have to break down the market.  There are a few ways to slice and dice your market.  Market sizes are…

Ride a Megatrend

The typical startup story goes something like this: an aspiring entrepreneur is tired of being inconvenienced in some way, so she creates her own solution.  After proving her new solution…

Know Thy Market

There’s a lot to be said for having industry experience on the founding team.  Oftentimes, industries have quirks and ways of doing business that might not be immediately obvious to…

To B(2B) or Not to B(2B)

Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of customers: businesses (B2B) and consumers (B2C).  The type of customer you pursue heavily influences your startup strategy.  Consider, for example, how drastically your…

WII.FM – Your Favorite Radio Station

WII.FM is everyone’s favorite radio station – What’s In It For Me?  What you sell doesn’t matter.  Potential customers could care less about the features of your product or service….

Tell Me What Sucks

When first adopting a market-driven approach, it’s tempting to think that prospective customers will be able to give you all the answers and tell you what they need.  They’re the…

You Can’t Boil the Ocean

Once you’re comfortable with the size of your market and the potential opportunity, it’s time to drill down and focus on one or two segments of the market with the…

Get Them Early

Even within your market, people and organizations are wildly different in how they make purchasing decisions.  There are five different kinds of customers as you move along the product adoption…

Nice Guys Finish Last

When first starting out, it’s easy to get lost in the jungle without a compass. You’ll hear advice from everyone pushing you in all different directions.  Users will want you…

#1 Startup Killer

It doesn’t matter how good your team or product are if you are entering a terrible market.  You might have nailed the value proposition with an amazing new technology, but…

Lady Luck

You are in total control of many things in your startup.  But there are two things that you have no control over – luck and timing.  While we like to…

Reframe the Competition

People are natural and creative problem solvers.  If there are lingering problems of importance, they’ll usually find ways to reduce or eliminate them.  The severity of the pain determines how…

Make a Competitive Matrix

When it comes to starting a new business, you can’t overlook the competition.  You have to know who you’re competing against, and how you’re going to beat them in at…

Differentiate or Die

A surefire way to fall on your face is to lack meaningful differentiation from the competition.  A startup that tries to win market share by copying an already established brand…

Competition is a Good Thing

When pitching their startups, first-time entrepreneurs often brag that they don’t have competition.  This boasting usually implies that they’re onto a unique opportunity that’s never been thought of before.  News…

Follow the Leader

When first starting out, you have to de-risk your startup by eliminating as many unknowns as early as you can.  The way the industry works is one of key unknowns…

Get a Job

Strong experience in an industry is one of the highest indicators of a startup’s likelihood for success.  This is well-known by professional investors, who often insist on industry experience before…

Fast Followers Finish First

Entrepreneurs always want to be first to market.  There’s a sense of security about being first and not having any competitors to worry about.  New founders brag about the lack…

Stand on Their Shoulders

Founders usually think that they’re at war with their competitors, and they should despise everything about them.  They dismiss competitors’ strategies as foolish and incompetent.  In actuality, your competitors are…

10X Better

When entering an established market, you have to worry about switching costs, or the costs required for a customer to switch from a competing product to yours.  These costs vary…

You Need a Moat

A moat is a deep, broad ditch that surrounds a castle and provides it with a preliminary line of defense.  In their heyday, moats rendered the enemies’ most effective weapons…

Zero Degrees of Separation

It shouldn’t be a special occasion for you to talk to your customers.  They are your lifeblood, so get close to them and understand what’s happening on the front lines…

What’s Your Business Model?

It’s easy to get confused with academic definitions of “business model,” so let’s put it in the simplest of terms—a business model is how your business makes a profit.  Note…

The Best Source of Capital

Too many entrepreneurs are obsessed with investors.  These kinds of founders are easy to spot – when you ask them how their businesses are going, a normal response would be…

How Do You Make Money?

