Small Business News
Forget funding. The real challenge is finding an idea you can actually execute.
Anyone can come with an idea for a company. But not everyone can come up with one that’s both practical and worth quitting your job for.
Sources of start-up ideas can come from just about anywhere--a theme or problem from an entrepreneur’s daily life, an emerging trend, a gap in a specific market or a passion for helping others in an inventive way. It's not the source of the "aha" moment that seems to challenge entrepreneurs, though. The real struggle comes with the ability to find an idea that’s worth the toil of starting up.
That's why Daniel Gulati, a tech entrepreneur and author of Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders spent a month investigating where successful entrepreneurs found their ideas. He surveyed 50 founders in three different stages of company development (pre-funding, growth and acquired/gone public.)
After thorough research and detailed follow-up interviews with 15 founders, he came up with a list of the top five sources of now-thriving start-up concepts:
1. I experienced a pain point in my life and wanted to solve it.
2. I met someone talented and we started a company together.
3. I have a special skill or passion, and I turned it into a business.
4. After working in an industry for a long time, I saw a customer need.
5. I researched many ideas and eventually narrowed it down to one.
The most popular source by far is the pain-point motivator, says Gulati.This makes sense since starting a company requires long hours and seemingly endless focus. Both are likely much easier when you feel a personal connection to the purpose behind the company. Gulati explained that the key to this factor is understanding how much your own problems are worth.
Neil Blumenthal offers a prime example. With his company, Warby Parker, he was able to solve a personal frustration--that is, spending too much on expensive glasses. He combined this concept with an initiateto help others in the process. (Warby Parker gives a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair bought.)
Rent The Runway also launched based on a personal dilemma: Attaining designer clothes on a consistentbasis is not affordableor practical for young women. The solution was simple. Give women an option to rent rather than buy.
While you can draw from any of the sources on the list for your start-up idea, drawing from a passion and personal frustration--that happens to respectively inspire or annoy others as well--might be a good place to start.
Sheryl Sandberg says managers need to talk more openly about pregnancy. I want to believe her. I really do.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is successful, outspoken, smart as a whip, and works like heck. And she really, really cares about women and leadership.
If those traits were more widely shared, maybe the advice she gave at a recent Salesforce.com event wouldn’t seem so strange. But we’re not there yet.
Onstage at Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce event last week San Francisco, Sandberg spoke about pregnancy and the glass ceiling. She noted that as managers, we don’t ask women about their plans to have families. We don’t dare, for fear of being accused of discrimination.
But talking about pregnancy, Sandberg points out, isn’t illegal. It's illegal to quiz employees about their plans to have children, and it's illegal to discriminate based upon pregnancy. And as managers and as an economy, we lose out on the talents of many women when they take jobs below their skill level or potential because of the fear that, should they become pregnant, they won’t be able to succeed as professionals and as parents at the same time. We need to support these women, says Sandberg, and that starts with honest conversation.
Sandberg offers a script for forward-thinking managers to use with their female staff:
You may want to have kids one day. My door is open. Come talk to me anytime.
If you want to have children I'm not going to give the good [opportunities] to someone else because you're pregnant. And I'm going to help you take a leave and come back if that's what you want to do.
I love the idea behind this--that a manager wants to support a staffer no matter what turn her life takes, and that they’ll work together to make sure the employee doesn’t lose out if she becomes a mom.
But what employee in her right mind is going to have this conversation? She'd have to really trust her boss to make it work. Afterward, I can't help but think she'd wonder, every time she went to her boss's office, if her boss was scrutinizing her belly. And the employee would have to be comfortable talking about whether or not she wants to have children--a hugely personal, and often fraught, journey--with her boss.
It gets worse: What about the employee who tells her well-meaning boss that yes, she wants children, but then, for whatever reason, does not become a parent? Do most women want their bosses to know that much about their lives? Would most men?
That leads us to a rather elegant solution: If you're going to talk about families, and responsibility, and work-life balance, don’t just talk to women. Have this talk with everyone.
Let everyone be equally uncomfortable, let everyone worry about their privacy, and let everyone squirm in their seats as they wonder how much they want to divulge to their boss. Then we'll make some progress.
Everyone loves the story of the successful founder who messed-up along the way. But do we really tolerate employees who stumble? Not often--in real life anyway.
