While there is plenty of advice to go around for starting your technology company, this series aims to provide uncommon (sometimes irreverent) information and approaches to successfully starting up.
1. Assume Your Service Sucks
I got this from an old (1985) marketing tips book and it encapsulates a great frame of mind that each startup entrepreneur should have. The point is not to fall in love with your own product or service. It's fine to have confidence in what you've accomplished or built, but great entrepreneurs know that their job is never finished and this is especially true in technology, which is always marching forward. Each day, ask yourself "what part of my service (or product) sucks the most?"
2. Quickly Discover Your Failures
A startup is based on a set of assumptions, many of which turn out to be incorrect. You should always be on the lookout for those assumptions or basic beliefs about your service or the market that you operate in that are faulty even if they were once true. You can't make the right decisions about your startup if you are basing them on bad or outdated assumptions. Not facing up to your wrong judgments or decisions can swiftly doom your startup.
3. Patents NO, Freedom to Operate YES
Entrepreneurs frequently ask if they should pursue patent protection for their technology. With the rare exception, my advice is to not waste time or money on securing a patent, since patents are really just a "license to sue" and the technology world changes so quickly anyway. Also, you will likely never have enough money - $3 million to $5 million per lawsuit - to enforce your patent. It is far more important to have "freedom to operate", which is simply knowing that you're not stepping on anyone else's technology toes. Industry giants like IBM or Microsoft do have the money to enforce their patents, so you would be well advised to stay clear.
4. Money for Milestones
How much financing should you seek? The answer I generally give is that it depends on what milestones you want to reach with that money. A sophisticated investor generally thinks in terms of milestones, i.e. what the company has a good chance of accomplishing with a given amount of financing. Milestones can be completion of a beta trial, the acquisition of a certain number of initial/marquee customers and the identification of senior hires upon receiving the next round of funding.
Stay tuned for the next installment of "Uncommon Knowledge For Startups".