Tony Stubblebine is the CEO and Founder of CrowdVine, a social software company for conferences. Before that he was director of engineering at Odeo and lead engineer for O’Reilly Media. He’s also the author of Regular Expression Pocket Reference. Tony has teamed up Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Jason Goldma(Obvious) to work on a new project, Lift-a new social app. The app is intended to unlock human potential through positive reinforcement.
Tony shared this advice for young entrepreneurs on his blog.
Focus on the right things. But what are the right things?
Steve Blank, a well regarded professor of entrepreneurship at Stanford and Berkeley, describes a startup as a learning organization. If business advice was reliable, a startup would simply be building and selling a new product. But it’s not. A startup is about learning what’s useful and why, and then learning who’s buying and why.
In my own business, we got tons of advice on how to grow. We should do partnerships, we should sponsor conferences, we should get trade show booths, etc. But we measured all of those ways and realized that they lost money. And, just to double check that we weren’t simply bad at marketing, we watched our competitors try and fail to grow through those methods. So my advice on advice: trust but verify. After trying and measuring, the things that do grow our business profitably are word of mouth, blogging, and newsletters. So that’s what we focus on.
It ends up being simple, but it starts out as a confusing jumble of contradictory signals and advice. Your main job, essentially, is finding out what the right things to do are and then doing them.