Looking for more information on becoming an Entrepreneur or running a successful startup? Well we are hosting monthly webinars to answer your burning questions. Entrepreneurs talk about their experience and will answer often asked questions. This journey that you are on is not an easy one, with many ups and downs, but it does not mean you have to do it alone. Our webinar series starts from the very beginning and walks you through the innovation process, finding funding, building a team and customer acquisition. So what are the benefits for you?

  1. Insights from Entrepreneurs who have been in your shoes before;
  2. Formulas, checklists and tips on how to be a successful entrepreneur;
  3. Opportunity to directly ask those burning questions.

Our knowledge transfer webinar series has already started but you can watch all previous episodes on our website or check out the summaries below. Also, mark your calendars for the upcoming webinars so you do not miss anything. More details below.

Summary of the Past Three Webinars

Entrepreneurs DNA

Our first webinar is a great starting point for anyone considering becoming an entrepreneur, as it walks you through what it really takes to be a successful entrepreneur. The main takeaways answer the question, what are traits of an entrepreneur? These are not skills, nothing inherited, no expertise, no training …

  • Fearless/ Risk Takers*
  • Independent*
  • Curious/ Open*
  • Creative/ Compositive*
  • Determined*
  • Intelligent*
  • Connected
  • Communicative
  • Confident
  • Involving

*Must have to be a founders. Cofounders can offset 40% of the missing traits.

Idea Seeker

You want to be an entrepreneur. You have the important traits addressed in our first webinar, Entrepreneurs DNA but you don’t have an idea? In our next webinar, Idea Seeker, we showed you where the best ideas in the world come from. You might be surprised; it is easier than you may think.

Where are great ideas coming from?

  • From your own experiences (problems)
  • From careful market observation & listening
  • From taking many perspectives (see opportunities)
  • Crafting a concept (initial value of an idea is zero)
  • Get ready to execute – the path to value and prosperity
  • Why even looking for an idea? It’s the ignition.

Idea Validation

Now you have your idea but how good is that idea really? Do you know? Our next webinar, Idea Validation, showed you how to get that answer and even how to make a so-so-idea into a really great idea. We cannot stress enough, build what customers want – not what you think they should get! Here is some top client feedback to consider:

  • What problem would you solve?
  • What value would it be? How much?
  • What happens if we take it away?

Where to Watch

You can watch all of our Knowledge Transfer webinars, including are SPECIAL EDITION sessions here: https://wiforum.org/webinar-recordings/ If you enjoyed the content please let us know by commenting, subscribing or liking our videos on YouTube. We are welcome to any feedback and are happy to answer any additional questions you might have. Please email us at contact@wiforum.org.

Join our Next Session

We are hosting our next session, Innovative Thinking on Monday, August 3 at 10:00 AM WAT | 12:00 PM EAT | 4:00 PM ICT. Want to become really innovative with ground breaking concepts? You can actually learn this. Don’t miss out on anymore of our webinars, find all upcoming events and registration links here: https://wiforum.org/online-events/.

You know, that on average 10% of startups win – Don’t focus on those who did not make it. UNDERSTAND WHAT THE F**K DID THE GOOD STARTUPS HAVE TO WIN?
Our most recent Accelerator – Flight 8 – is a great example (picture). “The winner takes it all” – even the funding.

The epic list of failing

The list of questions about what went wrong feels endless. Tens of thousands of little reasons why they fail.  And 90% of young entrepreneurs focus on exactly that – they FEAR to fail. Interestingly enough those who win don’t fear anything – not even to fail.

The short list of winning

Instead of fearing to fail, become determined to win. And it takes only 5 key aspects:

