I’m not really the blogger type. Firstly I don’t have much time to write; secondly my grammar skills aren’t what they should be to enter into the blogging world. In fact, I don’t even have a personal blog, which is probably why I am writing here. You’ll have to bear with me.
Patience isn’t my greatest virtue and I like to write when I feel like I need to get stuff "out". So here goes. Being involved in quite a few startups tracking way back to the late 90’s, I feel I have “been there, done that” with regards to trying to launch a web based startup in this country.
I have failed many times, I will be the first to admit. And perhaps jotting down what aspects I think aided the failures might not only help me, but help others too. Here goes:
1: Don’t start a business amongst friends. Some people can handle it, but there are others who cannot. And those who cannot will make it h*** for those who can. Can you fire one of your best friends? If your answer is no, don’t go there.
2: Don’t try and go it alone. I’ve tried many times. Jacques Kallis may be a great all rounder, but most of us aren’t. I know for a fact my business skills are lacking, I’ve learned the hard way. So be honest with yourself, find where you are lacking and team up with good people who have the skills you don’t.
3: If you want something to grow, you have to dig a hole, unclench your fist and throw your seeds right in that abyss. It sounds corny I know, but it’s the absolute truth. For it to grow, you gotta let it go. Those who know what I am talking about will understand, those who don't... won't. I think this is one of those lessons you can only learn yourself.
4: Be like Edison, but also don’t. It’s said that Edison stated he found a few thousand ways to not make a lightbulb before he invented one. Having a never give up attitude is good, but balance it with reason and logic. Some things might not work because the market is not right, because you didn’t have the skill set to make it work, or because the universe didn’t want it to. These things happen, so try and use all you have to find out when to throw in the towel, and when to press ahead. Some times (sadly enough) it makes more sense to throw in the towel and start training for the next fight.
5: Be the user. Would you honestly use your product or service? Would you pay the price you expect others too? If you can honestly answer no, sort it out. Today.
6: I recently read an article on TechCrunch, where a prominent person in the VC world said that marketing is purely a tool for bad and unmarketable products. I’m no profitable venture capitalist, but coming from being involved in many startup failures I can tell you this is absolute nonsense. Do research, find your target market and make sure your product is visible to them from day one. Do whatever you can to get as much PR for your product as possible. Hustle and bustle, target the right demographic and get your product out there under any favourable spotlight you can find. It's imperative. If you're desperately thirsty and go into a shop and they only have Pepsi, what are you going to buy? Make sure you are found by those who seek the service you offer.
7:) Just do it. Nike has it right on this one. If you have an idea, research it as much as you can, if it still sounds good after your market research - go ahead and just do it. Even if it means you have to deliver pizzas to pay your AdWords bill or you have to work for 8 months coding and learning new technologies every night till 3am. I’ve done it. And should the venture fail after all the hard work - it will hurt. But I ask myself what will hurt more, knowing I gave it my best and it failed, or being an old man one day, spending my days sitting on a rocking chair and wondering what would have happened if I had just tried. That second option scares the h*** out of me, so much more than the first.
It’s late and I can’t think of anything else right now, but getting some of this down on virtual paper has helped me, and I hope at least one person out there can learn from my many mistakes and few successes.
All the best for 2011.
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