The following is a guest post by John Doe. John is a circus juggler turned entrepreneur. As he didn’t have any success yet with his startup, he is now involved in angel investing and mentorship at one of the newest
chicken startup incubators in the Valley.
Right before i started my juggling world tour, my old coach in high school would come up to me, smack me over the head and say “life is like a game of dodgeball: you never know who’s gonna hit you next”. Years later, as i was a CJO (chief juggling officer) for the Guzzini Brothers in Argentina, the lesson was still ringing in my ears, probably due to the eardrum fracture he gave me.
When i was 36 and i was back living in the trailer with my parents, i started seeing on Twitter that more and more of my old friends were getting into entrepreneurship. All these great ideas like next-day puppy delivery, glocal services for octogenarians, video advertising for blind people and many more were being brought out into society, changing the world forever and making dents in all kind of places in the universe. This made me decide to go all in and start my own thing. I then sold my old pair of sneakers with great effort, bought some old army boots with straps on them and took a loan from the local mobster to buy a ticket to the Valley. I knew that my SAAS cupcake juggling platform would change the world, and that’s the only place where it could happen.
Here are some of the lessons the past 5 years of living with AirBnB hippies and sleeping on park benches taught me.
1. Keep your startup lean and don’t get fat, because nobody likes fat people
Staying lean, hungry and foolish is always a good thing, not only because most investors don’t like fat people (how many fat successful entrepreneurs have you seen on TechCrunch? Arrington doesn’t count), but also because it’s kind of hard to match hipster glasses to a belly. It’s a proven fact that wild game meat is better than a serial entrepreneur, so always make sure that you look good.
I cannot emphasize how crucial it is for your success that you and your team look hot. This is one of the reasons behind the recent buzz about having more women get into entrepreneurship: boobs always make negotiations easier!
Another important thing to remember is that being coachable is one of they key success traits of every entrepreneur, the same as for circus monkeys or horses. So make sure that you are always iterating, pivoting and focusating (that’s a new meme i invented for always bringing your attention back to the thing you are doing).
2. In funding as in dating, dumb money are easy and fast to hook up, but smart money, even though not very pretty, will stick with you long term
During the first months, all my mentors at the AA meeting were encouraging me to go out more, meet people in clubs and network with them. I know that many of you don’t like to do it, but networking is the single most important activity one can do before friends come over with their laptops to play Starcraft.
Investors come in two main flavors: dumb and smart. You can recognize them by the amount of blogs that they write, and also based on their Twitter following. The general rule is that you only want to take dumb money for things that don’t really matter, like seed round or series A. After that, as you get closer to the IPO, you need to attract smart money. They will always make you look good and can also help you figure out what is a “peenel” and if your startup is making a loss or not. If you are indeed loosing more money that you are making, which is highly likely and a very good thing, make sure the dumb investors don’t figure it out.
At Jugglingcupcakes.ly, we took smart money from the beginning, and we later regretted it. We always needed to answer to a stupid board of directors about our internal trampoline and the blow-up dolls in the office.
3. Talk about it, to everyone, everywhere, even if they don’t care
As the saying goes, “a loud mouth is always right”. So you should always make sure to brush your teeth properly. A fresh breath is mandatory, because as an entrepreneur you should always talk to people. The train conductor, the lady at the cashiers, the homeless at the corner, each of them can be a referrer of future business for you. The acronym here is ABT: always be talking. Everyone in this world needs to find out about your world-changing startup, so talking incessantly is the only way to spread the news.
Another point worth remembering is virality. I remember when i was still at the circus and the bearded lady caught a nasty cold. The next day all the stable boys and four of the Guzzini brothers were sick, and in one week we spread it to a whole county. You should always make sure that your viral coefficient is above 1, as anything below that will make you seem retarded. And avoid PR agencies. Money on marketing is wasted for an early stage startup, so you should only use free things like word of mouth, word of Twitter and word of Youtube.
4. All successes have an explanation, and luck ain’t it
Now i could tell you a story about one of my great successes in which i leave out the part where i was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time, but i will not. I don’t have any of those, so i will share a story of a friend of mine from Facebook.
Njubela is a young African who started primary school in a small Rwandan village. One day, as he was coming back home, he pointed the right way to a nice American lady who’s Hummer H2 was lost in the savanna. It turned out that she was the wife of a rich VC, so they adopted Njubela and brought him back to the US. When he turned 15, he had the idea of delivering sandwiches through the Internet, so his adoptive father invested 20 million dollars in his startup instead of buying a yacht. In 5 years the business grew and Njubela had an amazing exit for 300 million, after a media conglomerate owned by a rich friend of his dad bought the company. My point is that you can all be like Njubela. You just have to work long hours, sleep under the desk and eat ramen noodles.
Luck is just something the European entrepreneurs blame in order to justify their failure to raise capital, but in reality luck doesn’t have any impact on your success. Anyone reading this can make it big in entrepreneurship, you just have to pay your taxes and stay lean.
5. ABCF- always be commenting and firing
The reason why HackerNews was invented is because entrepreneurs need to express their opinions on other people’s mistakes. It’s not something you can stop, it’s just the normal behavior of A types. And A types always want to hang around A+ types, not like the B type loosers who work 9-5 jobs. That’s why you should make sure that you have at least 3 blogs (your company blog, your personal blog, your secret personal blog) and that you post to them often. It creates a ramp for you to launch your brilliant ideas, judgements, preconceptions and prejudices. Also you can use the blogs to talk trash about your competition.
And firing. Firing is the single most important thing an entrepreneur should do. Make sure to meet people often, hire them and then look for excuses to fire them. It keeps your company always on it’s toes and creates a competitive environment. Fire fast and hire slow, especially if you are in a country which has impossible laws relating to work permits.
6. Focusate more on making money and less on making an impact
You might have heard quite often that successful entrepreneurs do all their focusating on impact and not on making money. But that’s just propaganda. Impact is for cars and punching bags. Real entrepreneurs focusate (i think this new meme is really starting to take off) on cold hard cash. It’s the only way you will be taken seriously.
I hope these advices will help move your startup forward and will not prevent you from always doing B/C testing (because testing, as in “the website is down because we didn’t pay the hosting company” or “we have no customers because our product sucks”).
Photo credits: Entrepreneurship by Michael Lewkowitz