The Easiest Way to Succeed as an Entrepreneur

I was the worst pizza delivery guy. Fraternity guys would chase after me as I was peeling out of their driveways after a delivery.  Why? The sauce and cheese fell all to one side.  I couldn’t help it. I also never got tips. Wende, my partner in our restaurant delivery business, always got tips. But she was beautiful, blonde, great smile, had personality, etc. And I secretly loved her.  I couldn’t compete.

I Was The Worst Pizza Delivery Guy

We also started a debit card for college kids. From the first day we were open for business we had college kids signing up for our card (there were no credit cards for kids then). And anyone who had our debit card could order food from the 20 or so restaurants in town and we’d deliver, but with a 25% markup.

I loved delivering food because it gave me twenty, or even forty minute breaks from my girlfriend. We were having troubles at the time. I’d sometimes stop the car between deliveries and just read. I was a screwed up 19 year old then. Now I’m only a mildly-screwed up 43 year old.

I’ve had seven startups since then. And some profitable exits. And another 20 or so that I’ve funded.

When I think “entrepreneur” I think Mark Cuban or Larry Page or Steve Jobs. I don’t usually think of myself. In part because I feel shame that after all of these startups I don’t have a billion dollars. Many startups fail. But I’ve had a few successes as well. Successes in a startup makes you feel immortal.

I was going to make this post: “the 12 rules to being a good entrepreneur” and I outlined the 12 rules that have consistently worked for me.  But rule #1 is taking up 1500 words already. Tim Sykes tells me I need to break these posts up more. So this one rule is going to take up the whole post. But, for me, this is the most important rule.

The MOST IMPORTANT RULE: Have a customer before you start your business. This is a corollary of the phrase, “ideas are a dime a dozen”.

There is another corollary: lazy is best. If you have to work for two years before one dollar of revenue comes into business then thats too much work. I’m lazy so I like money coming in with as little work as possible. Mark Zuckerberg, of course, is different. He put in years of work before dollar one of revenue came in. But we’re different people.


perhaps not the best example of The Easiest Way To Succeed As An Entrepreneur

In about twenty minutes I’m going to go to the local café here, The Foundry, and bring a pad, order a coffee and muffin, and write down ideas for businesses. Then I’ll probably throw the piece of paper out. Because ideas are useless. They are just practice to keep your idea muscle in shape.

FAKE RULE: People say, “Execution is important”. That’s not really true either. Execution is useless. It’s a commodity. The only thing that’s important is money. You get money by having a customer. You get a customer by satisfying a need that’s so important to them they would be willing to pay for it.  If you have a customer that’s willing to pay you money, then execution becomes a lot easier. Life as an entrepreneur is hard. Why make it harder for yourself?

I like stability as much as I like taking risks. So for me, I need a customer. It’s a matter of how much risk you want to take. In an earlier post I suggest reasons why people need to quit their jobs and jump into the abyss. If a customer happens to be waiting for you in the abyss then you won’t be lonely there.  Loneliness is bad for a startup.

Example: How Stockpickr Started

Tom Clarke, the CEO of called me up in mid 2006. He wanted to meet and brainstorm ideas with me. So I had about two weeks to prepare. I called up a development firm in India. MySpace had just been acquired by NewsCorp so I sketched out what I considered the “MySpace of Finance”. I threw in every idea from my own trading.

In other words, I wanted to create a site that I would use as a professional trader and so I knew other traders would benefit from it. And, I had a theory about making a quality financial site that basically had no news in it. I’m going to be blunt: 99% of financial news is useless and misinformed and misleading, if not outright lying. My ideas for the site were purely based on my own ten years experience as a professional trader. In fact, I had just turned down working for a multi-billion dollar hedge fund based on a specific strategy I had. Instead, I implemented that strategy within

Within a week, for free (because I told the company in India that I would be building the site with them if they sent back good screenshots, which was true), the company sent me back screenshots. I met with Tom and told him, “I’m almost done with the site. Here it is.” (I exaggerated) And I showed him the screenshots. I had set up meetings with Yahoo and AOL as well to discuss them so it wasn’t a stretch to say, “I’m also talking to Yahoo and AOL.” Nobody wants to be the first customer, so you have to create the aura of many customers.

And so he said, “why are you talking with them? You’ve been with us forever. Lets do this together.” So we negotiated right there. I said, “great, how about you guys take 10% of the company and put all your extra ads on all of our pages and let me link from every article back to (the name of the company).”

He said, “I thought we were partners. Lets do it 50-50.” So right away, I had given up 50% of the company. Most people I spoke to thought this was a horrible idea. In fact, one of my employees quit because I did this: but giving 50% of your company away is often better than giving 10% of your company away. When you give 50% of the company away, your partner is obligated to follow through and be a real partner. He can never forget about you. Its also always a good thing when the most popular person in financial media, Jim Cramer, was also a 50% partner in my business since he was the founder of If you can get the top person in your field to take equity, you’re golden from day one. Again, its all about making life easy. With family responsibilities, health, life in general, why make things even harder for yourself?

Its like that saying when you owe the bank a million, they own you. When you owe the bank a billion, you own them. Three years later I watched another company only took 10% of almost disappear because was not obligated to follow through.

So, at that point, without even having a site finished (or even started): I knew I had three things going for me:

A)     I was going to get traffic. I could write three or four articles a day and link each one back to stockpickr all over the article. The got 100mm pageviews a month so I knew I would get some percentage of that.

