I was reading a Fast Company series this morning in which they asked several innovative thought leaders what each had learned in 2012 and what lessons will carry through to the new year. I’m a sucker for business wisdom from those that have been there and succeeded, so I really appreciated the advice.
Although I’m at a stage right now where I’m also looking for mentors and guidance, I’ve noticed that since I started on my own full-time, I’ve gotten several questions from friends about what I’m up to and how I’m doing what I’m doing.
So here are a few of my own lessons learned in 2012 – from an entrepreneur who is pushing through meeting by meeting and learning every single day.
100% of nothing is still nothing. When starting a business where you are seeking investment and co-founders, you have to consider the obvious: dilution and giving up equity is inevitable. You just have to learn how to slice the pie. Of course there isn’t a right or wrong answer but there are a few tools to help you figure it out.
- Slicing the Pie – This is a great resource to help you determine how equity should be split in an early stage startup. You can even download the Excel sheet to calculate the values here.
- Foundrs.com – A co-founder equity calculator that is easy to use and understand.
Weeble wobble but don’t fall down. In an early stage startup you have to be flexible with almost everything because, like it or not, you will pivot. For me, it was the name and branding of the company. I had it in my mind that the name and branding would be something that I had come up with way back when I started thinking about the company. I tried everything to keep it that way but after meetings with my co-founder and months of not loving logo drafts, we decided to change the name entirely and create a whole new brand. Although I was sad to see my original idea disappear, I am thrilled that we made the switch and even happier that it was so early on. Here are a few sites I used to figure out how to name our startup.
Advice is invaluable. It is so important to network and connect with as many people as possible. Seriously, aside from doing A TON of research on your market space and after you have created all of your initial pitch documents (plan, presentation, business model canvas, etc.), make sure to set up multiple meeting with like-minded entrepreneurs, investors, lawyers, accountants, corporate businesspeople, VCs, CEOs, friends, whoever!
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met with in the past 60 days, but I do know that from each and every meeting I gained a little more knowledge and a lot more inspiration. They opened my eyes to ideas I hadn’t thought of and questions I didn’t have answers to. They shared stories of their experiences, things I can expect, things I should watch out for, people I should know and much more. Here are some of the ways that I used these coffee meetups to help improve my startup’s potential.
- Research. Before your meeting, find out a little about the person you are meeting with so that you can begin the relationship feeling like you already know one another.
- Bring material. If you have any of the essential items for starting your business, bring them with you. Everyone wants to see a demo, presentation, business plan or even just sketches of the website. It helps them conceptualize your idea and give you honest feedback on your newborn project.
- Make notes. After the meeting (and sometimes during) I would write in my networking journal: the date, time and place of the meeting and then included a long list of everything that we discussed: feedback, initial thoughts or reactions to my ideas on the software, people that they mentioned who could help with this journey, advice and any books or quotes that they referenced.
- Do more research. Once you’ve written all of your notes, start looking up the people, websites, tools and books that the person you met with suggested.
- Follow up. Send a follow up email thanking your new friend for the time and advice. Tell them what you found most inspiring about the meeting or ask them a few follow up questions. Who knows, maybe you can lend them a hand when they need it down the road.
Look, your idea might be amazing… absolutely unbelievable … world changing, even! But it’s just an idea.
In order to turn your idea into a business, you have to work really hard, suck up a lot of pride, realize what you are not-so-good at, find awesome team members to compliment you, get a ton of advice, and find your customers to make the product or service with you.
This post was inspired by this Fast Company series.