I first met Steve Denning this past December at 800-CEO-READ‘s author Pow-Wow, an inspiring gathering at Milwaukee’s Iron Horse Hotel. Steve struck me as a friendly, unassuming person who didn’t want to stand out amid the bustling crowd of ambitious authors and publishing professionals.
When I asked him about his work, he calmly replied that he wanted to transform the world’s organizations — how they are constructed, led and managed. This was my first glimpse into the audacious inner world of Steve Denning.
Last month, to illustrate the importance of “staying power” in getting a new venture off the ground, I wrote a post about the patience displayed by President Obama’s national security team in tracking Osama Bin Laden. After years of painstaking intelligence activity and a long trail of near misses, they steadily persevered over time, finally seizing the right moment to strike. The history-changing event was the result of a decade-long process — many swings at the plate that yielded the ultimate home run.
This week and next I want to go further and outline a set of principles for lengthening and strengthening your startup runway. Early startup ideas are typically off the mark, which is why great businesses iterate and experiment their way to success. But doing so takes time. Too often, enthusiastic founding teams severely underestimate how much time and treasure they will burn before they finally strike gold. Therefore, entrepreneurs who can give themselves and their ventures more time — treating time as a competitive advantage rather than as a dwindling resource — will enjoy a much higher likelihood of success. Continue reading →
Our planet’s startup climate is being rapidly and radically reshaped.
An aspiring entrepreneur can launch a global brand from his or her basement at a fraction of what it cost only a few years ago. Business ideas admired as highly innovative two decades ago seem stale, even laughable, today.
Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of talk and hype about old assumptions and models that no longer apply, and, in most cases, I agree. Continue reading →
I was listening to American Public Media’s “Marketplace” radio program as I drove home recently, and I caught an intriguing story about the international market for American-grown wheat.
The story starts with a profile of a wheat farmer from Washington state:
NARRATOR: The tractor gets a tune-up as Randy Suess gets ready to plant his soft-white wheat. He’s a third-generation farmer with about 1,300 acres of rolling hills south of Spokane, Wash. It’s a long way from Cairo. But the relationship is closer than you might think.
“It’s not that I’m so smart. It’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Pete Souza / The White House
When stories first began to pour out about the U.S. killing of Osama Bin Laden, one detail immediately struck me as especially remarkable: that President Obama and his intelligence and national security teams had known of Bin Laden’s whereabouts since August, 2010, and had navigated a patient, steady path that resulted in getting their man eight months later. And this phase of the manhunt came after a decade-long process of painstaking intelligence gathering efforts, full of promising but ultimately dud leads, near misses, empty caves and dead-end alleys. Continue reading →
My book, 6 Secrets to Startup Success, is now available through major booksellers. I’m proud of the finished product, excited about early feedback, and looking forward to your additional reactions and comments.
Publishing a book is an imperfect process of fits and starts, revisions and iterations. Thoughts become words. Words grow into pages and sections and chapters and, finally, a finished book. Time flies by. The final few months, especially, feel like the blink of an eye. Continue reading →
Last Friday, I enjoyed spending time on the phone with Guy Kawasaki, author of the just-released book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. Many years ago, Guy helped Apple Computer enchant the world as the company’s Chief Evangelist. He has since founded Garage Ventures, a VC firm, and is more recently the co-founder and driving force behind Alltop.com, the digital magazine rack. In between and around all of that other stuff, he has written, published, and successfully launched 10 highly influential books. Other than that, as I told him in our interview, he’s clearly a slacker : ) … Continue reading →
I have often suggested to starry-eyed startup founders that they spend less time thinking about selling their future company and more time acquiring and understanding customers. Don’t be distracted by distant rainbows and pots of gold. Focus instead on fighting through the fog right in front of you. As Paul Graham, founder of Y-Combinator, puts it, “The way to succeed in a startup is to focus on the goal of getting lots of users, and keep walking swiftly toward it while investors and acquirers scurry alongside trying to wave money in your face.”
(Wall Street Journal, March 5-6, 2011, p. B1)
But it’s hard for founding teams not to get excited about Amir Efrati’s piece on Google’s growing thirst for acquisitions in this past weekend’s Wall Street Journal. Efrati notes that Google spent $1.8 billion on 48 startups last year (up from a paltry $92 million on 10 deals in 2009) and quotes Google’s VP of corporate development, David Lawee, as saying the company will “continue to be aggressive.” Continue reading →
I’m excited that that our team is closing in on the release of the Entrepreneur Core Characteristics Profile (ECCP), an empirically developed assessment tool that provides feedback on eleven personality characteristics associated with entrepreneurial success. I’ll be writing more about the tool and the eleven qualities it measures in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, I want to highlight a handful of traits that, while critical to entrepreneurial success, can also endanger your startup effort if present at extreme levels, or if applied without full awareness. Continue reading →
Early phase businesses can be treacherous. Of the millions of startups that are launched each year in the U.S., most fail or stall out within a few years. Too many of those that survive are led by fatigued and stressed-out entrepreneurs who struggle to break even and have no real shot at finding additional funding or an acquiring partner.
But a few make it to the next level.
Here’s to one who did: Modality, developer of premium health care apps for Apple mobile devices, founded in 2006 by Mark Williams, Ph.D., was acquired by Epocrates in November. This deal is a great strategic fit for both parties, and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving founder and team.
I know Modality’s story well because they have been a client of mine for several years, and because I held an ownership stake in the firm. Among founders I have known and advised, Mark Williams brings the most powerful combination of intelligence, resilience, and humility I have ever seen. In early 2009, I asked Mark to chronicle some of the thrills, challenges, and tensions he experienced while navigating through the gritty reality of getting a business safely off the ground. Here are a few excerpts:
Another reason I am pulling for Modality — and now Epocrates — is that I have featured Mark and his startup story as a core case in my upcoming book, 6 Secrets to Startup Success, about the two sides of entrepreneurial passion.