B)      I was going to make money. If I got even 3 million pageviews a month and the average CPM of (according to their SEC filings) was $17,  I would make about $50 thousand a month with expenses nearing zero. What if I put 3 ads a page on the site? Then I would make even more. Slap a 40x multiple on a growing company and before I even started I had real value.

C)      Profitability and growth from day one meant I could put the company up for sale almost immediately. But that’s another story.

With my first successful company, Reset, I had about 10 paying customers before I finally made the jump to running the company fulltime: HBO, Interscope, BMG, New Line Cinema, and Warner Brothers were all paying customers before I jumped ship from HBO to run Reset fulltime.

The Wu-Tang Clan Was A Paying Customer

(the Wu-Tang Clan was a paying customer)

When I started my fund of hedge funds I didn’t put one dime into the expense of setting it up until I had the first $20 million commitment. $20 million with a 1.5% management fee meant an instant $300 thousand in revenues, plus extra money for legal fees, etc. Enough to pay a salary or two. It took a year of cultivating my network before I had that commitment, but it worked.

This is just me, personally. Some people don’t mind starting a company without any customers. I’m too conservative for this. I’m happy to even give up equity to get that first customer. 50% of a profitable company is better than 100% of a company that will probably quickly go out of business.

How do you get that first customer?

–          Who? List the 20 CEOs or high level executives you would like to meet. If you have a rolodex, great. If you don’t, then you might have to write to 40 people. This is why its important to Exploit your Employer and use some of the other ideas mentioned throughout this blog. But its ok if your rolodex is cold. Many successful businesses I’ve been involved with started with cold emails.

–          Ideas. Develop 20 ideas for each person. Get your idea muscle in shape first.

–          Communicate. Write them all, giving at least 10 of the ideas, in detail, and how you would implement them. Sometimes you have to dig for their email address. Like I did here.

–          Meet. All this does is get you the meeting. Once you’re in the door, the conversation can go anywhere. Of the 20 people you write, rule of the universe is you’ll get six meetings.

–          Ask. In the meetings ask the question, “what one product can I build for you that you will definitely buy?” Remember, execution is a commodity. Because of globalization you can build anything for cheap. I built the first working version of for $3000 in Bangalore. Throw in another $150 from a design made in Siberia. You need zero skillset for that. Just a good idea muscle, an ability to sell, and modest ability to manage a project.

–          Never say No. Never. If someone says, “can you do this?” Yes. “But can you do this?” Yes. Can you do it for this? Yes.

–          Follow up every day. Nice to meet you. Here’s my sketch of what you want. Is this right? Should I start today?

–          Equity. If necessary, give up equity for that first customer. Or first two customers.

–          Done. If more than one CEO wants the same product or service, and the price is right, then now you have a business. Build the product, sell it, and you’re in shape.

–          Repeat. You’re not really “Done”. Every day you have to go back and see if your customer is achieving more success BECAUSE of your products. If he is, then ask him what else he needs and then build it. If he isn’t, then ask him what else he needs and builds it. Your easiest new sales will be with your old customers.

This has worked for me on three different occasions. And each time resulted in great profits for me. By the way, this technique has also worked for people who have contacted me with their own ideas.

Listen. You’ve been hypnotized. You’ve been told you need a corporate job. You need a college degree. You need stability. You need the white picket fence. You need the IRA and the health insurance. Snap your fingers in front of your face. The American Religion is a myth, just like the movie, Thor, is based on a myth. Stability is only in your mind. There’s $15 trillion dollars in our economy, recession or no recession. Its falling like snow. Reach out with your tongue and taste it.

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  • James Altucher = best writer on the net today.
    That is all.

    • Darren, perfect. Thanks very much.

    • Tim D


      You got something brown on your nose…

  • drummerboy

    anybody up for dome pizza, i’m starvin

  • drummerboy

    sorry typo,some pizza:)

  • Superb post

  • Anonymous

    I was once a partner in a restaurant delivery business. I sold out because my partner and I could not agree on how to grow it and I had a newborn and he was still single. My last day there, I looked around the room at my drivers and saw a thief, a couple of druggies and three stone cold idiots, so I was ok with leaving.

    • Ha, I’ve been thru a few of those. Funny, though, sometimes its the ones with all the Harvard MBAs that are most likley to fail.

      • saltaway

        The MBAs have the inspiration but rarely are willing to give the perspiration.

      • I think because it’s easier to read the book than to figure out where the book went wrong, and how you’re going to fix the business when everything you “know” has been tossed out the window.

        Solid post!

  • Should also add – James you should consider writing a book on entrepreneurship. You seem to have much more of a passion for it than investing.

    • Doc

      Your humorous use personal experiences and your command of metaphors provide a perfect combination to find a subject you enjoy and know nothing about and write a series of articles.

      I miss your Rocket Stocks contributions but at the end of the day the knowledge you gained and the message you deliver will be priceless to many.

      Example ( I am not suggesting for you)
      “Blackhawk Down” written by someone who had no idea which end of a weapon is dangerous. He left no stone unturned.

      • Bschwarck

        I’ve been saying that to James FoREVER!!! BRing back the ROCKET STOCKS! DEL MONTE, man that was a classic pick. GENIUS many times for me.

      • Brad

        I enjoyed the Rocket Stocks column James Altucher used to write, it was the best way to start a week reading that column and seeing James ideas for the week ahead. Always relevent and interesting.

