Source: Brian Smith
On my flight back from Cyberposium in Boston, I read David Cohen’s and Brad Feld’s Do More Faster. The book is a superb collection of posts and advice from entrepreneurs and investors associated with Techstars over the years.
IMO, this book belongs on the must-read list for any entrepreneur, along with a few others (listed in my other blog post: Useful Books for Founders).
What I was struck by was that while many of these ideas have become widely talked about and accepted, many founders do not run their business this way. It is actually quite shocking. I know this from first-hard experience - having co-founded a mobile software company a decade ago, I saw us make some of these mistakes as well.
So here are the lessons that I found most founders don’t follow (the comments following the titles/authors are my own editorial comments). One caveat: perhaps the first two don’t apply to non-interactive (i.e. Web/mobile) businesses, the rest absolutely do, whether healthcare/biotech, energy, enterprise software, networking/semiconductors, retail or other areas.
- Get it out there – Sean Corbett: I’ve seen founders obsess over keeping their company in stealth and/or trying to perfect the next release of the product for months and months. Usually not the right move.
- Find the one thing they love – Darren Crystal: The common approach I see to products that don’t seem to be hitting the mark is to add more features, rather than delete features or actually find out which part of the product customers really like. Eric Ries has taken the related concept of product-market fit to a deeper level in his blog. Talk to your customers, survey them, get into their heads.
- Obsess over metrics – Dave Mcclure: I see most companies having some sort of dashboard but in many cases, these consist of vanity metrics as opposed to actually actionable metrics that can be impacted to dramatically improve your business. I remember a board meeting I was in where Dave Mcclure kept saying ‘Focus on what can change the slope of the graph permanently…’ – great advice.
- Hire people better than you – Will Herman: Easy to say, tough to do, especially in this market where talent is being chased. Take time to find the right people, in the meatime, use consultants/outsourcing. Check your ego at the door.
- Engage great mentors – Emily Olson: Many founders say they don’t have time to do this. My advice: get your advisors/mentors to invest (even if it is a token amount such as $5000) in your business – it’s amazing how this focuses the mind.
- Have a bias toward action – Ben Casnocha: I’ve seen endless loops of analysis (especially relating to less-than-relevant market or competitive data) paralyzing a company for weeks. Face it, you’ll never have all the data (or even 30% of the data) you need to make decision.
- If you want money, ask for advice – Nicole Glaros: Great advice. Easier way to get in the door and investors/advisors feel more ownership [pun intended] of your idea/startup if they believe their advice has been incorporated
- Show, don’t tell – Brad Feld: I have seen numerous companies wait till the last 2 minutes of the investor presentation to get to showing the product. Big mistake. Get there fast (within the first 5 minutes of starting the meeting).
- Get away from it all – Amy Batchelor: Great advice. Tough to allow oneself to do as a founder. It’s a blow to the ego to realize that your startup/the world doesn’t come to a grinding halt when one is not at work.
And here's David Cohen's own top 10 list: