Get Ready to Waste Time & 9 Other Tips for Entrepreneurs

Blind-group-HikingArtistIt’s the entrepreneur’s routine affliction. They start out with a brilliant idea and start building it.

Then, reality intervenes and they find the final product is nothing like they envisioned.

There are usually four steps to getting it right, said Manoj Chawla.

  1. You start by doing the wrong thing the wrong way.
  2. Then you do the wrong thing the right way.
  3. Then it’s the right thing the wrong way.
  4. Until, finally, the right thing is done the right way.

On this journey, however, the startup’s common affliction meets the startup’s common constraints: time and money.

Chawla, a serial entrepreneur and angel investor, was speaking at last night’s Entrepreneurs Anonymous in Toner’s Pub in Dublin, Ireland.

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In a lively and humor-filled talk, Chawla offered a number of tips to the audience.

Your day job is a resource. “If you are thinking about leaving work, think about all the networks, the email addresses and stuff,” he said.

Stand in your customer’s place. “Think about how you want to be discovered.”

Be careful outsourcing. The nice salesman or pre-sales engineer are not the ones you ultimately work with, Chawla noted.

Test drive the outsourcing company first. Develop in parallel to be on the safe side.

Keep an eye on the calendar. Some products have to launch at certain times. A student website launching in May or a restaurant opening in early January have missed the boat, Chawla said.

Scalability is a waste at first. The first version of any software is disposable, he said. “You might have to go through seven, 10 or 12 iterations,” he said.

Leave your ego at the door. “Don’t make it an excercise in self-validation or self-praise,” Chawla said.

Act the part. In the early days, “you are the product also,” he said. Make yourself investable. “If you don’t, hire someone pretty who is,” he joked.

PR pays. One approach Chawla took when building Unii was to “pick on your enemy’s weaknesses.”

Setting themselves up against Facebook, the upstart startup built its appeal around students’ ability to keep their activities private from their parents or older relatives.

Then, “You need a simple story that will get it across,” Chawla said.

Originality is rare. “Don’t think you are the only one in the world with that idea,” he said. However, many other factors will separate you from the competition.

Image courtesy Hiking Artist, Frits Ahlefeldt.