  • David Gillie

    I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my life. Never had a business fail (but I did get bored with a few before they had a chance to fail).
    In addition to the things you listed, I found… well… what worked for me, anyway.
    1) Find a niche — do or offer something completely different than what “the other guy” offers.
    2) Simplify — What ever your idea/plan is — cut it in half. Then prune it down some more. Customers are not impressed with complexity. All they hear is “blah, blah, bullsh!t”
    3) The customer is your best sales person — whether they are “selling” your idea to their boss or telling their friends about it. *They are your business partner* and never forget that. Remember it by telling them they are your partner and we derive mutual success in the relationship. Tell them that you feed your family with their business. And the most important words you’ll ever say to a customer is “Thank you”.
    4) Dress like shit — I’m not selling suits.

    I have the attention span of a gnat. I never read more than the 1st and last paragraph of a news article. I rarely respond with more than a comic one-liner. Your blog is different. In fact, it’s the ONLY blog I read. You have a Woody Allen style of self-deprecating humor and weave ingenious insight throughout.

    I pay you the highest compliment I know: “Thank you”.

    • Doc

      People listen to satisfied customers. Why is Angie’s list so popular

      • Craftsman-style

        Good point, Doc.

    • David, I really appreciate that. And I agree on the “Simplify” rule aboe. Very important. What sorts of businesses have you done?

      • Craftsman-style

        A crazy litney of things… College was a drunken blurt and I departed with a degree in architecture (totally useless). Used it to get a job in construction mgr (which really means the job foreman on site tells you what to order next). Several years of that in various forms. Then started my own business selling pipe inspection equipment — little robotic video crawlers that go inside of underground pipes. Added to that business, servicing the equipment, contracting the work, and finally manufacturing aftermarket componants. Until the point at which it became an empire that I hated and was bogged down in administration — which i’m lousy at and loathe doing.
        Then it was off to be a contract minister in the Methodist church. Yeah, I know… WTF was I thinking???? More politics than the house chamber.
        Next career… woodworker. Really loved this carved out a unique niche and had fantastic joy in the artistic expression. Was dammed successful and my work went for a high price. One problem… something about the dust landed me flatline dead in the ICU – twice – resulting in 3 heart attacks, lung failure twice, kidney failure, liver failure and a stroke. My brother took the red-eye in on an emergency flight to “make arrangements”, as they say.
        I didn’t die. Well… I did, but I came back twice.
        (I could write a piece about that experience).
        Anyway, the stroke reversed the sides of my brain and my artistic talent went *Poof*. Couldn’t draw a recognizable stick figure or design a shoe box. But during all those months of hospitalization and rehab, I realized my brain was whirling with complex mathematical formulas (I failed Algebra I twice). Also, Physics, Statistics and Logic — none of which I ever took a course in. Spent about two years developing and put it all work the stock market — also used a lot of good ol’ horse sense from my sales days that nothing matters unless you make the sale. So it is with stocks — not worth squat until you sell is and built the whole platform on when to sell. Now I advise others in my market system. But I have been VERY careful not to make the mistake of the past of building an empire and always kept it very simple.
        There were a bunch of other ventures along the way that didn’t much (even including film producing with Frank Capra, Jr.) but none amounted to enough to elaborate on.
        Who knows what’s next? Horticulturist? That might be nice. I getting too old to put up with much Crap from people. I like plants.

        • Craftsman-style

          Sorry James. They should call it “Clogging” when someone writes too much on other’s blogs. :-/

          • Anonymous

            Only if you’re not interesting David. You were. Good job.

          • hey brian, could i pick your brain about ideas for my website ?  my email is ~ maybe we can do some good for each other

  • In Kurt Vonnegut’s TIME QUAKE Kilgore Trout wrote stories and threw them away in the waste bin where the bin was in front of an Academic Art organization.

    • True story: in 3rd grade a science fiction book looked interesting to me so i bought it. “Venus on the Half Shell”. The author : “Kilgore Trout” (probably really wrtitten by Philip Jose Farmer but he used that name based on the Vonnegut character).

      When we got home from the mall (a 40 min drive) my grandparents took one look at the cover, assumed it was porn and we instantly had to go back to the bookstore to return it despite my crying. So I never read it. But maybe one day will.

      • Wow! More meaning for this. Here is a quote from timequake: At the end of Chapter 3 Kurt Vonnegut writes: “All I had to do was deliver a message he (Andrei Sakhorov) had sent. This was it ‘Don’t give up on nuclear energy.’ I spoke like a robot.”

  • Doc

    I’ve been loosely following you and Scott Adams writings for a couple of years now. Your stock pics are better than Scott’s but the msg is the same. His article on College in the WSJ roughly is like yours.

    I have found Military people, Lifeguards, and Self Employed folks the most active and engaging and after years in Corporate America (Caterpillar) I have to agree with you.

    Printing out the article for required reading for my kid.

  • razorsedge

    when you love what u do, the word WORK disapears, its more of a pleasure.

  • Kyle

    James, I just finished Ultimate Internet Boot Camp (Peaks Potentials course) where they made a mantra out of what you’re saying here. In five days, we had almost 300 people go from having nothing more than a URL to having a fully functioning site with a product offer and at least one sale. We each had to sell a $1 e-guide, and every single person did so. Everything you said supports all that we learned. Once again and as always, thank you for putting (what feels like to me) TRUTH out there. YAY James! and YAY CUSTOMERS!

