There are few–if any–real secrets to entrepreneurial success. Most entrepreneurial secrets are hiding in plain sight, available to anyone who keeps their eyes and ears open and is willing to ask questions.
Newsletter August 2017: Entrepreneurial Secrets
|This blog post summarizes our August 2017 newsletter.
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There are few–if any–real entrepreneurial secrets.
There is a lot to learn about business from Silicon Valley’s ad hoc continuing education program in entrepreneurship but very little–if any–is secret. At best some “Silicon Valley secrets” are hiding in plain sight, available if you keep your eyes and ears open.
- Books are valuable, and not enough entrepreneurs do enough reading, but there is also a category of knowledge that hasn’t been written down yet.
- You can gain wisdom from listening to someone who has played the game–even if it’s just their mistakes–that you would otherwise have to gain from your experiencing your mistakes.
- You can also learn a lot from serious conversation with prospects and people who are knowledgeable about the problems you are trying to solve.
Finally you have be willing to “leave the herd” and be unconventional–in one or two or at most three ways–so that you can work for the most part with proven methods but depart from them enough to see above average results.
“Only Experience Teaches You: You can’t learn skiing by watching videos. They might help but you still need to find a place with snow, put your skis on, and thrust yourself down the mountain.”
Barry Moltz in “You Need To Be a Little Crazy“
Probe for the limits of what’s generally accepted as true and the limits of current expert knowledge. Experts can become very committed to a world view that is fraying around the edges or even obsolete because to let go of their expertise (or recognize that it’s obsolete) means regressing to a journeyman or even novice status. Most conventional wisdom was true for some time in some situations and you need to understand how your plans to “violate” conventional wisdom can explain why it’s worked in other situations but is not true in the arena you are planning to operate in.
Howard Marks wrote “Dare to be Great” in 2006 as a summary of challenges for successful investment: you have to be unconventional but correct. This advice applies to startups as well: conventional strategies yield conventional results, only the unconventional is above average–or below. Place small bets early to explore widely and create options.
If you want to learn knowledge that hasn’t been written down (yet) you need to join groups or take part in events where the incentives favor candor. Focusing on failures and lessons learned is often more instructive than success stories. Trying to glean the path to success in a particular market, technology, or geography is always challenging because where it was historically is based on a set of competitive equilibria that may have shifted significantly or even dissolved. But stories that are “here is what we did and here is what happened” are more useful than “do it this way.”
Cecily Drucker’s “Entrepreneurial Secrets of a 64 year old Startup Virgin” lists a number of useful insights for entrepreneurs. Embrace the fertile void of sleepless nights. Lots of creativity can occur then. Once you’ve invested your money, it is a company asset. Start with the most elegant, simple outcome. Solve the problem you set out to solve, or intentionally change course. Acknowledge everyone’s contributions: your entire team is making a bet and probably doing so with significant personal risk.
The problem is that, in reality, the future can be hard to recognize. It’s not evenly distributed; it’s hidden in corners. While there is no shortage of clues, they are buried beneath a crush of information. Radical adaptation to shifting customer demand is the first law of business survival today, but how can you learn what you need to know in order to anticipate those shifts?
Rob Rodin in “Free, Perfect, and Now“
I don’t know that I can offer any “entrepreneurial secrets” but if you are having trouble making sense of what you have learned from your initial early market conversations, please sign up for an no cost no obligation office hours session and we can help you make sense of what you have seen and heard. If you are preparing to scout a new market and would like a briefing for a descent into chaos, you are also welcome to sign up for an office hours session.