When is the right time to get adviser/board of directors for a startup?

Firstly, these are two very different things. A BOA is usually a domain expert while a BOD member may bring skills like finance, sales, operation, scaling, marketing or other expertise. Too many boards are dominated by investors who only know finance.

The right time to start is yesterday. Usually as soon as you are clear on the mission of the company, which allows you to build out the skills you need on your team. It takes time and patience to develop a BOA member. Few want any formal connection until some value has been built, as the risk is so high, like 90% that the company will go nowhere for a long time. You can work with them informally and work your way up to something more formal when needed.

An informal Board of Advisers (BOA) can be started very casually and develop over time. Start with lunch and discussions to get their input of the business plan. Tell them everything, hold back nothing. Be vulnerable to show you are coachable and will listen to people with other...

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How Big Must A Market For An MVP And Market Entry Strategy Be?

Absolutely. That is called a “niche” and often is the intersection of a vertical market and application/problem. And even smaller is okay and sometimes an advantage in the beginning. Of course, you also need a vision and steps into larger markets. Generally, $1 billion minimum if you seek institutional capital, as they only invest in companies that can reach $100M in sales after 5–6 years.

Even if your price point is $250 that’s a $12.5M market opportunity. Which may be enough to validate your product, tune it, prove your value proposition, price point, marketing, and sales economics to raise funding and go after larger markets.

An MVP and initial market entry is best smaller, so you are not facing competition from much larger companies and can be the only solution to that problem in that niche. An ideal market size is probably $100M to $250M, but is fine as long as your offering is unique and has some barriers to entry.

Tesla’s first product, the...

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How long does it take to prepare to become a founder?

I spent 10+ years preparing to launch my first big company opportunity at age twenty-nine. Having already started four different businesses before I finished high school, I had some basic experience and knowledge. I worked as a software engineer in my first full-time job after college. I worked on both mainframes and the first major Apple computer (Apple II). I then quickly move up the ranks to Senior Software Engineer, Architect and Vice President of Engineering by year five of my professional career.  That is exceptionally fast because I read every book available, did consulting on the side, worked long hours and had little social life.  I also had the benefit of working in a newer field (microcomputers) where no one had five or ten years more experience than me because the field was new and rapidly changing too.  I had been programming computers since age sixteen, which was rare then, so even starting my first job I had the equivalent of a couple of years full-time...

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Do you know any platform where people can study the skills to run their own companies?

Yes, I personally have created two platforms with about 40 courses total for this purpose, and a third set of courses for executive teams preparing to scale a company. There are at least 30 skills an Entrepreneur/CEO should learn before founding a company, not that they can be expert at all or even most, but all these skills will be needed on a team.

We have trained thousands of CEOs from over 40 countries at The CEO Boot Camp since the first one in 2004. This program is for aspiring and active entrepreneurs to learn what they need to become good CEOs and entrepreneurs. It has 12 foundational courses on the things required to design a business, build a product and launch. We find even very experienced CEOs do not know 50% of what we teach there. You can learn about that certification here

The second platform unbundles all of our 40 courses to be available individually for team members on specific topics.  Taking all these together is likely better than getting an MBA or other...

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What do the most successful businesses have in common?

This is a simple but good question, but does depend on what your definition of “successful” is, too. A lifestyle business is successful if it provides a decent living for the owner. Most freelancers, consultants and coaches are this kind of business. So are most local retail stores. They sell commodity products and services like millions of others.

To me, a successful business is one that can reach multi-millions in revenue, create jobs and has good margins for profit that can be reinvested to grow the business. This kind of business can grow exponentially and reach hundreds of millions in sales over time. These create true wealth and even generational wealth to leave to your children.  And can have a big impact on the world too.  What these businesses have in common, almost always, is:

  1. A differentiated product (or service) that provides high value to the customer compared to its cost.
  2. Barriers to entry that prevent hundreds, or thousands, of others from...
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What are the benefits of having a business mentor as an entrepreneur?