    • Kyle, I am so buying your $1 guide. What a smart idea for a boot camp. I hope you continue to come up with ideas, sell them the same way, and up the price. This approach will make a lot of money.

  • Frank

    That last paragraph is like something out of Fight Club. It should be a frigging mantra for those that are bored with the 9-5 and feel they have something more to offer. You are the Tyler Durden of entrepreneurs.

  • Dickfitz2

    Impressive article. I got here via Bob Wenzel’s EconomicPolicyJournal and I’m so happy he linked to this. Awesome insights. Can’t wait to read more! Bravo!

  • lee

    “FAKE RULE: People say, “Execution is important”. That’s not really true either. Execution is useless.”

    James, I’m going to disagree here and proclaim that Execution matters more than anything else. Great ideas, great teams, great markets…all dime a dozen. What separates Apple, Sony and Toyotas’ of the world is all about execution – execution in design, functionality, quality and customer service.

    You have some great ideas that worked for ‘you’ but you make it sound too easy. This is my main criticism of Timothy Ferriss’ book ‘4-hour work week.’ Giving people the illusion that success comes easy if you simply leverage low-cost resources around the world.

    IMO, it is this mentality of put in as little effort/expense as possible to reap immediate rewards is what is wrong with much of US industry today aside from Apple, Amazon and few others. It is this type of short term thinking and cutting corners, that results in all the crappy products and services that get created. Think US auto industry, dot.coms, Myspace(and other social startup wannabes) to all the crappy Android tablets were currently seeing.

    I enjoy reading your posts and personal insight, but with this particular post, I take great exception the underlying thesis.

    • Execution has largely become a commodity (I can outsource just about anything to China). perhaps ability to project manage is important but with passion this is not a hard skill to achieve.

      the most important thing is having a good paying customer.

      • lee

        True, and it’s just as easy to create something no one will buy because of quality, design and careful thought – iow, garbage in, garbage out.

        Execution is easy if you simply equate it with brute force work. Where it becomes challenging is know what to do and how to do it well, just like writing content for a blog that keeps readers coming back for more. It’s as much and even more about intellectual rigor than it is about the actual physical labor.

        • Yes, I agree with what you’re saying. When it requires non-commodity execution, its hard and important. But, take this blog as an example, execution is hard but also I’m not selling anything. If I were, for example, selling something, then the sales would be harder than execution.

      • I think when post people talk about execution they mean choosing the right things to do, not doing them the right way (subtle but different)

  • Harold532

    If you stick to a data-centric approach to the markets then you don’t have to lie for a living. And that’s what this post is really about, it’s telling you to lie.

  • Anonymous

    You know what I like about you, James? It’s not the SOS.

    Or maybe it is, but at least it sounds different when you say it.

    And maybe that’s enough since the world seems to be drowning in bullsh*t & getting in deeper day by day.

  • Tom

    James, you are my hero.

  • pjc

    Here’s a good pizza delivery story from my college days. (True story).

    Drunk frat boy has the munchies. Call’s pizza place, orders pizza. Pulls out checkbook, and writes check for correct price (with an accurate 15% tip!). Passes out in the middle of the floor, belly up, with check lying on chest.

    Pizza delivery boy goes to frat house. Wanders halls yelling “who ordered the extra sausage”. Pushes open door thats slightly ajar. Finds aforementioned drunkard with check on chest. Verifies correct information on check. Replaces check with warm pizza. Moves on.

  • Concrete Dovetail

    How does one go about finding people in India, etc. to make the website?

  • I’ll take a large Sicilian with sausage and onions. Thanks.

  • I like the pace of the article. Fast.

    I see some entrepreneurs who now are big-shot-billionaires, and actually I believe it was more economic and technical/technology timing that catapulted them to great financial success rather than superior skills, foresight or their product/service.

    Do you ever consider “timing” as one of the critical elements?

  • Andrew

    I feel bad for what you’ve gone through to be able to have these stories. But you’ve made them inspiring for the rest of us. We appreciate it.
    After a few decades of being really good at the school/university/certification/job/stability ladder, I’m in the best paid tech analyst job at the best company in my city. 30 year olds here talk about their benefits-paid retirement. I’ve kind of hated it since day 2, because now the hope of a better job leading to happiness is gone. The downsides are in all of them.
    It’s intriguing how simple you’ve made these projects seem. I’m not implying they’re easy, just… not complex. Other ideas like the parrot book guy, or the famous Yun Ye make me feel that I’m too well trained to authority to see many possibilities. However, you’re giving me confidence that someday the blinders will drop. Thanks!

  • Ben

    I couldn’t care less about entrepreneurship or making money*, but I love this blog.

    *I guess I do insofar as I want to make a living writing. In fact, now that I think about it, shit, I do care…

    • You have a great blog. Note, that most, if not all greet writers, have to have business smarts. At least a gut instinct. There’s a lot of ” business” in yournblog

      • Ben

        Thanks, James! You make a great point, and I think I’m imbibing a lot of good business sense (In addition to life sense) in your blog despite myself. Always look forward to your posts.

  • Welner

    Thanks for all that golden advice james.

  • Good post.

    One question. If you are giving away the idea “in detail” to get the meeting, what protection do you have that they won’t steal it and cut you out of the loop? Years ago a friend of mine created a detailed business plan on the hopes of partnering with a business with excellent financing. They took his plan and executed it without partnering with him.

  • Fabulous.

