A few years ago, for Startupping, I asked several entrepreneurs about their best and worst decisions. With the shuttering of that site, their answers vanished from the web. I’ll be reposting them here. This was originally posted on February 22, 2007:
Mark Moore is CEO and co-founder of One True Media, where he is responsible for the vision, business and product strategy as well as the teams and systems needed to execute on them. Previously, Mark was a founding member of three start-ups, Listen.com, MilleCom, and Diba, Inc., where he built successful development and web operations teams. At Oracle Corporation, Mark began his career developing that company’s Media Server and database kernel. (ed. disclosure: I am an investor in One True Media).
I’m preaching to the choir here but the best decision a startup can make is to get the initial product out quickly, take feedback, and iterate rapidly. I understand that not all companies can work in this mode (some require longer time to create and iterate due to complexities around the product, etc) but the closer you can work to this methodology than the better chance you will have for success. In my experience, I have found that what you envision in your original business plan will not be true after six months. This is because you will understand the market better and have a better feel for what will really be successful after being in business for a while. So, get started as soon as possible by introducing your product to the market and then you can get to writing a “real business” plan that works and has been tested in the marketplace. For the entrepreneur who wants to be stealth for a year, I say good luck and make sure you have an extra year of funding.
Ahhh, the list is so long. Well, I would have to say some of my biggest mistakes involve the business partnerships that are made while the company is just starting out. Every entrepreneur would love to sign a deal with a large company which gives them access to a large market, or simply creates a solid revenue stream for the company. The problem is that “there is no free lunch”. Large companies will simply not hand a big opportunity to a small company. And if they do, they will make sure they will take the lion’s share of the returns (or will be able to replace the startup quickly with their own). In most cases, these relationships turn sour because they don’t work (they are just an experiment by the large company and little effort is expended causing failure) and at the same time they can cause a very large distraction for a fledging startup. So, my advice is beware of large partners – they know their business very well and are not about to give you a “free lunch”. There are exceptions to this rule but they are far and few between – just make sure you are getting something valuable in return from a partner before you take the leap.