I’ve had a few startups where I was a bit early. I’d put my former startup rentoid in this category – not to mention the amazing potential pivots I missed. When someone is early to an emerging market we often say these simple words.
“He had the right idea, he was just a bit early.”
Here’s the truth. Early is the same as wrong. I know it sounds mean, but we have to be honest with ourselves. If the idea is not at the right time, then put simply it is the wrong idea. But I will admit there are complexities with being early, and it leads me to these thoughts.
- I’d rather be wrong by being early, than wrong with a dumb idea.
- There’s always a good chance of being early with something new.
Number 2 points to the importance of keeping costs low. A low cost operation has more time to learn and iterate. They have a better chance of getting closer to todays needs, and or the market catching up to their initial vision.
You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.
If you want to work with someone, or for someone, people falsely believe that they have to ask for permission. That they need approval to start working with those who inspire them. The opposite is true and if we really want to work for someone, then all we need to do is start working for them. Start being a resource and creating value to what they do. It’s probably the best way to end up doing business with someone. To prove your capability, to demonstrate effort and to do it without asking for anything in return in the first instance. To be the resource.
I recently happened upon a great example of it. Aspiring advertising graduates went right ahead and did that for Tesla Motors. Here’s an advertisement they created below.
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The interesting thing is that it got a all the way to Elon Musk.
Just think about it, they’d never be able to get a meeting with him, to pitch an idea for an advertisement (mind you Tesla does not do any traditional advertising and does’t really need it – which is what happens when you make great products). But the lesson here is a vintage case of modern day bootstrapping. If we have resources at our disposal for connection and creativity, there’s nothing stopping us from using them. It’s those who create first without asking for anything who win respect and future opportunity.
Famed musician Billy Joel needs little introduction. I find the back story of artists and musicians full of lessons for entrepreneurs – especially during the halcyon period of the music industrial complex circa 1950-1995. But today I read some things about Billy Joel which really inspired me:
Firstly, he didn’t finish high school because he took a gig playing in a piano bar at nights to support his single mother. At the end of the year he didn’t have enough credits to graduate:
“I told them, ‘To hell with it. If I’m not going to Columbia University, I’m going to Columbia Records, and you don’t need a high school diploma over there’.”
The final irony is that he now has 6 honorary doctorate degrees from famous colleges.
As the new year starts we all set goals and have ambitions to make it a year to remember – as we should. But sometimes we need simple philosophical shifts too. Small shifts that can have a dramatic impact. One of mine is to ‘value myself appropriately’. As startup entrepreneurs an important part of the process is to be a bootstrapper, to maximise the limited resources we have to gain the momentum we need. This often leads us to doing it all ourselves. To be our own courier, printer, door knocker, community manager, clerk, mail room assistant…. anything and everything which is possible to do ourselves. And this is one of the greatest false economies in startup land. A simple rule to circumvent such folly is this:
Never do a task which can be outsourced at a lower hourly rate than what the open market would pay you for that hour.
While it’s easy to argue that we aren’t actually paying ourselves the market rate, it is certainly true that we should be creating the value of our market rate. And this is usually at least double the pay rate. Hence a person earning $100 per hour, should be generating at least $200 per hour for their organisation. Every hour wasted doing a menial task, has more impact than we actually think. Let’s take this simple example:
If we work 60 hours a week for 50 weeks for 2 years and end up with an equity stake valued at $3 million our hourly rate comes out at $500.
Which doesn’t leave many tasks that are worth doing ourselves. Startup blog says value yourself in 2013!
There are 2 people who are offering you some pie.
They tell you that they are about to bake a pie. They then continue to tell you a story that they are terrific pie makers and that all of their experience in and around the kitchen (watching their parents bake) and eating lots of pie, gives them the right qualifications to make a really great tasting pie. They also tell you about their secret recipe, which has never been used before. They are certain it will make a far superior pie. They even show you the written recipe and tell you about the ingredients and methods.
After all this explaining they then ask if you’d like a taste, but before that, you will have to wait until they bake it. Then they ask you to give them some money to go build a kitchen and buy some ingredients. They want to bake these pies at great scale. They think they can sell many of these pies.
Has already baked a pie and offers you some. They have only baked this one small pie. But would like you to try it even though it is just a small sample. It smells nice, and it looks nice. You try some and it tastes lovely. You then engage in some conversation about their pie. How they baked it, the ingredients, and if they think they could replicate this pie and make it at scale. It turns into a really great discussion and evolves into a deeper immersion about the pie business. You’re both really inspired by each other and start planning some next steps.
Your startup is the pie. Which person would you invest in?
When I first met Sean Callanan for SportsGeekHQ he gave me a business card which I thought was pretty cool. An old footy trading card – with a player from my favourite team. As below:
What I love is how he did it. It’s a simple mashup. No printing costs – just a card with a sticker of his details on it. He carries with him a card from each team and during the conversation (without me realising) he asks which team I follow. When we said farewell he gave me the card – which I clearly took notice of. Not only was the player from my team, he was even from an old era – my one!
If you want to know how to get your brand exposed to 100,000 people for $8 then we need look no further than what David did.
You may remember this post where David go his Jarritos soft drink van all branded up. Well, he took the next step in exposure and got to the AFL grand final early for a front row car park near the MCG for a measly $8. As far as I can tell it’s one of the greatest media investments of all time – there were 100,000 people in attendance. See photo journal below. Great startup bootstrapping David.