Not to be confused with a business model, your revenue model is how your company makes money.  There are dozens of potential revenue models, including subscriptions, product sales, data sales,…

Gross Profit Margins

One of the most important financial metrics you need to understand is your gross profit.  The gross profit is difference between the revenue and the cost of making a product…

Prefer Variable to Fixed

There are two kinds of costs – variable and fixed. Variable costs are those that increase or decrease along with a specific activity.  Fixed costs, on the other hand, are…

Go Bootstrap Yourself

You “bootstrap” your business when you start and grow it without outside capital.  The vast majority of companies started in the U.S. are bootstrapped.  Why bootstrap?  Most new companies can’t…

Fire Your Customers

When starting out, you’re desperate for validation, customers, and revenue.  So you take on any customer who will have you.  To land customers, you make big promises and shower them…

The First Rule to Making Money

Here’s an obvious truth: you can’t make money until you have something to sell.  If you have a website that’s half-built, or a product still under development, there’s no way…

You Are Running Out of Oxygen

Think of your startup as a submarine that’s miles below the surface.  You have to get to the surface – profitability – before you run out of oxygen.  Especially at…

The First Dollar is the Hardest

When it comes to personal wealth, people always say that “the first million is the hardest.”  With startups, the first dollar is the hardest.  There are so many things that…

Bottoms Up

A key component of any business feasibility analysis is the financial projections.  The projections will reveal the financial feasibility, scale, and investment required to get your business going.  A common…

Build a (Bad) Financial Model

Yes, your financial projections will be wrong.  But that doesn’t get you off the hook.  A financial model is valuable not due to its accuracy, but because building one forces…

Gut Check

By the time your financial model is built, your business model should so well understood that you could go toe-to-toe with any banker or investor.  Now it’s time for a…

Fall In Line

Your financial projections are based on hundreds of assumptions and unknowns, so you have to sanity check your results.  There are a couple great ways to do this.  By far,…

How Much Runway?

One financial number that you should always have in the back of your mind is how much runway you have left.  How many months until you run out of money? …

Know Your Do-or-Die Numbers

Every business has its make or break financial assumptions.  Also known as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), these do-or-die figures are the drivers of your business.  A web company’s KPIs might…

Luck is Not a Plan

At the most fundamental level, marketing is the process of converting unaware people into paying customers.  Of all your activities, landing new customers is the heart and soul of your…

What’s Your Positioning?

Positioning is the process of creating a unique perception of your products, in the mind of the customer, as compared to your competition.  A positioning statement is the best way…

Hold the Presses

One common startup marketing trap is the lure of the press.  A feature in the New York Times or an appearance on Oprah is considered the holy grail of publicity. …

Old Meets New

There are two kinds of markets—old and new.  The computer industry is a mature and established market, whereas cloud computing is nascent and emerging.  Your offering will either blaze a…

Sell Wants, But Deliver Needs

Consumers buy on emotion.  Women buy beauty products to look like the models.  Men buy fast, expensive sports cars because of how they’ll look driving them.  While consumers buy on…

How Can I Help You?

We all like talking about ourselves, and why not? But when you or your ads are selling to a customer, the focus needs to be on them.  Companies focus mistakenly…

Turn $1 into $2+

Advertising is an investment, and, especially as a startup with limited resources, you need to get a quick return on your investment.  That is, you better be getting customers from…

Do It Twice

The market has the answers, even to your advertising questions.  People respond differently to messaging, so it’s hard to know exactly what will resonate with your target market.  You will…

Perception is Reality

The universal thorn in startup’s side is a constant lack of resources.  Startups simply don’t have the resources to launch national advertising campaigns, lease the best retail space, or build…

Be a Guerilla Marketer

Guerilla marketing is a catchall term used to describe unconventional marketing tactics.  Guerilla marketing is a cost-effective way to be different and get the word out, which is why a…

The Secret to Writing Copy That Sells

It’s not easy to write killer copy.  Whether you are writing for your website, packaging, or an advertising campaign, writing copy that sells can be unexpectedly challenging.  Realize we’re talking…

Your Brand Talks

Promise…Then Over-Deliver

The way you communicate and interact with potential customers create an unspoken promise.  Whether it’s through advertising, packaging, or customer service, your communications let customers know what to expect.  Marketers…

A Good Partner is Hard to Find

Having one or more partners can be incredibly helpful. With the right partner, it’s possible to get to market sooner, iterate faster, build a better product, network wider, and increase…

