SVASE: Do I Have What it Takes to Be an Entrepreneur?

Over lunch today I attended the SVASE Startup-U Event: Do I Have What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur? Which was held at Plug & Play Tech Center. The guest speakers were John Kim founder of Five9 and LeadMarket, and Steve Stephansen, Board Director of the Sand Hill Angels. It was an open discussion with a lot of questions from the crowd and good interaction. The five questions and answers I found most interesting were:

1. What characteristics are common amongst successful entrepreneurs?
Usually entrepreneurs are people who can’t work for someone else, they like new things, and feel that they can’t innovate in other companies, thus start their own. Other characteristics of a entrepreneurs is someone who is focused, is an expert in a particular area and has passion for their offering.

2. What types of commitments, sacrifices and joys can I expect as I get my new business started?
Being an entrepreneur is very time consuming. The biggest sacrifice you can expect to make is giving up your time. Since time is so prevalent in becoming successful, it is extremely tough for married entrepreneurs and even tougher with kids.

Steve Stephansen spoke on his personal experience of being a CEO. Looking back when trying get started and trying to raise capital there was no way I could be in a relationship. I was so stressed out! All I could think about was the responsibility I took when I accepted investor capital. My reputation and future in the valley was based on what I could achieve the money.

3. Is failure good?
Many people learn from failure but it does not necessarily mean it is good. These days, the people raising money have had successful exits. It is getting harder and harder for first time entrepreneurs to raise capital because there are so many people with similar technologies. It is okay to fail, but you need some success factor in the journey to substantiate your loss. Otherwise it could be more difficult to raise money the next time around.

4. What resources are available to help me avoid mistakes and make wise decisions?
John Kim spoke about his experiences. In my limited experience, it has been all about customer acquisition. If you think you have a compelling value proposition, you should be able to sell it before it is built. Early on we were sales focused. There was no time for “strategy planning.” We did not even think about raising capital, we were solely focused on finding customers. With nothing more than a laptop and a cell phone my partner and I went 32k into credit card debt but in 9 months we successfully grew to 900K in revenue.

5. If I recognize that I may not have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, what options do I have to realize my idea?
You can validate proof of concept with customers. Customers prove that there is a problem that needs to be solved. Once you know you have something, everything becomes easier. It is not about the “great idea,” it is about the execution on the marketing.

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