I was recently invited to be a speaker and judge at Startup Weekend Tampa’s inaugural event, hosted by Microsoft (7/8/11-7/10/11).
The idea behind the weekend is for participants to pick their favorite concept, form teams and then build a beta product and viable business model… all within 54 hours!
Overall the experience was AWESOME! I was simply amazed at the amount of talent, great products and viable business models that were revealed by the end of the weekend.
However, in order to create meaningful value for all you emerging entrepreneurs out there in the trenches, I’d like to take a minute to address some of the key challenges that came up throughout the weekend…
Startup Challenge: Management Team
I had the opportunity to visit with many of the teams as they hammered away on their projects. Essentially, I witnessed two types of team dynamics:
Team "DISRUPTION" - These teams had one or more personalities who seemed to be disruptive to other members of the team, saying things like “I have nothing to do”… “I think we should be working on this or that”… Let’s discuss how much equity we each are getting out of this because I have bills to pay.”
Team "SYNERGY" – These people seemed more focused on the job at hand… building a great product and working together in perfect synergy liked a well-oiled machine. They didn’t seem to have the time to focus on anything other than overcoming obstacles and building a product that would WOW the judges… and that’s exactly what they did! As judges, it was extremely difficult for us to pick the Top 3 projects because they all were so good!
Startup Coaching Tip:
Choose your team slowly and carefully based on the talent that you truly need to achieve your vision. Ideally, your core team should be made up of 3-4 dedicated people but never more than 5 (too many chefs in the kitchen).
If you find you have someone who no longer seems to fit in with the team and its goals, request to speak with them in private and then say something like, “You seem frustrated. Maybe this project is no longer a fit for you.”
If they don’t immediately make you believe that their actions are going to change, do NOT let them come back in because their negativity will be like a cancer to the rest of your team.
Remember, as an entrepreneurial leader, your #1 priority is to motivate, inspire and keep your team focused on the VISION and next steps!
Startup Challenge: Business Model
Prior to giving my talk on business model generation, I asked a few of the startup teams where they were headed with their revenue models. The common answer I got back was, “Our revenue will come from advertising”. Hmmm… I agree that advertising could be a viable source of revenue for your startup (down the road) but it should NOT be your primary revenue model right out the gate. Here’s why…
If you make advertising your primary business model than consider that you and the other 500,000 startups that launch this year are all competing for the same advertising dollars. Seriously, do you really want 499,999 new competitors before you launch?
Besides your "fantastic business idea”, what differentiates your startup from all your competitors?
What is going to make your startup standout in all the noise?
Startup Coaching Tip:
Grab a copy of Business Model Generation from Amazon.com and learn how to
create a viable business model for your startup that will become a sustainable
foundation for your entrepreneurial empire.
Here’s the talk I gave at Startup Weekend Tampa, “Finding the Right Business Model for Your Startup”... (video coming soon!)
Startup Challenge: Feeding Your Baby!
Let’s be honest. Your NEW business idea is your “baby”, right? Fair enough. Well like any new parent, you feel like you have to protect it, right? Of course you do, that’s normal. However, protecting your baby is not enough. You have to feed it too. So what does a “baby startup” eat anyway?
The best baby formula you can give your baby startup is asking it the right questions. Questions like, “Who really needs my idea anyway? What is the REAL pain point that I’m solving? Are there enough people out there with this pain point that we can build a profitable and scalable business around? How can we stand out from all the noise in our marketplace?” Etc…
These are the type of challenging questions that nourish baby startups and help them mature. This is where many startup founders go wrong. They spend so much energy and emotion on defending and protecting their idea that they completely forget to feed it and allow it to grow.
Startup Coaching Tip:
Step back and look at your startup from a completely different perspective. Remove ALL emotions. Try your best NOT to care so much about the outcome. Be at peace with any result and any length of time. A funny thing happens when you stop trying to control success on your terms… it stops running away from you ;) Just try to listen to what your advisors and future customers are telling you about your idea. If more than three of them are telling you the same thing, you should listen to them and make changes.
Joseph Warren is a visionary entrepreneur, startup coach, speaker and evangelist for entrepreneurship.