When do you get a patent?
There’s a little debate over when (and what) to patent when you’re working in startups. What do you think about early stage patents?
When do you get a patent?
There’s a little debate over when (and what) to patent when you’re working in startups. What do you think about early stage patents?
Everyone on the Serious Startups panel has had to make the decision to quit before. And we’re all involved in ventures now that we sometimes wonder if we should walk away from.
Kane, David, and I have slightly different thoughts on how you know when to quit your startup. Check out the video and let us know what you think @seriousstartups.
What does it take to be an Entrepreneur? Join us as Luke shares his Entrepreneurial mindset and an inside glance at his journey to becoming a successful Entrepreneur.
Luke is the Founder of Fearless Leadership & Vision Inspired People, a global community of movers and shakers. He advises and mentors business leaders, millionaire entrepreneurs and high profile individuals. His message regularly reaches 700,000 people worldwide on a weekly basis via Vision Inspired People.
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In 2011, my friend Kostas and I saw an opportunity. If we developed a hyper-accurate keyboard app — one that enabled users to type without looking at the screen — we could change the way people interacted with mobile technology.
We could eliminate the apologetic email signatures, stop walking into things while texting, and truly ditch our laptops. It would break down barriers to the “Internet of Things.”
Everyone said it couldn’t be done, but that was only because no one had done it. Where others saw something impossible, Kostas and I saw an opportunity to be first in a space with huge potential for growth.
When your ideas are ambitious, the tech industry will inevitably try to make you quit.
One of the first people to shoot us down was an angel investor. We had barely finished pitching when he rejected us outright. A touchpad keyboard for the blind wasn’t feasible, he said. Apple’s iOS didn’t allow real integration of third-party keyboards; without the iPhone, the app could never truly be successful.
I countered both objections. Within minutes of our departure, he emailed our mutual contact, complaining that we were “strong-headed” and “ill-informed.” This was a preview of the most common objection we faced: “It’s never been done before.”
Too many people mistake things that haven’t been done for things that can’t be done. Real opportunities come from ideas that haven’t yet been acted upon.
Creating an opportunity from something new provides a competitive advantage in the form of:
Had we listened to our critics, we would have never started. But when developing a revolutionary new product, it’s not the critics who matter — it’s your user base. You need a devoted group of early users who can offer feedback and help improve your product.
During development, I learned that the iPhone’s accessibility options made it popular with blind users, so we brought our prototype to the blind community. Their skepticism quickly gave way to excitement, and for some, the experience was so overwhelming that they wept.
The prototype was basic. But suddenly we had thousands of real users invested in the growth of the product. Their feedback helped each version evolve by leaps and bounds.
Once you have your passionate early users, you also need to find a way to turn perceived barriers into opportunities. When we released a public beta of our app on iOS, many people thought we were crazy due to Apple’s restrictions on third-party keyboards. But in February, we opened our API to any developer who wanted to use it, transforming the restriction into an opportunity for growth.
This historical iOS barrier was enough for plenty of people to reject our idea altogether. But because we pursued the opportunity, we are now celebrating 1 million downloads.
Many entrepreneurs fail because they’re afraid to do things differently. But learning to create opportunity is a skill like any other. You can become better by networking, keeping an ear to the ground, and positioning yourself to capitalize on the shifting market. It’s also important to devote several hours a week to trying things that are new, crazy and potentially groundbreaking.
If you ignore opportunity, it will vanish. But when you embrace it, there will always be more.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
The Entrepreneurial Mind : Jared Barrett
We all have a different path to entrepreneurship. Nashville-based Jared Barrett talks about how he went from being a political science student to a healthcare startup VP.
I have a dirty little secret.
I’ve spent years–well, not hiding it exactly. Just choosing not to showcase it.
But, now it’s time to air my dirty laundry. So to speak.
I’m a mother.
Yup. That’s it. My big secret. And you’re probably wondering why it’s even such a big deal.
Even though I’m proud of my 3 boys, I put a lot of thought into whether or not to incorporate them into my professional life. There are several reasons any woman would consider the same choice I made.
There are lots of women who successfully make a name for themselves as a mom. They build blogs or businesses around having a family.