Not So Fast, Partner

It’s understandable why people are quick to partner – the risk and likelihood of failure are so great that having someone by your side can provide tremendous moral support.  But…

The Right Partner Formula

Get a Pre-Nup

Would you get married to a person you’ve only spent a few days with?  It may sound like an insane weekend in Vegas, but startup founders do this all the…

ABCs of Hiring

Almost all startups have one of two kinds of teams: A strong team of “A” players, or a weak team with “B” and “C” players.  Why this grouping? A people…

Your Startup is a Boat

What are the three most important factors that determine the success or failure of a new company? Team, team, and – you guessed it – team.  It’s impossible to overstate…

The Build/Sell Team

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, famously said that business has two major functions: innovation and marketing. In other words, the purpose of your business is to build great…

Make Sure You’re Aligned

Starting a business is a long-term commitment, so you need to make sure that you and your partners will be aligned well into the future.  It’s crucial that all founders’…

Hire Slow, Fire Fast

How to Get the Best People

Getting top talent can require paying the highest salary, but not always.  Stock options are an obvious incentive to keep your employees invested in your company’s success. But salary and…

Fire Yourself

Different modes of leadership are required to transition your company from inception to maturity.  Broadly, you can split a company’s lifecycle into two phases – search and growth. At inception,…

You Are Not Scalable

When you first started out, you did everything yourself. You designed the brochures, you called on customers, and you responded to every e-mail.  Heck, you probably even built the website…

Take a Timeout

Starting a company is like having a baby.  You and your team are creating something special where there was nothing before. Because you and your team care so much about…

Mess with the Vest, Die Like the Rest

Vesting is a way to make people earn their equity over time. Instead of giving 100% of an equity grant up front, vesting allows you to award it over time. …

Sharing a Submarine

Before you partner with anyone ask yourself, “Would I share a submarine with her?”  Given the long and hard hours you will spend together, this isn’t much of a stretch. …

Delegate, Don’t Abdicate

The temptation of every overworked entrepreneur is to hand off responsibilities as quickly as possible.  Don’t delegate duties until you’ve done them yourself first.  To do otherwise is to abdicate,…

Form an Advisory Board

You need an advisory board to hold you accountable and challenge you.  Forming a board actually isn’t that difficult once you know how they’re structured.  Your end goal is to…

Who’s the Boss?

When it comes to partnering with someone else, the only time a 50/50 equity split makes sense if when you can’t do it without the other guy.  If this isn’t…

Get Your Story Straight

There are four kinds of pitches that you should master to wow your audience in any situation – the tagline, one-liner, elevator pitch, and full presentation. A tagline is your…

Get to the Next Step

Any time you pitch, first figure about what you want to accomplish.  Your intended outcomes will affect what you say and how you say it.  When talking to an investor…

Half as Long is Twice as Good

The audience rarely likes to listen as much as you like to talk, especially when it comes to your startup.  Empathize with your audience, and make your presentation impactful and…

First Rule of Elevator Pitches

A great elevator pitch is more sizzle than steak. While there’s no right formula for an elevator pitch, the best usually has these elements: offering, pain point, market data, traction,…

Back of a Business Card

You should be able to summarize the business on the back of a business card.

Pass the One-Thirty Test

You know you’re ready to pitch when you can pass the One-Thirty Test.  To pass it, you have to present the business, make your idea understood, and get people excited…

Get Used to Rejection

Generating sales is one of your top jobs as an entrepreneur.  Build something, pitch it, and sell it.  The process is easy to understand, but hard to execute.  Especially early…

Use the Use Case

A use case is a great way to help your audience understand how your product or service will be used by your customers.  Typically, the use case is told as…

What Did I Just Say?

