At the awesome Entrepreneur’s Round Table events (Facebook Group here) I always get asked about lessons-learned from my startups. People seem to be taken aback a bit when I say that I don’t have enough experience yet to give a good answer on that question. It’s really not that I wouldn’t have my fair share of startup experience on all three sides of the fence (as an entrepreneur, as a consultant and analyst, and as an investor). There are just so many areas to learn from, and there are so many different facets to challenges that I don’t like giving generalized results. That’s also the reason why you are taking an investor or advisor on board instead of a book or a website.
“Fail early, fail often.” Great. How about “Be successful early, get rich, repeat.” For me these kind of tips are more advice on attitudes and mindset than lessons learned. Good lessons learned are partly about interpolating from past experience and applying them to the challenges at hand, and partly about developing and honing a toolbox of basic problem-solving techniques, methods, and processes.
So whenever people ask be about my “lessons-learned”, I answer them instead with attitudes:
- Find concrete examples of successes and failures from all three camps – stories of entrepreneurs, consultants and analysts, and investors.
- Try to identify common tools – approaches, methods, or processes – people used to solve their problems.
- Listen carefully to the emotions and attitudes of the stories from failed startups or hard times. Check your existing toolbox whether any one of them could have taken emotions out of the equation and maybe plotted a way out.
A great start what stories to look for are Mark Goldenson’s ten lessons learned in 2009 from his failed Internet TV network for games called PlayCafe http://venturebeat.com/2009/04/29/10-lessons-from-a-failed-startup/. Tough problems, and kudos to to Mark’s professional attitude. Here is some great interpolation and dissection at work.
In case you still would like to hear some generalized answers, here are some takes from other:
- Back in October 2007 Ed Sim had a good post about flipping vs. building http://www.beyondvc.com/2007/10/should-i-flip-o.html
- About two months later in December 2007 Alex Iskold, founder and CEO of AdaptiveBlue, shares 36 startup tips, from software engineering, infrastructure, PR, conferences legal and finance http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/36_startup_tips.php
- Again two months later in February 2008 Steve Woit shared the outcome of a panel and discussions of 10 mistakes made by entrepreneurs in starting and growing companies http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2008/02/04/top-10-mistakes-by-entrepreneurs/
- Either there were no significant lessons learned, or I lost my bookmarks for about 22 months: the next advice is by Jason Cohen and from December 2009 on “Ten questions to ask yourself every month” http://blog.asmartbear.com/startup-business-plan.html