“I’d never taken an accounting course, never run a business, never even had savings of my own to manage. I stumbled into a job at Salomon Brothers in 1985 and stumbled out much richer three years later, and even though I wrote a book about the experience, the whole thing still strikes me as preposterous—which is one of the reasons the money was so easy to walk away from. I figured the situation was unsustainable. Sooner rather than later, someone was going to identify me, along with a lot of people more or less like me, as a fraud. Sooner rather than later, there would come a Great Reckoning when Wall Street would wake up and hundreds if not thousands of young people like me, who had no business making huge bets with other people’s money, would be expelled from finance.”
I just finished reading a May 12th article from the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell called In the Air: Who Says Big Ideas are Rare?
“There were four independent discoveries of sunspots, all in 1611; namely, by Galileo in Italy, Scheiner in Germany, Fabricius in Holland and Harriott in England.”
A few weeks ago, Corey, one of my two partners from ExchangeHut, and I were asked to talk about our experiences with ExchangeHut for the Entrepreneurship Deli, an event put on by Wiscontrepreneur and the Office of Corporate Relations at UW. It was a “speed dating” format where young entrepreneurs from companies like Flying Cart, Powered Green, Sconnie and Brazen Careerist talked to people from the community about our experiences starting and running companies.
We were tasked with talking about boostrapping and the lessons we learned as college entrepreneurs. I created this list from our list of hundreds of lessons we learned during our three years of running ExchangeHut.
Here’s my list:
1. Don’t be afraid of the competition
2. Research, research, research
3. Don’t overestimate sales, market penetration or adoption rates: take your projections and cut them in half. Then cut them in half again.
4. Stay Focused: do one thing extremely well, rather than many things poorly
5. Legal work is essential: an hour of advice now will be worth weeks of hassles later
6. Know who you are dealing with: do your due diligence on all aspects of your business
7. Don’t do business with unethical companies or people: a quick buck now will bite you much harder later
8. Make a plan, then execute it
9. Mixing business with friendship seems great, but doesn’t always work
10. Give credit to employees when the going is good, take the blame when its not
A few weeks ago, I attended a talk at the UW Business School by Mark McGuire of Jellyfish.com and Alice.com fame. He talked about his experiences starting, running and selling Name Protect and Jellyfish during an hour talk and a generous question and answer period. As a fellow UW Poli Sci major and entrepreneur, I really enjoyed the entire talk. It was great to see another non-business major succeed as an entrepreneur. For me, the most interesting parts of the talk were his “Big Three Advantages” to being a startup, taken from his blog.