I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of my own experiences over the past few months, as well as a few lessons learned during the process of building a startup.
I wanted to share my experience bootstrapping, and what I’ve learned and will continue to learn as I move forward trying to build something great. Here are 7 lessons learned that I hope you’ll find useful:
1. In person meetings are golden
It’s all about relationships in business. Whenever I meet with a customer, partner, mentor or investor my business comes second, they come first. More relationships (not just friends) means more leverage. The best way to leave a positive impression on someone is to meet them in person.
2. Advisors are unnecessary
Here’s a great article by Kevin Swan, “Advisors: What Are They Good For?” My old mindset was to use advisors to help build credibility with investors, but the reality is, they don’t care. Focus on two (2) things, mentors who genuinely care about you more than your business, and establishing a strong, reputable board that will help accelerate your success. I prefer that board members put at least a little “skin in the game” and contribute some capital but it’s not always necessary if they’re rainmakers.
3. Investors will inevitably posture
This isn’t a bad thing but it’s something you need to recognize. Investors are challenged with creating high quality deal flow, so they need to have a relatively large opportunity pipeline to feel comfortable. The best funds work to establish relationships with founders, even if they are not interested in your current venture. With that being said, most investors will be interested, and will follow your progress to see traction but don’t assume it’s anything more until you get a termsheet. Also, if you have a chance to get into an Accelerator program, DO IT, a small equity commitment to help build your business and establish key relationships is a no brainer.
4. Set goals and be relentless in your pursuit
My old highschool football coach and mentor talked about Ron Joyce, founder of Tim Horton’s and he always said, “it’s all about passion and dedicating yourself to achieve your goals”. It may sound simple, but if I ask most leaders, and their teams what their goal is for the week, month, year — I guarantee that there will be misalignment. I was tremendously guilty of this myself. You need consistency with purpose, and the only way to do this is with a strong team working in alignment.
6. Raise your own profile
My blog isn’t an ego exercise; it’s a calculated move to raise my own profile, build social capital, which in turn I’m hoping will help convince investors, thought leaders and potential partners that I have some level of competence.
7. Keep fighting
Starting a new company is difficult. Completing a product is difficult. Selling a first customer is difficult. Building a management team is difficult. Raising money from outside investors in difficult. You will be challenged like never before. But with all honesty, it’s worth it, keep fighting. One small success at a time and you’ll be raising your arms in the 12th round.