  1. Founders Team Composition
    The difference between success and failure, we found are these 10 traits or talents: fearless, creative, determined, curious, independent, confident, connected, communicative, involving and intelligent are the top 10 traits for entrepreneurs.
    If you don’t have some of those traits, no problem at all – only you may not be the perfect choice for a founder. And if you are, you most likely won’t make it alone. At least in the past 50 years no solopreneur made it to a top company. So don’t go forward alone. Having co-founders means sharing – sharing equity sharing the pain sharing the win in the end. Another of the most read blog posts explains it pretty well. The best founders are co-founders.
  2. Problem Solving Nature
    Founding a company just to be your own boss or because it looks like it can make you rich – will be failing you with 100%. But seeing an opportunity to fix one of the countless problems and making the designated audience more successful and/or more happy it is hard to fail. There are hundreds of problems and if they still exist nobody else found a great solution – maybe you will.
  3. Observer & Listener
    The simple skills – or not so simple for many people – is being a great observer and listener. Watch people what they do and how they do it. You may get an idea to solve it. Listen to people what they say, how they say it and what their emotions are. Just listening may give you great ideas, verify it with others and build the idea up. The reason why we have so many unsolved problems is because nobody had the energy to start a company solving it. Here are over 100 unsolved problems.
  4. Execution
    Once you really know what problem you want to solve and made enough effort to verify your idea with future customers and don’t worry about your idea get stolen you will need to execute. Hence the name Chief EXECUTIVE officer. That means hiring the best of the best people and jointly sticking to what you want to achieve. Work with the most advanced customers first – don’t try the easy ones. Look for business partners, suppliers you can learn from and as you perform with the least possible budgets you will grow fast. You see the full list on another post: A day of a startup CEO. Only if you love this job more than anything else – you are in the right spot. And of not, there are lots of other positions to fill.
  5. Making a difference not getting rich
    Sheer jealousness and greed made most people look down on the wealthy business owners. Only a few, close enough to them, will realize that most of them never cared about making money. What drives them is making a vision becoming a reality and making a difference. Whether people believe or not doesn’t matter to them they are not looking for attention but progress. And this closes the loop to success. It takes a dream team, eager to solve problems, carefully observing markets and executing that vision no matter what, tio build a phenomenal company. And there are many ways to get funding. Trying to get rich at the same time is a huge distraction and almost always leads to failure. Of course they get rich after a few yours successfully growing their business, very rich. But focusing on that is a killer.

This list is “inclusive” a single missing item on that list seem to cause death of a startup. This list follows the weak link principal. If one is weak – all is weak.

You wonder about financing, missing investors, VCs, and so forth? Here it comes again: blinded by money. You believe you need to hire people to build a perfect solution or a business person to run operations? Again: Blinded by money – look for a co-founder instead. You need marketing and therefor money? You can already see it where it goes. The best entrepreneurs in the world “built something with nothing” – that makes the biggest difference in one sentence.

 

This virus clearly hit humanity pretty hard in many ways. First and foremost the losses of lives. And it comes hand in hand with a very saddened human behavior: “oh the ones that died were already so old and already ill…” did we give up on the value of life? The value of currently 25,000 lives? Over 500,000 are infected. And obviously our general life is fundamentally narrowed down to the apartment we live in. If we have an apartment. 75% of people have not. The people in large parts of Africa, Asia and quite some parts in Latin America have not. They live on a daily income of $5 or less. They have to go out and work whatever is available. We learned from our friends in Uganda, Kenya and other nations: Most of their people have two options: starving to death or getting the virus that they most likely survive – the decision is simple. That is the decision about 1 billion people have to make right now. So corona is no joke, no hype and no conspiracy.

However, we also will learn more from Corona, than most think today:

1) The importance of the English Language

Many of us read the news and daily updates from around the world every morning. We know already what worked and what didn’t from China, from South Korea, from Singapore and many other Asian countries. But this is only if you speak English or are digital savvy enough to automatically translate everything into your language. In recent discussions we learned that far more than half of the governments in the world do not speak english. They are dependent of what others tell them what is happening. Also those who are looking for test equipment, treatment, best practices, what type of hygiene measures they may consider long before the rest of the word slowly woke up. The English language no longer is the universal language for doing business around the globe, it is the number one language of communication also in any kind of crisis. Speaking one common language – at least as a second language – is paramount for our survival, not only in business but also in our general life. And it will also closing the gap between rich and poor, My proposal for the United Nation: Making “English as a common language on earth” the SDG #18.

2) Digital Empowerment

In only 10 weeks the world has turned to digital faster than all the efforts of even the most powerful governments on earth in the last 10 years. Companies with a home office concept could almost seamlessly transition from their office buildings to home offices. But going digital is not only an emergency action to stay in business: In the past few weeks we had far more client interactions online than ever before. Trying to setup a meeting, finally finding a convenient day and time, traveling an hour to do a meeting for another hour is over.  TODAY: “Do you have a moment?” – “Sure – give me 5 minute” – “How can I help” – We have this and that issue … Ok ….”  15 minute later, everything was done. And not next week – but immediately. We accelerated work by 2.5 hours and reduced the “problem to solution” time by maybe a week. In our particular case run so called demo days after each startup acceleration program. We rent a venue invite investors and let our entrepreneurs present in front of approximately 15 to 25 investors sometimes a little more. This year we just invited 800 investors from around the world and have already more registrations than ever before. This year, the Demo Day is digital and everybody can join it on April 8, from wherever they are. A huge advantage. Of course this is no real substitute for face to face meetings but it is a powerful option that we will consider in the future. And we also have our global 3 day WIForum Digital 2020 Conference this year in June. 3 days and we expect 2,000 people from over 40 countries. Of course it is fully digital. In countries where Corona may have been enough contained we will do – like last time – public viewings in the respective cities, have about 40 – 50 speakers, including governments, universities and many top talented innovative businesses. All digital, and on top of all, no Co² emission, no travel no energy expenditure, maximum cost reduction and more. Even after corona is contained our work life will never be like it was. We learned to become more independent and far more efficient if we put our old “protocols” aside and spend time for meetings when and wherever, get problems solved immediately and build relations that go far deeper than ever before. However what is an advantage for some will become an even bigger disadvantage for the slow and far less agile businesses.