For these women, being loud and proud about motherhood is essential to their personal branding.
But, for women building businesses apart from their families, it can be distracting to talk about motherhood. One friend who is a partner at a venture capital firm told me that she loses Twitter followers every time she tweets about parenting.
In the era of social media and personal branding, you have to think long and hard about what you share. If talking about your family dilutes your brand, it might be best to keep quiet.
Like it or not, there is still a glass ceiling for most women.
Draw attention to your uterus and watch that ceiling drop even lower.
In our Serious Startups episode on parenting, Kane expressed surprise that this is true in startups as well as corporate culture.
“There are no rules in startups,” he said incredulously.
But the harsh reality is that there are rules in everything. Startups are a tough environment for mothers because the very nature of entrepreneurship is all-consuming. There is no time for “distractions,” even if they’re cute.
A quick survey of the startup tech scene reveals 2 main demographics for both founders and investors: “men” and “women without children.”
There are exceptions, of course. But, in general, moms starting a non-family-focused business face a huge uphill battle both practically and reputation-wise.
The first 2 reasons I’ve talked about can be overcome with time and success. After a certain level of accomplishment or proving yourself, it’s rarely a big deal to reveal your secret.
This last one, though, can apply to moms at any level.
Sometimes, it’s just nobody’s business.
Imagine how awful it would be if everyone had access to all the cute/horrible pictures and stories from your childhood. A simple Google search would show employers pictures of 2-year-old you being potty trained or your mom’s tweets about the time you ate dog poop. That’s reality for the next generation.
Many moms choose to keep their motherhood quiet in order to give their kids a clean digital record.
(FYI: Even though I’m now out of the closet, I still won’t ever publish my kids pictures or names.)
There are several great reasons for moms to stay quiet about their kids. But sometimes, it’s time to come clean.
As we talked before filming the parenting show, I realized how many women share my dilemma. We’re entrepreneurs, we have kids, and sometimes both of those things work together. Sometimes they don’t.
Either way, it can be isolating–even more than typical entrepreneurship. Admitting my “fatal flaw” to the world is just one more way to battle that isolation and the status quo.
After all, it’s great to know we’re not alone in our rocketship.
Recently I went through a little entrepreneurial funk.
I know I probably shouldn’t admit that in public, but if we’re honest, we know everyone has them. If you’re anything like me, this thought process probably sounds familiar:
Crap. I don’t know if I’ll pay the bills this month.
I’ve worked 18 hour days every day for a year, but I can’t pay my freaking bills.
What’s the best thing I can do right now to make sure the bills get paid?
Damn! I don’t want to spend all my time only thinking about the short term. I have dreams…and goals…and and and…!
Screw it. What’s the point?
At this point, you’re wondering if your mother was right and you should get a “real job.” Oh, the peace of a regular paycheck, semi-normal work hours, and that long lost thing called a weekend.
I’m not going to tell you to suck it up and keep going. Maybe you’re not cut out for this. Maybe you should do yourself and the rest of the world a favor and find that nice stable job after all. Hey, there’s no shame there, even if we like to glamourize entrepreneurship to the point of it becoming unrecognizable.
I’m not going to tell you to keep chasing your dreams, because this is gut check time. This is when it’s time to really ask yourself, “Do I have the stomach for this?”
This is where you factor in all those people who matter to you. Do you have a spouse and kids? Are their needs being met in some way, preferably that doesn’t involve massive debt?
I’m not saying parents can’t be entrepreneurs, even struggling ones. I’m a single mom, so this is the big question that really hits home for me. My conclusion is that the future I’m building for my kids outweighs the struggles of the present.
But, that may not be your conclusion, which leads to the next question…
Do you have a long term goal? Or are you just wanting to “be an entrepreneur”? I promise you, being an entrepreneur for its own sake is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Take some time away from the daily grind and really define your goals–concrete things you actually want to accomplish. At the end of the day, will those dreams provide a payoff that exceeds your current struggles?
If not, maybe you should consider a new path, at least until you can define a long term goal worth chasing.
I’m very lucky to have smart business partners who care not just about our business but about me and my family. When both of them consistently said I should not give up yet, I knew they were seeing the bigger picture I was missing.