There are too many to list individually, but most come from having someone with experience. People often confuse smart with experienced and think they can do anything new well. Science and logic says this is not possible with anything complex.

Few things are as complex as entrepreneurship. Hardly anyone would read a book on flying and hop in a plane alone to fly it. Or try to climb Mount Everest alone. But everyone thinks they can build a new business for some strange reason. As a result, we have an 85% failure rate of new businesses. Ones with coaches and mentors greatly outperform because they avoid the hundreds of common mistakes and pitfalls, some of which can be fatal to a business. These companies where the CEO and executives use coaches even outperform the S & P 500 (mature companies) by a wide margin. They are working on constant improvement of the team, which makes all the critical decisions. And this reduces turn-over, challenges people and gives them career growth...

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What is Necessary for Due Diligence to be Prepared?

This varies by the amount of money being raised and stage of development of the company. I have posted a due diligence checklist on my blog, you can find for full detail.

Any amount over $1M will likely require substantial look into all company officers, financial statements, customer records in addition to review of the company’s business plan and product(s). Expect serious investors to ask about everything you can imagine. And the more open you are, the better. Although VC will likely refuse to sign NDAs as many of these would place too many constraints on them over time, this does allow you to withhold some trade secrets and protect your “secret sauce”. This could be your source code, trade secrets and algorithms or other secrets you do not want to expose to competitors.  This is a big gray area and negotiable, but you should be careful, as VCs are not prevented from investing in your competitors after pulling out of your deal. And they can legally transfer...

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Everyone Wants to Be an Entrepreneur

By Arielle Pardes

Applications for new businesses rose 20 percent last year, after languishing for a decade. Many newly minted founders attribute it to the pandemic.

ANGELA MUHWEZI-HALL HAD a startup idea long before the pandemic—it just never seemed like the right time. She had a steady job at a university, a 401(k), and the ability to take paid time off. Then came March 2020. As the university shut down and Muhwezi-Hall retreated to work from home, she started to think about making the leap.

What she wanted to build was a job platform for service workers. While the idea was old, the timing was suddenly perfect: Millions of service workers had just been laid off and were looking for new jobs. She recruited her sister, Deborah Gladney, to help build a prototype. By August, the sisters had quit their full-time jobs to work on the startup, QuickHire.

Muhwezi-Hall and Gladney are part of a rising tide of first-time entrepreneurs. In 2021, more than 5.4 million applications...

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How Do I Introduce Myself as a New Manager?

First, you learn the difference between “there” (a place) and “their” possessive plural.  If you lack written skills, it will be easy to lose the respect of others that have them.  In fact, it could become a joke that prevents anyone from respecting you unless you work in the mafia.  I say this because this question was sent to me in writing, and this is a pretty common error that says your English/ written skills are bad.  Written skills are critical. You must be concise, unambiguous, clear and more.

I just recently had a contractor set a Google AdWords budget at a much higher rate than I had said to him in an email I sent. I thought that I was 100% clear, but his interpretation was a daily number now, instead of a total for today. Oops!  That mistake cost over $1,000 in extra ad spend before I even knew it happened.  So even with 30+ years of management experience, I am still making mistakes. I read more into the...

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Are You Losing Money on Graduate Degrees?

A new report finds that STEM programs and professional degrees often pay off, while those in arts and humanities frequently do not. Many M.B.A. programs also offer a negative return on investment.

It’s no secret that some advanced degrees don’t pay off. But a new report from the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity offers some surprising insights—including that 60 percent of M.B.A.s and other business-related master’s degrees fail to provide a positive return.

The report, “Is Graduate School Worth It? A Comprehensive Return on Investment Analysis,” analyzes data for nearly 14,000 graduate degrees—11,600 master’s degrees plus 2,300 doctoral and professional degrees—at 1,441 universities.

“I think one of the biggest takeaways is the results for master’s degrees. We find that 40 percent of master’s degrees show negative ROI, that they do not have financial value after accounting for the cost of...

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