3) Social Distancing

One of the new key words. People are isolated at home and lack of social interactions. Its a very uncomfortable situation to be alone – not only in times of an pandemic. Yet. also here we quickly learned to hang out with friends online. And not just adults but also kids – at least those who have been online before. Multi Player Games and all the other digital entertainment out there comes extremely hande when a whole family stays home. BUT not only to shut of the kids – but to to give them an opportunity to learn about social connections in the digital world. I have been working in the social media world since its inception in 2003. Today, 17 years later, I have an equal amount of friends that I never met face to face in my entire life. From some I know far more what is going on in their lives than from some of my family members. My old friend Des Walsh, who I never met in person but have been connected for 10 years now, is older than 99% of my oldest local friends who never touched Facebook. Social Distancing is a problem that we can overcome. And those who have the experience for years, learned about digital body language, read the mind of somebody not by seeing their facial expressions but writing style would certainly not suffer social distancing at all. Whether in business or in our private lives, we learned already so much about others from the daily interactions in the online world that we get a completely different perspective of the media.

4) Accelerating the innovative mind

Another aspect of life is our ability to innovate. In times of a crisis innovation pops right and left. Companies that seem to unable to innovate get all of a sudden very creative. Instead of building car parts they build facial masks to protect people because they know how to build filters. Others get great ideas to build simple but globally accessible apps showing latest discoveries about the virus and best practices to protect one another. We created an initiative “Innovate Fighting Pandemics” to inspire innovative mind, from all trades to share their ideas so that others can find solutions to problems they may have. What we all learned is that innovation is not a reserved domain for highly educated scientists but we all are innovative, as long as we give our mind the free space to think. And in times like now it is simply accelerating for survival – why not always give our mind the freedom to go crazy.

5) Business & Production Processes

Another learning we already can envision is to make our business processes and production structures far more flexible in thinking and in operation. Right now, today Mar 27, many companies ca no longer produce because people are at home for their own safety and cannot produce an automobile from their home office. But why is it that brutal? Because we think in maximum “employee utilisation”. The production runs are so hyper optimized that there is not even a “Plan B”. Instead of stopping the motion to zero, we can get a bit smarter. We can already today let 50% of the employees come back who have for sure no symptoms. Ask them to avoid mass transportation and go with individual transportation to the manufacturing plant. Likely hood that they catch a virus is low and cross contamination with those who have been healthy at home for two weeks extremely low. Two weeks later we run the second “mega-shift” and ask the other group to go back to work. Four weeks later we most likely are back to full production.Obviously it takes some major co-ordination, super machine and workplace cleaning in between shift but also during the shifts, orchestrating the right people for a half production load and so forth but that Plan B is probably with millions of dollars per day worth of business loss. Post Corona we will never go back to static operations but will want to consider more flexibility, driving more agility and giving the organization a better competitiveness.

6) Small Business Stagnation

Small businesses, shops, retailer, reseller, and so forth have been struggling to stay alive, not able competing against the big e-commerce giants. For many it will be a sad ending as they just could not decide to think about smart alternatives they can offer to their customers. The retail market has changed, consumer behavior and desires advanced, but their payer did not. At the same time many, very fortunately, finally understood what customers want and shifted towards online offerings, home delivery, better logistics, better return policies so that ended up become far more competitive and customers find better services. Some countries blocked any innovation that put their small retailers in jeopardy. In times like right now is fires back badly. They have to spend more money to support the failing businesses and have missed the development they couldn’t stop anyway. E-commerce, fast home delivery, return policies and processes have improved more and faster  in the past 10 weeks than in the last five years. Countries with weird import regulations, difficult taxation and more see their self sufficiency rate go much faster down than in other countries. Again – life post corona will never go back to what it was before.

There are probably countless more examples about changes that will not go back to what it was. And we all, would love to hear from you. Share your experiences here in the comment section for others to learn from!

 

As a precursor let me try to define success, as I see it, to put all this in context:
Success is when I achieve or exceed my very own dreams – not what others tell me I should do to be ‘successful’. No dream no success. Yet, to achieve or exceed an entrepreneurial dream is a successful entrepreneur.

What traits make truly successful entrepreneurs?

