Having gone to all three sessions of 2008 Summer Venture Camp
put on by The Collaborative
, I want to summarize the most important lessons that I took away from among all the information, expertise and advice given.
My business niche as a woman entrepreneur with Miri Market was not the primary target of most of the panel discussions, which seemed focused on med/tech start-up companies needing millions in venture capital. The Minneapolis/St. Paul area is especially strong in this industry, being home to Medtronic, St. Jude and Guidant, plus we have a world-class University that makes strong contributions in med/tech research. But the same things that make a strong candidate for getting venture capital makes a strong start-up company of any size, in any industry.
In the last venture camp session it was mentioned that you have to give people a message nine times for it to stick. Much of what I focus on here are universal elements that were mentioned again and again -- maybe not nine times, but said by enough different people, enough times over the three sessions, that they “stuck” with me. The rest seems like just helpful good sense, to keep in mind as I build my company. So here they are:
1.) Successful entrepreneurs need to be really flexible. They also need to be completely dedicated, open to input, enthusiastic (but willing to learn), open to criticism, easy to work with, and prepared.
2.) Be sure to communicate to everyone -- your employees, your board, your investors -- that it's all going to change. You need to continually re-evaluate ideas, employee performance, compensation, and priorities for spending with the constant goal of making money and liquidity. Continually set up the expectation that things will be changing.
3.) The saying “Find a need, and fill it” is true. If you start with one idea in mind, and find that your customers are taking it in another direction or asking for some changes, go with it! Due diligence, market research, patent searches and understanding the competitive landscape can also help point you to the void that needs filling.
4. ) The main things to have down, which you must be able to communicate in a few, concise sentences, are:
- What’s your unique thing, your proprietary property/technology?
- How big is your market opportunity, your universe of buyers?
- What is the benefit customers receive from using your product? Will people pay for it?
- Management team. Management team. Management team.
5.) When writing your business plan, make sure you have your above “story” together. Often a power point with supporting schedules will suffice, along with an excellent executive summary.