New acquaintances tend to be overly agreeable, so it can be hard to tell if you’re any good at pitching.  Rarely will someone come out and tell you that they…

Make It Stick

As advertising execs know better than anyone, repetition is the key to build brand awareness.  The same is true when you present.  A watered down message won’t stick.  To keep…

Tease, Don’t Teach

People have the terrible habit of wanting to jam every imaginable detail onto their presentation slides. This usually happens is because people are underprepared – they don’t know the materials…

Simple and Standalone

Your slides need to be a complement to your speech, not a substitute.  The last thing you want your audience to do is to read your slides instead of listen…

Name it and Frame it

How can you convey your idea in three seconds or less?  One tried and true way is to relate your business to one that is already well-known. Rather than trying…

Find the Hot Buttons

Long gone are the hard sell days of scripted, uninterrupted presentations.  Face-to-face selling today requires a consultative approach.  Rather than steamrolling your audience, you need to probe in order to…

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

As an entrepreneur, you will be out of your element often.  At the beginning, when you have to do everything yourself, you will always feel like you’re behind the eight…

Be Simple, Not Simplistic

Why do we always overcomplicate things?  Especially comes to presentations, big words and dazzling animations are more likely to confuse and distract your audience than gain their confidence.  Follow the…

Don’t Bury the Lead

Journalists use the phrase “bury the lead” when they don’t hook the reader in the first line with the most interesting fact or insight.  The same is true for your…

You Are the First Investor

Even if you’re bootstrapping, you always have an investor.  You are your business’s first and most important investor.  And you invest something much more important than cash – your life. …

Got Traction?

Investors care most about traction, especially when it comes to valuations.  You’ll probably deal with investors who don’t know you personally, so they have to make educated guesses about your…

Passionate? No — Obsessed

Investors need to know that you’re committed to building a blockbuster business with every fiber of your being.  They want your business on your mind 24 hours a day, seven…

Pigs Get Slaughtered

Whether it’s with investors, partners, or employees, don’t be too greedy with your equity.  Hoarding equity might mean that you retain ownership of your company, but owning all of the…

Investors Are Not Created Equal

Contrary to popular belief, most investors are specialists and invest only in their areas of expertise.  Through specialization they’re able to gain an advantage over fellow investors and identify promising…

Post-Courtship

An investor’s behavior, interests, and incentives change quite drastically pre- and post-investment. When an investor has decided to invest, he or she will be in full sales mode.  This is…

Level the Playing Field

A sophisticated investor’s terms can be both confusing and daunting, particularly for first-time entrepreneurs. Negotiating a term sheet is something that you might do three or four times over the…

Do You Want To Be Rich or King?

This is a favorite closing line that venture capitalists use to seal a deal.  When you’re starting out, you own 100% of the company, which means you call all of…

When No Leads to Yes

Entrepreneurs and investors look at the world fundamentally differently.  While entrepreneurs are always looking for ways to say yes, investors look for any excuse to say no.  They’ll take the…

The Train is Leaving the Station

To get investors excited about your business, you have to convey a sense of unstoppable momentum. You have to give the impression that your startup train is leaving the station…

Calling All Angels

Angel investors, or wealthy individuals who invest their own money, are typically a company’s first source of financing.  They invest for a variety of reasons, but most of the time…

Counting Chickens

One mistake commonly made by entrepreneurs actively fundraising is to oversell their current sales or partnership pipeline.  By advertising that you’re about to close a big deal before anything is…

The Lemmings Need a Leader

Investors are often compared to lemmings, and for good reason.  Lemmings move together in groups, and blindly follow each other.  Investors also feel most comfortable in packs and follow other…

Get a Meeting

It’s tough to get a meeting with an investor.  There are good and bad ways to get to an investor.  The path that you take will determine your likelihood of…

Part of the Family

Bringing on an investor is a big deal.  Your investor becomes part of the family when you cash that check.  And vice versa – you have just become an important…

Don’t Expect To Hear “No”

Most investors suffer from a disease – the fear of missing out (FOMO). This disease heavily influences how entrepreneurs are treated, especially those hoping for an investment decision.  Most business…

Save the Best Pitches for Last

It will take hundreds of hours of practice and dozens of iterations to perfect your pitch. You’ll discover that things you thought were straightforward are too complicated to explain in…

Raise Enough to Get to Your Next Milestone

Investors want to know specifically what you plan to spend their money on.  Rookie entrepreneurs have vague and confused answers that will leave them dead in the water.  Experienced entrepreneurs…

Fuel to the Fire

To understand the differences between investors and entrepreneurs, think of your startup as a fire. It is the entrepreneur who decides to build a fire, gets the right resources in…