  • Fabulous… :)

  • Bootdadddy

    Entrepreneurs diemma of “smaller piece – bigger pie” kills many young companies. They “love’ their baby to death.

    Not sure about the never say no part. Yes, get a foot in the door. Then under-promise and over-deliver. Customers can get too “creative”, lose sight of real value, and drive your biz off a cliff on their whims.

  • EPIC post!

    I too was a pizza delivery guy in college and I used to deliver to a nearby wealthy neighborhood (Short Hills, NJ). Whenever I got stiffed I’d pay them back, (nothing crazy) but I think I should post about it now that I think about it.

    I always hoped to show up to some mansion and find a trophy wife who just finished her workout while her hubby was out of town / at work. She then invites me in to give me my “tip”.

    Alas, it remained a dream.

  • “The American Religion is a myth, just like the movie, Thor, is based on a myth.”

    lol, thanks for clearing that up

  • Paul


    As a 24 year old trying to escape the CPA path, I applaud and champion your insight. I’ve read your blog religiously in the last 7 days since I discovered it.

    Any ideas for a ‘first’ business, or a category of business worth looking into for a first-timer?

    • Going to do a post on this at some point.

      • Chuck Williams

        I would love to see that post! I have an idea that I am struggling to make sense of. This post provided some insight, but I think that one would get me started.

        I recently heard a man talking about knowing what someone’s value is to the world. I can speak on anything else but I’m sure this blog increases yours.. (JMO, though).

    • I can help you with that!  I’m great at helping people with their first idea for a business or category of businesses! You’re my first customer. How can I help you more?  James is also not a god. But he’s pretty cute. 

  • this is probably the most awesome post i’ve ever read. thanks.

  • Also, do you have some good software developers in India that you can refer?

    Please let me know at I’m trying to get someone to build a website for the Taiwan/China market.

  • Jfkesq

    Fantastic blog James. This is the second article today that I read on being an entrepreneur. The other one was by Scott Adams (Dilbert’s creator) in WSJ on How to get a Real College Education.

    Nearly identical theme. Your’s is one of the few blogs that I cover on the web. Excellent stuff. I have taken the so-called American Dream route myself, and it has partially worked (good high school, expensive college and law school, law degree, worked in big city). But now back in my home town, in my own law firm, and realizing that I have a lot to learn about being an entrepreneur.

    Keep writing….some of the best stuff on the web right now IMO.

    • I just saw that Scott Adams article. Very interesting. Slightly different perspective. He focuses on the brutal determination of it. I give a technique for I think increasing odds of success. but his is a great article. Its amazing how talented he is.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, that does seem logical indeed.

  • what one product can I build for you that you will definitely buy?

    • I need someone to help me figure out how to turn this blog into a slick looking book of dimensions 3.2″ by 2.3″ and then sell on amazon, make e-book, etc. Not because I want to monetize but I want to be able to hand to people, etc.

  • Tom

    Best article ive read in a while. My uncle and I started a website about ETFs but we need something more like stockpickrr in the sense of layout and design. I have also found it hard to hook up with Affiliate companies in this niche so we only monetize with adsense.
    Thanks for the motivation

    • Tom, the key is distribution. Find a high traffic partner to syndicate to that ultimately drives traffic back to your site. Else you have to rely on a subscription model which is difficult unless someone can make a ton of money by using your site.

      • Tom

        Thanks James..
        So with a smaller budget, should we try and target similar websites that have credibility by offering to guest post on their website in return for links in the article? We have really high quality content coming from an expert in the market..

  • Dcdaytrader

    The “Alt-Man” says everything most people want to say, but for what every reason most wouldn’t dare publicly say these things espeically in a personal profile blog. You don’t need a billion $$$ buddy, you’re totally “FREE”.

  • Kjp712

    I would like to see someone be able to put a pizza oven in a truck.As the truck pulls up to the address,the pie comes out fresh.That will be something to see.

  • Chris B

    Cuban should get you on Shark Tank

  • “You’ve been told you need a corporate job. You need a college degree.”

    Why didn’t I read your blog when I was younger? One college degree later, it feels like I’ve just graduated from high school. What do you think about monetizing a blog?

  • Its amazing how much writing juice you squeeze from your Stockpickr experience. Good article and impressed. Ps sending you email now.

  • PatD

    James A…..
    I have just spent some time this weekend exploring other related sites….
    some I have visited before…some not….and a common theme I have observed
    is that some base their premise on being intellectually superior to their posters…
    and what amazes me the most…is that the followers spend much time and energy defending themselves…and “trying to be good enough”….

    Thankx Again….
    for being a breathe of fresh energy in an otherwise stale vortex of inflated egos

    • Pat, thanks. I think a lot of other sites have authors that essentially portray themselves as perfect. I think they feel they will let down people if they are not perfect. But, alas, nobody is. People need to know (particularly in the financial world but also in relationships, etc) that its ok not to be perfect.

  • Loved reading this post, James. One of the best I’ve read so far on your blog, I think. Amazing lessons here, I bookmarked this and will come back to it again and again.

    • Sayem, thanks a lot. Thats high praise coming from you because I know you’ve appreciated many of the other posts on this blog as well. Now I have to reread this post!

  • mike

    “Tom, the key is distribution. Find a high traffic partner to syndicate to that ultimately drives traffic back to your site. Else you have to rely on a subscription model which is difficult unless someone can make a ton of money by using your site. ”

    Hmmm i love this article buuuutttt…. find a high traffic partner to syndicate to that ultimately drives traffic back to your site?

