Advice for First-Time Entrepreneurs

Source | LinkedIn : By Chris Harvey

From the Perspective of a Lawyer for Entrepreneurs

A couple of weeks ago, my clients bought me a book as a gift. It’s called Zero to Oneby Peter Thiel. Most of you have probably heard of it, but if you are an entrepreneur who hasn’t read it, please do. You can find it for free online (search for “Zero to One PDF“) but the best thing to do is purchase it as a gift for someone else. Pay it forward.

Here are my thoughts on Zero to One after reading through it this weekend:

Having represented many startups and entrepreneurs in my career as a lawyer, I have had an incredible opportunity to meet some great founders. Gifted entrepreneurs share similar qualities. They are innovative, inquisitive, (often times) brilliant, inspirational leaders, and, above all, focused. This article is not about them, or even about the law, really. It’s about the self-described “entrepreneur.” As the great Inigo Montoya said:

Here’s what real entrepreneurs do:

1. Do One Thing Uniquely Well

“We are looking to raise $10 million in our first round. We know our product and we have great connections to wealthy investors.”

I often hear these kind of statements from first-time entrepreneurs. New founders may believe that raising money is (a) easy, (b) always the right approach, and (c) the measure of one’s success. They might think their product and idea is great. But without testing it in the market, how do they know? Often times new founders don’t even know if their product will sell before it launches. A brilliant idea today will not get you very far, and certainly not to a Series A investment.

The founders might try to justify their number by saying “we have done the market research” or “we have developed a great product.” I have even heard “we know wealthy people.” They underestimate the effort it takes to raise money. And they overestimate their ability to sell it.

What sets you apart from others? Why would investors give their money to you? What do you offer that no one else does? The most critical thing for a startup to do is do one thing uniquely well, better than anyone else in the world.

Here is Peter Thiel’s go-to question he asks first time entrepreneurs:

“Tell me something that is true, that very few people agree upon.”

2. Understand Startup Dogmas are Dogpoo

“Today’s ‘best practices’ lead to dead ends; the best paths are new and untried.”

There is a popular myth among the startup community members that Lean Startup method is the best practice for all types of startups. “Iterate your product, raise a multi-million dollar Series A, and become the next Uber for X.” Even if those statements were true in 2009, it does not mean they are true today.

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