I listened to Mark Suster speak at NYU last week. Suster is a General Partner at GRP Partners and writer of the very popular blog “Both Sides of the Table.” He made a lot of interesting points about how entrepreneurs should think about their ideas, their businesses, their teams, raising money, and an array of other challenges. I thought I would share a few things he described that really hit home. **Note: the following are a combination of Suster’s points mixed with my own impressions.
Solve Big Problems
Too many business ideas are not really businesses at all. They are merely features of other businesses that already exist. Don’t be just a feature. Look at problems that affect a large market and find some creative solutions to fix it. Just because facebook or Google could do what you’ve thought of doesn’t mean you need to find something else. If anything it means that you’ve discovered a problem and a market with real potential. Don’t waste time building features that the Mint.com of whatever will be adding to their own platform 6 months down the road.
Follow the Puck
When building products do not lose sight of your market. I’ve been interning at foursquare for just over a week now. The thing that has impressed me the most so far is how focused the entire team is on the product, and most importantly how their product fits into the market. The conversations that take place to make sure that everyone is on the same page in the roadmap are really what sets it apart from its competitors. Every employee shares the same long-term vision for the company, but keeps track of short-term goals and knows exactly the role they will play in its development.
Suster explained that one should always be conscious of the necessity to consistently network up the chain of command (hierarchy of influence, etc). It’s an interesting philosophy, which I agree with up to a point. My only issue is that networking for the sake of networking can be dangerous. Knowing a lot of people can be a great thing. But networking should be viewed as an even exchange between both parties. Reputation is always at stake. Failing to follow up, not returning a favor, or just simply using a person to get ahead is wrong and will almost always come back to bite you.
Don’t believe the hype
Stay off TechCrunch. Yes TechCrunch is on my BlogRoll. Yes I read it a few times a week. No I dont treat it, or any sites like it as if I’m going to discover the next big idea on it. TechCrunch is hype and it can destroy entrepreneurs who may have actually had real potential. Stories about getting a hundred thousand users over night after launch or raising millions of dollars from a few VC’s with only a minimum viable product make great news. And that is exactly what they are, Great News. The other thousands of startups that are struggling for attention, users, money, etc. are what running a startup is really like, but almost never depicted.