A Demo is Worth 1000 Words

With investors, a prototype or demo is worth 1000 words – other than customers and revenue, nothing makes a stronger initial impression.  People are very visual, so a prototype helps…

Money Only Buys Time

A lot of entrepreneurs mistakenly equate fundraising with progress. They talk about raising a round as if they just hit a major business milestone.  You can tell that an entrepreneur…

If You Want Money, Ask for Advice

There’s an old adage when it comes to investors: “If you want money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money.” The best way to set your company…

The Investor Triad

Sophisticated investors evaluate three central areas of a potential investment: the team, the market, and the product(s).  Different investors weight the three sides of the triad differently, but all three…

The Day You Take an Investor’s Money

Landing an investor is always exciting.  Maybe you were running on fumes, only weeks away from missing a payroll, and now you can keep pressing forward.  Or maybe you just…

Credibility is Key

Investors are necessarily skeptical of entrepreneurs trying to take their money.  They will doubt your revenue projections, market size analysis, likelihood of key partnerships, or technical feasibility.  In short, they…

Friends, Family and Fools

This is the easiest money to get, the hardest money to take.

What’s the Business Worth?

“What’s my company worth?” This is one of an entrepreneur’s most frequently asked questions.  It’s also one of the hardest to answer.  It is possible to value a company with…

Valuation Isn’t Everything

When it comes to choosing an investor, valuation should be just one of many selection criteria.  The non-valuation terms of a deal are also critically important.  Minor changes in the…

Nail It Before You Scale It

If there is one factor that most contributes to a startup’s success, it’s knowing when to nail it and when to scale it.  Nail the business model first, and then…

Tipping Point

When you first start out you spend half your time dreaming about how you’re going to spend all of the money you make, and the other half about worried that…

Think On Paper

As an entrepreneur, you have to make dozens of decisions each and every day.  Combine project management with day-to-day operations, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with details and planning.  …

The First Question to Ask

Small business owners are the busiest people around.  They are constantly juggling dozens of projects and hundreds of tasks.  The workload can become so overwhelming that it creates paralysis, confusion,…

Wheelin’ and Dealin’

Entrepreneurs are the most optimistic people on the planet.  If you look at the odds of succeeding in business, it makes sense that anyone who wants to start a business…

Adding or Subtracting Value?

As your company grows, you will have to delegate many of your responsibilities to the people you work with.  You may have been able to manage everything yourself at the…

Make Meetings Matter

Meetings are for people in big companies who don’t have better things to do with their time.  They’re one of the biggest robbers of company productivity.  A pointless meeting with…

What Business Are You In?

At first glance, this question seems too obvious.  But dig a little deeper and you’ll see there’s gold in this question.  Carefully considering this question can affect everything from the…

Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst

It’s an entrepreneur’s naive optimism that leads to worries about problems that don’t yet exist. The funny thing is that entrepreneurs usually worry about upside problems.  But what about the…

Expect the Unexpected

When it comes to building a company, you have to expect the unexpected.  This is especially true for deadlines and deliverables.  Whatever you’re planning, be certain that it will be…

Be Your Own Customer

The average entrepreneur only works half-time – 12 hours a day.  Building a company overwhelms even the most efficient workers.  While trying to keep up, it’s easy to forget that…

Think Big, Execute Small

Take time to explore game-changing possibilities.  Dream big, and come up with wild ideas that can take your company to the next level.  Let the idea of the elephant inspire…

Forget the Mission Statement

Big companies can afford to do four-day retreats in the mountains to do trust falls, sing Kumbaya, and pay outrageously-priced consultants to come up with impressively meaningless mission statements.  You…

What To Measure

“What gets measured, gets managed.” Peter Drucker’s famous axiom rings true for all businesses, regardless of their size or industry.  Anything that gets measured will naturally receive more attention by…

Your Network is Your Net Worth

Networking should be one of your top business-building activities.  The stronger your network, the more valuable you are to your business, and to other individuals.  Over time, you network will…

Who’s the Bad Guy?

Startups are at war.  You have to outwork and outsmart the competition if you expect to win.  You and your team will put in 12 hour days, week after week,…

What Functions Should Be Outsourced?

