A startup founder’s sole job at the early stages of a new business is to make sure the company survives the rocky first year- In your first year of running a business, your only goal should be surviving. No matter how unstable the economy has been or how afraid you are of your imminent and unexpected fall, you have to figure out how to keep going and get past the crucial first year. Your survival depends on your ability to put resources together and deliver on your milestones usually with limited resources.
The following founders got past the first unstable year, attracted paying customers, raised capital from angels and venture capitalists, hired smart alone the way and scaled to new heights in their respective businesses. We’ve put together 9 critically important business lessons from highly successful founders for first time entrepreneurs and business founders looking to grow their startups.
1. Tim Westergren, Founder at Pandora (music discovery service)
Avoid the risk of not trying and the regret of wishing you had.
“Be sure to ‘notice’ ideas when you have them. Stop. Take the time to consider them seriously. And if your gut tells you they’re compelling, be fearless in their pursuit. For most people, the idea of chasing a personal passion or being entrepreneurial is simply something they don’t think of themselves doing. We’re so programmed to walk well-trodden paths. But, we live life only once. So, rather than avoiding the risk of trying, avoid the risk of not trying. Nothing is more haunting than thinking, ‘I wish I had…’.”.
2. Jason Fried, Founder at 37Signals and author of Rework
Making money is not the same as starting a business
“One thing I do know is that making money is not the same as starting a business. For entrepreneurs, this is an important thing to understand. Most of us identify with the products we create or services we provide.”
“Don’t make assumptions about how big you should be ahead of time…. Grow slow and see what feels right – premature hiring is the death of many companies. Don’t be insecure about aiming to be a small business. Anyone who runs a business that’s sustainable and profitable, whether it’s big or small, should be proud.” –Quote from Rework
3. Dharmesh Shah, Founder at HubSpot , and On Startups
Pay attention to what matters right now
“The only thing that matters is what people do – right now. What you’ve done is interesting and builds your reputation, but your true value – right now – lies in the code you release, sales you close and customers you delight.”
4. Jason Calacanis, Entrepreneur, Angel investor, Writer @Jason
Sell the promise
“There are two ideal times to raise money for a startup: before your launch and when you start your hockey stick growth curve. Before you launch you’re selling the promise of your vision–which is unquantified. This is a great thing for the founder because the investor doesn’t have any metrics to put on the product. After you launch? Oh no, they might study.”
5. Scott Case, Founding CEO at Startup America Partnership; Founding CTO Priceline.com
Be different, swing for the fences, and ask for forgiveness.
“During the nimbler, non-bureaucratic, rat-race of trying to grow or survive, founders, owners, and employees are freer to take risks, be creative, disrupt the old way of doing things, and attempt anything that will help the business be more successful. It’s about making changes today, otherwise, we may not be here tomorrow.”
“Invest as much time in strengthening your network as you do in product development and customer development. That’s not necessarily going to networking events. It’s more about being thoughtful about creating relationships early on.”
6. Cyrus Massoumi, CEO / Founder at ZocDoc
Pare down initiatives and succeed in key areas
“Simplicity has been my main focus at ZocDoc recently, and I’ve come to realize that by eliminating distractions from the inside out, we will be able to increase productivity and creativity while building intuitive, user-friendly products. Establish a clear, understandable heuristic for what success looks like and communicate these goals broadly.”
7. Justin Rosenstein, Co-Founder at Asana
Do great things
“Life is short, youth is finite, and opportunities endless. Have you found the intersection of your passion and the potential for world-shaping positive impact? If you don’t have a great idea of your own, there are plenty of great teams that need you — unknown startups and established teams in giant companies alike.”
8. Naomi Simson, Founder at RedBalloon
Entrepreneurs are focused and able to run lean and mean
“Entrepreneurs are focused and able to run lean and meanI believe focus and persistence are two-sides of the same coin. When you find your purpose, the ‘Why’ you are in business, the easier it is to maintain your focus. Running lean and mean offers the ability to be nimble – to be a little dog with a big dog attitude.”
9. Jack Dorsey (Founder Of Twitter & Square) @Jack
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