Got your own online startup? Perhaps you’re building Zillow with millions in venture funding, or maybe it’s just you and your passion for furniture porn and other guilty pleasures. Either way, you’ll find something useful from the following list, which came straight from the mouth of a veteran online entrepreneur who’s been there, done (and still doing) that, and has the scars and successes to show for it.
These tips are from a recent NWEN breakfast talk by Ben Elowitz. Ben’s currently the founder & CEO of Wetpaint, a wiki company based here in Seattle, and was responsible for much of the success of Blue Nile and Fatbrain (I used to love that site). If you can’t learn something from what he’s got to share, you’re probably in the wrong business.
Here’s the list, adapted from memory:
- What gets you hot and bothered? Consumer or enterprise? Products or services? Profit-driven or world-changing? Everyone’s got their own preferences – just know what gets you going before jumping into a new idea, or you may run out of passion before you get to the finish line.
- Find a good sherpa. You wouldn’t climb Everest without finding the best sherpa possible, why start a business without doing the same? Pick someone who’s got a ton of experience, loves mentoring new entrepreneurs, and has the connections to help you move your business forward. This person doesn’t have to actually be an entrepreneur.
- Think leverage. Selling and shipping heavy books (Fatbrain) for tens of dollars per order was tough, and took lots of people. Selling and shipping tiny diamonds (Blue Nile) for thousands per order, with a smaller team? Brilliant. Think about how to build your business to apply maximum leverage with your limited resources (money, people, time). This is something Justin and I think about all the time with Menuism.
- Relationships and references matter. There are countless options for service providers for your business. When picking someone you may have to lean on, remember your relationships, and get lots of references. You don’t want your support network to fail you at the worst possible time.
- Bigger isn’t better. Big teams are great for powering through the initial “build it fast” phase, but then what are they gonna do (besides burn through your cash)? Stay lean and mean, and hire only when it’s painful not to.
- Be deliberate. Like it or not, your company will take on your personality, so think carefully about what image you want to project. Cost-conscious? Workaholic? Alcoholic? Your pick – just be ready for the consequences.
- Nothing’s bold when everything’s bold. You’re not trying to be everything to everyone, so figure out your differentiator. It doesn’t have to be some crazy new technology – just pick the one thing that you’re gonna do better than anyone else in your market.
Thoughts? Got your own list of tips/advice? Let us know in the comments.