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Category Archives: entrepreneurship

We live in an age of unparalleled opportunities. The cumulative disruptive influences of internet, mobility, open source software and cloud computing have brought down the cost of starting a tech startup to an all time low.

Its been about two years since we started Althea. Starting a company teaches many lessons. I started living what I had read about in many books. Entrepreneurship is no spectator sport.

Below, I try to quickly articulate some thoughts and lessons that came in handy. Primarily from a technology development perspective.

– Leverage & embrace open systems [include open source, open data, open apis & open platforms]. Push open source initiatives that lead to reduced costs of development and ownership. Always resist the developer urge to build everything from scratch.

– Focus all proprietary development efforts towards real innovations & adding value. Ensure that all significant development efforts are tied to a business case. While stop gap solutions can get you started, you need to carefully choose your role in the food chain and supply significant value there.

– Innovate continuously and drive the changes in your space. Build and maintain a sustainable advantage that keeps you ahead of the curve. Become the thought leader in your area of specialization. Remember, innovation today is commodity tomorrow. Your competition is going to copy your ideas and catch up with you shortly.

– Stay ‘truly agile’ and adapt constantly to the changing landscape. Accept the fact that disruption is inevitable, and make embracing it a part of your ongoing plans. New business models are getting conceptualized and tested everyday.

– Treat employees as unique individuals and not as replaceable resources. Capitalise on the unique abilities of each person and deploy them appropriately at different phases of a project. Also, startups win by putting a lot of responsibility on young people and letting wonderful things happen.

– Invest heavily on tools and infrastructures that lead to an increase in productivity. While startups dont operate with infinite resources, they succeed by building small but highly efficient and focussed teams. I remember Charlie Munger quoting “The company that needs a new machine tool, and hasn’t bought it, is already paying for it.”

Eugene Kleiner PhotoWe know Eugene Kleiner as one of the traitorous 8, the founder of Fairchild Semiconductor, investor in Intel and one of the main founders of top VC firm KPCB. All of which were instrumental in the genesis of silicon valley.

I often come across interesting quotes by him. I stumbled on this set when I was going through the KPCB site, recently. Seemed like a set any entrepreneur would benefit from.

Kleiner’s Laws

* Make sure the dog wants to eat the dog food. No matter how ground-breaking a new technology, how large a potential market, make certain customers actually want it.
* Build one business at a time. Most business plans are overly ambitious. Concentrate on being successful in one endeavor first.
* The time to take the tarts is when they’re being passed. If an environment is right for funding, go for it. Eugene, more than anyone, knew that venture capital goes in cycles.
* The problem with most companies is they don’t know what business they’re in.
* Even turkeys can fly in a high wind. In times of strong economies, even bad companies can look good.
* It’s easier to get a piece of an existing market than to create a new one.
* It’s difficult to see the picture when you’re inside the frame.
* After learning some of the tricks of the trade, some people think they know the trade. This reflected some of Eugene’s own humility; he recognized that many venture capitalists thought they were experts when they had just a bit of knowledge.
* Venture capitalists will stop at nothing to copy success.
* Invest in people, not just products. Eugene always respected founding entrepreneurs. He wanted to build companies with them not just with their ideas.

And, two others – frequently quoted:

* “There is a time when panic is the appropriate response.”
* “What tips me off that a business will be successful is that they have a narrow focus of what they want to do, and they plan a sufficient amount of effort and money to do it. Focus is essential.”

The second is a thread that always runs in the back of my mind, since the time I read it.