This past year I have been moving from a Geek to a network entrepreneur whore. I have found clients, pitch business ideas, and even make money here and there. Branding myself as the “Geek Guru” previous to the redesign let me know first hand one common mistakes that I needed to change, you should focus on branding yourself, like John Murch or John Murch dot com.
Anyway, Hopefully these 10 tips will help those Geeks, like myself who are moving into a startup or entrepreneur role, understand that technology is second and business if first.
10. In Business Coding is 1% of your Company
I can tell you first hand when talking to a VC or Angle Investor the actually code, methodologies, and/or programming language is almost as important as the color sock you wear that day. The Geek inside you needs to get out and think more like that suit, think like a business man and NOT like a coder! Knowing from experience I spent hours, days, maybe even a week perfecting some of my code and making sure it looked perfect with all the proper indentations and 80 character limits. Although with all this work, if no one knows you and/or your product, will anyone care? Better yet, imagine if you have this amazing code, but never release it. You get so sucked into perfection that you wait 2 years or more until someone else out there releases a free barley functional copy that does only 5% of what your software does, but you can ACTUALLY download it. To me, perfect code is like brain crack, you will get sucked into the details that no one cares about when you should be posting it up on a website and saying next version out in 2 weeks. Think iteratively, and understand that users realize everything is a beta, bugs happen in the computer world, just look at Microsoft.
9. 1 year is not long term
I know Financial gurus think in quarters and geek normally think in days, maybe weeks, depending on the various methodologies. In the real business world getting the right PR person to promote your product and get traffic can take 6 months. Even with a digg and techcrunch post that only covers the tech world, what about all those other people that probably could use your product. I know myself I get sucked into the RSS tech world and do not realize how many other people are surfing the web who have no idea what twitter is, right? Getting a product out the door and fixing buggy code is a daily task, but putting systems in place to either automate your marketing system and/or download/purcahse process can take more then your daily 1 week iteration.
8. Show me the money
I was recently talking to a VC about how they are betting on 1 of the 30 investments to hit it rich and pay off all the others. Think about it, 1/30 is a 0.03 or 3%. So if they plan to invest in you, they are hoping for a 30x payoff (if not more) and realize it could be a total flop. On the other side, they are looking at things that actually have a “monetized” approach. Being sites to save the world is great (I know I have tried with Hippy Green) but with VCs its about the bottom line. How are you planning on making that 30x back within 5 or 10 years, donations? You can hire all the best programmers in the world to build your revolutionary product, but if you can’t monetized it, no one will invest in it. In the business world and real world, the money talks and the website walks.
7. Be the first to admit you don’t know your Mom
People think they know something, when most of the time, they have a concept or idea in their head. Your target market, such as our Mom, might be the perfect person to pitch, but audiances make strange decisions. I will be the first to admit I need to find out more about my own audiance (here on my blog!). Knowing your marketing and “thinking” you know your market are 2 totally different things. Sometimes people do the total opposite of what would make perfect sense. For example, say you built a revolutionary diet website, and since everyone in America is fat (at least thats what I hear), you think 1% of market, gold mine! Well thats great and all, and yes diet and fitness are big markets especially during new years, but do you realize why? There is this little word called retention. Everyone wants to look like a super model and fit into those smaller sizes, but for most this is just a thought/dream that takes a fast turn to nowhere. Retention is needed in order to have a successful product. You either need to be retaining your current customers, or making sure you get enough new customers to make up for the ones who are dropping out. Talk to your actually customer, invite some of out for drinks and/or food. If you think you know your audiance, then get them to be the fist to signup and see how difficult it is.
6. Give Customers some Lovy Love
I have to give a shout out on this one, Gary Vaynerchuk at Wine library tv who has more love for his audiance and customers then I have ever seen. You need to be passion about what you are doing and support all of those people who are supporting you.
5. Remove features BEFORE the deadline approaches
Feature rich applications and programs do not mean better product. Think of simple elegant products, like a simple search box where you type in a search and get web results, better known as Google. They have an advance search, but keep it simple stupid with their main search. Building products/concepts can take time and adding more and more features that only 0.001% of your market require, may not be the best idea, especially right out of the gate. I know when building products, feature creap is a problem, just add this and that… before you know it, your product sucks because you have too many features! Take them out especailly if their hold you back. One of the best advice I recieved was if you can’t build the feature in a week, its too big of a feature. Break down the cycle and move towards a iterative apporach. Think of 37 Signals, their products are lean and mean.
4. Tell a friend about your idea
FEEDBACK! Seriouly their is nothing like taking an idea to the next level then getting others to become FANs of your products. You need a “cult” enviornment or following of “groupies” (Yes, Twitter followers count), but you need to tell others about your product. Why? Well, to start its a great way to get people mentioning your product to frineds. Telling your friends is another way to “get things done” because they will tend to ask you about it each time you see/speak to them. BUILD A FOLLOWING
3. Design before Function
Just look at the ipod and how this small device has changed the music industry and all the people who listen to music. Every time I am walking around New York City I am thrown back by how many people have those white headphones and cords. Almost all headphones that you would buy at a store from the 80’s until the release of the iPod, were black headphones. Since Apple is always killing the design they decided to give the iPod white headphones, which has created fashion statement in some case. Apple put design before function and made a killing! My iPhone has always looked the same, yet their are software updates that are fixing some of the functional/bugs that I have been dying for, such as deleting multiple emails at a time. So if you get 100+ emails a day, clicking 1 by 1 delete, ugh!
2. READ, READ, READ
Reading is a great way to not only LEARN from others, but stop you from making the same mistakes. Yes, mistakes happen and as an entreprner you will make them, but you can help your chances of “making it” but reading about how others did it. Get ideas and see what has worked (or hasn’t) and follow the great leaders.
1. Mentors Find Them, Leverage Them, Treat Them like Gods
Mentors are everywhere in your life and as a inspiring entrepreneur you should not only lean on mentors to help you, but in the process you will find others that could use your help and have them lean on you. I know I have been building my business network one person at a time. You need mentors to push you and ask questions as well as to follow up with you on your passion/ideas/business. Entrepreneurs tend to be all over the board with ideas, but with mentors to help push and guide you in a direction, you can reach your goals faster. Even if your in college or high school, a teacher might be your mentor. Even celebrities such as Richard Branson can be a mentor, just pickup a book they wrote and learn. Also don’t forget to give back, be sure to treat your mentors and take them out (dinner, coffee, golf?).
These 10 tips for moving from a geek to a startup entrepreneur should help give you a boost in the right direction. I know I person have been working on improving and bettering my best with these tips above.
What tips/ideas do you have for geeks who want to be entrepreneurs?