Talk to people you trust, who know you and your unique situation. Listen to their advice, and when things seem darkest remember that they are probably seeing the pieces you’re missing.
You might think this is out of place, but trust me. You don’t want to make major decisions on a sleep deprived brain.
Do whatever is necessary to get a few nights of consistent sleep. Melatonin works wonders for me, and everything starts to make more sense when you catch up on sleep.
And, then sometimes, you can’t quantify your thought process. Sometimes the answer is to simply follow your instinct. During my most recent funk, my instinct was to keep going, even when fear was telling me to stop.
If your instinct is to take a break or even stop altogether, go with it. You’ll be happier, healthier, and saner than the rest of us.
Going through hard times is never fun. But, it’s almost always a gift in disguise. Walking through the dark days will reaffirm your passion and vision, making you more confident the next time you struggle.
Or, it will be a big red flag that says it’s time for a new path.
I’ve heard two different philosophies about building a successful company. One school of thought glorifies the idea of “disruption.” These are the Ubers of the world who set out to redefine or create entire industries.
Then there are the founders who believe you should watch what works for others and simply recreate it in order to achieve similar success. This approach can work when taking a model from niche market to niche market or from city to city.
Both models have their champions. And both sets of champions have plenty of bad things to say about the other approach. Personally, I like what I call the “Paul Singh approach.”
In our podcast last week, Paul talked about the early days of 500 Startups, taking on giant investing firm Andreessen Horowitz. While Andreessen Horowitz had access to deal flow and didn’t have to work hard at finding investments, 500 Startups was young, unproven, and relatively smaller.
So, Paul and Dave McClure didn’t play the game the same way their larger competitors did. They chose to travel the world, spending most of the year in other cities, speaking and meeting startups. They built their portfolio by going to the companies–the exact opposite strategy most investment firms were using.
This is where “disruption” can play a big role. 500 Startups didn’t invent an industry; but they did re-imagine what an industry could look like and how to get business done. And, as we all know, they were successful with it. If they had chosen to play the same game as larger, more established firms, they probably would’ve lost.
We often hear stories of founders who built successful companies in industries they weren’t familiar with. They attribute their success to “not knowing any better.”
But, that’s not as common as we like to think it is. In the case off 500 Startups, if David and Paul didn’t know much about investing before they started, they learned quickly. After all, it’s vital to understand your industry. More common in real life is the entrepreneur who spent much of her career in a certain industry, saw a problem there, and figured out a way to solve it. Profitably.
If you don’t know the rules of the game you’re playing, you’ll never be able to judge which ones to break and which ones to keep. 99% these are the most important decisions you’ll make as you start up.
Serious Startups : Unwritten Rules of Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs are notoriously famous for breaking the rules. But, with startup culture going mainstream, there are a lot of unwritten “rules.” For example, “Thou shalt always be ‘killing it.’”
Check out the video above as the Serious Startups team educates Kane Harrison on all the ways he’s rebelling against startup norms.
Serious Startups : Staying Afloat
We all like to pretend we’re “all in” with our startup, but let’s be honest. We have to pay bills, just like everyone else.
David and I talk about how we do it and give some advice on making it happen without getting stuck in a rut. What do you do to make ends meet while chasing the dream?
Make sure to check out our partners Talkapolis
The Entrepreneurial Mind : Rob Bellenfant
Do startups and parenting go well together? David and I talk about the ups and downs of raising kids while starting businesses.
Serious Startups : Passion vs. Logic and Mentor vs. Advisor
What is ultimately behind a business, passion or logic? And, when does a mentor become an advisor?
John, Kane, and I talk about these issues in the latest episode of Serious Startups. What do you think about the whole passion vs logic and mentor vs advisor thing?
What does it take to be an Entrepreneur? Join us as Clint shares his Entrepreneurial mindset and an inside glance at his journey to becoming a successful Entrepreneur.
Clint is the only mentor in the world who helps Authors, Speakers, Coaches & Entrepreneurs create Celebrity and Unique Positioning using Local TV News & Talk Show interviews. His students — he calls them Magic Messengers — have booked more than 1,000 appearances on ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliates across America, and on major TV shows including the Daily Buzz, Good Morning America, and the Today Show.