Founders are often seen as magicians. And maybe they are to a certain degree. The more we see and interview, the more we understand about their key traits. Here are the 10 most relevant founders traits, I observed by working with some of the top CEOs and over 1,000 startups.  Each of the traits are not ‘sort of having a little bit of that too’ – instead are especially standing out as extremely developed trait. If any one is missing or weak – it seriously weakens the entrepreneurial profile. You may also notice an important interconnection between these traits – again missing one cripples the complete concept.

1) fearless / risk taking
Absolutely does not fear anybody or anything. There is no higher up person for an entrepreneur. There is no rule that is respected and no definition that is taken just as that. They fear no failure, they fear no total loss, they fear not to be laughed at.  They do not fear to risk everything they have for their vision – and they do risk everything they have.
[Related with: (2) creative, (3) determined, (4) curious, (5) independent, (6) confident, (7) connected, (8) communicative] Corresponding habits: making fast and determined decisions

2) creative / compositive
The ability to be creativity means finding a gazillion bits and pieces in your brain and composing it in no time to a new picture. Creativity requires maximum inputs, from travel, discussions, reading… Being compositive is the ability to very quickly identify opportunities and turning them into business cases or even innovation. Experiment fearlessly, no matter what the outcome maybe.
[Related with: (1) fearless] Corresponding habits: Seem to change course over and over again. But never lose sight of the ultimate goal. Knowing there is never a straight line to get to the top.

3) determined
Determination is a mindset. Doing anything, whatever it takes to make something happen. No irritation from others, no distraction, no uncertainty. Determined entrepreneurs never give up – ever. If you are bankrupt, you still have 3 to 6 month to repair and get up again.
[Related with: (1) fearless, (2) creative / compositive] Corresponding habits: Consistency – Pushing the direction in everybody’s mind – every day. There is only one vision, one ultimate goal and they let everybody know. They plan their days towards their goals – not towards responses to others.

4) curious/open
Wide open mind. Wanting to really know in detail how things work, how people do things, how we live, what the barriers are, where the limits maybe if any. Listening to others very carefully, without constructing an argument half way through.
[Related with: (1) fearless] Corresponding habits: Playful – They look very quickly at all kinds of things, want to know everything without ever going really deep. 20% of the knowledge is all they need to know 80% of what there is to know.

5) independent
There is nothing and nobody that prevents the entrepreneur do their things. No friend, no family, no lack of money, no rules, no legislation can get into their way. Societal rules, conformism and alike fences are respected but do not apply to entrepreneurs. [Related with: (1) fearless, (3) determined] Corresponding habits: Super-Focus – There seem to have no family, not even seeing other people with certain personal needs. It’s important to understand that independence often feels like ruthless – but it is the vision that is much larger than live that drives these people to almost impossible results and that means independent behavior. Most people only begin to understand when such a vision was fulfilled.

6) confident
Once an idea is manifested, true entrepreneurs have no doubt that it will work. They just know it will. The extraordinary confidence comes from a ‘brain defect’ that spills emotional knowledge from the right brain half into the brain without consulting the rational part of the brain.
[Related with: (1) fearless, (3) determined, (5) independent] Corresponding habits: Decision Maker – fast decision making, often others feel to be run over, turns sometimes into arrogance. They don’t deal with devils advocates and uncertainty of others. They simply have that trait to know.

7) connected
True entrepreneurs are always highly connected. Connected with their market, connected with the player, connected with customers or targeted customer, connected with investors, influencers, industry associations and so forth. Entrepreneurs have no issues to connect to anybody.
[Related with: (1) fearless, (4) curious, (6) confident] Corresponding habits: Networking – They connect with almost everybody, then maintain only those that are relevant. May sometimes feel a bit superficial, yet they make almost everybody feel important. They know that connections are more precious than gold and they know how to deal with it.

8) communicative
Communication is the most important skill humans developed. We can communicate with words, text, pictures and even preserve past events. That helps us learn beyond any animal. Top entrepreneurs are masters in communication with others, drawing an imaginary world that they are seeing in the future and attract others. At the same time they can sit and truly listen for an hour and construct the situation they hear into a solution and opportunity. Learning and sharing – in this order – are the keys to entrepreneurial communication.
[Related with:  (1) fearless, (2) compositive, (4) curious, (7) connected] Corresponding habits: Extroverted – They ask anything they need to know right at the moment they want to know. They listen and learn very intensely. They also tell everybody and their dog what they are up to, why it’s important. They spread the word about how they will change the world and expect everybody to do so too.