    This is easier said than done. Elaborate, lets say im some guy in a random place with little or no connection, great website, and almost no money.

    Now what

  • Fun read! Great definition of the value of a good equity partner. Not sure I buy your quote “I’m lazy,” in fact I am sure I do not buy it. Thanks for the post! 3-2-1, jd

  • Mike

    This is my first time here, i loved the post, although things like this slightly annoy me.

    “Tom, the key is distribution. Find a high traffic partner to syndicate to that ultimately drives traffic back to your site. Else you have to rely on a subscription model which is difficult unless someone can make a ton of money by using your site.”

    I am all for this and i cant agree with you more, but isn’t this like saying, sign a contract to build bridges before you open a construction company. I mean it seems great and simple in theory but how is a normal person with no media connections supposed to find someone with massive traffic to link in with yourself.

    Ok, lets say i have some great product, what is my offer to my potential partner? I have a cool site providing value but no traffic myself…. so what do i offer….equity?

    If you partner with the right person, they usually are the ones to do a nice quiet buyout too so that is for sure another advantage.

    • I think its because that particular advice is geared to just that ONE situation, not every situation. for a site about ETFs to work, it needs distribution or it needs high quality advice that can sell for a big number to hedge fund subscribers. there’s no other way for it to work. Thats not the case for other businesses. Just that ONE situation.

  • Jsinger

    you are the man James

  • Index1000

    The advice in this blog is of more value than any business degree available unless of course your business is selling business degrees.

  • Martin
  • Mike

    I loved the article. And would try to emulate it. How do I get Tom Clarke to call me?

    • Ha, good point. BUt i’m sure you have other people in your rolodex to call you. Throughout the day/year there’s probably many opportunities where luck is waiting for you. You just have to make sure you show up during just one of those times.

  • James,

    This is your best article thus far!! Keep up the great work! This will keep me going for another week before my depression comes back…


    • Kristina, I will definitely be working on ways to keep you from having your depression come back. Stay tuned.

  • Last year my 14 year old daughter asked me, “daddy, what do I need to do to start a company?”. My respone; “a customer”.

    Great post.

  • Teemaree

    Thanks for another fantastic post.

  • Mike

    I had no idea who this james altucher is yesterday, i have done my research, very accomplished person, it shows how much character you have taking time out to write a blog and respond to people like myself. thank you, i will be a new follower here.

  • I love this article: it’s one of the most useful things I’ve read all week. Have a customer before you start your business … I love it. I started my business the Mark Zuckerberg route — with no customers. My boyfriend did the opposite; he started his only after he found his first willing client.

    • Tell us then: how’s it going with each of your businesses?

  • Awesome read! As much as I am a fan of execution, you are correct that you need an audience first. I’ve spent many years trying to tend to what people NEED but now I realize that I should research what they WANT then give it to them. Great article and I’m fully inspired! Thanks!

  • Cashflowprofit

    Hello James, great article and I had to go over it a few times again.

    Though you might be pretty on-spot with your observations, I am not sure it can apply to every person who wants to take the entrepreneurs route. Sure execution can be outsourced and done cheaper abroad, but I am still not convinced about having one customer first.

    Don’t get me wrong, you make a convincing argument there, but how does this apply to budding entrepreneurs?

    Your and hedge fund journey make a strong case in point, but the big question is does this apply to all entrepreneur ventures? Can everyone bring value to their venture before rolling out the product itself??

    I am not entirely convinced, perhaps you may have just “lucked” it out by being in the right place at the right time. Sure this does look a wee bit pessimistic, but perhaps a little realistic.

    What happens to the small guy with no real connections? Looks more like a roll of dice.

    • As I mentioned, many times I had to be persistent with cold emails where I freely shared ideas in order to gain a single meeting.

  • Albus D

    the only thing this post showed me to easier success , is that its more about who you know. How many people have access to these people that you did.

    • Not at all. Many times I’ve had to rely on cold calls and cold emails. Which is particularly difficult for me, being shy.

  • M Sullivan

    RE: “I’m going to be blunt: 99% of financial news is useless and misinformed and misleading, if not outright lying.”

    Can you write a post on this topic. This one line in your article got me thinking the most; is it really that bad? Should I stop even checking the financial media news, seriously, would I be better off?

    Thanks for all your writing; this is one of my fav sites.

    • M, thanks so much. In terms of that quote. I am planning on writing on that topic. Gathering all the evidence. But I have some good stories.

  • Mag

    I can’t wait for your next post. I’m glad you’re not a billionair yet otherwise you probably won’t be writing.

  • I didn’t like this post much.

    If you’d ask the CEO’s “What one product can I build that you will definitely buy?”
    I am sure the answer would be “You need to make sure what you want to talk next time before you waste our time.”

  • Anonymous

    thank you, you just added some value to my life. i intend to find a way to possibly return the favor.

    did not know you ran a FOF, what is it called?

  • Delivered Chinese Food in College! I’m going to read this every day for inspiration. Say hello to Howard!

  • Jamal

    Great read, bring on the 11 other rules!

  • Jack

    OMG! Man you nailed it with that last paragraph!

