#GHC13: Panel on Entrpreneurship

baby duck
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One of the things I really liked about this session was that it was three older women, and not all of them lived in the Valley (sadly I can’t find the description of the panel or the panelists). So much of what I read and hear about tech startups is SV based, that it’s extremely refreshing to hear an outside perspective!

Advice from Founder.

  • Don’t start with an exit strategy.
  • 5m users and no money is not a business, it’s a hobby.
  • Aim for happy users and customers.
  • Doing a startup is like sprinting a marathon.
  • Can’t have work life balance at a startup. It’s not 9-5, but nor is it 8 hours a day. It’s not for the faint of heart.
  • It will suck you in and take over who you are.
  • When you hire someone you own their pay check. You don’t want to be responsible for them starving.
  • When you hire a board, it’s like a marriage where they can divorce you but you can’t divorce them.
  • Board can kick out founders at any time. It’s really hard for founders to buy out a board.
  • You think you are ready to launch – make sure you have a great idea. Get buy-in from your family. Gives the example of making her son a cofounder.
  • Build a strong team around you, you don’t want to be alone.
  • Objections to having a cofounder is splitting equity, but remember 100% of nothing is nothing.
  • Cofounder needs to be someone you will listen to. Sometimes you’ll be wrong.
  • Almost everything in tech can be built to some approximation, but not everything should be – because no-one will pay for it.
  • In enterprise, have to consider if it is 10x faster. The advantage has to be an order of magnitude better, otherwise not worth the switch.
  • Some things should be built, but not at that time. Gives example of first company, cloud. Timing was a big ingredient (she was too early).
  • Enterprise space, need 10-20 customers. Consumer products, need hundreds.
  • Raise seed money and experiment a lot. No real money until a few million customers, experience with engagement, retention.
  • If you don’t get negative feedback, either you are not listening or someone is being nice to you.
  • Good ideas fail big or win super big.
  • Get intelligence about what other companies are doing. Worry about competing with big companies.
  • Avoid the drive to zero (e.g. cloud). Need to be so differentiated that it won’t be commoditised soon.
  • Don’t wait for the moment where you just know; this is mostly not what happens.
  • If when frustrated, instead of complaining, you take action; you’re an entrepreneur. You can do this even if you have a job. It’s more of an attitude than DNA.
  • To start a company you need an idea.

Advice from VC.

  • Look for secrets.
  • Big companies are already working on the obvious ideas. Not a good idea for a startup company.
  • Secrets may look like bad ideas.
  • Look for founders who know the tech better than anyone, understand the environment really well. Had a personal experience, e.g. Lyft came from founder experience in Zimbabwe [story].
  • Believe something that none else believes. E.g. of Salesforce, really hard to get funding because regular VCs didn’t believe that anyone would store that kind of information with anyone else.
  • Look for idea that upsets the norms and challenges convention, e.g. AirBnB creates experience around travel different from staying at the DoubleTree. The pitch sounds ridiculous.
  • VCs are sometimes too old for new ideas. You wouldn’t do that, but would others? New York AirBnB stats are incredible [AirBnB stats page].

Joanna on Entrepreneur Qualities

  • Brimming in confidence.
  • Loves to be out the box, “not sure how many of you think you are in a box”.
  • Passionate.
  • Risk-taker.
  • Perpetually interested in everything.
  • People-oriented problem solver.
  • Great storyteller.
  • Leads by example.
  • Knows when you get expert experience.
  • Tolerates failure well.

Paula on Entrepreneur Qualities

  • You get as much joy out of the idea as you do in bringing it to life.
  • “Everyone has fabulous ideas, not many people act on them”. It’s not just about the idea, but also about the discipline to act on it.
  • How to get joy out of using the things you build.
  • You cannot imagine sitting on a good idea and not taking action.
  • You reserve the right to get smarter and learn.
  • You cannot stop yourself thinking about how things could be better, and then work on making them better.
  • Product genius is something that cannot be taught. Tech founder is best suited to track those trends and follow accordingly.

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