9) involving
Entrepreneurs are very involving. Involving their team, their customers, their market, their investors and their business partners to actively participate in their undertaking. Entrepreneurial involvement of others go way past the concept of delegation but truly inspire others and fearlessly pulling others into their gravitational powers.
[Related with: (1) fearless, (2) creative, (3) determined, (6) confident, (8) communicative] Corresponding habits: Engagement – They don’t worry too much if people have time for them. They simply ask and get people’s involvement. Sometimes it feels like they think they are the only important people on earth. And what they really think is they are one of the most important people on earth – often they actually are.

10) intelligent
While we may debate what intelligence is, here is our definition: “Intelligence is the ability to comprehend a never before experienced situation, abstract the essence and developing a solution by simply thinking through as many as reasonable options without trial and error”. In that sense, true entrepreneurs are intelligent and involve others to solve the problem.
[Related with: (4) curious, (8) communicative, (9) involving] Corresponding habits: Simplification – Breaking the most complex things down into a few or only one simple aspect. Pretty hard for some people to follow and ignore that everything else is just work to be finished.

Fearlessness is the most important glue in between all the key traits. And it is not just generally fearless – it means unconditional fearlessness. Top entrepreneurs have a lot of respect for others and other things, they do experience uncertainty but quickly and clearly decide where to go. Decision making is not a ‘trait’ but a skill – one can learn to make decision. However traits like being fearless, creative, determined, open, independent, confident, connected, communicative, involving and intelligent are key traits for making good decisions and getting them executed.
It sounds like a very demanding profile – it is. As it turns out, only 0.007% of humans are actually successful entrepreneurs.

Few interesting things about this list:
a) None of it can be really ‘trained’ people my change towards, it but not necessarily trained.
b) They are all interconnected, not one goes without some of the others
c) If one or even more are missing the ability to be a successful entrepreneur is decaying very quickly
d) This is uniquely dedicated to entrepreneurs. Any other career or engagement has some of them but never all – and may have others, but they maybe not relevant for entrepreneurs. At least our finding when we compared it with Scientists, Artists, Politicians, Actors, Musicians, Architects, Athletes and so forth.

All in all, fearless, creative, determined, curious, independent, confident, connected, communicative, involving and intelligent are the top 10 traits for entrepreneurs.

It’s one of the very often asked questions at startup events. One of the unique skills of an entrepreneur is to create something with nothing. If you would have capital you would probably become an investor, not an entrepreneur.

One day a young entrepreneur asked me: “But I have to live and eat and I have no savings”. I asked him if he has a car. After answering, yes, an old BMW. I asked him to sell it. He looked at me like I’m from a different planet…. I told him that I sold my drums – which is much harder. He just walked away shaking his head. Recently somebody was much more appreciative. So here is my response:

  1. Create a sound plan about your product or service
  2. Look for customers who would want to buy it if you already had it
  3. Verify your idea based on their feedback
  4. Create a website with your plans and describe what you are going to offer
  5. Invite people to review and make sure any ordinary customer would
    a) understand, b) get excited and c) wants to buy it when you have it
  6. Start a crowdfunding campaign to ‘pre-sell’ your solution
  7. You got your first revenue so you can now build what you promised to provide.
  8. Do more of what worked well

Obviously there are quite some things to do during the process. I.e. to start with, find a co-founder, register the business and so forth. But I guess you get the idea.

It sounds not easy – but becoming a millionaire is simply speaking not easy. That’s why we have a growing gap between rich and poor. The number of people going for easy and enjoying a 360 degree social and live ensurance just have a hard time to get the extra mile hundred times a day.

 

You already started very very well – togetherness. Yet this is one of the biggest challenges of first time founders. Hence the long and detailed answer.

It takes teamwork to make a dream work.

People all to often simply focus on the act of “finding”. That doesn’t get you anywhere and you end up with nothing. Therefor my recommendation:

1) CO-FOUNDER

Make it very clear to yourself that you are actually looking for a co-founder, a partner for your entire business life. That co-founder should stay, no matter what. You will face rough times and need to get through together. The best way – by far – is to look for two co-founders, not one and share the equity of the company rather evenly 33, 33, 34%. You as the original idea giver earn the extra percent. But since the initial value of an idea is zero – don’t feel you should have more than that 1 extra percent. If you put in $34,000 the other two have to pony up $33,000 to participate. If they don’t want to give that much money (typically they claim they don’t have it), they are not worth being a partner in this venture. If they don’t have it, they can sell their car, their TV and so forth. Sounds radical and brutal – right? Unfortunately you all will have to make much more radical and brutal decisions in the next 10 years than that. Make sure everybody is “ALL IN”. Meaning they and you put all your eggs in one basket. If the company fails it hearts seriously and twice (financially and emotionally). Best founders are co-founders.

2) TRUST

With the above straightened out, forget trust. Period. Nobody can afford to let the company down. Every founder will be caring about one thing: Making this ventor work no matter what. Trust becomes a non issue.