  • Michael murphy

    James, I’m stepping out and starting my own business right now… I put my notice in yesterday with my job. I’m a corporate cartoonist and I’m looking to expand business and create “products” not services. Your articles have encouraged me but I have to admit I’m still a little nervous to jump into the abyss. I have two clients currently and I want to expand because I want money and drawing makes me happy. What’s your advice to a starry eyed cartoonist? and also would you be interested in cartoons/ illustrations for your post? I’m the man to talk to if you are =) my website is being refined currently and my email is

    I’m sure you’re a busy guy but I could honestly use some coaching and advice right now
    thanks for reading this

    -Michael M

  • Nice! Thnx! XX

  • SingleValueDecomposition

    Mr. Altucher,

    Could you explain more about, “ability to sell”, please?


  • I just realized that I am in much better shape than I thought! Yes!

  • Simple and easy way to organize yourself to get your first customers, love it!!

  • Raghu

    Hi James,

    This is a very nice blog for anybody that has ideas but skeptical of moving it forward. I like it when you say, you made others invest(by offering 50% carrot) to build your idea.


  • This article is much easier to read than “The 9 Most Important Things to Remember If You Want to Sell Your Startup

  • Anonymous

    great article again!

  • Asi S

    Love it !

  • Anonymous

    Great article as usual. I wonder if you would be willing to share some developer contacts in Bangalore or point me in the right direction to find developers to help me with my venture..

  • truthbombs galore. love it.

  • Im a bit late on reading this one, but it still deserves a comment. Excellent article. Most posts on most blogs are 99% words, and 1% usable content/material. This one rocks the balance far to the other side. Thanks. Heard your interviews on Mixergy (another gold mine for entrepreneurs and biz owners) – instantly in my top 5 on that site. Thanks for sharing your journey and advice.

  • Im a bit late on reading this one, but it still deserves a comment. Excellent article. Most posts on most blogs are 99% words, and 1% usable content/material. This one rocks the balance far to the other side. Thanks. Heard your interviews on Mixergy (another gold mine for entrepreneurs and biz owners) – instantly in my top 5 on that site. Thanks for sharing your journey and advice.

  • Sam

    James – you got this bang on. And I loved your steps to get the first customer. Tim Sykes might be onto something valuable for you here. :)

    In my country – India, however this isn’t really how the first customer gets acquired. Though the process is the same, ‘value’ is perceived rather monetarily. 

    Does the west pay premium for quality? How stupid of me – of course it does. I don’t see an APPLE Inc. in my country. 

    • And Thank You. For 2 things – a lively read and DISQUS. 

    • And Thank You. For 2 things – a lively read and DISQUS. 

  • Sam

    James – you got this bang on. And I loved your steps to get the first customer. Tim Sykes might be onto something valuable for you here. :)

    In my country – India, however this isn’t really how the first customer gets acquired. Though the process is the same, ‘value’ is perceived rather monetarily. 

    Does the west pay premium for quality? How stupid of me – of course it does. I don’t see an APPLE Inc. in my country. 

  • Sam

    James – you got this bang on. And I loved your steps to get the first customer. Tim Sykes might be onto something valuable for you here. :)

    In my country – India, however this isn’t really how the first customer gets acquired. Though the process is the same, ‘value’ is perceived rather monetarily. 

    Does the west pay premium for quality? How stupid of me – of course it does. I don’t see an APPLE Inc. in my country. 

  • Sam

    James – you got this bang on. And I loved your steps to get the first customer. Tim Sykes might be onto something valuable for you here. :)

    In my country – India, however this isn’t really how the first customer gets acquired. Though the process is the same, ‘value’ is perceived rather monetarily. 

    Does the west pay premium for quality? How stupid of me – of course it does. I don’t see an APPLE Inc. in my country. 

  • Sam

    James – you got this bang on. And I loved your steps to get the first customer. Tim Sykes might be onto something valuable for you here. :)

    In my country – India, however this isn’t really how the first customer gets acquired. Though the process is the same, ‘value’ is perceived rather monetarily. 

    Does the west pay premium for quality? How stupid of me – of course it does. I don’t see an APPLE Inc. in my country. 

  • I love your posts! 

  • This is the most useful post I have read in a year on the net.. It made me reconsider the plan I had for months. Thank you Jamie.

  • Very useful! I like the section “Listen”.

  • Bmeeks

    I have a warehouse of unused apostrophes that I’ll sell you cheap… It should help you out when using the contraction IT’S instead of “its” … Unless of course you’re just writing too fast and the apostrophe is a speed bump. :)

  • skunk1980

    This is a great article but it makes me feel dumb. Its intimidating is what it is. I dont believe in the American Religion, but Im still trapped in it.
    Most people, dare I make up a statistic of 99%, would have no idea how
    to do any of the stuff you write in this blog article. It sounds great,
    but for the average schmuck (i.e. serf) like me with no capital and few
    connections and no business experience… where does one even start?

    I love freedom, but I lack good ideas and dont know how to sell a damn
    thing much less make business connects with a CEO or even my next door

    Please advise.

  • Having a customer before we start business is a very basic business wisdom, yet it is uncommon to most entrepreneurs. That principle defines how truly an entrepreneur is willing to help people (customers) by providing them value and satisfaction. Business owners who are are only after for profit usually ignore this simple principle.

  • Denise

    Hey James!  Just wanted to tell you I read this book of yours!  I did get some head slaps along the read, which I needed, and I am thankful for them all.  I have 2 teens that I constantly encourage to think of ideas for a business of their own.  All the while,, I am trying to start a web based business of my own so I can break free of the corporate health care organization I work for (to pay my bills!!  A divorce leads to having to jump back into the working world for cash whether you want to or not! ha ha).  

