September 27th, 2010
Advice on starting a startup: Seattle StartupDay 2010 helps pre-entrepreneurs step up or step out
[Editor's note: Guest author David Abramowski joins us from Seattle with his recap of StartupDay 2010. You may remember David from his days in Portland as the CEO of MioWorks. Most likely from his popular post on the reasons he had to shutter the project. For more, follow him on his blog, Inner Lining. Now, let's get to his recap…]
The fear of the unknown can be paralyzing. It can keep you from taking a first step in any direction. It can stop progress dead in its tracks and give you all the excuses in the world as to why not take the plunge. This fear grips many who have thought about being an entrepreneur throwing them into the analysis paralysis loop until the opportunity has passed them by and they can comfortably say “if only I…”
Well, lucky enough the crew over at Seattle 2.0 threw a little gathering to help crush the analysis paralysis loop and help 400 of their best friends move a little closer to joining or running from the startup world.
How amazing! A single day event that pulled the covers off of the startup world and exposed some of the inner workings to the audience. Oh and I forgot to mention the advisory sessions. Attendees were able to sign up for one on one advisory time with dozens of experts. Needless to say, it was a full day of rapid fire speeches given by those who have been there done that, literally.
Who better to start off the day than the no bullshit, kick you in the teeth angel investor Dave McClure of 500 Startups. In his brash style he laid it on the line and brought to life the reality of startups. Speaking directly to the Microsoft and Amazon startup-curious, he made it very clear that most people aren’t equipped to leave the safety of corporate and head down the trail into the unknown of startup-land.
But intertwined with his theme of “don’t do a startup you idiot” were some exceptional navigational guides.
- Be passionate about solving a customer problem.
- Don’t over engineer an outcome that will never be realized.
- Get off the business plan and start the business.
- Talk to customers.
- Identify why you are better and different.
- For @$&@ sake, don’t talk about your solution – talk about the problem you solve.
Dave’s speech rattled more than a few people and awoke them to the reality that startups are hard business. I guess other industries have it easier with expectations. Imagine if Dana White of the UFC had to explain to wanna be fighters that being punched in the face hurt.
Next up, Tony Write gave a talk about picking an idea. He explained that the average venture backed startup takes 8.7 years to reach liquidity. This means you better not hang your hat on a single idea. Instead you need to be a heat seeking missile that can morph and change. The best advice he threw out to the audience was that no matter what idea you start with you must get it out in front of customers early. As hard as this may be to expose yourself this is truly the key. He went on to say that it’s only when you leave the comfort of your friends and family that you’ll get the real feedback. And this real feedback can inspire you to carry on or disprove your theory before you sink you money, time and soul into a business.
The third talk was from Shayan Zadeh who shed light on the need for a co-founder. He examined the need from not only a workload perspective but also an emotional and motivational perspective. My biggest takeaway from his chat was a line something like “Hopefully your co-founder doesn’t have the same cycle of depression as you do so when you are down they’ll be up helping to keep you in the game.” This paraphrase is all too true and important. With any adventure, especially a startup venture there will be ups and downs and each of us needs that person who will help us rally out of the valleys back on top of the mountains.
The rest of the day continued to uncloak the mysteries of startups with discussions on financing, marketing, customer centric development, shipping your first product, revenue opportunities and even a discussion on what happens when it all goes south.
This second installment of Startup Day 2010 was definitely a success. I’d like to give kudos to the organizing team at Seattle 2.0 that put in all the long hours. From the professional logistics to an entertaining variety of speakers and a collection of valuable content the event hit the mark.
Want more on the event? See the recap on StartupDay 2010 from ReadWriteWeb.