3) TALENTS

Now make sure you look for exactly the talents you need and complement your talent. Start with making clear to yourself what you are really good at and what you love to do, day in and day out. Then write down what you just don’t like and hope to never do. Split the list of “don’t wants” and look for those talents. Assume you are an engineer do not look for another engineer no matter what. If you are an analyst, finance, production person look for the engineer and a visionary sales and marketing executer. Be very clear what you are looking for. Then go to LinkedIn and check if these talents actually exist :) If not – iterate.
Find the humanly best possible people.

Look for people who you could never – ever – afford to hire.

4) VISION

If your vision for the company’s future is not compelling and unclear – you would never attract top talents. Make sure you have a vision that compels others to look up to it. Your vision not only need to attract top talents, it need to attract customers, partners, investors, board members and so forth. No big vision, no big business, no good people.

5) SEARCH

After you went through the above exercise, your search will feel entirely different.
Promote your idea first. Instead of just searching for people to join, you will first promote your idea in your network. Give people the WOW. Let everybody know who you are looking for. Share the profiles of your ideal co-founder on your website, blog or something you can easily share with a link.
Adjust your LinkedIn profile. Put on your LinkedIn profile that you are looking for co-founders.
Go to meetups and conferences where you feel you find potential people and just talk to them. Business Cards may be out of date a bit but have them. Put your vision on the back of the card. Maybe hand written (of course printed). Share the card with everybody you like to hire and note their email address.
Directly contact people on LinkedIn. Connect and NEVER forget to send a comment with the connect request. Let them know what you are looking for and ask them if they know somebody in their network. I found some of my greatest talents that way.
Throw a party. You want to start a business. This is exciting enough to give a party. Rent a space in a fun and and inexpensive restaurant and just offer beer and sodas for everybody. It’s not that expensive but real fun. I did that once in Palo Alto and it is still remembered by many people. When you great everybody in a very short speech. Let them know that you can only do a follow on party when you have your co-founders. And once that is the case everybody is invited again. It worked wonders.
Advertise yourself. Buy yourself a banner for $100 and mount it on a small truck that you can rent for another $100. Drive and park around 11am at a university nearby, move on and hang out for a few minutes at around 12:00 in front of your biggest competitor. MOve on after just 5 to 10 minutes before they kick you out to the next. In the afternoon hang out at a train station and so forth.

And on it goes – get creative – get crazy… get into the mood of the greatest startup in 2019. :)

@AxelS

Too less traction, no marketing budget, slow growth… the biggest challenges for every entrepreneur. Now, all together we can change that. And here is how we are going to do that.

AS AN ENTREPRENEUR

As founder of an innovative business you cannot get enough traction. Even for well connected people it remains to be a challenge – our planet is simply too big. Getting help from friends, existing customers, supporter…. is a big deal. Every comment counts. This is why we developed a very simple tool called BUZZ. You simply provide a catchy image, a good text for your friends to post – obviously they can change the text any way they want – and simply share it with their network. A good Buzz can easily add several thousands even some million incremental reach.

 

AS A SUPPORTER

In today’s digital world, most of us are well connected. “Having connection” is no longer a privilege but a standard. And now getting some news from innovative companies is something most of us enjoy getting. Connecting the dots: share what you find is interesting with your connections help your connections to be up to speed in terms of innovation and helps the innovative companies to get the word out faster.

With a tool called BUZZ, all you have to do is push a few buttons to share things that YOU think are interesting with your network via LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Not every day but simply when it is interesting.

For supporter all it takes is to get to a URL like this: and start sharing. Soon we will provide buzz campaigns for the most innovative startups from around the world so we all can help them get some additional traction.

When you start your business, you don’t need anything other than your brain and working through the following 5 steps. If there is anything unclear to you, use Google. Finding your own way is part of this exercise. You will do that for the next 10+ years – finding your own way. If you are not 100% if entrepreneurship is even the right thing for you, check out the 10 most relevant founders traits – and also here find your own way to get there or chose something else.

1) IDEA STAGE
You have an idea and you are excited about it. Often times young entrepreneurs would like to get a validation from some experienced entrepreneurs or investors. Validating your idea is a great first move. But instead of talking to other entrepreneurs or investors – talk to potential customers. Do that before you even invest time and resources in building prototypes. However, if you feel better to make sure your idea works, it is OK to invest in a prototype.CHECK LIST
1) Did you speak to at least 10 potential customers to verify that your idea is solving a real problem and providing a much-needed solution.
2) Use a presentation or document to share your idea

 

