Heart felt advice from 44 or so of the best entrepreneurs the world has seen, including Elon Musk (of Tesla), Reid Hoffman (of LinkedIn), and Sara Blakely (of Spanx). That in itself is worth more than what money can buy. But what’s more impressive is how David Kidder (of Clickable) crisply pinpoints the 5 recurring themes from his conversations with these super successful entrepreneurs in The Startup Playbook.
Kidder opens by defining the spectacular challenge of entrepreneurs on a startup mission as “the shift from defining ourselves as who we think we are to who we are becoming”. With the failure rates so ridiculously high, Kidder’s Playbook aims to help entrepreneurs focus on the right things right from the beginning. Here are 5 of the biggest and the most important ideas:
1. Know Thyself: Not everyone is cut out for the startup game. If security, stability, and social acceptance are in your everyday lingo, perhaps the entrepreneurial route is not for you. But if you are the kind to crave heroic quests and devour uncertainty, then it’s time to start the complex personal evaluation required to execute a startup vision. First step is to get an unfair advantage via your proprietary smarts or the fire in your belly, sometimes called passion:
Nearly all of the founders featured knew how to play their strengths. If you consider how improbable breakout success is in any given market, you can begin to understand why it is so critical to use a battering ram of proprietary assets – beginning with the heart and the mind of the founder – to break through.
2. Focus on your Biggest Ideas: Successful start ups are like amazing kisses: it’s all about timing. Great entrepreneurs build visions on broad contrarian market trends that they have identified. In the startup world we hear “focus” and “The Big Idea” so much, that I was extremely relieved to learn that most entrepreneurs love options.
In fact, choosing a maniacally focused path and betting it all is one of the hardest parts of the job and requires the most courage. But it is what’s required to truly win a market. It is critical to select your problem well, focus intently, and crack the code.
Pick the biggest idea that you are the most passionate or smartest about and execute like hell.
3. Build Painkillers not Vitamins: Most entrepreneurs are artists – they dream of changing the world, even if just a tiny arc of it is trying to create their masterpiece. And it’s natural in the creative process to want to build new cool art – products that are much better than on the market. But if the product is elective – something that people can live without and doesn’t cure a direct pain – the startup rarely scales to success.
If there is a large market of potential customers who can describe their specific pain to you, your job is to create the painkiller that will take the hurt away forever. Once customers start on your service or product, they will never go off it. It becomes a necessity.
4. Be Ten Times Better: People don’t like to change. Companies don’t like new entrants. To break down the entry barriers set up by established companies and inertia of potential customers, your offering needs to be AMAZING. To quantify amazing:
It is absolutely the most difficult thing you have to accomplish in order for your startup to survive: be ten times better than your competitors. You cannot be incrementally better. Incrementalism kills companies. This is the bar you set for your company, and you own and are known for this value.
5. Be a Monopolist: This last one one reminds me of something Daniel Burham, grand architect & Director of the legendary 1893 World Fair of Chicago, wrote to his exhibitionists. It also happens to be the current theme in my life: “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood”.
From the very beginning of their startup years, most of them planned to create a company with monopolistic characteristics. Their intentions were not predatory or abusive. Thinking monopolistically was simply a way to focus on building market-dominating companies. Embracing this principle will force you to see past the day-to-day combat it takes to build a company.
I ran my 3 big ideas through each of these filters to help me pick the best one to execute on – I found it incredibly helpful. Tricky, especially because I seem to have every possible order of rankings, but helpful nevertheless. My plan is to take a weighted approach to help me pick.