Milestone: What two to three key pieces of advice would you give an entrepreneur starting a company today?
Feld: Every entrepreneur that I have ever worked with, including myself when I was starting companies as an entrepreneur, was doing something you are incredibly passionate about. If you are really excited about the domain and the thing that you are working on, your probability or chance of success is dramatically higher than “well I am just starting a company because it seemed interesting or important.” Look for something you are really passionate about because it is going to consume you and it should consume you. Secondly, surround yourself with awesome people. It sounds trite but that is the biggest, driver of success, especially early in the life of a company. If you are an experienced entrepreneur you have been through that cycle, you have a collection of people. If you are not experienced, if this is the first time you are doing it, go find people that are experienced. Check them out carefully because you are going to have to live with them for a while. Make sure that you get the best possible people on your team early on.
I am starting to realize that anything that touches the consumer has to be free. If you want to launch and run a consumer facing service (the more obvious applications to write for any developer or company that relies on advertising as their revenue source), you have to give it away.
All these startups in my feeds lately are killing me! There are tons of them, but none seem to be doing anything particularly special. I mean, it’s nice that there’s a sort of rebirth of small startups, but there’s absolutely no sort of wow factor that I’ve seen. And no, this isn’t an anti-Web 2.0 style backlash: I really believe in the idea of the web as a platform. Amazon and eBay’s web services are perfect examples of platforms which have created huge value for both companies, as well as the developers using their APIs. That’s not the problem. It’s all these Flickr-wannabes, flip-it-quick companies that are bugging me.
No matter how great a business is, an inappropriate or poorly-chosen name can have a negative impact on its success — especially when first starting out. On the other hand, a business name that is appealing and memorable can do wonders for a business’s bottom line.
How long do your users spend in the “I suck” (or “this product sucks”) zone? Once they’ve crossed the suck threshold, how long does it take before they start to feel like they kick ass? Both of those thresholds are key milestones on a users path to passion, and it’s often the case that he-who-gets-his-users-there-first wins.
For nearly two decades, Jonathan Hirshon has nurtured startup entrepreneurs as a Silicon Valley marketing and communications consultant. Along the way, Hirshon has observed both sorry failures and stunning successes, and he became an entrepreneur himself — founding Horizon Communications, a Santa Clara (Calif.)-based consultancy, in 1995. Though it takes plenty of moxie to start a company, Hirshon says, it’s the outsized entrepreneurial ego that most often brings down startups.