10 Tips For Building a Killer Startup

kittenBe careful building that killer startup, said serial entrepreneur Michael Acton Smith. Its first victim could be you!

Speaking at the Dublin Web Summit (@WebSummitHQ), the Moshi Monsters guy (@acton) outlined his tips for entrepreneurs and threw in a health warning: “Many of them almost killed me with their craziness and intensity,” he said.

Once described by British newspaper, The Independent, as “the polite version of Bob Geldof,” Smith focused heavily on the importance of the human element in business.

Make beautiful mistakes. Theres nothing wrong with screwing up, and “the most beautiful mistakes are the one you made fast.” One slow mistake Smith made was a game called Perplex City. That took 18 months to build and another 18 months for his company, Mind Candy, to figure out it wasn’t going to work.

Focus. “Make sure you do one thing extremely well,” he advised. Once that is done, only then should you think of expanding.

Your story. Smith said he hears pitches all the time about data and features. However, a personal story is much more powerful. “Make sure you tell a story,” he said. A slide with a kitten is also a nice touch.

Dream big. The Big Hairy Audacious Goal is something people can rally around.

Say yes to parties. Go to events, conferences, dinners. “Don’t spend all day behing your desk,” Smith said. But he also advised not to treat your outings as networking events. Get to know people, and instead of interrogating them about what they do, ask them why they did it.

Work hard and be nice to people: Sometimes we lose the people bit, Smith said. But an entrepreneur needs to clicking with customers. They have to convince people to join their company. EQ is more imp than IQ, he said.

And while it is well known that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg studied computer science, it is less well know that he also took psychology.

Say hungry and stay foolish. Quoting Steve Jobs’ legendary commencement  speech, Smith said, “You’ve got to dive in deep. Be obsessive.” A new business is like a jigsaw, he said. The more more bits you have, the easier it will be to solve.

Trust your instincts. “The best entrepreneurs are very, very in tune with their gut instinct,” Smith said. Entrepreneurs should be wary if situations or conversations are not quite right.

Keep it simple. The best products “are also super simple.” Apple’s devices can be easily mastered by the very young and very old, Smith said. Google’s interface is very simple. And Instagram often pushes releases where features are stripped out, he said.

Ask for forgiveness not permission. Entrepreneurs find a way around problems.

Image courtesy London Looks on Flickr.