2) ASSEMBLE YOUR TEAM, FIND CO-FOUNDERS
Before you do anything other than writing down your idea, attract at least another co-founder. Our world is too complex to do everything alone. And more importantly, our world is moving too fast for a single human to start a successful business and grow it fast enough before others enter their space. None of the top investors will ever invest in a solopreneur, no matter how cool the idea is.If you are a business person, find the technical co-founder. If you are an engineer find a business co-founder. If you can’t attract another entrepreneur, consider your idea is either not good enough or your skills and personality is not well enough developed to attract others which will always be necessary as you need to attract talents, customers, business partners, investors and more. Only two engineers or two business people is no better than a solopreneur – it’s all about the diverse skill set on the business leader bench. Be committed to give your co-founders at least 20% of your company and stay away from being the dominating “main” owner.CHECK LIST
1) Do you already have a diverse founders team with business as well as subject matter expertise?
2) Did you make well documented arrangement between founders regarding the equity ownership distribution.

 

3) DEVELOP YOUR SOLUTION CONCEPT
You and your co-founder will now want to develop the whole concept of your company – together. This includes defining the problem you are solving or the need you are fulfilling. It determines who your target audience will be and what you are bringing to your market. Describe what’s unique about you and your solution and make some intense research who else is offering similar solutions. Research other potential companies in the US, all over Europe and Asia. Define what the SINGLE most important function of your business is. If you have a list of important features – select one. If that one is too weak, strengthen that feature instead of growing a list. If the unique aspect of your solution is that you offer a complete suite of features while other businesses deliver only parts of it, re-think your idea as there is almost always some missing aspect of your concept.
CHECK LIST
1) Do you have a written down business concept – not necessarily a fully blown business plan?
2) Have you selected your unique single most important functionality that you want to be known for one day?

 

4) MARKET VALIDATION
Now put together a short presentation deck with no more than 10 slides. Create a list of 50 individual people who are potential customers (people not companies). Then try to make an appointment to present your idea. When you meet them – we highly suggest to NOT argue with them – just listen super carefully. Make notes what they don’t like, did not understand, did not need, and what they liked. IMPORTANT: Ask what of their current problems you would solve. Ask if they would buy your solution and what they’d be willing to pay. Make sure you end up speaking with at least 23 relevant people who are interested in your solution. If you don’t have the 23, ask more people. Document each and every interview. You may notice that you do not need a product to do any of the above.CHECK LIST
1) Did you speak to at least 23 people who have been willing to explore your solution for their business or individual use and it at least ort of solves a problem they have?
2) Is the feedback motivating enough to begin investing serious time and resources to build a first prototype? If not go back to step 3.

 

5) BUSINESS MODEL
With all the feedback you received, you may now develop a concept how you will produce, market, sell, deliver and service the product. All overall: How are you going to make money and compete with others. Then ask yourself if there is any way to make the engagement between you and your customer especially attractive – more attractive than your competitors. Determine the cost of building your solution and the price you like to sell it for. Consider a margin for distribution channels if you are addressing a large market (B2B or B2C).CHECK LIST
1) Do you have a written down business model that includes a possible pricing, a concept how to bring it to market and how you service customers?
2) Do you have an idea how you will compete against similar solutions or educate customers about your solution that has no competition?

At this stage it makes sense to look for a successful entrepreneur as a mentor, an office in a co-working space and others to connect with. Too early to discuss with investors. Forget seeking for an investor to build the business. Find some capital and seek for investors when you are ready to grow the business from a few early customers to a real company.

I’ve worked with over 100 startups in the past years and ran 5 businesses myself.

My experience – in this order: 

No. 1) Weak execution

Most failing startups could just not execute in a timely manner and/or showed a huge lack of judgment. They worked too hard on product features, too little with the market. They built too many “nice to have” features. They did not launch in time and did not work hard enough to build a use/customer base. Didn’t manage expenditures well enough. Failed to identify opportunities, failing to build strategic connection…

No. 2) No long term vision

It’s hard to convince a customer that your young startup is the right business if you just focus on your present product features. It’s hard to convince investors, partners, top talents if you can’t express where you want to take the company. 

As a result you won’t get enough traction and most likely fail.

No. 3) Superficial market/customer research

Lack of product-market fit. Very often startups develop products for themselves instead of for a large market. They keep their development too close to their chest instead of involving test customers very early on – even before they create their first prototype. The result is often to too far off from what the market needs. 

No. 4) Team weakness

No sense of urgency. Not fit enough on the technology side, not fit enough on the marketing side, not fit enough on the finance side, not fit enough on the operational side. 

5) Lack of connection power

Startup teams all too often underestimate the importance of building their own network of influential connections. Connections to influential users, influential industry groups, influential analysts, influential media, influential business alliances… Or they hope to find investors and mentors that provide those connections. In reality it’s just not working that way.

