A couple weeks ago, serial entrepreneurs Jim Garrett and Ed Trimble sat down with Start-Opia Radio. Well known among the startup community as successful “exit men,” Garrett and Trimble know how to play their cards right and when to capitalize on a good idea. But with their respective successes in the industry, both have experienced some bumps and bruises along the way. Below you will find their ‘Top 10 Tips for Emerging Entrepreneurs.’
<Click here to listen to the episode.>
1. Go big or go home. Go for the big opportunity. When involved in a startup, you need to have an end goal in mind. Since you only get a slice of the market you enter, the bigger the market the better. If you enter a smaller market, you have less of a chance to be successful because there are most likely companies that already dominate these markets. So go big or go home.
2. Stick to what you know. Two years after Garrett started Snapfinger, the company had invested a lot of money with nothing to show for it. The venture capitalists wanted quick results, so they recommended changing the strategy from “business to business” to “business to consumer”. Since the company didn’t have the right consumer platform, they switched back to their original plan of “business to business”. Stick to what you know to be successful in the startup field. Which brings up the next tip...
3. Put your foot down. Venture capitalists are experienced investors and will hold a substantial amount of input on the future of your company. This is because they are investing money, and they want to make sure that there are results. Although their help is valued, make sure you stick to what you know how to do and don’t let the capitalists change your original game plan.
4. Do your research. Everyone in a startup believes that their idea is the newest and greatest and that it hasn’t been seen before, but is this really true? In order to know, you have to research your idea and the patents around it. You can create an idea, but if someone already has a patent on it, you don’t want to waste time in legal battles after accidentally infringing on others’ ideas.
5. Listen to Your Customers. Ed Trimble’s advice to startups included listening to your customer and start listening early. The customers know about the market you’re entering. They also know what they’re looking for. It’s important that you listen and be able to fill their needs with your product. Listening is a valuable tool to success.
6. Chase the shiny object. In a startup, you need to get your foot in the door and try to get a fast break. Fortune 500 companies have the luxury of living by Ed Trimble’s quote: “You don’t want to be first, you want to be a fast follower.” Startups need to be able to jump in head-first in the market and go after the gold. Don’t be afraid to task risks and do things that others can’t or won’t.
7. VC’s Invest in management teams. Garrett and Trimble both agreed that having a good management team is very important. Venture capitalists are investing more in well put-together and experienced management teams, rather than the technology or product. In your start-up, make sure you build a good team where all members have the same end goal as you to have the most success.
8. Come down from your ivory tower. One essential tip in becoming successful is listening to outsiders’ advice. Often times, you may think that you have all the answers and you know exactly what you’re doing but that is not always the case. People share their opinions to help with your success, so listening to them is very beneficial. Getting out and talking to the market is also a necessity. The market is always changing; therefore, staying stagnant will put you behind. Interacting with the market itself will allow you to stay ahead of the curve.
9. Plan to Get to $100 Million. Being an entrepreneur creates a “fine line between crazy and successful”, Trimble states. To stay on the successful side, planning ahead is your best bet. Have a goal that you are trying to achieve in the end. Also, you should be able to step away from the madness and see what is flawed in your product. This will help you change the things that need to be fixed and increase your odds of being a success story.
10. Don’t waste your time. “If a venture capitalist won’t invest in your company, then you shouldn’t either” is a motto that Trimble lived by when he began in the startup world. Venture capitalists typically invest in companies that they believe in and those that they believe can have success. If a VC won’t invest in your company, maybe you should not waste your time and money either. Get out while you are still ahead.
If you pay attention to these tips, as well as advice from other members of the startup community, you can find the same success enjoyed by seasoned entrepreneurs such as Garrett and Trimble.
Jim Garrett is the founder and CEO of Snapfinger, and now resides as the CFO of Tillster. You can contact him at http://www.tillster.com as well as via LinkedIn
Ed Trimble is the President of Bonds Cove. You can contact him at http://www.bondscove.com/, via LinkedIn, or via Twitter @edtrimble