    I would love to have all of the business contacts you have or have had being based in NY and in your specific industry, but I do not.  So I do struggle with how to get to many of the scenarios you describe in the book.

    I did actually just get the balls (even though I am female!) to publish a short book I wrote on kindle!  I finish a website to direct people to the book yesterday!  And how timely, now today I read YOUR book!

    Take a look if your like, or not.  Maybe your children can glean some advice from an unknown author! :)

    Thanks for your writing and your candor!
    Denise    (may not be available today.  I had to update contact info and republish yesterday!)


    James, you’re such a nice guy that I would let you eat my brains.

  • Anonymous

    Such a different way of thinking than you normally come across in the “how-to” books/articles…. Be customer centric – not product/idea centric. I dig it. Thanks!

  • Marc Morales

    “Never say no”? I see what you’re saying about getting the job done but Steve Jobs might have taken issue with that. At some point you have maintain focus. Maybe after the ball gets rolling?

  • I love the non-confomity views of your site James and it’s almost like by reading it all I am unlearning the damage that society has been hypnotizing me with! 

  • Austin King

    I am starting a new company, I eat sleep and dream about it, I think of the countless hours working on it, and all of the r&d money I have spent. I now have a manufacturer, setup some wholesale accounts for parts, and have been working on potential clients for a while. now I think I finally have my costs down to sell sell sell. it is a great new product!

  • Austin King

    of course, everything is for sale, for the right price. I honestly believe that my new product will simplify and revolutionize the ATV accessory industry! the market is huge!! 

  • Wonderful – wonderful article. I’m going to go through and read all the links there in the last section. Its a great insight on how to push your idea/project to CEOs and alike.  

  • nice post 

  • “There’s $15 trillion dollars in our economy, recession or no recession.
    Its falling like snow. Reach out with your tongue and taste it.” LOVE IT! New fan, just followed on twitter. I have a question about developing software. What process do you use to hire designers? How will I find the best people for the job? I have zero coding experience. Thanks in advance.

    Brandon Q.

  • “There’s $15 trillion dollars in our economy, recession or no recession. Its falling like snow. Reach out with your tongue and taste it.”   =   GET YOURS!……..step on peoples throats to do so….but get some.

  • soyroberto

    Being a entrepreneur has been hard for me, at the same time great, lots of pain, lots of learning, being responsible to make a payroll is way different to have a salary, will I do it again? Yes, but I guess not on the consulting services business, customers tend to think that consultants are its slaves, or paid whores. Lost of things to do yet, one thing I need to let go of entrepreneurship is stress, fricking stress, I hate it 

  • VarunShinde

    What if you dont have money, or have a very little money to invest…..and still want to setup a consumer based online business…..
    what can u suggest ?

  • This is very much in line with Eric Ries his lean startup theory. I would add that having customers FIRST is only important for when you’re building an innovating, new kind of product or service. If you’re planning on being a plumber, don’t worry about it. Me, I’m finishing up an online fitness program that took me 1,5 years to build. In one of the tips, “be happy for better results” I direct them to your blog. Thanks for all your writing, James. It’s part of my early morning routine.

  • Jason Wade

    just stumbled across this blog…LOVE IT so far

    I myself, just quit my corporate job, gave them the finger

    starting a blog for people that want to not be average

    gain muscle, make money online

    ill probably fail be broke in months, but hey, heres to failure

  • Elizabeth Tabanao

    you are a very good writer ! an honest and sincere one…thank you for sharing as it is better to read this than anything else. others are so boring !

  • Bhaveek Patel

    Your work has inspired a lot… Even I am selling premium domain names and websites but I dont make that much money as you are doing. :)
    Hope someday I will be working with you.

  • Nolan Walker

    I saw a picture online once of a pizza with the following quote:
    Every pizza is a personal pizza if you try hard and believe in yourself.
    This post is the long form of that lesson. Great work!

  • Eric

    Hey James,

    Quick question for you. I’ve been following the daily practice now for about 10 days. I have a hundred ideas but they are mostly consumer based.

    I read in your AMA that it is easier to break into the B2B business. So, I was wondering how would you come up with ideas for a business if you do not work for a major corporation or have any contacts within corporations? (ie: you live in a small town in nowhere Alabama) In FAQ Me you said working for a corporation is how you got your business ideas going that were successful. How do you choose which executives to contact if you do not know what market you want to get into?

    Also, have you ever considered doing a blog post of a “step-by-step” James Altucher success guide? This post is one of my favorites of all time because it is kind of like that. However, I’ve been trying to piece all of your advice together is a kind of guide, but I would like to hear straight from the man himself how he would start another business if he had to.

    Thanks James,

  • br_shadow

    I do not need a degree to become an entrepreneur ?

  • Vincent D


  • Aman

    Hello James, I am Aman … from India…… It looks you appreciate India and is connected to India a lot. Right! ……. But I am not getting any opportunity to start any business or so. Can you suggest me something? All I can tell you about my quality is that I am good in planning …. But really hates coding … I want to lead, plan and manage …..

  • Saif Q

    ” rule of the universe is you’ll get six meetings”
    Please write about the other rules of the universe!

  • Gregory Cheek

    Agree Darren! I get every James book, they are great but, as @garyvee says, James is all Jab, Jab, Jab! Thanks Greg