Re- money 

Many comments are made that money is one the problems. In all the cases and startups I’ve seen, lack of money never brought a startup down. Lack of funding is a function of one of the above issues – not a problem in itself. There is more money available than ever before – but the above weaknesses prevent startups to raise funding.

You have only 24 hours a day minus 10 to sleep, eat and recharge makes it 14 hours.
I assume you are tackling a large market and want to conquer the world. I also assume you want to have about 30% market share of whatever billion dollar market with roughly 20 Million potential customers.

This post was inspired by a question on Quora: As CEO and non-tech co-founder, what should I be doing before we launch while my tech. co-founder is coding?

The 14 hour day of a startup CEO

1) List building 1 hour
Start spending an hour a day to extend the list of potential customers who should test, use and buy your product once it is ready. Make the list a simple spreadsheet with first name, last name, company (if B2B), linkedIn profile, twitter name, location, interest (B2C) or title (B2B). Try to get 50 names a day (so work fast).

2) Reaching out to users 1 hour
Try to reach some of those people right away and ask them what they think about the solution you develop. Talk on the phone if possible or online otherwise, Do your very personal market research – but more importantly build connections.

3) Theoretic team building 1 hours
You will need a stellar team when going to market. Look for your best possible marketer, sales people, maybe operations, production…. Make a list, reach out get feedback more on what they think you may need and begin to be in the market. Go through groups, read news, find the top guys and make another list of those people so you can go hire them when the time is right and you don;t need to start looking when you have no more time.

4) Thought leadership building 1 hour
Craft blog posts and answer questions on Quora, write comments on other blogs and become known as a very smart person in your specific field. You may easily extend that to two hours if you have some room for it.

5) Content development 1 hour
You can do that in a few days but exhaust your creativity pretty quickly. Instead you may work a solid hour a day on content creation. Product description, video clips, website improvements, blog posts for the same, industry trends, social trends, product trends….. the sky is the limit – but you have only one hour a day.

6) Operations, processes, pricing
Think through the sales process from soup to nuts. From talking to new customers for the very first time, how they land at your business, what they need to do to buy something from you, how they pay, how you invoice, your pricing model, contracts, services, liabilities, terms of service, privacy, compliance….. an hour a day is only 7 hours a week or some 90 hours a quarter so if you are on top things you should be able to get it done.

7) Company evolution, 1 hour a day
It’s a bit limited but again, you have only so much time. So think through your product road map, bring it in alignment with your vision, weave in the feedback from the conversation with customers (see above), consider the evolution of your competition and think about how your market will evolve in general. Try to write a script book for your business scifi – what will your market, our society, your industry, the technology and your company look like in 10 years from now. Write it down, do a video clip. Solidify your vision.

8) Team building 1 hours
Spend time with your team, how they are doing, what they achieved how the product evolved and bring their work in alignment with your vision – every day. Make sure a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a indeed a MINIMUM Viable Product. Don’t allow yourself surprises “I thought you though that we thought we do this….” Know the progress. Have a chat at the water cooler too :)

9) Make yourself familiar with your market 1 hour
Read the news, be in online groups, understand who gets funded in your market, what they do, what new industry regulations may pop up, who gets quoted very often, meet the mover and shaker know exactly what is going on.

10) Prepping for alliance management – 1 hour
Create a list of potential alliance partners, No matter what you produce a new satellite, a mobile app, a new breed of avocados, new diapers or a new pizza shop – you never work in isolation so find out who are all the potential business alliances. Maybe service providers you can work with, interesting suppliers, industry organizations…. you get the point.

11) Finance & Investment – 1 hour daily
You will want to continuously work on your financials, model the future with everything you learned in the other 10 hours each day, “model and tune” it. Then start looking for investors. Make a list where you add at least one investor per day. The day you are starting to go fundraising you will appreciate that advice more than anything else – because it takes time.

12) Meet the industry 1 hour a day
Go to events, share your vision early on, be in the market talk to people. You may not do that every single day but at least twice a week. And as long as they don’t come to your office, you will need to allocate 2-3 hours for those events at least. And most likely you exceed your one hour budget per day very quickly.

13) Meditate, read a book – work out 1 hour a day
You know you will need to feed your mind by shutting completely down other than sleep – and one hour once a day is most likely just perfect.

14) Socialize one hour a day
Have breakfast, lunch, coffee, dinner with somebody from your business world once a day or every other day. Just be there and listen and learn, get feedback – or help and provide insights :)

Well – now there is a ton of other things that people do: taking an hour to read emails, organizing their day, scheduling the doctor and getting ready for the weekend. Oh not to forget movies – unfortunately and as you see above – no time for any of that. Sorry.

As a tough CEO you will not allow your team more than 6 month from start to MVP. You will need to hurry to get all the above done by the time the product can hit the market.

Enjoy the ride :)