We all appreciate a good comeback story. A person tries their hand at something, fails (the more spectacular the collapse, the better), and then stages a successful second act. It's a classic. That's the heart and soul of all those tales of company-creation derring-do.
Over the years, the idea of failure has taken on special significance in the world of entrepreneurship, where it is treated as a badge of honor--as something indispensable. (See "Welcome to the Church of Fail") A few years ago, in fact, the notion of "fail fast" became quite popular among many entrepreneurship programs.
But, is our embrace of failure mostly rhetorical? Do we really mean it? Do we even practice failure management at our own companies?
Take a look around the "entrepreneurship industry" The programs, events, blogs, videos, for the most part, celebrate successful entrepreneurs. These are important, of course. As my colleague at the Kauffman Foundation, Paul Kedrosky, says the more we expose people to successful entrepreneurs, the more entrepreneurship we'll get.
So why is bringing failure into the equation so important? Well, in terms of actually learning, and of building companies, examples of success are of limited usefulness. This is because the exploits of many of the entrepreneurs are, as a baseball writer wrote recently, "unrepeatably good." (No one, after all, does Jeff Bezos better than Jeff Bezos.)
But actually managing and learning from failure is a lot harder than giving props to business legends who overcame hard times. The challenge of opening ourselves up to failure--personal, business, or otherwise--is sharpest in our daily organizational lives. And that's where we fall short. I'm sure we all call ourselves tolerant of failure and say that our culture is forgiving and supportive. Yet for any given idea or project that doesn't pan out it is often not treated very well in anyone's organization--if tolerated at all.
For one thing, nobody likes to admit they were wrong, or that they made a mistake. That's why the first impulse of most of us in the face of failure is to cast around for other people to blame or circumstances that we couldn't control. This is true even in the most collegial offices. This is true in any company whether it has 3 or 300 employees. We're only human after all--the stories we tell ourselves define us, and we all do everything we can to preserve that self-narrative. No one is exempt from this.
The way one manages failure will shape your company's culture on a daily basis, and subtly push people in a certain direction. It's often a case of focusing on an employee's strengths and avoiding their weaknesses. (And the same goes for you, too, by the way.) It's acknowledging that a failed project was an against-all-odds risk--but a risk worth taking.
In other words: Don't just read about failure and nod in agreement; don't just sit through seminars celebrating its merits. Actually try to make it work for you.
Former employees of the payment app start-up, which raised a historic $25 million pre-launch, claim the founder is a "shark" who treats staff poorly.
A few weeks ago, Business Insider named 19 people who have already left a tech startup called Clinkle.
Clinkle is a buzzy payment app that raised $25 million pre-launch. Earlier this year, it claimed to have gotten the largest seed round of financing that's ever been raised in Silicon Valley. The app's CEO, Lucas Duplan, is a first-time founder. The app still hasn't launched publicly.
Now, two people who say they are former employees have written a brutal post on Quora about what it's like to work for Clinkle. These people say they were glad to quit, and list 31 employees who have left the company. It's not clear if the authors are on the list or not. Not all of these people quit. Some may have been fired or were students who had to return to school.
The reason everyone is leaving, these two say, is simple: It's because of the startup's founder, Lucas Duplan. Duplan is no older than 22. When asked for comment, a Clinkle spokesperson replied: "We're not going to get into the habit of commenting on anonymous posts about the company."
"The man really has no right to be in the position he is in," the pair write on Quora. "He hurts his employees daily and shoves it under the rung [sic] as collateral damage. He only cares about one thing and that's making the company successful--ironically enough he never stopped to notice that as a tech company in today's tech industry, where it is nearly impossible to recruit great talent, his number one asset is his team, yet his way of showing appreciation if any at all, is by superficially throwing money at the problem."
Obviously, the post should be taken with a grain of salt. These are disgruntled ex-employees, and we haven't heard Duplan's side of the story. And being a CEO isn't about making friends; it's about making decisions that help the company, regardless of whether they are popular with staff.
In fact, the alleged ex-employees acknowledge that Duplan is "brilliant in his own right," as evidenced by the fact that he was able to accomplish what no one has done before and raise a $25 million pre-launch round.
But they say Duplan is a "shark" and that his employees are nothing more than "a pawn on his chess board."
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
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