Bumper Pickner @BumperPickner: Whats the best advice for a 24yr old entrepreneur?
There’s only one advice: persistence.
How to be persistent:
– Know that failure happens every day. In small ways and in big ways. I would hire the wrong person (small way), I would start the wrong business (big way), I’d make the wrong investment (medium way, depending on size of investment). But failure happens every day. If 50% of your decisions work out then you are doing ok.
– Don’t smoke crack. When I started my wireless software business I thought immediately it was a big Fortune 500 company that would go public and make billions. When someone wanted to negotiate valuation down I was like, “are you crazy?! We are worth ten times that!” Someone once offered to buy the company for $70 million. NO WAY! I was smoking my own crack. I’ve seen a lot of crack smokers since then. I can always tell a crack smoker. They say their name of their company and it’s like they are saying “Coca-Cola” a brand that has existed forever that will never go away. Always double-check that you aren’t smoking crack.
– Don’t become attached to one idea. You’re 24. Let’s look at similar 24 year olds. Larry Page and Sergey Bring came up with their little tweak on search algorithms and they called it first “Backrub” and then “Google”. They spelled “Googol wrong. Perhaps on purpose. In any case, they really wanted to be academics. So they tried to sell their business to Yahoo. Guess what they asked. ONE MILLION DOLLARS! And Yahoo said, “no”.
They were probably dreaming of what they would do with $500,000 each. History proved Yahoo wrong. But guess what. That was the ONLY time basically that a situation like that worked out for the entrepreneur. Take the money and run. When you are 24 don’t get religious about any idea. If someone offers you money that increases your odds of financial stability, you take it. You’ll be an entrepreneur for the rest of your life. You’ll make a lot of money no matter what. But always TAKE money that is offered you.
– Don’t die in the details. In other words: don’t try to patent your idea. Don’t get bogged down in legal agreements. Don’t get bogged down with accountants. Focus on only one thing: building a product that someone wants, and then getting someone to pay you for it. If nobody will pay you for it, tweak your idea until someone does, or bundle your product as a service that you offer that someone will you for. Ask potential customers for advice on what they will pay for. Keep repeating this until someone pays you. Then worry about the details, as your business is growing.
– The buck stops with you. In the beginning you have all of these roles: CEO, director of product development, head of marketing, head of sales, head of customer service, head of investor relations. Don’t give those roles to anyone else unless you absolutely trust them. Don’t delegate before you have something to delegate.
– Keep adding ideas. You have a product. Great. Now add a new feature. Done? Add a new one. Done? Ok, add another. And keep going. I wish in my first business I had done that. I made money but not as much as I think I could’ve.
– Try not to raise money. Of course, at 24, you don’t have money. But see how far you can go without money. If your product can start off as a service, then your customers will pay your bills. Eventually you build up and rent a small space. eventually you build from there and hire an intern. And so on. You can raise money when people are begging to give you money. That’s the best time to raise money. When it’s easy. And then always raise when it’s easy. Because you don’t want to be stuck when it’s hard.
– Give up fast. If an idea is not working, move on. The best way to push a boat is to let the current push it. You always want to go with the current. You’ll feel when things are easy and you are going with the flow. Don’t force it. If you are forcing it then eventually you’ll end up where you started.
– Learn from mistakes. You failed? You made a bad decisions? Learn, analyze, study, write it down, figure it out. You won’t make the same mistake twice. Also, be ready to blame yourself. Don’t blame others. If your business failed then then only fault is with you. Not y0ur partners (pick better partners next time – your fault) and not your clients (pick better clients). It’s ALWAYS your fault when you fail.