A dilemma most entrepreneurs face is what business functions should be outsourced, and what should be kept in-house.  It’s a trade-off, and sacrifices are made either way.  Outsourcing can be…

*Core Values

Coming up with your core values may sound like a luxury reserved for Fortune 500 companies that have time and money to burn.  Don’t be fooled – they also have…

Your Reputation Precedes You

Your reputation is one of the few things that will stick with you forever.  It’s a small world, even in big cities like Los Angeles or New York City.  You…

Build it Like You’re Going to Sell It

Even if you have no intention of selling your business down the line, it is always smart to begin with the end and build it as if you are going…

Be Frugal, Not Cheap

Cash is always tight in a startup, so you have to watch every penny that goes out the door. But there comes a point when frugal turns into cheap, and…

When the S#!t Hits the Fan (and it will)

When building your company, you will inevitably have a number of “it’s over” moments.  A moment like this happens when things have become so dire and hopeless that closing up…

Know When to Fold ‘Em

Without a doubt, perseverance is a core characteristic of every successful entrepreneur.  You’ll never make it in the startup racket if you can’t push through some adversity.  But there’s a…

Startups are Boring

Entrepreneurs are the new rock stars. The press loves to write about high-profile entrepreneurs and the latest acquisitions or IPOs.  Unfortunately, $100 million IPOs, private jets, and celebrity parties are…

Young at Heart

Think you’re too old to start a business? Think again – average age of an entrepreneur is 39 years old. The Kauffman Foundation study that documented this average age also…

Your Three Hats

It’s easy to get frustrated working for someone else. You probably do the work better than your employer, which begs the question – why not go out on your own? …

Lifestyle or Scale?

Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of businesses – lifestyle and scalable.  A lifestyle business is meant to help the founder live a certain kind of life.  These businesses won’t…

You Are On Your Own

One of the hardest things about starting a company is that you are on your own. Who can you turn to for help and advice with challenges?  You can’t talk…

Dangers in the Moonlight

A common way to get your startup going is to keep your full-time job, and be an entrepreneur on the side. This can be smart, or it can be incredibly…

The Part-Time Entrepreneur

It’s always debatable whether you should start out as a full-time or part-time entrepreneur. Starting a company in your spare time significantly reduces your risk and opportunity cost. But it…

The Five Year Overnight Success

How to Know When “It’s Time”

Aspiring entrepreneurs often ask how they can tell when it’s time to make the leap, quit their jobs, and really go for it.  There are two indicators you can look…

Plan B: Get Franchised

If you’re dying to start a business, but don’t have much experience, a franchise might be the way to go. Franchises are great because they are turnkey.  They teach you…

Unadulterated BS

People like to think that there’s a typical entrepreneur personality. Yes, entrepreneurs are all passionate, good at selling, and diligent about follow-through.  Beyond this, there’s no such thing as a…

Welcome to the NFL

This isn’t your neighborhood little league.  You’re competing against the best, and you have to be the best if you hope to win in the marketplace.  Capitalism is ruthless, so…

A Family Affair

You already know that starting a business is an all-consuming pursuit.  What you may not realize is that it will consume your family as well.  Starting a business is truly…

Congratulations, It’s a Boy!

Founding a company is like having a baby. It takes just as much time, energy, and attention. Like raising a child, your startup is a direct reflection of you, and…

10 Things You Should Never Do Before Starting

Whatever you do, Don’t write a business plan – this comes later Don’t try to get a loan – you won’t qualify anyway Don’t start building immediately – get feedback…

Focus on the Key Points of Leverage

“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” –Archimedes Any company trying to achieve massive scale needs to…

Play to WIN

You can’t play not to lose. You have to play to win.  When you play not to lose, you won’t have a winning mindset and strategic approach. You hedge your…

Think Backwards

When thinking about how much money you should raise from investors, think backwards. First, figure out which milestones you want to hit. These should be meaningful BHAGs – Big Hairy…

Trust Your Instincts

Mark Pincus, serial entrepreneur and founder of Zynga, said “an entrepreneur’s instincts are right 95% of the time.” When you first start your company, it usually starts with an instinct….

Study Your Best Performers

When you’re running a company, it can be hard to figure out how to improve continuously, week after week, month after month.  Fortunately, there’s an “easy button” hidden right in…