Richard White, author of The Entrepreneur’s Manual, surveyed a number of venture capitalists, asking them to identify the characteristics of successful, serial entrepreneurs. One of the attributes identified by all of the venture capitalists questioned was, “Frugal use of capital”. In fact, several of the venture capitalists pointed out that successful entrepreneurs often have to be encouraged and pushed to spend more aggressively. Successful, serial entrepreneurs on The Fringe instill an urgent sense of frugality into their adVenture’s corporate culture. “Bah humbug” you say? Read on.
Panhandling techniques cover the spectrum from menacing demands to sophisticated appeals for help. You can angrily shout, “Hey, got any change?” and you might net yourself a nominal number of donations from fearful passersby. However, your overall productivity will likely be poor. Alternatively, you can deploy a more sophisticated and correspondingly a far more effective panhandling approach, in which you first establish a personal connection and then make a specific request. Networking is akin to Corporate Panhandling. Instead of seeking spare change, your goals are far more lofty. In order to enhance your adVenture’s chances of success, you must convince potential Donors to hand over their precious time, valued relationships, advice and money to your adVenture. A quick review of street panhandling techniques offers interesting insights into enhancing the effectiveness of your Networking efforts.
Each generation, a few magnetic personalities emerge and generate a mania of public interest. Before Elvis, there was Sinatra. Before Sinatra, there was Bing. Before Bing, there was Caruso and before Caruso, there was Blondin. Jean Francois Gravelot, who wisely abandoned his given name and dubbed himself The Great Blondin, was a true rock star of the 19th Century. On June 30, 1859, at the height of his fame, he stood before a crowd of 100,000 people at Niagara Falls.
Did I ever tell you about the young Zoad Who came to two sides in the fork in the road? He looked one way then the other way, too. So the Zoad had to make up his mind what to do. ... If I go to place one, that place may be hot. So how will I know if I like it or not? On the other hand though, I'll feel such a fool, If I go to place two and find it's too cool. ... Play safe, cried the Zoad, I'm no dunce. I'll simply start off to both places at once. And that's how the Zoad who would not take a chance Got no place at all with the split in his pants. Dr Seuss – Excerpts from the poem The Zoad in the Road Don’t Be a Zoad Many would-be entrepreneurs struggle with the first step of the startup journey. In the hopes of mitigating their risk, they attempt to take multiple paths at the outset of their startup’s life. Starting off for two places at once is not playing it safe. Rather, this decision to not make a decision is a recipe for split pants and a failed venture.
You may not realize it, but your adVenture’s Core Team is akin to a primitive tribe. The Core Team is of the three to five key individuals upon which your company’s leadership and direction is derived. Thus, understanding the tribal organizational structure is vital to gaining an appreciation of the various roles played by your Core Team. The tribal structure works, as evidenced by its survival over eons, ultimately leading to Man’s position at the top of the food chain.
For lack of more productive things to do, many scientists, psychologists and sociologists enjoy arguing over which has a greater impact on an individual’s chances for success: their innate abilities (“Nature”) or their environment (“Nurture”). With each passing decade, the pendulum swings back and forth among the intelligentsia as to which factor has the greatest impact, but for an entrepreneur on The Fringe, the answer is clearly: Yes.
Eugene Kleiner, Co-founder of the VC firm, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, once said, “It is difficult to see the picture when you are inside the frame.” A small percentage of people in each free-market society generate the jobs for everyone else. The people who create these jobs are solidly on The Fringe. They do not risk everything, work outrageous hours and put themselves under untold pressure because they want to. They certainly do not do it for the promise of riches. They do it because they have to, because they are driven to create something from nothing.
One of the few advantages you have as a small company is that you can keep your cards close to your vest. A major disadvantage of a public Big Dumb Company (“BDC”), as well as one that works closely with governmental agencies, is the degree to which they are forced to publicly disclose otherwise confidential information. I hope that you are not thinking, “But J., you have told us that one of the most important aspect of a startup is the ability to effectively sell (see “Be Like Sam”). How can I sell if I cannot share information?” If this question is in your head, please do all of us a favor, close this page and head over to Craig’s List. I am sure there are lots of good jobs available at Big Dumb Companies…
When viewed from The Fringe, the world is like a cash booth from a bad 1950’s TV game show. Just like in the game show booth, in the real world, you can count on various exogenous factors to generate some proverbial wind that will swirl the cash around and force you to work a bit for the money. However, in the end, all you really need to do is reach out and grab the cash. When you position yourself on The Fringe, you will quickly see that money making opportunities are all around you. One way to grab some cash and learn valuable entrepreneurial skills along the way is to launch mini-ventures or Venturettes. Such ideas require little-to-no capital, usually last for a relatively short duration and are of nominal size. If you just ask yourself, “then why bother?” - read on friend, read on.
Once early stage entrepreneurs learn that I earned an MBA from Wharton, they usually ask, “Should I pursue an MBA as well?” My initial response is, “If you want to be an entrepreneur, why would you possibly want an MBA?” In certain instances, an MBA may make sense. However, for most entrepreneurs, the time and money required to earn an MBA is better spent launching your adVenture and learning on the job.